Studying the Meals of Fit Athletes - Olympians and Marathoners

Alyssa Atkinson

Along with the reasons why.

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Vegetable salad bowl.Nadine Primeau/Unsplash

I have been heavily involved in the health and fitness industry for many years. I started playing basketball in first grade, joined my school’s track team in seventh grade, and started running cross-country in eighth grade.

For the entirety of my high school career, I was a three sport athlete. I decided to continue running cross-country and track in college, which means that I ran competitively, year-round, for eight years straight.

To be honest, the most difficult part of training at a high level wasn’t the training itself. Rather, it was the recovery process. In order to stay healthy, fit, and excel in my sport, I had to make sure I was stretching, rolling, sleeping plenty, and of course, eating right.

It wasn’t just about eating enough. It was about eating enough of the right nutrients. Ultimately, fine tuning my diet helped me gain a lot of fitness and strength.

In this article, I thought it would be helpful to discuss some of the healthiest foods that the world’s fittest individuals eat often. I ate many of them myself while training at a high level. I continue to eat them today because they each pack a powerful nutrient punch. Here are three of my favorite ones.

These Crucial Plants

When it comes to the world’s fittest individuals, such as Olympic athletes, there is a huge emphasis on fruits and vegetables, and for good reason.

Fruits and vegetables are packed with all kinds of vitamins and minerals.The more variety you eat, the more likely you are to hit your daily requirement for all the key vitamins. Things like kale, spinach, and other leafy greens are packed with nutrients.

A few key fruits that Tennis champ Osaka consumes are included in her typical green smoothie. Her smoothie is filled with:

“kale, spinach, an electrolyte solution called Bodyarmor Lyte in coconut flavor, and kiwi, she told Pure Wow in April.”

This is unsurprising since kale contains vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and the list goes on.

No matter how intensely and often you exercise, you should make consuming fruits and veggies a priority. Your health can benefit immensely from including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

This Secret Superfood Grain

There is an all too common, unfortunate notion that you can’t be fit and eat carbs at the same time. I’m not sure why or how this fitness myth began, but we can’t seem to get rid of it.

Carbs are an essential macronutrient for the body, and an important source of fuel for endurance training. The key isn’t to cut out carbs entirely, but rather focus on whole grain sources.

One such source, that happens to pack in a lot of plant based nutrients, is quinoa. It is a high protein grain that serves as a great carb base. Quinoa is incredible because it is:

“higher in protein than any other grain around, and packs a hefty dose of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. “Quinoa is also a great source of fiber and B vitamins,” says Christopher Mohr, Ph.D., R.D. a professor of nutrition at the University of Louisville."

Not all carbs consist only of refined sugars and white flours. Rather than cutting out carbs completely, focus on consuming the whole grain sources that pack in the most nutrients.

This Unique Root Vegetable

If you are interested in endurance running, specifically marathoning, you’ve probably heard some of the Olympic marathoners mention beet juice as a performance tool.

There is actually some science to support this root vegetable’s powerful benefits. In fact, numerous studies have shown promise:

  • “Runners who threw back a beet juice shot before racing cut 1.5 percent off their 5K race times, found a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.”
  • “A 2017 meta-analysis of 23 beet juice studies found beet juice can improve cardiorespiratory endurance in athletes by increasing efficiency, which improves performance and increases time to exhaustion.”

Beets are a vegetable that I have grown to love not only for the potential performance benefits, but also for the ample nutrients they contain. They are definitely a vegetable you will want to consider incorporating into your diet.

I shaved almost a full two minutes off of my high school 5k personal best in college. A lot of that had to do with my increased training load, but my body wouldn’t have been able to handle it without proper recovery and nutrition.

Whether your goal is to gain strength in the gym, run a faster mile, or simply feel better on a daily basis, fine tuning your nutrition will play a major role.

Fuel your body with plenty of healthy ingredients like the ones listed, and you might be surprised by how good you feel and perform.

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Ohio U XC/Track alum. I love to run. I blog about food, health, fitness, lifestyle, etc. Personal Blog - nomeatfastfeet.com | Electrical and Computer Engineering Grad.

Raleigh, NC
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