For two and a half weeks this summer the world’s fastest, strongest and fittest people will descend on London to take on the best of Britain’s athletes in the search for gold.
To prepare for competition, athletes competing in track, rowing, cycling or swimming have to consume a phenomenal number of calories to fuel their punishing training schedule. American swimmer, Michael Phelps followed an astonishing 12,000 calorie-per-day diet in winning eight swimming gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. It’s safe to say that if the average casual gym goer or cycling commuter were to follow anything like this, they would find the pounds piling on much faster than they could shed them. In fact who could even find the time to eat a breakfast of three fried egg sandwiches with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, fried onions and mayonnaise; three chocolate-chip pancakes; a five-egg omelette; three sugar-coated slices of French toast and two cups of coffee?!
Just as different athletes need to follow a diet tailored to the demands of their event, it’s important for everyone to understand that the fuel you put in your body needs to be chosen based on what it’s powering. People lead very different lifestyles, prefer different types of food and do varying amounts of exercise and knowing how to best manage what you eat to suit you is the key to health and wellbeing.
The food that powers our athletes
Mark Cavendish: Cavendish will be going for gold in the cycling road race which is the first event of the games. The course has canadian pharmacy been designed specifically to suit the British team and as the ‘fastest man on two wheels’ he is the favourite. There’s a lot of pressure on him to get Team GB off to a winning start and as he’ll be coming straight off the back of the gruelling Tour de France, diet and preparation will be all the more important.
The diet: During the Tour de France (riding around 200km per day), Cavendish needs to consume up to 9,000 calories per day. Breakfast might consist of bananas, muesli, croissants and pasta – foods that can be digested quickly and release energy quickly. During a race, Cavendish will take in energy drinks, high calorie energy bars plus fruitcake and sandwiches. It is only in the evening after a race that he can eat food rich in fibre along with meat and fish dishes.
Rebecca Adlington: Adlington took the world by storm in 2008 by winning two gold medals at the Beijing Olympics and is sure to be under more pressure to repeat her success on home soil. As she competes in two of the longer events (400m and 800m freestyle) her diet needs to provide her with huge amounts of energy.
Adlington needs to eat a lot but ensure that what she does eat is balanced. Getting the right mix of protein, carbohydrate and vitamins is as essential to her as it should be to anyone; the difference is that she has to eat a lot more than the average person. Before an early morning training swim she would typically have a large bowl of cereal followed by another one – mixed with fresh fruit – as soon as she gets out of the pool. For lunch she eats four or five sandwiches, plus yoghurt and fruit. In the evening she will eat an ordinary meal such as spaghetti Bolognese or risotto. Although she doesn’t strictly count calories she consumes around 2,800 per day.
Mo Farah: As a long distance runner, Mo Farah’s slender frame makes him perfect for the event but finding the right balance between remaining light and eating enough to give him the energy for his draining races is a big challenge. “Feed your muscles and allow them to recover,” Farah advises. He doesn’t follow a special diet but must eat lots of protein, like grilled chicken, after running. Proteins contribute to recovery by repairing and growing muscles after exercise. Pre-training he will fuel up on pasta. Although Farah has genetic gifts that make him perfect for his sport, he puts his success down to dedication to training and ensuring his work out is varied.
Now that you know how the pros do it it’s important that you think about your lifestyle and what you need to eat to ensure that you’re at your best. Different people have different schedules. Common sense dictates that someone who works in an office all day and exercises once or twice a week should generally consume fewer calories than someone who exercises more regularly or who has a very active job where they’re on their feet all day.
Jennifer Irvine, founder of The Pure Package explains: “If you’re an office worker who cycles a reasonable distance to and from work, you need to plan what you eat around when in the day you’re most active. If you have to cycle a number of miles to work you’ll need the energy to do it, likewise when it comes to cycling home. During the hours you’re sat in the office you aren’t burning as many calories so you need to consider food that releases its energy slowly and keeps you feeling full and away from the biscuits.”
“If you are more steadily active over the course of the day then you need to consider how to keep your energy up. A good breakfast, such nut butter on rye bread with grapefruit segments, will keep you going. You can keep yourself feeling full of energy by snacking on fresh fruit and raw nuts/seeds mid-morning and mid-afternoon.”
The Pure Package has a range of meal plans to suit different people. Whether you want to simply eat healthily, whether you’re trying to lose weight or if you need extra energy to support a particularly active lifestyle or training regime, there is a programme of delicious, nutritionally balanced food to suit you.