Olympic fever is sweeping the world, with the world’s greatest athletes showing us what they’re made of. But what do these super-humans eat to sustain themselves?
Here, we have compiled a quick fact file on the diets of some of our favorite Olympians including world record-holding swimmer Adam Peaty and boxing star Nicola Adams, as well as USA swimmer Michael Phelps.
“An athlete’s performance, recovery and injury prevention is hugely influenced by what they consume,” said Dr Luke Powles.
“Many eat significantly larger quantities of food than one normally would to provide energy for their increased activity levels during the day.
“The maths is simple; you should only eat what the body needs – Michael Phelps, for example, needs a significant number of calories due to training and competing for many hours in a day.”
Dr Powles added: “All of us, athletes or not, should try to eat a healthy, balanced diet.”
Michael Phelps, Swimmer: USA
Calories consumed: 12,000 calories a day (during training).
Breakfast is “three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise.” Next comes “two cups of coffee, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar and three chocolate-chip pancakes.”
Lunch? “Phelps gobbles up a pound of enriched pasta and two large ham and cheese sandwiches slathered with mayo on white bread – capping off the meal by chugging about 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks.
For dinner, Phelps really loads up on the carbs – what he needs to give him plenty of energy for his five-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week regimen – with a pound of pasta and an entire pizza.” As for the final lap: “He washes all that down with another 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks.”
Usain Bolt, Track: Jamaica
Usain St. Leo Bolt, OJ, CD, is a Jamaican sprinter. Regarded as the fastest person ever timed, he is the first man to hold both the 100 metres and 200 metres world records since fully automatic time became mandatory.
Calories consumed: Roughly 5,500 calories per day.
Diet: Usain loves chicken nuggets and wings in the morning before he hits the racing tracks. But yams (or sweet potatoes) are believed to be his secret sauce.
Usain achieves balance with a diet consisting of 60% protein, 30% carbohydrates and 10% fat. He also takes vitamin C supplements.
Breakfast includes ackee and saltfish (a traditional Jamaican dish) with dumplings, cooked banana and sweet potato.
Lunch is pasta and a chicken breast.
For dinner, he will have rice and peas with pork.
If you don’t know this Jamaican sprinter’s name, you won’t be able to forget him soon: not only is he the first man to win six gold medals in sprinting, but he fuels all of that fancy-and-fast footwork with none other than… McDonald’s chicken nuggets. According to his autobiography, he said: “At first I ate a box of 20 for lunch, then another for dinner,” he wrote. “The next day I had two boxes for breakfast, one for lunch and then another couple in the evening. I even grabbed some fries and an apple pie to go with it.”
David Boudia, Diver: USA
David Boudia is an American diver. He won the gold medal in the 10 metre platform diving competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
His eating method is one you might recognize for yourself if you’ve ever tried to drop a few pounds. Instead of giant meals, he has smaller portions throughout the day to keep his momentum and endurance strong. In other words? This athlete has not one, not two – but three lunches every single day.
Breakfast: Protein pancake (egg whites, oats, yogurt, cinnamon, blueberries).
Post-workout Breakfast: Smoothie with strawberries, blueberries, oats, spinach, peanut butter protein powder, Zico coconut water.
First Lunch: Apple slices with peanut butter.
Second Lunch: Turkey slices rolled with cheese.
Third Lunch: Carrots and hummus.
Dinner: Barbecue chicken and polenta, with sliced avocado, and peaches.
Jessica Shultz, Curler: USA
Jessica Schultz is an American curler from Minnesota. She currently plays second for Erika Brown.
She says, “Curling is often still considered a beer-drinking sport, so the importance of diet is still up and coming. At the last Olympics there was a lot of talk about eating pizza and McDonald’s all the time, so that’s definitely changing.”
“For breakfast I’ll eat a two-egg-white omelet with spinach, tomato and a little bit of cheese and a coffee.
For a morning snack I’ll have a protein bar and orange slices.
Lunch is a turkey burger — no bun — and quinoa salad with tomato.
During a game I’ll eat a protein bar or have a chocolate milk and a banana — I will bring a coffee mug full of chocolate milk into the rink with me and drink it between games. For an afternoon snack I’ll have a meat stick and a pear.
And shrimp with green beans for dinner.
During competitions we don’t drink — we wait until after and might have a bottle of wine. The last two years there’s been no alcohol during training or during competition.”
Gabby Douglas, Gymnast: USA
By now, Douglas is a household name, and for (an incredible) reason: in 2012 at the Beijing Olympics, she became the first African-American woman to take home the gold in individual all-around gymnastics.
Calories consumed: 2,000 calories per day
For breakfast, Gabrielle eats pretty lean only consuming oatmeal and bananas. “This gives me the energy I need to get through the first hours of training,” she said.
She continues to keep it light with vegetables and lean proteins throughout the day, as well as some pasta for dinner.
But when she has a day off? She’ll opt for something more savory and filling, like scrambled eggs with cheese, kosher beef bacon and waffles. Breakfast is a big deal for Douglas and she made sure to add: ““Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! You can’t expect to perform at your best if you don’t take good care of your body.”
She also has a sweet tooth and occasionally treats herself to a handful of almonds in two ounces of melted dark chocolate.
She credits lemon juice and melted chocolate for helping with muscle recovery.
Mo Farah, Track: Great Britain
Mohamed “Mo” Farah is a British distance runner. On the track, he mostly competes over 5000 metres and 10,000 metres, but has run competitively from 1500 metres to the marathon. He was a gold medallist in the 5000 m and 10,000 m at the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2015 World Championships in Athletics. In the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, he won the 10,000 m gold medal.
Calories consumed: Over 3,000 calories per day.
For breakfast Mo will have coffee and cereal, normally Frosties. He eats small and frequent meals during the day.
Lunch often includes pasta, steamed vegetables and grilled chicken.
At dinner time, he repeats this.
Kelly Clark, Snowboarder: USA
Kelly Clark is an American snowboarder who won halfpipe gold at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
She says when she’s home, she juices every day. On the road, she makes smoothies to replace that. She gets the bulk of her vitamins and veggies in the smoothie or juice format.
“Every morning I either have a smoothie or fresh juice and eggs and toast and bacon. A very traditional breakfast. And coffee. When I’m on the hill, I have at least one snack bar in my pocket. Like a protein bar.
As a post-workout snack, I’ve started drinking chocolate milk as a recovery drink. From what I hear from my nutritionist, it’s the right balance of fats, carbs, and proteins.
Lunch is a turkey sandwich or tacos — some sort of meat mixed in with carbs and veggies. I’ll usually have toast with almond butter and a banana after a workout.
For dinner I’ll usually end up eating chicken or beef — a big chicken pasta meal or red meat with sweet potatoes and spinach salad.
When I go to and from the airports, I do it up at In-N-Out. My favorite pastime.”
Ann Swisshelm, Curler
Ann Swisshelm is a curler on the US Olympics Woman’s Curling team, and represented the United States in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
“I always make sure I eat breakfast. I’ll have Greek yogurt with fruit, one or two eggs — every third or fourth day I’ll have the yoke as well instead of just the white — and almonds or something a little salty. I’ll have a cup of coffee and sometimes some fresh orange juice.
For snack I’ll have an apple every day. Lunch will be a salad, nothing fancy.
Dinner is a protein and vegetables. I keep things pretty low-carb. Between games we have a five-minute break, and I’ll always have a chocolate milk — it’s quite frankly a very positive food and makes me feel younger!”
What I’m really looking forward to when I get home is this little pub. They make the best cheeseburgers, and they are humongous. I’m not going to share it with my husband.
Nicola Adams, Boxing: Great Britain
Nicola Adams is an English and British boxer and the first woman to win an Olympic boxing title.
Calories consumed: Around 2,500 – 3,000 calories per day.
For breakfast, Nicola eats a bowl of cereal and lunch will usually consist of rice with chicken and vegetables.
Dinner includes a bowl of soup and bread, although sometimes she likes a chicken fajita. Occasionally she will indulge in ice cream – specifically strawberries and cream or vanilla flavor.
Ryan Lochte, Swimmer: USA
Ryan Lochte is an American competitive swimmer and a 12-time Olympic medalist, which ranks him tied for second in swimming behind Michael Phelps. His seven individual Olympic medals rank near the top in men’s swimming.
He’ll be taking a dip for the Gold in Rio this year, but not before he consumes around 8,000 calories a day.
Since swimmers burn so many calories doing laps and building endurance, Lochte makes sure to pack in the food to keep his stamina strong. But while he eats healthy most of the time, this swimmer knows how to balance the good-for-you with the indulgent.
Every Friday night since he was 9 years old, he’s had one binge tradition: pizza, chicken wings and Mountain Dew.
Heather McPhie, Freestyle Skier
Heather McPhie is an American freestyle moguls skier. She competed for the US Olympic Team at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Since skiing requires you to be nimble and flexible, along with maintaining your upper and lower body strength, having a diet that focuses on keeping her energy up throughout the day is important for Olympian PcChie.
Breakfast: “I almost always have oatmeal in the morning — organic slow-cooked oats, which keeps me full for an entire morning. I usually throw in some fruit and some sort of protein like peanut butter or sunflower butter. I’ll snack on carrots and hummus.”
Lunch: “For lunch I’ll have a quinoa salad with greens and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. After training I’ll have a Luna bar.”
Dinner: “For dinner I enjoy red meat with cooked broccoli and steamed veggies. And ton of water throughout the day.”
My diet won’t change too much after the Olympics. I don’t have a craving for junk food because I’ve taken out processed foods. When I took those things out, all of a sudden a carrot tasted sweet. You have some raspberries, and it’s like, ‘Whoa, those are really sweet!
John Orozco, Gymnast: USA
Though John Orozco isn’t part of the Olympic team this year thanks to an ACL injury, he’s won Bronze at three Olympic Games and is definitely an athlete to keep an eye out for in the years to come.
When he’s in the middle of training, he keeps things light and refreshing, and makes sure to get plenty of protein, too.
Breakfast: Three eggs scrambled with bacon and grapes.
Lunch: Turkey burger and a side of plain, undressed lettuce.
Snacks: Banana, yogurt.
Dinner: Chicken with side of rice.
Tom Daley, Diver: Great Britain
Thomas Robert “Tom” Daley is a British diver and television personality. Daley specialises in the 10-metre platform event and was the 2009 FINA World Champion in the individual event at the age of 15.
Calories consumed: Around 3,200 calories per day.
For breakfast, Daley dines on beans on toast and fruit in the morning, snacking on cereal bars, soup, chocolate milkshakes and chocolate spread on toast throughout the day.
A typical lunch involves grilled chicken and a jacket potato.
Dinner features chicken, steamed vegetables and pasta.
Mark Cavendish, Cycling: Great Britain
Mark Simon Cavendish is a Manx professional road racing cyclist.
Calories consumed: 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, Mark 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.
Nicole Barnhart, Soccer Player: USA
Nicole Renee Barnhart is an American soccer goalkeeper, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist who currently plays for FC Kansas City in the National Women’s Soccer League.
For breakfast, Barnhart starts her day with an (awesome-sounding) smoothie of bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mango, pomegranate juice, coconut, milk, almond milk, flax seed, whey protein, Trader Joe’s peanut butter, and Vega Sport energy powder; 2 slices Trader Joe’s low-fat zucchini date loaf; and Emergen-C.
For lunch, Barnhart will take her black bean and cheese tacos with a side of milk and half of a grapefruit, she tells Epicurious.
Dinner involves even more Trader Joe’s: “2 sushi rolls made with brown rice, honey, rice vinegar, cream cheese, eel sauce, avocado, cucumber, carrot, mango, sesame seeds, panko bread crumbs, tuna, salmon, soy sauce (gluten-free), ginger, wasabi; 6 Trader Joe’s chicken gyoza; 1/2 grilled artichoke with herbed goat cheese and lemon mayonnaise; seaweed salad; Emergen-C; hot green tea.”
Regardless of whether she’s on or off the field, this is what she typically eats in a day. Why? Because she likes it. As she said in the Real Simple interview: “The way I eat, in general, doesn’t really change too much whether I’m in training or not. I don’t like sweets or chocolate, so I don’t have to worry about eating any of that stuff ever, and I’m really not a big greasy-food eater.”
Erin Hamlin, Luger
Erin Mullady Hamlin is a three-time Olympian and the first female American luger to medal at any Winter Olympics, as well as the first American of either gender to medal in singles competition.
“When I’m training, for breakfast I’ll have an array of cold cut meats, two or four boiled eggs, bread of some form, some yogurt with muesli or granola and an orange or a banana.
Lunch might be a plate of pasta. If I had my choice, I’d have chicken and veggies, but sometimes in Europe that can be hard to get.
Dinner is similar to lunch, but the portion will be a little bit bigger. I also normally have a protein shake after dinner to give myself some extra calories. If it’s a race day, my breakfast will be a lot lighter because I don’t want to feel uncomfortable while I’m racing.
Once the games are over, I’m really excited to do a bit of a detox. I got one of those crazy juicers for Christmas so I’m excited to do some stupid smoothie diet for a week!”
Louis Smith, Gymnast: Great Britain
Louis Antoine Smith is a British artistic gymnast. He received a bronze medal and a silver medal on the pommel horse at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics respectively.
Calories consumed: 3,500+ calories a day.
Diet: He has a taste for exotic food and in the build up to the Beijing games ate only white meat, fish, fruit and vegetables with no carbohydrates.
Adam Peaty, Swimming: Great Britain
Adam Peaty is an English competitive swimmer who holds the world record in the 100 meter breaststroke; he won the gold medal in the 100m breaststroke at the 2016 Olympics.
Calories consumed: 6,000 to 8,000 calories per day.
Adam mixes up his proteins everyday ranging from steak to chicken. He also eats a lot of scrambled egg and piles of vegetables and rice.
Brianna Decker, Hockey Player: USA
Brianna Decker is an American women’s ice hockey player.
Though Decker won’t be competing at Rio since ice hockey is a winter sport, when she’s in the middle of training, she focuses on lots of protein, vegetables and some healthy carbs to keep her skills sharp, as she told Cosmopolitan.
“For breakfast, I’ll eat eggs with vegetables mixed in, like a scrambler with some type of meat like ham, chicken or steak from the night before. Also some berries or banana.
After my morning workout, I’ll have a protein shake to recover my muscles from weight training. Then I head straight to practice, and throughout that I’m constantly drinking water and those little gummies, Shot Bloks.
Between periods I’ll have half a banana and peanut butter or almond butter to tied me over for the rest of the game.
For dinner I like chicken with asparagus or any type of green vegetable. Sometimes a baked potato.”
The meal she’s most looking forward to is a home-cooked meal from her mom. She really likes her enchiladas or her shrimp jambalaya.
Zack Test, Rugby Player: USA
Zachary Test is an American rugby player who plays for the United States national rugby sevens team. Test is the U.S. career leader in tries scored in the World Rugby Sevens Series.
He’ll fight with his team for the Gold on the rugby field at Rio, but when he’s finished trying his best shot at taking home the top honor, he’ll indulge like the rest of us. While he follows a healthy lifestyle most of the time, when he’s taking a day off and wants to savor some of his go-to’s, this player takes “cheat day” to an impressively high level.
A glimpse at what he consumes when he’s off the field and in front of Netflix:
“Breakfast: Waffles with syrup and jam.
Lunch: Cheese pizza with whipped cream.
Dinner: Beef brisket sandwich with mac and cheese.” Wait, cheese pizza with whipped cream?!
Caitlin Gregg, Cross Country Skier
Caitlin Compton Gregg is an American cross-country skier who has competed since 2001.
“For breakfast we’ll have a bowl of oatmeal with this high-density flax meal, which adds fiber and good omega-3s, and I’ll mix in some frozen berries and some milk and a bit of protein like a soft-boiled egg.
For lunch we’ll have a big salad and we’ll throw garbanzo beans or tuna on it and some good fats like avocado. As a snack I’ll have veggies and a yogurt dip.
For dinner we eat good quality protein. At night, if I get a craving, I’ll run out and get some gluten-free chocolate.”