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How 6 elite athletes fuel for their sport

One would think all elite-level athletes are on board the sports nutrition train. Sadly it’s not always the case.  And while they may perform well now, some could be missing out on their peak performance, or worse yet their unhealthy ways may contribute to a shorter career.

Eating appropriately for your sport doesn’t mean eternally divesting yourself of all things fast-food and sugary. Most of the athletes below note their ability to still incorporate some of their fave foods.  But there is a common thread: they all focus on being aware of eating for health and performance, and the foods they choose to eat for this purpose actually become what they start enjoying and craving.

So here are 6 elite athletes making nutrition a priority piece of their training regimen:

1. Hannah Kearney: Hannah, winner of Olympic gold in 2010 and bronze in 2014 for women’s mogul skiing, sees nutrition as a staple component of her training regimen. She takes an active role in preparing her own healthy foods.  Watch how she and a U.S. Olympic Committee dietitian discuss meeting her nutrition needs for training and performance.

2. Ryan Hall: Ryan won the U.S. marathon Olympic trials in 2008 and represented the US with a 10th place finish in Beijing.  He’s pretty candid about previously using fast-food burgers as pre-race fuel (back in high school when he could probably eat cardboard and get away with it). He’s made some major changes and the results speak for themselves.  Check out what Ryan keeps in his fridge and the nutrition guide he co-created with a sports dietitian.

3. Kerri Walsh-Jennings: Kerri Walsh-Jennings is a three-time Olympic gold medalist in women’s beach volleyball.  Like many athletes she has to juggle healthy eating with a jam-packed training schedule (in addition to three kids at home now).  Her sample daily fueling schedule displays how she works to achieve this balance.

4. DeeDee Trotter: DeeDee Trotter is a USA track and field athlete.  At the 2012 Olympics she won the bronze in the women’s 400 meters and was a member of the gold medal 4×400 meters relay. Check out this video to see her showcase her balanced but conscious approach to eating (as well as a budding career in comedy).

5. Chris McCormack: Ironman World Champion Chris “Macca” McCormack knows a thing or two about performing in extreme conditions given his track record at Kona.  Here he reveals his personal approach to fueling for endurance sports with a particular focus on hydration.

6. Tony Gonzalez: Although recently retired, Tony Gonzalez had an impressive 17-year career as a tight-end for both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons. Early in his career he made a dietary 180, and he gives a portion of the credit for his ability to play so long to his nutrition. He felt so strongly about it that he co-authored a book (The All-Pro Diet) with his team dietitian.

Even the best athletes in the world aren’t absolved of the need to pay attention to nutrition. And despite the fact that they have access to tremendous training and recovery resources, rest assured you are just as capable of accomplishing your fueling goals.  It all starts with being aware, and as most of the above athletes noted, balance is key.

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