Kayakers Alyce Burnett and Alyssa Bull are burning plenty of energy in Rio but not enough to justify the diet of some Olympic heavyweights.
Kayakers Alyce Burnett and Alyssa Bull are burning plenty of energy in Rio but not enough to justify the diet of some Olympic heavyweights. Warren Lynam

Why we don't need to eat like Olympians

YOU can't sit down to an Olympic-sized diet every day if your output doesn't match your input.

That's the takeaway message from University of the Sunshine Coast Associate Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics Fiona Pelly who is one of three authors of a paper about the food requirements of elite athletes at the Olympic Games.

Ms Pelly is the Discipline Leader in Nutrition and Dietetics at the university and an Accredited Practising Dietitian whose extensive private practice included consultancy to The Wiggles, the International Olympic Committee and individual Olympians.

She has evaluated the menu for five Olympics and Commonwealth Games.

The correct diet, Prof Pelly says, is an individual thing that depends on body type, metabolism and most critically output.

An endurance heavyweight athlete in Olympic or pre-Olympic preparation may consume 20MJ (megajoule) of food daily.

That's a lot and equates to about eight slices of bread; two cups of porridge; six pieces of fruit; 200g cooked steak and 200g cooked chicken; two cups cooked rice; two large potatoes; five cups of green and yellow vegetables; 30g nuts; 60g cheese; and 1.5 litres of milk.

And it can be reached via a much smaller amount of junk food in a nutritionally-poor diet.

Prof Pelly said for an elite athlete diet was determined by looking at their individual position in a team, their size and metabolic rate.

And while every Games athlete should have a clear idea of their nutritional requirements, she said "I've seen some odd meals at those events".

That is in part a consequence of the amount and variety of food available which saw some athletes respond not unlike many people do when confronted by a smorgasbord, piling food onto their plates.

The key, Prof Pelly, says is quality over quantity.

She said there were very few jobs that saw the body consume similar amounts of energy as that used by elite athletes.


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