The Best and Worst Snacks of Olympic Athletes

Michael Phelps is reported to eat 10,000 calories a day, including a breakfast of three fried egg sandwiches, three chocolate chip pancakes, one five-egg omelette, three slices of French toast, and one bowl of grits. Gymnast Jordyn Wieber, on the other hand, eats an extremely clean diet consisting of egg whites, chicken, nuts, seeds, hummus, sushi, and plenty of salad. But Olympic athletes have one thing in common: they snack regularly. Snacks give them a steady boost of energy that will get them through their grueling workouts. See what the healthy snacks they choose so you can eat like an Olympian too — and some of their favorite snacks to skip, as well!

The smart snacks:

Almonds: Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long, participating in her third Paralympic Games, and two-time Olympic soccer gold medalist Heather Mitts regularly snack on almonds. Because of their dose of healthy fats, protein, and fiber, they’ve been shown to increase satiety, thereby reducing overeating and helping to control weight, says a study presented at the 2006 Obesity Society Annual Scientific Meeting. They’re also rich in vitamin E (offering cardiovascular protection), magnesium (for muscle and nerve function) and antioxidants.

Larabars: Soccer player Heather Mitts also fuels up with Larabars, one of the healthier snack or energy bars on the market. Made with just two to eight ingredients and free from artificial ingredients, sweeteners, preservatives, flavorings, or fillers, they’re a great pre-workout snack. In 22 flavors, each bar contains around 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, as well as healthy fats from nuts, making them a good option for curbing hunger.

Chocolate Milk: Gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman, swimmers Missy Franklin and Nathan Adrian, US Women’s Soccer Team goalkeeper Hope Solo, and Team USA basketball player Carmelo Anthony all pick chocolate milk as their pre-workout snack. Physiologists report that the ratio of carbohydrates to protein is ideal for rebuilding muscles after a grueling workout. Says Raisman, “I definitely feel like it makes a big difference if I have chocolate milk after I work out.” Sip on the childhood favorite after a tough workout for the greatest gains.

Hummus: Jordyn Wieber, a member of the gold medal-winning US Olympic Women’s Gymnastics Team, lists hummus as her favorite snack. Its two primary ingredients, chickpeas and tahini (a sesame seed paste), provide complex carbohydrates for plenty of energy, as well as fiber, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, which help satiate hunger.

Power Waffles: Two-time Olympic medalist Kerri Walsh likes to snack on “power waffles,” made with whole wheat waffles, sliced strawberries and bananas, almond butter, and a drizzle of agave nectar. With 7 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber, plus 6 grams of monounsaturated fats (the healthy kind from nuts), it’s an energizing and hunger-curbing snack for under 250 calories. Plus, it’s portable: says Walsh, “I can walk out the door with it.” Nix the agave nectar to get rid of added sugars — the fruits add enough sweetness.

…and the not-so-smart snacks:

Banana chips: Three-time track and field medalist Sanya Richards-Rosslists banana chips as one of her favorite “healthy foods.” But banana chips are often fried in palm oil, resulting in 8.2 grams of saturated fat (fresh bananas have less than one gram of total fat). One ounce also supplies 150 calories — about the same amount as potato chips. For a similar crunch factor, snack on popcorn, pumpkin seeds, snap peas, or kale chips; for more banana flavor, opt for frozen banana slices.

Quaker Oats Chewy Granola Bars: Oftentimes, athletes need quick-digesting carbohydrates to sustain them through long workouts; Chewy Granola Bars, with just 1 gram of protein and fiber each and 7 grams of sugar, offer just that. For the rest of us, granola bars should provide protein, fiber and healthy fats to suppress hunger and tide us over to mealtime. Chewy Granola Bars are also extremely processed and contain six types of sugar, chemical additives, and artificial flavors.

YoCrunch Yogurt: Two-time gold medalist Gabby Douglas calls YoCrunch Yogurt Apple Pie Parfait with Cinna-Crunch “like apple pie in a cup!” And perhaps the breakfast yogurt is too good to be true: it contains just 3 grams of protein and 19 grams of sugar. An equal amount of Greek yogurt packs 13.5 grams of protein and just 4.6 grams of sugar, making it a far superior snack or breakfast. YoCrunch also contains ingredients that probably should be in yogurt, like food starch, artificial flavors, and caramel color.


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