Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Healthy Olympics

Endurance athletes in your super-high-calorie-burning sports, like distance running, cycling or the triathlon, elite athletes can burn 15 or 20 calories a minute. At the peak of training, these athletes are working out four or five hours a day. These workouts can burn 4,000 to 6,000 calories, which have to be replenished if you want to train again the next day.

 Refueling can resemble an episode of “Man v. Food,” with dinner consisting of things like a pound of pasta drizzled with olive oil (about 800 calories), a dozen eggs (840 calories), an entire cheese pizza (perhaps 2,000 calories) and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s cheesecake-brownie ice cream (1,000 calories). These foods (although not this exact lineup) were described by dietitians and officials who work with Olympians as common training-table choices for elite endurance athletes, particularly men. Plus beer (about 150 calories a bottle.)

One of the biggest issues, they told me, is that these athletes, in their quest for fuel, often turn to high-calorie but less nutritious processed foods — Snickers bars, store-bought chocolate-chip cookies, Pop-Tarts. Even an athlete who intends to eat healthfully can be defeated by nutritional realities. “You can only eat so much oatmeal and tofu.

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