Eat like an Olympian
Is yours a win-worthy diet?
The Costco Connection
Warehouses carry a variety of fresh fruits and
vegetables along with other healthful foods.
To ensure strict focus and concentration,
Guest recommends brain-healthy snacks
high in omega- 3 fatty acids. A bean burrito
wrap with a heap of salsa; trail mix with walnuts, pumpkin seeds and dried apricots; or
half a whole-grain bagel with light cream
cheese and sockeye salmon are Olympian-quality brain snacks.
Olympians are intentional eaters
Athletes are mindful about what they put
into their bodies, but just because you aren’t
skiing down a mountain at 80 kilometres ( 50
miles) per hour doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be
intentional about your eating habits too. “The
goal of good nutrition is health, energy,
strength and good immunity,” says Guest.
“Athletes are just more intense because they
have more demands on their [bodies].”
Planning meals and snacks can help you
avoid a mid-afternoon run to the corner store,
where you’ll surely end up with a less-than-healthy option. C
Lisa Evans is a Toronto-based freelance writer
whose favourite Winter Olympics events are
hockey, speed skating and alpine skiing.
Costco member Nanci Guest, a registered
sports dietitian, has been working with
elite athletes for 10 years.
By Lisa Evans
FOR MANY OF US, the new year signals a
change in attitude when we tell ourselves it’s
time to get off the couch and hit the gym.
There’s no greater inspiration to get in shape
than watching the toned physiques of Canada’s
finest athletes compete in the Olympic Games.
Toronto-based registered sports dietitian
and Costco member Nanci Guest has been
counselling some of the world’s most elite athletes for more than 10 years. Guest was the
supervising dietitian in the 2010 Vancouver
Olympic Village and most recently worked
with Olympians to prepare them for Sochi.
While our physical abilities may never
land us on the Olympic podium, we mere
mortals can learn some lessons from Olympic
athletes’ eating habits. Guest shares the following tips.
Olympians don’t rely
While calcium supplements, for example,
may be appropriate for lactose-intolerant
individuals who can’t get enough calcium
from food sources, Guest says supplements
are too often marketed as a quick fix for
improper nutrition and can be dangerous in
Athletes know that too much vitamin C,
Olympians fuel their workouts
for example, can affect how their muscles
adapt to training. (Too much vitamin C can
prevent the muscles from reaching their aero-
bic capacity.) Guest avoids recommending
supplements to anyone, preferring to counsel
on food instead. “A poor
diet plus a supple-
ment is still a
poor diet,” she says. “The best diet is one
rooted in real food,”
Many of the athletes Guest works with
train four to seven hours a day. She says the
secret ingredient that fuels their training is
proper nutrition. “You can only train as
intense as the amount of fuel you have in your
system,” says Guest.
For athletes, that fuel is a combination of
a protein, which is essential for muscle
growth, and a carbohydrate, which is the
body’s primary source of energy, and practically no fat. “Fat slows down the absorption of
nutrients,” explains Guest. Athletes will opt to
eat smaller meals before workouts to help
them sustain a higher level of energy. For the
folks who only hit the gym for an hour or so,
great options to fuel a workout include an
apple and a glass of milk, a banana and a cup
of non-fat yogurt, or hummus and whole-grain pita slices.
Olympians are picky
Even Olympians enjoy eating out, but
Guest says they’re choosy about how food is
prepared. They order grilled fish or steak
instead of fried, and always ask for dressings
and sauces on the side because these can be
high in fat. They also choose menu items with
simpler ingredients, such as skinless chicken
breasts or plain rice. “Things made with multiple ingredients that you can’t separate out are likely going to be
higher in fat,” says Guest.
While the word
“snack” may have you envi-
sioning chips and chocolate
bars, Guest says what’s in the
snack cupboard of an Olympic-
level athlete is just as nutritious
as what’s in the fridge. Snacks not
only help maintain the body’s
physical energy needs, but also
keep Canada’s athletes mentally
alert. “If their mind isn’t there,
their body is useless,” says Guest.