If you watched the US Olympic Swim Trials you’ve got to be excited about our team going for gold this summer in Rio. Mama bear, here, was proud of her former bear cubs that made the team. Swim caps off to University of California swimmers past and present for a terrific showing! For these high performance athletes, the right food and fluids are a key aspect of elite training and competition. Nutrition can be viewed as the athletes “inner gear.” It’s a “hidden” aspect of training that can make the difference between finishing on the podium or not.
An individualized nutrition plan, along with fueling strategies that have been designed to meet the specific training demands of a particular sport, become part of an athlete’s daily routine. However, during the week or so leading up to competition, hectic travel schedules coupled with changes in cuisine, can present challenges. In order to contribute to the best possible nutrition outcomes for individual preparation and recovery, food and beverage intake needs to remain as consistent as possible, and precautions need to be taken to reduce the risk of food borne illness. An athlete’s capacity for peak performance depends greatly on the provision of familiar and nutritionally balanced fare. As a back-up plan, I always recommend that athletes travel with their “go to” foods just in case. Depending on individual preferences, these may include non-perishable foods such as nuts, nut butter, whole grain cereal, crackers, sports bars, trail mix, raisins and other dried fruit, vacuum packed tuna, and string cheese. They may also choose to pack beverages such as bottled water, sports drinks, and nutrition shakes.
Since one fueling strategy does not fit all, American athletes have the advantage of turning to a team of registered sports dietitians who travel to Rio for individualized planning and assistance. With their focus on interfacing with chefs and providing science-based nutrition education, these health care professionals provide the highest level of nutritional support to our American Olympians. USOC dietitians hit the ground running and work tirelessly as the ‘team behind the team’ to make certain that our athletes have the necessary foods available to support their performance. Many thanks, colleagues!
In August 2016, Rio de Janeiro will become the first South American city to host the Olympic Games. So what’s it like to eat as an Olympian? Here’s a peek at the services and cuisine that will be provided at this year’s Games.
In order to be successful, chefs must address individual sports specific needs and cultural requirements of the athletes. The mission of dining services in Rio is to deliver high quality, safe, and sustainable food at the Games. It’s a dynamic and complex process with lots of moving parts.
So what’s the recipe for how they will achieve their mission? First and foremost, they have to address food safety. This includes facility design and equipment, food supply specification, procurement, transportation, and storage. Standards must also be met for the preparation and serving of all cuisine.
Of utmost importance is ensuring that the food served is free from steroids and any other ingredients that might cause an athlete to test positive on a doping test. Rio’s director of food and beverages has stated that in an effort to address concerns that they are requiring suppliers to have all the certificates demanded by their nations food and drug agency.
Another guiding principle for Rio is that the food offerings will be nutritious, diverse, and balanced. The goal is to provide a high quality menu with a wide range of options. Food will be served buffet style so that athletes can eat all that they want. They will be able to choose from five different cuisine types—Brazilian, Asian, International, Pasta and Pizza, and Halal and Kosher. Offerings will be sensitive to the food restrictions of certain populations and will provide options to meet cultural requirements. For example, Kimchi—fermented cabbage—will be shipped directly from Korea, and food for Jewish and Muslim competitors will adhere to their religious dietary laws.
In preparation for the Games, Rio has constructed a kitchen the size of a football field (American football, that is) and a dining room the size of a football field times two! There will be 24/7 catering service available at the Main Dining Hall and in the Olympic Village. Meal service is also accessible for athlete in competition and training venue lounge areas.
Food service staff will prepare 60,000 meals each day for over 18,000 athletes, coaches and staff. These meals will be produced from daily shipments of 460,000 pounds of raw ingredients. Rio officials say that they’re committed to sustainably sourcing food, so nearly all of the food will be from Brazil. Food will be served on biodegradable plates. We’re talking millions of plates..!
As the host country, Brazilian cuisine will be prominent and proudly served. Key ingredients in Brazilian dishes—including rice, local meats, black beans, coconut water, and farofa (a dish consisting of toasted flour, bacon and spices) —will be incorporated into meal offerings. Athletes will also be able to sample Brazil’s many local fruits such as maracuja, açai, goiaba, caja, and carambola and starfruit.
While it’s best for all athletes to stick closely with the food plan they’ve trained with in preparation for their scheduled event(s), once they’ve finished competing at the Games, it will be time to have some fun—and savor a taste of Rio.
GO TEAM USA!