In last week’s column, Eating Like an Olympian, Part 1, I described in general how an Olympic athlete eats and drinks.
More specifically, what can we learn from how they eat daily? How should a regular roadie eat every day?
As I noted last week, “Nutrition plans need to be personalized to the individual athlete totake into account the specificity and uniqueness of the event, performance goals, practical challenges, food preferences, and responses to various strategies.” (American College of Sports Medicine).
The exact diet of each Olympic cyclist is confidential. However, in Advanced Sports Nutrition Dan Benardot, Ph.D., provides five detailed meal plans for endurance athletes with total calories ranging from 1,900 to 4,500 calories per day. The meal plan below is adapted from his book. Benardot is on the faculty of Georgia State University and is a registered dietician and Fellow of the ACSM and has worked with Olympic teams for over 10 years. He has an excellent website Food and Sport.
As you read this week’s column and look back at last week’s, remember that we’re each an experiment of one. You need to try different foods and drinks to find out what works for you while staying within the general guidelines in Parts 1 and 2.
Here is a sample nutrition plan for a 150-pound roadie assuming a 90-minute ride at 15 mph with about 1,000 feet of climbing, 30 minutes of core and stretching and the remaining 22 hours are spent doing light office-type work, eating, relaxing or sleeping.
If your day doesn’t include 90 minutes of riding, then deduct about 1,000 calories from the plan below. If you ride for about three hours, then add about 1,000 calories. Either deduct or add the calories proportionally among the six meals and snacks — don’t just have a big dinner!
On my website you can download a Calorie Estimator spreadsheet at the bottom of the Nutrition section. The Calorie Estimator uses your body weight, the distance of the ride, your speed and the amount of climbing to estimate the total calories and calories / hour that you are burning.
Weekday including 90-minute ride and 30 minutes core & stretching
About 2700 calories
|6 – 7 a.m.||Shower & dress|
|7 – 8 a.m.||Breakfast||8 oz. juice, 1 c. cereal, 8 oz. 1% milk, 1 piece (1 c.) fruit, 1 poached egg, 1 slice whole wheat bread, 1 tsp. jam or margarine, black coffee / tea and water as desired||560|
|8 – 10 a.m.||Work||Water (and/or black
coffee / tea) as desired
|10 – 11 a.m.||Work and morning snack.||1 small bagel, 1 oz. low fat cream cheese, 1 piece fruit or 8 oz. fruit juice||330|
|11 a.m. – 12 noon||Work||Water (and/or black
coffee / tea) as desired
|Noon – 1 p.m.||Lunch brought from home||3 oz. lean protein (e.g., tuna, chicken breast, turkey breast), 2 slices whole wheat bread, 1 tsp. reduced fat mayonnaise, 1 tsp. mustard, 1 c. raw vegetables, 1 piece (1 c.) fruit, water as desired||450|
|1 p.m. – 3 p.m.||Work||Water (and/or black
coffee / tea) as desired
|3 – 4 p.m.||Work and afternoon snack||1 c. low-fat fruit yogurt, 1 oz. crackers, hard pretzels, etc.||400|
|4 – 5 p.m.||Work||Water (and/or black coffee / tea) as desired|
|5 – 6:30 p.m.||Ride||18 oz. sports drink||150|
|6:30 – 7:30||Hearty low-fat dinner||4 oz. lean broiled protein (e.g., chicken breast, turkey breast, fish, etc.), 1 c. vegetables (raw or steamed), 1 tsp. olive oil, 1/2 c. whole grains (e.g., brown rice, whole wheat pasta, potato with skin, etc.), water as desired.||425|
|7:30 – 9:00 p.m.||Core & stretching during relaxation activities||2 c. air popped popcorn, water as desired||50|
|9 – 10 p.m.||Relaxation, evening snack||1 c. 1% milk, 2 cookies||300|
The basis of the nutrition plan is energy balance. i.e., within a span of a few hours the calories you consume equal the calories you are burning. Energy balance supports better training than if you ride yourself into energy deficit. Energy balance better supports weight management — if you run a significant deficit your body may think you’re starving and store calories as fat.
Daily Nutrition Notes for Regular Roadies
- Sleep — you should get a full 8 hours of sleep per night.
- Six meals—the total of 2,700 calories are spread over six meals and snacks ranging from 300 to 560 calories. Rather than 3 snacks, I graze during the morning and afternoon.
- Breakfast — is the largest meal.
- Pre-breakfast ride — if the ride is before breakfast, then eat about 1/3 of the breakfast calories before the ride.
- Big snacks — mid-morning, mid-afternoon and evening snacks of about 300 – 400 calories each are important to maintain energy balance. The afternoon snack is the largest so the roadie is fueled for the training ride.
- Protein — small protein servings at breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is enough protein to repair and maintain muscles.
- Fruits and vegetables — 5 servings fruit and vegetables, which are healthy carbs containing vitamins and minerals.
- Whole grains — 6 servings of bread, bagel, brown rice, pasta, potato, etc.), which are also healthy carbs.
- Dairy – 3 1-cup servings of low-fat dairy items, which are important for strong bones.
- Limited added fats — margarine, low-fat mayonnaise, olive oil and no rich toppings.
- Fried food — None. All the food you eat is broiled, boiled, steamed or raw.
- Take-out food — None. All the food is prepared at home, which takes a bit of work, but avoidsadded sodium and hidden calories, especially from fat.
- Sweetened drinks — the rider drinks milk, fruit juice and water and may drink moderate amounts of black coffee or tea but no sweetened drinks, which add empty calories with no nutritional value.
- Treats — a couple of cookies because (almost) anything in moderation is okay!
Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.