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The Care and Feeding of Olympic Athletes
Date:7/27/2012

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- It seems there's virtually no end to the power and stamina of Olympic athletes, which is due in part to the detailed guidance they get from experts about the right amount and type of food they need.

So what do Olympic athletes eat? A lot.

On average, they need to consume between 8,000 and 10,000 calories a day, compared to just 2,000 to 2,800 calories a day for the average moderately active man, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The science of fueling athletes for elite sports goes way beyond caloric intake to include percentages of carbohydrates versus proteins, quantities of fluid and the timing of meals and snacks.

"There is a huge range of different needs, depending on the event and how much speed, endurance and strength the athlete needs," said Dr. Christine Gerbstadt, a registered dietician and anesthesiologist in Gaithersburg, Md.

The advice athletes get has changed a lot in the past 20 years, Gerbstadt said. "You used to see an NFL football team sit down to a huge steak dinner before a game," she said. "No more."

Instead, the new approach is designed to feed athletes not just a combination of foods they need prior to an event, but to ensure that they ingest the right nutrients to help repair their muscles for the next competition, Gerbstadt said.

There are three phases to consider when planning the nutritional needs of athletes, Gerbstadt explained. An hour or two before an event, the Olympians should have an easily digestible light meal -- ideally oatmeal and a banana with milk or yogurt. An hour or so before the competition, they also need 16 ounces of water.

Hydration is a big issue, said Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietician and director of wellness coaching for the Cleveland Clinic.

"Athletes can lose 2 percent to 3 percent of their body weight from dehydratio
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