How to Eat Breakfast Like a US Olympic Athlete
You know the age-old adage: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Fueling your body as soon as you wake up is especially important when you're a top athlete preparing to compete in the Olympics. Along with training, what athletes eat gearing up to the Games can affect their performance, too.
Ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, we asked Winter Olympians what they eat for breakfast on competing days.
To learn more, visit teamusa.org. The Winter Olympics are live starting Feb 8.
VIDEO: Olympics 2018: The Games By the Numbers
ELANA MEYERS TAYLOR, OLYMPIC BOBSLEIGH SILVER MEDALIST
Eggs are one of Taylor's favorite foods, so naturally she loves breakfast time. "I get up and have egg whites scrambled with veggies—peppers, spinach, mushrooms—whatever I have," she tells us. She usually pairs this with oatmeal and berries.
"I enjoy cooking, but with the life of an athlete, it's easier to be routine" she explains. " I choose these foods because they provide me energy without weighing me down."
Jamie Anderson, 2018 Team USA Snowboarder
"I always try to eat healthy—pure, organic, whole foods. I eat a little bit of meat, but I’m mostly vegetarian," says Anderson. "I drink a green shake that’s filled with amino acids—it’s called Tonic Alchemy—it has over 100 superfoods like spirulina, goji berries, all kinds of different grains. You have to make sure you’re taking in a lot of extra vitamins and minerals. Giving yourself the right ingredients is for your body, what positive affirmations are to the mind." For Anderson, breakfast usually consists of green smoothies with protein powder and herbal tea.
ALEXA SCIMECA KNIERIM, 2018 TEAM USA PAIR SKATER
On competition days, Knierim's nerves are high so her priority is just getting something down so she has enough energy and calories to go on the ice. "I think I often pivot to banana, peanut butter, oatmeal, a glass of milk, and maybe a small coffee," she says.
For training days, the skater opts for a slow-burn carb with some protein. "I'll often have a slice of bread with peanut butter, a banana, and a soft-scrambled egg. (On a plate, not mixed together.)," she tells us. "I always drink a glass of milk in the morning and again at night. For mornings, I'll have a small coffee and plenty of water as well."
Along with giving Knierim enough energy to compete, food was also important in the skater's recovery following a serious illness that required her to undergo three surgeries in 2016-2017. "When I began my recovery, my weight had bottomed out at 82 lbs," she says. "I was weak to the point where simply standing upright had become my workout. That said, food really played a vital role in rebuilding my body—I don't mean putting on weight, I mean rebuilding it stronger and more durable than before."
Laurenne Ross, 2018 Team USA Alphine Skier
Ross's go-to meal consists of a large sweet-potato, shitake-mushroom, red-onion, garlic, and spinach stir fry with two fried duck-eggs on top, some Yerba Mate with almond milk and local honey, pro-greens in carrot and orange juice, and sometimes an apple, orange, or pear on the side.
Sadie Bjornsen, 2018 Team USA Cross Country Skier
"My nutrition plan is pretty free formed. I have learned over the years that the variation in training causes my body to need different food sources, and different amounts," explains Bjornsen. "I am never afraid to reward myself when I deserve it, but I also work hard to give my body the very best fuel possible. I am an engine running on fuel as a source of energy. The better the fuel, the better the engine on the start line! If there is one lesson I have learned, less is not always better!" She typically has oatmeal, yogurt, apples, raisins, almonds, honey, and a spoon of peanut butter with a glass of water, and a cup of coffee.
Michelle Kwan, TWO-TIME OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATING MEDALIST
"I had a such a long career starting that started competing at the World Championships when I was 13," says Kwan. "I’m guilty of having different fads in that time frame where I would do carb overloads when that was popular, the fat-free thing, or high-protein like Atkins. But, later in my career I was a little bit smarter and I did lean protein." Her go-to meal: eggs, some turkey sausage, a vegetable like spinach, and some fruit.
Today, Kwan's usual breakfast isn't that different and usually whips up a spinach omelette—except she's added coffee into the mix. "I didn’t drink coffee when I was competing because I didn’t really like the taste, Kwan explains. "I just started drinking soy lattes. When I was competed my priorities were always training, eating, and being well-rested. I was physically fatigued, but I always had enough sleep because it was strategic. Now that I’m working and don’t have that luxury and I get more tired."
OKSANA MASTERS, THREE-TIME PARALYMPIC ROWER AND CROSS-COUNTRY SKIER
"My go to breakfast meal on race days consists of a lot of carbs so I will have enough fuel for a sustained effort," Masters tells us. "I will have oatmeal with honey, almonds and slice banana, cup of coffee or two, and OJ with my daily vitamins."
On non-race days Masters opts for a smaller breakfast with less carbs and more protein. "I will have a cup of yogurt with chia seeds, and blueberries and a slice of toast with lots of coffee," she says. "The biggest difference between the food I choose to eat on race days and non-race days is the amount of carbs."