Health and Medicine

What Food Does It Take To Fuel Athletes Like Usain Bolt To Olympic Success?

The ConversationUsain Bolt made history at the Rio Olympics, becoming the first athlete to win gold in the 100 metre and 200 metre sprints at three consecutive games. He didn’t beat his world record of 9.58 seconds, but still managed to leave his competitors for dust.

It takes years of intense training and enormous discipline for athletes such as Bolt to achieve their Olympic dreams – and throughout it all they have to adhere to strict dietary requirements. To find out what sort of food it takes to fuel Bolt’s Olympic efforts, it’s worth taking a closer look at an Olympic sprinter’s ideal diet.

In the run up to the Olympic Games, Bolt would actually require more energy than during the games themselves. High quality preparatory training sessions use up a huge number of calories which need to be replaced with the correct nutrients. After all, these sessions are crucial in giving Bolt the all-important muscle power and technique that help him to gain the advantage over his competitors.

Protein over carbo-loading

During training, sprinters have to maintain a nourishing and balanced diet. This is predicated on the familiar mix of protein, carbohydrate, vitamins and minerals. Unlike some endurance athletes, sprinters don’t need to carbo-load with bread, potatoes, rice, pasta and cereals. Instead, protein – found in eggs, meat, fish, nuts, beans and dairy products – is perhaps the key dietary requirement. Protein allows muscles to recover, repair and develop after sprint and resistance drills which cause minute damages to the muscle fibres.

Another piece of chicken? Elena Schweitzer/Shuttertock

Carbohydrates are still crucial for sprinters as sprint training also uses up a huge amount of a compound called glycogen. When we eat carbohydrate, it is broken down and stored by the body in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. Sprint training can deplete glycogen stores very quickly since it’s the only fuel available to the body at such high intensity effort. Bolt’s 100 metre world record time of 9.58 seconds isn’t long enough for the body to process the oxygen it needs and so energy is provided anaerobically – without oxygen – from fuels already found in the muscles.

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