Serena Caner, registered dietician

Column: Eating like an Olympian

Olympic fever has arrived, leaving us inspired to pursue our favourite sports.

However, when I think about being an Olympian, what interests me most is the opportunity to taste the local cuisine of the host country. What better way than exercise to stimulate a great appetite and well-earned meal?

My Olympic visit would include visiting interesting restaurants and sweet talking the local security guards for the best street vendors or lesser-known gems.

Important Korean sentences to practice would include, “Which way to the best Korean BBQ? Beebimbap?”

However, the food reality of being an Olympian is extremely disappointing.

First of all, most Olympians are weight conscious.

Ski jumpers, for example, eat as little as 1,300 calories per day. Unfortunately, the lighter you are, the farther you fly, so they aim to weigh ten pounds less than usual prior to competition. Figure skaters share a similar reality, where lightness allows them to jump high or be tossed across the ice. In fact, their dinner plate looks similar to the “plate” we promote in diabetes management: three ounces of lean protein, 3/4 cup whole grain and the rest…vegetables.

The second disappointment is that diet experimentation during competition is not recommended. When a split second can make the difference between winning and losing, nothing is left to chance.

Food is deemed so important to the athlete’s performance that this year, Team USA shipped all their food and equipment – weighing hundreds of pounds – to South Korea.

While to me, this seems rude and counter to the Olympic spirit “to build a peaceful and better world which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play,” it is how they mitigate their perceived risk of foodborne illness and gastrointestinal upset.

Luckily for me, I will never be an Olympian.

Travelling across the world, only to eat your own food in limited quantities seems like a wasted opportunity. However, seeing how Olympians eat, is a reminder of how important nutrition is to health and performance.

If you would like to eat along with the Olympians, Team USA has their own website with recipes: https://www.teamusa.org/cookingwithteamusa/recipes.

-Serena Caner is a registered dietitian who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.

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