5 Things I Learned Working With Elite Athletes

Stephanie Nelson, RD
by Stephanie Nelson, RD
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5 Things I Learned Working With Elite Athletes

I’m Stephanie, the in-house registered dietitian and nutrition scientist at MyFitnessPal. I work to make sure the nutrition advice, features, and RD-approved recipes we publish will help you live your healthiest life.

I worked as an intern in the nutrition department at the Olympic Training Center for a year. Here are some things I learned:

ALWAYS EAT ENOUGH

Our biggest priority was making sure athletes ate enough food to keep up their performance. The take-home message is you cannot function properly without eating enough of the right kinds of foods. While us mere mortals don’t exercise as much as those training for the Olympics, we have common ground in that we need to fuel ourselves properly for our day and our workouts, too.

PRIORITIZE POST-WORKOUT FUEL

Post-workout meals are hard to get right, and macronutrient balance is extremely important. For every 1 gram of protein, athletes should have 4 grams of carbohydrates if they’ve come off a training session. You need the carbs to refuel your energy, and they also help with protein utilization (making sure your protein goes to rebuilding and repairing muscle). The average person probably doesn’t train hard enough to need as exact and intense refueling, but we should still aim for a serving of protein and a serving of carbohydrates after a good workout.

VEGGIES GET THE GOLD MEDAL

We always had a fully stocked salad bar and a serving of freshly steamed or roasted vegetables at every meal. Getting enough vegetables, and offering a variety of vegetables, was super important for making sure our athletes were getting enough vitamins and minerals. It’s important for your immune system and to keep your metabolism functioning efficiently.

THERE’S NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL APPROACH

We didn’t take a blanket approach to nutrition. We would tailor our recommendations based on the athlete’s sport, sleep, recovery, training schedule and pain points in their diet. Without a personal dietitian at your disposal, you can use MyFitnessPal to track the nutrients you have trouble consuming.

GUT HEALTH FOR THE WIN

Probiotics were a hot topic. Athletes in the middle of an intense training program were at a higher risk of getting sick, especially during travel, and probiotics were shown to help minimize these effects. Optimal gut health is really important for keeping your immune system in top shape, so try to eat a serving of probiotics through yogurt, kimchi, tempeh or kombucha, at least a couple of times per week.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Even if you’re not training for a professional sport, these tips are an important part of any healthy lifestyle. Try to include protein and carbs at every meal, prioritize veggies, and fuel yourself enough throughout the day.

Ready to take the next step? Unlock MyFitnessPal Premium to access custom goal settings, quick-log recipes, and guided plans from a registered dietitian. Premium users are 65% more likely to reach their weight loss goals!

About the Author

Stephanie Nelson, RD
Stephanie Nelson, RD

Stephanie (MS, RD) is a Registered Dietitian and is MyFitnessPal’s in-house nutrition expert and nutrition scientist. Passionate for promoting healthy lifestyles, Stephanie graduated from San Diego State University with a focus on research and disease prevention. In the past, she’s worked in cancer research and given nutrition advice to Olympic athletes and U.S. Marines undergoing extreme physical training. When she’s not thinking about food, writing about food, or eating, you can find her cuddling her dogs, on the yoga mat, attached to her snowboard, or climbing rocks.

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