Since the Sochi Olympics I’ve been giving my all to a new sport -- rugby -- with two aims: helping Team USA in any way possible to get to Rio in 2016, and improving at bobsled by mixing up my training. (Much more on that here.)
I’m at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., training full time, and that old car analogy has hit home for me more than ever: If you give a car poor gasoline, you’re going to end up with problems. But if you do high-grade, the engine is going to be more sound and get better fuel economy.
So I’ve been working hard to put in good-quality foods to get good-quality workouts. When I’m eating at my best, my whole body feels better. Here are the top five foods I swear by right now:
1. Bananas After a cardio-heavy rugby practice, I have a banana for sure. It’s quick carbohydrates to replenish everything I’ve lost running my guts out.
2. Almond Butter In bobsled I’m watching my weight all the time, and I eat a pretty fat- and protein-based diet. Almond butter is something quick I can grab that gives me protein for my muscles and fat to replenish what I worked off from the workout.
3. Chocolate Milk It’s got an ideal protein-to-carbohydrate ratio for recovery, and it can be a substitute for protein shakes, which is great for me since I have a hard time with artificial protein.
4. Steak or Grilled Chicken After bobsled, especially, I make sure to have a really good protein source to help my muscles rebuild.
5. Water Does water count? I drink lots and lots of it. As much as I can! I’ll sit down in the caf and make myself drink a cup or two before I eat, and more with my meal. I’ve heard there’s a significant power drop-off when you’re dehydrated.
And the foods I skip…
What I don’t eat is almost as important as what I do. I’m hardly perfect (especially right now because I have the stress of wedding planning on top of everything), but here’s what I’ve been avoiding:
1. Fast food. Out of season I don’t think twice about grabbing something real quick, but in season I make sure my foods take a while to cook and they’re not overprocessed. As I see it, whatever chemicals allow the food to be cooked that quickly are something I’m going to avoid putting in my peak-performance body!
2. Gluten. This is definitely one I’ve been slipping on with the recent wedding planning, but I usually try to stay away from gluten during my season. Even though it hasn’t been scientifically proven to affect people who aren’t gluten intolerant (and I don’t think I am), some people believe it can set off an inflammation response. And when I’m putting so much of myself into performing at my best, I’d rather steer clear, just in case.
3. Milk chocolate. It’s so tempting when we travel in Europe and they have Milka brand chocolate everywhere you stop, but I only eat at least 80 percent dark chocolate during the season since it has beneficial antioxidants.
4. Dried fruit. OK, I’ll admit that I don’t eat raisins because I can’t stand them. But I stay away from dried fruit in general, even though it tastes good, because of all the sugar. If I’m going to have that much sugar, I’d rather eat cake. (See pic above!)