Everyone knows that an athlete’s diet is almost as important as their daily workout routine. A diet can fueloptimal performance or leave you feeling too sluggish to run the extra mile or sprint that final stretch to the finish line. A little known fact, however, is that almost an entire year goes into making sure Team USA athletes receive the proper nutrition at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The process to make sure Team USA will have access to familiar foods while in Sochi, Russia, is no easy task. Susie Parker-Simmons, senior sports dietician with the United States Olympic Committee explained the process:
“There’s a careful balance between preparing foods that fit into the new culture where Team USA is competing and making sure they have access to foods they are accustomed to eating when training. Months and months of planning go into sourcing all of the appropriate food items — certain products took four months to clear Russian agriculture. The only food that we can put on the ships is food that has already cleared the system. We can’t risk having athletes or coaches put personal food on the ship because then we run the potential of being stopped and losing all of the items we are bringing over to the Games as part of that one order.”
Russia does not allow the import of genetically modified organisms so it is advised that athletes do their research to find out what will be available and plan ahead of time to bring the types of recovery products they will need if they are not on the pre-approved list.
About six months ahead of the Olympic Games, all National Olympic Committees will receive a finalized version of the menu for the Olympic Village. Caterers are selected years in advance of each Games and to put into perspective the important role that food plays in the Olympic Movement, over the two-week period of the London 2012 Games, almost 1 million meals were served. Also keep in mind that the Olympic menu in the village must work to accommodate a range of cultures.
If you feel like getting in the Russian culinary spirit this Thanksgiving, check out this traditional recipe:
RUSSIAN BORSCHT - FARM STYLE
1 cup beets (steamed or baked)
2/3 cups butter milk
1 tablespoon cucumber
1 tablespoon celery
1 tablespoon scallions
1 tablespoon apple
Dash of fresh mint, cilantro or parsley
Drizzle of olive oil
Dollop of Greek yogurt
Add olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl
Pour in buttermilk
Top soup with celery, cucumber, scallions, apple and Greek yogurt
Sprinkle with salt, pepper and mint!
Team USA athletes will have access to their own staff of sports dieticians and chefs to offer guidance throughout Sochi 2014. For the first time in 2012, Team USA had access to recovery stations located throughout the Olympic Village. Due to the overwhelming success of these stations in London, Team USA will once again have access to these areas to refuel with nuts, oatmeal, sports drinks and more. In addition to the recovery stations, there will be sport-specific menus prepared as well.
While months and months of planning go into preparing the Olympic menu and shipping Team USA’s products, an equal amount of preparation and guidance happens before the athletes depart for Sochi. The two biggest pieces of advice that athletes receive are to: 1) boost your immune system, and 2) say ‘yes’ to carbohydrates.
Here’s an example of an immune booster recipe that athletes are recommended to prepare:
1 ear fresh ginger, washed
1 garlic clove
1 handful kale
1 celery stalk
1/2 cup blackberries
Handful fresh mint
Mix in cayenne
Top with berries and mint leaf
Food at the Olympic Games continues to play an important role in shaping athletes’ Olympic and Paralympic journeys. Below is a sneak peek at part of Team USA’s Sochi menu:
Chicken pad thai and salad
Beef chili and corn bread
Pulled pork, slaw and bun
Soba noodle with tuna
Pork cashew stir-fry with broccoli and rice
Thai chicken coconut soup
Beef meatloaf, roast potato, bread and salad
Ham/lamb roast, mashed potato, kale salad, bread and carrot soup