How to snack like an Olympic athlete
While the Olympics might be over (sob), many Australians still have a marathon ahead of us as we wait for the latest lockdown to end. When you’re choosing food to munch on while watching whatever you can find on your eight different streaming services that you haven’t already seen, a Deakin University accredited sports dietitian has suggested that you should consider trying to snack like an Olympic athlete does.
Dr Dominique Condo – a senior lecturer in sports nutrition with Deakin’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences who also oversees nutrition programs for the Geelong Cats football club and the WNBL Deakin Melbourne Boomers – says the way athletes eat before and during competition can provide us novices with an opportunity to rethink how we snack.
“When it comes to snacks, many people reach for pre-packaged, highly processed foods full of salt and sugar that might be tasty and convenient but offer us little nutritional value,” Dr Condo says. “Athletes use snack time as an opportunity to have a healthy mini-meal.
“While some people may be put off the idea of eating a meal-like snack such as scrambled eggs on toast, thinking it will result in weight gain, the opposite is likely to happen. A healthy small meal won’t have the hidden calories and sugars and added fats of most snack foods.”
The building blocks of the perfect snack
Dr Condo says that if you want to snack like an Olympic athlete, eat “mini-meals” that are built around lean proteins and good-quality carbs. (No, carbs don’t make you fat).
“Athletes get most of their energy requirements from carbs, such as high-fibre bread and cereals, rice, fruit and dairy products, to fuel their muscles and their brains,” she says.
“These are paired with proteins such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs, tofu or nuts to maintain lean muscle mass, which is important for athletes to prevent injuries and for muscle repair. Protein also helps with satiety, making you feel fuller and limiting craving for sugary foods.
“Before and during competitions, athletes eat regular meals, including a main meal two hours before an event and smaller meals or snacks during an event. Eating at regular intervals is essential, as the body needs a consistent intake of protein across the day.
“This goes for non-athletes as well. While most of us don’t have the high energy requirements of an athlete, we can certainly learn from the way they eat.”
So, before filling that bowl with chips or chocolates, think about trying the following athlete-friendly protein/carbohydrate suggestions from Dr Condo:
1. Smoothies made with milk, yoghurt, fruits and oats
2. Air-popped popcorn and dry-roasted nuts
3. Rice cakes or a piece of wholegrain toast spread with cottage cheese and avocado or with smoked salmon or tuna on top
4. High-protein yoghurt with some nuts and fruit
5. Homemade protein balls or muesli bars
6. Try Dr Condo’s “lean and mean zucchini hash” (recipe below)
Lean and mean zucchini hash
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 10 minutes
2 large eggs
¼ cup onion, diced
1 cup zucchini, finely grated
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Heat a pan on high and then lower to medium heat.
3. Remove pan from heat, apply cooking spray to pan and return to heat.
4. Spoon mixture in, cook for about 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another five.