How Many Calories Do America's Winter Olympians Consume in a Day?

Mark Ralston, Getty Images
Mark Ralston, Getty Images / Mark Ralston, Getty Images

When you see an Olympic athlete executing a perfect triple Lutz or clearing a 90-meter jump at this year’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, remember that that kind of performance takes a lot of fuel. Olympic participants and chefs recently shared exactly what goes into the diets necessary to compete at the world's highest level with ABC News, showing just how thoughtful Olympians have to be about their meals.

Megan Chacosky, a dietitian and chef who has worked with the U.S. Olympic team for three years, told ABC that the athletes consume roughly 3000 to 4000 calories per day while training. For comparison, the USDA recommends a daily intake of about 2000 calories for most adults. Those extra calories give athletes plenty of energy to burn when training on the slopes, where high altitudes can take an extra toll on their bodies.

Meal plans vary from athlete to athlete, depending on the event they're training for and their personal dietary needs. Michael Phelps reportedly feasted on pasta, pizza, and eggs before competing, while Usain Bolt preferred low-calorie proteins like chicken and fish. And believe it or not, McDonald’s is a consistent favorite among players.

For some athletes preparing for this year's competition, the quality of the food is more important than calorie content. U.S. alpine skier Resi Stiegler, who has to eat every 90 minutes while training, told ABC that she avoids sugar in favor of lean proteins and vegetables. Working a healthy amount of fat into her diet is also essential to maintaining healthy hair and skin in cold weather, she said.

Stiegler's fellow alpine skier Ted Ligety also eats plenty of vegetables and high-protein foods. For breakfast, that means eggs, bread, meat, and a cup of coffee from his sponsor, Folgers. He also likes to down protein shakes as a post-workout snack.

While athletes may be responsible for their own diets when training at home, in Pyeongchang, the Americans have Chacosky and the rest of the team’s chefs and dietitians to guide them. The math of portioning out protein, calories, and carbohydrates is a big part of the job, but Chacosky also realizes that it's important to feed the team meals they’ll enjoy. Burrito bowls, meatball subs, teriyaki stir-fry, and roast chicken are all on the menu in the Olympic village in Pyeongchang. The most popular dish she prepares is a fish taco made with tilapia, rice, feta, guacamole, and corn-and-black-bean salsa.

For the athletes with a weakness for sweets, she uses her background as a pastry chef to bake goodies like banana bread and chocolate chip cookies, and keeps a stash of ice cream in the freezer. Because, let's face it: These world-class athletes deserve a treat.

[h/t ABC News]