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

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]

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

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10 Fast Facts About Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph breaks the tape as she wins the Olympic 4 x 100 relay in 1960.
Wilma Rudolph breaks the tape as she wins the Olympic 4 x 100 relay in 1960.
Robert Riger/Getty Images

Wilma Rudolph made history as a Black female athlete at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. The 20-year-old Tennessee State University sprinter was the first American woman to win three gold medals at one Olympics. Rudolph’s heroics in the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 4 x 100-meter events only lasted seconds, but her legend persists decades later, despite her untimely 1994 death from cancer at age 54. Here are some facts about this U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame member.

1. Wilma Rudolph faced poverty and polio as a child.

When Rudolph was born prematurely on June 23, 1940, in Clarksville, Tennessee, she weighed just 4.5 pounds. Olympic dreams seemed impossible for Rudolph, whose impoverished family included 21 other siblings. Among other maladies, she had measles, mumps, and pneumonia by age 4. Most devastatingly, polio twisted her left leg, and she wore leg braces until she was 9.

2. Wilma Rudolph originally wanted to play basketball.

The Tennessee Tigerbelles. From left to right: Martha Hudson, Lucinda Williams, Wilma Rudolph, and Barbara Jones.Central Press/Getty Images

At Clarksville’s Burt High School, Rudolph flourished on the basketball court. Nearly 6 feet tall, she studied the game, and ran track to keep in shape. However, while competing in the state basketball championship in Nashville, the 14-year-old speedster met a referee named Ed Temple, who doubled as the acclaimed coach of the Tennessee State Tigerbelles track team. Temple, who would coach at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics, recruited Rudolph.

3. Wilma Rudolph made her Olympic debut as a teenager.

Rudolph hit the limelight at 16, earning a bronze medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. But that didn’t compare to the media hype when she won three gold medals in 1960. French journalists called her “The Black Pearl,” the Italian press hailed “The Black Gazelle,” and in America, Rudolph was “The Tornado.”

4. After her gold medals, Wilma Rudolph insisted on a racially integrated homecoming.

Tennessee governor Buford Ellington, who supported racial segregation, intended to oversee the Clarksville celebrations when Rudolph returned from Rome. However, she refused to attend her parade or victory banquet unless both were open to Black and white people. Rudolph got her wish, resulting in the first integrated events in the city’s history.

5. Muhammad Ali had a crush on Wilma Rudolph.

Ali—known as Cassius Clay when he won the 1960 Olympic light heavyweight boxing title—befriended Rudolph in Rome. That fall, the 18-year-old boxer invited Rudolph to his native Louisville, Kentucky. He drove her around in a pink Cadillac convertible.

6. John F. Kennedy literally fell over when he invited Wilma Rudolph to the White House.

President Kennedy, Wilma Rudolph, Rudolph’s mother Blanche Rudolph, and Vice President Johnson in the Oval Office.Abbie Rowe/White House Photographs/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum // Public Domain

In 1961, Rudolph met JFK in the Oval Office. After getting some photos taken together, the President attempted to sit down in his rocking chair and tumbled to the floor. Kennedy quipped: “It’s not every day that I get to meet an Olympic champion.” They chatted for about 30 minutes.

7. Wilma Rudolph held three world records when she retired.

Rudolph chose to go out on top and retired in 1962 at just 22 years old. Her 100-meter (11.2 seconds), 200-meter (22.9 seconds), and 4 x 100-meter relay (44.3 seconds) world records all lasted several years.

8. Wilma Rudolph visited West African countries as a goodwill ambassador.

The U.S. State Department sent Rudolph to the 1963 Friendship Games in Dakar, Senegal. According to Penn State professor Amira Rose Davis, while there, Rudolph independently met with future Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah’s Young Pioneers, a nationalist youth movement. She visited Mali, Guinea, and the Republic of Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) as well.

9. Denzel Washington made his TV debut in a movie about Wilma Rudolph.

Before his Oscar-winning performances in Glory (1989) and Training Day (2001), a 22-year-old Denzel Washington portrayed Robert Eldridge, Rudolph’s second husband, in Wilma (1977). The film also starred Cicely Tyson as Rudolph’s mother Blanche.

10. Schools, stamps, and statues commemorate Wilma Rudolph’s legacy.

Berlin, Germany, has a high school named after Rudolph. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp celebrating her in 2004. Clarksville features a bronze statue by the Cumberland River, the 1000-capacity Wilma Rudolph Event Center, and Wilma Rudolph Boulevard. In Tennessee, June 23 is Wilma Rudolph Day.