How to snack like an athlete while watching the Olympics
When choosing snacks to eat while watching the Olympic Games, a Deakin University accredited sports dietitian suggests we look to the athletes’ diets for inspiration.
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, said that the way athletes eat before and during competition provides an opportunity to rethink the way we snack.
"When it comes to snacks, many people will reach for pre-packaged, highly processed foods full of salt and sugar that might be tasty and convenient but have little nutritional value. Where athletes use snack time as an opportunity to have a healthy mini-meal," Dr Condo said.
"While some people may be put off eating a meal-like snack, such as scrambled eggs on toast, thinking it will result in putting on weight, the opposite is likely to happen because a healthy small meal will not have the hidden calories and sugars and added fats of most snack foods."
Dr Condo said the key to snacking like an athlete is to eat mini-meals built around protein and good quality carbohydrates.
"Athletes get most of their energy requirements from carbohydrates, such as high fibre bread and cereals, rice, fruit and dairy products, to fuel their muscles and their brains," Dr Condo explained.
"These meals are paired with proteins, such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs, tofu and 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 high sugar foods.
"Before and during competitions, athletes will eat regular meals including a main meal two hours before an event and smaller meals or snacks during an event where possible. 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."
Before filling a bowl with chips and chocolates, Dr Condo offers the following athlete-friendly protein/carbohydrate snack suggestions:
- Smoothies made with milk, yoghurt, fruits and oats,
- Air-popped popcorn and dry roasted nuts,
- Rice cakes or a wholesome piece of toast spread with cottage cheese and avocado or smoked salmon or tuna on top,
- High protein yoghurts with some nuts and fruit,
- Homemade protein balls or muesli bars.
And for those looking for a quick and easy snack recipe, here is Dr Condo’s Lean and Mean Zucchini Hash:
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 10 mins
* 2 large eggs
* 1 cup zucchini, finely grated
* 1/4 cup onion, diced
* 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1/4 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 to apply cooking spray into the pan before returning to heat and spooning the mixture into it.