Olympic athletes are touted for there incredible level of physical fitness. Because of this, their diet and exercise plans are dissected and fawned over by viewers everywhere. (Remember Michael Phelps’ crazy 12,000 calorie meal plan?) But not all Olympians have recommended diet plans. In fact, some of their menu plans can cause health hazards. Here are some of the most dangerous diet plans followed by Olympic athletes.
Too much unhealthy food
Since most Olympians burn a ridiculous amount of calories in a training session, they consume more food than the average person. But not every athlete fuels up with healthy eats. Take speedskater Shani Davis, for example. The Chicago native reportedly goes to town on deep dish pizza and fried chicken whenever he returns home. While it may sound like a dream to hoover pizza on a regular basis, eating it wreaks havoc on your blood sugar levels. Not mention it leaves you hungry just a couple hours later, which can lead to over-eating, obesity, and even diabetes.
Next: From too many things, to not enough at all.
Not enough food at all
Figure skaters are recognized for their grace, and their slender physiques. But the need to maintain a certain body image can lead to eating disorders. As the Independent reveals in a piece ahead of the 2018 Winter Games, skipping meals is all too common in the figure skating world. This can lead to anorexia, like it did for Japanese figure skater Akiko Suzuki. Suzuki’s coach told her losing a little weight could help her jumps, but she lost a dangerous amount and put her health in jeopardy.
Next: Even cutting down on meals can be dangerous.
Restrictive eating plans
Even diets with healthy foods in them can be too restrictive, and lead to eating disorders all the same. This is a problem that many Olympic sports face — gymnastics in particular. Former Team USA gymnast Dominique Moceanu told The New Yorker in an interview that her coach, Bela Karolyi, put her on a 900-calories a day plan! Restrictive diets deprive the body of essential nutrients, and can lead to chronic disease.
Next: Consuming enough calories can mean consuming too many chemicals.
Tons of MSG
It’s not just the high fat content in foods that can make an Olympian’s diet unhealthy. Chemicals in popular foods, especially fast food, can make anyone’s meal plan a health hazard. Take Shaun White’s pension for bad Chinese takeout, or Lolo Jones’ habit of eating McDonald’s cheeseburgers. Both foods contain high levels of MSG, which can lead to a plethora of health problems. Mayo Clinic tells us that high levels of MSG can lead to headaches, chest pain, and numbness in your extremities — among other maladies.
Next: The healthier-sounding diets can be just as dangerous.
The seemingly-healthy diet
As we previously discussed, a restrictive diet can cause more harm than good in the long run, especially when it comes to athletes that compete in weight-class events. Take Olympic wrestler Jordan Burroughs, whose restrictive diet includes a lunch consisting of juice containing beets, turmeric, and kale. Sports nutritionist Asker Jeukendrup tells Vox that weight restrictions make it hard for these athletes to eat balances meals. “If you can only eat 1,200 calories, that can be really problematic.”
Next: Trying to boost energy can wreck health.
According to the same Vox article, coffee and other caffeinated drinks are common among Olympic athletes. Members of the shooting team are particular fans of coffee and energy drinks so they can stay alert when they practice and compete. But having too much caffeine, combined with the restrictive diets that some of these athletes have, can be dangerous. Too much caffeine, especially on an empty stomach, can cause anything from jitters to nausea to cardiac arrest.
Next: Too much of this sweet is unhealthy, even for an Olympian.
Going overboard on the dairy
Every Olympian, even the super healthy ones, have a sweet treat they like to indulge in. For skier Ted Ligety, it’s lots and lots of ice cream. While a couple scoops here and there are pretty harmless, too much ice cream can be detrimental to your health. Eat This, Not That! points out that eating too much ice cream can alter the chemicals in your brain, in addition to raising your blood sugar levels and adding unwanted belly fat.
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