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Guest Post: Diets are always a hot topic and often controversial. That’s probably even more so when it comes to athletes and what they eat. We have a look here at some diet and health related statistics, both general and for athletes, with an emphasis on those that competed in the 2012 London Olympics.
Athletic Diets: The Numbers
These are some general facts and figures about athletes and diets.
- The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) recommends 2-2400 calories daily for active adult women. For active adult men, that recommendation is 2400-3000 calories. This is just to maintain bodyweight.
- 2-8,000 calories is the range of what most athletes are likely to eat daily while in training, usually spread out over 5 to 7 meals per day. The actual amount depends on the sport and whether or not an athlete is trying to bulk up, drop weight, or maintain their physique.
- 2/3 of daily calorie burn for the average person comes from resting metabolic rate — i.e., while essentially doing nothing.
- An average person can burn as much as 200-400 calories daily just from the digestive process. The larger the person and more active, the more calories they’ll burn daily in regular activity.
- A 190-lb athlete such as American swimmer Michael Phelps would burn about 2,000 calories per day just from his resting metabolic rate. I.e., lying around doing nothing. Athletes tend have a higher resting metabolic rate than the average non-athletic person.
- 6’1? is the average height of world class athletes. 217 pounds is their average weight.
- As per author Malcolm Gladwell, at least 10,000 hours spent at any endeavor tends to make you an expert on that subject. It’s been observed that 10K hours of quality training is about what an athlete needs to commit to for at least 8 years, to achieve elite performance, such as for the 2012 Olympics — as per a study conducted of participating athletes. That works out to approximately 24 hours/week or 4 hours per day, 6 days a week. Some athletes prefer a 6-hour total daily workout, thus burning more calories daily.
- In a Olympic/ Paralympics 2012 study, a group of 100 elite British athletes had consumed about 1.1M calories per year on average — roughly 3,013 calories daily during their average 11 year training regimen.
- 76.5% of daily caloric intake came from carbs for Kenyan runners of the Kalenjin tribe — who won about 40% of major running competitions worldwide (middle- and long-distance) from 1987-1997. In a study of this group, it was noted that they ate 5 times a day — not uncommon for actively training athletes. 86% of the Kenyan runners’ daily nutrients were vegetable-based. Their protein intake was about 75 grams/day.
- In comparison, distance runners from the U.S. ate 49% of daily calories in carbs, and similar runners from the Netherlands and South Africa ate 50% carbs. Australian runners ate 52% carbs.
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