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Olympic Athletes' Diets: The Strangest, Most Efficient And Yummiest Foods

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Get ready for an onslaught of guilty feelings about healthy eating this summer -- as London's Summer Olympics starts up this week, we can not only look forward to idyllic images of the British countryside at the opening ceremony, but also a nuanced description of athletes' meal that will make even the most mindful eater feel humbled.

Not that it's all Brussels sprouts and beets in the Athlete's Village. McDonald's, one of the Games biggest sponsors, has included a 24-hour restaurant right where the athletes are eating, and the UK head of the chain, Jill McDonald, has predicted it will be the busiest area, according to an interview with the UK Sun.

But in fact, Michael Phelps' mythical 12,000-calories-a-day diet touted during the 2008 Summer Olympics doesn't quite apply to all athletes. A Reuters photo gallery of various athletes' nutritional needs shows each sport has its own count -- like 1,500 calories for female Taekwondo experts, or 3,500 calories for male javelin throwers.

So what components go into meals to create those perfect human specimans? We've looked at a range of Olympians from countries around the world to see what they ate -- and what perhaps, we should all be eating for healthier options:

26 Foods Olympic Athletes Eat
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Almond Butter
Two-time Olympic medalist and beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings, from team USA says she has a lot of almond butter and honey sandwiches throughout the day, especially before she competes, according to EatingWell.com.

Beans On Toast
Talk about a breakfast for champions. U.K. diver Tom Daley says he has beans on toast for breakfast, according to Yahoo.com.

Clif Gels
When vegan ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek needs a quick shot of energy, he often chooses gel packs from Clif (which he also endorses).

Dry Bars
Well, Team Russia won't be celebrating with booze this year. According to the Telegraph, the Russian Olympic team and delegation have been banned from drinking alcohol during the games. This was probably a good idea.

Egg Whites
Skip the yellow and keep the white. U.K. handball captain Bobby White likes to eat two scrambled egg whites with fruit juice for breakfast, according to Men's Health.

Feijoda
When Team Brazil lands in London, we can ensure you that Feijoda will be on their menu. The black bean stew, which is a traditional meal in Brazil is considered a team favourite, according to PostCodeGazette.com.

Goat's Head
At the Birmingham base, some chefs were requested to cook up goat head for visiting athletes from the Caribbean. But after failed attempts, they stuck with goat curry instead.

Horse
Turns out the Kazakhstan wrestling team doesn't like horsing around. The team specially demanded horse sausage for their journey to their games, claiming it boosts their weightlifting abilities.

Instant Coffee
Yes, athletes do need their caffeine. Australian basketball player Lauren Jackson says she likes to mix instant coffee with light milk for breakfast.

Jam Sandwiches
When Paralympic cycling champion Sarah Storey is hitting the road, she says she often gets jam sandwiches handed to her on her route while riding.

Kale
American swimmer Natalie Coughlin says she loves to garden and has a whole bed of fresh kale and herbs.

Lasagna
Swimmer Dara Torres says her favourite dinnertime meal is a turkey-spinach lasagna with garlic bread, a mixed green salad and green beans.

Milkshakes
Diver Tom Daley also likes his chocolate milkshakes, especially at 12:30 p.m., according to Men's Health.

Nuggets
Nugget lovers, rejoice -- you can feel a bit healthy again. During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Jamaican runner Usain Bolt says he was fuelled by chicken nuggets.

Oatcakes
British rower Pete Reed has one ultimate secret for building those muscles: Adding a cottage cheese-covered oatcake to your evening snack, he told Men's Health.

Porridge
Malaysian badminton star Lee Chong Wei, whose recovering from a serious ankle injury prefers hot soups and porridges -- a staple back home.

Quinoa
American soccer player Abby Wambach says her go-to health foods are quinoa, sushi and Brussels sprouts, according to FoodAndWine.com.

Rice
Most athletes would probably say no to processed white rice, but if you're in dire need of an Olympian body, add slow carbs like brown rice to your meal plan.

Shakes
It may sound like a stereotype, but athletes really do rely on shakes to get hits of protein and vegetables. They can be full of powder or 'greens,' but almost every single Olympian interviewed will inevitably mention their breakfast or post-workout shake as part of their day.

Tuna Steak
Fish is a big deal for Olympians, serving as it does as a source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. For David Roberts, who's competing in the Paralympics, the perfect dinner consists of a tuna steak and beetroot salad for a hit of both protein and vegetables.

Unsweetened Teas
For those who are running, green tea is a great option to help reduce muscle damage and speed recovery -- but for Olympians who are taking in a lot of liquids, an unsweetened option is the best choice.

Vegetarian Diet
There have been many reports of athletes, particularly long-distance runners, taking a vegetarian or vegan approach to their diets to gain strength in new ways. But for the Chinese women's volleyball team, they opted to stop eating meat because of the possibility of testing positive in the stringent drug tests performed at the Olympics -- even if it's affecting their athletic prowess.

Water
The single most important component of any athlete's diet, one recommendation includes consuming half of one's body weight in pure water, as well as sports drinks if required.

Xtreme Dieting
Some of us get concerned when we eat a handful of almonds too many -- and then there's Korean rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae, whose trainers measure her food each day in grams, knowing even the slightest fluctuation in weight could devastate her routines. She does admit, however, that if she had her way, she'd eat pizza and ddukbokki (sweet and spicy rice cakes) all the time.

Yams
Last time around at the Summer Olympics, Ursain Bolt's father attributed his son's immense speed to the yams that are ubiquitous in Jamaica. And with the country's athletes favoured in 2012, we wouldn't surprised to see more athletes piling them on their plates.

Zero Processed Foods
Make sure your food comes from, well, food, say the athletes -- and this can't be news to anyone watching what they eat. According to triathlete Sarah Groff, she sticks to whole grains, fruits and vegetables, not even diving into bars or supplements.

Around the Web

An Olympic athlete's diet - Live Well - NHS Choices

Olympic Athlete Diet - What Do Athletes Eat - Delish.com

What Does An Olympic Athlete's Diet Look Like? [Pics] - PSFK

Olympic Athlete's Diet | Amusing Planet

Diets of Athletes at the Olympics

HealthWatch: NorCal Olympic Athlete Credits Paleo Diet For Healing

Olympics 2012: Team GB athletes' diets interactive - Telegraph

Olympic athletes swap fitness data for latest gadgets in bid for 2012 edge

Olympic-sized sport myths

Olympics-China panics over meat-free diet for athletes

 
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