With the Sochi Olympics in full swing, it got us thinking what does the U.S. Olympic team eat to stay at the highest levels of nutrition and competitiveness? After all, the ingredients for their diets back in the states might not be readily available in and around Sochi. With a little bit of digging, we were shocked to find out that the competition isn’t just limited to jumping, skiing, sliding and skating; far from it, in fact. Who would have thought that the race for key food ingredients was equally as competitive?
“We were in a battle with the Koreans who bought out all the rice noodles in Sochi. They spent $35,000 in groceries. But luckily, we knew about an alternative market, so we responded. We got our game on, too. It’s an international competition not just for the slopes but for groceries,” said Allen Tran, the chef for the U.S. alpine, snowboarding and Nordic teams. Apparently, the trick is to prepare three familiar meals a day that are similar to what Olympic athletes are used to at home. That’s not easily accomplished in a region where the food is exotic and the ingredients unfamiliar. But it’s absolutely critical to the success of our athletes as introducing foreign ingredients into their system can cause discomfort, bloating and even some intestinal problems.
Interestingly enough, the favorite ethnic food among the alpine, snowboarding and Nordic teams is actually Mexican, but that’s a long stretch in Sochi. So chef Tran and three other chefs packed hundreds of pounds of equipment and ingredients they were certain would not be available in Sochi. This included maple syrup for pancakes, Sriracha, and cartons and cartons of water, which is suspect in Sochi.
So what are the athletes eating? Lots of different types of nuts and multiple flavors of Greek yogurt are everywhere. So are the foods from the menu at McDonald’s. That’s right, there are two huge McDonald’s cafes available 24 hours a day for the athletes and that means burgers, fries, chicken sandwiches and smoothies. And there’s also Borscht, Baskin Robbins ice cream, bagels, fresh baked breads and dumplings. Diversity is critical because a 250-pound bobsledder needs plenty of protein like steaks and chops while a cross-country skier needs to load up carbohydrates. In fact, there’s a 400-page manual from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that details the food and meal plans and instructions for each of the 85 nations in the competition. But when looking at the foods for the U.S, athletes, it’s pretty much what we’ve been writing about for the last year or so. Just like Mom said, eat your fruits and vegetables, get plenty of fiber and protein, and stock-up on those good carbs.