Eating to Win

How much and what kinds of food do you think a top western athlete needs to eat each day to train for and win an Olympic competition? The answer may be very surprising! Watch and listen to this eye-opening report and compare your diet with this athlete's. Find out whether you are 'eating to win'.  




Video ©TESConnect



Eating to Win

Stefan: This is his tenth lap already and he’s already done 200 lengths of the swimming pool, and three hours of cycling and that’s ‘cause Matt Sharp isn’t just an athlete, he’s a tri-athlete. Let’s find out what that means.
Stefan: So Matt, tell us exactly what a triathlon is.
Matt: Well, a triathlon basically is swimming, cycling and running all one after the other without a rest.
Stefan: And how far do you have to go?
Matt: Well, there’s lots of distances, but what I do is Olympic distance which is 1500 metre swim, 40 kilometre bike ride and then a 10 K run to finish off.
Stefan: I’m exhausted just listening to you say it. And I mean presumably you have to train quite a bit, uhh, how often do you train?
Matt: Uhm well, I’m training every day and at the moment in the, in the depths of winter, it’s about 30, 25-30 hours a week, something like that.
Stefan: Wow.
Stefan: Matt usually burns off 4-5000 calories per day compared to 2500 calories for your average male adult.
Stefan: So you must need to eat quite a lot of food to keep yourself going through all of that.
Matt: Well your body’s like a car really, if you don’t put the right fuel in, if you try and, if you try and train 30 hours a week on 2000 calories or whatever the normal person eats, you’re not going to be able to do it.
Stefan: Shall we take a look at how much you eat in a day?
Matt: Yeah, let’s go back.
Stefan: Matt’s diet is scientifically worked out by a nutritionist to provide the calories and nutrients that his body needs. This is what Matt eats in a typical day.
Stefan: That is a heck of a lot of food! Can you take me through your, through your food day. Presumably you start somewhere over here.
Matt: Yeah.
Stefan: So what do you start with?
Matt: Well, in the morning, uhh, just to wake me up before swimming I have a glass of squash and a couple of biscuits. Just because before swimming, I can’t really stomach a big breakfast.
Stefan: So you have just a little something to eat to keep you going.
Matt: Yeah, yeah.
Stefan: So after the swim we pull out the big guns. What do you have for breakfast?
Matt: Well I have a wheat-based cereal to start off with, followed by some toast with some jam and I like to have a yogurt after, ’cause actually it’s actually quite a good source of protein and then I’ll have a big bowl of porridge push it all down just because it’s a really good source of slow release carbohydrates, for the bike ride later on.
Stefan: A massive breakfast, I’d say, probably about three times what I have for breakfast. And then, and then what have we got here?
Matt: Whilst I’m cycling, I’ll have a banana, a couple of jam sandwiches to keep me going.
Stefan: You have the jam sandwiches while you’re cycling?
Matt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s for long cycle rides. About 5 hours.
Stefan: That sounds dangerous to me.
Matt: No, your body doesn’t actually have enough energy in it to train at high intensity for 5 hours. What happens is if you train for that long, you start to go into something called hypoglycemia, which is when your muscles, you go into a dip, basically, an energy dip And your muscles run out of glycogen and you start running on the proteins, which isn’t very efficient and uh…
Stefan: So basically the energy, you can’t run on the energy from the food anymore, you’re having to use your body’s reserves a bit.
Matt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s really in the reserves. And so, it’s really not good, you can go really lightheaded and…really weak, and it can take you a long time to recover afterwards.
Stefan: Uh hum. So you’re basically feeding, …literally feeding …the energy straight into your body to be able to make that cycle ride. Then you’ve got to…this looks like another breakfast you’ve got here, what’s this? Lunch?
Matt: No, this is uhm, I’ll have scrambled eggs on toast, after the cycle ride.
Stefan: Any particular reason why eggs?
Matt: Well they’re a good source of natural protein, I like the flavour, and you can add anything to them really.
Stefan: Ok. What have we got here? What are these two huge pots of coloured liquid?
Matt: Uhh, these are milk shakes or protein shakes, they’re uhm, they’re a good source of natural protein and also milk is actually a really good source of calcium, so it helps your bones to recover and stay strong.
Stefan: And will you have them in two big blocks like that or do you sort of carry on drinking them throughout the day?
Matt: No I’ll have them about 20, 30 minutes after the session.
Stefan: Almost like a sort of food repair for you, for your body.
Matt: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Stefan: Ok. And then, over here. Uhh, I guess it’s supper time.
Matt: Uhm.
Stefan: What have we got in?
Matt: I go for some pasta with sauce, and some meat, this, this time some uh salmon, for the protein for the good carbohydrates, and also some vegetables as well, that just for their vitamins and minerals, because when you are training you use up more calories than the average person but also more vitamins and minerals, so…
Stefan: So you’re topping up everything all the time.
Matt: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Stefan: So, pretty basic dish but it’s quite healthy and it’s also massive.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. Well, when you’re training this much you seem, you seem to get hungry every half hour really so, that’s one of the best things really you can just eat as much as you like…
Stefan: …just carry on eating to…
Matt: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Stefan: See that’s what I would do…if I ran all the time I’d just spend, spend all of those calories I’ve lost eating more! I wouldn’t change shape at all. And then, at the end of the day we’ve got something else here.
Matt: Yeah, this is just a snack really whist I’m just relaxing and usually a cup of tea and some flap jacks, just a bit of sugar, a bit more carbohydrates before I go to bed so that when I wake up in the morning, my body hasn’t been in starvation for like 10 hours, whatever.
Stefan: And so, when we’re talking about food and, and sport at your level, when you’re a top athlete, does the right food make you go faster?
Matt: Oh yeah, definitely. What you put in is what you’re gonna get out really.
Stefan: So the better you eat, the faster you’ll be able to go?
Matt: Yeah, yeah. If you’re training like that and you’re pushing your body really hard, you really notice like little, little changes.
Stefan: Well, I’ve had a fantastic day but I do know that, if I ate anywhere near as much as Matt does, I would be enormous. But that’s because different people need different types and different amounts of food depending on their body size and the amount of exercise they do. But what’s really fascinating is when you take an extraordinary athlete, somebody at the peak of their ability like Matt, you begin to understand how the type of food you eat affects how you live.
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