21 Foods that Fuel Olympians (& Olympics Watchers)

August  5, 2016

In the days leading up to tonight's opening ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio, we've heard a lot about the eating quirks and routines of some of the competitors.

The swimmer Ryan Lochte—remember him from 2012?...

told Bon Appétit that there's room in his 7000-calorie-a-day diet for avocado toast and tofu sausage ("Anything tofu I’m just, I’m loving it"—that's not the McDonald's slogan... yet!).

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He also eats French fries; steak; vegetable "noodles" (he thought, "I’m probably going to vomit from this" at first, but was pleasantly surprised); sweet potatoes; cooked vegetables; and broccoli. No dessert, though.

Business Insider reported that the marathoner Desiree Linden, who runs 125 miles a week (!), eats eggs, yogurt, bagels, and PB&Js. On race day, "for function, not for fun," , and the plate is "really boring and bland. A lot of white rice so you can get carbs, but it’s easy to digest and really simple."

Gymnast Gabby Douglas has the same food-for-function philosophy—“I try to do six days a week of just no sugar, no sweets, no cakes, no cookies, or anything"—as well as the same breakfast (eggs with cereal or oatmeal) every morning.

Are we surprised that these athletes' diets are kind of... boring? Or that there's a ton of yogurt and oatmeal available in the Olympic Village dining hall? Not at all. What's most clear is that for these world-class athletes, eating is first and foremost about energy—and, when it comes time to compete, about not introducing a variable that could negatively affect their performance.

But for us plebeians, there's more room to get creative with our food (to take a risk on hot sauce! to not have eggs for breakfast one morning) even if we're also using it to power our days.

So here are 21 foods, inspired by Olympians, to power your non-Olympian workouts—or your long workdays, or late nights, or 3 P.M. hunger pangs, or gymnastics viewing parties. They might not be what Gabby Douglas would eat, but perhaps Ryan Lochte would be more amenable?

What food do you eat as fuel? Tell us in the comments.

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I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.