How to eat like an Olympian—without gaining weight

The athletes competing in the London Olympics right now are facing a problem many of us would love to have. Getting enough calories to keep from losing critical body weight.

You see, an Olympic athlete may burn up to 6,000 calories—in just four hours. And the best way to replenish what they’ve burned is to eat a lot of calorie-dense foods.

Here’s a sampling of what some of these athletes might consume in order to “refuel”:

  • One pound of pasta with olive oil (800 calories)
  • One dozen whole eggs (800 calories)
  • One pint of ice cream  (1,000 calories)
  • One large cheese pizza  (2,000 calories)

Some of these foods are things we might not typically consider “healthy.” But when you’re on a quest for calories, one can eat only so many “healthy” foods. For instance, a bowl of oatmeal only contains 150 calories. And a 6 oz. salmon filet has about 300. It’s simply not enough to make up for the deficit these athletes face due to their vigorous workouts. So for a human body that is continually active, a calorie-dense diet makes sense. 

But most of us aren’t Olympic athletes. And we don’t need the massive amounts of calories they do.

In fact, most of us can and must do with far less.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to always deny yourself the pleasure of a nice bowl of pasta, a dish of ice cream, or a slice of pizza…

We hear a lot of concerns about foods that make you gain weight. And even a lot of nonsense about foods that make you lose weight. But nothing beats the simple mathematical reality of calories in, calories out.

At its core, this simple formula has nothing to do with fats, proteins, or carbs. (As I’ve mentioned before, fats are not always the enemy.) And the secret to weight loss success also has nothing to do with Atkins, the Mediterranean, or grapefruits.

The overwhelming body of science continues to show that ANY diet will result in weight loss if you take in fewer calories than you burn.

Which means you can indulge in some of those calorie-dense “treats.” In moderation.

But don’t forget that physical activity is the other half of the “calories in, calories out” equation. If you’re not doing something to burn those calories—whether they come from a sundae or a salmon filet—you won’t lose weight.

If you burn more calories (from any source) than you eat, you lose weight. If you eat more than you burn, you gain weight. Plain and simple.

Oh, and one more note about the benefits of exercise: According to the U.S. Olympic Committee, trainers sometimes have trouble getting athletes to eat because they would rather sleep. So physical activity isn’t just a good solution for obesity, but for insomnia as well. (As is watching the Olympics on television on NBC—at least from my personal experience.)