How Do Games Athletes Eat?

Today’s Athletes Weigh In Five Games athletes and veterans weigh in on the role nutrition plays in their training and competing. The panel:

Chris Spealler
Seven-time Games athlete, notable finish: 3rd place 2010 Games

Jason Khalipa
Seven-time Games athlete, notable finish: 2008 Fittest Man in the World

Emily Bridgers
Three-time Games athlete, notable finish: 6th place at 2014 Games

Becca Voigt
Eight-time Games athlete; 24th place in 2014

Anna Tunnicliffe
Three-time Games athlete; 22nd place in 2014

  • What is your own nutrition philosophy and what shaped this?

Spealler: Largely it’s the CrossFit prescription of meats and veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugar. I tried the Zone years ago and it taught me to eat more frequently. I’ve shied away from strict Paleo because I have a hard time keeping any weight on, and from what I can tell, I’m fine with a small amount of grains in my diet. Khalipa: I eat it. With the volume being put in, sometimes broccoli and steamed fish doesn’t cut it. Every now and then I feel like I need some dense carbs and foods.

Bridgers: Mostly, I try not to be obsessive with food. I grew up as a gymnast and was fairly obsessed with how much I ate and staying as small as possible to make gymnastics essentially easier. I remember avoiding any food with fat in it. In college, we had weekly weigh-ins which were not the best for my nutrition philosophy or body image either. I would freak out and let my whole practice suffer if I gained a pound in our weekly weigh-in. I did not view food as fuel but more negatively, in that less calories equals a better result. Over the last five years of CrossFit, I’ve become much more familiar with how my body feels as a result of what I eat or drink. I’ve stopped thinking about calories as a negative thing and more as I need to make sure I eat enough to get through my training each day. Each year of CrossFit, I would say I’ve drank alcohol less and less frequently, which has made the largest impact on my performance.

Voigt: Eat clean and frequently make sure that my macronutrients are balanced in a 40-30-30 format.

Tunnicliffe: I have eaten Paleo for four years now, and in the last two years, I have added Zone into the mix. I believe the idea behind Paleo makes perfect sense and gives me the energy I need to train while keeping what I put in my body clean and healthy. As for adding the Zone, I realized that we weren’t getting the proper portions of protein, carbs and fats that I needed, and this was a perfect way to bring my whole diet into balance.

  • About how many calories and/or macronutrients do you consume daily?

Spealler: Not enough; it’s always been a struggle of mine. When I was trying to gain weight, I would eat up to 5,000 calories per day, which is a ton. Realistically, I’m probably at about half of that now but should be more.

Khalipa: I honestly don’t know. My diet changes depending on my training volume. I probably don’t eat as much as people would think though. I don’t eat much during the day. I don’t like to feel full or hungry. Just satisfied until nighttime. Then I eat more.

Bridgers: This is hard to say. I don’t keep track and it may vary from day to day.

Voigt: I eat around 2,000 calories a day with my focus being 40 percent are carbs, 30 percent are protein and fat.

Tunnicliffe: I personally eat 16 blocks of carbs and protein, and about 25 fat blocks a day, every day. I eat three four-block meals and two two-block snacks. I’ll also add in extra fats throughout the day for extra energy or to fill me up if I’m not quite hungry or I want something to eat before I workout.

  • Any advice for others when it comes to nutrition?

Spealler: I often get asked what I ate when I was trying to gain weight. Think of it like this: as best as you can and everything under the sun. Advice: Don’t feel like you need to gain weight to get strong. You probably just need to work harder and get strong.

Khalipa: Sometimes people are too wrapped up in the Paleo diet. Start doing CrossFit, eat better, and stay consistent. No need to go so crazy; often times people don’t last. It’s ok to have a muffin at a birthday party. It’s ok to have some honey in your tea or eat a few chips. Everything in moderation. That’s really the only way I see people sustaining the results they have and want for the rest of their lives.

Voigt: I often get asked, “What can I do to eat better?” I tell people to log their food so they can actually see what they are putting into their bodies. Once the data is collected, make small changes based on the data you see.

Tunnicliffe: Paleo or Zone? My advice is to start Zone, that way it’s portion control. Generally when we start with Paleo, we cut out the grains no problem, but up our protein intake so much and we don’t get enough carbs. With Zone, it still makes sure we get the balance of the macros. Once we get comfortable with the Zone, then you can start putting the Paleo restrictions on it.

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