Although I always knew that Bela Karolyi was a complete lunatic, the portrait painted of him in the book surpassed even my expectations. While I always assumed gymnast's food was restricted, I did kind of think that they must have to be given some healthy food to sustain 6-8 hours of training in the gym. Well, apparently, the kids weren't taught anything about protein or carbohydrates and just were flat-out not allowed to eat quite a bit of the time: one time little Dominique was taken to a place called 'the ranch' for a weekend of training only to discover NO food was provided. She had bought one tiny sandwich as a snack and had to ration it the entire weekend, along with what she was fed by the other girls who had been smarter to stash cases of food with them. Oh, and in true Dickensian fashion, Dominique was upbraided for smuggling gum, Twizzlers, and Mentos in a teddy bear at another point.
But after watching an equally trashy made-for-TV movie as a kid about Nadia Comaneci I guess I should have known. I loved that film for that reason, despite being a timid, unathletic kid who couldn't even do a cartwheel.
It's a stark contrast to read about the austere diet of a female gymnast and contrast it with that of training-level Michael Phelps meals of gargantuan proportions.
|Image credit: Michael Phelps Diet Challenge|
"The name explains what it is...I eat almost only fruit." On a typical day, Arnstein will snack on, say, two dozen bananas. Some health experts say fruitarianism can lead to all sorts of nutrient deficiencies...Arnstein, who takes in between 3,000 and 6,000 calories a day, lost 30 pounds soon after starting the diet and now finds it nearly impossible to gain weight. "
No shit (no pun intended).
I'm a runner but if I ate nothing but fruit I know my muscles and bones would shrivel up into nothingness.
But then again, Dean Karnazes who ran 50 marathons in 50 days consumes on a run:
...an extra-large Hawaiian pizza...He'll chase the pizza with cheesecake, cinnamon buns, chocolate éclairs, and all-natural cookies. The high-fat pig-out fuels Karnazes' long jaunts, which can burn more than 9,000 calories a day. What he needs is massive amounts of energy, and fat contains roughly twice as many calories per gram as carbohydrates. Hence, pizza and éclairs. When he's not in the midst of some record-breaking exploit, Karnazes maintains a monkish diet, eating grilled salmon five nights a week. He strictly avoids processed sugars and fried foods – no cookies or doughnuts. He even tries to steer clear of too much fruit because it contains a lot of sugar. He believes this approach – which nutritionists call a slow-carb diet – has reshaped him, lowering his body fat and building lean muscle. It also makes him look forward to running a race, because he can eat whatever he wants.
|Image credit: Tumblr|
Given my total lack of athletic talent, to be even moderately competent at sports I have to be very careful what I eat (granted, I'm not running as much as an ultramarathoner). I think every person has to listen to their own body yet respect that many athletes seem to do well on a variety of different diets (although my diet is closer to Karnazes' 'normal' diet).
To be honest, even if I could burn that much fuel during exercise, I'm not quite sure if I would want to eat THAT much: I would probably pass out in pain if I ate an entire Hawaiian pizza and eclair in the middle of a run. But I'm also glad I don't have Bela Karolyi in my kitchen, much as I would like to get up the courage to get into a handstand at some point in my life.