What an Olympian Really Eats

Rachel Tepper Paley
January 29, 2014

Photo credit: International Olympic Committee

When Olympic bobsledder Jamie Greubel first made the leap from track and field to bobsledding five years ago, she was issued an ultimatum: gain 20 pounds, or you won’t make the U.S. women’s bobsled team.

Greubel complied—and went on to win five World Cup medals in her new sport. At 5’9”, the 30-year-old weighs a muscled 170 pounds. But in the weeks leading up the Winter Olympics in Sochi, one of Greubel’s greatest challenges is keeping her weight up.

Photo credit: Damian Battanelli

"In our sport, it’s kind of a diss to call someone ‘skinny,’" Greubel told us. "We’re trying to push the sled as fast as possible, so being light can be a disadvantage. Heavier things go faster down the hill."

To maintain her current weight during training—which includes grueling five-days-a-week weight-lifting and sprinting sessions—Greubel adheres to a robust but wholesome diet. She doesn’t count calories, but we did the (very rough) math for her with the help of this USDA website. Here’s the impressive breakdown.

Breakfast: Greubel likes to start the day with a hearty breakfast burrito. Between the eggs, avocado, sour cream, and veggies, it clocks in at about 970 calories.

Lunch: After a morning practice run on a bobsled track, Greubel might wolf down some grilled chicken, a sweet potato, and a salad—a modest 500 calories.

Dinner: A big plate of grilled tilapia, grilled vegetables, and rice pilaf runs 500 calories, about the same as lunch.

Snacks: Throughout the day, Greubel munches on things like Greek yogurt, mixed fruit, roasted almonds, whey protein–laced smoothies, and nut-and-fruit bars. Those total about 1,200 calories.

By our estimate, altogether Greubel consumes 3,170 calories in a given day when she’s in training. This Mayo Clinic calculator puts the “very active” calorie range for a woman her height and age at 2,650, but they probably weren’t counting on someone like Greubel, who burns off almost as many calories as she consumes. 

Sometimes, that means she just has to eat dessert.

"I know that sounds like a terrible problem to have!" Greubel said with a laugh. "I can’t eat dessert every night. It’s just too much and I don’t feel good eating it," she explained. "But sometimes, to be honest, I have to eat it because dinner was small and I need more calories."

We wish we could commiserate. But hey, Jamie: If you need to eat dessert to win gold at Sochi, YOU DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO.