Posts Tagged With: olympics

Congrats to Jordan Burroughs (& his diet)!

It happens every 4 years…the summer Olympics! I, like many Americans, find myself glued to the TV in the evenings watching the highlights in swimming, diving, track and field, gymnastics, volleyball, basketball and more. Today was cause for celebration, as fellow Husker Jordan Burroughs made Nebraska & America proud by winning gold in the 74-kg men’s wrestling! Go Big Red! Go USA!

Courtesy of USA Wrestling’s Facebook Page

Wrestling is a weight- and body-focused sport, which is one that emphasizes strength, conditioning, and body shape to achieve the goals of the sport.  Wrestling requires a combination of mental and physical skills – anaerobic power, aerobic power, muscular strength, endurance, flexibility, speed, agility, explosiveness, and concentration.  Nutrition has a major impact on the outcome of the wrestler, both during training and closer to competition.  During training, a wrestler such as Burroughs may eat quite a bit of food while maintaining a weight 10-20 pounds higher than their weight class. However as the time of the meet draws closer, the same wrestler will cut calories in order to “make weight” prior to the meet.  When making weight, the goal is to maximize the amount of lean body tissue and minimize body fat and total body weight.

Keeping this in mind, when cutting weight down before a meet, it’s important to use safe calorie-cutting techniques rather than taking drastic measures.  Serious illness or even death can occur through intentional dehydration or starvation, which are sometimes combined with fluid restriction, saunas, sweat suits (although banned), and diuretics.

The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics Sports Nutrition Manual provides these general nutrition guidelines for wrestlers:

  • Energy: Individualize based on body composition and weight goals
  • Carbohydrates: 5-8 g/kg/day (so for 74 kg Burroughs, that’s 370-572 g/day)
  • Protein: 1.2-1.7 g/kg/day (protein requirements may increase to 2 g/kg/day during periods of lowest energy intake to achieve weight loss)
  • Fat: Remainder of kcal with an emphasis on heart healthy fats

So for 74 kg Burroughs, that’s about 370-572 g carbohydrates/day and 89-148 g protein/day, with the remainder of his calories coming from heart-healthy fats such as olive oil, canola oil, and omega-3s found in fish.  Here’s a video that shows how Jordan Burroughs eats during training season. Notice how he pays attention to his fluid, sodium, carbohydrate, and protein intake.  Notice also how his diet changes when he’s trying to cut weight in order to make his weight class for an upcoming meet.

As you can see, the energy needs of a wrestler are going to vary depending on whether the wrestler is trying to maintain weight or lose weight quickly.  Therefore calorie needs can vary from 1500 per day to over 3000 per day.  Regardless of the total energy intake, wrestlers should make sure to consume nutrient-dense foods, as sufficient macro and micro-nutrients are needed in order to support training, performance, and overall health.  Fluid intake should also be balanced with fluid loss, and if dehydration is used as a weight loss method it is recommended that immediately after the weigh-in is completed, fluids and electrolytes are restored.

Interested in eating like an Olympic champion? While you may not have the same fitness and nutrition goals as Burroughs and other Olympic wrestlers, you can certainly try out Burroughs’ favorite omlette combination at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado: 3 eggs, diced chicken, mushrooms, and jalapenos! Sounds like a flavorful, high-protein meal that can definitely fuel your day, whether that’s winning an Olympic gold medal, or conquering another 8-5 day at work.

Photo courtesy of USA Wrestling Facebook Page

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Cameroonian Diet and Kwashiorkor

If you watched the Olympic Opening Ceremony in London last night, you might have noticed Cameroon’s athletes and their elaborate attire.

Cameroon’s Olympic Athletes, London 2012

Cameroon has over 30 athletes, in a variety of sports– weightlifting, swimming, boxing, table tennis, rowing, judo, wrestling, track & field, and soccer.   Seeing all of the elaborate costumes and the Cameroon flag reminded me of my trip to Cameroon 6 years ago.  Since this is a blog about nutrition/food, I thought I’d share some of the food I ate while in Cameroon as well as what type of problems the typical Cameroonian diet can cause.

Peeling plantains for 170+ people. Plantains were a main-stay of the diet in Cameroon.

More peeling of the plantains…

Annnnd more peeling plantains. Can you tell it’s a common food in Cameroon?

Peeling carrots. We also used garlic and ginger root in many of the traditional dishes.

Mixing fufu– Water Fufu is made from cassava root, a main staple in the diet in Cameroon. After it is boiled, you can form it into a play-dough like consistency.

Water fufu, aero, and watermelon for lunch. Aero is a type of green. Here it is cooked in a lot of oil– typical of many of the dishes in Cameroon.

Traditional Cameroonian meal of cornchaf


Chewing on sugar canes…yum! Pretty much the only “dessert” we had readily available.

A meal ordered at a restaurant in Bamenda: Cheeseburger, carrots, and fried plantains with a glass of D’jino (a fruit-flavored soda). I was craving protein-rich hamburger, what can I say!

Belly distented– an example of a child with Kwashiorkor, a form of malnutrition where there is not enough protein in the diet.

As you can see, the typical diet in rural Cameroon is made of carbohydrates.  We had a lot of corn, cassava root, and plantains, which are all very starchy foods.  The only protein I saw in the typical Cameroonian diet came from beans (a dish called cornchaf, which was basically corn and beans cooked in lots of oil), but there was also chicken, pork, beef, and monkey available for those who can afford it.

In the more rural areas that we traveled, it was not rare to come across many children with Kwashiorkor. Kwashiorkor is a form of malnutrition that results when a person is consuming enough energy (calories) but consuming little or no protein. It usually occurs in individuals who are consuming carbohydrates almost entirely. “Kwashiorkor” is a Ghanian word for the disease that develops when a mother’s child is weaned from protein-rich breast milk to a protein-poor carbohydrate food source (ie: cassava root, corn, rice, and plantains).

Kwashiorkor isn’t common in the US. In fact, in the US it occurs mainly in connection with acute life-threatening illnesses such as trauma and sepsis, where the body’s protein needs are significantly increased.

When a physiological stress is produced, it increases protein and energy requirements at a time when intake is limited. During stress, the body needs extra protein to synthesize additional hormones, immune factors to fight infection, collagen to rebuild damaged tissue and bone, and muscle cells to maintain the physical work of organs.

In children, kwashiorkor can result when poor dietary intake is added to the stress of growth, infections, or other illnesses.  Characteristics of kwashiorkor include significantly decreased serum proteins, pitting edema, swollen abdomen, flaky appearance of the skin, thin muscles but fat is present, “moon face”, and hair which can be easily plucked from the head.  The child may have a well nourished appearance because they are getting enough calories in their diet, but they are still malnourished.  In fact, kwashiorkor can take just weeks to develop and the mortality is high.

The treatment for kwashiorkor is to provide adequate calories and protein for the child/patient.  Carbohydrates may be given first, and then protein slowly added afterwards. The condition can correct itself, but for those who have had kwashiorkor for a long time, permanent physical and mental problems may still exist, such as a child not reaching their full height potential.

It is interesting to see how those in 3rd world countries eat on a day-to-day basis, and how that differs from America.  The athletes from Cameroon may eat their cassava root and plantains, but in order to become top athletes, it’s obvious they had to make sure to get enough protein in their diet, specifically from animal sources such as chicken, beef, and pork.

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