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Gold-medal diet tips for women

Linda Melone, CSCS, is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and certified personal trainer based in Orange County, CA. Visit her website at www.LindaMelone.com.

Eat like an Olympian

What woman isn't motivated by shiny objects? When the shine you seek is from a gold medal, however, it's more work than most are willing to do. Then there's the diet. And by diet I mean eating huge amounts of food to fuel that goal. The thought of worrying you're not eating enough is a concern most of us wish we had.
Athlete eating fruit salad

Olympic athletes eat a ton of calories

Swimmer Michael Phelps reportedly eats between 8,000 and 10,000 calories a day. Basketball players on Team USA can consume 7,000 calories a day. That's more than three day's worth for the average woman, who typically requires between 1,800 to 2,200 calories a day, according to Rachel Berman, RD, a registered dietitian and director of Nutrition for CalorieCount.com, a health and wellness website that provides nutrition and diet information to its more than 4 million members.

Calorie requirements for the average woman

"While athletes require many more calories than the average women, we can pick up tips from what the athletes are doing to stay strong, energized and healthy," Berman says.

An average woman who is moderately active requires about 1,800 to 2,200 calories per day for weight maintenance, says Berman. "Within that, you want to aim for a breakdown of about 50 percent carbs, 20 percent protein, 30 percent fat." Recent research published in the Journal of American Medical Association found that if you are trying to lose weight, a low glycemic diet of 40 percent carbs, 20 percent protein and 40 percent fat, came out on top in terms of helping you maintain that loss for the long term, she adds.

Specific caloric needs depend on many factors, however, including the woman's height, weight, workout intensity, etc., says Berman. "On average, a woman who weight-trains two to three days a week and does 30 minutes of cardio a week might need to consume 500 calories more per day than a woman who does not exercise."

Refueling: The best post-workout eats

Research shows that post-workout, within 45 minutes or so of lifting weights, you want to consume a snack that contains carbohydrate and protein in a 4:1 ratio (e.g., 50 grams of carbs to 12 grams of protein). "This is best to refuel your muscles, provide amino acids (which make up protein) to repair tissue, to build and maintain lean muscle mass," says Berman.

Hydration is crucial to performance and recovery

Good carbohydrate sources include whole grains, fruits and dairy; the dairy will also provide a serving of protein and calcium for peak performance. Other great lean sources of protein include skinless poultry, fish, lean beef, beans, eggs and grains like quinoa. And remember to drink up! When exercising, your body loses water through sweat, which you need to replenish to ensure your muscles are working the best they can, Berman adds. Water is the most important factor affecting performance, according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association. As little as a one percent loss of weight due to water loss elevates core temperature. Drink a minimum of two cups of fluid two hours prior to activity for best hydration.

Watch: 3-Day Supermodel Diet

Today on the Daily Dish, Kelly Bensimon, author of I Can Make You Hot, talks about her 3-Day Supermodel Diet that can make you look and feel beautiful.

More gold-medal fitness

Winning diet tips from gold-medalist swimmer Natalie Coughlin
Summer Games: Eat like a gold-medal athlete
Healthy eating tips from soccer star Abby Wambach

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