What Top U.S. Olympians Really Eat

Susan Francia

Susan Francia didn’t begin rowing until her sophomore year in college, but she soon wowed the world with a gold-medal win at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing — and made it two in a row this year, winning the gold in the Women’s Eight Final! Eating strategically is a critical part of Francia’s regimen: I’ve computed that she burns about 600 calories per hour of vigorous rowing, and Susan estimates she eats 4,000 calories a day to cover what she’s burning during training. The night before a race, Susan dines on sushi, a meal she says makes her feel like a “prehistoric warrior” heading into competition. She chooses salmon rolls for a concentrated dose of anti-inflammatory omega-3s, fats that may alleviate muscle soreness from the stress of intense exercise. Quinoa is another high-powered ingredient in Susan’s training menus. As one of the few vegetarian sources of complete protein, quinoa is ideal for muscle recovery. It’s also rich in minerals like iron and zinc, which support healthy bloods cells and keep oxygen pumping throughout the body.