They may be among the fittest people on the planet, but more than a few of those swimmers at the CenturyLink Center this week have a sweet tooth.
Upstairs in the convention center, kitchen workers are busy putting together salads and fruit plates and baked potato bars. For the first four days of the Olympic Trials alone, they've got 4,000 pounds of chicken, 2,000 pounds of beef and 3,000 pounds of produce. And that's only for the swimmers and coaches who sign up for the meal plan.
But the swimmers apparently get the most excited about the dessert spread: cupcakes from Jones Bros., angel food cake with berries, peanut butter cake, red velvet cake, an ice cream sundae bar.
In 2008, when Omaha first hosted the Swim Trials, caterers made the mistake of putting the sweets on the buffet line's first table, said Lamar Nolden, executive chef for CenturyLink caterer Levy Restaurants.
Some swimmers — after all, teenagers are teenagers, even when they're elite athletes — never made it to the real food.
This year, the desserts are at the end, but the swimmers are still finding them.
U.S. OLYMPIC SWIM TRIALS
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“Last night there was one young lady who was almost in tears when she saw the cupcakes we had on the table,” Nolden said.
That's not to say the country's top swimmers are slouching when it comes to nutrition. They monitor their carbohydrates and proteins, time their meals just so, know exactly what foods will give them a boost.
It's just that when you train for three, four, five hours a day, you know how to take down a big meal. Or several.
Last month, Michael Phelps said the 12,000 calories he reportedly was consuming each day was a bit of an exaggeration: “I never ate that much,” he told radio host Ryan Seacrest. “It's all a myth. ... I wish! It's just too much, though. It would be impossible.”
But they eat. A lot.
Kristen Wilson, a 20-year-old from Lexington, Ky., said she eats four or five meals a day at the height of her training. At the Trials, she's spending less time in the water, but she's still searching for snacks in the athletes' lounge: packs of nuts and crackers, granola bars, smoothies. (Levy is bringing in 1,000 pieces of fruit and serving up to 50 gallons of smoothies each day.)
“I'm always starving,” she said.
Her pal Chatham Penrod, a 24-year-old backstroker from Lexington, tries to check out local restaurants. She ate at California Tacos & More in midtown earlier this week.
Before her race Tuesday morning, Penrod made sure she had a solid breakfast: fruit, a bagel and cereal.
At home in the garden
|Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin uses food from her garden and chickens to fuel her long hours in the pool. Click here to read more.|
An academic counselor for University of Kentucky athletes, she's known around the office for her big appetite. “The football players think I eat a lot,” she said. “And they eat a lot, so ...”
Joe Petrone, a 17-year-old from Cherry Hill, N.J., said he doesn't think he eats that much more than the average person.
His scaled-down pre-race meal on Monday: “an omelet, some kind of meat, a bagel, fruit.”
“I guess that's kind of a lot.”
All three swimmers said they don't keep precise track of calories or exactly how much they're eating. It's more about figuring out what your body needs. When your focus is on moving fast, you refuel when you're hungry, no questions asked.
Those needs are keeping the kitchen staff busy at the CenturyLink Center, where until Tuesday, workers were feeding both swimmers and the baseball players at TD Ameritrade Park.
“I would like to say we're a 24-hour operation,” Nolden said, “but we took two hours off to sleep.”
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