What Are the 4 Secrets of Athlete Nutrition?

Why An Athlete’s Nutrition Plan Matters

U.S. Olympians, including our Team Milk athletes, know that a balanced diet is key to proper athlete nutrition. An athlete’s diet can contribute to their success, both on and off the field.

To get into shape like Team Milk’s elite athletes, it’s not just about the training regimen. You are what you eat — and incorporating these four secrets of an athlete’s diet within your own healthy eating plan can help fuel your own training.

Want to Eat What Athletes Eat? Here are Four Ways:

1. Focus on Eating a Balanced Diet

When it comes to fueling their training, Team Milk athletes know eating a balanced diet is of the utmost importance. Creating a balanced diet starts by incorporating healthy foods from all five groups including fruits, vegetables, grains, lean protein foods and dairy to get the nutrients you need, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov.

In fact, Team USA knows a healthy diet, one that includes nutrients like high-quality protein, is of utmost importance for their training. In fact, in a recent survey of Team USA athletes, 90% of the respondents rated a healthy diet as even more important than their workout regimen. When it comes to incorporating protein into their diets, 80 percent of Team USA respondents said that protein was one of the key factors in their training diet.1

2. Athlete Meal Plans Include Breakfast

Breakfast provides your body with nutrients to help you get a good start in the morning — important when you’re heading to a tough training session.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans notes “breakfast tends to have a higher dietary quality because of its higher nutrient density compared to other meals and snacks.” This reinforces how important breakfast is, because we need these nutrients to power up for the day.

A great way to have a nutritious breakfast is to pair your meal with a glass of milk, like many members of Team USA do. In fact, most U.S. Olympian survey respondents’ diets have always included milk.2This habit continues at the U.S. Olympic Training Centers, where tens of thousands of gallons of milk are served each year to training athletes.

What athletes eat while in training also are good breakfast ideas for your own training table:

“First thing in the morning I have a smoothie [with milk] and a banana. After training, while at the breakfast table I’ll have a loaded omelet with everything in it, with a glass of milk on the side.” – Perry Baker, U.S. Olympic Hopeful in the Sport of Rugby

“Before training, I like to make a smoothie in the morning, with some type of fruit and milk. After practice, I drink milk and have peanut butter and banana bread or something with an avocado and oatmeal.” — Elizabeth Beisel, U.S. Olympian — Swimming

“I have yogurt, granola, berries and a latte with milk. That’s pretty much my everyday breakfast.” — Jennifer Kessy, U.S. Olympian — Beach Volleyball

“Milk has always been an integral part of my daily life, especially at breakfast to energize my training. I start every morning with café con leche and drink milk throughout the day, ending with a glass of warm milk in the evening.” — Danell Leyva, U.S. Olympian — Men’s Gymnastics

“After practice I like to eat a really big, hearty breakfast. I usually eat eggs or I make either a smoothie or oatmeal with milk. And coffee.” — Caitlin Leverenz, U.S. Olympian — Swimming

3. Healthy Eating Includes Nutrients like Protein

Team Milk athletes know the key to good sports nutrition and healthy eating is balanced meals.  Foods that deliver nutrients like high-quality protein are essential for elite athletes to help build muscle and repair their bodies from rigorous training.

“My diet plays a huge role in my training routine, every single day, even every off day. It’s all about nutrients, including protein for me. Because I don’t eat much red meat, getting those nutrients, like protein, in milk is a huge deal for me,” says Jennifer Kessy.

Team Milk athletes’ diets include milk — because each 8-ounce glass of milk has nine essential nutrients, including 8 grams of high-quality, natural protein.

“It’s really important for me to get nutrients in my diet, including high-quality protein, and milk has that package,” says Elizabeth Beisel.  

4. Stay Hydrated with Milk as Part of Good Sports Nutrition

Did you know that milk is one of the original hydration beverages? In fact, drinking lowfat or skim milk after exercise could restore and maintain hydration according to research. Researchers suggest it’s due to milk's electrolyte content and energy density.

Hydration is a key component of sports nutrition, so when you need to hydrate after your training session, reach for a glass of milk.

Learn more about how milk’s nutrients, including high-quality protein, help give Team USA athletes the energy to unleash their potential. 


1 KRC Research conducted an online survey among retired, current, and hopeful U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athletes on behalf of MilkPEP via the U.S. Olympic Committee between February 23 and March 7, 2016. The U.S. Olympic Committee and its National Governing Bodies distributed e-mail invitations with a link to the survey to its retired, current, and hopeful athletes inviting them to participate. In total, 1,113 completed the ten-minute survey (675 Olympians, 93 Paralympians, and 345 hopefuls in training).