What Olympic Swimmer Katie Ledecky Eats On Race Day

Casual swimmers who aren't striving for Olympic gold probably don't pay a lot of attention to what they eat before getting in the water. Except they may follow the conventional wisdom that says to wait a half-hour after eating before taking their dip. That bit of poolside advice that parents pass on to their children turns out to be a myth (via Duke Health). Fortunately for us, the human body isn't so dysfunctional that our arms and legs stop working properly when we're digesting food. Then again, U.S. Olympian Katie Ledecky hasn't racked up three medals so far in the 2020 Tokyo Games (via International Olympic Committee) by scarfing down a hot dog from the pool's concession stand right before her races, either.

A swimmer's body is a machine that needs to be tuned as perfectly as possible if it's going to perform at peak efficiency. Take, for example, Ledecky's gold medal in the first-ever women's 1500-meter freestyle (via Sports Illustrated). She was able to swim nearly a mile in about 15 and a half minutes by following a strictly regimented eating routine on race day. Ledecky's regimen is so strict, in fact, she even follows it on days when she doesn't race.

Katie Ledecky eats oatmeal and keeps energy bars handy on race day

NBC's announcers for the women's 1500-meter race got the scoop on swimmer Katie Ledecky's race-day diet from a sport dietician for the U.S. Olympic Committee (via Today). Ledecky makes sure to eat her last full meal four hours before a race. That matches up with advice given by Active, which says four hours is the right amount of time to have the food available to the body for energy and stamina. Ledecky had a good mix of carbohydrates, protein, and antioxidants the morning of the 1500-meter freestyle, eating oatmeal with extra milk, peanut butter, and fruit. She keeps energy bars handy during the few hours before the race and stays hydrated pre-race with a sports drink. Ledecky wastes no time refueling after a race, drinking 12 ounces or more of low-fat chocolate milk after getting out of the pool. A banana and protein bar are available to her at the warm-down pool she uses after a race.

If Ledecky's race is early in the day, then she'll have coffee with breakfast, to raise her body temperature. Studies show that swimmers perform better in the evening, when their core temperature is a little warmer.

Whatever Ledecky's doing, it's working. She's collected six gold medals so far over three Olympics (via Twitter). She has a chance for one more, Saturday morning in Tokyo (Friday evening in the U.S. — via International Olympic Committee). No doubt someone will have her oatmeal and coffee ready.