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Working Out With a Track and Field Olympian
By Sharon Palmer, RD

Chobani Greek Yogurt invited a group of Los Angeles dietitians to get their sweat on with Olympian Lashinda Demus on the beach in Santa Monica, California.

Ever wonder what it would be like to work out with an Olympian?

On July 9, a group of Los Angeles-based RDs stood at the starting line on the sands of a Santa Monica, California, beach as track and field Olympian Lashinda Demus raced ahead. The beach workout took place at the Annenberg Community Beach House, where the Chobani Greek Yogurt team offered a recovery station that would qualify as any dietitian’s dream. Yogurt parfaits, fruit smoothies, and salads designed for the all-stars were among the choices. The night concluded with an interview with Demus, which allowed the dietitians to ask questions of the Olympian before she headed off to London.   

Demus is an expert at the 400-m hurdles race, holding unbeaten records in track and field in the United States. It all began at the age of 5 for the aspiring Olympic medalist. Her mother was a professional track athlete, who in turn passed down the motivation for greatness.

While participating in hurdles events between the ages of 9 and 13, Demus continuously broke records in the sport. And when she attended Long Beach High School in California, Demus attained the national high school record. Slowly rising to stardom, she carried on her legacy to the University of South Carolina, where she won the World Junior Title.

In 2004, 21-year-old Demus made her first appearance at the Olympic Games in Athens. In retrospect, Demus attributes her unsuccessful performance there to numerous visits to McDonald’s, which was all too conveniently located in the athletes’ village.

In 2006, Demus climbed her way up in the rankings to become the No. 1 hurdler in the nation. But later that year, she received a big surprise: She was pregnant with twin boys. She gave birth in June 2007, just one year before the next Olympics trials.

The following year wasn’t an easy one for the new mom. Demus was diagnosed with postpartum depression and faced a long road to gain the balance she desired.

However, with the help of her mother, who also served as her coach, Demus started training within weeks of delivering her babies, hoping to salvage her career. Returning to the field at her optimal health and physical strength, Demus won the 400-m hurdle world title in Daegu, Korea, in 2011. Breaking the 16-year-old American record, Demus reclaimed her respected title as a US track and field Olympic athlete.

With a newfound sense of balance and stability, Demus eagerly awaited the 2012 Olympic Games in London, which began on July 27, where she aims to win the gold. Today’s Dietitian sat down with Demus to learn how nutrition plays a key role in her superior athletic performance.

Today’s Dietitian (TD): What are your typical pre- and postrace meals?

Demus: Before a race, I typically like to get in at least 500 kcal. A meal may consist of oatmeal, eggs, toast, and a glass of orange juice if I have enough time. I eat this amount of food if there’s a period of three hours before race time. But if I get a chance to eat only 45 minutes before a race, I usually turn to bowls of yogurt with cornflakes or a protein shake.

TD: Why do you choose these foods?

Demus: It’s all about the protein. I’m instructed to get a generous amount of protein-rich foods throughout the day.

TD: Do you take any supplements?

Demus: Yes, I take several different supplements, including fish oil, iron, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, zinc and, on occasion, vitamins B12 and B15.

TD: How many calories do you consume on a daily basis?

Demus: I don’t really count calories, but it’s probably 5,000 to 6,000 per day. I try to get about 500 kcal in the morning before a workout. Then I eat again directly after the workout with a protein source. I’m in training every day, with one “active” rest day in the middle of the week. Due to a high activity level, it’s extremely important for me to load up the calories.

TD: What’s your favorite food? Do you allow yourself to indulge every so often?

Demus: I absolutely love bacon; it’s my weakness. I’m not very strict on myself with food, but I do prefer healthier options.

TD: What’s your method of proper hydration?

Demus: It’s recommended to drink your body weight in water. For me, I’m told to drink 130 oz of fluids per day. This usually consists of mostly water as well as Gatorade for the electrolytes and Crystal Light Pure Fitness drinks.

— Sharon Palmer, RD, is a contributing editor at Today’s Dietitian, a freelance food and nutrition writer in southern California, and author of The Plant-Powered Diet. Dietetic intern Jamie Ruisi also contributed to this article.

Note: If you’d like to try Chobani’s Olympic recipes, check out Chobani's Olympic Recipe Cards.