Victoria, B.C.’s Ryan Cochrane has been called the “saviour of Canadian swimming” and will join more than 700 Canadian athletes – and thousands more from across the Americas – in competing in the 2015 Pan American Games held in Toronto.
The top seeded swimmer has taken home two Olympic medals at Beijing and London, six World Championship medals and four titles from the Commonwealth Games.
So what kind of diet does Cochrane have to maintain his strength and physique. We chatted with the “the saviour.”
An average male needs 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day, but Olympic swimmers are known to intake much more than that. What is your daily calorie intake?
My teammates and I eat between 6,000 to 8,000 calories a day. This changes throughout the year, depending on the amount of metres you’re doing in the pool and how close to a competition you are. I know before the London Olympics, I was so nervous that I couldn’t keep weight on at all: I ended up eating over 9,000 calories just to stay at race weight.
What are some of your meals for: Breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? Snacks?
Generally we eat five to six meals a day, the first being before training (usually just a bowl of cereal or fruit and lots of coffee of course), a bigger breakfast post training (eggs, bacon, etc). The same goes with a lunch before afternoon training and a post training snack before the gym (usually some Infinit recovery products). For dinner, I really love anything my mom makes, so I try to make it over to their house a few times a week if possible. My favourite types of food are either ethnic (Greek, Indian, Moroccan, etc) or fresher foods… I’m not a fan of anything deep-fried.
What is your most important meal and why?
Recovery is extremely important to muscle development and to aid in your bodies overall health. To avoid sickness and fatigue we make sure to have something high in protein within 30 minutes after each training cycle. It’s also important to keep inflammation down, so I trust my atoma brand products a ton; their affordable, trustworthy, and high quality products.
How do you change your diet up so you don’t eat the same food everyday?
There are times eating 6,000 calories can be boring, but I try to constantly learn new recipes and try out new local restaurants. I love the social aspect to cooking and appreciate whenever friends and family can be involved.
Do you cook for yourself?
We are generally on the road for about six months of the year, so when I get time at home I love to experiment and try new ideas and recipes. I’ve been fortunate to visit many places around the globe and infusing our everyday dishes with ideas from different cultures helps keep it interesting.
How do you stay hydrated? What’s your favourite workout drink?
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan of tap water. So when I’m working out I like to have an electrolyte drink such as Infinit’s jet fuel blend. I also drink a lot of sparkling water, and you can generally find a flat or two at my house at any given point.
Why is nutritional health important to you as an athlete? How essential is it nutrition compared to practicing and working out?
Nutrition is an aspect of sport I believe many people discount until you’re at a high level. You can work out as hard as you want, but if you’re not fuelling your body properly and missing those key periods of recovery, you are doing yourself a major disservice. Athletes of any age or ability should include nutrition in their sporting lives.
Are you allowed any cheat days?
I’ve tried to eat 100% healthy all the time… it doesn’t work. I think moderation is the best solution. I have pretty terrible self control when it comes to eating junk food, so I try to keep as little as possible around the house. I also think being aware of what you eat is super important: I know when I make a poor eating decision, but I’m ready for those consequences and its a conscious choice every time.
What’s the biggest challenge when it comes to your diet?
Being on the road can at times be quite challenging when it comes to eating healthy. When you’re eating at a restaurant or hotel for weeks on end, you really have to do your research and know what gets put into each meal. We get to work with an awesome dietician in Victoria (Sue Boegman), who does a lot of that leg work for us.
What is the one food you can’t say no to?
Oddly enough, cereal is the one food I can’t say no to. I eat it by the box and it’s a good thing I need all those carbohydrates in the pool.
What are you forbidden to eat?
Nothing for us is forbidden when it comes to eating, but I do my best to limit chocolate. Much easier said than done.
What’s your favourite food and favourite restaurant in Vancouver?
I love everything from sushi to pizza to Indian and everything in between. If I had to choose, my favourite place in Vancouver would have to be Vij’s. It’s probably the best Indian food I’ve ever had, and it beat out most of what we had in India.
Yourself and four other Canadian athletes have teamed up with McKesson Canada. What kind of role have they played in your training for the Pan Am Games?
We can do all the training in the world, but if we don’t stay healthy and fit into the Pan Am Games then success will not come. McKesson has provided us with support in finding quality products we can use to ensure our continued health. I’ve found useful products in everything from over-the-counter pain medication to sunscreen.
How long have they been working for you?
I have been working with McKesson for a few months now, and have been enamoured by their ability to provide us with the products and support we need to compete well. Their team of Pharmacists across the country know what works!
How helpful is it to be provided with services like prescription medication, first aid supplies and atoma over-the-counter medications?
The notion of a high quality product also being affordable is something I believe has been lost at many drug stores recently. With their new atoma brand, The Medicine Shoppe, Guardian and IDA pharmacies have been able to bring these two important factors together, and because of this, I trust their products when I’m heading in to one of the biggest competitions of my life. You want to be able to say you’re taking the best product out there.
Anything else you’d like to add on McKesson Canada’s contributions to your training and participation at Toronto 2015.
As an athlete it’s great to see companies getting behind sport and recognizing the importance of a games for a country. McKesson has gone one step further by ensuring the health of all athletes competing at Pan Ams, and furthering that commitment by supporting us on our journey.
Vancity Buzz’s coverage of the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games is presented by McKesson Canada.