Athletes Eating Badly

There’s been a fair amount of attention in the news lately about top-performing athletes eating eyebrow-raising diets.

Most recently, we heard all about the gut-busting food preferences of Giants ace and two time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum:

We’ve learned a lot about Tim Lincecum’s diet over the past few years, including that he digs ice cream tacos before starts, doesn’t mind downing a can of Dinty Moore beef stew every now and then, and that he’s loyal to drinking Red Bull, one of his sponsors.

But it wasn’t until the San Francisco Giants pitcher revealed his usual order at In-N-Out that we got a true item to really turn our gastrointestinal systems. Mostly because Tiny Tim — who stood 4-foot-11 and weighed 85 pounds as a high school freshman — takes down an entire day’s worth of recommended calories for someone of his size and activity level every time he goes through the drive-thru of the popular West Coast burger chain.

According to the Daily Pitch article cited in the above Yahoo blog post,

His traditional fare?

Three Double-Doubles. Two fries. A chocolate-strawberry shake. Ketchup please, but hold the lettuce and tomatoes.

“I’m not a big vegetable guy,” he says.

Let’s see, three burgers at 590 calories. Two fries at 395 calories. A shake at 590 calories.

The grand total: 3,150 calories.

“I’ve gone away from eating more cheeseburgers,” Lincecum says, “and just adding patties.”

Geez, no wonder the dude put on 11 pounds this spring.

And yet his spring training line thus far (as of 3/24)? 3 wins. No losses. 2.55 ERA. 21 strikeouts and only 1 homer given up in 17.2 innings.

We’ve also heard quite a bit about “McRunner” Joe D’Amico, who for the last month of training for this year’s LA Marathon ate nothing but food from McDonald’s (with, according to Runner’s World, “a handful of minor exceptions, such as multivitamins and the odd energy gel”). He didn’t do it out of a deep-seated love of McD’s product, nor was he paid to do it. It was a publicity stunt to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House.

And how did he do after a month of McDonald’s only? Was he all Morgan Spurlock?

D’Amico finished 28th overall, with a time of 2:36:17 – a personal best. And according to his post-race interview with Runner’s World (link above), he felt “as good as I’ve ever felt” while training and even experienced a lowering of cholesterol levels.

Notably, though his diet wasn’t loaded with Big Macs, super-size fries and shakes but things like chicken wraps, salads, oatmeal and a whole lot of hotcakes. And, of course, this is all offset by the fact that the guy is a marathoner who runs 80 to 100 miles a week in addition to any other excerise and activity he may partake of as part of his ongoing training. (This also may have offset some effects of the high sodium content of a fast food diet, if some recent research holds to be true.)

Likewise, Lincecum – in addition to having a fast metabolism – regularly trains, getting plenty of physical activity to offset his eating habits.

Most of us, however, are much more sedentary, leading lifestyles that don’t allow us to “get away with” eating highly processed junk food 24/7.

But this isn’t about bashing the food choices of people like The Freak and D’Amico. What we question is the accompanying corporate message – the health aura that companies like McDonald’s can get from their being associated with athletes in this way, as well as the deliberate health and fitness related sponsorships and initiatives many of these companies pursue. Such associations give the impression that the food is healthier or more nutritious than it is. They can also distract us from the fact that while the company may offer some “healthier options,” most of us don’t choose them – or that promoting health initiatives, such as PespiCo does, doesn’t change the fact that what they overwhelmingly sell is stuff that makes us less healthy over the long run.

It’s a little like someone giving you poison with one hand and antidote with the other…and makes just about as much sense.


Images by Cubbie Nation via Flickr and Confessions of a Drive-Thru Runner

Published by The Verigin Dental Health Team

A humanistic, holistic dental practice in Northern California, providing integrative, biological, mercury-free dentistry

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