US Olympic Athlete Profiles

  • What are the physical characteristics of Olympic athletes?

  • How much and what kind of training do they do?

  • How much and what kind of food do they eat?

  • How do they fuel themselves through a day of exercise training?

Take a look at the profiles of three Olympic athletes to find out. These physical and physiological profiles are representative of US Olympic Team members competing this year in Nagano. These athletes are profiled:

Male cross country skier

Female cross country skier

Female figure skater

Male ice hockey player

Female ice hockey player

These data are presented for each athlete


Competitive Event

The events are classified by their major emphasis -- either endurance or strength and power




Body composition

Body composition is one of many factors that affects athletic performance. Body composition consists of two components: the fat mass (FM) and the fat free mass (FFM). The fat free mass includes muscle, bone, and water. The fat mass includes all of the fat stores in the body. Because the FFM does the work of the athlete, high ratios of FFM/FM are associated with better athletic performance in most sports. Endurance athletes tend to have lower percentages of body fat than non-endurance athletes because body fat limits endurance, speed, and movement through space. Within most sports, the percent body fat of males is lower than that of females. Compare the percent body of the five athlete profiles with the recommendations below.

Percent Body Fat in Adults

Recommended Percent Body Fat for Good Health

Men 15-20 %
Women 20-25%

Minimum Healthy Percent Body Fat

Men 5%
Women 8-12%

Muscle fiber type

Compare the distribution of Type I and Type II skeletal muscle fibers between male cross country skiers and male ice hockey players. Remember that Type I fibers are associated with aerobic metabolism while Type II fibers are recruited during anaerobic work.


VO2max is an expression of an athlete’s capacity to consume and utilize oxygen. To be competitive, elite endurance athletes must have high VO2max levels. VO2max is influenced by mode of exercise, heredity, state and type of training, body size and body composition, age, and gender. Compare the VO2max levels of male and female cross country skiers with those of male and female ice hockey players.

Anaerobic power

The Wingate test is an all-out cycling test that measures anaerobic power. This test is used for ice hockey players and other athletes whose sports emphasize anaerobic energy production.

Energy expenditure

How many calories does a person burn? Resting energy expenditure (REE) is determined primarily by body weight and fat free mass. The more a person weighs and the greater the FFM, the higher the REE. To determine the total amount of calories expended in a given day, calories burned during everyday activities and exercise training are added to the REE. Exercise intensity and duration are the main factors that influence exercise energy expenditures. Compare the energy expenditures for REE, exercise training, and total daily energy expenditure for each of the five athletes.

Exercise training

A representative training session is described for each athlete. The following are included:

Sport nutrition guidance

A nutrition prescription is presented that includes recommendations for energy intake (kcal/day) and the distribution of calories from carbohydrate, protein, and fat. To be in energy balance, an athlete needs to consume about the same number of calories that he or she expends on a daily basis.

Sample menu

What do athletes eat? A single day’s menu is presented that meets the energy needs and nutrition prescription for each athlete. Each menu is designed to support the athlete’s exercise training. The menus are divided into meals and snacks and contain a variety of foods.

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Winter Olympics Course Outline Comments Questions
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© April, 1998, Montana State University-Bozeman