Much has changed for Elizabeth Beisel since her first Olympic Games.
In 2008, she was a 15-year-old high school student who narrowly missed earning a medal with a fourth-place finish in the 200-meter backstroke. She returned to the Olympics in 2012 to capture a silver medal in the 400-meter individual medley and a bronze medal in the 200-meter backstroke.
Now, the 23-year-old Beisel has her sights set on gold. An extremely versatile swimmer, Beisel is entered in nine events at the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials. She's a lock to make the Olympic team in her signature event, the 400-meter individual medley, and she has a great shot at qualifying in the 200-meter backstroke.
STACK recently caught up with Beisel to talk about the role nutrition plays in her preparation for this Summer's Olympic Games. According to Beisel, her diet is dramatically different now than it was when she was preparing for her first Olympics in 2008.
"[My diet] has completely changed," she said. "For any 15-year-old girl, they can pretty much eat whatever they want. As a 15-year-old, you can recover a lot faster. As a 23-year-old woman, it's totally different. I just remember I would get my lunch at the cafeteria in high school, and I'd always have a cookie or curly fries or hash browns. There's no way I could have a cookie and French fries with every lunch at my age now."
One thing Beisel has focused on is eliminating processed sugar from her diet. Also frequently known as refined or added sugar, processed sugar refers to sugar added to foods during the manufacturing process. Natural sugar, in contrast, is sugar that naturally occurs in foods such as fruits and vegetables. Ultra-processed products such as candy, baked goods, soda, energy drinks and ice cream are often stuffed with processed sugar. Here's what Beisel had to say on the move to cut processed sugar:
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I honestly feel so much better. For me, trying to cut out as much "fake food" as possible made such a difference. We all have our sugar cravings or want a bag of chips sometimes. But I've truly felt so much better, not even just in the water, but outside the water. I'm less lethargic. I'm much more alert. Waking up is easier. I'm more energetic throughout the day. These are all things that are awesome and that really help my performance as a swimmer and an athlete. I feel like it's something that's really taken me to the next level. Yes, it's been difficult to do, but I think if you want something bad enough, you're willing to make the commitment. My body feels so much better for sure.
Instead of processed products, Beisel opts for natural, nutrient-dense foods. She said, "Everything I eat is nutrient-dense. I'm eating it for a reason. Milk has eight grams of protein and nine essential nutrients. Leafy greens have iron and essential vitamins. Everything I'm putting in my body has a purpose. That's one of the biggest things that's changed since I was 15."
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