Professional athletes don’t get to the top by accident. It takes superhuman levels of time, dedication, and focus—and that includes paying attention to what they put in their bellies. In this series, GQ takes a look at what pro athletes in different sports eat on a daily basis to perform at their best. Here’s a look at the low-calorie diet of Olympian David Boudia.
Diving is hard. It’s also probably doesn’t involve what you think it does. “I think nine times out of 10 people confuse this with swimming,” says David Boudia. Diving, as its name might suggest, has very little to do with swimming. “All I have to do is doggy paddle 10 feet to the edge of the pool. I jump, try to do flips, and go into the water with little splash.”
On top of all the ordinary discipline you need to be a top athlete, to be a great diver you need to get over being hangry. When preparing for competition, Boudia eats as few as 1,800 calories a day—a sharp drop from what most pro athletes eat. Diving is obviously not as endurance-heavy as something like soccer, but it’s not even as drawn out as a tennis match. In competition, your game is over in moments. “I don’t burn a lot of calories in the pool. I’m burning most of my calories climbing up about 50 stairs. I walk up, dive, walk up, dive, maybe 80 times a practice.”
At the moment, Boudia and his improbably named diving partner, Steele Johnson, are killing it at the Olympic trials, making strong performances in the run up to Rio. Divers need a lot of explosive power from their legs, so training deals pretty heavily with squats, plyometrics, core work, and of course working out arms so they don’t look out of proportion and Velociraptor-ish.
But also, you don’t want to look big. Divers are notoriously fit, possibly the most aesthetically pleasing athletes who don’t have to be professionally good-looking, but the need for low bodyfat is bigger than just vanity. Feeling bloated while trying to perform, looking down at the water and feeling like all you can see is your inflated gut, can wreck a dive. So when it’s competition time, Boudia drops about 15 pounds, down to 160 at the moment. And since, as we’ve established, there’s not a ton of cardio built into diving, dieting is a big deal.
“My wife is a dietician,” says Boudia, “and there was a learning curve for a little while because she was used to working with athletes who needed tons of calories. But we figured out something that works.” One part of the something that works is a monster smoothie at the start of the day, noteworthy because it’s the one time during the day Boudia actually feels full. Another facet is three small lunches spread over the course of the day: chips and salsa, carrots and hummus, mostly things that you would put in a Ziploc bag in a child’s lunchbox. Which should make packing and meal planning easy for the apparently inevitable trip to Brazil that Boudia will be taking next month.
Protein pancake (egg whites, oats, yogurt, cinnamon, blueberries)
Smoothie with strawberries, blueberries, oats, spinach, peanut butter protein powder, Zico coconut water
Apple slices with peanut butter
Turkey slices rolled with cheese
Carrots and hummus
Barbecue chicken and polenta, with sliced avocado, and peaches