When the ancient Greeks started the Olympic Games in 776 BC, athletes had their own special performance regimen, including nutrition.
Milo of Croton, for example, a wrestler of legendary strength who won five successive Olympics from 532 to 516 BC, ate 9 kilograms of meat, 9 kilograms of bread and 8.5 litres of wine a day, according to ancient records.
Today’s athletes view sports and nutrition quite differently. And many of them say organic food is essential to their wellbeing and performance.
Ashleigh McIvor – after a long list of impressive, international Ski Cross results dating back to 2003 – became the first ever Olympic Ski Cross champion during the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
As an elite athlete, she says, “It is important that I fuel my body with the healthiest food, as it impacts my overall well-being, strength, stamina, and ultimately, my performance on the hill.”
Ms. McIvor decided to support the organic movement in 2005, at the urging of her sister, an environmental sciences student at the time.
“As an athlete, I spend most of my time outdoors. I am a true nature lover and I care deeply about protecting the planet,” she says. “Every small step counts, and the food you choose to buy has an impact on the long-term health of the planet.”
When Stonyfield, a Quebecbased organic yogurt brand, presented Ms. McIvor with the opportunity to become an ambassador for its Clever Awakening social-media campaign – to inform Canadians about organic food – Ms. McIvor felt it was a good fit.
According to a recent Ipsos Canada online survey, “Fifty-one per cent of Canadians feel they are not well informed about the products from organic farming, and 62 per cent are interested in learning more,” says Iannick Melancon, brand manager with Stonyfield. “That is why we asked an elite athlete such as Ashleigh to partner with us; we want to engage the public through an inspirational Canadian who embraces our mission and demonstrate that eating organic is better for your health, the health of your community and the health of your planet.”
Ms. McIvor says, “Stonyfield wants to do its part to demystify the subject of organics,” adding that Organic Week, currently running between October 9 and 16, will contribute to that effort.
Clara Hughes, a six-time Olympic champion in speed skating and cycling between 1996 and 2010, is also a proponent of organic food. “Eating organic is a big part of my daily regime,” she says. “What I fuel my body with also impacts my state of mind and energy level.”
Ms. Hughes spent the Vancouver Olympics – where she won a bronze medal in the 5,000 meter speed skating event – in a condo in Vancouver, making organic smoothies and other favourite meals. “I was eating the best food – homemade bread and soup, smoothies just the way I like them,” she says. “I felt I had an advantage over the international skaters who weren’t at home.”
As an athlete, one of Ms. Hughes’ sponsors is organic company Natura. She speaks publicly about the benefits of eating organic. “I [like] the idea of…serving as an example to people that good food choices result in good energy.”
Gary Roberts, an NHL star and Stanley Cup champion who played from 1986 to 2009, is also an advocate of eating organic. “I’ve been buying my meat [from Beretta Organic Farms] since 2000,” he says. “In my work now, as a hockey life-coach for elite young players, I [supply] them with an organic post-workout meal.” As well, each of his players receives a nutrition package that includes an organic food-choice list and organic recipes.
Mr. Roberts began eating organic when he was 27 to avoid pesticides, growth hormones, etc. “If I hadn’t taken such good care of myself nutritionally, I wouldn’t have played until I was 43. It was as much about what I did off of the ice as what I did on it”.