How Kerri Walsh Jennings, 2012 Olympic Hopeful, Eats to Win

By Michelle Edelbaum, "Olympic Appetites," July/August 2012

The world’s fastest, fittest athletes are competing in the summer Games, but what fuels their power? We talked to Kerri Walsh Jennings, 33, a beach volleyball player and two-time Olympic medalist about how she eats to win.

How has good nutrition improved your performance?
Kerri Walsh Jennings: When I eat every 3 hours I can focus better, feel stronger, last longer.

So do you have a food mantra or philosophy of how you eat?
Kerri Walsh Jennings: The greener the better—that’s kind of where my husband and I are treading these days. We’re both professional athletes and we’re parents now, and that’s definitely affected the way we eat and the way we think about food because we obviously want to put the best things in our children. I’ve heard this so many times and it sounds so cheesy, but “feed the rainbow of colors” and you’re doing yourself and your body a lot of good.

So what kind of stuff do you like to cook?
Kerri Walsh Jennings: Literally just the basics. In my head I’m taking Cooking 101, so just grilling chicken, grilling vegetables, that kind of stuff. It makes me really happy if I can make a successful dinner.

What do you eat before an event?
Kerri Walsh Jennings: I eat a lot of almond butter and honey sandwiches throughout the day, because that keeps me satisfied. I can just shove it down and I’m good to go.

And how does your approach to food and nutrition differ from and synch with your beach volleyball teammate, Misty May-Treanor…do you guys eat together a lot?
Kerri Walsh Jennings: We eat together a lot. We both do enjoy food, and Misty absolutely pays attention to what she eats and you can tell. She’s one of the best role models. She cooks a lot more than I do and I think that’s a great thing and I think she really enjoys it.

Are you concerned with good or bad carb sources? Is that something that you pay attention to?
Kerri Walsh Jennings: Yeah. I mean I don’t want to have a lot of refined sugars in my diet so I try to pay attention and it definitely makes a difference in my blood sugar levels.

What was it about becoming a mom that made you more aware of it?
Kerri Walsh Jennings: I want to give my kids the best. I want my habits to be healthy for them. Snacking on healthy carbs like whole grains is important. We are not perfect. We don’t stress about it, but we do try to keep that stuff handy so we don’t get tempted to go the other way.

And what’s your biggest eating challenge?
Kerri Walsh Jennings: Eating. I mean it sounds so silly because I truly do love food, but I pack my kids’ lunches and sometimes I don’t get to my own, so that’s been a bit of a challenge, but it’s also something I’m really aware of, and I’m working on that.

Any cooking goal you have for yourself?
Kerri Walsh Jennings: Learn how to do it. I can only go up. I’m just getting the basics down—once I’ve got the basics I’ll really get into it.

Photo: Courtesy MAG

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