Ariana Kukors: 8 Tips I’ve Learned From World Class Nutritionists

Inspiration Saturday, August 31, 2013 Written by

Ariana Kukors is an Olympic swimmer, world-record holder and Pacific Northwest native who is working with LifeWise to promote healthy living. Follow along on her journey to live an active and healthy life. 

6,000…7,000…12,000 calories?

It’s true. Professional athletes have a pretty high daily caloric intake. Not quite 12,000 calories high, but we do eat a lot of food. That being said, we don’t get to eat everything that is put in front of our face. During the height of my training routine, I was waking up at the crack of dawn every morning to jump into an icy cold pool and needed to make sure my body was properly fueled for an aggressive four-hour workout. If practice started at 6:30 a.m., I needed to be up well before that to eat a quick breakfast and make sure it was digested before starting my workout routine.

Given my workout schedule, I have always taken meal planning quite seriously. Grocery shopping routinely happens on Mondays and Thursdays and I always come prepared with a list to ensure that I don’t purchase unnecessary or spur-of-the-moment items.

My grocery list pre-planning became even more paramount after I started swimming on the National Team. During this time, my blood was drawn on a regular basis, which raised flags around my low iron levels. I quickly learned to constantly monitor my body and make adjustments to my workload, sleep patterns and nutrition based on what my body was telling me it needed. I shifted to eating a diet high in protein, carbohydrates and plenty of iron-rich foods. The big lesson learned? Balance is the name of the game for me and I must consume everything in moderation.

As a professional athlete, I have been incredibly fortunate to work with some very knowledgeable nutritionists and food experts throughout my career and have done my best to be a sponge and absorb their information. They taught me how to eat seasonally and locally, how to adjust my portions in correlation with training, and how to use food as medicine to balance out inefficiencies.

Top takeaways from nutritionists

Here are my top takeaways from these nutritionists that anyone can apply to help create a pattern of healthier eating.

1. Consume everything in moderation. That way you’ll never have to eliminate foods you love that may not be as healthy.

2. Water, water, water. You can’t drink enough.

3. Make vegetables your new best friend and eat them every day. You’ll thank me later.


4.  Add two or three different kinds of vegetables to your dinner and lunches. The variety will help to supplement various  nutrients needed.

5. Carbohydrates are misunderstood. Two cups of stir-fried vegetables have the same amount of carbohydrates as 1½ cups of cooked pasta. When you’re replenishing carbs, don’t always go straight for the bread and pasta.

6. If you’re a fan of sports drinks, water them down by half. This cuts the sugar intake and is easier to consume during heavy training while still giving you the energy you want and need.

7. Eat seasonally when possible. We’re lucky enough to have some incredible farmer’s markets in the Northwest.

8. Switch things up from time to time. Try a new vegetable, seasoning, herb or style of cooking. Variety is key to keeping meals exciting.

Happy healthy eating!