What Jessie Diggins Eats to Fuel Her Fitness

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for fueling your fitness endeavors. Here’s how Jessie Diggins powers and recovers from her workout.

Jessie Diggins

One of the most successful U.S. cross-country skiers ever, Diggins (on @jessiediggins) developed an eating disorder during training. It was after her recovery that she and teammate Kikkan Randall became the first U.S. skiers to win Olympic gold in the team sprint in 2018. Diggins has recorded six victories and a total of 26 podiums on the World Cup circuit, and she has won four World Championship medals. Here’s how she fuels for fitness.

Experience Life | Describe your training and nutrition goals.

Jessie Diggins | I struggled with an eating disorder, and as part of my treatment, I went to the Emily Program. (For more on her story, see “Jessie Diggins: An Athlete’s Eating Disorder — and Recovery”.) They not only saved my life but also taught me that all foods fit.

I try to choose foods that are minimally processed and organic. But at the end of the day, all foods work as fuel. I try to not let food have any sort of emotional hold on me because when you’re traveling and racing like I am, you often need to fuel yourself with whatever is available. Creating rigid rules and guidelines gives food more power than it needs to have.

EL | Do you use tests to inform your food and fitness choices?

JD | Not beyond basic health markers. As a female athlete, I occasionally do a blood test to see how my iron is. And I check my vitamin D because I’m often in northern countries and don’t get a lot of sunshine.

EL | Describe a day in your life.

JD | Today for breakfast I had a big bowl of oatmeal with berries, yogurt, honey, and nuts. Then I went out and roller-skied for two and a half hours. I did a few 10-second bursts of speed to work on power and technique, but it was just a long, easy distance. I drank a sports drink while I was training.

I came back and had a lunch of leftover pasta with pesto and meatballs and a side salad with nuts and dressing. This afternoon I’ll go out and run for an hour. And for an afternoon snack, I might have toast with peanut butter and a banana, or I might have some granola or an energy bar. For dinner I’m going to make a big stew of wild rice, turkey, carrots, celery, and onions. That’s a pretty typical, easy training day for me.

If I’m doing a lot of intervals or lifting weights, I might need a heartier lunch or a larger snack. I listen to my body’s cues for how much food I need, because I’ve learned that if I really listen to my body, it will tell me when I’m hungry and also what I’m craving — if I really want salty food, I might need more electrolytes because I sweated a lot earlier.

Or I’ll notice when I crave red meat: Time to make meatballs. I believe in listening to what my body’s asking for and honoring that. If I’m really hungry, then I need to eat so I can have quality training.

I’m a big believer in eating dessert: If I want some chocolate, I have some chocolate — no problem. Even if it’s my day off, I can still have the chocolate.

EL | Do you have any food rituals or superstitions?

JD | I used to have superstitions around food when I was developing my eating disorder, but now I try not to let food have that power over me.

EL | Do you have any favorite recipes to share?

JD | Right now my favorite thing to cook is miso salmon. Combine 1 tablespoon each of butter, miso paste, honey, and Dijon mustard, mix it into a paste, and slap it on the salmon. Bake the salmon in the oven at 400 degrees F. It’s so good with rice and vegetables on the side — maybe squash or sweet potatoes. It’s got an amazing complexity of flavors, and I just love it.

This originally appeared as “Fit Fuel” in the May 2020 print issue of Experience Life.

Maggie is an Experience Life senior editor. Michael is an Experience Life deputy editor. Jill is a health journalist based in Minnesota and contributed reporting for this piece.

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