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Breakfast of champions

Some opt for Western. Some go for what sits better with the Asian palate - rice, porridge or noodles. Others have little choice and have to eat for nutrients, not taste. The Sunday Times goes from Bangkok to Texas to break down the calories that go into fuelling South-east Asia's best

Hoang Xuan Vinh of Vietnam (Shooting)

Vietnamese shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh's breakfast of champions.

Total calories: 914

  • Two packets of Milo, 204 calories
  • One choco pie, 125 calories
  • One Banh Da rice noodles, 585 calories

Breakfast is decided by the appointed nutritionist at the National Sports Training Centre in Hanoi, where Hoang Xuan Vinh trains. It is cooked and prepared for all national athletes. Most of them are given just one packet of Milo but as an elite athlete, Vinh gets two.

He says: “Normally, when going on training trips, athletes like me don;t really have time to cook. Even if we don’t like the food there, we still have to get used to it.”

 

Hidilyn Diaz of The Philippines (Weightlifting)

Filipino weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz's breakfast of champions.

Total calories: 962

  • 10 eggs (Two whole, eight whites), 292 calories
  • Fruit, 201 calories
  • Steamed sweet potato, 115 calories
  • Wholemeal bread, 138 calories
  • Brown rice, 216 calories

In dropping to 53kg from the 58kg category, Hidilyn Diaz had to make big changes to her diet to lose weight while building muscle mass. It meant bland meals and getting used to eating foods like beets, quinoa, spinach and kale. 

She says: “To be a champion, you need discipline. That applies to how and what I eat.”

Maria Londa of Indonesia (Athletics)

Indonesian jumper Maria Natalia Londa's breakfast of champions.

Total calories: 898

  • White rice, 200 calories
  • Two sausages, 300 calories
  • One fried egg, 92 calories
  • Stir-fried kang kong, 50 calories
  • Bean sprouts, 62 calories
  • Hot chocolate, 194 calories

A fistful of rice, a palm-sized portion of meat and two palm-sized portions of vegetables make up Maria Londa’s breakfast, which is recommended by a nutritionist but prepared by the jumper herself. Pre- and post-workout snacks coming in the form of bananas.

She says: “My favourite food is rujak (a traditional fruit and vegetable salad dish) but it’s usually spicy. That can backfire. I have to restrain my appetite for spicy and sour food which will affect my performance.”

Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand (Badminton)

Thai shuttler Ratchanok Intanon's breakfast of champions.

Total calories: 736

  • White rice, 200 calories
  • Seafood tom yum soup, 120 calories
  • Stir-fried kang kong, 50 calories
  • Spicy canned fish, 194 calories
  • Two slices of watermelon, 172 calories

Breakfast is quite literally a family affair for Ratchanok as it is prepared by her mother, who works as a cook at the badminton school where she trains. The shuttler enjoys the hearty fare with her team-mates - even more so when it includes her favourites, like spicy papaya salad.

She says: “I put on weight easily so I have to be careful of what I eat but sometimes I still eat what I want to. Weight plays a part on court but there are other factors like style of play.”

Joseph Schooling of Singapore (Swimming)

Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling's breakfast of champions.

Total calories: 1,118

  • Protein shake, 262 calories
  • Scrambled eggs, 197 calories
  • Ham, 91 calories
  • Sausage, 150 calories
  • Wholemeal bread, 138 calories
  • Bacon, 130 calories

If he had his way, Joseph Schooling’s menu for the day would include his favourite Milo dinosaur, Samy’s curry and carrot cake (the darker the better). But he has paid much more attention in the past year, keeping these indulgences to a minimum. He estimates he downs about 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day.

He says: “I love food in general. I love barbecue and I love Chick-fil-A (an American fast-food chain). If I had to eat whole wheat bread all the time, I would have cravings and I would shoot myself.”

Pandelela Rinong of Malaysia (Diving)

Malaysian diver Pandelela Rinong's breakfast of champions.

Total calories: 250

  • Meat porridge, 200 calories
  • Coffee, 50 calories

Porridge is the usual fare on offer at the athletes’ dining hall at the Bukit Jalil Sports Centre where Pandelela trains. But, once in a while, she indulges in her “ultimate favourite food” - chilli pan mee. Oatmeal with almond milk becomes breakfast when competitions draw near.

She says: “It’s not advisable to eat chilli pan mee too often but it helps lift my mood and helps me survive for training for another day. When I train in China, I don’t get to have Malaysian food so I pack some sambal with me.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 31, 2016, with the headline 'Breakfast of champions'. Print Edition | Subscribe