College holding HOTSHOT at track

Fuel Like a Pro: Olympian Colleen Quigley

She’s about to head to London to race with Team USA in the World Championships Steeplechase event. Colleen Quigley, who finished third in her event at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, has endured a year of intense training, races and travel to prep her body and mind for taking on a new turf in London. The aspiring dietician shares the clean-eating fuel she relies on to sustain her grueling workouts and what it takes to train for London. Take a look:

About how many calories do you consume in a day to fuel your workouts?

I have never counted calories in my life and don’t ever plan to. I focus on eating high-quality foods that fuel and nourish my body, giving me all the nutrients I need to recover from my last workout and refuel for my next one. I for sure try to avoid processed foods and focus on fresh ingredients and meals that I make myself rather than anything pre-prepared. I also try to avoid processed sugar (natural sugars found in fruits for example don’t count) and alcohol during the bulk of the year. In the offseason, I indulge in this type of thing more, but I’m pretty strict about it during the season. I love cooking and trying new foods, so this lifestyle is fun for me and I enjoy how eating a clean diet makes me feel in my life and in my training.

How has your diet impacted your training and performance?

I have always been a pretty healthy eater. I am lucky to have grown up in a household that made eating good food a priority. We have a big garden in our backyard at home that explodes with vegetables pretty much all year round. My parents set up a good base of knowledge for me that I have built upon during my life. I stick to it because I can tell the difference in how my body feels when I eat clean and healthy versus when I eat junk food and lots of sugar. My energy levels stay steady and I am also generally in a better mood when I fuel right. My body recovers from workouts better as well when I eat all the micronutrients my muscles need to repair themselves.

A day in the life of eating:


Breakfast is almost always oatmeal. I love oatmeal because it sits in my stomach well before a run, is easy to digest, and is hot and comforting in the morning. I usually slice up a banana into it, and add a variety of other toppings that may include: honey, chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, cashews, protein powder, raisins, dried cranberries… etc. And coffee. Definitely coffee with a little milk.


I usually eat my oatmeal, then do my morning practice, then come back and have a kind of second breakfast. This is usually two pieces of toast with avocado, salt, pepper, and a fried egg on top. Ideally, I’ll have some yogurt with berries alongside the toast, and probably some more coffee unless I plan to take a nap.


Dinner varies the most, but usually I make some type of grain (pasta, rice, quinoa, etc. ...) and then sauté a bunch of veggies, which may include any of the following: onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, or carrots. I also cook up a protein like chicken, beef, fish, or tofu. I start the assembly with a bed of greens (kale, lettuce, arugula), add my grain, meat, then the veggies, and top it all with a sauce (think pesto, balsamic/olive oil, hummus, or Shalane’s lemon miso dressing). This kind of dish covers all my bases with a rainbow of veggies, carbs, and protein.


Fuel for workout

The BTC usually works out in the morning, so my morning oats are my pre-workout fuel. This dish is also my pre-race meal even when I race in the evening!

What food would you NEVER eat?

Hard to think of a food that is completely off limits. I am down to try almost anything. The only foods I really don’t like are olives (disgusting) and sardines (can’t even stand the smell). There was one time when I was in Tokyo with some teammates before World Champs in Beijing and we were all out to eat and trying local foods. Somebody ordered horse because it was on the menu and I refused to try it. I went to horse camp growing up and I love horses (favorite animal after dogs), so I couldn’t stand the thought of eating horsemeat no matter what it tasted like.

One thing ALWAYS in my fridge is:

Ooooh. Maybe plain, whole milk Greek yogurt. Or more recently, a tub of white miso paste. When Shalane Flanagan came out with her cookbook, I got absolutely hooked on her kale radicchio salad with lemon miso dressing. It’s pretty much the only dressing I make now.

#1 Cheat meal is:

Probably a big juicy burger with bacon and cheese and a heaping pile of sweet potato fries. Then a warm brownie covered in ice cream for desert. I have a huge sweet tooth!

In steeplechase it’s important to stay lean and strong.  What is your routine, what other workouts do you incorporate?

Our team does a strength-training program for an hour three times per week. The routine is a combination of stretching and mobility as well as explosive moves with balls and boxes and body weight exercises. All of this is to increase our strength, build up all the muscles that support our bodies as we put in the miles on the trails and the track. Without this, we would not be nearly as powerful and fast and we would most definitely end up injured. Along with that, the steeplers in our group spend extra time doing hurdle drills to work on our hurdling form so that we can be as clean and efficient over the barriers as possible. We also incorporate a series of bounding into our routine to build the extra strength and explosiveness you need to be able to jump over the water pit.

I also do a decent amount of swimming outside of my running in order to build some extra cardiovascular work into my routine without any extra pounding that running requires. This saves my body some stress but still makes me breathe hard and work on my endurance.


Superfoods for Endurance Athletes: 6 foods to eat right now   

Run Fast, Eat Slow: Shalane Flanagan’s go-to fuel and Superhero Muffin recipe 

Nutrition and Cognition: Add these brain foods to your meal plan  






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