The Weight of Olympic Athletes

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

weight of olympic athletesOlympic athletes certainly come in all sizes.

Now that the Olympics have begun, many are wondering what it takes to train and eat like an Olympian.

The athletes often have to maintain a specific diet for their sport. This will help them achieve the body weight they need to be to perform best in their sport.

Body Types of Different Sports

    • Gymnasts: Must have a very high power/strength to weight ratio. They must be able to generate a lot of power and strength in short bursts. They do need to watch their weight. Gymnasts can not be carrying around extra weight while holding intricate positions and throwing their bodies through technical moves. Gymnasts need to be light to endure the training they do as well.
    • Skill Sports (Archery, Shooting, Sailing, Golf, etc.): Body composition doesn’t matter as much—skill is the key here.
    • Cyclists: Need to be small in order to be more aerodynamic, carry less weight on the bicycle, and climb hills with less weight.

  • Distance Runners: Petite and “skinny”. The less the runners weigh, the more “bouncy” they can be. If you weigh less, you can be light on your feet and travel further. The elite runners tend to naturally have a small frame size.
  • Sprinters: All about power and the ability to accelerate your body mass.  Sprinters need the ability to quickly move their legs back and forth. The legs are the muscle powerhouse, and the rest of the body is generally an athletic build.
  • Judo: There are various weight classes. The athletes want to be at the highest weight possible in their specific weight class. The right weight is essential for this sport.
  • Badminton: Average build. This sport is mostly about reflexes. They do need to be able to move around the court quickly, so they may be thinner.
  • Swimmers and Rowers: Can get away with a little more body fat. For swimmers, body fat floats in the water. They also need muscle, but a little more body fat doesn’t hurt! They also have the water or the boat (for rowers) to rely on for some support. They have to work against the resistance of the water, and not as much against their own body weight. So, there is not a pressing need to weigh less.
  • Soccer (Football) and Rugby: Build can vary. Body type depends more on the position the athletes play on the field.

The reason athletes look the same in one sport, is because that is tends to be the optimal body type for that sport. Overall, all athletes have to watch their weight because it affects training, and health.

For all of us non-Olympic athletes, we do not need to drastically change our body type for a sport. Find what you are good at, and you should find that your body type fits better with that sport!

Which Olympic body type do you aim for?


  1. Trixie

    “Badmitten?” Seriously? Try “Badminton”

    • Ted Kallmyer

      Sorry, obviously none of us at diet-blog play the sport nor know how to spell it. 🙂

  2. Sue

    Many athletes follow the Zone diet to improve performance, lower inflammation and reduce body fat. Olympians ahead of their time ascribing to Zone anti-inflammatory nutrition include past Olympians Darra Torres 2000, Jenny Thompson 2000, Italian National Basketball 2004, Valentina Vezzali 2008, Oli Beckingsale 2004 and 2008, Christian Vandevelde 2008 and more, including the 2012 synchronized divers from Mexico, German Sanchez and Ivan Garcia who took home silver medals.

  3. Spectra

    I’m short and muscular. When I did try doing long-distance running, I had problems because I’m not naturally skinny but I think most people would get pretty skinny if they ran 10 or 12 miles a day. I do have a great body for biking, though. Powerful legs and a small overall body makes me very good for endurance and getting up hills.

  4. Jim

    Gotta love the gymnasts. Awesome deltoid and trap muscles and great strength.