Speed skater Erin Jackson's path to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing, China, was anything but typical. After Erin slipped on the ice during the 500m race at the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating Trials, her teammate Brittany Bowe gave up her own qualifying spot so Erin could race at the Games.
“She has earned her spot; she deserves it," Brittany told NBCSports.com at the time—and Erin proved it by winning gold in the women's 500m race. The victory made Erin the first Black woman to ever win a Winter Olympic gold medal in speed skating, according to NBC Sports.
Even though speed skaters are only on the ice for a few minutes, there's a lot that goes into preparing for an event. Long training hours, tough workouts, and the right diet help set Erin up for success.
But when it comes to building the perfect plate, she isn't picky. "Anything in moderation," she tells Women's Health. The gold medalist adds that she's not super focused on nutrition when it comes to her meals, but balance is key.
"I love food, and I love breakfast foods especially," Erin says. Her morning meal of choice is instant oatmeal—her usual flavor includes blueberries, flaxseeds, and cinnamon. Other days, Erin swaps out her bowl for a big plate of eggs. "Pretty simple," she explains (but delish!).
Oatmeal is packed with four grams of fiber per serving, according the USDA, which research shows helps lower cholesterol and keeps Erin full for hours. And, nutrient-dense eggs have a great balance of fat and protein that keeps you satiated, perfect for fueling long stretches of skating.
After her first training session, Erin is more than ready for lunch. "I was doing a meal prep delivery service for a while," she says. While the meals can vary, one of Erin's favorites is a rice bowl with chicken, cheese, and avocado.
"If it's going to be a little bit before I can eat after a training session, I'll make a smoothie," she says. Her go-to recipe includes lactose-free milk, Cheribundi cherry juice, oats, peanut butter, and "a bunch of different fruits."
To refuel throughout the day, Erin turns to her two favorite recovery drinks: cherry juice and chocolate milk. Which one she chooses depends on what kind of workouts and training she has in store, she says.
Tart cherry juice can reduce soreness and help your muscles bounce back after a workout, according to a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. The phytonutrients in cherry juice can also reduce inflammation by calming enzyme activity the same way aspirin does, according to the same study.
Meanwhile, chocolate milk has everything your body needs to replenish post-sweat sesh: Carbohydrates, fat, protein, water, and electrolytes, a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found.
"For dinner, I really focus on getting those carbs back," Erin says. "I'll have a pasta dish or a wagyu rice dish." Sometimes, she tucks into another meal delivery plate, like salmon over rice. "I'm not super picky," she explains.
While she was competing at the Winter Games, Erin found new meals to love in the Olympic Village. Hot pots were her favorite. It's a savory broth packed with different types of meat, noodles, lettuce, and more.
While you won't catch Erin diving into a chocolate bar or a pile of fluffy frosting, she does love a good cupcake—or, at least, part of one. "I flip them over and eat the bottom and not the icing," she says. Plus, she adds that you can't go wrong with a slice of cheesecake.
At the end of a long day, Erin sometimes pours herself some more Cheribundi "for recovery and also to sleep a little better."
Turns out, tart cherry juice is a good source of melatonin, one study published in the Journal of Food Science found. Drinking one glass, or even half a glass, before bed can improve sleep quality and reduce the number of times you wake up at night.
It all adds up to a diet truly fit for an Olympian!