How Wheelchair Rugby Player Chuck Aoki Eats for the Paralympics

(Image credit: Kelly Gumbert)

The Olympics may be over, but there’s more action to come in Rio. We’re talking about the Paralympics, which run from September 7 to 18. The competitors in these games aren’t just amazing athletes — they’re also incredible people who have overcome obstacles and still manage to bring it on the world stage. We asked them to share what they eat on a daily basis. Here’s what we found out.

Chuck Aoki

Age: 25
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Event: Paralympics Wheelchair Rugby
Training Regimen: Three to four hours a day, weightlifting with lower weight and a lot of quick reps. Also, a lot of cardio (including hills!), all in his rugby chair.

Chuck Aoki has a surprising source of inspiration. Born with a rare genetic disorder called Hereditary Sensory Autonomic Neuropathy (HSAN) Type II, the 25-year-old Paralympian was drawn to wheelchair rugby after seeing the documentary Murderball.

“I’m sitting there watching it, and these guys in wheelchairs are all knocking each other over and they’re swearing at each other and they’re going out partying,” he says. “And I was like, Oh my God, this is awesome!

Although his mom was hesitant (what mom wouldn’t be?), Chuck was driven. Seven years after seeing the movie, Chuck earned a bronze medal at the 2012 Paralympics in London. Now he’s in Rio, ready for the gold. Concussions and bleeding are always a possibility; hardcore training is a guarantee. Here’s how Chuck prepares.

Chuck’s Daily Eating Routine

“My first three or four years on the team, I ate like crap,” Chuck says. “I was in college, I was eating Burger King and just nasty stuff. It was years ago, so we don’t need to talk about that. I’ve since learned better methods.”

Those methods include a Greek yogurt with fruit or granola for breakfast, as well as juice and water. Lunch is either a turkey sandwich, a wrap, or Chipotle. “I admittedly love, love, love Chipotle,” Chuck says. “My nutritionist said there are a lot of things that are worse, but I shouldn’t eat it all the time.”

In the afternoon, Chuck will head to the gym, with a little bit of dried fruit or cashews for energy. Then he’ll chase that workout with some type of protein drink.

Dinner is typically chicken tacos, steak with asparagus, or some type of fish with vegetables. “If I get hungry later, I will have hummus,” Chuck says. “It’s my favorite snack.”

Favorite Cheat Food: Dad’s Mar-Far Chicken

While most people can appreciate a healthy, home-cooked meal, Chuck’s father often makes up something that sounds downright decadent. He spends an entire day making something he calls “mar-far” chicken for the Paralympian and his friends. That dish includes a lot of deep-frying and a chow mein with bacon, onion, egg, and all sorts of other goodies. “It’s horrible for you,” Chuck says. “I wouldn’t tell him that, but it’s so good.”

Rio Must-Eat: Whatcha Got?

Chuck isn’t sure what to expect from Brazilian cuisine, but he’s relying on the Olympic Village dining hall to deliver an authentic taste. “There’s this huge dining hall and there’s always a station with the local cuisine,” he says. “I’m definitely super-pumped to try it. I’m going to try it all. I just don’t know what it’s going to look like.”

Watch Chuck Aoki compete in Rio, when Wheelchair Rugby at the 2016 Paralympic Games starts on Wednesday, September 14.