Kelsey Stone

Implications of Buddhist Monk’s and Olympic Pentathlete’s Diet on Performance in their Respective Fields

April 3, 2021   /  

Name: Kelsey Stone
Majors: Biology, Religious Studies
Advisors: Dr. Nicholas Brandley, Dr. Mark Graham, Dr. Bhakti Mamtora, Dr. Rebecca Williams

Olympic Pentathletes and Buddhist Monks are elite in their respective fields, each have adapted highly specific lifestyles and diets. Both have regimented schedules and individualized diets that aid in their abilities to be successful. Through interviews with members from each group, data was gathered on their specific diets and broken down into specific nutritional components. This study finds that Buddhist monks were deficient in energy, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and potassium, while having the highest daily value percentage in carbohydrates. While Olympic Pentathletes had a positive deficiency in fatty acids, and had the higher daily value percentage in protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and sodium. From these results, specific components were highlighted and a literary review was done which looked at how the nutritional components influence biological processes, specifically blood pressure and cardiac function. Finally, in looking at the Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei, dietary manipulations were suggested based on the literary review.

Kelsey will be online to field comments on April 16:
10am-noon EDT (Asia: late evening, PST: 6-8am, Africa/Europe: late afternoon)

33 thoughts on “Implications of Buddhist Monk’s and Olympic Pentathlete’s Diet on Performance in their Respective Fields”

  1. This is a really interesting interdisciplinary project. I am curious to know what dietary changes you would recommend to the Marathon Monks based on your findings.

    1. Based on my findings the main thing that I would change is the amount of energy or calories consumed in one day. It is estimated that they eat around 1,400 calories per day, when they should be eating around 3,000. When they don’t eat enough calories and have the daily demands that they have, it can lead to an increase in inflammatory markers. With the increase of inflammatory markers and the fact they they do not use any foot wear for the first 50 runs in a forest, explain why the infection rate of cuts is so high. There are a few small things I would change but mainly the calories.

  2. Hello,
    I have a few key terms and point to help guide you through my presentation.

    Four Noble Truths: 1) existence is characterized by suffering, 2) keeping samudaya, 3) by removing craving one can remove suffering, and 4) Eightfold path

    Eight Fold Path: 1) accepting the buddhas teaching, 2) positive outlook free of lust or ill-will, 3) positive and productive speech, 4) live by the precepts, 5) avoid work that can cause harm to others 6) directing the mind to religious goals and crafting a wholesome mind, 7) being mindful at all times and aware of what one is doing, thinking, and feeling, and 8) training the mind to achieve the state of focus and attention required for meditation

    Combined event: combination of running and shooting (depicted on slide) where the athletes have to run two miles stopping every quarter miles to shoot five targets

    -Monks have a variety of chores or task that they rotate between
    -The nutritional data obtained from the athlete’s diet had to be altered by x2.6 because the energy demands were not sufficient

  3. Very interesting project. I’m curious to know if there have been changes in the monks’ diets over time. Have they already adapted their diets in response to shifting food cultures in Japan, or awareness of modern notions of nutrition?

    1. There have been small changes over time, but in general there isn’t much information about the eating practices of monks. Generally there are some small rules about things that should be avoided but part of their precepts is to accept what is offered to them. With that being said, there are different dietary practices between monasteries, such as some eat two meals and some eat three meals. A large part of the diet depends on lineages and where they originated from. So one of the major changes is the view on eating meat. That is mainly too to the ability to access “clean” and healthy meat, which was not always true historically. But for nutritional changes, there are some food preparation techniques that are used to increase the foods bioavailability and that was a newer practices relative to the timeline of Buddhism.

  4. Congratulations Kelsey!

    It’s great to see your work here. I’ve always been interested in the dietary aspects of religious life, but it was especially interesting to see this comparison. Did you look at the possibility that macronutrient differences might be affected by lifestyle difference between the monks and athletes?

    Best of luck moving forward!

    1. I did look at some of the dietary differences between lifestyles and the macronutrient demands. The main difference that isn’t depicted on my graphs is changes in daily demand values. For instance it is recommended that the monks only consume around 2,000 calories/day where that Olympic Pentathletes is recommended to consume around 3,000 calories/day. There are a few others based on gender and activity level, but the energy consumption was the main one for activity level. I looked at if they consumed enough of the recommended level so it is hard to see these differences in my graphs.

  5. Buddhist Monks and Olympic Pentathletes ? I am not sure you could have brought together 2 (in the eyes of many) more different groups. I love how you find different ways of solving problems and want to put your own spin on things. I would not expect anything different from you. Congrats Kelsey, you are one of a kind.

  6. Congratulations, Kelsey. It’s great to see all that you have achieved over the last four years, and we wish you the best in your plans beyond Wooster!

  7. Congrats Kelsey! This is an incredibly interesting project and I am really fascinated in your entire process! One thing that I noticed was that the Olympic Pentathletes consumed more of all of the ions other than iron when compared to the monks. Did you find any correlations between these ions and performance? Is there a reason why the pentathletes didn’t consume more iron?

    1. Thanks Lex!
      It is in part with what foods they are consuming. The athlete that I interviewed tried to get a lot of her nutrients from vegetables and some non-red meats and didn’t have a lot of carbohydrates compared to the monks. Additionally I had to make some changes to the nutritional data that I got so there was some error in the data. But in my interview with an Olympic nutritionist, they said that many of the athletes do not consume enough Iron. I focused on Iron in the mechanist breakdown for some of these reasons. But for performance female athletes are at a higher risk of having Iron deficiencies and developing Iron deficient anemia which can cause cardiovascular disease. So the heart and blood pressure are altered. The nutritionist also said that once an athlete is able to maintain the correct levels of iron, they feel the largest difference compared to other nutritional ion changes. But generally speaking, it decreased muscle soreness and increases the time till muscle fatigue occurs during exercise.

  8. Congratulations, Kelsey! Your research project brings together two disciplines in very innovative ways. I would be interested in hearing more about what excited you the most about this project.

    1. I think that most exciting parts of my project were creating a new avenue for cross-field studies in biology and religious studies. There isn’t a lot of work being done on physical and nutritional work. So although frustrating at times with the lack of information it was interesting to explore a new area. Secondly, it was exciting to get information about the actual diets of these two groups because there was little to no information about what is actually consumed and more information about what they cannot consume.

  9. Hello and congratulations (again) on doing this innovative and challenging project! As you might expect, I don’t have any new questions at the moment. 🙂 I really like the presentation as you have formatted it for today’s symposium — it’s good to see it in this latest presentation format. You have outlined a really complex project in a very accessible way. I’m happy that others can see it here. Congratulations again!

  10. Stone!

    Congrats on finishing, this is amazing!
    Im so proud of you and all you’ve done these last four years, I cant wait for next fall!

  11. Congratulations, Stone! What an interesting presentation. What first got you interested in your topic?

    1. Thanks Ash!
      I think what interested me was fining a way to combine all my interest into one project. It took figure out how it actually would actually work but I was able to find a way to combine buddhism, physiology, and athletics.

  12. Congrats on finishing and all of your hard work! This is such a cool project and you continue to impress me with your success in your double major as well as on the field!

  13. What an interesting topic! I was curious about whether or not you saw any negative implications for the low intake of some dietary ions consumed by Olympic Athletes? Specifically iron, as you also mention a few implications of iron deficiency that seem like they would have an effect on athletic performance. These individuals are obviously able to perform at a high level so this may not be detrimental, but I wondered how these levels may impact their performance.


    1. In looking at the effect of performance and Iron consumption, I found the main thing was decreased muscle soreness and increased muscle exercise tolerance when maintaining proper levels. Additionally, it when deficient in Iron, there is an increase in inflammatory markers, which endurance athletes already have elevated levels, which can lead to a compromised immune system. Finally, when levels are maintained properly and supplementation the blood to muscle oxygen exchange is increased. All of these factors suggested an improved exercise tolerance, meaning that they are able to go at their top exercise output for longer. It may not increase their abilities but prolong their maximum effort. So for Olympic Pentathletes it is important in the combined event, where a few seconds matter quite a bit for placement.

  14. I am really impressed by how you combined your two disciplines. Thank you for sharing your research. What is next for you after Wooster?

  15. Hi Stone!

    Great project that sounds so interesting and of note your advisor and Geordie pointed out for a complex topic, it is very easy to consume! I wondered if included in your data are any points about vitamin supplementation or if there are recommendations for supplementation given differences in their diets and demands of their respective careers?

    Proud of you and good luck with your last semester and your master’s!

  16. Congratulations on this impressive project, Kelsey! It is an excellent model of interdisciplinary study you are pursuing on this campus.

    Would you tell us a bit more about Buddhist monks you interviewed for this study? E.g., How big is your sample? Some of their backgrounds (race/ethnicity, geographical contexts, gender, etc.). Thank you!

  17. Kelsey so so interesting, I love the integration. How were you able to locate your subjects? Look forward to cheering you on for one more round.

  18. Congratulations on finishing! It’s quite interesting to see the different dietary needs of both monks and athletes in order for each of them to sustain their bodies for all that they do throughout the day. And it’s fascinating how monks were able to put their bodies though all of that despite the little calories that they consumed! I was curious to see if there were certain nutrients that you came across that you think even pentathletes could increase their intake on?

  19. Kelsey, this is a fascinating conversation. I love the Marathon Monks of Mt. Hiei, and you have taught me more about them. Thank you for this work!

Comments are closed.