The Diet of Champions: A Breakdown of Michael Phelps’ Carb-Heavy Meal Plan
Ever wondered what a 23-time Olympic gold medalist eats on average? As someone who is not very familiar with how much energy that swimming takes up, the answer may surprise you. Former American competitive swimmer, Michael Phelps, is the most decorated Olympian of all time – with 28 medals under his belt – and has a special diet to thank for that.
Man of the 12,000-calorie diet
During the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps’ diet received plenty of media attention, as it was reported that he would consume about a whopping 12,000 calories a day during training. For context to wrap your head around this incredible number, an adult male’s recommended daily calorie intake is 2,500 calories. That’s almost five times the recommended amount!Check Price on Amazon
Reported first by The New York Post, the daily menu would consist of the following:
Breakfast: Three fried-egg sandwiches with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise; two cups of coffee; a five-egg omelet; a bowl of grits; three slices of French toast; three chocolate chip pancakes.
Lunch: A pound of pasta; two ham and cheese sandwiches; 1,000 calories in energy drinks.
Dinner: Another pound of pasta; one whole pizza; more energy drinks worth 1,000 calories.
Since the story published, Phelps has refuted the ridiculous calorie story as untrue in many interviews. For an athlete like Phelps, with his surreal talent and unbelievable physique, it would be hard to distinguish him from a myth. Real or not, the average person would admit defeat before finishing breakfast of that size.
However, after winning his nineteenth Olympic gold medal in 2016, Phelps did admit to eating an unfathomable amount of pasta. To celebrate his gold win in the 4 x 100m freestyle relay, he retreated to his hotel room and ate a pound of spaghetti. This amount of pasta is enough to happily feed a family of four.
After the day he’s had, it would make sense the need to replenish himself. It takes up a lot of energy to swim as hard as one of the greatest Olympians of all time, telling the Associated Press: “I’m not a spaghetti fan but I forced myself to eat it.” Phelps chowed down his overload of carbohydrates before turning in for the night at 3 a.m, and getting back up at 11 a.m. to catch a bus for the morning preliminaries.Check Price on Amazon
While gorging down at the early hours of the morning before an early start may sound almost impossible to do for some, it clearly works well for Phelps. He was qualified fifth in the 200 butterfly heats with a time of 1 minute, 55.73 seconds, and went on to win two more gold medals to add to his collection.
Before his first retirement after the 2012 London Olympic Games, Phelps has already shifted from carb-heavy foods to a more nutritious and balanced diet. During his training and prep for London, he was training six days a week, which was much less than pre-Beijing. This meant he didn’t need to rely on enormous calories. At the time, his daily meal plans looked more like this:
Breakfast: Oatmeal, fresh fruit, and coffee; omelet with ham and cheese.
Lunch: 12” meatball sub from Subway (he was sponsored by them).
Dinner: 1-2 plates of lean meat, veggies, and whole grains.
Nowadays, the 35-year-old has completely left behind his Olympic-sized meal plan. Since officially retiring in 2016 after the Rio Olympics, Phelps no longer needs to maintain such a high calorie diet, saying that he just eats what he needs in a Facebook Live session he conducted. The same athlete who used to swear on calories as the best way to recover has ditched the fried egg sandwiches, pounds of pasta, and an entire pizza diet he had before Beijing.Check Price on Amazon
It’s clear that Phelps has entered the slow lane post-retirement, having become a father, husband and simply enjoying life with a more normal diet. In the Facebook Live, he mentioned his love for grilling, especially chicken, steak, hamburgers and hot dogs. Lean meat is also his protein of choice, as he mentioned it several times in the video.
The 4,000 calories per meal from his competitive days is now far gone. Phelps has significantly decreased his hours of training, which used to be five hours for six days a week ahead of the Beijing games. Following a DUI arrest and a stint in rehab in 2014, he has also cut alcohol out of his life completely. At a certain age, it’s evident that the body doesn’t have the same metabolism as it used to, and the legend himself isn’t susceptible to that. Now in his mid 30s, Phelps no longer possesses a 23-year-old’s metabolism, which in turn resulted in him making better food choices.
A healthy swimmer’s diet
If you’re not out there smashing world records in freestyle, butterfly or the likes, there’s no need to consume any more than your average daily calorie intake. In fact, it can be a struggle to even meet the number without struggling to walk up the stairs! There’s no doubt that swimming takes up a lot of energy, and bingeing on carbs can seem like the easy way to fuel you up. However, there are meal plans that you can follow that will give you an overall balance of nutrition and energy.Check Price on Amazon
Below are some tips on what swimmers of all levels should include in their diet. Remember to seek out professional nutritionists and consider your capabilities before following any regime.
- Stay hydrated – drinking water helps immensely, and energy drinks do the job just as well
- Always have breakfast – easily digested foods are recommended, even smoothies or protein shakes
- Snack are always a good idea – always pack a few snacks in your bag for a quick fuel before a heat
- Avoid high fat and simple sugar foods – these foods will give you a sugar crash
- Go for complex carbohydrates – try lean protein and meats with a side of quinoa or brown rice