The diet of Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer ever, dispels many myths and misconceptions surrounding the nutritional needs of athletes.

Michael Phelps is arguably the greatest athlete of all-time and certainly the greatest Olympic athlete ever. During Phelps’ historic aquatic pursuits, we learned that this man-fish takes in an incredible 12,000 calories a day. If you’re fallen prey to the nutritional nonsense that’s been peddled by some performance gurus and personal trainers you were most likely shocked to learn the makeup of Phelps’ prodigious gastronomic intake.

Phelps doesn’t get his nutrition from grilled chicken and field greens because he eats to fuel his body.  According to Phelps his routine of the past week or so has been to, “Eat, sleep and swim.”  Looking at his food intake, his eating performance is just slightly less impressive than his gold medal tally.

Here’s what Michael Phelps eats in a day.  Breakfast starts off with a bang, as he digs into three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise.  That’s quite a breakfast, but wait there’s more as Phelps keeps going and polishes off two cups of coffee, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar and three chocolate-chip pancakes. And then there’s lunch where Michael downs a pound of enriched pasta, two large ham and cheese sandwiches loaded up with mayo on white bread – and then he guzzles about 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks to top things off.

I can just hear the so-called nutritional gurus screaming about the white bread and pound of pasta items, “Doesn’t Phelps know that processed/refined carbohydrates are BAD for you?!” Don’t laugh; I’ve already heard people say stuff like this. At dinner Phelps eats even more carbohydrates – he needs energy for his five-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week regimen – and polishes off a pound of pasta, then chases it with an entire pizza.

For dessert, he downs 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks. For years there’s been this misconception that calories of the type eaten by Phelps are bad for you, are somehow of poor quality and as a result will reduce or hurt performance.  I think Phelps pretty much blows this myth out of the water.

If Phelps eats like this during this incredibly demanding competition phase, he eats like this for most of the year as well.  Certainly not as many calories, but the kinds of foods he eats.  You can’t eat a diet that consists of grilled chicken, lean meats, low-fat stuff for most of the time and then turn around during crunch time and eat fried eggs and ham-and-cheese sandwiches. 

Vegans and vegetarians can’t compete at the elite level because their method of fueling is inefficient and ineffective. The bottom line here is that there’s a big disconnect between what people have been led to believe and the reality of the situation regarding fueling the body for athletics and activity, and there’s no better illustration for this than Phelps’ eating plan. 

Active people, regardless of their pursuit, need fuel to be at their best and can’t worry about sticking to some externally-regulated caloric guidelines.  Old fashion calories and regular food is the breakfast of champions.


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