The Olympic Diet of Michael Phelps
Questions and answers about the high-calorie diet that fuels the Olympic swimmer's championship performance.
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Is it bad to eat high-fat foods even if you don't gain weight?
Athletes need a diet rich in healthy carbohydrates and fats to provide the
necessary energy to compete. "Athletes need fat but, they need to be
selective about the type of fat and whenever possible choose unsaturated fats
such as olive or canola oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds," says Bonci. Fried
and greasy foods are generally not recommended for athletes -- or anyone
Wouldn't Phelps feel bloated during a race?
Managing food intake is a huge challenge to all athletes to be sure they
have enough calories to fuel their event without being bloated. Bonci advises
athletes to take advantage of nutrient-dense liquids like smoothies that empty
from the stomach more quickly than solid foods. "We encourage athletes to
eat foods that are high in calories and small in volume -- so granola with
fruit and yogurt would be a better choice than flake cereal with milk."
Timing of meals and snacks is an important issue for athletes to help them get
the calories and nutrients they need without feeling stuffed and interfering
If you're not an Olympic athlete, how much should you eat?
Compared to Olympic athletes, most of us need to follow the general
guidelines of approximately 2,000 calories per day, adjusted for age, sex, and
physical activity levels. The
average weekend athlete burns about 200-700 calories an hour running on the treadmill,
whereas Phelps probably burns 3,000 calories a day swimming. Most athletes need
three to four times as much as the rest of us to keep their bodies strong and
energized for competition.
How does Phelps balance eating, sleeping, and recovering so he is ready for the next race?
It is a delicate balancing act, and sometimes Phelps has had only one hour
to rest between races. Keeping muscles fueled and ready for record-breaking
races requires a regime of eating enough to provide readily available energy,
and then resting and repairing the stressed, overworked muscles to prepare for
the next race. "Within 15 minutes of finishing a race, Phelps should eat a
small meal of two-thirds carbs and one-third protein, with a little healthy fat
to start and optimize the recovery process," says Bonci. Recovery is
critical to repairing muscles and getting them ready for the next event. Bonci
advises athletes to think of recovery as the appetizer -- followed by a meal
within an hour or two -- and then rest. She warns that eating too much can
interfere with the body's ability to sleep or get a good rest.