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Champion swimmer Michael Phelps made headlines in 2008 when details of his diet were revealed. People were stunned to find out that Phelps’ 4,000-calorie breakfast consisted of three fried-egg sandwiches, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast, and three pancakes with chocolate chips.
Turns out, such incredibly high-calorie junk-food diet is not that unusual for many top Olympic athletes–especially those involved in high-endurance sports like swimming, running, and cycling.
Gretchen Reynolds at The New York Times has written a wonderful article describing the diets of some of these Olympians. Many top athletes train as much as 4-5 hrs a day and need to replenish as much as 4,000 to 8,000 calories if they are to train the next day.
Reynolds writes that an athlete might sit down for dinner and inhale a pound of pasta cooked with olive oil (800 calories), a dozen eggs (840 calories), an entire cheese pizza (2,000 calories), a pint of Ben & Jerry’s cheesecake-brownie ice cream (1,000 calories), and beer (about 150 calories per bottle).
My big question is: But why not eat healthy food? Well, it turns out that that is just not very practical. A bowl of oatmeal gives you just 150 calories, while a cup of tofu only boasts 175. But junk foods, with their high-fat content give these athletes the maximum calorie count.
Ok, so my next question is: Why can’t I do that? Well, again, the answer is quite simple, as the NYTimes article makes clear:
“The overwhelming body of science” about weight loss and food “continues to show that any diet will succeed if you take in fewer total calories than you burn,” says Dr. Dena Bravata, a food researcher from Stanford. And I am definitely not burning 6,000 calories a day. (Ok. Back to Lean Cuisine.)
“Large quantities of pizza? Ice cream? Beer?” he says. “That settles it. My own quest for the 2016 Olympics begins tonight.”