The diet of Michael Phelps – a reality or a myth?

Ten years ago, back in 2008, Michael Phelps took eight gold medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing. If that wasn’t legendary and amazing enough, stories about his 12,000-calorie diet in preparation for the Games started circulating, and people began wondering whether professional athletes actually had such an enormous high-calorie intake – or if it was just Michael Phelps.

Phelps’ diet – then and now

Allegedly, he would gulp down three French toast slices, three fried egg sandwiches, one five-egg omelet, three chocolate chip pancakes, a bowl of grits and two cups of coffee – for breakfast only. His lunch was half a kilo of pasta, two large ham and cheese sandwiches and energy drinks adding up to 1,000 calories. For dinner, he would supposedly eat an entire pizza, another half a kilo of pasta and drink a few more energy drinks.

However, in many subsequent interviews, Phelps told that the story of his diet was blown out of proportion and that he had never exercised such a high-calorie intake. His diet probably did include a lot of foods rich in carbohydrates at one time, but he was younger then, had a faster metabolism and did a whole lot of training.

It is only natural that his dietary habits have changed over the years. He was reported to have substituted this crazy high-calorie diet for a moderate one: one bowl of oatmeal, one large ham and cheese omelet, fresh fruit and coffee for breakfast, a foot-long sub and two plates with whole grains for lunch and some fresh veggies and lean meats for dinner. Michael’s Instagram account, which features photos of healthy meals he shares with his family, is the best testimony to these claims.

Can anyone actually eat meals worth 12,000 calories a day?

However, 12,000 calorie diet is not a myth after all – if you look at what the strongest men on the planet eat every day. Brian Shaw, who came third in the 2018 World’s Strongest Man competition (he was first in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016), is a professional strongman competitor from the USA, who is also an eating-and-training machine. With the help of a dietitian, he came up with a diet plan which is rich in carbohydrates and proteins.

To achieve his enormously rich calorie goal, he has seven meals a day. He starts off his day with eight eggs, a bowl of cereal and a spoonful of peanut butter. His next meal includes granola bars, an eighty-gram protein shake, and more peanut butter. His third meal consists of pasta, ground beef, and red sauce, followed by a blueberry, peanut butter, and almond milk protein shake. These meals supply him with half of his desired calorie intake. He then proceeds to eat broccoli and jasmine rice with lean ground turkey. For his penultimate meal, he eats a carb-heavy Italian takeout (pasta, meat, and breadsticks totaling up to 3,400 calories). To top it all off, he finishes the day with four cheesecake slices and one more protein shake. And if you think he enjoys it all, you are mistaken – he says that eating is the hardest part of his job.

How much should an average person consume?

Just for comparison, here’s an example of a 2,500-calorie per day five-meal plan:

Breakfast: a four-egg omelet, two slices of bread, one slice of cheese and 1/3 of avocado

Snack: one medium banana and one cup of oatmeal

Lunch:  300 g of broccoli and rice, 200 g of chicken

Snack: one Greek yogurt, 1/3 of a packet of pretzels, 150 g of fruit

Dinner: 200 g of fish, 150 g of green beans and two pats of butter

You may also like...