Michael Phelps did not get to where he is by having a human diet. The Olympic swimmer’s legendary intake looked less like that of a star athlete and more like a professional eater. Now retired, Phelps can no longer eat four to five times more than the average intake. He must think about what he’s doing. Phelps shared his current diet with GQ.
Michael Phelps’ incredible Olympic career
Phelps had a two-decade career as one of the greatest swimmers ever. Entering the pro swimming world as a young man and quickly becoming a household name, Phelps’ domination at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing was unlike anyone had ever seen. While his life away from swimming had its ups and downs, his time in the pool was exceptional.
With 23 gold medals and more accolades than most could dream of counting, Phelps is inarguably the greatest Olympic athlete in history. How he got there, however, was downright scary.
The swimmer’s diet
In a feature about Phelps’ diet while he was still dominating the Olympic swimming world, NPR host Andrea Seaborn broke down Phelps’ average diet when he was training for the biggest stage in swimming.
“He crams a lot.” she told the NPR audience. “A typical Phelps meal: three fried egg sandwiches, three slices of French toast, a bowl of grits, a five-egg omelet, three chocolate chip pancakes — and that’s just breakfast. The diet sounds deadly but trainers say consuming that many calories isn’t all that unusual for a competitive swimmer.
While early reports about the swimmer’s diet implied that he consumed upwards of 12,000 calories a day, this slightly better diet would be enough to send the average person into cardiac arrest. However, if someone spends that much of their time in a pool, they burn through calories at a rapid pace.
Now that Phelps has slowed things down, however, he’s trying to stay in shape while spending less time at the pool. He spoke about his current diet with GQ.
What’s he eat now?
Phelps told GQ about life as a retired swimmer and a father. He has neither the time nor the reason to spend as much time in the pool as he did during his career, but it doesn’t mean that he wants to lose the figure that got him so many gold medals. After struggling with weight gain after giving up swimming for good, Phelps opened up about figuring out his current situation while using the tools he acquired as an athlete.
He wakes up every morning around 5:30 or 6:30 a.m., whenever his children decide to scream. Once Phelps is up and ready, he starts on breakfast. Fancying himself his family chef, he tries to incorporate as many healthy options as possible. Often, this means a smoothie made with spinach, almond milk, cacao nibs, figs, and soy milk. If he still needs a boost, he adds a cup of coffee on the side.
After fulfilling his fatherly duties, Phelps goes to the gym and goes home to eat a second breakfast. He notes his dedication to veggies, claiming that his mother’s voice from many years ago remains inside his head. While Phelps enjoys variety for these meals, he tries to incorporate a salad every night. According to him, bedtime comes soon after.
Dieting as a hard-working athlete is nothing like remaining healthy away from the pool. However, Phelps learned how to take care of himself then in ways that he could adjust to his life as a father.
“Cleaning up your diet is hard,” he told the magazine. “There were ups and downs. When I did clean up my diet, I saw a significant change in how I felt — I’ve reminded myself of that time and time again. I was seeing more clearly in all aspects of my life and didn’t feel like a blob.”
Whatever is next for the retired Olympian, his health journey, like so many others in his career, is a candid inspiration for everyone who struggles to maintain their health and fitness.