Olympic diets traditionally are known for being carefully calculated for each sport. A tiny gymnast might subsist on fruits and vegetables, while Olympic weightlifting winners could require enormous steaks at every meal. And then there’s Michael Phelps, whose diet dedication deserves its own medal.
When some Olympic champions win, for example, they celebrate with everything from McDonald’s super-sized fries and chocolate milkshakes to comfort food macaroni and cheese. But when Michael won his 23rd medal, he headed home to consume a pound of pasta. And he doesn’t even like spaghetti, according to Fox Sports.
But Phelps based his choice of a carefully measured pound of not-on-his-favorite-foods list pasta after his gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay on a need to boost his energy rather than a celebration. The most decorated Olympian in history also followed up his win by making some choices based on his desire to enhance his health.
“I tried to do as much as I could, get my lactate cleared, had a massage, had an ice bath, eat,” he explained.
“I had a pound of spaghetti and I am not a spaghetti fan, I forced myself to eat it.”
This isn’t the first time that the now-31-year-old champion has shown his focus on diet. Throughout the 2008 Games in Beijing, fans were fascinated by Michael’s ability to swallow 12,000 calories daily.
Warning: Don’t Try This Diet At Home
A typical breakfast for the history-making champion at that time featured three egg sandwiches, a five-egg omelette, grits, three pieces of french toast and three pancakes for breakfast.
The dedicated fitness buff gulped down 1,000 calorie energy drinks for lunch to accompany a pound of pasta and two ham and cheese sandwiches. For dinner: Another round of energy drinks, more pasta, and an entire pizza.
But Phelps has changed up his diet for the Rio games. This time around, Michael revealed that he calculates what his body requires to replenish his energy levels. And although he still thinks in terms of a pound of pasta for a diet snack, it’s not such enormous quantities as before.
Phelps Changes His Diet: Quality Over Quantity
Michael actually changed up his diet well before Rio, telling Men’s Health in 2012 that when he brought back four golds and two silvers from London, he won by eating fewer calories. Instead, his diet emphasized quality over quantity.
“My main goal used to be to just eat a ton of calories. But over the years I’ve adjusted my diet,” he explained then. “Now I’m eating less, but I’m getting my calories from nutrient- and protein-dense foods.”
However, his total calorie intake still plays a key role, because Phelps uses up over 1,000 calories per hour of exercise.
Diet Plus Surprising Health Secret Equals Gold
In addition to calculating out his diet since learning the lesson of quality over quantity, Michael has picked up some unexpected health secrets. He mentioned massages and ice baths, as noted above, but the champion also has earned attention for those purple dots all over his body.
Thanks to Phelps, cupping has received the spotlight, pointed out the New York Times.
The purple dots that are visible on Michael and a few other Olympians give away their use of the ancient Chinese health technique. His personal trainer clarified why the marks exist.
“Because this particular recovery modality shows blemishes on his skin, he walks around and looks like a Dalmatian or a really bad tattoo sleeve,” explained trainer Keenan Robinson. “It’s just another recovery modality. There’s nothing really particularly special about it.”
The practice involves putting special cups on the skin, incorporating an air pump or heat to bring suction to the area. It takes just a few minutes, but results in the marks. Michael himself revealed that he had been taking advantage of the health technique before.
“I’ve done it before meets, pretty much every meet I go to,” confirmed Phelps. “So I asked for a little cupping yesterday because I was sore and the trainer hit me pretty hard and left a couple of bruises.”
[Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images]