Michael Phelps, one of the most successful and prolific professional swimmers to ever live, would obviously have some daily habits, fitness routines, and diets that many of us can’t even imagine. However, there was a story circulating that he eats over 12,000 calories a day to keep up with the amount of energy he uses? Is that true?
Michael Phelps does not eat 12,000 calories a day but instead said that he peaked around the 8,000 to 10,000 mark during his most intense training regimes. However, while not as huge as first thought, an average of 9,000 calories a day is still an enormous amount to eat and far above the typical standard for an average human being.
If that’s blown your mind a little bit, then don’t worry – you’re not alone. Today we’re going to explore where the 12,000-calorie myth came from, what Phelp’s actual diet looked like, and why it’s so extraordinary.
The Mythical Diet That Doesn’t Exist
Do a quick Google search of Michael Phelps and his diet, and you’ll be bombarded by post after post detailing how he eats an incredible 12,000 calories a day, and this is news posted by some of the most influential publications on the internet, including Aspire Channel Swim, Fox News, Glamour Magazine, and more.
But that’s just not true. To put things into perspective, 12,000 calories is around six times the amount the average person should eat. Using the NHS website, this is like eating 24 Big Macs, 112 10-inch takeaway pizzas, or 47 Mars Bars. Damn.
So, why did people believe this? Well, it’s because Michael said it himself. He spoke once during an interview that he estimated it would be around 12,000, but yeah, he exaggerated a little, but the number was taken out of context and ran with for some time.
In a FaceBook live event back in 2017, he said;
“Twelve thousand is not real. It’s impossible. You can’t eat that much. It’s a fabricated lie spread from the British press.”
The Truth of the Phelps Diet
In his autobiography, titled No Limits, Phelps shared the truth about his incredible, superhuman diet, all while addressing the 12,000-calorie myth. He said;
“It’s just not true. Maybe eight to ten thousand calories per day.”
Now, that’s not at all to put a downer on the fact that Phelps is still eating such a colossal amount of food, still three to four times more than the average person. Why does he do it?
Because he needs to fuel his training.
Starting around 5:30 in the morning, especially on the build-up to a competition or tournament, Phelps would be training for hours every single day, every single day of the year, without a break. Seeing as though a normal person would use around 2,000 calories a day just by living, all the extra is needed to make sure he’s healthy with the amount of exercise he’s doing.
What Michael Phelps Eats
So, with so many calories to consume, what exactly does Michael eat?
Fortunately, this is well documented, even if stated in the myth articles, because the calorie count was simply an exaggeration.
Well, for breakfast, his diet looks something like this;
- 3x fried-egg sandwiches, complete with cheese, lettuce, fried onions, tomatoes, and topped with mayo
- A five-egg omelet
- A bowl of porridge
- Three slices of sugar-coated French toast
- Two cups of coffee
And then he finishes the whole lot off with three chocolate-chip pancakes. Remember that is just his breakfast.
Lunch is fairly similar portion-wise, with 500g of pasta, two large ham and cheese sandwiches, complete with mayo and packed with white bread, and then enough energy drinks to boost him up to another 1,000 calories, which would be brand dependant.
Finishing off the day, Phelps would normally opt for another 500g pasta (so yeah, he’s eating 1kg a day), an entire pizza to himself, and then more energy drinks to make up the rest. As a lover of fast food, as I think most of us are, this Olympic diet doesn’t actually seem so bad!
Then again, to stay as thin and as athletic as Phelps does, you also need to be swimming five hours a day while covering a distance of about 50 miles a week.
It should go without saying that you shouldn’t follow this diet yourself because Phelps has a huge team of experts behind him, including nutritionists, who ensure he’s healthy at all times and is getting what he needs, so don’t try this at home!