During the 2008 Summer Olympics, American swimming star Michael Phelps shared his typical Olympic diet. While it’s astounding to hear this total and realize how much food he’s really eating, it’s important to consider how many calories he was burning daily as well as his age and athletic ability.
In an interview with NBC Sports, Phelps said he ate approximately 12,000 calories per day during the 2008 Summer Olympics. This included a breakfast of three fried egg sandwiches, a five-egg omelet, three pieces of French toast, three pancakes and grits. Lunch was typically a pound of pasta and two sandwiches. For dinner, he would eat an entire large pizza and a pound of pasta.
It’s important to note how many calories Phelps was burning. At his reported weight of 165, CaloriesPerHour.com calculates that he would burn 748 calories per hour of “vigorous” freestyle swimming. During the 2008 Summer Olympics, Phelps raced and won gold in eight events; to do so, he swam for several hours each day between warm-ups, qualifying heats and the races themselves. And as the world-record holder in many of these events, his pace was far beyond the “vigorous” rate of even other competitive swimmers.
Phelps was eating six times the recommended daily calories for an average adult. He was also 23 at the time of the 2008 Olympics and thus had a higher metabolism than an average adult purely because of his age without even considering his athletic pursuits. If you tried to eat this many calories in a day without racing in the Olympics, you would likely become ill.