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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Olympic Appetite

Picture of Michael Phelps Getting out of the Pool

Have you heard the story about Michael Phelps and what he eats? He reportedly said that he eats as much as 10,000 - 12,000 calories per day in the form of greasy eggs, pasta, and pizza.


While I don't doubt that he has incredible caloric needs to keep up with the demands of his metabolism and intense exercise, I find it hard to believe that he eats that much every day. At 6'4" and 190 pounds of pure muscle, he probably needs at least 3,000 calories or more if he just sat in a recliner all day. Doesn't seem fair? All that muscle burns calories, even at rest. As we all know, he does NOT sit in a recliner all day. Add in another 1,000 for daily activity and then there is whatever he burns swimming. When he is training and swimming for 3 hours a day in addition to weight lifting and other exercise, he probably needs upwards of 5,000-7,000 calories. While he is at the Olympics, however, he may ironically actually need less calories. Even though he is going to be competing 17 times, each time he swims it is for a short time (minutes not hours). In between swims he is conserving energy, not doing more training. Eating 10,000 calories per day would very likely make him feel bloated and could slow him down.

Even though you may think eating 7,000 or more calories per day must be wonderful, think about how much food that really is. Athletes who burn as many calories as Michael often have to rely on beverages like fruit juice, lemonade, smoothies, and even soft drinks. I also recommend nuts and nut butters (PB) to get more calories without filling up too much. For some athletes, eating the correct number of calories in the right proportions is one of the difficult parts of their training regimen.

Don't forget that unless you are training 3 hours per day and have a LOT of muscle mass, you will not burn as many calories as Michael Phelps!

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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