That Phelps diet

Guardian journo attempts to eat it: a miserable fail, obviously.

However, a couple of interesting comments:

Thompson appears less surprised. "I\’ve worked with extreme athletes, triathletes for example who work phenomenally hard, who expend between 6,000 and 10,000 calories a day," she says. "I can believe someone like Phelps is getting through 12,000. And the point is, it\’s plainly working for him, isn\’t it? Nobody could say he\’s not performing well. He\’s quite clearly expending what he\’s consuming, and – just like all of us – that\’s what counts."

Calories aside, Bean is concerned by the makeup of the swimmer\’s diet. "It does look quite salty, quite fatty, not very high in good fibre or in fruit and veg – he\’s certainly not getting his five a day," she warns. "I would certainly have expected him to be eating a bit less fat – and it\’s all saturated fat, the wrong kind. I suppose the point with an athlete like Phelps, though, is that he needs a very high calorie intake but a very low volume, whereas with the rest of us it\’s the precise reverse: we need a low calorie intake and high volume."

Thompson concurs. "Phelps\’s primary fuel source is going to be carbohydrates," she says, "and he\’s going to be burning them at a truly phenomenal rate. There\’s protein in there too, obviously, which he needs to maintain and repair muscle mass and tissue. But for someone like him, in a sport like his, it\’s really a question of how many carbohydrates he can get in, as quickly as possible. So this diet might look very high in fat, but if he had to eat this same number of calories in a diet that contained, for example, more fruit and vegetables, he\’d simply never manage it. His body just couldn\’t hold it. His intestines would give up. He\’s lucky as it is that he doesn\’t have a sensitive digestive system. That\’s one of the myriad factors that contribute to make him the exceptional performer he is."

Once again we find that the solution to the fat kiddies is to get them running around.

7 thoughts on “That Phelps diet”

  1. “He’s lucky as it is that he doesn’t have a sensitive digestive system.”

    Most people don’t.

    They seem to be making the usual distinction between fat (bad) and carbohydrates (good). The body doesn’t. It’s all just fuel so long as you’re active enough.

  2. “Once again we find that the solution to the fat kiddies is to get them running around.”

    Or swimming. The Sea Life Centres usually have large tanks. And sharks, to provide an incentive…

  3. Only goes to show that there’s no achievement so admirable, so honourable and so generally positive, that some nimrod chairborne Guardian writer can’t take a snide shot at it – so long as it’s an American doing the achieving. It takes a special kind of mindset to describe the diet of an Olympic athlete using the term ‘greed’.

    US radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh predicted two days that this exact word would inevitably be applied to Phelps’ diet by some moronic liberal prodnose – and he was right again.

    And then top that off with terms like ‘gross’, ‘insane’, ‘obscene’ and ‘illness-inducing’.

    I’ll wager that UK swimmers competing to come in second place behind Phelps consume a similar diet – so why has this never been a story before? Could it be that – as we may clearly see in the Guardian’s CiF comments – that it allows soulless, mindless drones to witter on about how horrible it must be to have to eat American-style ‘junk food’?

    The man is an almost-superhuman specimen, with not an ounce of excess fat on his body. He has such a tremendous physical ability, both in output and recovery, that he can turn in two world-record performances a day, day after day. He stands so far above the rest of the world that he is really only competing with himself. I don’t give a toss about the Olympics but I will watch this man perform because he is such an example of perfection. And yet the Guardian considers it important to find a ‘nutrtionist’ to chide him because he’s not getting his ‘five a day’? A ‘nutritionist’ who actually has the stone gall to question what he eats and suggest that he doesn’t actually need that much? And then twitter on about she would have him eat more fibre? I’ll bet that the one problem that Phelps doesn’t have is bowel motility issues.

    What a bunch of soulless, Comstockian morons.



  4. And anyway, isn’t all this “five a day” and “six grams of salt” about as scientific as “28 units of alcohol a week for men”? Or, to put it another way, “a load of complete bollocks”..?

  5. First let me say my admiration of Phelps is unbounded the guy is amazing. Where did they get this 12,000 calorie figure from though?

    I forget the actual figures but in his autobiography Sir Ranulph Fiennes said that on one of his trips with Mike Stroud they were recorded to have used c.10,000 calories per day pulling heavy sleighs in very sub-zero temperatures, but even on the lightweight rations they had they could only consume c.5,500 calories.

    As amazing as Phelps is I find it hard to believe that he’s eating and burning that much energy in the course of doing a bit of swimming, not to mention that he’d be getting in the water within half an hour of eating which everyone knows is 100% guaranteed to make you vomit.

  6. Well, the 12,000 calorie number may be at the upper limit, but there’s little doubt that he’s packing away food at the rate of 8-10,000 calories a day.

    – He says he does.

    – NBC and various other outlets have shown extensive video of him eating this way, including interviews with the owners of the diners and restaurants in Ann Arbor that feed him – he doesn’t cook.

    – As for ‘a bit of swimming’ – Phelps in full training mode swims 80 km a week, often with artificial resistance, as well as weight training, cardio and other endurance training. His full-on training schedule is 30-40 hours a week. Swimming at his output level consumes 1000-1500 calories per hour, and he’s doing it 4-5 hourts per day. It adds up.

    He can’t be compared with people who expend calories at this rate for (relatively) short periods and make uop the difference by burning body fat – he can’t have body fat to start with, so he has to provide for his energy needs on a day-by-day basis for years at a stretch. It’s a completely different set of requirements.



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