In 2008, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps revealed he eats between 6,000 and 10,000 calories per day. A typical breakfast menu for Phelps includes three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, fried onions, and tomato; two cups of coffee; a five-egg omelet; a bowl of grits; three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar; and three chocolate chip pancakes. Oh, in case you thought he chooses among those options—he doesn't. He actually eats each of those every day for breakfast.
One thing's for certain: When it comes to nutrition, Olympic athletes are in a leage of their own. They have to be to compensate for the amount of training they do. To put things in perspective, Phelps' body probably burns about 20 calories a minute. Factor in six hours of training per day, and he's got to make sure he consumes enough food to replace all those burned calories.
So what about the rest of us? The average person can't and probably shouldn't get away with eating 10,000 calories per day, but you can still take a few tips from Olympians' diets to optimize your health. We went to the experts for their tips on how to fuel yourself like an elite athlete—the right way.
"Fuel yourself well so that your body has the energy to be active," Dr. Susan M. Kleiner, PhD, RD, FACN, CNS, FISSN, and nutritional consultant for USANA says. "When you follow very low-calorie weight-loss diets, you won't have the mental or physical to exercise. Eat at least 1,500 calories every day. Give your body the foundational nutrition it needs by using pure and potent daily multivitamin-antioxidant-mineral supplements like USANA Essentials."
Top athletes know that they have to fuel their body with the right amount of carbohydrates and proteins. Even if you don't train for six hours a day, that rule applies to you too. "Make sure to fuel yourself with carbohydrate and protein before and after exercise to enhance recovery and growth," Dr. Kleiner says. "Keep a lid on added sugars, but if you are training long and hard, you'll need to use carbs to fuel yourself during exercise."
Dr. Kleiner also recommends eating breakfast. "If I had to pick one tip, I would say eat a robust breakfast," she says. "I don't mean a tiny one. I mean one with protein like an egg and milk or yogurt, with carbohydrates like oatmeal and fruit, and a high-performance fat like avocado or nuts."
Study after study shows that a healthy breakfast helps your body burn more calories all day long, as well as control appetite and curb cravings.
"You will boost your mood and your brain function right from the start of the day," Dr. Kleiner says. "What could be more important than a full speed blast out of the blocks first thing in the morning?"
It's also important to remember that when it comes to building lean muscle and losing weight, men and women progress in different weights and at different speeds.
"Almost all my female clients need to eat more," Dr. Kleiner says. "It's so important to eat enough. If you eat more, you'll gain energy, be able to train harder, build muscle, and burn more fat. If you do it in that order, you can lose fat and keep it off for good."