Why You May Not Want the Breakfast of Champions
This week on Yahoo Health, I read what Olympic god Michael Phelps eats in a day. Recently, I read in a magazine what Olympic runner Allyson Felix eats in a typical day. If you want to be like Mike, you may be thinking about eating what he eats. If you do, you might be wearing your elastic pants very soon. Here’s why.
An Olympic athlete’s life is about training. Michael Phelps trains 5 hours a day, 6 days a week. If you put in that much gym time, you could eat an entire pizza and a pound of pasta per day. This lifestyle is roughly akin to the days when Americans were primarily farmers. Every day, a farmer got up early and had a hearty breakfast to help him through a busy morning of working the fields. If you have a job that requires you to burn lots of calories, you can eat the thousands of calories the Olympians eat on a daily basis.
Just because they do it, doesn’t make it healthy. When I read what Allyson Felix eats in a day, I was stunned to learn that she eats almost no veggies. According to the article she eats protein at every meal, some fruit and grains, but the only veggie was on her sandwich and she only drinks about half the water that a non-athlete needs every day. Even Phelps’ current food plan seems to include very few veggies. Athletes are just like the rest of us – they may not have the best diet. Imagine what they might do if they ate even healthier?
Your diet has to change as your life changes. The Yahoo story on Michael Phelps acknowledged that he doesn’t eat the 12,000 calories per day that he reportedly ate in his 20s during the Beijing games. I give him credit for understanding that the diet you have in your youth does not work well for you as you age. Even if you are a rock star athlete, you lose muscle mass, the engine of your metabolism, as you age. Less muscle means less calorie burn and, you guessed it, weight gain.
It is not my intention to criticize these athletes. As the most decorated Olympian ever, Michael Phelps has certainly found what works for him. I do want to point out that even those who have achieved the highest levels of physical performance are not doing “all the right things” – just like the rest of us. It’s also important to note that, just because these athletes look very fit and healthy, there are still things they can do to ensure a longer, healthier life and that this goal is not always consistent with the quest to be a top athlete.