Limited Perspective Playhouse: The Olympic Diet, Part 2 - Michael Phelps Edition


By Meredith Brody

These are the things I know about Michael Phelps (besides his current number of gold medals – I think I heard he’s looking for eight?), without even trying – it’s in the ether: his height is 6’4”, his wingspan is 6’7”, he was born in Baltimore, he has the Olympic rings tattooed on a hipbone, he attends the University of Michigan (he followed his coach there), he has a bulldog named Herman who snores. And he consumes between 8000 and 9000 calories a day. (Or is it 10,000, per the BBC? Or, gulp, 12,000, per Fox News? On Google news, right now, you can find 264 stories by googling “Michael Phelps diet”.)

But the bottom-line 8,000 number is what I heard from the Olympic mothership NBC, which ran a cute story, cutting from the snoring bulldog to illustrations of the Phelps’ mantra: “sleep, eat, swim.” (Plus, it seems, watch TV and play videogames, including Guitar Hero).

But most especially, Phelps says he loves eating out: “I don’t cook. At all.” So they visited Phelps’ favorite Ann Arbor restaurants and showed what he liked to eat there: at Middle Kingdom Chinese Restaurant, the spinning table is laden with seven dishes, including a good-looking whole fish heaped with cilantro sprigs. At Benny’s Family Dining, he orders the #7, the Hungry Man breakfast: three eggs over easy, hash browns, five sausage, five bacon, toast. I missed any identification for the Mexican place where he orders “enchiladas – buffalo or chicken enchiladas, sometimes quesadillas,” but at the Maize ‘n Blue Delicatessen, we’re treated to a demonstration of building his favorite roasted turkey with mayo, Dijon, provolone cheese, and pickles on thick-sliced white bread from the bottom slice up: very appetizing.

Me, if I was living in Ann Arbor and eating out every day on somebody else’s nickel, I think I’d be running barefoot through the famed sandwich board at the revered Zingerman’s Deli. Most of the free-content-websites aren’t too high on Phelps’ joints. But then, Phelps is 23, after all, and says “I just try to cram whatever I can into my body. It’s pretty much whatever I feel like eating I’m going to eat.” At least he’s more adventurous than his colleague Ryan Lochte, who’s been fueling his Olympics at McDonald’s.

Bob Costas ended the Olympic takeout (pun intended) by holding aloft a torn-out page 98 of Phelps’ autobiography, Beneath the Surface, published when he was 19, and read out a list of another of Phelps’ typical breakfasts: three sandwiches of fried eggs, cheese, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, and mayonnaise, an omelette, a bowl of grits, and three slices of French toast with powdered sugar, washed down with three chocolate chip pancakes.

It sounded pretty good to me. I’d love even a day of “pretty much whatever I feel like eating I’m going to eat.” And of course I’m not alone: the London Times had a guy do just that, trying to ingest 12,000 Phelpsian calories.

But he quit the course sometime between breakfast and lunch.


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