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Why a Champion Could Use a Revampin’: Phelps’ Diet Needs Work – For His and Other Kids’ Sake

Swimming With all that’s been said and reported about Olympic champion Michael Phelps and the eight gold medals he won at the Beijing games, the notion that a champion needs “revamping” is probably viewed as a fool’s notion. But if you’ve heard or read about what Phelps’ diet is like, the need for a revamping is a vast understatement. A complete overhaul is in order.

One would think that an Olympian eats the kinds of foods that enable him or her to get the best possible performance on the court, in the pool, on the track or in the field.  For the most part, this is true – just look at 41-year-old swimmer and silver medalist Dara Torres and tell me she isn’t fueling with quality nutrition.  But for whatever reason, Michael Phelps has bucked that trend.  The 23-year-old darling of the national sports media pounds down an astounding 12,000 calories a day – four times more than what the typical American eats.  His average breakfast is eight eggs (three of them fried and topped with bread slathered in mayo, the other five used in an omelet), three chocolate-chip pancakes, a bowl of grits, a few slices of French toast sprinkled with powdered sugar and two cups of coffee to wash it all down.

A breakfast of champions, indeed.

Phelps’ lunch and dinner?   Just as lathered with saturated fat and cholesterol as his breakfast – a whole pizza and a pound of pasta…for dinner alone!

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Anyone as trim and as fast as Michael Phelps is clearly doing something right.  Why fix what isn’t broken?  After all, no one has ever won eight gold medals in a single Olympic games – and set seven world records in the process.  So, what’s the problem?

The problem is that Michael Phelps – whether he likes it or not – is setting an example for people that aspire to greatness.  People should aspire to greatness.  But no one will become great adopting his kind of diet.  Phelps spends an inordinate amount of time exercising; he has the ability to exercise at that rate because he can afford to, paid millions of dollars to do so after inking endorsement deals with Speedo, Kellogg’s, AT&T and Visa.  But the average kid with responsibilities to his family, friends, work and school can’t spend six hours a day in the pool every day and several hours more in the gym lifting weights and running.  What’s more, not everyone has the same kind of drive that Phelps has, nor the God-given ability. 

This isn’t to suggest that children or young adults shouldn’t reach for their dreams or have role models to look up to.  I’m sure Michael Phelps is a swell guy; his performance in Beijing was a remarkable achievement.  But the press coverage of his diet will lead lots of young people to believe that one can eat whatever one wants to and still look and perform like Michael Phelps.  That’s just not reality. 

If Phelps adopts a diet more reminiscent of Dara Torres’, I have no doubt that in 2012, he could break his own record and win nine, even 10 gold medals!   If Phelps is truly dedicated to his sport and prolonging his life, he’ll revamp his diet for the betterment of himself and his future (not to mention those that look up to him).  After all, there will come a time when he won’t swim or exercise as religiously as he does now.  Will he tailor his diet in accordance with his decreased exercise load?  If the rate of obesity in this country is any indication, I’m not so certain.

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