Olympic Athlete Diets

E! Illustration/Mara Soldinger

As the old adage goes, you are what you eat. That means athletes like Michael Phelps, Gabby Douglas and Ryan Lochte are swallowing spoonfuls of victory. 

Any solid diet advice out there encourages treating food and fitness like an unbreakable pair—you can't have one without the other. In the days leading up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, America's most decorated competitors have shaped their schedules around the gym and the kitchen in the hopes of securing the gold and victoriously returning home. 
While professional gymnasts, swimmers and fencers spend hours burning thousands upon thousands of calories in a daily workout regimen, it is crucial they pack on the fuel in the form of carbs, lean proteins and tons of fruits and vegetables. 
Before you take pity on the lack of culinary variety, not to fret—there is definitely some room for dessert. They may look superhuman, but even the country's most successful physical stars treat themselves in between rounds on the court, in the pool or on the balance beam.
In fact, there is so much room for eating that some athletes spend time doing little else."If I'm not eating, then something is wrong," Lochte told Bon Appétit.
If you want to eat like an Olympic athlete, study the following diet plans, straight from the Olympians themselves: 
Michael Phelps, Olympic Athlete Diets

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When you're the most decorated Olympian of all time, you need the right fuel to get you to the finish line time and time again. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Phelps reportedly consumed upwards of 4,000 calories a meal. The plan worked—he ultimately won all eight gold medals. Fast forward eight years, the now 31-year-old's metabolism has dialed down and his training sessions are less frequent, so his food intake has adjusted accordingly. However, he still sticks to the typical Olympic diet standards, including tons of grilled protein and foods packed with nutrients. 

"I don't eat many calories a day. I just really eat what I need," Phelps said in a recent Facebook live video from his Arizona home. 

Every once in a while, those extreme portions still pop up. "I think I had a pound of spaghetti, and I am not a spaghetti fan," he told Inside the Games after winning gold at the 4x100 meter freestyle relay. "I forced myself to eat it."

Ryan Lochte, Olympic Athlete Diets

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His teammate, gold medalist Lochte, happily packs on around 8,000 calories daily.

As the sun rises, he takes the "breakfast of a king" rule to another level with half a dozen eggs, hash browns, pancakes, oatmeal and fruit prepared by his personal chef Glenn Lyman, as he told Bon Appétit.

Getting excited for dinner tonight. @gcooks22 hooked it up for me. Gotta get my calorie intake in tonight.

A photo posted by Ryanlochte (@ryanlochte) on

While other kinds of athletes, like fencer Miles Chamley-Watson, forbid carbs, the 32-year-old bleached blond can't get enough of the pasta. "Chicken alfredo is my favorite," he told the magazine. While he can imbibe on bowls of fettuccine and plates off tofu and other proteins, he does try to cut down on his soda intake. 

By the time cheat day Friday rolls around, Lochte is noshing on his traditional weekly round of pizza, wings and mountain dew. "It's a family tradition and I've been doing since I was eight years old, he explained to the magazine. "I've only missed it six times in my life."

Gabby Douglas, Olympic Athlete Diets


For 20-year-old Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, it's all about quality, not quantity. When studying her diet, the meals sound rather commonplace, like oatmeal and a banana or grilled chicken and asparagus. 

"I like to stick with lean protein to help with my muscle recovery after hard workouts," she told CosmopolitanLike her fellow Olympians, she doesn't avoid the carbs either. "For dinner, I ate a piece of grilled salmon with sautéed garlic green beans and a cup of spiral pasta. I needed the carbs after two strenuous workouts," she added. 

Don't be fooled by the lean menu—the gold medalist squeezes in dessert. "To treat myself, I dipped a handful of almonds in 2 ounces of melted dark chocolate," she told the magazine. "It really satisfied my sweet tooth!"

Miles Chamley-Watson


Olympic fencer Chamley-Watson has his eyes on the prize and aims to win without one food group his colleagues love—carbs. 

"No carbs. I just eat meat. I'm a carnivore," he told E! News. The athlete needs the fuel to get through a non-stop weekly training schedule at New York gym, The Dogpound, including every day in the gym working on his core, arms, legs and back plus a half day on Saturdays for sparring and fencing.

Kerri Walsh Jennings, 2016 Rio Olympics

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Volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jenning's signature muscular core is partially the result of a balanced diet with room for snacks. Plus, the 38-year-old mother of three sticks to a food routine that is kid-friendly. 

For example, her breakfast smoothies are packed with undetectable healthy ingredients. "They're a good way to get my kids to eat vegetables without them realizing it," she told GQ

Throw in avocado toast for lunch, honey stick snacks and bulletproof coffee and Jennings is well on her way to spiking for the gold. 

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