I ate like an Olympic swimmer for the day and I’ve never felt worse

Michael Phelps eats 10,000 calories a day

To be an Olympic athlete means sacrificing your body in the pursuit of physical excellence. This is achieved through training, dedication and sometimes doing weird stuff like cupping.

But in order to test the capabilities of what humans can do to their bodies, you also have to eat like a machine.

American swimmer and Olympic monolith Michael Phelps has won 22 gold medals. His secret? Eating a monstrous 10,000-12,000 calories a day.

I didn’t even try to attempt to match Phelps’ hunger in my own pursuit of greatness, so I settled for his fellow American, Ryan Lochte, as my inspiration. After all, six gold medals are not to be sniffed at.

This is the story of just how underprepared normal people are to be Olympians – we’re basically two different species.

I found Ryan Lochte’s meal diary online and began my day, like he begins his, with six eggs. I divided the eggs into two sets of three and cooked up an omelette with spinach, and soon I was feeling full of egg and energy on the way to work.


I arrived at work feeling like I was about to soil myself. There’s a reason that people don’t eat a whole box of eggs in one go – it plays havoc with your bowels, something which didn’t bode well for the rest of my calorie-packed day.

I sat down at my desk, tried to regain my composure, and endeavoured to think up ways that would help me deal with the impending doom of my lunchtime meal.

Before lunch, though, I had already become concerned with the amount of time that had elapsed and the amount of calories that still had to be consumed. At 11am I managed to fit in a couple of slices of toast, Ryan-style, which didn’t go down as easily as I would have liked.


I was already facing problems. Trying to follow the exact diet of a man who has his food cooked by a chef formerly employed by Lebron James is no easy feat. I decided to try and focus on matching Lochte calorie for calorie and forgot about the plethora of different ingredients the professional chef had at his disposal.

After all, where does one buy tofu sausage?

Lunchtime rolled around, so I consulted the menu. Ryan Lochte eats one kilogram of pasta at lunch. With chicken. Supposedly between his morning and afternoon swims.

Having been sat at a desk for four hours, my body struggling to use up the energy provided by my six morning eggs, the volume was daunting and I wasn’t hungry. Worst of all, having carted two tupperware’s worth of pasta in on the tube with me and keeping them in the fridge, my penne had dried out considerably.

“Greatness is earned not given.” A mantra I repeated to myself as I forked each cylindrical piece of pasta into my mouth. Over and over again. For an entire hour. Each mouthful taking longer to chew and swallow than the last.

When you think of what the hang ups would be of training to be an Olympian, you usually think of all the running and working out. Now enlightened, the amount of exercise pales in comparison to the amount of pasta you have to eat every day for years just to go for a really quick swim which is hopefully quicker than other people’s swims.


Eventually I got through it. A brief sense of achievement washed over me before I tallied up my calorie count and found myself to have only just passed the 2,000 calorie mark. I was devastated. My best clearly wasn’t good enough. I had dived straight in at the deep end. I had taken my armbands off before I was ready.

The feeling of imminent and disastrous public defecation haunted me on my journey home from work. I still had dinner to contend with, and despite a few press-ups and sit-ups during the day, I decided it was time for some proper exercise.

Wanting to avoid drowning in carbs in my sleep, I set off for a jog around the park. My body was thankful that I had finally decided to use up some of the energy that I had been storing up all day. Long story short, I managed 2.6km before I got a massive stitch and a slight pain in the area where I think my appendix is supposed to be.

On this evidence, it’s a long way to Tokyo 2020.

It’s hard to take photos when you’re running and full of penne

Ryan Lochte, a former self-confessed fast food addict, rewards himself on a Friday, after a hard week of training, with a fast food binge. Seeing as so far I had taken a shortcut when it came to the exercise that accompanied the diet, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to experience what it would be like to reward yourself as an Olympic athlete does.

I ordered a large pizza and a side of chicken wings, Lochte’s favourite, from a certain well-regarded hut of pizza, a move which would up my calorie count and make my attempt look less pathetic than it had been.


I ended the day on 4,638 calories. Over a thousand short of my goal of 6,000, but I had at least had an insight into the mindset of an Olympian. All they must do is eat and train. A bizarre existence of using up energy, replenishing it, and then using it all up again.

I went to bed that night feeling more ill than I can ever remember feeling. In my carbo-comatose state, I managed to oversleep and arrived late for work. Luckily, many Olympians don’t have to do real jobs.

For the next week, I can sit back and watch the rest of the Olympics, comforted by the knowledge that I won’t be daydreaming about whether I could have been an Olympic athlete. I couldn’t.

However, I would rather try and beat Michael Phelps at the 200m butterfly if it meant I never had to eat another tube of penne again.