In the midst of his run to eight gold medals, which elevated him above Mark Spitz for most golds won at a single Olympics, it was revealed in an NBC interview that the now-18-time Olympic champion was devouring a stomach-churning 12,000 calories per day to fuel his training schedule in the lead up to the Games.
"Eat, sleep and swim. That's all I can do," Phelps told NBC in 2008. "Get some calories into my system and try to recover the best I can."
That Phelps is gone. He is engaged, he is a new father, he is enjoying life and he has ditched his Olympic-sized meal plan.
"I don't eat many calories a day. I just really eat what I need," Phelps said in a recent Facebook live session conducted Friday from his home in Tempe, Arizona.
(Fair warning, it's a half-hour of him talking directly into his phone while lounging around his house.)
The 22-time Olympic medalist never actually said how much "not much" is in calories. What Phelps is eating these days is more normal than his diet of fried egg sandwiches, two pounds of pasta and an entire pizza that he was downing daily pre-Beijing. He enjoys grilled chicken (he mentioned the lean protein several times in the video), Mexican food (his fiancee, Nicole Johnson, and her mother, who is in town helping with Phelps' new baby boy, Boomer, have been trying out new recipes) and a few other grilled items.
"My favorite thing to grill?" he said in response to an online question. "Really anything ... we eat pretty much everything here. Hamburgers, hot dogs are good, but also, being able to put a steak or some chicken on there is also awesome, as well."
His housemate and longtime training partner, Olympic champion Allison Schmitt, was making a cucumber, tomato and asparagus salad during the live session to go along with the chicken Phelps ended up tossing on the grill. (For what it's worth, Schmitt and/or readers, asparagus should be lightly cooked before going into the salad.)
He was also drinking Gatorade ("Not a sponsor") while chatting.
All of that doesn't even come close to the 4,000 calories per meal from eight years back.
The decrease in caloric intake could be due to a number of factors: He's down to training two to four hours per day, Phelps said, from his five hours, six days per week average ahead of Beijing; he's approaching 31, and no longer possesses a 23-year-old's metabolism, as he did in 2008; and he's making better food choices when he eats, in addition to cutting alcohol completely from his diet following a stint in rehab following a DUI arrest in 2014.
He might also just really like grilling outside in the beautiful Arizona climate -- dry, highs in the 90s, sunny and nothing like what he might otherwise he experiencing in his hometown of Baltimore this dreary May.
There were also some other revelations:
- Baby Phelps may be a breaststroker (if he turns out to be a swimmer), which would be quite the shock as the spawn of a swimmer who has never competed at the international level in the stroke. Papa Phelps said Boomer, born May 5, has been "doing a breaststroke type kick lately."
- "Fatherhood is awesome" and fiancee Johnson is a great mother, according to Phelps, although by the sounds of it, he hasn't been home all that much with training obligations at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
- He thinks the Ravens will be fine if they can stay healthy.
- Phelps' mother is giving her grandson a new children's book each month.
- He didn't choose the song for his emotional "Rule Yourself" Under Armor commercial released in March.
- No, he has no plans to go back to college, but he has thought about it. "I've learned so much from being on the road and ... the walk that I've had through life, that you can never learn in a classroom."
- In response to a question about where he finds his inspiration: "I just found the passion to do it again," Phelps said, presumably referencing his comeback after retiring following the 2012 London Olympics, which he has since professed time and time again how much he did not want to compete.
- He's still golfing, but didn't film since most recent outing because he wasn't hitting well. (Hyper-competitive people don't like poor performance regardless of sport, apparently.)
- Phelps' lumberjack beard may remain all the way until U.S. Olympic Trials.
- His French bulldogs "love cheese." Legend is a really, really good boy. Juno is quiet.
- He has no fear of the Zika virus.
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