Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian
You may have heard that Michael Phelps’s daily intake of 8000-10,000 calories per day helps to keep him svelte and ready for Olympic competition. And, regardless of whether he is actually eating quite that much per day or not, whatever he is doing is certainly working. Eight gold medals later, the press is all over what he is doing to be such an amazing swimmer.
When you look at nutrition needs, the fact is Michael Phelps needs more calories per day than most Americans – athletes or not. Most Americans need something closer to 2000 calories per day to stay (or get) healthy! Of course, everyone is different and everyone needs an individualized plan. Some people need more and some need less. You have to evaluate not only height and weight, but also age, gender, physical activity level and state of health. Genetics are a huge factor, but environment (your lifestyle) is critical.
Athletes usually have higher caloric needs than non-athletes and should make sure to consume enough in order to have optimal endurance and be the best competitors possible. And, while Michael’s highly reviewed “breakfast of champions” (estimates come in at a minimum of 3000 calories for his breakfast of fried egg sandwiches, grits, French toast, pancakes and an omelet) may not be right for you, it works for him. Don’t forget, he has been burning a minimum of 1000 calories per hour while undergoing training and competition, compared to 200-300 calories burned per hour for an average 190-pound person walking at a moderate pace.
Something athletes can learn from Michael is that sufficient fuel is essential for optimal performance and overall fitness. Here are a few nutritional tips for athletes: (1) never skip meals – it will only hurt your performance; (2) have a good balance of carbs, proteins and fats, with the largest portion of your calories coming from carbohydrates (fruits, grains, starches) to fuel muscles; (3) hydrate well; (4) and, learning how to eat healthfully will help transition eating habits when physical activity levels change (such as avoiding weight gain or loss when dealing with sports injury or leaving a sport.)
Children and teens can find helpful information on www.kidshealth.org regarding nutrition for sport. College athletes can usually work with a college or personal dietitian for nutritional coaching. Professional athletes should almost always work with dietitians. Once a tailored, balanced meal plan is established for you, consistency will benefit you the most.