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Michael Phelps - Could he eat raw?

If anybody has been watching the Olympics or following the updates, you know about the swimming god that is Michael Phelps. The 23 year old American has surpassed the former record and now holds 11 gold medals – 5 of them from this Olympics and several more events to go. In Beijing, not only has Phelps won gold in every single event in which he has competed, he has also set the new world record in each event. His body is just a machine – a giant chest and shoulders, rounded back muscles, and a narrow waist, all ending in flipper-like size 14 shoes. The reason I’m posting this bit of fan-girl-dom, is that I just read an article about Phelps’ daily diet. It was horrifying. He consumes between 10,000 and 12,000 calories a day – largely through eggs, processed goods, mayo, and other animal products. For breakfast, he starts with 3 fried egg sandwiches on white bread with mayo, then two cups of coffee, then a 5-8 egg omlette. He eats two packages of pasta a day. I started thinking about the contradiction of how unhealthy this diet is and how it has helped create and maintain one of the most gifted athletes of the modern age. Does he need to eat this way? Is it hurting him at all? Could he be even more incredible if he were to eat ‘our’ way? Or would it be completely impossible for him to meet his calorie requirement in order to fuel his 5 hour swim workouts if he were to eat raw? We all know enough about food combinging to understand that his stomach must be tied up trying to digest all this crap during the times when he is training. How does this not affect him? How does someone swim with their stomach so fuel of junk? Anyway – I thought it was interesting and wanted to hear some others’ opinions. Go Team USA! ;)


  • Not that I know all the answers to your questions, but here are some thoughts.

    Younger peoples metabolisms work faster than older peoples. When I was a high school basketball player, I ate at least 7000 cals a day in junk, and never gained weight. I was never sick and my stomach never really felt tied up.

    Now that Im older, I eat about 5000 RAW cals a day, and never get sick, and have a hard time keeping weight on still. I feel healthier for sure.

    Athletes, especially olympic athletes HAVE TO eat that many calories a day to keep up their workouts, as you said.

    If I can eat 5000 Raw calories a day, Im sure he could eat 10,000-12,000. Calories is calories are calories, no matter how unhealthy or how healthy. Its MUCH harder, and much more expensive eating that many raw calories, as most fruits, veggies, etc are more filling and have are lower in kcals.

    So he would have to maybe eat 3 times more than he eats now. Unless he just drinks olive oil straight.

    When I went from eating 5000 cals vegan to 5000 cals raw, I felt I was eating almost every second of every day, and MUCH more food than I did before. But when I was SAD vegan, I only ate about 3 times a day. Right now I eat about 6 meals a day.

    I am positive he can go raw with that many calories, it would just take TONS more eating than he is eating now, and maybe feel much more bloated than before. (as I did for the first few months).

    As for it not affecting him, it probably doesnt right now. I mean, in my opinion, when Im feeling sick in the stomach I find hard enough time doing martial arts or weight lifting for an hour. Im sure if it was bothering him a lot he wouldnt be breaking any records. But later on in life itll probably catch up with him unless he has a drastic change in diet.

  • Interesting! Thanks for the reply. From the article I read, he says he is already always either swimming, sleeping, or eating – so maybe he really would not have the hours in the day to be able to meet his body’s calorie demand while eating raw. I can’t believe you manage to eat 5000 calories a day raw – that is impressive. If I ate 5000 calories a day, people would be trying to harpoon me. But then again, even though I still fancy myself an athlete, I spend the majority of my hours sitting at a computer, being a 35 year old professional woman and not the ninja i like to think i am.

  • :) I think im a ninja too, always! Haha.

    Im very tall and naturaly thin, so to even keep my weight at what I want it to be with all the exercise I do I have to eat a lot.

    At first I was spending almost 200 a week and struggling to find what to eat to get my calorie intake. But being mostly raw for the past 2 years (i cheat with soups during the winter) Ive streamlined my diet that I only spend about 100 a week, and still get 5000 cals.

  • BeTheChangeBeTheChange Raw Newbie

    Ya, you know, I’d like to say that I totally can’t see how his body functions on that diet ( I read the same article on the subway this morning…are you in DC by chance, Dagny?), BUT when I was a competitive rower in high school, I was working out INTENSELY 3-5 hours a day. Over four years of rowing, I was SAD, then veggie, then vegan. I started keeping track of calories when I became vegetarian and remember consuming 4-6000/day, but a lot of that came from cheese. My healthiest year and year of absolute best performance as a rower was the year I was vegan, and it gave me energy like I had never experienced, and it took me a significantly shorter time to recover after hard workouts! Still, as a vegan, I was eating the same amount of calories, and stayed under 130 for my 5’7” frame (I rowed lightweight class, where the cutoff is 130). SO, while eating non-veg, I did not suffer in performance, but I did have chronic constipation and could never figure out why. i felt a DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENT when I went vegan, so it is something to consider…but as for the muscles, my muscle actually increased a lot, and fast, as soon as I cut out meat and dairy. Maybe Phelps would not lose muscle, but he would just have a different kind of muscle, if that makes sense. I am one to believe that the competitive athlete’s body is often fueled by state of mind, too (not to say that Phelps is all mind-over-matter!). You raise an interesting point!

    Additionally, I’ve been trying to get my dad to go vegan for a couple of years, now. He tries and genuinely wants to be, but he just doesn’t try hard enough. He is a competitive cyclist and is simply struggling to go beyond his border right now, and I KNOW it is because of how he has been trained to “fuel” himself: gatorade, clifbars, Gu, protein this and protein that. Apparently you can’t survive if you’re not getting a million grams of protein per day. All he eats before and after workouts is “vitamin enhanced” refined sugars!!! If he would just cut out the dairy and actually eat some produce once in a while that is NOT cooked thin and devoid of all nutrients, I KNOW he would excel above and beyond his current level! AH! IT IS SO FRUSTRATING TO WATCH OVER AND OVER AGAIN!!!

    So much of the media tells athletes what they should eat, I feel like many athletes do not actually listen to what their body wants, which is the biggest paradox and contradiction EVER!!!

    OK, I’m going to stop before I start ranting even more.

  • Paxton SquiggledyPaxton Squiggledy Raw Newbie

    It’s gross, but when I heard what he eats in a typical day, all that came to mind is that he must be spending A LOT of time in the W.C. .

  • Can you imagine the sheer amount of raw foods he would have to eat in order to get his 10,000-12,000 cal a day. DagnyTarragt I totally agree with you . . . Mr. Phelps is quite yummy.

    Jkd_soccer801 how many lbs of produce are you eating a day to get 5000 cals? Just curious.

  • Yes, lizzy – he could be my Pool Boy any day. ;) Paxton, yes, gross, but yes, also valid. He must have gotten to add that activity to his ‘eat, swim, sleep’ daily list. BeTheChange – that is interesting – the details of how you felt on the different diets. I’m not in DC (though I was an east coaster for most of my life). I’m in San Francisco.

  • He is probably deficient in every important nutrient for antioxidation and cell regenerization.


    I think that world class athletes are too often viewed as the epitome of health. Even though Phelps is very young, he’s putting his body through a lot, both through eating and exercise, that might lead to problems down the road. The work oriented western culture is so hung up on quantity and intensity of exercise that we often end up neglecting the pounding we put our bodies through. I’d put my money on a 23 year old with a good, high raw diet and a regular yoga practice to be much healthier than Michael Phelps 10-20 years down the road. I’d also bet that the high raw person has a better immune system, sex drive, etc. For his sake, I hope that Phelps transitions to a more low impact diet once he retires. One thing that bothers me about these athlete diet confessions is that they seem like endorsements for junk food. It reminds me of when pro athletes used to endorse cigarettes. It just leads a lot of people down the wrong road. Considering how much Phelps works out, I wonder how much of that work-out creates real gains in his physical health, and how much of it is necessary to cope with all the horrible crap he puts in his body. Sounds like a vicious cycle to me. Anyways, as a former swimmer I certainly admire his talents and enjoy watching him do his thing. I hope he wins all 8.

  • itouristitourist Raw Newbie

    He is young and can get a way with abusing his body like that now.

    In my high school, the guy swimmers posed with their shaved bodies for the yearbook picture. They were unusually muscle-eeee and trim. But it’s 25 years later, and they have weight problems now.

    On GMA they showed Phelps food on one table—absolutely gross!

  • CarmentinaCarmentina Raw Newbie

    Just think how much time he’d spend just EATING every day if he were RAW…getting in that many calories would be tough, unless you’re eating pounds of nuts and avocado and gallons of smoothies.

  • thecavsmanthecavsman Raw Newbie

    I think it would be very possible. My favorite recipe is No Crust Key Lime Pie (from this site). It is made with 3 cups chopped mango, 1.5 cups dates, 1/4 cup shredded coconut, 1/4 cup ground flax, and 1/3 cup lime juice. This makes roughly 4 cups of pie (more like a pudding) and I eat about 2 cups daily when I make it – sometimes all four cups (the whole batch), but not at once. Four cups of the stuff is 1250 calories! I’m sure Phelps would have 2 batches of this in one sitting, which would be 2500 calories, and that would only be breakfast. This is an avocado-free recipe. Throw in one smoothie with 2 bananas, half an avocado, and whatever else and you are talking about a 3200 – 3300 calorie breakfast and, physically, not even THAT much in your stomach. Add another high calorie smoothie and you are even higher. I’m sure he could easily eat what I mentioned. It is easy to get 10,000 calories on raw making certain things.

  • Thecavsman – I guess he would just have to hire a full time raw chef to make it possible (which I’m sure his endorsement money could provide.) Can you imagine the attention that raw food would attract if a premier world-famous athlete were to endorse it in such a way?

  • thecavsmanthecavsman Raw Newbie

    Everyone would be trying it Dagny – everyone – Phelps is the man right now. They are even saying he will make the numbers of kids who swim rise.

    Because of his diet, I bet everyone is probably saying “see if you are active you can eat whatever you want”. I hate talking diet w/ some people because they all have that attitude.

    A little off topic, but I was talking to a friend of mine the other day he was was telling me about how he eats 2-4 cheese sticks a day and he is cutting down on it and how he eats this bread and that bread but is watching calories and how he still likes to have brownies and stuff – but how it’s OK because he burns off like 300 calories from working out. And I threw out the usual “wow, great – it’s great that you are watching what you do”, even though I knew how backwards it is to eat the bad stuff and then work some of it off, in terms of fat. But whatever it’s not my place. Then he started to try to tell me what to do and how I’d feel great if I exercised more. Now I rarely get the time to exercise, but I don’t put the bad stuff in my body in the FIRST place so it’s not as big of a deal – and I feel great ALL the time. He said, “come on, just TRY it”. I tried to explain this to him, and, well, it didn’t go so well. I was accused of trying to sell a religious type of dieting (lol) even though I was just explaining how silly everyone is to think you have to put toxins in your body and then work it off. Somehow my concept of not getting fat on your stomach to work off in the first place was strange.

    I guess the point is that people only see weight because they are only worried about the physical and never really understand that you are what you eat…it’s not just a fat gut. Weight is only one part of the equation.

    If you ask me, I’d rather avoid the brownie then eat it and then work it off for an hour. But I guess if you are Phelps and you have to work out anyway, it’s a great excuse, for the average calorie/weight consumed person, to eat whatever they want.

  • jellibijellibi Raw Newbie

    He is probably eating so many calories because his body is starving for the right type of food. If he were eating raw food I doubt he would have to spend as much of his time eating as many calories as he does now.

  • his diet gives absolutely no concession to health….many fitness freaks/athletes die in an instant, the first symptom of their bodily abuse is death

    i bet he treats his car better

    there are people who train on raw….811’ers have been known to consume 1000’s of cals in just fruit and greens (w/ minimal fats)....just today i read of someone consuming enough to fuel an 8500 calorie day

  • TomsMomTomsMom Raw Newbie

    I read that, too. He is not healthy. You can’t be healthy eating nothing but enormous quantities of breads and fried meats. He certainly is not getting all of his vitamins and minerals and is flying high on non-stop sugars. What people see as high energy is just a massive sugar rush. He would get the same “energy” from a snort of cocaine. I don’t know why women find him so alluring, unless it’s just the usual draw to celebrity. I find him rather gross.

  • I guarantee he will be eating fewer calories per day if he were eating healthier. He could probably cut it down to 6000-8000. He could eat healthy, high calorie fruits, nuts, avocados, lots of smoothies, etc. If the man can drink 2000 calories in sports drinks a day, he can drink that in smoothies, fresh juices, and coconut water.

    He’s going to be one of those “perfectly healthy” athletes that “mysteriously” drops dead during a workout. All of that saturated animal fat will catch up with him.

  • actually , in his case , he would still need to eat the same amount of calories

    it is something that all athletes have to learn to understand and something that many raw foodists still don’t want to accept

    your car won’t travel 100 miles EVEN if you fill it with 70 miles-worth of the BEST petrol…

    calories from sugars are the bodies fuel and this sugar comes from the food we eat….ALL of our food becomes sugar…when you run out of available sugars , your body will attempt to convert fat , first, and then muscle protein , for fuel…...this comes at the expense of a lot of the body’s energy

    normal folk allow this to happen daily by under-eating….it isn’t so noticeable for sedantary or slightly active folk

    for the athlete , it is a very dangerous thing to be ‘all-out’ and hit the wall (running term) or bonk (cycling term)...in these cases it is , at minimum, a disorientating experience…at worst , very dangerous

    he isn’t eating 10,000 calories for the sake of it….as a top athlete , he knows to the nearest 10’th of a unit how much he will burn under exact circumstances

    it’s just a shame that most people will never realise it is possible from a raw diet…..and those that do , will have an even harder time accepting tha it is possible just on fruit and greens


  • i realise i have just re-stated what jkd_soccer801 was saying, but folks are still missing what he said about calories

  • shgadwashgadwa Raw Newbie


  • lzhptlzhpt Raw Newbie

    I have experienced the “purple people” while marathon training raw and at that time i was only burning 1700 cals for that 16 mile run. I heard this guy is expending 4,000 cals per workout per day! It’s really just amazing these athletes in this particular Olympics. The flip side is what the Chinese are not feeding those little 12 year-old gymnasts who are so oppressed. Imagine living a life with no choices. When will the IOC intervene?

  • What I’m trying to say is that the amount of calories he needs may be very different than what he’s consuming now.

    If I fill up my VW with cheap diesel from some truckstop in the middle of nowhere, I get 35 miles/gallon. If I fill it with ultra-low-sulphur from Chevron, I get 40 miles/gallon. If I fill it with B99 Biodiesel, I get close to 45miles/gallon. The quality of the fuel matters.

    Phelps body is wasting many of those calories trying to process the toxic and indigestible food that he is consuming. If he ate a clean, raw diet, he would require less calories because he wouldn’t need to use as many on digesting and filtering out toxins.

  • Izhpt – what are you talking about? Those gymnasts are at least 16. Sheesh. Don’t you know any 16 year olds who are still losing their baby teeth, don’t menstruate, and weight under 75 pounds even while competing as an elite athlete? Don’t be such a conspiracist! ;) Justine – I agree with you that he is using a decent amount of those calories to digest and process those same calories. I do think he needs massive amounts of calories – as El-bo says, but it seems like his total requirement would drop if he were eating all the right things. I do hope you are wrong on the point that he will just drop dead one day. remember – ‘our’ diet is not the only way to live. my grandpa, from hungary, turns 97 in two weeks, and he has never had a raw vegan day in his life and he quit smoking at the age of 88 after having smoked since he was 14. not everyone ‘pays’ for an unhealthy diet, and not all people with healthy diets get to live long. we’re just maximizing our opportunity to do so and do so in decent enough shape to enjoy it. Tomsmom – I guess alluring is not the word for what I find him. He looks like a dorky kid from the neck up. but that body is just a beautiful combo of form and function – like a da vinci come to life. and i always think it is amazing when someone has been engineered to excel in something – he has the exact height and foot size and all other proportions to do exactly what he is doing. it’s just poetry in motion, to be cliche as possible.

  • jellibijellibi Raw Newbie

    The car fuel analogy was a good one, el-bo, because I understand what you and jkd_soccer are saying now.

    Logically, it just seems as though he would have to eat less if he were eating raw though… that his body would spend less energy just digesting all of those calories if it could get them directly through fruits and veggies, rather than processing all of that other stuff that he’s eating.

    This is SO confusing to me though. The other day my step-mom said that she was worried about me eating raw foods because they take much more energy to digest than cooked foods, which is not good for an already very underweight person. GAH!!!!!!

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot since then and I still can’t make sense out of any of it. I see how both sides could be true.

  • energy and fuel are very different things in our bodies…..energy is like electricity, and is charged through sleeping…fuel is replenished with food

    and raw foods taking more energy to digest….hmmm ???? the fact that most are practically pre-digested

    remember that all food has to be converted to sugar…..complex cooked foods are so far off from what they need to be, it takes more energy

    consider the energy needed to process the standard christmas , coma-inducing, lunch…....i guarantee i could eat the same calories in bananas and be the only one left awake to watch the queens speech (non – uk’ers may not understand this, very specific, reference) :o)

  • that is crazy. I keep thinking how awesome it would be if any of the gold medalists came out and said they did it because they are 100% raw! meanwhile McDonalds is the official restaurant of the olympics. :P

  • hannahmariehannahmarie Raw Newbie

    i get a lot of the benefits of eating raw that i do when i am intensely working out (i just finished biking across the us and biked for hours pretty much every single day, for example). i, unfortunately, was not eating raw pretty much at all on the trip except for a few bananas a day fruits and veggies right after all of my shopping trips, hopefully salads provided from hosts nightly, and the random veggies i could get at produce stands along the road. i still felt pretty damn good, nothing like being raw, but working out that much really helps to detox (sweat a lot, regular poop, etc.) of course, he probably isn’t getting enough antioxidants/nutrients/too much protein to the pt. that’s he’s going to get cancer… but yeah…

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