What’s Inside Olympic Athletes’ Bellies? (Lot of Yams)
In 2008, the world collectively gasped at Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps—not just for his record-setting eight gold medals, but for the story claiming he’d maintained his rippling physique by downing 12,000 calories a day.
Phelps later debunked the story during an interview with Ryan Seacrest. "I never ate that much," he said. "It's all a myth. I've never eaten that many calories." However, other news sources continued to place his calorie intake at 8,000–10,000 per day—hardly a light diet.
Phelps may be the biggest star connected to athletes’ outrageous eating habits, but he’s far from alone. Here’s a quick recap of some of our favorite Olympians with unusual eating habits.
Sisay Bezabeh | Australian marathon runner
Ethiopia-born Bezabeh finished each day of training with a bowl of raw beef. “I found it quite disgusting but he needed iron for his running, and that's what he did," sports scientist Jess Corones told CNN. [Editor’s note: In his criticism, Corones showed his lack of familiarity with the basics of Ethiopian cuisine, including kitfo—a dish of spiced raw beef not unlike steak tartare.)
Usain Bolt | Jamaican sprinter
The sprinter has one of the coolest titles in the world: “fastest human ever.” After he broke the world record for the 100-meter dash in Beijing, his dad revealed the dietary secret behind his success: "It is definitely the Trelawny yam."
Jack Oliver | British weightlifter
Oliver’s typical Olympic-training breakfast was a milk shake made with colostrum, the milk of a cow that’s just given birth. The milk is replete with health benefits, but tastes terrible; as Oliver told The Guardian, “The colostrum overpowers anything else in the shake and makes it just revolting.”
Chris Fogt | USA bobsledder
On an icy bobsledding track, a little extra bulk is desirable—even necessary. “As a pushman in bobsledding, you need to weigh about 210–230 pounds to add weight to the sled,” said USA pushman Fogt (pictured on left with John Napier). According to Men’s Health, Fogt bulked up to that ideal weight by downing drive-through delicacies such as Taco Bell’s Cheesy Gordita Crunches, Doritos Locos Tacos, Grande Soft Tacos, and Beefy Five-Layer Burritos.
Halley is a Chicago writer with southern roots. When she isn't typing, she enjoys cooking without recipes and designing garments for her upcoming clothing line, Ambidestre.