On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.
Despite the persistent rumours floating around the internet, Michael Phelps never consumed 12,000 calories per day during his Olympian days. Blame it on the sensationalising article that made headlines around the world when it published Phelps’ typical meal plan and exaggerated calorie figure.
Breakfast: Three fried-egg sandwiches with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. Two cups of coffee. One five-egg omelette. One bowl of grain. Three slices of French toast topped. Three chocolate-chip pancakes.
Lunch: One pound of pasta. Two large ham and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread, plus energy drinks.
Dinner: One pound of pasta, an entire pizza, and even more energy drinks.Michael Phelps – the extraordinary 12,000 calorie diet that fuels greatest ever Olympian | The Telegraph
Phelps’ actual daily intake was closer to 8,000 – 10,000 calories. That being said, it was still an insane number of calories that Phelps was eating every day, especially compared to the average person’s 2,000 – 2,500. But then again, Phelps was far from an average person.
Arguably the greatest swimmer of all time and the most decorated Olympian ever, holding a total of 28 medals, Phelps crushed records throughout his swimming career, including most Olympic gold medals, most Olympic gold medals in individual events, and most Olympic medals in individual events.
During his peak swimmer days, Phelps was relentless in his focus on being the best. “Eat, sleep and swim. That’s all I can do,” he told NBC in 2008. “Get some calories into my system and try to recover the best I can.”
While preparing for the Olympics, Phelps routinely trained double sessions three times a week, and once every other day. He swam 80,000 metres each week, and spent the rest of recovering with “ice baths, stretching, working with a trainer, or getting massages. and I [slept] in a chamber at 9,000 feet,” according to an interview with Men’s Journal.
Sleep is also a big part of my recovery. It’s really important that my body gets enough rest so that I’m ready to go for my next race or training session.MF Icon: Michael Phelps Revealed | Men’s Journal
Phelps’ volume and intensity in training was what set him apart from other Olympic swimmers. “What made Michael’s training different was the way we individualized it,” Phelps’ coach Bob Bowman explained. “I’ll give him specific times with a specific amount of rest between those, and they’ll be done in a certain way. it’s not like Michael does 6x400s and everyone else does 9x300s—it gets too disjointed that way.”
Michael Phelps’ 2008 Beijing Olympics race day routine
The greatest moment in Phelps Olympic career was during the 2008 Beijing Games, when he won eight gold medals and broke fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz’s 1972 record of seven first-place finishes at any single Olympic Games.
In his 2012 book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, American reporter and author, Charles Duhigg, outlined Phelps typical race day routine during the 2008 Games. Waking up 6.30am, Phelps arrived at the Olympic Village cafeteria by 7am to eat his usual breakfast of “eggs, oatmeal and four energy shakes, the first of more than 6,000 calories he would consume over the next 16 hours.”
Two hours before his first scheduled race for the day, Phelps would begin his stretching routine, “starting with his arms, then his back, then working down to his ankles, which were so flexible they could extend more than 90 degrees, farther than a ballerina’s en pointe.” Following that, Phelps started his 45 minute warm-up routine in the pool — “800 metres of mixed styles, followed by 600 metres of kicking, 400 metres pulling a buoy between his legs, 200 metres of stroke drills, and a series of 25-metre sprints to elevate his heart rate.”
Once he was done stretching and warming up, Phelps put on his LZR Racer swimsuit, and waited for the race to start while listening to a hip-hop rotation of Eminem, Biggie, G-Unit, JAY Z, Rick Ross and Young Jeezy. Eminem’s “‘Till I Collapse” played a big part in Phelps’ mix.
Post-retirement training routine & diet
In a 2021 interview with GQ, five years since he officially retired from swimming, Phelps described his current daily routine, which unsurprisingly doesn’t include eating 10,000 calories a day anymore.
On a typical day, Phelps is up between 5.30-6.30am and starts preparing breakfast for his family — wife, Nicole, and three sons, Boomer, Beckett and Maverick. Phelps’ breakfast is usually a smoothie, “spinach, almond milk, cacao nibs, figs, and Silk Ultra (I love the creamy chocolate)” and a cup of coffee. After dropping the kids off at school, Phelps and Nicole head to a workout session together.
At the gym, my wife and I lift three days a week for about an hour to an hour and a half. Then, the other days we typically do some type of cardio. We might do it together, we might not. She’ll do Pilates and yoga, whereas I’ll swim or hop on the elliptical or something.The Real-Life Diet of Michael Phelps, Who Is No Longer Eating 10,000 Calories a Day | GQ
He’s also big on spin classes. “I pound it. I went 30 straight days on the bike,” he told NBC Sports in 2018. “500 miles in 30 days, 1,100 minutes and 28,000 calories. I was just basically at the point I just was like, I’m just going to grind for a month and see what happens.”
After his workout, Phelps will jump on some calls, check-in with his agent and do some work on the different projects he’s got going on. He’ll then pick up his kids from school and hang out with them for the rest of the afternoon. For dinner, Phelps and his family aim to have a salad as part of their meal every night.
Even though he’s not competitively swimming anymore, Phelps still prioritises getting enough sleep, “I know how important sleep is. I wanna be the best every day, and my best is getting 7 to 9 hours.”
Post-retirement it’s challenging to eat sometimes. Think about this: For 25 years, eating was a part of my job, it was a part of my profession. Because of that, I have a deep understanding of what my body needs. I’m not trying to plow food into my system now. It’s different.THE REAL-LIFE DIET OF MICHAEL PHELPS, WHO IS NO LONGER EATING 10,000 CALORIES A DAY | GQ
Before you go…
Check out more daily routines from Barack Obama, Joe Rogan, Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and plenty others.