You’ve heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It revs up your metabolism, aids your mental focus and provides a nourishing start so you won’t binge on cookies when three o’clock rolls around. For people like Michael Phelps, the winner of more gold medals than any Olympian ever, breakfast isn’t just important – it’s absolutely essential to his success as an elite athlete. You may not need, or even want, to eat as much for breakfast as Michael Phelps does, but you can learn a lot about nutrition from his approach.
Eat Like Phelps
In a single day, Michael Phelps consumes about 12,000 calories. To put that in perspective, the average woman eats about 2,000 and the average man, 2,500. Keep in mind that Phelps also spends around five hours a day working out both in the pool and in the gym. When you’re six feet, four inches of lean muscle and train like Phelps does, you need all those calories to fuel your body each day.
Although, Phelps’ daily calories are divided among his three main meals, breakfast is especially important. Having the right foundation to power through your day is one key to success whether you’re training for the Olympics or juggling a busy job and family life. In order to kick start his metabolism and supply energy for his workouts, Phelps begins his day with two cups of coffee and typical breakfast fare, like pancakes and eggs. Not so different from you and me, right? Wrong.
Phelps’ body requires so much energy, that his typical breakfast consists of a five-egg omelet; a bowl of grits; three fried egg sandwiches with fried onions, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo; three chocolate chip pancakes; and three pieces of French toast. Although, the average man would have a hard time eating so much food in one sitting, you can learn from the logic behind Phelps’ choices. His meal consists of a mix of carbohydrates (from the bread, pancakes and grits) for a quick burst of energy, and protein (from the eggs) for prolonged endurance.
Power Up Your Day
I do not suggest duplicating Phelps’ breakfast menu, but there are some healthy solutions you can take from Phelps’ example. Consider the following tips when planning your own “power breakfast.”
1) No skipping – This is the single most important lesson to learn from Phelps. My patients sometimes say they don’t feel hungry in the morning. Even if you don’t have much of an appetite before noon, your body still needs fuel. When you wake up, your metabolism is moving at a snail’s pace because sleep requires very little energy. In order to start burning calories for energy, you need to feed your metabolism.
2) Eat a combination of nutrients – A balance of carbohydrates and protein gives your body instant energy without the “crash” that results from a high-sugar meal. Try scrambled eggs in a whole-wheat tortilla; oatmeal with a handful of nuts; or ham and melted cheese on an English muffin.
3) Tailor your breakfast to your life – Phelps’ breakfast is designed for serious cardiovascular endurance and power. If you have a three-hour strategy meeting that requires laser-like focus, eat a veggie omelet for brain-boosting protein. If you have a morning filled with errands and volunteering at your kids’ school, eat cereal with milk and fruit or a banana with toast and peanut butter for instant energy.
4) Be consistent – If you eat a high-powered breakfast everyday rather than just occasionally, you will benefit more. You will have a steady supply of energy so the days of feeling sluggish and tired will be history. You will actually crave nutritious food, instead of forcing it down. You will also put an end to overeating later in the day thanks to your healthy foundation.
5) Include foods you like – Do you think those chocolate chip pancakes Phelps’ eats have a solid health benefit besides another serving of carbs? No, but they sure are tasty. It’s okay to incorporate foods and ingredients that you love along with your healthy choices.
Now that you know the secrets of the greatest all-time Olympian, it’s time to do some meal planning of your own. What will you be eating for breakfast tomorrow?