How Much Do Olympic Athletes Eat?

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The countdown to the Rio Olympics is ticking away fast, and final preparations (the pretty and the not so pretty) are underway.

How do Olympians themselves prep for competition? For one thing, they eat a lot of food. For a recent video, The Washington Post surveyed statements some of them had made to the press about their diets and crunched the numbers to come up with their approximate daily caloric intake.

Here are the calorie counts for three U.S. athletes on the Post’s list:

Michael Phelps, 30, U.S. swimmer

With 22 medals (18 of them gold) he is the most-decorated Olympian of all time and will come out of retirement to compete in his fifth (and he says last) Olympics. He consumes about 3,529 calories a day (27 percent protein, 34 percent fats, 37 percent carbs, 2 percent other), according to the Post. That’s down significantly from the 12,000 calories(!) he is said to have eaten daily at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He used to scarf down fried egg sandwiches, pounds of pasta and whole pizza pies, but nowadays, he said in a Facebook live session in May, “I don’t eat many calories a day. I just really eat what I need.” Yes, we all get older and wiser.

Lauren Crandall, 31, U.S. field hockey player

Crandall captained the 2012 Olympic team in London and will compete in her third Olympics this summer. She consumes a relatively modest 1,877 calories a day (29 percent protein, 21 percent fats, 50 percent carbs), according to the Post. “I cook and bake all the time — it’s like therapy to me,” she said in an NBC Olympics interview. “I enjoy cooking with others. Two of my teammates even started a baking lesson day with me — but that got a little expensive, in both cash and calories! I love cooking for other people because I think food has an amazing power to bring people together.”

Ashton Eaton, 28, U.S. decathlete

Eaton won gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and holds world records in the decathlon and the indoor heptathlon. He consumes about 2,680 calories a day (28 percent protein, 28 percent fats, 43 percent carbs, 1 percent other), the Post calculates. “Competition trumps everything else,” Eaton recently told GQ about the foods he eats when competing. “Rarely am I looking for something flavorful; it’s like, give me nutrition, and everything else go away.”

Word to the wise: Since you’ll burn only about 23 to 33 calories an hour while watching these athletes compete on TV, you may want to keep your own Olympic calorie consumption in check. Just saying.

Photo courtesy of iStock