The 2016 Rio Olympic Games are just weeks away. As the world’s swimmers, sprinters, gymnasts, and high divers finish their final month of training, we were, naturally, interested in one specific aspect of their routine: What does an Olympian eat for breakfast? When you’re working on throwing a shotput farther than anyone else, or running at superhuman speed, do you opt for eggs and toast or an entire pizza? What do the men and women of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games have in their fridges?
Different Olympians have different answers, of course, but you might be surprised how often a breakfast of champions involves chicken nuggets. When you’re burning off that many calories a day, scarfing down multiple treats from the fast food breakfast menu become a lot more sustainable. (Though next time you crave a happy meal for your brunch, telling friends that you’re just following a strict Olympian diet might be a handy excuse. So from Usain Bolt to Gabby Douglas to Michael Phelps, here are what five Olympians eat for breakfast.
Not surprisingly, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history one of the most legendary appetites to match. During his record-breaking streak at the 2008 Beijing games, Phelps revealed he ate a stomach-churning 12,000 calories a day, staring out with a staggering 4,000-calorie breakfast that might kill someone without an Olympic-sized appetite. Included on the list? Three fried egg sandwiches topped off with plenty of cheese, lettuce, tomato, and of course, heaps of mayonnaise. Then there’s two cups of coffee, a bowl of grits, several slices of French toast and three chocolate chip pancakes to round it out.
His diet was of course, the perfect fodder for parody, naturally earning a playful jab from the cast members of “Saturday Night Live,” though it’s safe to say the bowls of Halloween candy and a pitcher of Hollandaise sauce probably didn’t make it onto Phelps’ game-day diet plan. Phelps, now in his 30s, said in a recent Facebook live post that he’s no longer training six hours a day nor is he blessed with a 20-something metabolism, but we still don’t envy taking his order at a restaurant.
What exactly does the fastest man on earth eat? If you asked him during the 2008 Olympics, the world record holder for the 100m dash would tell you just one thing--McDonald’s’ Chicken McNuggets, by the truckload please and thank you. Bolt said in his memoir that he probably went through 100 nuggets a day, polishing it off with some fries and an apple pie for good measure. These days, he has his breakfast with a side of restraint, eating things like a simple egg sandwich and mango, pineapple, and apple.
Fellow Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake has some rather odd eating habits, even for a professional athlete. Per The New York Times, he apparently thrives on a diet of 16 ripe bananas daily, and, like his training partner Bolt, chows down on chicken nuggets before any race. (We tried wolfing down pizza before a high school track meet to less impressive results). But something must be working for Blake—during the 2012 Olympic trials, he outran Bolt by .11 seconds. Could someone please pass the bananas?
Dubbed “The Flying Squirrel” for her uncanny ability to defy gravity and win not one but two gold medals at the 2012 London games, Douglas tends to keep her meals light and healthy, preferring foods like YoCrunch yogurt. But the 20-year-old has normal cravings, too. Like anyone who just won gold medals while millions of people around the world watched, she treated herself to some McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches, much to First Lady Michelle Obama’s chagrin.
On the other end of the spectrum is one of our favorite gymnasts of all time (seriously, check out her floor routine from the 2008 games in Beijing, it’s insane!). She told Eating Well in 2012 that she’s really not big on breakfasts, but it’s for a good reason. “I don’t really have an appetite in the morning, especially when I’m about to start going upside down and being in a leotard,” she said. Can’t argue with that. But once she’s firmly back on solid ground, she’ll go for organic fruits and veggies and the occasional cookie.