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How Many Calories Do Olympic Atheletes Need?

November 21, 2013 2 min read

The answer? It depends. Anyone who followed Michael Phelps' astonishing performance in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games surely will remember one of the secrets of his success: Consuming as many as 12,000 calories in a day. Of course, unlike the rest of us average folk who spend most of our time and only 1,600 to 3,000 calories, Phelps burned his 12,000 calories easily while churning through the water at tremendous speed for hours on end. Swimmers like Phelps aren't the only athletes who pound eggs, pancakes, and pasta before competition — cyclists, marathon runners and rowers are also known to do some serious carbohydrate loading to fuel their super intense, continuous activity. But don't expect to see an Olympic wrestler or gymnast with a crowded tray in the Team USA cafeteria. They're more likely to be eating a peanut butter sandwich and some fruit.
Type of athlete Pre-event nutrition Energy consumed per day
Endurance (cycling, swimming, marathon, rowing) Carbohydrate loading 3,000-8,000 calories
Team sports (basketball, soccer) Extra carbohydrate intake but not loading 3,000-4,500 calories
Other sports (sailing, kayaking) Moderate energy/carbohydrate intake 2,500-3,500 calories
Strength/power sports (shot put, weight-lifting) Moderate energy/carbohydrate intake 2,800-6,000 calories
Aesthetic sports (gymnastics, diving, synchronized swimming) Some restriction likely before competition 2,000-2,500 calories
Weight-class (taekwondo, wrestling, fencing, light weight rowing) Some restriction likely to make weight followed by recovery before competition ~1,200-1,500 calories to make weight followed by increase in calories to recover and prepare for competition
Endurance athletes need the most calories because they are competing for hours, while basketball players go hard for a shorter period of time. Gymnasts, meanwhile, are stopping and going. Weight-lifters and shot putters harness a lot of energy for a very short burst. How much muscle mass each athlete has and their weight also affects how much energy they use. So does this mean you should start eating 4,500 calories a day? Probably not. These are definite extremes, but it's always interesting to examine how far these athletes have to/can push their bodies to perform. But you can bring your training and results to the next level by enjoying the right foods with us and see what a difference eating to support your fitness goals can achieve. Click here to check out our nutrition guide and get the results you WANT and DESERVE.

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