Why Olympic Athletes Are Only Gaining Weight From the Medals Around Their Necks

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps must be fat. His teammate Ryan Lochte? Morbidly obese.

At least that’s what one might think if we took a slew of questionable studies as gospel. That’s because Phelps and Lochte eat 6,000 to 12,000 calories per day when training for the Olympics. You might think that such a high caloric intake is just plain unhealthy—but that would ignore the value of physical activity. (Although the government’s BMI calculation would actually consider Lochte overweight.) Our Senior Research Analyst reminds readers of the Boston Herald today that the food itself isn’t the culprit:

 … Lochte reportedly includes sports drinks, steak, eggs and bacon in his diet. He’s hardly alone.

Of course, Olympians can eat that much because they train like world-class athletes. One report said Lochte swims more than 50 miles a week. All that training burns a lot of calories, and keeps Olympians lean and at the top of their game.

Aly Raisman, member of the “Fab Five” gold medal-winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team, must have also missed the memo from PETAtheir pals, and a Nobel prize-(un)worthy food snob on what she should be eating. She says that she drinks chocolate milk as part of her workout recovery. Her mother is proud to serve her chicken and fish, and even keeps yogurt in the fridge. To the world, she’s a champion on one of the greatest gymnastics teams in the history of the sport, but to the food naysayers, she might be considered a bad example.

What does this mean, other than disqualifying Bloomberg’s New York City from ever hosting an Olympic event? It’s time to get off the couch. The Centers for Disease Control sets a low bar on recommended exercise, but 80 percent of Americans fail to reach it. But even small changes can make a big difference.

Here’s to hoping that the Olympics inspire more Americans to go out for a swim, run, or bike ride. Even if some need to start slow.

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