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What Do Olympians Eat? 5 Crazy Training Diets

Back in 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, we were regaled with stories about the monstrous 12,000 calorie daily diet that American swimming sensation Michael Phelps consumed while gearing up for the Games. Alas, Phelps revealed last month his diet has never been that gargantuan. "I never ate that much," he said. "It's all a myth. I've never eaten that many calories." Although what the Olympic gold record-holder actually eats might remain a mystery, athletes around the world are trying out different meal plans that they believe will help propel them to competitive stardom this summer in London. Here's a look at five of the strangest (and in some cases, frightening) diets.

1. The insanely high-calorie diet

MOHAMMAD KHURSHEED/CSM/Landov

While nobody actually takes in 12,000 calories a day, some athletes come awfully close. Phelps's swimming teammate Ryan Lochte says he relies mostly on McDonald’s for his meals, translating to between 8,000 and 12,000 calories. Before you freak out, consider that Lochte's diet also "includes salad and fruit." Canada's Dylan Armstrong, a shot putter, requires between 6,500 and 9,000 calories per day. "But it's easy to eat a lot of calories," he told the National Post earlier this month. "I like a lot of salmon. Obviously, beef and chicken. I’m on a high-protein, low-carb diet. I’ll eat five or six times a day."

2. The oddly specific diet

NIKLAS LARSSON/EPA/Landov

For American sprinter Tyson Gay to keep up with sprinting champion Usain Bolt this summer, he'll need to be in the best shape of his life. He's been working with EAS Sports Nutrition to design his perfect training regimen. In addition to taking some legal supplements, Gay subscribes to a tailor-made diet provided by a nutritionist who strictly monitors his intake. "I eat 230 grams of protein daily, 308 grams of carbohydrates, maybe 70 grams of fat," he told AskMen this spring. To achieve that, Gay had to adjust to eating six meals a day, consisting of everything from raisins and yogurt to ground turkey and fish. "It’s going to be a diet plan to really set me up to be the best I can be," he said.

3. The 'fruit only' diet

Fruit stand image via Shutterstock

Is the secret to Olympic success in fruits and vegetables? That's what the new "80/10/10" diet claims. It consists of a diet built around 80 percent fruits and vegetables, ten percent protein and ten percent fat. Michael Arnstein, an American marathon runner hopeful began on the 80/10/10 plan several years ago when he read about it, and has taken it to another level since. He writes on his blog, The Fruitarian, about his decision to turn entirely to fruits and vegetables after trying out some other diets, "Veganism is a logical choice. But Fruitarianism is the healthiest form of veganism. There are countless benefits, both to the person eating a Fruitarian diet, and for the world we live in." He assures that he never cheats, either: "A late-night snack might be grapes, mango, or some other more exotic/seasonal fruit."

4. The starvation diet

CARLOS BARRIA/Reuters/Landov

South Korean gymnast Son Yeon-jae has one of the strictest diets of any competitors, having to stay in tip-top shape over the next few months and perhaps even beyond. "She practices for seven hours a day, eats a sparrow's breakfast and lunch and skips dinner," reported the Chosen Ilbo in May. Son points out that some of her fellow gymnasts are blessed with an easier time maintaining their bodies. "Western gymnasts have longer limbs, so even if we weigh the same, they look slimmer. As such, I have to weigh less to look as good," she said. Son believes that any hope of medaling, and the burden of raising South Korea to the upper echelons of the sport, will require her to reduce every gram of fat she possibly can.

5. The 'eat whatever I want' diet

BOBBY YIP/Reuters/Landov

He's the oldest Olympian this year and like many 71-year-olds won't let anyone tell him what to eat. Japanese equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu was also the oldest athlete at the 2008 Beijing Games, and he has a knack for his training by now. "I eat whatever I want to eat. I think I was born very lucky. I don’t get fat, even if I eat a lot...I don’t care so much about what I should eat or shouldn’t eat and what I should drink," he told The New York Times last month. Unlike most athletes who require a team of assistants to work with them before and during the Games, It sounds like Hoketsu has his whole schedule and regimen under his control. "I normally wake up around 7:30 in the morning and I do a little walk about 25 minutes for stretching, eat breakfast, then go to the stable and ride two horses in the morning, come back, eat lunch. I do some business work for two or three hours, then go back to the stable and either I get on the horse and take her to the farm nearby and walk or I lead her in hand and walk together." Just your typical septuagenarian.

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KXIV
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Redesigned Adidas Sneakers Channel Beijing’s Olympic Stadium
KXIV
KXIV

Beijing National Stadium has stood empty since the 2008 Olympics, but that hasn’t stopped the building from becoming an architectural icon. Designer KXIV (Nathan Kiatkulpiboone) found inspiration in the tangled "Bird’s Nest" structure when re-imagining Adidas’s Ultraboost running shoe. As designboom reports, he used 3D-printing technology to achieve the lattice design.

KXIV comes from a background in architecture. When he isn’t dreaming up shopping centers or city towers, he’s applying the principles he uses as an architect to sneaker design. In 2014, he unveiled a pair of Nike Jordan X shoes that borrowed elements from Thailand’s White Temple and Black House. He's also created a line of dress shoes inspired by modern architecture for the footwear brand SewRaw.

His latest project evokes the Bird’s Nest woven exterior. The Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron designed the stadium for the 2008 Olympics, and today it’s remembered as one of the most distinctive structures ever built for the games.

To recreate the look on an Adidas sneaker, KXIV used polyurethane webbing fused to a lycra base. The upper layer of bands were 3D-printed in a way that holds the shoes together. The sneakers are just a prototype, so like the stadium they’re based on, the striking form will remain unused for the foreseeable future.

Shoes inspired by Beijing National Stadium.
KXIV
KXIV

Shoes inspired by Beijing National Stadium.
KXIV

[h/t designboom]

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Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund
5 Fast Facts About Nancy Kerrigan
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund
Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund

Google Nancy Kerrigan’s name and the first batch of results will mainly be articles about the brutal knee injury she sustained, courtesy of an assailant hired by fellow skater Tonya Harding’s ex-husband, right before the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Yet Kerrigan is much more than a victim of that attack, even though Hollywood keeps making documentaries and feature films about the incident. Despite the injury, Kerrigan won a silver medal at Lillehammer (after previously winning a bronze at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France).

Currently, Kerrigan and dance partner Artem Chigvintsev are competing on the new season of Dancing with the Stars; as of this writing, the couple is still in it. Here are five things to know about the wannabe Mirror Ball trophy winner.

1. HER MOTHER IS LEGALLY BLIND.

In 1972, Nancy’s mom, Brenda, lost complete sight in her left eye—and most of the sight in her right eye—and became legally blind because of a rare virus. When Nancy’s parents attended the Albertville Olympics, they had to sit underneath the stands and watch the performance on a TV. “It’s made it possible for me to see 100 percent more than I would in the stands, but not the way you do,” Brenda told The New York Times in 1992. “I never can see her face.” Kerrigan set up a charity, The Nancy Kerrigan Foundation, to raise money for the vision impaired.

2. SHE MADE HISTORY AT THE 1991 WORLD FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS.

Bob Martin/ALLSPORT/Getty Images

During the 1991 World Figure Skating Championships held in Munich 10 months before the 1992 Olympic Games, Kristi Yamaguchi, Harding, and Kerrigan all won medals; it was the first time the same country had swept the women’s medal stand. (American men did this in 1956.) Yamaguchi won gold at Albertville, Kerrigan won bronze, and Harding finished fourth.

Like Kerrigan, Yamaguchi also competed on DWTS; she danced with Mark Ballas during season six—and won. Wishing her former competitor Kerrigan luck, Yamaguchi tweeted “break a leg” to Kerrigan (which, in hindsight, might not have been the best way of rooting Kerrigan on).

3. SHE WROTE A BOOK ON FIGURE SKATING.

In 2002, Kerrigan published a book on how to figure skate. In Artistry on Ice: Figure Skating Skills & Style, she writes about advanced techniques, competition, choreography, and costumes (she competed in designer costumes created by Vera Wang).

4. SHE’S CURRENTLY PRODUCING A DOCUMENTARY.

Kerrigan recently told People about how she developed an eating disorder after the traumatic events at the 1994 Olympics. All the media scrutiny caused her to feel like “everything else was really out of control at the time,” she said. “I would avoid food because it was something I could do. I felt like I could control that and nothing else.” She wasn’t anorexic, but she did stop eating for a period.

With encouragement from her manager and family, she slowly started eating more. Kerrigan is producing a documentary on eating disorders called Why Don’t You Lose 5 More Pounds, due out next year. The doc will feature interviews with other women who have suffered through extreme eating issues.

5. A BIG-SCREEN VERSION OF THE TONYA HARDING INCIDENT IS COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU.

ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

I, Tonya, a big-screen recounting of Harding’s rise to fame (and fall from grace) is currently in production. Directed by Craig Gillespie, the film will focus mainly on Harding, who will be played by Margot Robbie. Caitlin Carver, who appeared in the film adaptation of John Green’s Paper Towns, will play Kerrigan.

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