Nutrition for athletes is usually catered towards their specific sport. What athletes eat should elevate their performance.

The following athletes go to the extreme to meet the demands of their discipline, and others who stray from common convention.

Michael Phelps

The webbed-foot wonder’s diet is that of legend.

It’s old news, but we had to reference the 12,000 calorie/day onslaught synonymous with the 23-time Olympic Gold Medalist. Here’s a list of Phelps’ average daily menu, circa 2008, which is six-times the average of most adults:

Breakfast: Three fried-egg sandwiches with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. Two cups of coffee. One five-egg omelette. One bowl of grain. Three slices of French toast topped. Three chocolate-chip pancakes.

Lunch: One pound of pasta. Two large ham and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread, plus energy drinks that supply him with another 1,000 calories.

Dinner: One pound of pasta, an entire pizza and even more energy drinks.

Our Verdict: Phelps’ updated diet is less than half the calories of his old one, and proof that his 2008 meal plan was too extreme and unsustainable. However, his old diet was considered to be a conventional means to fuel his notoriously brutal training regime.

Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom was a two-time NBA champion before his life notoriously spiraled out of control.

He also shares the unique distinction of having the same nickname as Sammy Davis Jr.: The Candyman, due to his all-consuming addiction to sweets.

His diet consisted of mini-chocolate bars and Gummy Bears, extolling their virtues by claiming candies helped him play better. If you want proof, watch this video:

Our Verdict: Odom’s gargantuan 7-foot frame and his cardiovascular output during his playing days gave him a lot of caloric rope to work with, allowing him to maintain his fitness. Still, going through 5 bags of Hershey’s chocolates a day can’t possibly be good for you. Think about your teeth, at least!

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

The pro-wrestling-goliath-turned-Hollywood-box-office-dynamo has arguably the best big- screen physique in the world.

He’s as disciplined with his diet as he is in the gym – eating approximately 5,000 calories over his seven meals a day:

Meal 1: 10 oz cod, 2 whole eggs, 2 cups oatmeal
Meal 2:  8 oz cod, 12 oz sweet potato, 1 cup veggies
Meal 3: 8 oz chicken, 2 cups white rice, 1 cup veggies
Meal 4: 8 oz cod, 2 cups rice, 1 cup veggies, 1 tbsp fish oil
Meal 5: 8 oz steak, 12 oz baked potato, spinach salad
Meal 6: 10 oz cod, 2 cups rice, salad
Meal 7: 30 grams casein protein, 10 egg-white omelet, 1 cup veggies (onions, peppers, mushrooms), 1 tbsp omega-3 fish oil

Our Verdict: While the average person shouldn’t try keeping up with “The Great One” in calories consumed, his diet perfectly complements his efforts in the weight-room, properly fueling his 270 pounds of muscle. The quality of his food choices is second to none – there’s no bread or junk food, lots of veggies, and he consumes $2,500 of fish per year! Plus, The Rock knows how to do cheat days right, proving there are no half measures when you’re “The People’s Champion”.

Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson

The former NFL wide receiver was much better at avoiding opposing safeties and cornerbacks than he was at dodging controversy, and that rings doubly true regarding his dietary choices.

Number Eighty-Five ate McDonalds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day during his career.

“[McDonalds was] my pre-game meal [] Don’t let them tell you that McDonald’s is bad for you. Eat what you wanna eat and you work out the way you’re supposed to. It’s not gonna bother you.” Ochocinco said.

Our Verdict: For your own sake, please don’t eat McDonalds for every meal. Johnson is a physically-gifted man whose tremendous genetics have allowed him to sidestep many of the pitfalls attributed to such a poor diet, at least to this point. There’s plenty of proof that eating McDonalds for every meal is detrimental to you overall health.

Herschel Walker

Herschel Walker played 12 years in the NFL and briefly forayed into Mixed Martial Arts.

Well into his 50s, Walker still looks great. While most muscle-bound athletes claim high-protein, high-calorie diets to be behind their six-packs, Walker claims he eats one meal a day. This one meal usually consists of bread, soup, and salad – or what most of us order for a starter at The Keg.

Our Verdict: In a study researching people who consumed their daily calories in one meal, these people had significant increases in total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol, and blood pressure. They also had higher morning blood sugar levels and a delayed response to the body’s insulin, compared to those who ate three meals. In short, we don’t suggest eating one meal a day.

SEMI’s expert staff is no stranger to dietary advice, and understands the relationship between food, sports performance, and exercise medicine.

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