Just in Case You Forgot, Olympic Athletes Eat Buckets of Delicious Junk Food

It's time for yet another installation of the Summer Olympics, which means that it's time for yet more special-interest pieces from venerable news outlets about how much food pelican-mouthed Olympians shovel down their gullets while training. (In case you didn't know, they eat a whole lot of food.)

Back in 2008, everyone was obsessed with how much swimming glutton Michael Phelps ate while he was training. Omelets, egg sandwiches, pancakes, and French toast all in one sitting? But he looks like a neo-classical art installation — it's not fair! This year, the New York Times is taking its turn to inform us that endurance athletes who are burning between 4,000 and 6,000 calories per workout eat more at a single sitting than a hungry dog that's been presented with a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. Some favorite high-calorie, post-workout foods include: pasta drenched in olive oil (800 calories), entire cheese pizzas (2,000 calories, a dozen heart attack grenades eggs, and Ben & Jerry's cheesecake-brownie ice cream, which is, quite frankly, a little gauche (I'm telling you people — mint chocolate cookie). Oh, and they wash it all down with beer, the true sports drink.

Exercise physiologist Kerry Stewart explains that the reason endurance athletes consume so much fatty foods is that fat offers more caloric bang for your buck. "Dietary fat," says Stewart, "provides nine calories per gram, whereas carbs provide about four per gram." Even the most well-intentioned athletes turn to junk foods like cookies, ice cream, and candy bars because healthy foods — shock city — don't contain as many calories, and if athletes aren't taking in enough calories to replenish those that they lost during whatever masochistic activity they're engaged in on a daily basis, they're liable to shed a lot of weight.

The fetishization of Olympic gluttony seems to be a phenomenon that really gained traction just as Americans started worrying about all that processed, fatty food we were gobbling. Not only are Olympians stronger and faster than the rest of us, they eat all the foods that the Surgeon General, Morgan Spurlock, and the Jesus vegetables from those weird movies tell us are little better than rat poison. So, while you're watching the Olympics at weird hours over a bowl of unbuttered, unsalted popcorn, you'll probably be thinking about how heartbreaking it is that people lose medals based on fractions of seconds, but you might just as well be fantasizing about having a professional trainer sit you down, hand you a fork and knife, and say sternly, "Now, I want you to eat all of the banana walnut chocolate chip cookie dough pancakes, and don't you dare get up from the table until you clean the plate."

Why Some Olympic Athletes Need to Gorge [NY Times]

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