Michael Phelps is in the best shape of his life, but he’s not one to watch what he eats.
“I don’t count calories. Whether it’s Sour Patch Kids or Reese’s or a bag of chips, if I feel like eating it, I’m going to eat it,” the 14-time Olympic gold medalist tells the August issue of Details.
When he’s training, eating junk food isn’t a problem for Phelps, 27. But when the swimmer decided to some take time off following his triumphant streak at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Phelps noticed a change in his appearance.
“It was weird going from the highest of the high, the biggest point of your life — winning eight gold medals — and then saying, ‘All right, where do I go from here?’ I wasn’t motivated. I did nothing, literally nothing, for a long time,” he recalls. “I gained 25 pounds. A friend of mine and I were playing football on the beach in Miami, and somebody got a picture of us and put it all over the place. And he’s like, ‘Bro, you gotta start working out, man. You are fat.’ So I started going through the motions again. I would go back for a week or two and then stop. I’d show up for dry-land practice and then just sneak out the back door so nobody saw me.”
“I was watching Rocky II the other day — the one where he’s fighting Apollo for the second time and he’s just going through the motions,” he adds. “It reminded me of how I was.”
Getting back in shape wasn’t the only obstacle Phelps has faced since his record-breaking performance in Beijing. In January 2009, photos of Phelps smoking marijuana surfaced online. As a result, one of Phelps’ longtime sponsors, Kellogg, decided not to renew his endorsement contract; USA Swimming also suspended him from competing for three months.
“It was a learning experience,” Phelps says of the highly-publicized incident. “I’m the kind of person who has to go through the learning experiences myself. Somebody could tell me, ‘If you eat this much you’ll be fat,’ and I’d be like, ‘Yeah, okay, let me try it.’ Growing up, my mom taught us to make our own decisions, but also that you have to pay for the consequences of those decisions. I’m thankful for that. I’ll be the first to say I’ve made thousands of mistakes, but I’ve never made the same mistake twice.”
Phelps — who will compete in the London Olympics beginning in late July — eventually “realized that I probably hadn’t reached my full potential,” he tells Details. “As I come to closure on my career, am I going to look back in 20 years and say, ‘What if?’ That’s something I don’t want. This is it. I’ve always said I wouldn’t swim past 30. I don’t want to be that guy who’s hanging on, but I want to reach my max potential. I don’t care how much pain I have to go through or the sacrifices I have to make. I’ll get it.”
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