Carbo-load like an Olympian
July 30th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

As the London 2012 Olympics get rolling, it’s a good time to salute one of the world’s greatest athletes, Michael Phelps. His name is, of course, synonymous with his extraordinary swimming ability and a record-setting eight gold medals in Beijing in 2008.

But for me, the first thing I think of when I hear Phelps’s name is his exceptionally large calorie regimen.

Whether you’re on a similar five-hour-a-day, six-day-a-week training circuit as Phelps, or whether you just want to eat in a manner that he would appreciate, here are a few places where you can go way overboard on the carbs and calories.

1,500-Plus-Calorie Breakfast
It’s the most important meal of the day, right? No matter if you’re training for a 100-mile endurance run or gearing up for a big day of watching the Olympics, you can power up at Denny's with the Grand Slamwich. The 1,520-calorie breakfast sandwich includes two scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, mayonnaise and American cheese; it’s grilled on potato bread with maple spice spread. And that’s not all - it’s served with hash browns.

1,200-Plus-Calorie Pasta
In what will surely go down as this year’s most famous restaurant notice, Marilyn Hagerty gave a glowing review to North Dakota’s newest Olive Garden in the Grand Forks Herald. Somehow she neglected to include any mention of the menu’s nutritional information. So here you go: At dinner, the chicken alfredo - tossed with fettuccine in a heavy cream sauce - clocks in at 1,220 calories and 75 grams of fat. (To be fair to Hagerty, when she ate at the Olive Garden at lunchtime, the chicken alfredo only contained 910 calories and 52 grams of fat.)

2,000-Plus-Calorie Pizza
If you order Domino’s extra-large, hand-tossed, triple cheese pizza with every single topping on it and then chow down on two slices, you’re in for almost 2,100 calories. If you stop yourself at one slice, it’s a relatively modest 1,045 calories per serving. Domino’s has even more helpful calorie-cutting suggestions on their website. For example: "Sausage can be exchanged for beef. That will remove 5 calories." Or: "Black olives can be exchanged for onions. That will remove 10 calories.” To make further dietary modifications, use the website’s calorie count calculator.

2,300-Plus-Calorie Ribs
Here’s the dish for all those protein-loaders for whom calories just don’t matter, and who order a full rack of ribs dinner for one. Chili's Shiner Bock BBQ Ribs, made with the excellent Texan beer, has 2,310 calories and 134 grams of protein. If your high-protein diet isn’t quite that extreme, you can share those ribs with at least one friend.

1,470-Calorie Dessert
Whether or not you’re recovering from a day of intense training, consider Dairy Queen’s large Turtle Pecan Cluster Blizzard. The mash-up of chocolate, sweet caramel sauce, pecans and soft serve rings in at 1,470 calories. This dessert caught the attention of the experts behind Men’s Health "Eat This Not That," who rated it a D. That is still better than DQ’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blizzard, which earned a D-.

More from Food & Wine:

America’s Most Over-the-Top Burgers

Best Burgers in the U.S.

Best Pizza Places in the U.S.

Summer Olympics: America’s Athletes Are Food Lovers

Summer Grilling Recipes

© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. I can see my toes

    Reading this article, it becomes abundantly clear why Americans are the fattest people on the planet

    August 1, 2012 at 9:38 pm |
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    August 1, 2012 at 2:09 am |
  5. Sy2502

    This article is ridiculous. Yes athletes consume a lot of calories (duh!) but certainly not from junk sources like mayo, bacon, cream, pepperoni, BBQ sauce, or caramel sauce.

    July 31, 2012 at 1:27 pm |
  6. Geoffrey Hamilton

    Now I wouldn't do that kind of carb loading unless you are going to unload energy like an olympic athlete, otherwise you'll just get really fat.

    July 31, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Captain Obviousman


      July 31, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  7. Proud to be American

    Commie loving tree hugger crap liberal article by commie loving tree hugger crap writers .. They want you glued to the TVs, emulating the eating habits of athletes, while wanting you to waste away from obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. And then, they'll take away your guns and your freedom, and raise your taxes. Do yourselves a favor and stay fit and note that Chick Fil A is the only chain worth patronizing coz they aint afraid to tell it like it is. Carbo load like an Olympian but Vegetate at home like Homer Simpson so we can take away your health, wealth, and freedom, and you'll be reduced to begging for Obamacare as you sit bloated, defenseless, and penniless on the sidewalk as the Commies take over your livelihood.

    July 31, 2012 at 12:12 am |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      I predict your lifespan to be short harboring that kind of rage. Go smoke a fattie and loosen up, McCain.

      July 31, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • VladT

      I think this is a liberal nut pulling the old switcheroo to make conservatives look stupid.......and if its not, dude, relax

      August 1, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  8. Alex

    Agree that this article is completely uselss, that being said, Michael Phelp's eating habits are actually very interesting from a physiological standpoint. Full disclaimer, I'm just paraphrasing from Tim Ferris's book "The Four Hour Body", but the long story short is, he couldn't eat like that if he weren't spending all day in a pool... Read on...

    1 pound is equal to about 3,500 calories, which means if Michael Phelps eats 12,000 calories a day (this according to the book, though it doesn't change where this is going), he should gain about 3.4 pounds per day (yes some of that passes through him but again, doesn't matter). Assuming his Resting Metabolic Rate (the # of calories your body burns if you did nothing all day) was 3,000 calories as an athlete, he'd still have to burn off 9,000 extra calories by exercising to maintain his weight. Competitive swimmers burn about 860 calories an hour at competitive swimming rates, which means he'd have to maintain a competitive swimming rate for a solid 10.4 hours per day (9,000 extra calories to burn divided by 860 calories) in order to maintain his weight. And as much as he may train, he's not swimming nonstop at race speeds for 10 solid hours a day.

    So how is it possible that he does in fact burn off those extra 9,000 calories? The answer has to do with what's called "thermal load", or how much heat a certain system (i.e. air, water) is able to absorb. The thermal load of water is about 24 times as high as the thermal load of air, which means heat transfers out of your body much more quickly when you're in water, especially cold water, than it does in air. Because your body is an open system, i.e. interacts directly with the water/air, Michael Phelps is able to burn so many more calories because the heat leaves his body much quicker when he exercises in water than it would if he (or you and I) were running or otherwise exercising in air. And when you get down to the chemistry, all a calories is is a measurement of heat (for those interested, 1 calorie = the energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius).

    If this stuff interests you, check out The Four Hour Body by Tim Ferris, gives you tips on how to use thermal load to lose weight much faster, along with a lot of other cool body hacks!

    July 30, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Are there tips to make your dong bigger?

      Not that I would need them, anyway.

      July 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  9. Susie

    What a stupid article.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
  10. elvis costanza

    My doctor has thing about all the corn in our diet now, he says we don't have just grain-fed beef, we have grain-fed people. The only difference is that cattle have hooves.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • VladT

      Is he a real doctor, or does he work out of a van that says "Dr. Feelgood?"

      August 1, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  11. Kevin

    If Phelps does it, why can't I? Well of course, you only highlight half of the equation.

    If you train like an Olympian (8 hours a day), you truly can pretty much eat anything you want- fat carbs etc. A couple potato that eats Phelps' diet will have a huge caloric surplus (calories burned per day minus calories eaten per day) leading to big weight gain.

    Swimming is an aerobic sport, so Mike will burn those calories easily. Will you? Most people should have a balanced diet to match their caloric expenditure.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • phorse

      Thank you Captain Obvious.

      July 30, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
      • Kevin

        phorse, think before you post. Sure let's pretend it's obvious to the 34% of obese Americans.

        July 30, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
        • phorse

          Way to go, calling the obese stupid. Do you seriously believe that obese people are the way they are because they don't understand the following: if one consumes more calories than one burns one is going to get fat. Obesity has myriad underlying causes, and stupidity is waaaayyy down that list. Your the one that needs to think before they post.

          July 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
      • Kevin

        phorse, all emotion, no substance. thanks for yet another empty post.

        July 30, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
        • Pinger

          actually, Kevin, the BOTH of you are total wankers.

          Kevin: Phorse was right; anybody with common sense knows that if you work less than you eat, then you get fat.

          Phorse: Most Tubby McFatf***s are that way due to a lack of sense and willpower. Your "underlying causes" excuse is just a bunch of crap to absolve them of personal responsibility.

          So shake hands and be friends, guys, because you are both retarded!

          July 31, 2012 at 2:13 am |
        • phorse

          You ever hear the phrase "ignorance is bliss?" Well unfortunately that's the credo you seem to live by. When incapable of rebutting my posts with any facts you simply say they are lacking in substance. The depth of my understanding on this issue, compared to yours, is the difference between and ocean and puddle of the sidewalk. Ok, you can go bury your head in the sand again.

          July 31, 2012 at 10:49 am |
  12. frank thomas

    Peal me another grape Beulah, from raisinland

    July 30, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  13. Stoopid!

    This article is not about nutrition. It's about advertising for mainstream restaurants. Blah!

    July 30, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  14. Hey

    This article suggests being like an Olympian by eating like an overweight couch potato. The writer is obviously oblivious to proper nutrition, even for those who are active.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
  15. Bob

    Except for the fact that Olympians (like all of us) derive energy from food, what the heck does this story have to do with the Olympics??

    July 30, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  16. SandyStorm

    totally useless article. what does it have to do with loading carbs? just talks about artery clogging fats.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  17. waggy

    what a useless article...

    July 30, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  18. LaBomba

    misleading headline. Useful content: 0.1g. I'm guessing this is Krader's first job.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
  19. cheese me

    dominos doesnt do triple cheese, most you can order is 1 "extra cheese" which isnt even double, so I dont know why they have an option for nutritional info

    July 30, 2012 at 7:31 pm |
  20. Bunsen Honeydew

    I was looking forward to a mildly useful article with some new tips about how to carbo-load in a way that could be helpful for (say) running in some little local 5K race. In other words, how to eat a lot of carbs without just draining a ton of sugar, and without eating a bunch of other things like fat and fiber which would make you too full.

    Instead I get some useless diatribe about big, fatty meals at chain restaurants. It's been done before. Several times. Look it up.

    July 30, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Karl

      Yes, I was suckered in by the title, too.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Sir Milfred B Hottentot

      Totally agree with your sentiment on this article, but you probably don't need to carbo-load for 3.1 miles either.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • King salmon

      They are talking about the serious athlete, not some walk in the park stroll.

      July 30, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Sigh

      Are you serious about carbo loading for a 5K? It's only 3.1 miles.

      I'm always amused at those 5K runners who down a quart of Gatorade and a bagel after running 3.1 miles. At 250 calories for the Gatorade and 300 for the bagel, they consume 250 calories more than they burned by running. If they carbo load the night before, they would be better served by skipping the race altogether.

      July 31, 2012 at 6:25 am |
  21. Ewww

    That is simply disgusting! How can that even be allowed in public restaurants.. Their needs to be a law that calories are listed on menus by each food choice offered!

    July 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Watfer

      Because you have no self-control? Build a bridge, dingus.

      July 31, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • kgt

      Yeah, that's just what this country needs – another nanny state law and a mountain of bureaucrats to enforce it.

      July 31, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • VladT

      Their should be a law that random commenters on a CNN article should not be allowed to vent their own wishes to infringe on my rights. Because, if restaurants only served "healthy" food, everyone would magically be thin. Don't be such a noob

      August 1, 2012 at 7:58 am |
  22. Katie

    Just what we need – fatter couch potatoes.

    July 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
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