Not even a bronze in chowing down

The Baltimore Sun

It's 7:20 a.m. at Pete's Grille in Waverly when I belly up to the counter and order a little something to get the day started: three fried egg sandwiches with bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, three chocolate-chip pancakes, Western omelet, three slices of French toast with sugar, a bowl of grits and two cups of coffee.

"The Michael Phelps breakfast?" asks waitress Lea Byington.

Bring it on, I say.

I shake a packet of Splenda into the coffee.

Don't want to ruin this boyish physique.

We're here at Pete's because this is where Michael Phelps used to chow down, before the Beijing Olympics and the eight gold medals and the Sports Illustrated covers and big endorsement deals.

He told NBC that his training diet consisted of around 12,000 calories a day, the normal intake for five men. And he shared what a typical day's menu might look like, which I printed out and now clutch in one fat little hand.

Look, I can't swim like Mike. I can't look like Mike in a Speedo, with the V-shaped back and whipcord arms and six-pack abs.

But by God I can eat like Mike.


Although I might need a cardiologist on stand-by.

When breakfast arrives, whipped up by owner Dave Stahl, it looks like the pre-game meal for the Ravens offensive line.

The omelet comes with a mound of home fries. The pancakes are the size of a discus. I should have worn my relaxed-fit Dockers. With the expand-a-belt waistline.

"How long did it take Phelps to eat all this?" I ask Stahl.

"He would hang out," Stahl says. "He'd kibitz. Around 45 minutes."

Kibitz. Right.

I'll be lucky if my jaws work when this is over.

As I tackle the omelet -- the plan is to go slow and steady and rotate between foods until my stomach explodes in a shower of blood, tissue and organs - I consider the madness of this endeavor.

Phelps is 23, a world-class athlete who works out five hours a day and swims 50 miles a week.

I'm 56. I sit in front of a computer. I used to walk the dog. But the dog died.

Phelps is 6-foot-4, 187 pounds, with 8 percent body fat and a metabolism that runs like a high-performance car engine.

"He burns more calories sitting at a desk than a lot of people burn walking," a leading sports nutritionist told BBC News.

I'm 5-10, 197 pounds, with the body fat of a chocolate ?clair. And this meal ain't helping.

For nearly an hour, I sit and eat. But eventually it's too much. What's that state the body achieves when it moves beyond sated? Oh, yeah, nausea. I'm so full I can't move.

Total damage: one omelet, one fried egg sandwich, one chocolate-chip pancake, two slices of French toast, no grits (you can have that stuff), two coffees.

It's a pig-out for me. But it's major wuss compared to Mike.

I pay the check, which comes to 38 bucks, not including tip. (How did Phelps afford to eat like this? Was he sticking up gas stations?)

Then I waddle out to the car.

Can't wait for lunch.

Which I put off for six hours.

Here's the mid-day meal on the Phelps Diet: two ham and cheese sandwiches with mayo, a pound of pasta, plus energy drinks.

What kind of crazy combination is that? And where the hell can you get it?

I settle on the Nautilus Diner in Timonium, because diners serve every food imaginable. The menu is thicker than the phone book. Plus the rumor is that the Big Phlipper Himself used to eat here.

Still logy from that huge breakfast, I struggle through the two sandwiches, washed down with water because they don't serve energy drinks. But after a few bites of pasta, I hit the wall again. I could fall asleep at the counter.

To make conversation, I ask the waiter if it's true that Michael Phelps used to eat here.

"Yes, I think so," he says. But the waiter doesn't want his name in the paper. Ask the manager, he says.

I go over to the manager and ask him.

"Yeah, I think Michael came in," the manager says. "He used to live in Towson, right?"

But the manager doesn't want his name in the paper. Ask Ted, he says. Ted's the owner.

Great, I say. Where's Ted?

"Ted's not here," the manager says. "Ted's at our other diner in Crofton."

That's OK, I say. I'm too bloated to talk anyway.

Maybe it's time for some energy drinks.

At the Royal Farms store around the corner, I grab a can of Red Bull and something called Full Throttle Unleaded. It contains taurine, ginseng extract, guarana extract and 141 grams of caffeine.

A few sips of each and suddenly I'm vibrating like a gong. It's like being a wide-awake drunk, except you're a wide-awake glutton.

It's not until 10 that night that I feel I can eat again. The final push to Olympic eating glory!

Dinner under the Phelps Diet calls for another pound of pasta with carbonara sauce, a large pizza and more energy drinks.

I stagger down to the kitchen and make it through just three slices of take-out pizza.

I'm done.

I've consumed less than half the calories Phelps does in a typical day, but there's no way I can eat pasta or slam energy drinks. A Red Bull or Full Throttle now and I'd be up until next Thursday.

If I slam anything now it'll be Mylanta.

Which is still the nightcap of champions.

Look for Kevin Cowherd's column Sundays in You and Mondays in the news section.

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