Michael Phelps consumes three fried-egg sandwiches, three chocolate chip pancakes, a five-egg omelette, three sugar-coated slices of French toast, and a bowl of grits (maize porridge) for breakfast as part of his 12,000 calories a day diet. Are carbs that necessary for the normal athlete?
The typical night-before-the-race carbo-load pasta dinner, for instance, makes good biochemical sense for endurance athletes: carbohydrates provide the building blocks for an easily accessible fuel called glycogen. The body stores glycogen in its muscle and liver cells and burns it for energy during high-intensity exercise that lasts more than a minute or two. (Low-intensity workouts tend to burn more fat than glycogen, which is why the “fat burning” setting on the exercise bike is way easier than the “cardio” setting.) This also explains why marathon runners often “hit the wall” around mile 20: this when their muscles and liver run out of glycogen, because their bodies can only store so much. Then they are forced to start burning fat, which is harder to do.
Perhaps Phelps has other substances to thank for his success.
(Image from Buzzfeed's guilty pleasure list, Olympics or Gay Porn? But weren't the Olympics the original gay porn?)