We've got to talk about your diet.
I'm interested to hear what you guys are hearing — 12,000 calories? 8,000? 10,000?
How far overblown is that?
Well, 12,000 calories is far from the truth. It's impossible to eat 12,000 calories in a day. My doctor told me when I was growing up that I should eat 8,000 to 10,000 per day but that's literally eating around the clock. I've worked out maybe two or three times since Beijing and maybe put on five pounds. But I've been losing a lot of my muscle because I haven't been doing anything.
Has your diet changed?
I don't eat nearly as much. I maybe eat two meals a day since I'm not up at 4 a.m. But I'll snack here and there too.
Were you really eating things like chocolate chip pancakes while you were training?
Oh, yeah. When I'm training like that, I can eat anything. If you look at how much time I'm working out, I have to eat that many calories to be able to not drop weight. I could lose five or 10 pounds in a week if I wasn't getting enough calories, so I needed to eat that much.
When you're competing, how grueling are those one to two minutes. Does that factor into needing extra calories?
Pure Sport [performance sports drink] really helps me. I was able to get it into my system and recover much faster. Recovery is such a big thing for me, especially when I'm doing a program like that because I have to be ready at every single one of my races to be at my best.
What other supplements do you use?
Really not much. I had tried other things, but when you think of a recovery drink, you think of something that's usually a milk-based protein product. But when you're competing in 17 or 18 races in eight or nine days, it's tough to put a milk product into your system and then turn around 20 minutes later and go swim.
Mark Spitz was 22 when he competed in the Munich Games. He didn't try to compete in the Olympics again until he was about 40. Has your motivation reached its pinnacle?
I've got to get back in shape first. It's going to be a struggle. I still want more. There are time standards that I want to hit. I've always said that I want to do something more for the sport. I want to become the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz. I want to change the sport, make it better, make it more than an every four-year sport. It's not going to happen over night for me; it's going to be something I'm going to have to work towards my whole life until it's changed.