Lifestyle Of Medley Man Max Litchfield: The Fuel Needed For An Everest A Day

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Max Litchfield - Photo Courtesy: Georgie Kerr

Max Litchfield’s Daily Diet

There are many ways to describe the 400 medley ace. Hungry, for starters. Not just for success in the fast pool but literally every day for a species of swimmer used to being in the water first, out last, in training sets that demand whopping calorie intakes.

Take Max Litchfield, the British all-rounder who at Rio 2016 finished in what’s often said to be the worst place possible at the Olympic Games: 4th. Answer, better than 5th and all the rest after that, and the work went on, the Tokyo 2020 podium on the Litchfield’s list of goals.

Max needs fuel. Lots of it. On an average day, Max takes on two training sessions in water, each of them covering around 8000m. That’s just short of the height of Mount Everest. Summit and back in a day… swimming. No wonder he munches his way through more than 3,000 calories in seven meals every day.

There’s land training on top, of course: Litchfield does a few sets in the gym each week. The folk at MiraFit, a strength, conditioning and fitness kit maker, caught up with Litchfield of late to look at what it takes to be an Olympic 400IM finalist and what that mean for the swimmer’s diet. Here’s what came of the visit, with tips for all who aspire to be anywhere on the spectrum of fit, healthy and gunning for goals in the pool:

Eat Like an Olympian

For its interview with Max, MiraFit but together a 42sec video representing the kinds of foods that form Max’s daily diet.

An average day for Max will see him consuming over 3,000 calories across seven meals. This includes brunch favourites such as scrambled egg and avocado on toast (470 calories) and porridge with mixed berries, peanut butter, honey and chia seeds (570 calories):

“Depending on the time of year I also frequently use Beetroot Shots in training and racing as well as Healthspan Performance Greens,” says Max.

“These are often very useful when you go away from home and you are not sure how good the quality of food will be.”

Regular competition, for home team, nation and as a member of the Energy Standard International Swimming League team, means regular travel – and life on the road sometimes makes it hard to stick to the same foods and diet plans. Says Max:

“If I am away and in a village environment, I would make sure to search around in the days before I race to find the best alternative. For instance, recently in South Korea, I ended up having two small bowls of cereal; one oats and one bran flakes along with a medium banana. Sometimes you have got to make do with what you are provided.”

In general, here are a couple of lunch and dinner standards for Max:

Lunch: “I’ll choose something like couscous with tuna and salad or sweetcorn”.

Dinner: “I’ll go for high protein with a hefty portion of carbs.

“Something like seafood (usually prawns) risotto with asparagus and mushrooms. Again, this is something that is really easy and simple to make so takes the stress off you if you have more races to come later in the week.”

Fruit and veg are essentials parts of Max’s diet – but in order to take in the amount he needs, he turns to powder foods:

“I use a powder blend of green vegetables and fruits, sounds strange but I really love using them.”

The type of ‘Performance Greens’ Max consumes contain a natural blend of 14 fruit and vegetables.

What It Takes To Be An Olympic Podium Shot

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Max Litchfield – Photo Courtesy: Georgie Kerr

On average Max swims over 20 hours a week at the Loughborough Performance Centre with coach Dave Hemmings. The dedication, discipline and daily habits of Max’s  elite career ere entrenched over long years as a member of Team Steel at City of Sheffield with coach Russ Barber.

Ten two-hour swim sessions of between 6km and 8km a pop are supplemented by three hour-and-a-half gym sessions a week. Gym work is aimed at Max gaining strength while retaining flexibility and the range of movement required for world-class speed on all four strokes.

Alongside the dumbbell pistol squats and sled work, there are specific exercises designed to strengthen the shoulder and hip injuries he has sustained during his career. Max had already started rehabilitation work by the time he opted out of racing for England at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 as a precautionary measure on the road to Tokyo.

Later that year, he was in good enough shape not only to qualify for the European Championships for Britain: once in Glasgow, he claimed silver and bronze in the 400m and 200m respectively.

Pre-Olympic Season

In 2019, Max finished 7th in the World-title 400m medley final well down win best at 4:14.75. A setback, perhaps, when compared to the 4:09.62 in which he claimed bronze at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest to become the first man in Commonwealth countries to crack the 4:10 mark.

The 24-year-old emerged from battle to say: “I attacked it as that was the only way I was going to do anything, but I don’t really know what to say. It’s just disappointing.

“I’ve worked hard this year and I’ve had a great training year and that’s not good enough for me, nowhere near. We’ll have to look back at the race and see what we need to change and what we need to work on, but I’ve had a great year and it’s tough to not see the results I should be getting. But you make mistakes and you learn, so we’ll come back better.”

Weight and Workouts

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Max Litchfield – Photo Courtesy: Georgie Kerr

Each day delivers attention to detail and the observation of discipline in water, gym, on diet, rest, recovery and all other aspects of the elite athlete’s life that counts towards performance. Here are a few examples of regular focus for Max:

Skinfolds

During taper phase on the way to a major competition, workloads drop but the body craves the same intake of calories. Measuring skinfolds has long been a way of keeping a check on the the balance of rest and fuel and making sure rest is not accompanied by a piling on of performance-affecting weight. Says Max:

“I would measure skinfolds and weight quite meticulously during this period to ensure I am stabilising at my race weight and composition.”

“Hypoxic … On The Brink Of Passing Out”

Breathing. How, when, how often; are there differences in need and effect on performance depending on stroke?

Hypoxic training is a part of the tool kit of the elite swimmer. The aim is to have the body adapt to working with a reduced level of oxygen. Among exercises are sets that involve going without taking a breath for much longer stretches that the swimmer would in a race; swimming underwater for long stretches at a time. This requires extra vigilance and the knowledge of coach and athlete when it comes to recognising limits and staying safe.

“When we do hypoxic sessions, I often feel I could be on the brink of passing out,” says Max. The whole approach should be taken with expertise and full observation.

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Max Litchfield – Photo Courtesy: Georgie Kerr

At the end of his interview with MiraFit, Max is asked how he would celebrate if he found himself on the podium in Tokyo and what were the difficult things about being an Olympic swimmer. To the first question he says:

“I can’t say I have ever thought about it. Everything I do is aiming towards that goal but to me, it seems crazy to think further than that. I have to focus on me now and preparing to make the Olympic team and perform to my greatest potential.

And on the ‘difficult’ stuff? Max, whose younger brother Joe also races for England and Britain, may put in an Everest swim a day but he’s made of Sheffield Steel:

“I don’t think there is anything difficult about it really. I get to travel the world competing for GB in the sport I love. There is nothing difficult about that at all really!”

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Jim

    Surely not 3000 calories a day???? So little~

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