For starters, define fit. Is a marathoner more fit than a running
back? Is Lance Armstrong more fit than Greg LeMond? Does it matter if he’s done
steroids? Richard Simmons doesn’t look like an Olympian, but the guy works out
every day, and he’s inspired millions of people to follow his lead. Does that
make him fit? You see where this is going.
When judging the fittest
men of all-time, we decided on a few caveats. Fitness, as
we define it, isn’t just about abs and muscle tone and obscure measurements
like V02 Max—but that’s all part of it, of course. Fitness is also about what
you do with the body you’ve built.
(Want to do more with the body you’ve built? Get your
metabolism firing on all cylinders with Speed Shred,
the cutting-edge fitness DVD series from Men’s Health!)
That could include setting—and smashing—records, leading
your team to championships, or winning a neck-load of gold medals, But fitness
doesn’t stop with personal achievements, either. We’ve also counted personal
trainers among our fittest men. We’ve counted actors who’ve inspired us to get
fit in movies like 300 and Rocky (show us one man who isn’t tempted to run
those art museum steps).
Add it all up, and one man stood out above all others:
Michael Phelps. At 27, he’s the most decorated Olympian of all-time, a feat he
managed to accomplish relatively free of controversy—well, outside of one
college party, anyway.
Better yet, Phelps didn’t win on talent alone. His workouts
were the stuff of Olympic legend. As he recently told Men’s Health, “I was doing 10
workouts a week in the pool, three weight workouts plus three core workouts. It
was totally intense.”
Fueling such a workout requires a massive caloric intake.
And while Phelps dismisses the commonly held belief that he consumed 12,000
calories a day just to maintain his weight, he does confess that he’s eating far
less in the wake of his recent retirement. “My diet’s changed a lot,” he says.
“I don’t eat as much as I used to since I don’t spend four to six hours in the
pool. I just focus on trying to get what I need.
“Nutrition is something that’s important
for everything you do,” Phelps continues. “Imagine it like you’re putting gas in the
car. It’ll run better with premium gas in the tank. Well, you put premium food
in there, you’ll be better prepared.”
Despite his feats in the pool, Phelps still has plenty of
fitness icons that he still looks up to. One of them, Michael Jordan, made our
list at number 21. “It’s what he did on and off the court,” Phelps says. “He
became the best and never let anything stand in the way of what he wanted to
do. Even when he was sick, he still came out and supported the team, put them
on his back. What Jordan did for basketball, that’s what I want to do for