Swimmer Michael Phelps has left the water cube and the country of China. His record-setting Olympics — an unprecedented eight gold medals in eight events — is finished.

It's all over now but the gasping.

He is the envy of all mankind, and womankind.

How does he do it?

Not just win eight gold medals but eat 12,000 calories a day?

When asked in Beijing what he eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this was Phelps' long answer:

Breakfast: Three slices of French toast smothered in syrup and powdered sugar, three chocolate-chip pancakes, five-egg omelette, fried-egg sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes, bowl of grits, two cups of coffee.

Lunch: One-pound bowl of pasta, two ham and cheese sandwiches with mayo, lots of energy drinks.

Dinner: One pizza, one-pound bowl of pasta, more energy drinks.

His short answer: "Anything I want."

His daily calorie count is 12,000, give or take, or roughly the same as the U.S. women's gymnastics team — for the entire Olympics.

And for all that, Phelps still can't gain weight. He's 6-foot-4 and yet to see the scale go past 200.

The fact that he's 23, works out five hours a day, six days a week, and swims 50 miles every week are mitigating factors.

I asked a local swim coach, Mike Werner, who coaches the Park City Aquatic team as well as the Park City High School swimmers, if becoming a swimmer would mean I could go on the Michael Phelps 12,000-calorie diet and eat a pizza every night just as an appetizer.

"Well," he said. "Uh ... no."

Swimmers typically consume plenty of calories, Werner said, and a dedicated teenage swimmer can wipe out a refrigerator, and a food budget, faster than you can say "swim another lap."

But your basic adult human could neither work out as hard nor eat as much as Phelps.

"Michael Phelps is completely different than anyone else," said Werner. "He recovers faster than any swimmer in history. His metabolism and lactate recovery system is half what it is for normal people."

Werner said a typical athlete, training hard, can consume 4,000 to 5,000 calories a day — or about double the amount recommended for a healthy adult — without a problem, and some elite athletes get to as high as 8,000 calories per day.

But to get to 12,000 you'd have to be either superhuman, Michael Phelps or both.

"His body is the ultimate efficient machine when it comes to fuel."

Like swim coaches all around the country, Werner is enthusiastically bracing for an increased interest in swimming in the wake of what Phelps did in China.

"There's always a bump after an Olympics," he said. "But with the phenomenal thing that happened this time, I think it's going to be bigger than ever."

I think he's right.

Maybe everyone can't swim like Michael Phelps, or eat like him either.

But one can always dream about it.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.