Why Ryan Lochte has wings and pizza for dinner every Friday

Olympian Ryan Lochte encourages students at Thomasboro Academy

Visit was part of donation presentation from BJ’s Membership Club
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Visit was part of donation presentation from BJ’s Membership Club

If winning 11 Olympic medals didn’t make Ryan Lochte’s private life a public affair, then appearing on People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” list a few years back clinched it.

But “The Lochtenator” still has secrets, a few of which he spilled during a Tuesday event at west Charlotte’s Thomasboro Academy that included his personal chef Glenn Lyman.

Thrown together in a room, the two are like a comedy team.

“I have a weakness: Yellow Starbursts, and I haven’t had one in about two months,” Lochte confesses.

“I hide them from him around the house,” says Lyman, whose 13-year career includes periods as personal chef for Jeff Gordon, LeBron James and former Carolina Panther Steve Smith.

Why yellow Starbusts?

“When I was a kid,” explains Lochte, “all the other kids loved the cherry and the strawberry Starbursts, and the yellow ones were always left. So I said to myself one day ‘I got to try these.’ And I loved them.”

Lochte also has a weakness for New York style pizza (lately from Libretto’s Pizzeria), and says he has made it a life-long tradition to treat himself every Friday to pizza, chicken wings and one Mountain Dew (yes, just one). “I’ve been in training for 22 years and it’s my cheat day. I’ve been doing it since I was 9 years old. I’ve only missed it six times,” says Lochte, with a hint of pride.

“Imagine,” says Lyman, “how many more gold medals you might have won had you not eaten pizza and wings every Friday for your entire life.”

“No,” Lochte says, shaking his head. “I refuse to give it up.”

Their visit to Thomasboro was part of an event organized by BJ’s Charitable Foundation, which included presenting nearly $8,000 to the school to pay for laptops and iPads, among other things. Lyman is the official BJ’s Cooking Club Ambassador, which is how he got involved in the school event.

School Principal Jan McIver explained Lochte’s celebrity status to the students by noting “he’s next to Beyoncé, only she has no medals.” Which is true. In addition to his 11 medals, he continues to hold several world records.

Lochte has made Charlotte his home the past few years, and says he continues to love the city. “It’s not too big and not too small and the people are nice. They open doors for each other, say ‘thank you,’ and they don’t try to run you over like in New York.”

He’s in training now for his next Olympics, and eats six times a day, for a total of about 8,000 calories.

Lyman says the two connected two years ago, after Lochte sent out a Tweet that he was looking for a personal chef in Charlotte. Lyman is tight-lipped about the specifics of Lochte’s diet, but says it includes no sodas or sweetened cereals and nothing spicy.

“I also learned,” says Lyman, “that he will not eat a bean.”