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Ryan Lochte Eats Nearly 8,000 Calories a Day – and Still Looks Lean

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Ryan Lochte is counting his calories ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro – but not how you’d think.

The athlete’s daily diet currently consists of an impressive “6,000 to 8,000 calories a day,” he tells PEOPLE.

“You know as a swimmer you’ve heard those stories that swimmers gotta intake all these calories,” Lochte, 31, explains. However that doesn’t meant he pigs out:

“You know I’m actually watching what I eat,” he says. “You know I’m not eating the McDonald’s or the Burger King anymore. I’m actually watching the carbohydrates, the protein that I intake, so I’m definitely watching what I eat.”

While it sounds like Lochte’s training is more comparable to a competitive eater’s, he insists it’s an easy task to dine so excessively.

WATCH: The U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Team Gets Personal


“It’s not hard because after doing it for so long it just becomes like autopilot, it’s like breathing,” he shares. “I mean I’ve been doing it for four years now and I mean it’s easy, I’m always constantly eating, non-stop.”

The 11-time Olympic medalist – five of which are gold – adds, “We burn so many calories in the pool, so it’s okay.”

For more of PEOPLE’s Olympic coverage, pick up our collector’s edition, The Best of the Games, on sale now.

Lochte’s training isn’t just physical, either.

“My road to Rio started when I got back on U.S. soil after the London games and I sat down with one of my coaches and we made a four-year process,” Lochte tells PEOPLE. “And so far I been sticking to it year by year, and you know, leaning into 2016, I’m definitely ready.”

Another Rio prep tactic?

The swimming star is going hairless – everywhere.

“The biggest change for me this year was deciding to get Gentle Laser Hair Removal!” Lochte said.

To learn more about all Olympic hopefuls, visit teamusa.org. The Rio Olympics begin Aug. 5 on NBC.