Nastia Liukin: 'Gymnasts Don't Get to Eat 12,000 Calories'

09/15/2008 at 02:20 PM EDT

Nastia Liukin: 'Gymnasts Don't Get to Eat 12,000 Calories'
Nastia Liukin (left) and Shawn Johnson
Amy Sancetta/AP
Michael Phelps may fuel his body with 12,000 calories a day – think fried egg sandwiches, chocolate chip pancakes, omelets and French toast for breakfast alone – but not all Olympians get to indulge their cravings.

"Gymnasts eat totally different," gold medalist Nastia Liukin told PEOPLE at Badgley Mischka's Spring 2009 fashion show Sept. 12 in New York City. In fact, she says her daily intake may be closer to 1,200 calories than 12,000.

A typical breakfast is "eggs or yogurt or oatmeal," said Liukin, 18, who took the gold for the individual all-around in Beijing. "Then for lunch I'll have a salad with chicken or fish or some sort of protein and then for dinner I keep it really light with probably just a piece of fish and vegetables."

That lean combo is just enough "to keep me energized," she said, "but I do have a few power bars before my practices."

So how has life changed since Beijing? Getting photographed all the time, "is really different," said Liukin, who hit three shows during New York's fashion week, possibly gathering inspiration for the line of gymnastics leotards she is designing.

"When I'm performing and I get photographed I don't see anything because I'm so focused on what I'm doing. Now, it's crazy being here, but it's been a lot of fun and I'm definitely enjoying this experience."

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