What Kind of Diet do Football Players Need?

Professional athletes eat a lot of food. 

They need a high-calorie intake to provide their bodies with enough energy to keep up with the grueling demands of their chosen vocation: athletics. 

However, football (American Football) is a different beast altogether. NFL players are some of the biggest, fastest, strongest athletes in the world. Which begs the question, what do they eat to maintain top physical form and peak performance? 

Let’s use the Seattle Seahawks for our first examples, who are tied for the 4th best record in the NFC. These diets come from current and former players.

Game Day Diets

According to the Seahawks official website, most of the players eat the same meal before each game. This gives their body a routine, so it doesn’t have any unexpected digestive surprises. Usually, the athletes eat pasta with a hefty amount of protein (usually chicken). 

That said, there are a few standouts. 

  • Nick Vannet, the Seahawks Tight End, prefers to load up on carbs a different way; Chipotle Burritos. He prefers a burrito with rice, chicken, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, and salsa. 
  • A few players don’t like to eat anything at all before a game. They don’t want to risk a hard hit-making anything come back up on the field.
  • CJ Prosise, Seattle’s Running Back, is one of these. But not out of fear. It’s because game day jitters usually spoil his appetite. When does eat before a game, it’s simple like a bit of grilled chicken with pasta.
  • Beef Chili and Cornbread: K.J. Wright likes to eat chicken and pasta with some fruit pregame. But home games after long road trips enjoy his wife’s homemade chili.
  • Richard Sherman enjoys grilled cheese sandwiches a couple of hours before kickoff.

League Nutrition

Guys like Tom Brady take special care with their diet. Brady, who is now in his 40s, was a strict vegan who now subscribes to the TB12 method. This is a diet that supplements with plant protein and plenty of alkaline-based and anti-inflammatory foods. It’s still low in meat intake, around 20% lean meats like chicken, fish, turkey, and steak. 

The key here is locally grown, non-GMO, organic foods. It’s similar to a modified Mediterranian diet. According to Medical News Today, an example of Brady’s daily diet is:

Breakfastberry smoothie and protein bar
Snackmixed tree nuts
Lunchwild-caught salmon with lentils, broccoli, and cauliflower
Dinnerchicken salad with leafy greens, avocado, and sweet potatoes

Russell Wilson has also converted to the organic wholefoods diet type. Back in 2017, Wilson was eating a 4,800 calorie diet … to lose weight! His personal food coach bumped him up from 2,700 to 4,800 calories of cleaner food to lose 10 pounds for improved strength and mobility. It seems counter-intuitive, but it worked. 

The Chicago Bears EDGE rusher who is a terror to QBs and RBs across the league, focuses on eating protein for strength and carbs for endurance then hitting grinding workout sessions. JJ Watt, another physical specimen of a defensive end, takes in 9,000 calories per day – up to 13 avocados, 50 slices of bacon, and 20 chicken breasts. Von Miller has four eggs, five slabs of turkey bacon, fruit and cold juice just for breakfast. Then he has beef jerky throughout the day, and Chicken breast, complex-carbs, and more cold-pressed juice for lunch. JJ Watt’s dinner often consists of 8 chicken breasts, three of them bacon-wrapped! 

So, it really just depends on the type of body the player has and the role they need to fill. A smaller player like a cornerback, or Russell Wilson will still eat a high calorie diet because they have lot of energy they are burning. That said, they probably won’t eat 20 chickens wrapped in bacon in one day. 

Did we leave anyone out?

Oh yeah, Marshawn Lynch eats a pack of skittles after each and every touchdown.