The Dietary Habits of NFL Players Shed Light on Different Eating Options

“Kickers are not football players.”

Those are the words of former Ravens head coach and current NFL analyst Brian Billick.

The lack of respect for kickers and punters is mostly due to the fact that these positions rarely engage in contact, a cornerstone of football. Another factor is that some kickers and punters do not look to be in football-playing shape.

No matter the reason, numerous pudgy punters have made a living in the NFL, including Washington Redskins punter Sav Rocca who tipped the scales at a whopping 265 pounds.

However, the current punter for the New York Giants, Steve Weatherford is the opposite end of the spectrum. Weatherford is considered by his teammates as one of the pound-for-pound strongest players on the squad. According to the New York Times, the he can bench close to 400 pounds, leg-press 1,000 pounds 12 times and squat 475 pounds.

Unlike many of his counterparts in the NFL, Weatherford definitely looks the part of a football player:

So what is his secret?

In addition to being a savage in the weight room, Weatherford has a very strict dietary regime that he credits for his high-level fitness.

According to the New York Times, Weatherford consumes approximately 200 grams of protein a day. The protein does not always come in the form of meat. Instead he prefers to consume egg whites, quinoa and plant-based proteins.

Link to original article from USA Football by Frank Bartscheck.

Weatherford also steers clear of any sweeteners that are not natural, which is not dissimilar from a certain quarterback in New England.

Tom Brady has one of the more exotic dietary regimens in the NFL. Brady avoids sugar, caffeine, gluten and other common food items while also sticking to an 80-20 diet, which consists of eating 80 percent alkalizing foods and 20 percent acid-forming foods. For example, vegetables and fruits would be considered alkaline while legumes, grains and meats are believed to be acid-forming. However, there is some skepticism regarding Brady’s diet.

Then there’s Minnesota Vikings Matt Kalil, who has the enviable chore of trying to put weight on, eats voraciously. However, even as he consumes 5,000-6,000 calories per day in an attempt to gain mass, he does so with the understanding that not all calories are truly equal.

In other words, just because he needs to consume a lot of calories, it doesn’t mean he is reaching for a highly caloric sugary treat. He prefers nutritious calories.

Kalil’s diet consists of three protein shakes per day, which contain approximately 800 calories with 60 grams of protein each. Additionally, he eats three square meals in between each shake with such foods as lean meat, sweet potatoes, pastas and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He also affords himself the luxury of snacking when necessary.

There are numerous other examples of NFL players who consume a high-caloric diet to maintain weight, including, Cory Redding, Jeff Saturday, among others. Conversely, the former lineman for the San Diego Chargers, Nick Hardwick, shed 85 pounds after retiring from the NFL and discontinuing his high-calorie diet.

Meanwhile, apparently Nate Newton took his high-calorie diet very seriously. Newton once hid a Snickers bar in his uniform in case hunger struck during the game.

Tony Gonzalez, who seemed to be forever young, also has a unique diet. Gonzalez does eat some meat, however, only once or twice a month. The San Francisco Gate reported that Gonzalez said,

“I still eat a lot of fish, a little bit of chicken, that’s what I stick to. No dairy, no cheese…I definitely try to eat clean and eat healthy, plenty of fruits and vegetables, lentils, grains, and I can definitely feel the difference.”

Running backs Arian Foster and Montell Owens are even more strict that Gonzalez. Both players follow a vegan diet that excludes all meat and animal products.

Running back Rashad Jennings employs a different diet that also focuses on excluding certain items. Jennings is a firm believer in a gluten-free, casein-free and all-organic lifestyle, which means that he avoids wheat, dairy and conventionally grown food.

Interestingly, Jennings wasn’t always quite as strict with his diet. During high school he could be seen on the sidelines snacking on Sprite and M&Ms while weighing a whopping 270 pounds. His current playing weight is listed at 231 pounds.

Ultimately, there are a plethora of different dietary options available for athletes. The best food plan is be determined by the individual, working in conjunction with a doctor, taking into account body type and fitness goals.

The first step to adopting a healthy diet is the desire to be smarter about nutrition decisions. That starts with knowing all the different options available to athletes.