The Football Diet: NFL Players Don’t Eat A Lot of Carbs

When it comes to nutrition, NFL players face something of a paradox: Many want to gain weight but still need to eat relatively healthy. So how do they do it? What kind of diet would a player need to maintain muscle mass while not getting sluggish? The answer: A diet without a lot of carbs. Let’s look at what some of the NFL’s best players eat. 

How many calories does an NFL player consume in a day? 

The short answer? A lot. The long answer: It depends on the position. Some players, like offensive or defensive linemen, need a lot of bulk and eat accordingly. Others who play skill positions like wide receiver or running back need to be lighter on their feet.

What about quarterbacks? The Sports Loop explains, “A quarterback typically needs a minimum of 4,000 calories a day and up to 6,000 calories a day, depending on where they are in their training, in the season, and how quickly they gain or lose weight.”

What about a defensive tackle? “Former Tennessee Titan defensive tackle Torrie Griffin maintained a playing weight of 290 lbs,” reports the Sports Loop. “To keep his weight up he ate roughly 8,000 calories per day!” This gives you an idea of how much more an NFL player eats than the average American, who may eat around 3,700 calories per day.

What do NFL players eat?

NFL players’ food intake is typically low in carbs but high in protein. This gives them energy to not just compete in games and practices but to lift weights in preparation. Here are just a few examples of what some former NFL players eat to stay fit

  • Former Texans’ running back Arian Foster was well-known for his vegan diet. He ate healthy, light foods like quinoa, fruit, and kale. 
  • Former Chiefs and Falcons’ tight end Tony Gonzalez would “eat a lot of fish, a little bit of chicken, that’s what I stick to. No dairy, no cheese.” He also would rarely indulge in red meat. 
  • Former Giants’ punter Steve Weatherford, known for his physique, would eat 200 grams of protein a day, including “scrambled egg whites, bunless turkey burgers and lean-ground-beef lasagna.”

A culinary day in the life of NFL’s best players

Let’s look at two of the NFL’s best players. Both the Denver Broncos’ Von Miller and New England Patriots’ Tom Brady are at the pinnacle of their careers. They’ve both won a Super Bowl as well as Super Bowl MVP awards. Brady and Miller also eat nutritious foods. Here are their average daily diets according to Taste of Home

Von Miller

  • Breakfast: Eggs, turkey bacon, fruit, and cold-pressed juice
  • Lunch: Chicken breast, more cold-pressed juice, combined with some kind of complex carbohydrate
  • Snack: Beef jerky

Tom Brady

  • Breakfast: Green protein shake, greens like kale and collards, and egg whites with protein powder and almond oil
  • Lunch: Quinoa with broccoli, beets, avocado, kale, bean sprouts, and sweet potato
  • Snack: A handful of almonds
  • Dessert: Avocado ice cream

Most of these options sound pretty appetizing. Maybe NFL players are just like us; even when they need to stay in shape, they won’t sacrifice flavor.