September 6th, 2013
11:00 AM ET
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Kate Krader (@kkrader on Twitter) is Food & Wine's restaurant editor. When she tells us where to find our culinary heart's desire, we listen up.

Just a week ago, burgers and ice cream dominated the conversation.

Not anymore. It’s football season. So if you’re hanging out with anyone from the NFL, know that a fully loaded burger is probably off-limits; the ones they’re eating are unadorned and bunless. (And quite possibly vegan.) Any shakes these players are drinking undoubtedly have the word “protein” attached.
Herewith, a look at some of the notable diets of a few football stars.

NY Giants punter Steve Weatherford
He’s said to be the Giants’ strongest player, pound for pound: At only 5.5 percent body fat, he can bench press almost 400 pounds. (You’ll see how ripped he is in this Bleacher Report picture).

Weatherford told the New York Times about his diet: “About 200 grams of protein a day (the FDA’s daily recommendation is 50 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet), loading up on scrambled egg whites, bunless turkey burgers and lean-ground-beef lasagna. If he and his wife go to a swanky restaurant, he often eats beforehand, then has a salad, ‘While my wife —who is 5-7, 110 pounds and works out like twice a year—crushes a steak,’ Weatherford says. ‘She’s amazing.’” His biggest temptation is supposedly “a loaded hamburger from Red Robin.”

Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Matt Kalil
Kalil has the enviable task of having to gain weight (his target is 315 pounds). On his 5,000-something calorie-a-day diet, he told the Pioneer Press that his daily intake includes three meals of lean meat, pasta and sweet potatoes, plus three snacks, usually PB&J sandwiches. His emergency food is a Chipotle burrito.

Key to Kalil’s weight-gain diet are three high-calorie shakes a day, clocking in at 60 grams of protein apiece. Kalil says that when he’s done with football, he’ll stop power eating. “If I wasn’t playing football, I’d probably be about 220. Plus, I’d probably be living in California, so I’d go for that beach bod.”
Houston Texans running back Arian Foster
Last year, Foster took a lot of flak for choosing a vegan diet, which frustrated him: “Everybody cares what I eat now,” he said. “Everybody is a nutritionist and they’re an expert on protein.” His plant-based diet included oatmeal and fruit for breakfast; vegetables, potatoes and rice for lunch; and vegetables, quinoa and kale for dinner. 

He also Tweeted in support of his diet: “People say I can’t be a vegan. But all [Super] Mario ate was flowers and mushrooms and look how big and strong he was. Plus he could spit fireballs.”

This year, Foster is getting flak again, this time for not being strictly vegan and for eating the occasional chicken breast: “I’m not in a cult. Nothing’s going to happen to me. I just wanted a piece of chicken. It wasn’t like temptation. I felt like I could use one.” 
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez 
Another lapsed vegan is Gonzalez, who now eats meat again, but sparingly. Of his vegan diet, he told the San Francisco Chronicle: “I think it helps a lot. It helps you bounce back. It helps you last longer when you’re in the game. I still eat a lot of fish, a little bit of chicken, that’s what I stick to. No dairy, no cheese.” 

If Gonzalez eats red meat, it’s only once or twice a month. “I definitely try to eat clean and eat healthy, plenty of fruits and vegetables, lentils, grains, and I can definitely feel the difference. There’s no doubt about it. It makes me have more endurance. It helps me focus and helps me recover faster. I don’t see why more guys don’t do it. It’s mind-boggling that more guys haven’t adopted that kind of living in the NFL.” His favorite dish: a slice of vegan banana bread with soy whipped cream.
Detroit Lions running back Montell Owens
Look, another part-time vegan running back. Owens felt really good, “cleaner,” after becoming a vegan following his 2010 season. (The switch was a result of his wife reading The Thrive Diet, by vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier.) But a strength coach told him, “You’re too small. You look like a wide receiver,” so Owens added fish back to his diet. “It’s more calorie-dense,” he says. “You’re eating the same size of salmon or shrimp as you would vegetables, but you’re getting twice the calories and protein.”

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford
Here’s a man who is extremely superstitious about his eating. “I’m a big routine guy,” says Bradford. “I have to have everything in threes. At the restaurant that we’d go to on Thursdays [before high school games], we’d always have the same waitress and she’d always bring us three peppermints. One night we didn’t have that waitress and we didn’t get any peppermints. I had to tell my buddy, ‘Listen: you have got to tell our waitress that she has to bring three peppermints over here and bring me a to-go iced tea. That’s the routine.’ I just didn’t want to break the routine. On game day, if I eat fruit - I usually eat fruit in the mornings - I have to have three pieces of cantaloupe, three pieces of pineapple. Everything’s in threes.”

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soundoff (48 Responses)
  1. Dave Fields

    I blog quite often and I seriously thank you for your content. The article has truly peaked my interest. I am going to take a note of your site and keep checking for new information about once per week. I opted in for your Feed too.

    June 22, 2014 at 12:09 am |
  2. Manish shah

    Wow, looks like you have a decent site design here. would love to visit you more often to see the changes you have at hand.

    February 3, 2014 at 3:34 am |
  3. Andrew

    Atleast my meat is dead before I eat it... plants are alive you horrible vegans.

    September 9, 2013 at 9:36 pm |
    • Thinking things through

      I ate live oysters Saturday...

      September 10, 2013 at 7:23 am |
  4. crappygovernment

    As long as you are not an outspoken Christian role model Qb like Tebow, anyone can play in the NFL. Tebow's plight is mentioned in Acts 14:1-2 & Rev 3:8-10!

    September 9, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
  5. palintwit

    Mention the name 'Sarah Palin' to a tea party patriot and watch his size 34 clown shoes flap wildly up and down, to the point of becoming airborne. For them it's like getting an erection.

    September 9, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • Andrew

      I don't get it

      September 9, 2013 at 9:34 pm |
    • VladT

      You really need to stop with your obsession.

      Me think you doth protest against Palin too much (especially since this is a food blog)

      September 10, 2013 at 3:09 am |
  6. Sue

    So another misleading CNN headline to drag us in... None of these men are vegans. You aren't a part time vegan, that just means you eat less read meat. Good for them, but not the same.

    September 9, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • AleeD®

      I like reading meat. ~_~

      September 9, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
      • Cindy

        I like eating man meat.

        September 9, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  7. Dr. Gene MacGregorr

    In my twenty years of practicing general medecine, I have never seen any vegetarian with a healthy diet. ALL suffer some form of malnutrition, often requiring dietary supplements. I do not recommend this lifestyle.

    September 7, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Sue

      Well Gene, you aren't seeing the right patients then. I have been a vegan for as long as you have been a doctor and I am perfectly healthy. My doctors would agree as well and have never discouraged me from the diet. If I am low in something, there are healthy foods to choose from that will restore any balance.

      September 9, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Bob

      Well Dr, there are many Dr's that disagree with you.

      September 9, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • tio

      IF you believe in evolution,
      1. humans are apes
      2. apes are vegan (actually they're beyond vegan; they're frugavorian)
      3. humans have been evolving for less than 1 M years; apes have been evolving for 30 M years.
      4. thus, humans have not been around long enough to now thrive on a high grease & meat diet
      apes thrive on a vegan diet (see CNN articles on encounters between a chimp & human).
      Lesson: don't mess with your ancestors!
      (BTW: the diet's the same if you believe in Creation, too)

      September 9, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
      • Cin13

        Chimps are omnivores, just like humans. They will eat animals that they hunt and kill. They even eat monkeys. We are most closely related genetically to chimps, not gorillas, which are strictly herbivores.

        September 9, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
      • You forget one thing...

        And that is that if you believe in evolution, you are an idiot.

        September 10, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • v is for vegetarian

      cows, sheep, horses, hippos, elephants, goats, deer, rabbits and smarty pants homo sapiens=veg

      October 11, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
    • frokenbjorn

      They seek a doctor because they are unhealthy, but you forget there are billions of other people on this planet. an millions of them who are vegetarian or vegan. Patient = something wrong with you = look for help at a doctor... don't judge veggies by only the patients you see.. / perfectly healthy vegan linebacker

      April 1, 2014 at 8:46 am |
  8. Roger

    Bradford is also known for throwing his interceptions in 3's.

    September 6, 2013 at 7:17 pm |
  9. Nawwww!

    Now serving at NHL table: grizzy bear head

    September 6, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Demichael Rebronison

      grizzLy, fool

      September 6, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
      • Squee52828

        You must feel so proud.

        September 6, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
    • Homer Simpson

      Grizzy bear ... GAHHHHH!

      September 9, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
  10. RedskinsFan

    I firmly believe that if you want to eat a steak a day and then go and work out 5 hours, it's not going really effect your play or body negatively. But, the most probable real benefit to the vegan diet these guys are discussing is the variety and nutrient intake. News Flash: Your body needs more than carbs, protein, and fats to run right. There are nutrients in vegetables that assist with things like immunity, joint elasticity, eye health, reaction and response time and healing. It looks like Arian Foster is getting the most out of his diet not because its vegan, but because he is loading up on the nutrients along with it. Doing that should allow him to stay as good as a running back as Frank Gore. I mean... who would want to face Arian Foster like his is now 4 more seasons and into his 30s.... scary.

    September 6, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
  11. James

    You found 3 NFL players that are vegan....most of the time...and conclude that veganism must therefore be the best way for NFL players to fuel up before a game. If you take the top 100 players in the NFL, NBA, or MLB, I guarantee 98% of each league are avid meat-eaters. I guarantee, especially in the NFL, that most guys would laugh at a vegan diet. This article suggests that it will tell you how to "eat life a NFL star". All it does is explain the diet of a fringe group of NFL players, and worse a very small minority of NFL players. It's absurd.

    September 6, 2013 at 3:32 pm |
  12. Stonee

    No one is pointing out that the article uses the words "NFL Star" and the first picture is Sam Bradford?

    September 6, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • Fredd

      Sam bradford will be a star after this season

      September 9, 2013 at 6:15 pm |
  13. jc

    Many of the most successful athletes worldwide are now vegan. While they may differ in that they have decided to go vegan to avoid animal cruelty, for their health, to reduce environmental impact, or other reasons, they have one large similarity. They have proved that excellence and veganism often go together.

    Myths still persist that state that it is not possible to be vegan and be successful in sport. These myths do not have a foundation in science, and athletes build muscle, endurance and ability on plant sources and many go on to achieve great things. The performance of these athletes is proof that veganism can and does enable excellence

    September 6, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • Thinking things through

      It is also very likely that simply by transitioning from the Standard American Diet to something where they are getting more veggies and nutrients, whether vegan or not, is providing them with that excellence. You do note that some of those listed here have returned to occasional poultry or fish.

      September 7, 2013 at 7:32 am |
  14. darknesscrown

    Pro athletes consume massive amounts of calories a know why? Because they burn it all off and are (for the most part) in exceptional shape. Suggesting to Americans who WATCH pro athletes compete to "fuel up" like their favorite stars is a terrible idea because the MAJORITY of all Americans are fat and out of shape and absolutely no one who religiously watches pro sports would even survive a warmup if they tried it. I'll put money on that. Ridiculous.

    September 6, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • VladT

      If YOU'D put money on it, then it must be true!

      September 7, 2013 at 4:30 am |
  15. suj

    Kate, we know you wrote this article so you can justify staring at Matt Kalil's picture. Admit it.

    September 6, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  16. NonVegann

    The fact that the vegan players mentioned are not compet!tive in their divisions should show us all the shortcomings, health risks and flaws associated with being vegan.

    September 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • What?

      2 of the 3 that talk about being vegans won their division last year and are considered some of the best players at their position. Arian Foster is considered a top 5 back in the league right now and Tony Gonzalez is going to be a first ballet hall of famer.

      September 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
      • Gramer N. Spelling

        I didn't know Tony Gonzalez did ballet...

        September 6, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
        • What?

          Was waiting for this realized the moment i posted but I can't edit it.

          September 6, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
        • Gramer N. Spelling

          Haha. It happens to the best of us. An edit feature would be nice though...

          September 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
    • darknesscrown

      Interesting logical process you have there. Really. I'd love to hear how loud it is in your must be impossible to sleep at night.

      September 6, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  17. Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

    What a bunch of LOSERS.


    September 6, 2013 at 11:51 am |
    • RC

      Hawks! Hehe

      September 6, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • GMen

      Last time I checked Steve Weatherford and the Giants beat the 49whiners in the NFC Championship, so who's the loser's? While you call Steve a loser, he's at home polishing his SB ring. How many current 49's have rings?

      September 6, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
      • Rick

        You mean the 49ers from last year's Superbowl? Those Niners?

        September 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

        Are you talking about the 80's?

        September 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
        • GMen

          It clearly states current, why would it be 80`s? Only fan's with no recent SB wins brings up decade's old stuff up.

          September 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
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