Here’s what players eat before, during and after the Super Bowl

Here’s what players eat before, during and after the Super Bowl

Your Super Bowl party may feature hot dogs and chili, but you can bet that’s not what quarterbacks Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes and their teammates are eating on game day. Longtime great Brady, 43, now playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has promoted his Mediterranean-style TB12 diet. Less is known about the dining habits of relative newcomer Mahomes, 25, who leads the Kansas City Chiefs, though he has made his fondness for a certain condiment clear.

I wondered: Will the football matchup also be one of diet — the lean, veggie-loving veteran against the wunderkind with the iconic haircut who douses his mac and cheese in ketchup? And how do football players eat before, during and after the most important game of the year?

I reached out to the dietitians who oversee nutrition for the two teams heading to this year’s Super Bowl — Leslie Bonci, a sports dietitian with the Chiefs, and Stephanie Kolloff-O’Neill, director of performance nutrition with the Buccaneers — for insight into what Brady, Mahomes and their teammates will be consuming.
Fueling Brady and Mahomes

Over the past 20 years, there has been a huge focus on the importance of nutrition for elite athletes. Hundreds of clinical studies support the importance of food for stamina, endurance and postgame recovery. The National Football League has 27 full-time dietitians who put that research into play by offering customized plans based on an athlete’s individual needs.

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Here’s what players eat before, during and after the Super Bowl

Brady’s diet is famously part of his brand. In 2017, he released “The TB12 Method,” a book that details the nutrition and training regimens that he says have helped him stay at the top of his game at an age when many other players have long since retired. He also sells TB12 snacks and supplements.

His diet plan emphasizes hydration, promotes vegetables, fruit, lean meat and fish, and recommends limiting sugar and ultra-processed foods. All good ideas. There are also rules about avoiding gluten, dairy and soy, without much scientific evidence to support these restrictions. And then there’s flat-out incorrect information, such as the notion that certain alkalizing foods help the body maintain balance and harmony — there’s no research to support that.

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Kolloff-O’Neill said that although she wasn’t at liberty to discuss Brady’s diet, all Bucs players, from rookies to veterans, are encouraged to enjoy a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and protein, limit saturated fat and increase high-fiber foods.

“An average career is three or four seasons, and a lot of guys are aging out of the league at 27 to 29,” said Kolloff-O’Neill. “We have some veteran players over age 30, and we really want to focus on fighting inflammation. That’s a huge thing for their diets, but that’s something that can benefit first- or second-year NFL athletes as well.”

Intense exercise can cause cell damage and result in an inflammatory response and injury to body tissue, so athletes are taught to choose foods such as antioxidant-rich vegetables and omega-3-rich fish to help battle those effects. The sooner players get on board with this diet focus, Kolloff-O’Neill added, the better it will be for their longevity in the league. “Tom has already been doing these things, and it speaks to how a veteran can maintain his veteran status year after year.”