Over the past few years, there’s been a tremendous change in the nutrition of professional athletes. In professional surfing alone, we’ve seen a rapid transition from nutrition being a non-issue, to surfers eating only organic, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, or some other regimented diet. It has become increasingly clear that nutrition correlates directly with performance, and so naturally, athletes are dialing in their diets appropriately.
Football is the one sport that appears the most dissimilar to surfing. The players are both taller, bulkier, and more muscular. The game itself is played on land. Plus, being a contact sport, football usually involves a whole lot more tackling than surfing’s priority system. However, in a recent interview with ESPN, Greenbay Packer’s starting QB Aaron Rodgers revealed the recent changes he’s made to his diet. Now, it’s safe to say his diet is much closer to that of a competitive surfer than to that of a linebacker, and it’s showing with his leaner physique.
Rodgers told ESPN that he now sticks to,”more of a vegan diet with some red meat at times and some chicken.” He also said he primarily fuels with, “mostly vegetables.” Some vegans may scoff at this statement, but if you keep things in perspective, this is a pretty big change. For an NFL QB, and especially for one who plays for a Wisconsin team who’s fans are known as “cheeseheads,” to cut dairy and seriously scale back on meat and poultry is making a big statement and creating some enemies as well.
When asked what motivated this change, Rodgers told ESPN, “I just wanted to get healthier,” and elaborated, “I’ve done a lot of research and talked with Adam Korzun, our [team] nutritionist, and some other friends around the league about how I can extend my career and how I can be and feel healthier.”
Rodgers, like many professional athletes, realizes that nutrition is a major key to maximizing the quality and duration of a career. At age 32, Rodgers is still at the top of his game, but he likely realizes that taking care of his body could mean the difference between 3-5 more years of play versus pushing 10. Not only do those years matter for his legacy, but with Rodger’s no doubt massive contract, it makes a serious difference financially as well.
Additionally, immediately following the conclusion of the season, Rodgers had knee surgery in January. Some speculate that it was merely the cleanup of an old injury, while others believe that a low hit from Detroit Lions defensive end, Ezekiel Ansah, during a November 15th game that caused Rodgers trouble. Regardless, the QB is reportedly recovering well, and as he plans to be “all-in” for the 2016 season, he has worked closely with team nutritionists to make serious dietary changes.
Rodgers cites that he also decided to dial in his nutrition to help him bounce back from surgery. He told ESPN, “Through your eating, you can reduce inflammation because if you do research, you learn the different foods you eat can actually increase the inflammation in your body and especially in certain parts of your body,” Rodgers said. “And with a knee condition I’ve had a long time, it really started after the surgery, thinking about exactly what I’m going to eat the first couple of weeks after surgery to kind of limit the amount of inflammation in my knee and carried that around the rest of the offseason.”
There’s no question that Aaron Rodger’s diet is still a far cry from Kelly Slater’s yogi-styled, organic diet. But it is worth noting that titans of sports from football to surfing are all turning to nutrition, even if in different ways, to extend the longevity of their careers. Athletes like Rodgers and Slater have realized that a successful career depends on a healthy body, and that in turn, a healthy body demands lighter, cleaner nutrition.