- Joe Burrow invested in his nutrition early by hiring a private chef, which isn’t that common for young NFL stars.
- Burrow’s chef says the quarterback cut out all dairy, eats lots of protein, and craves spice.
- Burrow said, unlike some of his teammates, he can’t eat McDonald’s every day.
Joe Burrow has reached the NFL’s biggest stage in just his second season in the league, and his diet has been a core component of his efforts to get there.
The 25-year-old Cincinnati Bengals quarterback is set to lead his team in Super Bowl LVI this Sunday, little over a year after he suffered a devastating, season-ending ACL tear. Following a healthy diet was central to his rehab as he got back to full strength.
Burrow, who was drafted first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, had already taken an interest in nutrition before his injury — he used his first paycheck as a pro athlete to hire professional chef Jose Salazar to curate his meals six days a week, according to ABC 9. That only intensified last summer, when a veteran player — incidentally his Super Bowl rival, LA Rams captain Andrew Whitworth — advised him that his diet will be essential if he wants to avoid injury.
Salazar said told ABC two of Burrow’s biggest dietary rules are no dairy and spices have to be on everything. Salazar also said Burrow will often eat a pound of protein in each meal.
Burrow’s healthy diet came with a sacrifice. The Bengals team tradition of eating McDonald’s regularly, often before games. One player, Chad Ochocinco, even claimed his McDonald’s-based diet helped him avoid injury.
But that’s not on the menu for Burrow.
—Joey Burrow (@JoeyB) March 12, 2021
Ochocinco has made McDonald’s a Bengals pseudo tradition
Ochocinco has said he ate McDonald’s before every game, and during workouts. Ochocinco, who played 12 NFL seasons and never missed a game to injury, has said McDonald’s was the reason for his physical resilience.
Now, Ochocinco said he has passed his strategy down to the current Bengals players, including offensive rookie of the year Ja’Marr Chase.
“He eats McDonald’s and the whole team eats McDonald’s,” Ochocinco told Insider.
Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah credited his pre-game McDonald’s for his touchdown performance against the Las Vegas Raiders in the team’s first playoff victory on January 15.
“Before the Raiders game I had a sausage egg and cheese McGriddle, that’s my go-to for breakfast, with hash browns and orange juice,” Uzoma told Insider during a Super Bowl LVI press conference this week. “I’ll eat McChickens like it’s my job, and a sausage egg and cheese McGriddle, but that’s about it.”
McDonald’s may have become a bigger aspect of the team’s diet and team bonding experience during their Super Bowl run as well, as head coach Zac Taylor told Insider during a Super Bowl press briefing that his team’s dining room has been closed recently due to COVID-19 concerns.
Jamie Hepner, a director at the performance analytics agency Catapult Sports, serves as one of the Bengals’ health consultants, and he told Insider that he is “not surprised” about the team’s McDonald’s consumption. He added that they can limit the damage it might have on their body by doing “a number of other things right” in regards to fitness and nutrition.
Burrow’s dairy-free, high-protein diet may help him reduce inflammation
For Burrow, avoiding inflammation has been key to his recovery from last year’s injury.
By avoiding dairy, Burrow is following a line of thinking also used by Tom Brady, who also avoided dairy, to extend his career until the age of 44. Brady has expressed concerns that dairy could increase his risk of injury by increasing inflammation, though the research is mixed, and some studies have found that might be an overblown concern.
Protein is critical for a football player’s health. It gives the body the tools to repair muscle fibers that break down while playing football, which is important for keeping fibers and ligaments strong and preventing them from breaking, according to Healthline.
Brady and other veteran stars like Ndamukong Suh and the NBA’s Kevin Love follow similar high-protein diets aimed at reducing inflammation, but Burrow is ahead of the curve at 25 years old.