Counting Calories: How Athletes Shed Weight and Get Healthy
Although being a professional athlete may look like a great gig, the toll it takes on the body can be insane. When players are at their peak physical performance, they look great from the outside. But from the inside, they can be injured and overweight. Think about a lineman who is forced to eat 10,000 calories per day.
Not natural, and when players retire, they often undergo drastic changes to their appearances, making them more healthy than when they played. Other times, players change their bodies mid career to extend their longevity and performances. Let’s have a look at some of the top athletes who look a lot different now than when they played.
The Pelicans new million-dollar man is Julius Randle. He entered the league back in 2014 with big expectations and an even bigger frame. But sub-par play and an even worse body frame motivated the athletic big man to shed some pounds and step up his game.
It’s a proven recipe that has worked for countless other athletes. Get healthier, get better. After all, a lot of performance hinges on cardio and energy levels. Being able to bench huge weights doesn’t translate into running the floor and paying high minutes. This isn’t the NFL after all.
In just three weeks, Randle had a total body transformation.
Thanks to a healthier diet, more core workouts, and an increased focus on cardio and stabilization, Randle shed over 15 pounds from his 6-foot 9-frame and is down to just 6 percent body fat. “Fatigue,” Randle told Spectrum Sportsnet, “makes a coward of us all.” Truer words haven’t been spoken, Julius.
Look for Randle to play an integral role on a Pelicans team coping with the loss of DeMarcus Cousins. Pair him with Anthony Davis and the potential to dominate from the paint could be huge. With his new cardio diet and workout regimen, Randle is a beast. Now it’s time for him to demonstrate that his new body has in fact helped him redefine his game.
When Victor Oladipo landed up in Indiana, he did so a changed man. He came into the league as a the second overall pick by the Orlando Magic but never found his stride. In Oklahoma City, he fared no better. Critics began hyping him up as a massive bust, a player not worthy of the second overall pick and a player not worthy of leading his team.
Indiana, however, changed everything, including his appearance.
Now one of the more shredded players in the league, Oladipo takes his diet just as serious as his training. No fried food, fast food, or dessert. More protein, good carbs, and water. More results.
“I changed my diet quite a bit,” Oladipo told GQ. “I took out a lot of fried foods and bread, as well as unnecessary starches and wheat. Instead I put in good carbs like quinoa.” In addition to eating right, Oladipo has also increased his focus on improving his biomechanics.
Aligning his spine, opening his ups, and keeping his core more stable all have helped the explosive athlete’s body recover and perform at a higher level.
With that diet, a gallon of water per day, and the new strength regimen, Oladipo shed 15 pounds and has become the Pacers go to scorer.
Pablo Sandoval was a big bust for the Boston Red Sox. Emphasis on big. More emphasis on bust. The three-time World Series champ and two-time All-Star with the Giants was heavy and often injured in Boston. He looked nothing like his former self that helped the Giants take over the Majors in the early 2010s.
His weight hampered his performance and the man that they call “Kung Fu Panda” actually looked like a panda. His weight was the brunt end of many jokes — see above — and the poking and prodding reached an all-time low when his belt broke mid swing.
So the champion decided enough was enough.
Bye Bye Broken Belts
No more joking and no more broken belts. He went to Bommarito Systems, a gym in Miami, Fla., and worked tirelessly to slim his figure and regain his form. Sandoval didn’t have a crazy workout plan or a futuristic approach to getting healthy.
He followed a classic approach to weight loss: consume less calories. He paired this revolutionary philosophy with more cardio, core workouts, and boxing.
The result? Over 35 pounds lost and a nearly unrecognizable figure. Since then, the Red Sox ditched the under-performing third baseman, but at least we know he’s in good health and hopefully in good hands regardless of where he plays.
CC Sabathia is a big, big man. Standing at 6-foot-7, Sabathia is a giant in baseball, and when he’s standing on the mound he’s that much more imposing. His pitching, however, wasn’t so imposing. His ERA and his weight skyrocketed together in perfect harmony. Naturally, critics pointed out that his weight, well above 300 pounds, was to blame. So Sabathia cut weight quickly.
He dropped to a slender 275 pounds. The new weight, however, provided CC with new problems. He was injured and ineffective, something he blames on being underweight. He also attributed his injuries to a lack of natural balance from being below his body’s optimal weight. It seemed to CC that weight loss may not have been the answer he or the Yankees were looking for.
So unlike most athletes, CC and his coach agreed it would be beneficial for him to put back on the weight, albeit in a healthy way. Now, CC is back up to 300 pounds but with one big catch. He’s a vegan. An all-out vegan.
His new regimen includes a strict diet and specialty workout plan that will keep the tall and aging pitcher healthy. And a healthy CC Sabathia means a happy Yankees fan base. Win-win here.
Said Sabathia in an interview with MLB.com about his diet, “I know if I can stay healthy and stay on the field, I can put up the numbers and good things will happen.”
Kendrick Perkins’ 2009-10 season ended with a double negative. His personal heartbreak turned into Boston’s collective mourning. In Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals, Perkins went down with a torn MCL and PCL. The next day, with Perkins unable to play, the Celtics — a team reeling without one of their most dominant post-players — lost a heartbreaking Game 7 to their bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.
The following season (2010-11), with Perkins still recovering from the surgery, the big man’s weight ballooned to unprecedented levels. Perkins was slow and rather ineffective.
After an uneventful off-season, the NBA went into lockout mode. Hello greed. Hello unhappiness to fans worldwide.
There would be no summer ball and the season would be delayed, if it were to be played at all. Much to his credit, Perkins didn’t allow the extended summer break to affect his weight even more. Conversely, he used that time to work on his game and shed some pounds.
Although he’s never been the most polished offensive player, his game definitely improved. Now he has three moves in his arsenal instead of two.
In total, Perkins lost 32 pounds and looked thinner than ever thanks to a workout regimen that included extensive cardio and a specialized diet to keep the big man’s weight in check.
He was a nine-time Pro-Bowler and fixture of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line for a decade. During his playing days, Faneca was a mauler, weighing in at 320 pounds and standing at 6-foot-5 inches. When he retired from the National Football League and the insane diet of a lineman, Faneca became a totally different man.
Gone were the 1,000 calorie milkshakes Faneca consumed at least three times per day. Gone was the diet that wasn’t a diet at all, the diet that instructed Faneca to consume anything and everything under the sun, so long as you stay big and protect the quarterback.
Post-retirement, Faneca decided to tackle a new goal: run a marathon. To prepare for this feat, Faneca needed to shed a ton of pounds. Cardio, more cardio, and some good eating habits helped the former lineman drop over 100 pounds. Not only was he able to drop his weight and keep his body healthy, he transformed himself from lineman to agile runner.
Despite numerous surgeries on his legs from playing decades of football, Faneca has never felt better.
When marathon day came, Faneca was ready. He completed the New Orleans Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in 3:56:17. In the running world, a sub-four hour time is considered very respectable. Factor in that Faneca was a longtime NFL lineman, and the feat is magnified.
Even to this day, with five Super Bowl victories and countless achievements, Tom Brady is no physical specimen. He rocks the ultimate dad bad and is widely considered one of the most unathletic players in the NFL. He’s also 41 years old and playing the highest level of football in his career. This is exactly why Brady is here. What he’s doing is virtually unheard of. He plays the toughest position in one of the world’s toughest sports and is creeping up on his mid-40s.
When Tom entered the league, he was unathletic and generally looked like a college kid who just finished a case of beer and threw on some pads. His god-awful performance at the NFL combine was no small factor in Brady falling to the 199th overall pick.
So Brady, thrust into the starting role following injury, needed to reinvent himself, at least physically. Over the course of his near two-decade long career, Brady has evolved physically thanks to one of the most unique diets and fitness plans.
Brady and his Bands
Known as the TB12 method, Brady’s 12 step fitness/life plan includes some unique ways at staying fit and avoiding the pitfalls of injury. Some interesting steps in the TB12 method include a heavy focus on hydration and pliability, not using heavy weights to strength train, and focusing on a diet that reduces swelling and inflammation. To give you a quick snapshot of Brady’s diet, here’s a quote from his personal chef, Allen Campbell, who spoke to the Boston Globe about how he prepares food for Tom.
“No white sugar. No white flour. No MSG. I’ll use raw olive oil, but I never cook with olive oil. I only cook with coconut oil. Fats like canola oil turn into trans fats. … I use Himalayan pink salt as the sodium. I never use iodized salt. … What else? No coffee. No caffeine. No fungus. No dairy.”
Although many people claim Tom’s fitness plan is pseudoscience, the results seem to be working for the NFL’s oldest MVP.
He was a six-time Pro-Bowler, Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner, and Super Bowl Champion. He was also very, very large. Vikings/Ravens retired center Matt Birk graduated from Harvard and made the NFL as a hard worker and bigger eater. A center, Birk needed to keep his weight levels up to keep the nose tackle off his quarterback.
While playing, Birk’s weight fluctuate from 310-320 pounds.
After winning his first Super Bowl in 2013, Birk hung up his cleats, but the hard work continued, albeit in a different way. A father of six, Birk knew that his current size was unsustainable and unhealthy, and he took an aggressive fitness approach to slim down.
Matt the Model
Birk signed up to the Vi fitness program and the results were staggering and quick. He shed 75 pounds from his frame and lost 10 inches from his waistline in just eight months. With the impressive results, Birk wanted to share his story and prove that weight loss, no matter how extreme, is fully possible.
“I never thought I would pose for a picture with my shirt off. But I wanted to show people that it can be done and that we’re all in this together,” Birk told the Ravens website. The career change, from lineman to fitness model, was almost as improbable as making it to the NFL from Harvard.
In high school, Nick Hardwick didn’t play a down of football. Instead, he was a state-champion wrestler. After high school, Hardwick attended Purdue University on an ROTC scholarship. Training for the Marines and having unlimited dining hall food, Hardwick’s weight jumped up from around 170 pounds to 230 pounds.
Seeing he was an extremely athletic person, and now incredibly big and strong, a friend encouraged Hardwick to walk-on to the football team. He made the team and was slated to be a lineman, meaning he needed to put on even more weight. He added another 65 pounds to his frame, putting him at around 300 pounds.
Hardwick, despite only playing for a few years in college, proved to NFL scouts that he was capable of playing at the next level. In the NFL, Hardwick was a 305-pound center who consumed, on average, 10,000 calories per day. Once a slender kid, Hardwick was now a full-fledged beast. But injuries caught up to him, and the unnatural weight compounded his already deteriorating state.
Hardwick retired and took immediate action. Yoga, every day. No weights, only body weights. A unique, partially paleo diet and intermittent fasting.
Not only did Hardwick shed 85 pounds in just five months, he also grew two inches. He walks 5 miles per day, works out whenever he can, and keeps his diet clean. Hardwick also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. One could say that post-NFL, Hardwick is reaching new heights.
Standing at 6-foot 4-inches, former Carolina Panthers offensive lineman and 2003 8th overall pick Jordan Gross was a big boy. Like other lineman here, Gross knew how to eat. Outside of football, it was his number one skill. His eating habits were rather gross.
Said Gross to USA Today, “”Every meal was Thanksgiving. Full for me was stuffed. So you would eat huge breakfasts and in between you’d drink protein shakes and eat hard boiled eggs, whatever you could get your hands on. You would eat a huge lunch and then snack again, and a big dinner and drink something right before bed.”
Naturally, this diet was unsustainable, and when Gross retired in 2014, he needed to make drastic changes to stay healthy. His joints couldn’t sustain the weight. Plus, most lineman only weigh so much because they have to, not because it’s natural, and Gross was no exception. So Gross went on a two-step plan to reinvent himself.
Step one: increase cardio. Gross began using an elliptical machine daily.
Step two: more fruits and veggies. More nuts. Basically, consume plenty of raw foods and dramatically increase water intake.
The results: Gross shed 70 pounds and looks like a different man, something he and his wife can both appreciate.
ESPN commentator Mike Golic wasn’t always the voice on morning talk radio, broadcasted to the masses on ESPN and the radio. At one point he was a 320-pound defensive lineman who played eight seasons in the NFL. Golic knew how to eat and tackle, but he was less inclined towards working out. He knew how to sack and snack.
In an interview with Newsweek, Golic told reporters that he “hated working out so I stopped.” With an insane caloric intake coupled with a lack of exercise, Golic’s weight ballooned and his health deteriorated. Eventually, he was diagnosed with type-2 diabetes.
Essentially, he ate his way into a disease. But if you can eat yourself into type-2 diabetes, you can get yourself out of it- at least for the most part. Today, Golic maintains a healthy weight of 240 pounds. He attributes the massive weight loss to a combination of exercise and diabetes medicine.
With his celebrity status, Golic wants to spread awareness of the disease and educate current and former players about the risks of eating too much.
Two things Golic hasn’t stopped eating? His words and his beef with Mike Greenberg, the old host of Mike and Mike in the Morning.
Jeff Saturday lived for Sunday. It was God’s day, but it was also Jeff’s. He was Peyton Manning’s center, a role he relished and carried close to his heart. If Peyton Manning was standing upright, you could credit Saturday for getting down. Down with the blocking and down with the pass protection.
The six-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion had his playing-days weight at 295 pounds- just shy of 300. By now, you get the gist. Lineman need to eat, and Saturday was exceptionally good at it. They say you need to feed the running back the ball. With Jeff Saturday, you just had to feed him.
Saturday’s Are for the Weight Loss
After the 2013 Pro Bowl, Saturday hung up his cleats and called it a career, but not before snapping the ball to Peyton one last time, even though the two played in separate conferences at that point. Retiring doesn’t, however, grant you automatic weight loss. On the contrary, not exercising multiple times per day could lead to weight gain, and there’s a litany of former players whose weight skyrocketed after they retired.
Since retiring, Saturday has lost upwards of 50 pounds, putting him at a healthy 230 pounds. There isn’t much information on Saturday’s weight loss program or regimen, but it’s safe to assume that a bulk of the weight was lost simply by not consuming 7,000-10,000 calories every day. Above, Saturday (left) talks with old Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.
He was born in Alaska and has had nearly 29 surgeries, 20 being on his knees, thanks to a 12-year NFL career. Mark Schlereth is also a three-time Super Bowl champion offensive lineman and familiar voice on ESPN. While playing for the Redskins and Broncos, Mark had to maintain a minimum weight of 285 pounds and was fined by his team for being short of making weight.
Talk about force feeding someone. They imposed the pounds on him and he was, for the most part, able to adapt and keep up the not so natural weight.
Injuries eventually caught up with Schlereth, and he was forced to call it a career.
Hitting the Mark
Besides retiring injured and plagued by arthritis, Schlereth retired a champion and multimillionaire. On one hand, you feel for Mark because of the devastating amounts of injuries he was subjected to. On the other hand, retiring in Denver with millions in the bank doesn’t seem too bad either. When he retired, he knew what he was doing was unnatural and definitely not healthy.
Schlereth, thanks to a totally new outlook on personal fitness and dieting, shed about 80 pounds since his retirement and weighs less than he did in high school.
According to his Twitter, Schlereth’s weight loss advice is succinct: burn more calories than you consume. Sound advice that is hard to argue with.
Damien Woody was a two-time Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowl Center. He was also the biggest loser, but we say that endearingly. Drafted out of Boston College in 1999, Woody weighed 330 pounds on the gridiron and was a force to be reckoned with. He was a staple on Tom Brady’s early lines and ensured that Brady would be upright in the pocket.
Woody was an unsung hero on those championship teams that helped launch the New England dynasty.
After retirement, the already hefty Woody grew to an even bigger size, weighing in at 388 pounds. To shed some pounds would take a lot of hard work and dedication, and the weight-loss journey was kickstarted by an appearance on NBC’s The Biggest Loser.
The Biggest Winner
The Biggest Loser, for those of you who don’t know, is a show where overweight contestants pair with a trainer in a competition to lose the most weight. The show has faced its fair share of controversies because of the way its coaches encourage people to lose weight. Often times, former contestants have come forward saying they were pressured into losing weight in an unhealthy manner.
Woody initially became inspired to lose the weight after seeing his former Jets coach, Rex Ryan, go through a serious weight-loss transformation.
In total, Woody lost over 100 pounds, although the exact figure hasn’t been officially released. However, he looks and feels like a new man.
When Kevin Love entered the league back in 2008, he was a pudgy 20-year old. After one season at UCLA, Love was deemed a top-notch prospect with a polished offensive game. But his eating habits were less than stellar. He weighed 265 pounds and had 12 percent body fat, and the rigorous schedule of an NBA player was getting to him.
Love feared that if he kept up with his current unhealthy ways, retirement would find him sooner than he’d like.
After being traded to the Cavaliers, a team that ran the floor much more than Timberwolves, Love knew he had to drop some weight so he could keep up with the ageless LeBron James.
Plus, Love wanted to have a lengthy NBA career, and staying healthy is one of the best ways to accomplish this. With a new diet, Love shed 25 pounds and started looking like one of the trimmest big men in the NBA.
“For me, it’s pretty basic,” Love told GQ Magazine. “In the morning, I try and make sure I’m getting three to four eggs and some almond butter. As I mentioned with planning ahead, I’ll grab a Justin’s flavored almond butter pack, whether it’s the hazelnut, vanilla, or maple. I’ll also have fruit in the morning, two scoops of whey protein.”
Steven Adams’ body transformation didn’t come with excessive weight gain or loss. Nope, not Mr. Adams It didn’t come with crazy muscles either. Instead, Adams transformed his looks on a more superficial level. Adams has done a full 180 since entering the league and is almost unrecognizable today from his rookie year.
When he entered the league, Adams looked like a clean-cut college kid- innocent and unassuming. He had short hair and was clean-shaven. Hardly anyone would recognized the New Zealand native if they saw him roaming around downtown Oklahoma City. Only his height and accent would give him away.
But as he became a savvy veteran and the Thunder’s primary enforcer, aka Russell Westbrook’s personal security, Adams underwent major body transformations that helped him look the part. The first step was growing out his hair into a length suitable to tie into a ponytail. The second step was getting a full-sleeve tattoo done in a tribal style to honor his New Zealand heritage.
The third and final step was growing out the beard and, depending on the season, his mustache. With long hair, intricate tattoos, and a full beard, Adams officially looks like a man from another millennia. He looks like a caveman transplanted to the 21st century but plays like a modern-day big man.
His career got off to a great start but ended abruptly. David Pollack was a star at Georgia and a high draft pick of the Bengals, but a scary neck injury derailed his promising career. Although the career was short-lived, it was dominant and full of highlight-reel material.
During his playing-days, the high-energy Pollack weighed anywhere from 260 pounds to 297 pounds- the perfect weight to shed blockers and get to the quarterback. But once his neck injury forced his early retirement, Pollack needed to drop to a more healthy weight. No longer could he lift as heavy and keep up with an intense NFL workout regimen.
Now a prominent figure on ESPN’s College GameDay, Pollack has gotten his weight down to a slim 220 pounds. Pollack’s trick? More exercise and a constant, focused approach to eating healthy. Specifically, he wants to eat more deer, avoid products that have more than four ingredients, and eliminate processed foods.
Sounds tricky but awfully rewarding. However, that strict diet can only go so far. The remaining steps for Pollack include cardio and lots of body-weight exercises, one of the few workouts he can do while being on the road so frequently. He’s also a proponent of the TRX workout system.
He may not be the most famous person on this list, but David Carter definitely is the most passionate about his diet. In his playing days, the former defensive end weighed 305 pounds. That weight was good for an NFL player, but it wasn’t good for his health. It wasn’t helping him on the field. His performance declined as his pain rose.
Tendinitis and high blood pressure set in. To combat it, Carter needed to take a variety of medicines daily.
Then, after watching a documentary on becoming a vegan, Carter quit eating meat cold turkey. He threw away the milkshake he was drinking and cleaned out his fridge.
At that moment, he told himself he would become a vegan and never look back. The results were tremendous. Carter lost 40 pounds in just six weeks. More importantly, Carter’s body felt replenished and he became stronger. His workouts became more efficient. He became a new man.
Although Carter is out of the NFL, he says he can lift more and feels stronger than he ever had while playing. Now only if he discovered this revelation while in the NFL. Maybe he’d still be in the league.
Today, Johnson focuses on promoting a healthy lifestyle through vegan diets. He’s living proof that eating plants can still make you a high-caliber athlete capable of optimum performance.
Standing at 6-foot 6-inches, Noah Syndergaard as a massive man on the mound. The Mets hard-throwing righty is a modern day Thor and has a superhero-like workout regimen that has helped make one of baseball’s most intimidating pictures even more dominant.
So what did Syndergaard do to add 17 pounds of muscle to his already jacked frame? Lifting, lots of lifting. When he was done lifting, he lifted some more. You get the idea: Syndergaard had a one track mind that was focused exclusively on getting stronger.
Weighted sled runs, explosive squat jumps, and a Paleo diet packed with protein. What he turned into was more of a bodybuilding beast than a baseball player.
Essentially, Syndergaard figured that whatever the cavemen were eating was good enough for him. That’s the Paleo diet in a nutshell. No processed foods. No foods that were harvested/created relatively recently. “I like working out- picking up heavy stuff and putting it down. It helps me get better and makes the game easier. It’s therapeutic for me as well,” Syndergaard told Men’s Fitness.
With his new workout regimen, Syndergaard will once again try and regain his All-Star form from 2016 and lead the Mets back to the postseason. And if he fails at becoming an All-Star, at least he’s still got the looks that make him one of the most recognizable figures in New York today.
Big City or Fat Adams. However you’d like to call St. Louis Cardinals outfielder/first baseman, one thing wasn’t up for dispute: he was a big guy who swung a big bat. During the 2016 offseason, Adams was a hefty 260 pounds, a weight that limited the athleticism and speed of the 6-foot 4-inch power hitter.
But who needs speed when you’re crushing balls over the outfield walk? In the off-chance that Adams didn’t clobber a homer, he needed to have a set of reliable wheels on him that could take him around the bases, and if he was in the field, he needed to have enough speed to catch flyballs.
Motivated to lose the weight and perform at a higher level, Adams took a drastically different approach to his diet and workout regimen, but there was one big secret that helped him shed pounds and gain muscle in the most untraditional of ways. Pilates. Yes, Adams used pilates — in conjunction with a stricter diet and heavier focus on cardio and core stability work — to drop nearly 30 pounds.
With the help of Kim Wallis, the founder of Pilates4Pros, Adams has been lifting heavier in the gym, has increased flexibility, and is a new man, almost unrecognizable at that.
In addition to his slimmed-down figure, Adams has also added numerous tattoos to his ever-growing sleeve. Tattooed and trim, just the way he likes it.
Barry Bonds has gone through drastic changes since his rookie year. He started out as a skinny, fast multi-tool player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, a player who could steal bases with ease and track fly balls in the outfield with grace. He was a talented five-tool player who was destined to shine.
Enter steroids. Although Bonds hasn’t officially admitted to taking anabolic steroids, the evidence is pretty clear that he has.
With the steroids, Bonds’ figure blew up. His head and body ballooned. So did his power and home run totals. He went from base stealer to ball clobberer, and it wasn’t because he changed his swing.
Then, during retirement, Bonds trimmed down. Thanks to a healthy dose of cycling (no, not that kind), Bonds looks similar to that of his rookie season, and he’s probably much healthier too. According to Bonds, cycling saved his life. After the steroid allegations and constant public backlash, Bonds was alone in the world and could only turn to cycling as an avenue to let out steam and avoid the public eye.
Now he’s dating a former Olympic silver medalist in cycling and is the main sponsor of a women’s cycling team based out of San Francisco. Cycling has given him an escape from the criticism and humiliation that baseball and its ever-present limelight caused him.