- NFL running back Christian McCaffrey has developed a specialized eating regimen.
- McCaffrey has a personal chef and only buys food from local farms in North Carolina.
- He gets his blood analyzed and bases nutrition decisions on the results.
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Carolina Panthers All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey will return to the field this year after a series of injuries dented his 2020 season.
McCaffrey didn’t miss a game in his first three NFL seasons and only missed one during his college career at Stanford. But he missed 13 games last year due to a series of injuries: first a high ankle sprain, then a tweaked quad, and finally a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 8.
Part of McCaffrey’s rehab and recovery during the off-season involved a specialized nutrition regimen: He formulates meal plans based on the results of regular blood tests, and a personal chef cooks his food.
“My diet is very specific,” McCaffrey told Insider. “I get my blood work done to find out what my sensitivities and allergies are, and with that I kind of create a menu of, ‘these are things I can eat based on my target weight,’ and go from there.”
Other professional athletes, including US Olympic track cyclist Sarah Hammer and ultramarathoner Crystal Seaver, also use blood analysis to measure biomarkers like
and ferritin. Some athletes also track cortisol and creatine kinase as a way to monitor whether they’re overtraining and at risk of injury.
McCaffrey said his blood-test results led him to cut many foods out of his diet. He stopped eating chicken, tuna, wheat, and soy, according to GQ. His protein comes primarily from turkey, bison, salmon, branzino, and almonds, Men’s Health reported.
McCaffrey also avoids, dairy, gluten, and sugar as much as possible. But he does still have sports beverages — McCaffrey signed a deal to exclusively consume the sugar-free Bodyarmor drink.
“It’s got no artificial ingredients, it’s something that for me, I feel better after I drinking,” McCaffrey said.
McCaffrey’s diet is a perk of his professional success
Whatever he consumes, McCaffrey tries to keep the ingredients local.
“It’s all farm to table. The food is fresh from North Carolina farms or caught off the North Carolina coastline,” McCaffrey said. “That’s something for me where I’ve felt a big difference … I think it’s just a combination of a bunch of different things, but that’s kind of what it takes to be at your best.”
McCaffrey, who will be 25 when the season begins, said his recent eating habits are a far cry from his behavior earlier in life. When growing up in Colorado, he explained, his family would eat steak for breakfast at least twice a week. And he’d struggle with vegetables.
Even during his college career at Stanford, in which he earned consensus All-American honors and only suffered one injury in three seasons, McCaffrey didn’t adhere to a specific diet.
“In college, you don’t really have money so it’s just about eating whatever’s given to you,” he said. “Back then, when you’re 18, 19 years old, I feel like I could have eaten whatever and still felt good everyday. But as I go into the league and the more years I play, the more secrets I’m trying to find and more tools I’m tryin to find to help better my game.”
These days, vegetables are a centerpiece of McCaffrey’s diet.
“I look forward to some of the salads and the different ways you can cook some of these veggies, so that’s something that’s definitely changed over the years,” he said.
McCaffrey is heading into his fifth NFL season, which is often regarded as a regressive year for running backs. To combat that trend, he plans to lean heavily on his diet to keep as healthy as possible.
“If I want to be the best at what I do, and I want to really do this for as long as I possibly can, then those are the next-level steps you got to take,” McCaffrey said. “I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can do that.”