Athletes with Weird Eating Quirks
Some people will try anything that’s put on a plate at least once; most people know what kind of foods they like and don’t feel the need to test the boundaries created by a lifetime of eating. Even further down the spectrum of discerning appetites are fully grown men and women who have a palette that is best described as "idiosyncratic."
These are the dinner party guests who always get their own specially prepared meal—usually chicken—when everyone else is expected to suck it up and enjoy your seared Arctic char. More simply put: They’re the picky eaters. If you’re not one, you probably know—or are married to—someone who is. And sometimes picky eaters follow a set of self-invented rules that qualify as weird.
There are athletes, including some pretty big names, who are counted among those with eccentric eating habits. What the picky eaters of the sports world will and will not eat is often interesting enough to be newsworthy (or at least be something they want to mention).
These are athletes with weird eating quirks.
Dwight Freeney, NFL Free Agent
According to a February 2010 interview with Sports Illustrated, seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney adheres to a very strict diet that only allows him grape juice, tea and water to drink—and tea is only a very occasional treat. He allows himself two cheat days a week, but he really earns them.
For example, in the week leading up to a game that season, “[Freeney] ate beef and pinto beans and nothing else, not even for breakfast. … If he goes to a restaurant, he brings his own ingredients and instructs the chef on how he wants it prepared—no oil, no pepper, no garlic, no garnish, no powder and certainly no pan spray.”
Usain Bolt, Jamaican Sprinter
In November 2013, Usain Bolt, the two-time defending Olympic champion in both the 100 and 200 meters, basically told the world that freebasing fast food chicken nuggets was the secret to his success in Beijing and London. Kids everywhere surely rejoiced!
According to Bolt, in Beijing he ate approximately 100 Chicken McNuggets a day from McDonald’s. As noted by Time’s Laura Stampler, “at 940 calories per 20-piece box, that means Usain ate about 4,700 [McNugget] calories a day and 47,000 calories worth” while in China.
The good news is that Bolt, now older and clearly wiser, has since changed his diet considerably. He has traded in the chicken nuggets for a balanced diet that now includes vegetables.
Caron Butler, Sacramento Kings
Sacramento Kings forward Caron Butler used to have a full-on addiction to one of the most toxic substances known to mankind: Mountain Dew. Seriously, nobody should be ingesting food or drink that’s the same color as toxic waste at a cartoon nuclear power plant. The massive sugar intake wasn’t doing anything good for his game and eventually he was forced to quit.
In an October 2009 blog post, Butler revealed that he lost 11 pounds over the summer simply by resisting the urge to “Do the Dew.” Said Butler, “Honestly, those first two weeks without the Dew [were] the roughest two weeks of my life. I’m talking headaches, sweats and everything. Before that I drank at least six 12-ounce Mountain Dews a day.”
Laffit Pincay Jr., Retired Jockey
Though he has since retired, jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. went to very extreme length during his career to keep the slight frame that led to over 9,000 victories—making him the sport’s winningest jockey. With a natural weight close to 140 pounds, Pincay struggled through 35 years of hunger to keep himself at a riding weight of 114 pounds.
Pincay’s extreme self-discipline was revealed by trainer D. Wayne Lukas, per a December 1999 article in the Sun Sentinel, who once saw “the Hall of Fame jockey eat half a peanut and put the other half in his shirt pocket. Nearly six hours later as the plane approached the destination, Lukas watched Pincay eat the other half of the peanut.”
Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett ritualized the peanut butter and jelly sandwich throughout much of his career. The pregame PB&J ritual was one part sustenance and two parts superstition, at least after awhile. And it wasn’t something Garnett did all on his own—everyone knows that the best superstitions are those you share with the people around you.
In May, former teammate Paul Pierce revealed just how pervasive the PB&J culture was in the Celtics locker room. Said Pierce, “He’s gonna eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Every game. We didn’t even have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until he got to Boston. So then he made our ball boys make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for everybody. When KG was eating them, everybody started eating them.”
Spencer Myers, University of Maryland
In 2008 it was reported that Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps ate upward of 12,000 calories a day while training, which he later said was a total exaggeration. Though an interview with University of Maryland student-athlete Spencer Myers last fall revealed calorie consumption in the five figures isn’t unthinkable.
As a wrestler and defensive end for the Terps football team, it takes over 10,000 calories a day to fuel Myers. After a morning breakfast of bacon, eggs and potatoes, Myers consumes “four peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, three protein bars and a 10-ounce bag of Goldfish crackers” as a midmorning snack.
That’s just to tide him over till lunch!
Metta World Peace, NBA Free Agent
In October 2013, NBA problem child Metta World Peace once again proved himself to be one of the strangest athletes out there. Then with the Knicks, the New York Post interview was entertaining and revealing.
When asked what his favorite meal was, MWP responded with a single word: “Beans.” Most people wouldn’t think that beans alone constitute a meal, but Metta World Peace isn’t most people.
Drew Ott, University of Iowa
During a recent interview with ESPN, Iowa defensive lineman Drew Ott proved just how far a dude will go to win even the most minor bet. Apparently when he was younger his uncle bet him $5 he wouldn’t/couldn’t consume a raw egg. Ott showed his uncle he was not to be trifled with, choking down the egg—shell and all.
And just in case you thought he was joking, he choked down an egg—shell and all—right there on the spot.
While the shell definitely adds another level of grossness to what is already a textural nightmare (raw eggs) to consume, Ott is inexplicably unfazed by the horrifying reality. In fact, minus the shell, raw eggs have actually become a semiregular part of his diet, opting to drink them for breakfast when he’s feeling lazy.
Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live in January 2013, Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper revealed an obsession with Eggo waffles as part of his elaborate pregame ritual. A ritual that he claims includes showering seven times a day “at the field.”
“I eat Eggo waffles,” Harper said. “It has to be Eggo before the game. I mean, it’s really weird. PB and honey, I mean, I’m really superstitious.” While the waffle bit isn’t that crazy, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon is very skeptical of Harper’s shower claims.
Chad Johnson, Retired NFL Player
There’s no question that a lot of athletes have bad eating habits, often gorging themselves on copious amounts of candy and fast food just because they can. That’s certainly not a diet known for producing optimum performance levels, but the level of physical activity involved tends to keep the pounds off for most athletes.
During a 2009 episode of Hard Knocks, former NFL wide receiver (then with the Cincinnati Bengals) Chad Johnson/Ochocinco took things to another level by revealing his diet consisted of three meals a day from McDonald’s. Two years later he told the NFL to expect “nothing but McDonalds n redbull” to come up in his random drug test.
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers
In a May interview with ESPN, Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson revealed that he doesn’t eat seafood. That’s not especially weird in and of itself, but the reason he gave was definitely outside the box.
The seafood shunning is something Thompson gets from his mother, Andrea Brooks, who said plainly, “I don’t like fish because the fish eat their own poos. I don’t eat that stuff. Fish eat their own poo. So, I’m not eating fish.”
Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles
Maybe it’s because he had too much free time to obsess over things when he was rehabbing various injuries in St. Louis, but Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford developed a few pretty odd rituals/habits while playing for the St. Louis Rams. That’s in addition to a pretty serious pingpong addiction.
During a January 2011 interview with the local ESPN radio affiliate, Bradford talked about his pregame routines that date back to college. The weirdest superstition is his compulsion to only eat things in threes, including after-dinner mints and pieces of fruit on game day.
Lyoto Machida, UFC
In 2009, UFC fighter Lyoto Machida revealed his very unique style of gaining a competitive advantage over potential opponents. Keeping with a family tradition, Machida told a Brazilian fight magazine that he drinks his own urine and puts it on his hands to “toughen up the skin.”
The science behind consuming one’s own urine is suspect at best, as Vice writer Nick Gullo pointed out in June 2014. Even though it’s not toxic in moderation, there simply isn’t enough of anything in urine to suggest there’s anything measurably therapeutic about “urine therapy.”