Having started more than 110 consecutive NFL games over the past eight seasons, Philip Rivers is one of the league’s most durable players. Part of what keeps the 31-year-old San Diego Chargers QB on the field is his desire to compete—which dates back to his days at Athens High School in Athens, Ala. “In a lot of ways, as a high school athlete I was very much the same as I am now,” Rivers says. “Same passion, same fire, same enthusiasm.”
Another thing that keeps him out there every Sunday? Smarter nutrition.
How is your eating different today than it was in high school?
Growing up, you eat fast food or whatever you want and then just go play. When you grow older, you realize you gotta tighten up. We spend all this time training in the weight room, on the practice field, and watching film. You have to do the same with your diet. A healthy diet is part of your routine as an athlete. It’s part of what gives you the best chance to go out and play well.
What do you eat during the season?
During the season, I’m old fashioned, like a caveman—just meats and veggies. I hydrate with Gatorade and water during practice. There are times when you can relax a little bit and eat more of what you enjoy, but usually you stick to the plan.
When you do splurge, what is your favorite food?
I like a lot, but I have to go with my mom’s pork chops and ’kraut. Pork chops, sauerkraut, onions, maybe a few home fries—but not to too many [laughs]. But that’s a big one. That’s a birthday meal.
What about before games—what do you eat then?
A little pasta from our team’s pasta bar. That’s kinda the Saturday pre-game ritual.
What advice do you have for athletes who want to make it to the next level?
I could give the boring answer about sacrifice, hard work, dedication, and all that, but really, you just need to have a plan and stick to it. Every level—from high school to college to the pros—has challenges. And whenever you reach a new level, you have to start at square one, earning the trust, respect and credibility of your coaches and peers. But remember: You obviously had to do something right to get to where you are now. You might have to turn it up a notch, but stick with it.
Rivers’ Saturday Meal
Although Rivers says he goes light on carbs most of the time, the Chargers’ Saturday menu includes lots of high-power carb options—and for good reason. “We always try to increase the carbs before the game,” says Karen Freeman, MS, RD, CSSD, the team’s nutrition consultant. “They’re the primary fuel for performance. There’s not a single player on the roster who can get away with eating less than 500 grams of carbs per day.”
Here’s what you’ll find at San Diego’s team dinner:
Salad Bar. Full of vitamins and minerals, vegetables are always good options. Go light on the dressing.
Fruit Bar. Another source of simple carbs, along with potent, disease-fighting and anti-inflammatory vitamins.
Pasta Station. A tasty, easy way to add carbs. “Pre-game meals are meant to be low in fiber, so [white] pasta works,” says Freeman.
Main Courses. They include lean cuts of steak, chicken and fish. Protein is essential to athletes, helping to maintain, repair and rebuild muscle tissue.
Gatorade Thirst Quencher and Prime Energy Chews. Players use them on game day to stay hydrated and maintain their energy levels. “Gatorade taken in-game can be very helpful,” Freeman says.
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