We tend to assume that top athletes strictly adhere to healthy diets, relying on personal chefs in their homes and working with team nutritionists to ensure they eat as clean as possible—a kale smoothie here, an eggplant dish there. In reality, though, some athletes thrive no matter what they put into their bodies. Whether it’s Dwight Howard scarfing down enough candy to feed a small village and still winning Defensive MVP awards, or Justin Verlander winning the Cy Young on a steady diet of Taco Bell, certain athletes do not seem to need any “stinking vegetables” to succeed.
By now you probably know that Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has a thing for Skittles. He even signed an endorsement deal with the candy brand this past off-season. Lynch munches on the multicolored sweets on the sidelines during games, and fans throw the chewable treats into the air after he scores a touchdown.
It’s been “a thing” for Lynch ever since his mother Delisa began supplying her then 13-year-old son with Skittles before his Pop Warner games, telling him they would propel him to the end zone.
“I would give him a handful of Skittles and say, ‘Eat ’em up, baby. They’re going to make you run fast and they’re going to make you play good,” Delisa told Seahawks.com.
Perhaps it was the Skittles that powered Lynch to his first Super Bowl victory last season over the Denver Broncos.
Some refer to Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard as a “big kid,” but his love of candy and soda take that moniker to a whole new level. After meeting with a doctor as a member of the Los Angles Lakers in 2012, Howard learned that he was taking in the equivalent of 24 Hershey bars a day in candy and pop. Alarm bells went off.
“It reminded me of patients who have pre-diabetes and neurological problems because of how sugar impacts the nervous system,” Dr. Cate Shanahan, who monitored Howard that season, told CBS Sports. “That’s where I became really concerned.”
With his glucose levels dangerously high, Howard cut himself off from sweets entirely, eliminating things like, you know, the 30 pounds of Skittles the company once sent him. Since his diet change, Howard has seen his body fat drop from 6 percent to 3, as well as significantly decreasing his glucose levels. He’s also feeling as good as he ever has since his back surgery.
Mountain Dew is a strange drink. It glows green like the radioactive sludge you might find in the wreckage of a power plant explosion, but man, does it ever taste good. Caron Butler, most recently of the Milwaukee Bucks, was Doing the Dew a bit too heavily in 2009, when he admitted to drinking six 12-ounce cans per day. That’s so much caffeine and sugar that when he tried to kick the habit, he had legitimate withdrawal symptoms.
“Come 2:00 a.m., I’d wake up out of my sleep, I’d pop one open and hear the fizz sound . . . and just down it,” Butler told NBA.com. “Then I always had to have another one in the morning when I woke up. Before practice I had one too, and before games I would knock back two.”
Butler has since cut Dew out of his diet. But he was an All-Star multiple times with the Washington Wizards, so what do we know?
“We all got vices. I guess sugar is just one of mine.”
That’s what Lamar Odom told ESPN in 2011, but to call sugar and candy a vice for the former Los Angeles Lakers star is like saying the Kardashians sorta like attention. Odom had his personal assistant go grocery shopping for him, and when we say grocery shopping, we mean clearing out the sweets aisle with a shovel.
Odom admitted to sometimes eating four or five packs of Hershey’s Cookies and Cream bars per day. He said he would even wake up in the middle of the night, pop a few Skittles and then head back to sleep.
“You only live once,” Odom said. “Eat as much candy as you can eat.”
The Portland Trail Blazers point guard and STACK cover athlete used the off-season not only to train, but to step up his diet game as well. You wouldn’t guess it by looking at his physique, but Lillard loves him some Benihana.
“Benihana, that’s my biggest [vice]—steak, chicken, shrimp, garlic butter, stuff like that,” Lillard told us.“That’s my favorite thing right now. I’ve been trying to tell myself I need to cut back on it a little bit.”
Wing Stop was also a Lillard favorite.
“I love Wing Stop, too, lemon pepper wings. I just had to get rid of it. Once I noticed the change in how I felt, I said it was worth it,” Lillard told The Oregonian. Hey, when you’re named NBA Rookie of the Year and advance to the second round of the Playoffs while smashing some wings, you gotta do it, right?
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Must be nice when you can throw down some Taco Bell every night before a game like you’re back in college and it’s 2:00 a.m. That’s what Cy Young winner Justin Verlander does, hitting up the late night fast food joint each and every night before he steps on the mound for the Detroit Tigers.
“[I get the] same thing every time,” Verlander said in an interview with Conan O’Brien. “Three crunchy Taco Supremes, no tomato. [A] cheesy gordita crunch. And a Mexican pizza, no tomato.” As if subtracting the tomato does anything for the health value of what he’s chomping on.
When Chad Johnson, or Chad Ochocinco, or whatever you want to call him, was a member of the Cincinnati Bengals, he had quite a taste for McDonald’s. In fact, when the HBO show Hard Knocks came to Bengals camp in 2009, he told the cameras that he “survives on McDonald’s,” and that if you work as hard as you can in the weight room, stuffing your body with horrible food matters not. He also tweeted before submitting a drug test in 2010 that “I have randomly been selected for the drug testing policy today for the NFL, they ain’t gonna find nothing but McDonalds n’ Red Bull.” So. There’s that.