Since professional sportspeople have to be in great shape, it’s reasonable to assume that they must have healthy diets. And often that’s the case – but not always. While many athletes subscribe to a disciplined intake of lean protein, fresh vegetables and complex carbohydrates, others survive on fast food, candy, and the kind of calorie intake that would be deemed insane even on Man v. Food. Although there are loads of strange diets out there, here’s a look at ten that really stand out.
10. Kerri Walsh Jennings
U.S. Olympic beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings doesn’t necessarily have a crazy diet in a conventional strict-and-healthy sporting sense, but the fact that the 35-year-old mother of three still looks as good as she does in a bikini is proof that she’s at least a little serious about what she eats. Perhaps the most surprising element of her reported diet is her breakfast favorite of frozen waffles with raw almond butter and agave syrup. Apart from that, Walsh Jennings is able to maintain her tip-top shape by eating nourishing foods like salads, snacking on Special K Bars and occasionally ordering takeout. “I really can’t cook,” she has said. “We’ve gotten really good at ordering healthy take-out.” Still, whatever the three-time Olympic gold medalist is doing, it’s definitely working.
9. Babe Ruth
Known as one of the most prolific sluggers in baseball history, Babe Ruth had a knack for smacking home runs – and had an appetite to match. His seminal career spanned 22 seasons from 1914 to 1935. And rumor has it that “the Sultan of Swat” sunk beers and guzzled hot dogs at a rate that would have put most people in hospital (or the morgue). In 2006 Ruth’s legendary diet was referenced when Philadelphia Phillies fans hoisted a banner directed at suspected steroid user and big hitter Barry Bonds when the San Francisco Giant was trying to break Ruth’s 714 lifetime home run record. The banner said it all: “Ruth did it on hot dogs & beer.” Alas, Bonds went on to break the record anyway.
8. Lamar Odom
Before he became popular tabloid fare for an altogether less wholesome alleged addiction, current NBA free agent and former reality TV star Lamar Odom was known for his insatiable appetite for candy. He routinely munched on gummy bears, Twizzlers, Lifesavers and, his candy of choice, Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme. In the 2009 NBA playoffs, Odom pulled off two incredible double-doubles in consecutive games for the Los Angeles Lakers, and he credited the sweet goodies for the energy they gave him: “It’s funny because the games I played well were the games where I ate candy for breakfast,” he said.
7. Usain Bolt
Usain Bolt loves chicken nuggets. A lot. Before setting a new 100-meter world record of 9.69 seconds at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Jamaican sprinter ate the tasty treats, along with a side of yams, because he wasn’t a fan of the local food. “I woke around 11:00 a.m. and decided to watch some TV and had some nuggets,” Bolt said of his race-day preparations. “Then I slept for a couple of hours more. Then I got some more nuggets and came to the track.” Bolt went on to break his own 100-meter world record at the 2009 Berlin World Championships, this time with a time of 9.58, and he is viewed by many as the greatest sprinter of all time. In 2012 British startup Shutl offered Bolt a 1 percent stake in the company and all the McNuggets he could ever wish for in exchange for helping the business establish a world record for the speediest e-commerce delivery. It’s unclear whether the offer also included a lifetime supply of Honey Mustard sauce.
6. Wade Boggs
Legendary Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs was a feared hitter in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but it seems pitchers shouldn’t have been the only ones who were scared of him. Boggs was so fond of chicken that he had his wife cook it for him whenever he was at home. “I noticed that I always seemed to hit best after chicken. So I started having Debbie fix it every day,” he said. Boggs also had stints with the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays towards the end of his career, but perhaps he’s even better remembered for the widely circulated tales of him routinely crushing more than 50 beers on almost every cross-country trip with his teammates. Apparently Boggs likes beer as much as chicken – and, well, they do go well together.
5. Ryan Lochte
Before he was loving being a reality TV star, American swimmer and eleven-time Olympic medal winner Ryan Lochte was simply “lovin’ it” in general. Lochte chowed down on McDonald’s for almost every single one of his meals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and somehow he still managed to win four medals, including two golds. However, while his typical breakfast in 2008 might have been “two or three McDonald’s egg McMuffins, some hash browns and maybe a chicken sandwich,” Lochte started eating healthily before the 2012 London Olympics, because he was unsatisfied with his performance in 2008. And that choice appears to have been borne out, with Lochte winning five medals this time, after kicking the fast food.
4. Dwight Freeney
Seven-time NFL Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney isn’t just a maniac when it comes to getting past offensive linemen and making important tackles. The ex-Indianapolis Colts star subscribes to Sari Mellman’s Dietary Progression, a diet based on taking and analyzing blood every few months to decide which foods are best suited to the individual’s body. The linebacker started using the diet after he found out that eating bananas was actually contributing to him experiencing full body cramps, rather than alleviating the problem, which was the opposite of what his coaches were telling him. According to Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins, Freeney’s diet is so strict that it “makes supermodels look indulgent.” Still, we can’t imagine him sashaying down a runway any time soon.
3. Novak Djokovic
The 2012 world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic gives his diet so much credit for his on-court success that he even wrote a book about it. Djokovic – whose six Grand Slam singles titles include Wimbledon 2011 and the 2013 Australian Open – penned Serve To Win: The 14-day Gluten-Free Plan for Physical and Mental Excellence in order to share the life-changing diet he switched over to in 2010. In the book, published in August 2013, the Serbian comments, “My life changed because I had begun to eat the right foods for my body, in the way that my body demanded.” Apparently, the key to a bombastic backhand is getting off gluten. Who knew?
2. Laffit Pincay, Jr.
Second on the all-time flat racing win list, Laffit Pincay, Jr. is widely regarded as one of the greatest jockeys in history. With a career spanning 35 years and a staggering 48,486 professional races under his belt, it’s no surprise to learn that Pincay has been known to show some serious dedication to his sport. However, his struggle to achieve his riding weight – over 20 pounds less than what he would weigh normally – goes far beyond conventional dedication. Pincay’s trainer recalls how on one flight, the jockey eschewed the in-flight meal in favor of a single peanut, which he proceeded to eat half of, saving the remaining half for landing. “More often it was two or three peanuts, and I probably didn’t even swallow them,” Pincay commented. Of course he didn’t actually swallow them. That would be ridiculous.
1. Dean Karnazes
Listed by Time magazine as one of 2007’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes is generally considered among the fittest men on Earth. And based on the amount of calories he can put away, that’s quite an achievement. It’s almost as impressive as his 2005 accomplishment of running 350 continuous miles in just over three days without stopping to sleep. “During one 200-mile run we kept a food log, and I consumed 28,000 calories in 46 hours and 17 minutes of running,” Karnazes said in one interview. “And I still lost five pounds!” It’s unknown how many calories Karnazes consumed in 2006, when he ran 50 marathons in every single U.S. state over 50 successive days. If our calculations are correct, he could definitely have eaten a Big Mac guilt free.
Bonus: Lyoto Machida
Remember how Rocky Balboa used to drink raw eggs before heading out to train on the streets of Philadelphia? Well apparently, fighters don’t just drink gross stuff in the movies. And then some. UFC Fighter Lyoto Machida drinks his own pee each morning as part of a family tradition passed down by his dad. “My father does that for a long time and bring it to us. People think it’s a joke,” he said. “I never said it in the United States because I don’t know how the fans will react. I drink my urine every morning like a natural medicine.” At the time of writing, though, the ex-UFC Light Heavyweight Champion is still ranked as the number two contender in his weight class, so maybe he has a point. Then again, maybe not.