The Real-Life Diet of J.J. Watt, Who Is Always Eating
Professional athletes don’t get to the top by accident. It takes superhuman levels of time, dedication, and focus—and that includes paying attention to what they put in their bellies. In this series, GQ takes a look at what pro athletes in different sports eat on a daily basis to perform at their best. Here’s a look at the 5,000+ calorie diet of Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.
From hosting the CMT awards to eating raw egg on Jimmy Fallon (not a euphemism for anything) to going through firefighter training for Gatorade’s Beat the Heat program*, J.J. Watt is a seriously busy fella. That’s all in addition to racking up three NFL Defensive Player of the Year awards, setting the Texans franchise records for both sacks and forced fumbles, and, well, eating. A lot.
To hear him talk about it, eating might even be the toughest thing he has to do each day. “It sounds weird when you complain about having to eat so much,” he says, “but it’s like a job. I eat two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners throughout the day. It’s always eating.”
* PLUG ALERT: There’s also the J.J. Watt Foundation, which provides $2 million for athletics programs for middle schoolers.
The 6-foot-5, 289-pound defensive end day starts with about 900 calories of oatmeal and a half-dozen eggs. Then a second breakfast a few hours later with another four or five eggs, meaning he goes through nearly a carton a day. That’s Gaston levels of breakfasting.
Which makes sense, because as a defensive lineman, Watt needs a lot of mass and a lot of calories—upwards of 5,000 a day. But he’s been doing this long enough that he’s stopped counting and operates more by feel. “I’m not strict on my calorie count, I just pay attention to my body. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about nutrition and about myself, so it’s a lot more based on feel,” he says. “I stopped putting a number on it because people were analyzing it too much.”
Watt talked to GQ from his hometown of Pewaukee, WI, just after he finished a day of fireman circuit training. He was, to put it lightly, wiped. Unlike football, where he has to go through seconds-long bursts of explosive energy, firemen are expected to keep up that pace for entire minutes at time. “People assume that a football uniform translates closely to a fireman kit, but their gear is way hotter and way more restricting than ours. I’m wearing a full outfit today, helmet on, gloves on, and there’s no heat coming in or going out. You’re just sweating your ass off the whole time.”
Watt’s dad was a firefighter. And while most little kids say they want to be firefighters (or astronauts) when they grow up, Watt was too close to ever be excited. “I never liked them as a kid because I always associated them with my dad going out to fight a fire,” he says. “I was always wary of them because I didn’t want to lose my dad.”
Family is a big deal for Watt, which should make this season interesting since his brother has been drafted to the San Diego Chargers. Though they’ll never be on the field at the same time, Watt admits that they’re both relishing the rivalry. “We were extremely competitive with each other growing up. My parents knew that us pushing each other would be better than any motivation we could get out in the real world, so I think in the end it made us better and stronger.”
Not bad for a guy who once Googled the phrase “what do rich people buy?”
Oatmeal with blueberries and strawberries
Banana and apple
Two slices of wheat toast with peanut butter and banana and honey
Two slices of wheat toast with jelly
Three chicken breasts with whole wheat pasta and Italian dressing
Side of broccoli
More chicken breasts with mashed sweet potatoes
Lamb chops with whole wheat pasta
Filet with whole wheat pasta