Everyone knows that pro athletes have to eat a lot to maintain their size, muscle tone, and ability levels. But we didn’t realize that being an NFL player also means taking up a second career as a competitive eater.

In an interview with SI’s Emily Kaplan, former San Diego Chargers lineman Nick Hardwick revealed everything he used to eat to maintain his 6’4″, 300-pound NFL physique—as well as how he dropped 85 pounds in the 5 months right after his retirement. The amounts are insane, and are slightly exhausting just thinking about.

Here’s where Hardwick is at now:

Saturday morning workouts in OB. #doesnttakeagym #familyfun #ourritual #frisbee #pushups #theworldisyourgym

A video posted by Nick Hardwick (@happyhealthyhardwick) on

And here’s what Hardwick told Kaplan that he used to do every single day.

Hardwick’s NFL Diet


  • A 600-calorie protein shake every morning during his 4:45 am drive to the Chargers’ facility
  • A bar with 20 grams of protein
  • A 300-calorie Gatorade protein shake post-workout
  • A large smoothie “with everything imaginable in it” after his post-workout shower
  • 5 eggs, sausage, and 32 ounces of whole milk to go with the smoothie
  • A bag of mixed nuts as a snack while watching film
  • A 700-calorie protein shake as a snack during morning meetings
  • A big salad with as much protein as possible for lunch. Also lots of bread on the side. Then more meetings, and going home.


  • Dinner was a normal meal of meat, potatoes, and vegetables—with normal portion sizes. Hardwick says, “I didn’t want to drag my wife down with me.”
  • Post-dinner snack, 90 minutes later: Cereal poured over an entire 32 ounce tub of Greek yogurt
  • Pre-bedtime snack: A pint of Ben & Jerry’s, every night. Hardwick’s favorite was Karamel Sutra, which packs 1,040 calories and 104 grams of sugar.

Back in his college days, Hardwick was already bulking up—just not quite to this degree.

Hardwick’s Big 10 Diet

  • A gigantic Jimmy John’s sub for breakfast
  • Another gigantic Jimmy John’s sub for lunch
  • Two pounds of ground beef and multiple tortillas for dinner
  • A 600-700 calorie protein shake before bed
  • A second 600-700 calorie protein shake at 3 am

Of these diets, Hardwick told Kaplan, “I’m not naturally a big person. So it took a lot of effort for me to sustain that weight.”

Hardwick’s Post-NFL Diet

After Hardwick had a neck injury early in the 2014 season and ended up on injured reserve, he knew retirement was in the cards. Then he made a decision. He told Kaplan,

“I had been overweight nearly my entire life, and I knew I could get skinny. I wanted a magazine six-pack, to look like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. That’s never gonna happen, but I might as well try.”

Hardwick knew he could control his eating and exercise habits any way he wanted, since he’d been doing exactly that for years. After some trial and error, he arrived at what he calls a “Paleo-ish” diet for himself, which he says involves “Whole foods and as much organic as reasonably possible without being a pain in the ass.”

Kaplan writes, “Many meals now look like this: a giant salad topped with a lean meat, two tablespoons of almond butter, mustard, oil, balsamic vinaigrette and hot sauce.”

Hardwick also does lots of yoga, and his weight has normalized at 225. Currently, he wants to help other NFL players through their transitions into retirement. As he told Kaplan,

It’s hard to get to guys. The NFL doesn’t do a good job of it. It’s up to us on our own.”

You can read Kaplan’s whole interview with Hardwick to learn more details about his various food and training regimes.

[via SI]