Andrew Luck grew up in Europe, where he learned to love both power foods like fruits and veggies and guilty pleasures such as cheese and chocolate. As a teenager in the U.S., Luck treated nutrition like most other high schoolers, eating whatever was tasty and convenient.
It wasn't until he reached Stanford, where the football team's strength and conditioning coach gave him an in-depth education on the power of food, that Luck fully realized how much the things he put in his mouth affected the things he could do on the playing field.
"Food has a direct effect on how you feel," Luck says.
Today, Luck centers his eating on foods that keep him feeling good on and off the field. But that doesn't mean his diet is all-broccoli, all the time. The All-Pro quarterback still indulges in many of his favorite foods.
Here are three ideas you can take from the pages of Luck's nutritional playbook.
Go Big at Breakfast
When Luck was a young athlete, his morning meal was an afterthought. He says, "In high school, I would probably just eat one of those frozen waffles [before practice]. If I could go back, I'd wake up a little earlier and eat a big breakfast."
A big breakfast is a must for any athlete who wants to perform at his or her best. When you first wake up in the morning, you haven't eaten anything for roughly eight hours. Eating high-quality foods for breakfast helps your mind and body realize the day has started and shift from "sleep" mode into "activity" mode.
Now, Luck's morning meal is a bona fide feast. Typically, it includes a veggie omelet, oatmeal with yogurt and fruit, beans, bagels and potatoes. A mixture of fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources and high-quality carbs gives Luck the fuel he needs to dominate. "I think breakfast is the most important meal and it's the one I enjoy the most," he says. "I always eat a big breakfast, unless I have something really strenuous very early in the morning. In that case, I might cut it back to yogurt, muesli and fruit."
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Fill Your Plate with New Ideas
As smart as Luck is—he was the valedictorian of his high school class and he graduated with a degree in engineering from Stanford—he knows he can always learn from others. He is constantly seeking to deepen his nutrition knowledge, often borrowing ideas from other athletes in the Colts' locker room. He says, "I just talk to teammates and see what's on their plates and listen to the guys who can educate me about different foods."
Lately, Luck has been taking suggestions from Colts wide receiver Griff Whalen, one of his best friends since they were roommates at Stanford. Whalen recently switched to a strict vegan diet, a move that intrigued the ever-curious Luck.
"I have a lot of respect for how [Griff] does things," says Luck. "I don't think I could ever personally go fully vegan, but I've definitely incorporated more beans, legumes and lentils into my diet, as well as stuff like quinoa, because of how Griff eats." All those foods are phenomenal plant-based sources of protein, and they pack tons of useful nutrients like fiber.
Fish is another food that Luck consistently saw on his teammate's plates, which sparked him to include more of it in his diet. He says, "Fish was one of those foods that I felt like I could eat more of. It's not only something I enjoy eating, but I feel really good after I eat it, too."
Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and improve brain function.
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Eat What You Like
Luck pays close attention to what he puts in his body, but he also believes that eating is something you should enjoy doing. "I'm not going to try and force stuff down my throat," he says. "I hit my major food groups, get my protein and carbs, and eat foods I like."
Some of his favorites include chicken, sweet potatoes and green beans, in addition to more adventurous cuisine like Thai food—and, of course, the occasional bar of dark chocolate.
When he wants to splurge, Luck goes big with a burger. Lately, he says his favorite is the Frisco Melt, a hearty sandwich that packs a whopping 750 calories, from Steak 'N' Shake, a restaurant chain headquartered in Indianapolis. "Those things are a joy," he says.
If the QB's biggest vice is an occasional cheeseburger, Colts fans can let it slide. Luck strikes a balance between eating for fuel and for fun—a good lesson for any athlete.
Dark chocolate with 70 percent cacao or greater (meaning it contains a large amount of actual cocoa beans) has some awesome benefits. It contains antioxidants called flavonoids, which have been connected to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, improved blood flow and boosted brainpower.
Luck's Gameday Routine
Most NFL games kick off at 1 p.m., which means that Luck's pre-game meal is breakfast. He sticks to the same breakfast foods that help him perform his best throughout the week. "I've always thought, why should I do something completely different on game day? It's not what your body is used to. I practice as hard as I play, so I eat the same breakfast on game day that I do during the week," he says.
At halftime, Luck listens to his stomach. He says, "I'll go for orange slices or bananas. It's not always the same. Maybe I'll grab an energy bar too."
Once the final whistle blows, Luck makes an effort to rehydrate. He says, "I try to focus on getting rehydrated as fast as possible after a game. It just helps you feel so much better the next day. And that's where I think BODYARMOR has helped a lot."
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