Not shaving their beards for the entirety of the play-offs, wearing the same clothing or failing to wash certain pieces of clothing, doing the exact same thing in the morning on game days… athletes are certainly no strangers to superstitions when it comes to their performance. While they certainly train hard and definitely put in the hours practising and preparing, many athletes also have certain quirks or rituals that they do before a game. One of the most universal is the pre-game meal.
Every athlete needs to eat before a game to fuel their body for the intense exertion that awaits them. However, there is a lot of variety in the selections that players make for their pre-game meals. Part of it is practical – every athlete’s body is different and every athlete knows what he or she responds to best. Some may really go to town on carbohydrates, others may need a heavy dose of protein – whatever works, they tend to note it and stick to it.
Some athletes follow a general formula for their pre-game meals, such as having some carbohydrates in the form of rice or pasta, some lean protein like chicken, and some type of vegetables. They may mix it up when it comes to exactly what, but they don’t deviate from a certain set formula. Other athletes take it to another level and eat the exact same thing for their pre-game meals, regardless of what time it is or where they are. Whether their pre-game meal came into being because they simply love the food, or because they found it fuelled their performance the best, the athletes on this list are very particular about their pre-game meals. Here is a list of 15 athletes with the top strange pre-game meals.
15 Peyton Manning – Chicken, Pasta With Marinara Sauce, Baked Potato, Broccoli, Gatorade
Peyton Manning is one of the greatest quarterbacks to play in the NFL, so what he’s choosing as his pre-game meal obviously works extremely well for him. His choice of meal isn’t that strange in content – it contains lean meat in the form of two pieces of grilled chicken, a healthy dose of carbohydrates in the bowl of pasta with marinara sauce and the baked potato, some vegetables in his broccoli side, and electrolytes in his beverage choice of Gatorade. The strange thing is that he eats the exact same meal before every game – whether its morning, noon, or night.
14 Paul Pierce – Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Small forward Paul Pierce currently plays for the Washington Wizards, but he spent over a decade with the Boston Celtics. He is a ten-time NBA All-Star and even has an NBA Championship to his name. Obviously, his pre-game meal of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich works for him. Another quirk? It isn’t just a ‘sometime before the game’ meal’ - he has to eat the sandwich precisely 55 minutes before the game. Whatever works.
13 Brian Urlacher – Two Chocolate Chip Cookies
Though he is retired now, Brian Urlacher spent his entire NFL career playing as a linebacker for the Chicago Bears. A monster of a defensive player who spent his time on the field steamrolling opponents must have loaded up on protein before his games, right? Wrong. Urlacher opted out of the typical savoury carb and protein dish that many athletes favour, and instead chose to prepare for every game with a pre-game meal of chocolate chip cookies. Not just any amount, though – exactly two chocolate chip cookies. Whether it was to satisfy his sweet tooth or give himself a sugar boost, it seemed to work for him. Urlacher, in the tradition of many retired athletes, is now an analyst (specifically, for Fox Sports 1.)
12 Claude Giroux – Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Giroux, captain of the Philadelphia Flyers, sticks to a pre-game food habit that first developed in his Canadian childhood. His mother used to give young Claude grilled cheese sandwiches before hockey games, and the habit has stuck. Giroux still favours grilled cheese sandwiches and supposedly cannot play without having consumed one as a pre-game meal. The quirky superstition has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon, spawning a Facebook group entitled “Claude Giroux’s pregame Grilled Cheese Sandwich.”
11 Derek Jeter – Pancakes and An Omelette
Derek Jeter will be retiring this year, at the age of 40, from his long and illustrious athletic career. He is a fourteen time All-Star, five time World Series champion, and has been captain of the New York Yankees since 2003. He’s also apparently a big fan of breakfast food – his pre-game meal of choice is pancakes and an omelette. The protein and carb packed meal seems to have been the perfect fuel for the iconic shortstop and one can only wonder if he’ll continue to be a breakfast food lover in retirement as well.
10 Kerri Walsh Jennings – Almond Butter and Honey Sandwiches
Kerri Walsh Jennings is an American volleyball player who, alongside partner Misty May-Treanor, won gold at 2004, 2008, and 2012 Summer Olympics for beach volleyball. Her pre-game meal of choice is as light and beachy as she is. Rather than the typical peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that several athletes seem to favor, this volleyball pro opts for the healthy almond butter and honey sandwich to give her energy for matches.
9 Bryce Harper – Eggo Waffles
Bryce Harper, outfielder for the Washington Nationals, takes superstitious pre-game meals to another level. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Harper spoke about his superstitious habit of seven pre-game showers and his pre-game waffles. While they may be a bit lacking in protein, waffles certainly provide a dose of carbohydrates to give any ball player energy. The weird thing about Harper’s pre-game meal is not just that they’re waffles, but that they have to be specifically Eggo brand waffles. No name is not an option for this baseball player.
8 Wayne Gretzky – Four Hot Dogs With Mustard and Onions
The Great One had a lot of rituals and superstitious habits that were well documented. Some of his pre-game rituals varied over the years, though one in particular is notorious. His pre-game meal of choice for a long time was four hot dogs with mustard and onions. He didn’t select this strange pre-game meal purposefully – story has it, he ate the meal before one game where he performed incredibly (and if you’re Gretzky, you probably set the bar pretty high for yourself). After that, it was his go-to for years and years.
7 Chad Johnson – McDonald’s
While many athletes are fueling their bodies with lean proteins and whole grain carbohydrates, this guy takes a page out of a different book – he fuels his muscled frame with… McDonald’s. While his workout regime likely contributes to his lack of a typical junk food addict’s body, it’s still surprising that Johnson manages to stay in great shape while scarfing down McDonald’s for countless meals a day, including his important pre-game meal. He advocates eating whatever you want as long as you work out – while he’s still in fighting shape, his arteries may not agree with his pre-game meal of choice for years to come.
6 Wade Boggs – Chicken
Third baseman and twelve-time All Star Wade Boggs is a man of many superstitions. He had a veritable stable of habits and rituals he regularly performed in order to ensure his success on the field. His food-related superstition? Quite simply, chicken. Fried, baked, breaded, grilled… the preparation wasn’t important for Boggs, just that he have some sort of chicken as his pre-game meal. His habit was so notorious that he earned the nickname “Chicken Man,” and he even published a cookbook in 1984 entitled Fowl Tips: My Favorite Chicken Recipes.
5 Sidney Crosby – Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Crosby, current captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, seems to have a child-like palette when it comes to pre-game meals. Rather than chicken and pasta or something similar, he chooses a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. And it can’t be assembled in just any order, or with any bread that’s at hand. It has to be the exact same brands, and it has to be prepared in the same order (peanut butter first? Jelly first? Who knows).
4 LeBron James – Grilled Pineapple and Salmon
Having spent some time with the Miami Heat, basketball superstar LeBron James is back to his home state to play with the Cleveland Cavaliers. One wonders what impact it’ll have on his somewhat tropical pre-game meal of choice. Before each game, James gets his personal chef to prepare grilled pineapple and salmon. It’s a meal full of nutrients and it obviously fuels James well, as his career is absolutely thriving.
3 Sam Bradford – Food in 3s
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford doesn’t have a specific food he eats for his pre-game meals. He does, however, have a specific number in mind when he decides what to eat on game days – three. Whether it be three slices of pineapple, three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or three lone pieces of broccoli, Bradford eats everything in his pre-game meal in sets of three.
2 Justin Verlander – Taco Bell
Justin Verlander might be better known as Kate Upton’s boyfriend, but he’s also a talented pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Like a few other athletes on this list, Verlander opts for a pre-game meal that’s more junk food than nourishing nutrients. He spoke with late night host Conan O’Brien about his pre-game meal and revealed it in detail: every single night before a game he orders Taco Bell. What’s his order? Three crunchy taco supremes, no tomato, a cheesy gordita crunch, and a Mexican pizza, again with no tomato. Maybe he’ll get a sponsorship out of the revelation. More likely, indigestion.
1 Laffit Pincay Jr. – A Single Peanut
Most athletes are encouraged to feed themselves with monster meals in order to sustain their muscles and help refuel their bodies after gruelling games and training sessions. Jockeys, who are encouraged to stay compact and petite, likely have a different approach to nutrition as they struggle to remain as small as possible. Pincay Jr. had a staggering 9,530 wins under his belt. What’s the secret to his success? Apparently, before every race, he would eat a single peanut. Just one. Now that he’s retired, perhaps he can allow himself a full handful.