The Real-Life Diet of Cleveland Browns Defensive End Myles Garrett, Who Pulls Out the Stops for Cheat Breakfasts

Photograph: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

When it comes to physical fitness, there is no off-season for Myles Garrett. The Cleveland Browns defensive end uses his time away from football to travel and immerse himself in new cultures, but he’s still working out five days a week and employing a team of professionals for body maintenance, meal prepping, and even blood work to gather biometric data on whether he’s getting the necessary nutrients to perform at the highest level.

GQ caught up with the four-time Pro Bowler (and noted basketball fan) to discuss why he’s always trying new things in training and some of the things he invests in to make sure he’s at his best on and off the field.

GQDid you get a chance to hoop much this past offseason?

Myles Garrett: I think I’ve scaled back a little bit this [last] offseason. With so much travel, I haven’t been able to find a hoop. Back in the States, and when I’ve got the opportunity, I like to go and put some shots up for sure.

How often are you working out?

I try to make sure I work out at least five times a week, whether I’m in season or out of season. I think that’s just part of taking care of yourself, maintaining a good shape and a good routine. I try to stay on a good diet and eat things that are appropriate. Of course, you have some days where you have to treat yourself. All things are good in moderation. Most people know what they’re supposed to eat and in what volume. It’s just a matter of having that discipline and commitment to the plan you set forth for the goals that you have.

What are you having when you want to treat yourself?

I love pizza, maybe some crab legs. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, though. So some waffles, French toast or pancakes and biscuits. Just having the whole assortment and just going after it. That’s my cheat meal. I don’t have cheat days. It will be a huge breakfast and then I’ll dial it down for dinner.

For most guys that enter the pros, there’s a trial-and-error period in how they should eat. Was this the case for you?

I think I outworked my diet for a time. In college and my first couple of years in the pros, I didn’t have anyone telling me particularly what to eat. But I worked hard enough where my metabolism and the calories I was burning allowed me to stay in really good shape. I think over the last three of four years, I’ve had people I’ve brought in that have helped me in a big way in telling what to eat, and how much, and putting me on a plan and routine so that I can give my body what it needs to produce at an optimal level instead of fighting against what I’m putting in it. It’s not like I eat terribly but I definitely gave myself more cheat days earlier because my body would burn through it.

What are you usually eating throughout the day?

I’m going to have a glass of water in the morning, a banana, finish a Gatorlyte, and go work out. I’ll have a smoothie and then I’ll get home and shower. I’ll have an omelet, fruit, maybe some toast, orange juice, and more water. For lunch, I’ll usually just have a snack. It’s probably some fruit, some pretzels, or a nutrition bar. Dinner is usually some chicken or some type of fish with potatoes, corn, green beans, or couscous. It’s something light like that because I don’t want to go to sleep on a heavy meal. I’ll make sure to have water with the last meal. Very rarely is there a late-night snack.

You have also implemented MMA training in recent years. What is the level of intensity of one of those sessions?

We usually just do standing up. That ground-and-pound life is not particularly for me. I can see how it could be useful, but I like to keep that in moderation. I did it this offseason as well. I think it is important because of the hand-eye coordination, being light on your feet, being able to switch stances, and the reaction time of having guys throwing hands at you on the football field—trying to block, trying to get you to react and you have to react accordingly and be able to deflect or get even with them or get past them.

How important is it to try different things with training to keep the body guessing?

You have to provide different stimuli to the body so that if it ever gets in a compromised position, it’s not absolutely new to your body because you’ve been in those waters and you’re not just getting there for the first time and your body doesn’t know how to react—so it reacts with either a sprain, you pull something, or God forbid, something worse. Being able to try those new activities or sports, it allows my body to be able to adapt and adjust to them. My mainstays—football conditioning, on-the-field activities, working out—that’s what my body is accustomed to and that’s what allows me to try those stimuli every now and then.

I think more guys should try more activities, so they don’t get in those bad positions and have those bad injuries. I think we should also stay more active down the stretch of the season. I know coaches like to dial it back a little to take care of their guys, but I also think that’s one of the reasons guys get hurt—because their body has become a bit too relaxed.

While you do have the resources of the team, what are some things you’re spending money on to make sure your body is operating optimally?

Personal trainer, nutritionist, physical therapist, a chef, getting consultations from doctors and doing tests on my blood and my other functions—just to make sure everything is working properly and I’m digesting everything properly. I’ll see if I need to dial something back or ramp something up that I’m eating or not eating. I think all those things are important and you need to be in the right situation to have all of those things. As an NFL player, you should have a chef to make sure you’re getting the right meals and nutrients you should. The rest is usually provided. The team will usually have someone who does massages or will work on you at the facility. A personal trainer isn’t mandatory because you can work with the coaches in the off time. I think having those things available at any time—whether you’re traveling or whatever—to have that luxury of using those resources at any given moment is a benefit.

What are some of your favorite activities for recovery and training?

Recently, I’ve gotten into Pilates. I like that for staying limber and flexible. It’s a lot of core work as well. As much as you have to be flexible, you have to be able to use your core more efficiently. It’s not just about what you see on the outside because you can have abs and be terrible at Pilates. It’s because there are a lot of smaller muscles that you have to activate and continue to use. You have to be able to hold those positions, stay in them, and be powerful in that stance.

I think that translates very well for any kind of athlete. I do yoga every now and then. Hot and cold tubs are something I think are important in trying to do before the workday—getting in the sauna, getting good rest. I think everyone has a different level of sleep. Everyone is in a certain range, but everyone has their own optimal level and you have to know that for yourself. I make sure I use the Normatec [compression massager] and check in to the training room every now and then in case I have any bumps and bruises.

What are some of the things you’re doing before kickoff?

I usually wake up and I’m drinking a bottle of water and some Gatorlyte. My physiotherapist comes over and we start working on our game-day routine. We go through stretches and activations. He usually brings a smoothie so I’ll down that while I’m there or when I’m headed to the stadium. They usually have fruit waiting at the facility for us and I’ll eat some of that while drinking water to get fueled up. I’ll relax, put on some tunes, and stretch for a little bit. Maybe an hour before we go out there, I have a routine I go through with one of the coaches. I’ll get taped up and get my pads and headband on.

I’ll head to the tunnel, and we’ll go out for the first time. I try to stay light and go through my get-offs and change of direction. We’re doing extensions, getting off of blocks. We’ll usually go against the o-lineman about two to three times—go through some run and pass blocks. We then go to 11 on 11 and go through a couple of plays to get a feel of the flow of the game. We get off the ball a little bit to make sure we’re on sides and make sure we’re reacting well. We go through field goal blocks and field goals.

One of the leaders usually has a speech for the team after that. Get back in the locker room, throw the headphones on, and get ready for those last 20 minutes before kickoff. I’ll put on a video and whether it’s Jordan, Kobe, LT, Reggie, DT, it’s about trying to get in that mindset to get out there and just give my all and go and win.

What are you doing to recover after a game?

Recovery is usually some cherry juice, Gatorade, and some water. I’m propping my legs up and got the Normatec on. Maybe some ice before or after that. I’m watching the next opponent that we have. I’m trying to get on it early to see what their tendencies are. It’s about trying to get ahead. Hopefully, I have a meal prep sitting in the fridge for me. I’ll have that or a sandwich with some water. I think right after the game, most of us are wired until about 11 pm and it’s like a light switch goes off. I’ll probably fall asleep right there with the Normatec and ice on. I’ll wake up the next morning and we’re going to get some recovery in—stretches and a recovery lift at the facility.

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