Health & Fitness | August 16, 2021 1:15 pm

Chad Ochocinco’s In-Season Diet Was Absolutely Insane

The menu included McDonald's, fried chicken and lots of frosting

chad johnson diet
Body by macaroni and cheese.
Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

In a recent episode of the I AM Athlete Podcast, a weekly, unscripted show hosted by former NFL players Chad Ochocinco, Brandon Marshall, Fred Taylor and Channing Crowder, Ochocino revealed his playing-days diet to guest Cam Newton. It’s an adventure:

  • Breakfast: McDonald’s hotcakes with sausage, sausage McMuffin and a large orange juice
  • Snack: Pop Tarts (strawberry frosted) and six boiled eggs
  • Lunch: Bahama Breeze curry chicken pasta, extra chicken and no aparagus
  • Dinner: Three legs of fried chicken, candied yams, macaroni and cheese, sweet water cornbread, and a slice of chocolate cake

Unsurprisingly, Newton struggled to take Ochocinco’s “meal prep” seriously, and collapsed into laughter after the erstwhile Cincinnati Bengal specified that the chocolate cake should be “chocolate frosting, yellow cake.” Making the interchange all the more hilarious? Newton is an on-the-record vegan (after years as a pescatarian), and like many players throughout the league these days, is obsessive about what he puts in his body.

Ochocinco sounds obsessive too; he’s just clearly a bit more concerned with flavor than nutrition. This is — to put it mildly — an absolutely batshit daily menu for a professional athlete. But especially for a successful professional athlete, who spent 10 years in the NFL and, at one point, didn’t miss a game for six years. Keep in mind: the average wide receiver spends just 2.81 years playing professionally. Not to mention, Ochocinco last played in 2011 — the majority of his career occurred before the NFL overhauled its rules surrounding hits on “defenseless” receivers. That frosting-fueled body needed to withstand some serious wear and tear.

We can’t know for sure how much of this is a podcast bit (the show is selling T-shirts printed with “Ocho Vs. Science”), but it’s possible that Ochocinco, an otherworldly talent long known to have diabolical discipline in the weight room, just figured out a way to sweat himself into football shape while still indulging on salt, sugar and fat. The sheer amount of calories actually would help him put on muscle — a concept known as “dirty bulking.” And there is no one-size-fits-all diet. Ochocinco could’ve placebo’d himself into thinking that his body ran better on heavy foods. Consider: despite the recent wave of plant-based athletes (including the first overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, Cade Cunningham), some pros still feel more comfortable with relying on meat as their primary protein source.

Should that meat be sausage McMuffins and fried chicken? Probably not. Ochocinco managed to stay on the field for much of his career, but it’s possible that he could’ve been even more dominant if he’d mixed in a couple vegetables. After all, the last quarterback who threw passes to Ochocinco — a guy who reportedly eats 80% vegetables and would melt into a puddle if he touched a Pop Tart — is still in the league a decade later.