Carolina Panthers star Greg Olsen knows what it takes to stay healthy in the NFL.
The Pro Bowl tight end hasn’t missed a game since 2007, making him a consistent and reliable target for MVP quarterback Cam Newton. Olsen led the Panthers in receptions during the 2015 season, setting a new career high in receiving yards in the process.
Olsen’s play helped the Panthers start the season 15-0 before making a run to the Super Bowl. And while playing that deep into the postseason can sometimes make it hard for players to come back fresh the next year, that doesn’t appear to be a problem for the former Miami Hurricanes product.
For Olsen, health and longevity are the product of his commitment to pre-game preparation, nutrition, and understanding his body.
“I probably have the longest pre-game warm-up in the NFL—it's actually gotten longer over the years,” Olsen tells Men's Fitness. “I try to be pretty in tune with my body. If you play this game long enough, you're going to wake up and one day your knee is going to hurt or your back is going to hurt.” But even with that preparation, Olsen has had some help along the way: “It’s lot of communication with the training staff and the nutritionist—it’s a big part of what we do.”
Team dietician Jennifer Brunelli, M.S., R.D., L.D.N. is at the forefront of that effort, helping players stay on track with their diet and overall nutrition. Brunelli, a former All-American swimmer herself, has worked with the Panthers since 2014, and during that time the team has been using nutritional science, body composition analysis, and individualized blood testing to specifically target areas of improvement for each player on the roster.
“I'm lucky to walk into an environment where we have an athletic training staff and a strength conditioning staff who saw the need for something like this,” Brunelli says. “It just opens the doors for me that much more quickly to come in and try to help each player much as I possibly can.”
Another area of focus: hydration. The two shared their knowledge about the topic while making an appearance at Johnson C. Smith University as part of the the Gatorade Beat the Heat campaign, which helps “raise awareness among athletes, parents and coaches on how proper hydration can help reduce heat-related illnesses during athletic activity.”
Olsen and Brunelli spoke with Men’s Fitness about nutrition and diet tips for football players, the reasons you need to stay hydrated while working out, the best way to train during the offseason, and the best post-workout meals.
Read the interview with Greg Olsen on the next page >>>