The Carolina Panthers linebacker got a taste of what it’s like to play in the Super Bowl after facing off against the Denver Broncos following a successful 2015 season. The Panthers went 15-1 before losing to Peyton Manning in Super Bowl 50—and now Kuechly wants more.
Over the first four years of his career, Kuechly has established himself as one of the best defensive players in the league, winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013 and making the All-Pro team from 2013–2015. One reason Kuechly has had such success in the league is due to his commitment to nutrition—eating healthy and making sure he’s putting the right things in his body.
“To keep up with my workouts, I have to get a lot of calories, but they have to be clean,” says Kuechly. “This includes a lot good carbs and lean protein. For me, it’s all about combining these two, and then adding some vegetables.”
That's one reason why Kuechly partnered with Eat the Bear, a clean and lean sports nutrition company. The Panthers star is the face of ETB and he also will have input on new products. “Supplementation is also important for me, especially with products that I know are beneficial and clean, that’s why I partnered Eat the Bear,” Kuechly said. “They have everything from a pre-workout to post-workout. As a professional athlete, I have to make sure that what I’m putting in my body is going to be beneficial and worry-free. Eat the Bear is transparent, pure and it works.”
Kuechly’s go-to proteins include grilled chicken, steak, and fish—especially salmon—while his favorite carb options include sweet potatoes, quinoa, and rice. The Panthers star also uses protein from Eat the Bear to make shakes—and gives us the recipe for his favorite pre and post-workout formulas.
The Panthers star gave Men’s Fitness a look at his daily diet, and what keeps him fueled up to be successful on the field.
Oatmeal - Breakfast
To start off the day, Kuechly kicks off breakfast with oatmeal made with slow cooked oats, which helps him recharge after a long day on the field.
Oatmeal is a great source of fiber and zinc, which helps with digestion and muscle growth.
To sweeten up the taste of the oatmeal, Kuechly will drip some honey into the dish. On top of giving it a taste boost, honey also helps with digestion and can even help with athletic performance—just ask the Ancient Olympians who used it.
Adding some fruit to your oatmeal is a great way to make it taste better, but it also has some nice health benefits. Berries have antioxidants, are high in fiber, and can make you feel full. They can also be a great snack when you’re craving something through the day.
Kuechly partners his oatmeal with some peanut butter and banana toast made with whole wheat bread. The whole wheat slices offer fiber, a little calcium, and minerals and vitamins. It'll also make you feel fuller for longer, to keep your energy up while working out.
Make sure you check the label before buying—100% whole wheat or whole grain is the way to go.
The NFL linebacker slices up some banana and adds it to the peanut butter spread on the toast. The yellow fruit is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, as well as potassium. It's also low in sodium and cholesterol.
As we mentioned before, the peanut butter adds healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and potassium to the mix.
When it comes to meat, Kuechly likes to stick with lean proteins, including grilled chicken. The linebacker loads up two slices of grilled chicken on whole wheat toast, giving him a nice dose of protein, as well as minerals. Grilled chicken is also low in fat, cholesterol, and calories, and can be a very filling meal.
Kuechly adds lettuce and sliced tomato to finish off his sandwich, providing a nice health boost to the meal. Using Romaine lettuce will give you a wide range of benefits, including carbs, dietary fiber, protein, as well as vitamins and minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, and zinc. The tomato slices add some flavor and provides a solid amount of vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin E, and it also can help lower your cholesterol.
Kuechly will work in a protein shake between meals and after he puts in a big workout—it helps him build muscle, and also gives him nutrients to help him recover. Kuechly's protein of choice is Eat the Bear (ETBFit.com), a clean and lean sports nutrition company that he partnered with during summer 2016. The company offers a range of flavors, including whey isolates in Cinnamon Bun, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Peanut butter, chocolate, and vanilla.
Kuechly's favorite shake includes:
1 Scoop ETB Cinnamon Bun Whey Isolate 1 Medium Banana 1 Cup Almond Milk Handful of ice 1 Tablespoon Natural Peanut Butter Chopped Pecans - 1 Tablespoon
"They have everything from a pre-workout to post-workout," Kuechly says about ETB. "As a professional athlete, I have to make sure that what I’m putting in my body is going to be beneficial and worry-free. Eat the Bear is transparent, pure and it works."
Kuechly uses ETB Uncaged 2.5 Pre-Workout formula, which has zero calories and zero sugar.
After a big session, the linebacker uses BCAA Powder, which has amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin D, niacin, and zinc.
Salmon is a lean protein that’s filled with numerous benefits for your body, including Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Salmon is also low in saturated fat and can give you a great all-around meal when paired with vegetables.
When he’s not noshing on salmon or chicken, Kuechly will serve up a nice piece of steak. A lean slice of beef—like sirloin tip side, top round, bottom round, and eye of round—includes a high amount of protein, zinc, vitamin B12, as well as selenium and iron, without too much saturated fat.
Kuechly likes to partner his protein-rich dinner with some greens—in this case, a spinach salad mixed with some nuts, berries, and other vegetables. Spinach has lutein (which helps with your eyesight), iron, and a big serving of vitamin K. Spinach has virtually zero cholesterol and fat, and it also has high amounts of fiber, zinc, protein, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Adding a handful of nuts and berries to the salad can add some flavor and a health boost. Nuts are a great way to help build muscle—cashews and almonds offer high quality calories—and they also contain protein, fiber, and healthy fats.
This complete protein is an option for Kuechly when he eats lunch and dinner. Quinoa is a solid source of iron, and also includes amino acids, fiber, vitamin E, and minerals like magnesium, zinc, copper, calcium, and potassium.
Kuechly has turned himself into one of the best defensive players in football and that's because he focuses on his nutrition, conditioning, and training. Kuechly fuels his training by eating clean and Eat the Bear helps him do just that. “Working out and pushing your body to its limits isn’t easy, and you’re going to have days where it seems very difficult," Kuechly says. "But if you put in the work, and give your body the clean nutrients it needs to recover and get stronger, then the good days will outweigh the bad ones. That’s the essence of this video. We want to empower people to ‘stay hungry,’ and continue pushing towards their goals.”