Let's face it: no matter how hard you train, you'll never have the physique of even the laziest NFL player. But if your goal is to get in the same ballpark-or just, you know, in great shape-it's not just the work you put in at the gym, but also what you put into your body.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, that means nutritional supplements like Eat the Bear. Kuechly recently signed on as pitchman and a member of the board of directors for the company that produces a line of protein and physical performance products. A week out from the start of training camp, we talked to Kuechly about his fitness routine, his thoughts on the Super Bowl loss last year, Roger Goodell, and the risks of playing football.
ESQ: Obviously, the average person can't do the same amount of training that you guys do, but are there things from your routine that people can use for themselves?
Luke Kuechly: Of course. It's important to balance a total-body routine so you can stay balanced. If you push, you've got to pull. That's how we approach it with the guys we work with-they're going to set up a program that is a total body program that allows you to be explosive in certain spots and build strength.
What's a common mistake the average guy makes?
Nutrition and fluids play a big part in what you're doing. You can work as hard as you want inside a facility, and your program can be great, but if you don't balance it with a quality nutrient plan, you're going to have some issues. The group that we partnered with, Eat the Bear, is part of that. You can jump in and get a good workout, and after, you're putting stuff in your body that's clean and productive for you: protein, pre- and post-workout supplements. No matter how hard you work in here, it's also what you do when you're not in here.
Do you eat clean? And what's your thing when you let yourself have a treat?
My thing is, if you're going to put stuff in your body, it's going to be beneficial. Clean carbs, complex carbs, good proteins, a balanced diet. It's difficult to do it on a consistent basis, but it's pretty straightforward: fish, chicken, lean red meat, vegetables, fruits, complex carbs. The hardest part is putting on the work. But I'm living on the edge a little bit-I'm an ice-cream-and-pizza guy.
Obviously, you guys had a big disappointment last year. How do you work yourself to start over from square one? Is that still in the back of your mind?
If you look on the season, I wouldn't say it was a disappointment. If you look at the last game, it was disappointing, but what we did during the year was a special thing. But that's in the past. You can learn a lot from it, take the positives and negatives, but you gotta understand the only way to get back to where we were is to start from the bottom. You can't expect what happened last season will happen again.
"If you push, you've got to pull."
Who's the best defensive player in the NFL?
Right now, it's pretty straightforward that it's J.J. Watt. That dude's a stud. He does a lot of good things; you can line him up anywhere and he can play ball. It's a clear-cut deal right now.
Who are you least excited to tackle when they're coming at you with the ball?
We play the Vikings this year and Adrian Peterson… I wouldn't say "least excited," but the biggest challenge. He's been playing for a long time at a high level. He's tenacious, he plays hard, and you respect how hard he plays. The game is important to him, and look at his career: He's a five-plus yards-per-carry guy, and you don't see a lot of those guys over a nine-, 10-year period. He's one of those guys when you got the game on your schedule, you better make sure you're ready to go.
We're hearing a lot more lately about health concerns for players. Some are retiring at a young age. Is that something that you think about?
Not really. I play the game and I understand what's going to happen; you get banged up. But you signed up for it. I think the NFL has done a great job of putting stuff in place that keeps guys from putting themselves in any additional harm, if that's the right way to put it. I had a concussion earlier this year, and the protocol everyone hears about, the step-by-step process I was put through, I thought was perfect. They handled it well during the game, after the game. The guys in the training room did an excellent job. There are inherent risks playing football, but I think the guys understand it, and the guys not willing to take the risk, who are retiring, that's fine. But the rest of the guys understand what it can do to you, and it seems like they're OK with it.
There have also been people criticizing the commissioner. What kind of job do you think he's done in general?
He's got a very tough job. It's difficult for him to make both sides happy. He's got two sides pulling on him, the players and the owners, and he's got to make tough decisions. He's doing the best with what he's got.
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