The Real-Life Diet of Shannon Sharpe, Who Wakes Up at 3 a.m. to Outwork Guys Half His Age

Christopher Cason
·6 min read

After a 14-year Hall of Fame NFL career, Shannon Sharpe says he's eased off the gas a little. He eats for fun now, whereas it used to be all about "survival." He's not working out with quite the same intensity. But the cohost of Fox Sports 1's sports-debate show Skip and Shannon: Undisputed is in pretty remarkable shape for a guy in his 50s. And, folks, he's not afraid to show it off with an Instagram mirror selfie.

It’s all part of an intense drive, a work ethic he's said he gained from working in southeast Georgia's tobacco fields as a kid. And if ever there were a day when skipping a workout entered his mind, Sharpe says his cohost, Skip Bayless, would never let him hear the end of it.

Sharpe talked to GQ about the root of his dedication to remaining in the best shape (it's not the selfies), his fueling routine, and how he's adapted his fitness routine to the pandemic.

For Real-Life Diet, GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and everyone in between about their diet, exercise routines, and pursuit of wellness. Keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.

GQ: After retirement, was it important to maintain your training?

Shannon Sharpe: Yes, most definitely. As an athlete, I had conditioned myself to stay on a strict schedule, whether that’s for work or even finding just a few minutes to relax. So I kept that. I still give 100% to everything I do, from being on air, working with Skip, to working hard in the gym. I’m about quality of life, not quantity of life.

How have your workouts changed compared to how you worked out during your playing days?

My workout routine isn’t quite as rigorous as when I played, but I try to get exercise at least three or four times each week. And a couple days a week, I try to get two workouts in. I’ll do free weights and then allow myself to get some rest, hang with my dogs, and eat. Then I’ll come back and do CrossFit. I still like to feel strong, so I’ll do bench, incline, and dumbbells. I also like the movement and the cardiovascular workout I get with CrossFit, so I’ll do kettlebells, row machine, bikes. I don’t want to get bored or stagnant, so I’m always trying to mix things up and confuse my body.

Has the pandemic affected your program much?

I made sure my daily routine wasn’t impacted too much by the pandemic. I still wake up early, get my exercise in, and still eat fairly healthy—though I’m not as strict as I once was. At first, I had to figure out how to adjust my workout routine when all of the gyms closed. But I found a way. I rented and ordered my own equipment at home and made it work. I knew I had to get a workout in one way or another, because I need that release.

I’ve also been working with Tru Niagen for more than two years, and I’ve been hooked. I’ve seen my energy levels go up, and I’m able to work out with the same intensity that I once did. I’m even crushing guys in their 20s and 30s at the gym. I’ve seen my body react in a positive way. It has definitely given me that extra "oomph" I was missing before. Once I started taking it and seeing the results, it has been a staple in my life.

It sounds like you really solved it. What advice would you give to people who are trying to keep motivated during the pandemic?

Try to do something active every day, whether that’s a virtual HIIT workout or just a long walk outside. There are so many options if you don’t have access to gym equipment. It’s just about finding the motivation to get off the couch, and once you find a workout you like, stick with it, because consistency is key.

What does a typical day look like?

I wake up at 3 a.m., and I’m out the door by 3:30 for a 4 a.m. production meeting at Fox Studios. We go live at 6:30 a.m., and the show comes down at 9 a.m. After I walk the dogs, I’ll lift in the morning, have some lunch, take a nap, and prep for the next day’s show. Sometimes I’ll squeeze in a CrossFit session in the afternoon. Wednesdays I shoot segments for Fox Bet, and Thursdays we record my podcast: Club Shay Shay.

Breakfast varies: egg whites, oatmeal, and fresh fruit. My lunch is usually some grilled chicken, bison meatballs, brown rice, and steamed vegetables. Dinner would look something like turkey, pork, a salad or steamed vegetables—typically broccoli.

How has your eating changed since retirement?

I’m really not as structured as I once was, and I try to enjoy myself a little more. But as I start to age, I understand that I don’t have the advantage of youth on my side, and I don’t have the luxury of exercising for hours a day, so I definitely monitor what I eat—chicken, lean protein, vegetables, egg whites.

That still sounds very clean. Are there any indulgent foods you enjoy?

I’m a big breakfast guy. I love pancakes and French toast. If I’m going for something savory, I’ll have chicken tenders. I eat a little bit more for enjoyment now—as opposed to when I played, when I was eating for survival.

You're in remarkable shape for someone in his 50s. But how impressive is it to see Skip still committed to his fitness in his late 60s?

Skip has this energy you can’t help but match. It’s great to have someone like that to really motivate you to keep going. We’re both extremely competitive—I can’t even imagine the grief Skip would give me if I missed a workout. This is something we’re both still very passionate about.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Real Life Diet

For years, the veteran actor has eaten an extremely clean diet, with little sugar and no processed foods. The specifics these days come down to what time of year it is—and what character he's playing.

Originally Appeared on GQ