For NFL lineman, it’s all about size. It’s not about speed, endurance or flexibility — although any and all of those attributes are helpful — but about the shear size of an offensive or defensive lineman. It’s about putting up a wall of mass around a quarterback to stop the equal force of mass trying to rip his head off.
David Carter is a defensive lineman. He’s got two very important jobs. The first job is on the field and that’s getting to quarterback. The second job is off the field and it’s maintain a certain size. The second job has become a full time job, ever since Carter switched to a vegan diet in 2014.
The idea to abstain from meat came after Carter watched a documentary on veganism that claimed dairy contributes to some forms of tendonitis. Carter was suffering from intense tendonitis pain at the time and was looking for any miracle cure for relief. His pain became so unmanageable he couldn’t do simple things like get out of the bathtub, let alone, compete on a football field.
“I realized I was making everything worse,” he told GQ in a profile feature. “I was feeding the tendonitis, the muscle fatigue, everything. So the next day I went vegan. The first thing I ate was a bean burger and haven’t eaten meat since.”
Within two months, all of Carter’s aches and pains were gone. Unfortunately, so was his size, dropping 40 pounds because of the diet. Weighing in at 250 pounds is fine for the average guy but not for a man looking to make an NFL roster. Carter had to adjust his diet and eating habits. Basically, he’s got to eat constantly.
It takes extra effort to maintain that kind of weight with a vegan diet, specifically 10,000 calories worth of effort, which works out to five meals a day plus four 20-ounce shakes between them. It means that Carter is eating every two hours, and eating hard. Those smoothies aren’t even a break. Instead of dairy, Carter uses cannellini beans and sunflower seeds to give them protein and body—even brightened up with fruit it’s a feat to choke them down. He starts each morning with a huge batch of the bean smoothies in his Vitamix blender (enough to total 100 grams of protein) which he divvies up for the course of the day. And on top of that, there’s grazing on homemade, probiotic sauerkraut throughout the day.
So while some athletes crave to cheat on their diet by sneaking curly fries or tiramisu, Carter just wishes he could skip a meal. But during what he calls “Operation Weight Gain” in the offseason, there’s no room to miss a single one.
“I try to eat 1.2 grams of protein per pound per day,” he says, “otherwise it’s really hard to gain weight.”
Carter’s diet consists of a ton of rice and beans and more smoothies than one man should really have to ingest in a day but it’s the price to pay for staying healthy and employed.
Check out David Carter’s vegan diet plan here.