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Top 5 Athlete Diets: Wade Boggs's Chicken-a-Day, Kenyan Ugali + Steve Nash's Nuts

Wheaties may be the breakfast of champions, but plenty of athletes don't swear by dry flakes for their daily sustenance. Lakers forward Ron Artest used to drink Hennessey at half-time. His teamate Lamar Odom likes jelly beans and gummy bears. Former Yankees slugger Babe Ruth once inhaled 24 hot dogs between games of a double-header.

Sometimes athletes' dietary predilections may be a bit suspect. They like McDonald's and, because they burn 10,000 calories a day, they rationalize hauling home a backpack filled with Big Macs after practice. Often they're superstitious and eat the same thing before big games. But sometimes, shockingly, they are smart, even obsessive, about what they put into their bodies. Even without the prodding of an insistent trainer, many athletes make choices that, although offensive to the chicken wing-gnawing hedonist lurking within the average food writer and sports fan, go a long way towards providing a heavily taxed body with the fuel it requires.

To put it all in context, we've drawn up a list of some of the more eccentric consumption habits we've heard associated with well-known sports figures. Turn the page for our Top 5 Athlete Diets. And if Ryan Braun (the Brewers slugger was born in Mission Hills) secretly lives on cassoulet or cherry pies, let us know.

Chicken, whole.
Chicken, whole.
artizone/flickr

5. Wade Boggs: Slide an "i" in there before the "s" and you've got "Boggis," the handle of the plump, mustachioed chicken farmer villain in Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox. That's very fitting. A sharp-eyed batter who plunked out singles at a steady pace over his 18 years of professional base-ballin' (mostly with the Red Sox), Boggs prefaced each contest with chicken -- a whole one, to be exact, frequently seasoned with lemon.

Grape juice.
Grape juice.
Ian Muttoo/flickr

4. Dwight Freeney: According to a February 2010 issue of Sports Illustrated, this defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts drinks only grape juice, tea, and water, and has a habit of bringing his own ingredients to restaurants and telling servers how he wants them prepared -- invariably without oil, pepper, or garlic. He adheres to Sari Mellman's Dietary Progression, a protocol that relies on regular blood analysis to highlight foods that will bolster his strength, speed, and endurance. We'd sacrifice a millisecond off our forty time to enjoy the odd tangle of fried calamari, but that's just us.

A Phelps-sized omelet.
A Phelps-sized omelet.
dbsofi/flickr

3. Michael Phelps: During the 2008 Olympics, the swimmer was taking down a buffet table's worth of depressed-dude-food on a daily basis: Fried egg sandwiches (as many as three, all topped with cheese, onions, and mayo), a pint of coffee, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three pieces of sugar-coated French toast, two pounds of pasta, two ham-and-cheese sandwiches on white bread, three chocolate chip pancakes, and a whole large pizza.

 

Ugali with a lot of garnish.
Ugali with a lot of garnish.
Bacardi/flickr

2. Kenyan runners: Long-distance runners from the Kalenjin tribe of Kenya win marathons the way the Globetrotters take care of the Washington Generals. While not by any stretch the primary secret to their consistent success, the Kenyans' diet does raise a few eyebrows. According to a study done by, among other participants, the International Centre for East African Running Science based in Glasgow, Scotland, Kenyan runners notably take no supplements and consume most of their calories in vegetable form -- cabbage, beans, potatoes, rice, and a cornmeal paste called ugali. Interestingly, sugar accounted for nearly 20% of the profiled runners' calorie intake.

Pistachio nuts.
Pistachio nuts.
NutsinBulk/flickr

1. Steve Nash: Based on his Twitter spews, the Phoenix Suns guard has a good sense of humor. However he gets quite serious about his diet. Most people use Facebook as a forum for sharing baby pictures, griping about work, and creeping on people. Nash's recent posts make him come off like a jock-y Jane Brody:

People always ask about my diet. A large portion of my diet consists of nuts and seeds. They're a really nutritious snack. When eaten raw or after being sprouted they contain some vitamins and trace minerals while also high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats. I try to avoid roasted and salted nuts, although, sea salt can be beneficial. My favorites are almonds, cashews, and pistachio's... I need to be very careful about carbohydrates in my diet. I have cut out white rice and pasta, flour, and cane sugar because of the refining process where many essential nutrients and vitamins are lost and increases the risk for heart disease. I do eat plenty of complex carbs. Complex carbs are high in fiber, stabilize blood sugar, and help you feel fuller longer. Complex carbohydrates are a more sustainable energy source, unlike simple carbohydrates that are released in bursts that can cause insulin spikes. My favorites are sweet potato, beans and lentils, and quinoa.

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