A Sports Nutritionist Reacts to NFL Player DK Metcalf’s Diet of Three Bags of Candy and One Meal per Day

A performance dietician weighs in on how Metcalf's sugar-fueled diet sustains him on the gridiron.

Featured in the March 24, 2022 episode of KG Certified, hosted by basketball Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, on the SHOWTIME Basketball YouTube channel was Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf. In the episode, the topic of Metcalf’s diet came up. According to the football player, he eats three bags of candy, drinks one coffee, and only consumes one full meal per day.

Metcalf has been in the NFL since 2019. He’s played three seasons at the time of this article’s publication and posted some elite-level stats. According to NFL.com, in 49 career games, Metcalf has racked up 3,170 receiving yards via 216 receptions with 29 touchdowns. That’s an average of 4.4 receptions and 64.7 yards per game. Given that a processed sugar-fueled diet is not what many would expect from an athlete of Metcalf’s caliber, BarBend reached out to Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Sports Performance Dietitian Gianna Masi for a professional opinion on whether or not Metcalf is leaving potential gains on the table.

Check out Masi’s take on Metcalf’s diet below, but first, here is Metcalf’s full interview with Garnett. The discussion of Metcalf’s candy diet starts at 26:25:

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Old Diet vs. New Diet?

Before diving into the specifics of his current diet, previous interviews with Metcalf suggest that his diet used to be closer to what might be considered “normal” for a professional athlete. In Metcalf’s 2019 interview with GQ, Metcalf confirmed that he employed a private chef who cooked him low-carb meals with “a lot of proteins and veggies.” In was seems antithetical to his candy-heavy diet today, Metcalf steered clear of processed sugar:

I try not to eat a lot of fats and oils, and I stay away from carbs and sugars.

Even in the earlier days of Metcalf’s career, he still found ways to curb his sweet tooth through caramel ice lattes from Starbucks. It seems he has allowed more leniency to his sweet tooth as three bags of candy per day — Life Savers and Skittles gummies mentioned explicitly — is a lot by most peoples’ standards to eat every day of the week.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Registered Dietitian Reacts

BarBend reached out to Registered Dietitian & Sports Performance Dietitian and founder of Gritty Nutrition, Gianna Masi, RDN, CISSN, about her take on Metcalf’s choice of daily nutrition.

It’s no secret Metcalf is in excellent shape. He stands six-foot-four-inches tall and is aesthetically shredded at 235 pounds. Masi suggests it’s “highly unlikely” that Metcalf can maintain a diet of candy and coffee year-round and “especially with in-season travel and…food access during training.”

Given how much of a professional footballer’s day-to-day life involves a lot of training, Masi is fairly certain Metcalf is consuming “adequate carbohydrates,” which will prevent his on-field performance from dropping — even if the fiber and protein (i.e., macronutrient and micronutrient) amount is questionable. 

There’s always going to be a spectrum of quality that an athlete is willing to try, from bananas to Sour Patch Kids. But those are all fast absorbing carbs for a pre/during or post-workout option.

While Masi isn’t opposed to athletes eating candy if that’s what they enjoy, she recommends limiting simple sugars in favor of complex carbohydrates like vegetables.

“I don’t think the amount of sugar or carbs is what would leave gains or performance on the table,” Masi says. “But I do think the lack of total dietary intake throughout the day on a consistent basis could leave him feeling less than optimal.”

Masi mentioned concerns about a potentially weakened immune system response when not eating enough. This can lead to more frequent sicknesses like colds to being more susceptible to injuries.

If someone is under-fueling, I want to fix that immediately.

Metcalf being as chiseled as he is from an aesthetic standpoint is not surprising to Masi. Metcalf’s daily activity is likely so high in volume and intensity that at age 24, “his body composition may not be hindered from this style of eating right now.”

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Could Anyone Eat Like Metcalf

Unless you’re also a professional athlete, Masi says someone in the “general population or lower-level athlete would not do well recreating this diet.” Without an equivalent training regime to Metcalf to burn through those simple sugars, the diet “leaves a ton of nutrition on the table.”

There’s not enough fiber or total protein being eaten to prioritize muscle-building and satiation. Eating this way can also drop energy, impact the GI tract to be less efficient, and lead to bloating.

Eating three bags of candy might also do a number on one’s dental health. Metcalf’s high-volume intake of candy is likely sustainable because of how much he trains — he mentioned to Garnett that he trains twice before consuming any food. On the flip side, his ability to train at a higher intensity for so long is doable, in part, because of how many carbs he’s consuming.

Having candy in moderation every so often is still likely the best course of action. It’s best to leave the daily mass consumption of candy to the pro athlete sprinting down the football field.

Featured image: @espn on Instagram