After a touch game, it is not unusual for the San Diego Chargers' 6-foot-5 defensive tackle, Louis Kelcher, to eat two or three lobsters, or polish off six pork chops. Of course, he wears a size 52 extra-long coat and weighs 280 pounds.
Heavyweight champion Leon Spinks has his own chef, who whips up everything from eggs and kosher sausages to hamhocks, hominy grits and Heineken beer mixed with raw egg.
Muhammad Ali, on advice from Dick Gregory, quaffs fresh fruit and vegetable juices and takes vitamin B-15.
And 68 Boston Marathon winner Ambrose Burfoot is a vegetarian and confessed "ice cream addict."
The rigors of sport demand mammoth amounts of energy and the diets of the athletes are based on a constant search for the best-tasting foods to supply it.
What do athletes eat?
Two dozen players from a wide variety of sports interviewed during a survey of athletes' diets, disclosed that they consume everything from the indescribably deleterious candy bar, the "Reggie," to the latest fads from the health food store, bee pollen and vitamin B-15.
And although they championed favorites such as steak, pasta, ice cream and orange juice, their diets cover a field wide enough to indicate that there are a lot of ideas kicking around about how to eat for success.
In an effort to get an edge on opponents, some players follow high carbohydrate diets and an approach called "carbohydrate loading," some prefer high protein diets; and others gear up right before a game with tablespoons of honey, or sugar cubes soaked with cognac for a short-lived but guarnateed energy high.
It's all a question of finding out "what makes you tick," said the Cincinnati Reds' star pitcher, Tom Seaver.
What makes most of the athletes tick is nutrious eating - enough calories to meet peak energy demands, good quality protein at each meal and adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals.
The different types of diets they follow testify to the fact that good nutrition allows for tremendous variation in taste. Seaver prefers protein in the form of red meat and fish. The Cosmos' Georgio Chinaglia drinks lots of whole milk, and Burfoot shuns meat, prefering eggs and vegetarian staples like beans and grains. They're all getting good quality protein even though they're all eating differently.
Similarly, Ali's fresh fruit and vegetable juices are potent sources of vitamins and minerals. But so are the whole fresh fruits that the Los Angeles Lakers' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Chinaglia eat, and the salads that Seaver and the New York Mets' Jerry Koosman prefer.
And although many of the athletes, including marathon runner James Fixx and Koosman, don't drink milk, they get calcium in their diets from foods like cheese, ice cream and such dark green vegetables as collards and turnip greens.
Many of the athletes, however, break their nutritional winning streaks with junk foods like the sodas and candy bars Yankee physician Maurice Cowen says are popular in the locker room, and the Dunkin' Doughnuts that Fixx has a passion for. These sugar-infested morsels rot teeth, add calories and "steal" B-vitamins from the body for their metabolism, while contributing little or none of their own.
Preferences aside, the latest trend in athletic diets is to follow a high carbohydrate regimen, specifically a controversial practice called "carbohydrate loading" developed by Swedish physiologist Eris Hultman.
It begins with a vigorous workout the first day to deplete the body of its stored carbohydrate (glycogen), followed by three days of a high protein, low carbohydrate diet to maintain the low glycogen level. Then another three-day diet shifts the balance by adding carbohydrate foods and reducing the protein so glycogen reserves are rebuilt. At the end of the week, some proponents claim the muscles can hold up to 300 percent more glycogen than usual. With greater energy reserves, endurance increases and performance may improve.
Burfoot says it does, and if anybody understands stamina, the 6-foot, 140-pound champion 26-miler does.
Hultman's carbohydrate loading is ideally suited to runners such as Burfoot and cross-country ski racers whose success depends on stamina and who do not face nightly or even weekly competitions. Still, there are football and basketball players who load up with carbohydrate foods the day before a game and say it seems to help.
Basketball's 16-year veteran, former Boston Celtic John Havlicek, the Cosmos' superstar Chinaglia, former Olympic cross-country ski racer Bob Gray and marathon runner and author Fixx all agree that variations of carbohydrate loading works for them.
For others it doesn't.
"I've tried it," said Seaver, and "it didn't work for me . . . the night before I pitch I have some red meat or some fish, vegetables and a salad."
What emerges is the fact that there's no one diet that works best for everybody. So all the physicians really worry about is over-indulgence.
Here's a look at some of the diets of the athletes:
Ambrose Burfoot, 1968 Boston Marathon winner: "I've been a vegetarian (lacto-ovo) for the last 12 years . . . originally for ethical reasons, now more for health, economic and political reasons." Eats a lot of pasta, rice with tofu, fried and steamed vegetables. Eats as many eggs as he wants: "I don't worry about egg yolks." During carbohydrate loading eats Italian food for three nights in a row and "loves it." "I don't eat much the morning of a race other than tea, toast and juice . . . I'm also an ice cream addict . . . I take great delight in gluttony because I run it off."
Georgio Chinaglia, Cosmos forward: Duri ng training eats a high protein diet with lots of steak and salad. The day before a game eats foods like pancakes and pasta. Drinks lots of water and Gatorade. In the winter, before a game may have sugar cubes with cognac, spoonfuls of honey or handsful of nuts. "I eat a hearty breakfast." Sometimes has eggs, bacon, bread and butter and lots of milk. Then has a small lunch. Eats raw fruits and vegetables. "I have a bowl of fruit for a snack at 5 . . . I don't have vitamins: you don't need them if you eat the right food."
Carol Blazejowski, Montclair State, all-time leading women's college basketball scorer: Loves greens, eats steak when she can afford it, doesn't eat fish. Drinks lots of fruit juices, especially grapefruit and orange, but admits she drinks "too much soda." Takes vitamins C and E.
Muhammad Ali, former heavyweight champion: During training for his last fight, completely cut out sugar and salt. Drank lots of fruit and vegetable juices and, for a short time, tried Vitamin B-15. Takes other vitamins, doesn't drink alcoholic beverages. Before a fight eats an early meal, usually a steak - according to public relations consultant Harold Conrad of Top Rank.
Leon Spinks, heavyweight champion: Prefers kosher meat whenever possible. During training at Kutchers ate beef, veal, chicken and fish, kosher sausages and "kosher bacon strips," but also likes hamhocks and ribs. For breakfast eats oatmeal or farina and fruit juices. Doesn't drink coffee. Rarely has desert other than fruit. Avoids soda and candy. Likes Heineken beer mixed with raw egg in late evening as a "relaxer." Also drinks Budweiser, grape juice and orange juice. Takes multivitamins, vitimin B-6, B-complex and vitimin C with rosehips - according to public relations representative Chet Cummings at Top Rank.
Jimmy Connors, tennis player: Eats a "sensible" diet, lots of meat, salads, cheese, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. Drinks a lot of orange juice and tries to keep diet low in fat. Believes in the body healing itself and follows a simple, common-sense pattern of eating - according to mother Gloria Connors.
James Fixx, marathon runner and author of "The Complete Book of Running": "I just love junk food . . . I could sit down right now and eat 12 Dunkin' Doughnuts . . . when I first got interested in running, I used to be very fat . . . now I stick to nicely balanced meals, lots of raw vegetables and fresh fruit . . . I don't drink milk, I don't find it satisfying . . . I eat about three eggs a year . . . I tried bee pollen for a while. It's supposed to increase the intensity with which you train. I didn't notice any difference and eventually forgot to keep taking it, I get revenously hungry if I don't eat enough carbohydrates . . . before a race I eat pasta and bread . . . 12 hours before a race it doesn't matter what you eat."
Paula Sperber Carter, bowler, two-time winner of U.S. Open: "For breakfast I usually have a protein drink made by the Shackley Co., along with their vitamins . . . B-complex, E, calcium and C. No matter what I eat the rest of the day I know I'm getting what I need . . . I don't eat much red meat and try not to use products made with white flour . . . I say away from salt and sugar . . . I don't drink or smoke . . . if I need extra energy, I have some more protein drinks in the afternoon."
Tom Seaver, Cincinnati Reds pitcher: "The night before I pitch I have some red meat or fish, vegetables and a salad . . . I eat lots of raw fruits and vegetabls and take multi-vitamins and vitamin E . . . I take salt tablets periodically . . . I follow the same diet all year long and have been at 208 pounds for eight years."
Richard Todd, New York Jets quarterback: "I love junk food . . . I'm living by myself so I just open up cans and eat out of them . . . I do try to eat the right things; my mother is a nurse. I generally eat a lot of meat and potatoes. I usually have one big meal a day . . . I don't take vitamins: if you eat right you get enough vitamins. Before a game, I'll just have coffee or fruit juice . . . after a game I drink a lot of fluids, including beer."
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Los Angeles Lakers center: Follows Islamic dietary laws. "I eat a balanced diet with foods from all food groups . . . sometimes I take multivitamins . . . I use honey instead of sugar . . . I don't like vegetables, but I eat a lot of fruit . . . I have a tendency to lose weight , rather than gain.
John Havlicek, former Boston Celtic: "I eat a lot . . . all foods except breads and pastries . . . I have bread only with sandwiches. My best meals are Italian food, especially pasta and vegetables . . . I eat all meats, but mostly chicken, veal and fish. I have steak only occasionally now . . . I don't follow my collegiate diet of steak, baked potato, salad, tea and honey anymore. Basically before a game I followed a high carbohydrate diet." Likes fruit or ice cream for dessert . . . drank beer during training . . . hard liquor wasn't allowed . . . takes one-a-day type vitamin pills.
Louie Kelcher San Diego Chargers defensive tackle: "I just love to eat. I eat whatever I feel like. I try to eat a little more sensibly when training gets closer. I avoid fatty foods if I gain weight . . . I have to watch my intake of fluids . . . I hate Gatorade, it makes me more thirsty."