A typical weekly shopping list for the Cleveland Browns looks something like this: 700 pounds of chicken, 300 pounds of salmon, 420 pounds of broccoli, 400 pounds of strawberries, 35 pounds of creamy peanut butter, and 195 gallons of water. You might want to grab an extra cart.
Each member of the 53-man roster burns between 3,000 and 6,000 calories on a typical practice day. It's Katy Meassick's job to make sure those calories are replenished in a way that boosts player performance on the field. As the team's performance dietician, Meassick attends to the very specific nutritional needs of every player on the team, paying particular attention to height, weight and position.
"They get guidance on what they need to eat for their height and weight based on their performance level," Meassick explains. "The positions are a huge part of it. DBs and wide receivers are going to cover a lot more ground than your strength and power positions like the defensive and offensive linemen, who are more about holding their ground."
For Meassick, who previously worked as director of sports nutrition at Florida State University, it's an around-the-clock job. In season, she works seven days a week, both here and on the road, overseeing every meal, snack and sip that passes through the lips of players. That includes meals on the plane, meals at the hotel, and every bite and beverage before, during and after the game.
Despite a relatively short regular season compared to basketball and baseball, the members of the Cleveland Browns are under the watchful eye of Meassick and her team nearly year-round. Players report for training camp at the end of July and aren't released until the last week of January. They're back to begin their off-season training programs by the start of April, which runs clear through the end of June.
Grown men will eat what and when they want, but professional athletes will not argue with productive results, Meassick asserts.
"We want them to be educated about what they are eating, how they are eating and why they are eating certain foods," she says. "When they see the payoff of investing in their health and performance through food, they understand that they should be focusing on that throughout the entire season, preseason and off-season as well."
The first players begin filtering into the cafeteria at the Berea training facility as early as 4:45 a.m., and the last ones hit the road around 6 or 7 p.m. In addition to meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner, there is food and drink available throughout the day. Breakfast is the biggest meal of the day, with options like egg white omelets, breakfast tacos, turkey sausage, pork sausage, pancakes and waffles, all prepared by an executive chef and staff of 10.
One of the busiest employees is the one who crews the smoothie station, preparing an average of 75 nutritious drinks per day. In addition to a cornucopia of fresh fruit and vegetables, the players have access to beneficial additives like turmeric, ginger, cayenne, bee pollen, spirulina and whey protein.
"My theory is, even if you don't feel like eating, you can drink it," says Meassick, adding that some players, especially the rookies, don't always eat breakfast. "If you eat too little, but you're outputting a lot, one of the first things to go is your immunity. We want to make sure that we are providing enough energy to help keep their immunity strong."
Meassick takes a "learning lab" approach to educating players about eating right. Most items are accompanied by a sign, flag or placard bearing the nutritional info and an infographic indicating which foods excel at providing quick energy as opposed to building muscle or boosting immunity. Barcodes are provided for those using apps like MyFitnessPal to track the foods they eat. The team is currently vegan-free, but all other preferences and allergies are accommodated.
Little is left to chance, with the performance dietician literally mapping out the placement of items at the salad bar, strategically placing foods like dark leafy greens and colorful peppers in the front row. Lunch typically includes a pasta bar and grill station serving lean proteins like salmon and chicken. Sadly, there's no creamy ranch dressing for those salads, and the so-called cream of mushroom soup is made with milk as opposed to heavy cream.
Scattered throughout the facility — near the gym, in the corridors, by the practice field — are refueling stations stocked with quick-grab items like water, fruit, protein bars, granola and even PB&J sandwiches, ensuring that players are never far from fuel.
"Essentially, we are just a bunch of little kids who need to be taken care of, and we want to be happy, and they do an incredible job with that," says punter Britton Colquitt. "The nutrition with Katy is second to none. I have been in Denver, and they had a good thing going, and this has even gone up from there. Every year since I have been here, too, it has gotten better."
Feeding the Hungry
For 20 years, the Cleveland Browns have hosted the Taste of the Browns, the principle annual fundraiser for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. In that time, the event has raised more than $2.5 million for the region's largest hunger relief organization. That translates to 10 million meals for Northeast Ohio families.
"When you think about the Cleveland Browns and what we want to mean to the community, it's really about providing a winning football team, supporting the fan base, and giving back to Northeast Ohio," says Jenner Tekancic, VP of community relations.
For the Browns organization, there is no offseason when it comes to giving back. In addition to the Taste of the Browns, there are give-back programs like Youth Football, First and Ten, and fan-driven food drives.