We all fall prey to superstitions like not walking under a ladder or opening an umbrella indoors. But they are probably not as exacting as the ones professional athletes abide by — especially when it comes to food on game days. If you ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich before playing the best game of your life, you had better eat that same sandwich before every single game. Perhaps that's what Paul Pierce is thinking every time he eats a PB&J exactly 55 minutes before he jumps on court.
It makes sense because food is what fuels our body and gives athletes the energy they need to dominate their opponents. These athletes know what works for them and what doesn’t — and they stick to it. For instance, 13-time All-Star Alex Rodriguez starts his day with a bowl of fresh fruit, while Peyton Manning's multi-course meal filled with lean protein and a variety of starches likely keeps his energy up throughout the game.
Sometimes, however, the line between performance-enhancing eats and pure superstition becomes a little fuzzy. Some of the kookier rituals? Wade Boggs had to have chicken in any form, even fried, before playing, and Lamar Odom credits a sugar rush from all the candy he eats for his on-court endurance.
What's also interesting is the shift from somewhat unhealthy choices in the past (like Michael Jordan's steak and potato dinners) to relatively healthy and nutritious meals like LeBron James' choice of salmon and grilled pineapple prepared by his personal chef. From baked potatoes to Cinnamon Toast Crunch, these 12 athletes have developed their own extraordinary recipes for success.
Want to see more of athletes' game day quirks and habits? Then click here to see the Athletes' Game Day Meals Slideshow.
Additional research by Angela Hu, Brian Gutterman, and Cody Liebman.