Power Players

The meal NFL star Lamar Jackson always eats before a big game

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - NOVEMBER 17: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts after throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Mark Andrews #89 of the Baltimore Ravens (not pictured) against the Houston Texans during the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 17, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson must be doing something right.

Last season, which was only his second year with the league, the 23-year-old was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player. Jackson is the second player in NFL history to receive unanimous votes for the prestigious title (with fellow quarterback Tom Brady being the other in 2010).

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - NOVEMBER 03: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens and quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talk after the Ravens defeated the Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium on November 3, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)
Todd Olszewski

While Jackson doesn't credit his success to any single habit, he has been eating the same pre-game meal since he was a teenager because he believes it helps him focus.

"Shrimp Alfredo, that's my meal before the game," Jackson tells CNBC Make It. 

Jackson says the tradition started in high school in Boynton Beach, Florida, when his team would have pasta nights before every Friday night game.

"They say [pasta] helps your brain," Jackson says.

"I feel like I go out with a level head and I can think" after eating carbohydrates, he says.

Indeed, carbohydrates are the body's preferred energy source, according to Torey Armul, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They provide quick fuel that's easily digestible. Many endurance athletes and bodybuilders "carb up" before a competition to boost performance.

Whatever the reason, the typically Southern dish (which has about 1150 calories, 71 grams of carbs, 40 grams of protein and 70 grams fat per two-cup serving), seems to work well for Jackson. In 2016, Jackson won the Heisman Trophy

"I wouldn't call it a good luck meal but I guess it is," Jackson says.

The 6-foot-2-inch, 212-pound quarterback also says his yoga and Pilates practices keep him mentally tough during the football season, and they've been helping as he self-quarantines at home in Baltimore during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"It makes life go better. It makes your days better," Jackson says. "[The workouts] relax your muscles and your mind. It lets your mind breathe."

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