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Falcons' Julio Jones finds 'clean' diet is his key to staying on field

Falcons' Julio Jones finds 'clean' diet is his key to staying on field
From ESPN - November 20, 2017

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Julio Jones' fuel used to come packaged as a cinnamon-swirled pastry loaded with sugar.

The Atlanta Falcons' All-Pro wide receiver often snacked on sweets as a rookie in 2011. Back then, he did not pay much mind to what he consumed on a daily basis because he figured nothing could slow him down.

"Honey Buns, that was my go-to," Jones said. "I mean, when I first came into the league, I was a young kid eating everything."

How times have changed.

You wo not catch Jones devouring a doughnut or candy bar these days. You wo not see him out carving into a steak or biting into a cheeseburger, either. He has completely changed his diet, a process that started during his second year, thanks to the influence of a former teammate.

"Just hanging out with Tony Gonzalez here, he kind of helped me," Jones said of the future Hall of Fame tight end. "Tony stayed away from everything. He did not eat meats, no beef, no pork, or things like that. I started incorporating that into my diet. I do not eat fried stuff. I dont eat red meats. And now with stuff like sugar, I do not crave it."

In his seventh season, Jones, 28, believes a stricter diet, plus nine or 10 hours of sleep per night, is the reason he's able to recover faster from the nagging injuries that seem to be a byproduct of his explosive playing style. This season alone, he has appeared on the injury report with back, hip flexor and ankle injuries but has not missed a game despite being held out or limited during practices.

One would think an athlete of Jones' caliber would spend his offseason time in the weight room chiseling his body for the rigors of the season. The 6-foot-3, 229-pound Jones insists he does not even lift weights unless required to in-season.

"I do not have an offseason workout regimen," Jones said. "I do not lift weights. I do not run. I do not do anything. I let my body rest. I just eat good. I actually eat great.

"To be able to play at a high level, I feel like my turnaround is great, and I can recover quicker, and I think a big part of it has to do with the way I eat."

How strictly does Jones follow his diet? Just listen to his philosophy about seafood:

"I always make sure, with fish, that it's wild-caught and not farm-raised," said Jones, who has an agreement with assistant equipment manager Kenny Osuwah to help him track down the best seafood in cities on the road. "And I have gone organic for the last three, four years. I always tell my mom and my family, 'Listen, if it cost $6 extra to get the organic stuff, get it.' Id rather save my health for $6.

"You have got to take care of yourself, man. There's a lot of stuff going around here nowadays with cancer and hormones and things like that they are putting in a lot of foods. You have got to be real careful and stay as healthy as possible."

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan certainly notices the Gonzalez influence on Jones diet.

"I dont see him eating Honey Buns anymore," Ryan said with a laugh. "He takes it pretty seriously. Hes very healthy. After games, he sits next to me on the plane, and so Ill see him eating fish and stuff like that. He keeps it really clean. Hes just a pros pro.

"[Gonzalez] definitely influenced me, too. Having played with him, how passionate he was about nutrition and taking care of himself, but also how productive he was at the age that he was playing and how many years he had played [17]. I think all of us, as younger players at that time, were like, `Man, if he's doing this to play that long and stay at that level, it might be a pretty good idea.'"

Ryan, 32, has altered his diet some himself, cutting down on sugar. The reigning MVP hasnt missed a game since December 2009.

"Everything I do is trying to keep inflammation out of the body," Ryan said. "I dont eat much sugar or take in much sugar anymore, which is sad because its pretty tasty."

Listen to the chef

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