"Some days it can feel like all I'm doing is eating," jokes the Houston Texans star.

By Sonal Dutt
February 05, 2019 06:00 AM
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

For NFL star J.J. Watt, eating is just part of the job. Correction: Eating a lot is just part of the job.

“I try not to complain about having to eat so much food all day,” says the Houston Texans’ star defensive end, who spoke to PEOPLE while in Atlanta for Super Bowl 53 week. “We’re pushing our bodies hard so putting the right fuel into my body is an important element of my training but, yeah, it’s really not as fun as people think it would be.”

During the football season, Watt’s supersized diet includes multiple breakfasts, lunches and dinners throughout the day, which can add up to a dozen eggs, six chicken breasts and several pounds of vegetables. “Some days it can feel like all I’m doing is eating,” jokes Watt, 29, who can take in up to a reported 9,000 calories a day, according to GQ—although he chooses not to discuss the actual calorie count. “It’s all about giving my body the tools it needs to perform at a high level.”

Watt also says his off-season routine and diet has taken on a slightly more relaxed pace—relatively speaking. “I wake up with my dogs early in the morning and then go into the facility for about five hours or so to get my treatment done, get my training done, and get my nutrition all squared away,” says Watt, who recently added puppies Tex and Finley to his family. “At about noon every day, I’m done so I go home and try take care of any business. But then I just relax because that’s the main key for this time—getting my body back, and making sure it feels good.”

Hydration has also become an important part of his daily regimen—whether he’s on the field or not. “I’ve learned so much about hydration and I can tell when my body isn’t getting what it needs,” says Watt, who created a series of funny videos for Gatorade’s “Beat the Heat” campaign last year—starring his NFL player brothers Derek and T.J., and father John—encouraging young athletes to stay hydrated. “Drinks like Gatorade Zero really help me in the off-season because it doesn’t have any sugar but it still has all the electrolytes I need,” says Watt, a spokesperson for the sports drink company. “In the season, especially when I’m going really hard, I need the sugar, I need to be able to recover. But now in the offseason, I can do without the sugar.”

Don’t think, though, that it’s all work and no play for Watt—who relishes going off the diet for special occasions or a much-needed cheat day. “My girlfriend [soccer player Kealia Ohai] and I are planning a trip to New York and I’m excited about that because we’re planning to just walk around and eat at all the great restaurants,” says Watt. “We’re really big bagel sandwich people.”

Nutrition wasn’t top of mind when the three athletic Watt children were growing up in Pewaukee, Wisc. Recently on Twitter, a fan asked Watt about the foods he and his brothers ate while growing up. His response: “Haha it was pretty intense,” he wrote. “Lots of Hot Pockets, Jack’s Frozen Pizzas, Tyson Buffalo Chicken Strips, Red Baron Breakfast Pizzas, Minute Maid Berry Punch & of course plenty of milk. (In addition to the standards of spaghetti, mashed potatoes, steaks when possible, pork chops, etc).”

Another big priority for Watt during the off-season is to continue his work to help families affected by the devastation left by Hurricane Harvey. The star’s Justin J. Watt Foundation raised and distributed $41.6 million to those affected between 2017 and August 2018, according to the NFL.