Bryan Snyder is ready. Armed with a stack of files bearing the names of every player, the Broncos’ sports dietician begins the most important month of his year on July 23. That’s the day before training camp opens in Englewood, Colo. From then until Aug. 15, Snyder is in charge of feeding about 95 mouths. That’s four meals and two snacks each day for 24 days for men ranging from wispy (180‑pound receiver Emmanuel Sanders) to tractor-sized (355-pound tackle Terrance Knighton).
“Our biggest problem, typically, is that guys have not maintained their eating habits,” says Snyder, 27, pointing out that most players struggle to keep weight on rather than off. “We’re not the food police. It really is dependent on the players to kind of monitor themselves.”
Training-camp nutrition begins with a meeting; Snyder sits down with each team member and outlines a personalized meal plan. He tells him exactly how many calories he needs anywhere from 2,500 to 7,000—and specifies the intake of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Snyder also escorts most players through the buffet and notes portion sizes, pointing out the difference between what 200 calories looks like and 2,000. After the meeting every Bronco walks away with two detailed sets of instructions, one for days off and one for training days.
The Broncos’ Formula: 2 protein + 1+ vegetables + Starch + 2 Pastas = Nutritious Meal
A typical meal at camp is simple. The team provides at least two protein options: one lean (cod, tilapia, salmon), the other medium- to high-fat (tri-tip, T-bone steak). There will be at least one vegetable, a healthy starch (such as grilled sweet potato) and two pasta options. The focus is on protein and complex carbohydrates, and the same goes for snacks, which are usually healthy sandwiches, shrimp cocktails, fruit kabobs or chicken.
“These are the most active three weeks that the players have,” says Snyder, a registered dietician who is entering his fifth season in his current role. “They’re burning a lot of energy. What we don’t want is a guy ending up without enough carbohydrates, so he loses weight and muscle mass.”
When the Broncos break camp, the quality of eating will go up. Denver is building a state-of-the-art kitchen at the team facility so players can get made-to-order meals instead of grazing at a buffet, a trend that’s spreading throughout the league. Snyder is looking forward to the increased control—yet another edge for a team that already has so many.