T.J. Barnes officially retired at the end of the XFL season, bringing the curtain down on a long career with a title.
The 33-year-old spent time in the NFL with Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, and Kansas City Chiefs, to name a few. He spent time in the AAF with Atlanta Legends and with the New York Guardians, Massachusetts Pirates, and finally, Arlington Renegades in XFL. He retired once, in 2021, and came back for one last swansong. It was fitting that the veteran picked up some silverware at the end of his career, which sometimes saw him battle his weight.
In 2012, Barnes was with Georgia Tech, battling his weight even then. At 6ft 7in, and 342 pounds, he was one of the biggest guys on the team, and a voracious appetite saw him celebrating bouts of weight loss with a foot-long sub, bag of chips, and a soda. He still saw benefit from cutting pounds in college football, saying at the time, “I’m already starting to see the game slow down for me. It’s a lot easier, from me taking steps to not being as tired as everybody else in the latter part of the game. It’s helped me in all different types of aspects.”
After signing for the Jets, he was still fighting his love of food in 2014. “I love candy,” he said in a 2014 interview. “Lifesavers especially. But I needed to lose weight for my health, and because the coaches wanted me to play lighter and faster, I went on a diet and lost 25 pounds.” He credited his weight loss back then to a caveman diet – if a caveman couldn’t eat in back at the dawn of time, Barnes wasn’t allowed either.
He was back on the weight loss as recently as December 2022, revealing he weighed 420 pounds at Thanksgiving but dropped to 358 for his return with the Renegades. It’s a considerable drop, and it paid dividends as he finally got the medal his long career warranted.
Barnes isn’t alone in battling his weight. Many NFL and XFL stars constantly try to ensure they cut pounds in the off-season or avoid piling it on once they finish playing. Football players are often big chunks of meat, standing tall and bulky, but balancing that size can be difficult.
How do they do it? If you’re an aspiring player, how can you seek to keep yourself in shape, full of energy but not overweight?
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A balanced and nutrient-dense diet is essential for football players. They should always focus on consuming a variety of whole foods, including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and a range of fruits and vegetables. Good weight loss programs promote a balanced diet, but one that includes some food groups you like. As Barnes’ career wound down, he still had a ‘cheat meal’; a sugar-free Jolly Rancher slushie from Quik Trip. That’s not problematic, as every so often, eating something you enjoy can help you focus on your journey and keep you motivated.
Monitoring portion sizes also helps prevent overeating. Consuming balanced meals with appropriate portions provides the necessary energy without excessive calorie intake. Players should avoid going for seconds unless they are genuinely hungry. Eating regularly helps stabilize blood sugar levels and prevents extreme hunger, which can lead to overeating. Aiming for three balanced meals and several nutritious snacks throughout the day should always help control a player’s weight.
Football players engage in rigorous training routines that involve both cardiovascular exercises and strength training. Consistent exercise helps burn calories, build lean muscle mass, and maintain a healthy weight. Combining strength training with proper nutrition can help players maintain muscle mass while managing body weight. Muscle mass contributes to a higher resting metabolic rate, which aids in calorie burning.
However, it must not be forgotten that adequate sleep and recovery are essential for weight management. Sleep deprivation can disrupt hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism, leading to weight gain. Also, ensure a robust method of stress management, something often undervalued as a factor in weight loss. Stress can affect eating habits. Incorporating stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or mindfulness can prevent emotional eating and promote healthier choices.
Remember, individual weight management needs may vary based on factors such as position, age, metabolism, and training regimen. Consulting with team trainers, coaches, and nutrition experts ensures that players receive personalized guidance tailored to their unique requirements.
By adopting a holistic approach that combines balanced nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle adjustments, American football players can effectively control their weight and optimize their performance on the field, just as T.J. Barnes did to devastating effect this season.