Michigan State decathlete Ryan Talbot has a very specific diet: bring on the protein
Talbot eschews carbs in favor of meat and dairy products, which bucks conventional performance nutrition norms.
Ryan Talbot is a Michigan State graduate student, who also competes in the decathlon for the men’s track and field team. Talbot, like many other athletes, takes his diet seriously.
However, his approach may raise some eyebrows.
“I only eat meat, eggs, and butter,” Talbot said, “for daily eating habits I usually eat six eggs and half a pound of ground beef for breakfast, lunch is three half-pound burgers with a little bit of butter…more like half a stick of butter, then dinner is a steak and six eggs.”
This means Talbot consumes roughly three pounds of meat and a dozen eggs daily. No veggies, no sides, absolutely nothing else.
“Whenever I get food, I go to local farmers and buy grass-fed ground beef. I buy it in large quantities; sometimes I will buy a whole cow which is like 600 pounds of meat,” said Talbot.
Talbot’s journey in the carnivore diet originated two years ago during his junior year when he felt he was not performing to his standards. He decided the change in his diet will help him reach a higher level of success.
“Being the athlete that I am, I always want to do what I can to become the best athlete that I can be, so nutritiously I was exploring and learning about all sorts of stuff,” said Talbot.
That video started him on the path of a protein-only way of life. Talbot continued to research, watching hundreds of hours of podcasts and informational videos. His research got to the point where he knew so much that he decided to give it a shot.
“There’s so much fear that you need carbohydrates to perform as an athlete and that was the biggest thing for me, I thought I needed to eat carbs all the time,” said Talbot.
Carbohydrates are the body’s main energy source, so an athlete's mindset is that carbs are vital to have a good performance. Protein is also an energy source, but is predominantly for repairing and building cells, so most athletes consume protein for this purpose.
“I decided to go carnivore and then I started feeling really good. My hamstring injuries completely went away, except I did strain my hamstring really badly, but recovery was way faster than normal…I got better in eight days. I competed the next day and won the Jim Click Shootout decathlon, went to Big Ten’s, and won that year as well, all while not eating carbohydrates. I decided it was partially due to the carnivore diet and I have just continued doing it,” said Talbot.
Tess Piper is also a member of the track and field team. She is studying nutrition science and working towards becoming a dietitian. As a junior, she is in her third year studying how food and nutrition affect the human body.
“It's important to understand the facts when changing your diet…Cutting specific things out of your diet or adjusting how you eat can limit inflammation but it won't cure it,” Piper said, “Be mindful and cautious of the food you consume despite what you see on the internet. My concern with the carnivore diet is that people may be missing important nutrients like fiber and vitamins C and E. There is also of course the risk of long-term effects.”
The track and field team does not offer the typical carnivore diet to their athletes, so travel looks different for Talbot. While he admits it makes things a little more challenging, feeling good makes it all worth it.
“When I travel, I will bring a cooler backpack and fill it with meat, and butter and buy eggs when I get there. I bring a hot plate and a pan and cook myself food in the hotel suite,” said Talbot.
Cooking on the road gets a little tricky at times.
“There was one time I was cooking pork belly, it’s like bacon, so there was a whole lot of steam and smoke, and I thought I was going to set off the alarm and everyone would have to evacuate the building,” said Talbot.
Talbot has a different routine for actual meet days, however.
“During competition, I don’t eat any food. I usually fast and feel way better competing fast,” said Talbot.
He eats no snacks, just water and unflavored electrolytes throughout the day. When competing in a decathlon, the events are often spread out over several days, therefore it is essential that Talbot has all the nutrients stored he needs for competition well in advance.
Talbot feels the best he ever has and still believes he is getting better each day.
“It's very unconventional against all the nutrition advice I’ve been given. But more and more information comes out that all this nutritional advice is false data that was promoted for big corporations to sell their products,” said Talbot.
While he did not dive further into his conspiracy theories regarding his theory about food products, one cannot help but think that he may be onto something with his carnivore diet, at least for him. He summed up his desire to stay on this path.
“You don’t realize how bad you feel until you feel good, and I just feel so good it's not worth it to go back,” said Talbot.