Travis Kelce getting pumped on the football field

How NFL Tight End Travis Kelce Optimizes for Back-to-Back Super Bowls

The Chiefs tight end has stayed in ready-for-anything shape for more than 10 years.

Swifties would argue that tying down Taylor was Travis Kelce’s biggest achievement this year. But we’d like to point out he also secured the Chiefs back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2023 and 2024.

A lot goes into forging the speed, strength, agility, and grit you see from Kelce on gameday. Tight ends essentially do it all. “We’re like the utility guy. Whatever you need done, we have to be able to have that attribute or that ability to just have success,” Kelce told Men’s Health.

Here’s everything Kelce does to optimize his performance, day in and day out.

About the Experts

Sean Sullivan, CSCS is the co-founder and Director of Health and Performance at Matterhorn Fit. He spent nearly ten years working exclusively with professional athletes and currently trains over 70 professional athletes, 11 Olympians, and thousands of active individuals.

Jonathan Valdez R.D.N, L.D.N, C.C.M, C.D.C.E.S, A.C.E-C.P.T is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer with a passion for sports performance, health, and wellness.

He Doesn’t Skip Cardio

Kelce’s not only the fastest tight end in the league—he once reached an impressive 21.25 mph with the ball in hand when the Chiefs went up against the Vikings in 2015—he’s also the fastest tight end in history to hit 11,000 receiving yards.

One reason: He never skips a workout. Kelce’s trainer Alex Skacel remembers after a full day at 2019 Paris Fashion Week, Kelce realized at 12:30 a.m. that he hadn’t trained. His fix: They walked over to a bridge and ran eight 400-meter sprints. “I don’t know anyone who would spend a full day at these runway shows and then be like, ‘It’s 1:00 a.m.; let’s go run and work sprints and speedwork,’” Skacel told Men’s Health.

“Travis Kelce took 775 snaps last season. He has to have a high level of work capacity to rinse and repeat efforts over and over,” says personal trainer and Director of Health and Performance at Matterhorn Fit Sean Sullivan, CSCS. That work capacity can only be gained through consistent sprint training in the off-season.

Kelce breaks his speed training down into three stages during the off-season: his “get off” (exploding from a non-moving stance), his “immediate acceleration” (focusing on picking up speed as he runs routes), and his “stop and start” (something he must do whether he’s running a route or blocking a giant lineman).

He’s Big on Prehab

Kelce earned the nickname “Trainer Trav” for a reason. “The small stuff that happens in the training rooms and the rehab rooms, I’ve learned to adapt that into my actual workouts. I’m not just doing it when I’m injured or I’m in the training room trying to make something feel better, I’m doing it so that I can prevent anything from happening to my body,” he told Tonal

Of course, you don’t build the strength to go head-to-head with 300-pound guys without lifting heavy. According to Skacel, Kelce mixes squats, lunges, and rows, with a heavy dose of lighter-weight motions designed to build stability. “We don’t want Travis’s body to rely only on the bigger muscles. All the things that make him great come off of that stable foundation that he’s built,” Skacel told Men’s Health

Sweating the small stuff is a good move on Kelce’s part, says Sullivan. “Strengthening stabilizer muscles not only aids in injury prevention but also helps to support the larger muscles that we rely on for strength.” In other words, perfecting his foundation makes Kelce that much more ready to take on whatever the game throws his way.

He Takes Breaks

After the Chiefs wrap up the season, Kelce takes more than a month to do anything but fitness. Kelce claims his off-season tradition readies his body for peak performance when he dives back into training. Sullivan agrees. “It is important to give all components of the systems under demand (i.e., muscle tissue, tendons, joints, etc.) adequate rest, both physically and neuromuscularly. Ultimately, this rest leads to consistency over time,” he says.


He Eats 4,000 Calories a Day

During a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Kelce shared that he consumes roughly 4,000 calories each day. For the average adult male—who needs a ballpark of 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day—that might sound steep. However, according to registered dietitian nutritionist Jonathan Valdez R.D.N, L.D.N, C.C.M, C.D.C.E.S, A.C.E-C.P.T, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound tight end would need a substantial amount of grub to fuel his standout efforts on the field.

“He cannot afford to be under-fueled,” says Valdez. Between daily practices, games, potential daily doubles, and his infamous touchdown dances, a male of Kelce’s size would need to consume somewhere in the range of 3,863 calories and 4,254 calories—putting Kelce right on the money at 4,000.

His Diet Has Been Described as “Healthy Steakhouse Cuisine”

Kelce’s personal chef Kumar Ferguson handles all of the cooking, which he explained to Startland News consists of “Steaks, chops, chicken, and stuff like that.” Filets are Kelce’s favorite. He isn’t quite as keen on greens but has cited spinach as a food he eats solely because it’s good for him, according to Business Insider.

“Everything about Travis’ diet is intentional. Everything is for fuel, comfort, hydration, nutrition,” Ferguson told Startland News. “There is purpose behind every dish. You go into the grocery store with that mindset. You go into the kitchen with that mindset. You put that intention into the food and then you hope that it translates to optimized health.”

According to Valdez, to fuel the high level of strength and cardio Kelce needs to perform, a high protein intake is critical for building muscle during the off-season and maintaining it during the season. But fresh produce is just as important. “Fruits and veggies have antioxidants to help combat the high stress of intense physical activity while providing vitamins and minerals,” Valdez says.

Whatever Ferguson is putting on Kelce’s plate, it’s working. During a Yahoo Sports interview before Super Bowl LVII Kelce claimed that his secret for staying so fit for a tight end his age was Ferguson: “Whatever he’s feeding me is keeping me young,” he said.


He Leans Into Carbs on Game Day

French toast has been cited as Kelce’s “cheat day meal,” but let’s be real, it’s his go-to pre-game fuel. “On game day, you want to carb up, so I have the energy I need for the game. French toast [gets] my blood sugar going [and gets] some carbs in,” Kelce explained to Men’s Journal.

Pre-game french toast is a tradition that Kelce dates back 10 years: “Every pre-game meal has been French toast and strawberries since I’ve been on the Chiefs,” he told InsideHook in 2022. The only time we’ve known him to sway is for Taylor Swift’s cinnamon rolls—which are similarly packed with sugar and carbs.

“Carb loading is essential before a game. You want to make sure you have enough carbohydrates, the primary source of energy, accessed without depletion at any moment during a game,” explains Valdez.

In addition to carb loading, Kelce has been known to reach for Hilo gummies around the end-of-the-third quarter to power through the rest of the game, per Mashed. Valdez recommends high-performance athletes consume 60 grams of simple carbs (around 30 gummy bears) every hour to keep energy levels in check mid-game.