Trevor Penning’s Diet – Road to 320lbs

Trevor Penning sat down with Barstool yesterday to talk about being drafted 19th overall by the New Orleans Saints.

The biggest challenge Penning faces is keeping his weight up.

Although he stands at 6’7”, Penning is naturally thin. With a regular diet, he speculates that he would weigh around 190lbs. He talked about his struggle to transform himself into a lineman at a young age.

“When I first went out for football Freshman year, I tried out for wide receiver. We had a talented class, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever see the field. But we needed offensive lineman, and I was tall, so I was like whatever I’ll gain some weight”

The FDA recommended daily food intake is 2,000 calories & .36 grams per pound of your total weight. To transform himself into a lineman, Penning aimed to quadruple that.

“My rule was, whatever I felt like eating, I would eat 4 of them. I called it the quad-rule-pul”

“It was a struggle.” Penning said, “Sometimes I just wanted to eat a turkey sandwich, but then I would remember that I have to eat 4 turkey sandwiches.”

“If I wanted a Reese’s cup, I ate 4. If I wanted 2 Reese’s cups, I’d eat 8. If I wanted a lollipop, I ate 4.”

He had some success with this method. As a freshman at Northern Iowa, Penning weighed 220 lbs. It was good start, but his coaches told him he needed to be 250lbs before they would consider playing him. He sat down with the team doctor and came up with a plan to consume 6000 calories & 400+ grams of protein per day.

For a natural skinny, this was nearly impossible. He spent his days writhing on the floor in pain, trying to hold down multiple rotisserie chickens and also a sheet cake. He tried his best but was rarely able to reach his daily goal. It wasn’t until an experience at the zoo where he came up with his own strategy for gaining weight.

Penning majored in Zoology at Northern Iowa. As a Zoology major, his class would go to the zoo 2-3 times a week to look at the animals. He recalled a class visit to the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa. At the time, the zookeepers were caring for a sickly baby gorilla named Babu.

The Blank Park Zoo was a poverty zoo. They barely had the funding to keep healthy animals alive, let alone care for someone like Babu. Unfortunately, major zoos typically won’t take on sickly baby gorillas. Zoos receive additional federal funding if they are able to keep their death rate down. A dead gorilla can cost a zoo tens of thousands of dollars. The sad truth is that major zoos will forgo adopting sick animals in favor of animals they find living freely in fully developed ecosystems like the Amazon or the Serengeti.

Babu was just a few months old. He had stomach problems and was unable to digest food orally. In order to give Babu a chance, they needed to find creative ways to keep him fed. The zoo veterinarian, Dr. Lucy, showed the class how they used a feeding tube to inject nutrients straight into Babu’s stomach. They didn’t have the money to import the expensive African greenery that Babu needed, but luckily much of the same nutrients could be found in high protein dog foods like IAMS Large Adult Breed, or Bully Max 30/20.

Babu was able to receive the nutrients he needed by having dog food injected directly into his stomach. The process took no more than 5 minutes.

Penning was so inspired by Babu and the Blank Park Zoo that the next day he went to a team doctor to get a feeding tube installed.

“I went to the doctor and told him I needed a feeding tube installed. He said, no I’m not going to do that.” Penning recalled.

But Penning didn’t give up. The next week, his class went back to the zoo to touch the stingrays. While his classmates were busy pulling quarters out of fountains so they could get handfuls of stingray food, Penning snuck off to find Dr. Lucy.

He eventually found Dr. Lucy performing emergency surgery on an elderly manatee. They really couldn’t afford to lose a manatee for at least another 2 months, so it was a high stress situation. After Dr. Lucy saved the manatee, Penning was able to convince her to cut a hole in is stomach and hook him up with a feeding tube.

She performed the procedure that night in the zoo operating room. The next morning, Penning had a much more manageable diet.


Penning plans to keep up his diet for the duration of his NFL career.

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