The world watched in awe as Jessie Graff recently swept through the super-sized obstacle course on American Ninja Warrior. With the grace and speed of a gazelle, she became the first woman to ever complete Stage 1. Graff moved on to Stage 2, the finale competition, on September 12.
Graff’s fans can clearly see her body is in top shape. No less is expected from a woman who has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a black sash in Kung Fu. She’s also trained in five other styles of martial arts. Factor in a full-time job as a professional stunt woman and maintaining excellent health is a given.
So what does an American Ninja Warrior eat to stay fit? Bon Appetit magazine asked Graff to share her diet regimen in a July 2016 interview.
Daily Meal Picks
Most of Graff’s days start the same as many non-Ninja types with a steaming hot latte. But she makes the beverage healthier by upgrading a flavored home-brewed coffee with a shot or two of a vanilla or chocolate protein shake. Graff’s typical breakfast is a big plate of scrambled eggs mixed with loads of broccoli, onions, spinach and any other greens she has on hand.
Lunch is usually an oversized kale salad. Graff jazzes up the greens with a plain Greek yogurt dressing. To add a bit of sweetness and texture, she sprinkles blueberries and dried cranberries over the top. Dinner for Graff is a bit more traditional. Her preferred combination is greens topped with chicken or steak. Favorite sides are cooked vegetables and a scoop of rice or other whole grains. If she feels like dessert, Graff often chooses a super high protein bar – sugar cookie flavor is a favorite – packed with fiber. When she feels like splurging, Graff mixes plain yogurt with chocolate espresso beans to make a quick final course.
When Graff is in the midst of a competition, she said her focus is on portable food with a lot of protein. She makes herself a hearty sandwich with turkey, spinach tomato and avocado. For easy extra energy sources, she packs seaweed snacks and energy bars. In competitions like American Ninja Warrior that require an energy burst, Graff has a secret weapon. About a half hour before her performance, she pops a handful of chocolate espresso beans in her mouth.
After particularly strenuous workouts like running long distances, Graff said she’s usually not hungry. The high she gets from the adrenaline and endorphins pumping through her body makes food the last thing on her mind. When she’s done with other types of tough exercise regimens, Graff concentrates on eating dark greens and protein to make sure she gets maximum physical rewards from the exercise. To add appeal to the greens, she often adds a few grains or healthy fats to the meal.
Graff admits she struggled to find the right diet for her stunt career. She needed to stay lean to double for often super-thin actresses but couldn’t compromise her energy and endurance levels. When she under ate, her metabolism was so sluggish it hurt her performance. Now she concentrates on protein and green vegetables. Most important, Graff advises to listen to your body. Graff believes it’s okay to occasionally give in to cravings. Balance, she said, like so many aspects of life, is the key to healthy and happy eating.