Illinois defender uses dream diet to beef up

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

RANTOUL, Ill. -- Warning: If you're on a diet, especially one of those lo-carb, no-fun deals, you might want to stop reading now.

Guys like Illinois senior defensive end Will Davis will make you depressed.

Some people can blink and gain a pound or two. Not Davis, who led Illinois and ranked fifth in the Big Ten with 9.5 sacks last season.

"They checked my body and found out that I lose about 2,000 calories in a day not doing anything," Davis said.

Illinois' coaches wanted Davis to add about 15 pounds during the offseason, but how they would overcome his mega metabolism was a mystery. Strength coach Lou Hernandez came up with a plan, one normal people shouldn't try at home.

"I was on a 6,000-calories-a-day diet," Davis said.

Come again? Six thousand calories?

Actually, when Hernandez crunched the numbers for Davis, he came up with 5,900 calories a day. What's an extra hundred? Might as well round up to a nice, fat figure -- 6,000.

Here's the real depressing part for the rest of us. Davis received a list of different foods and their corresponding calories, but his instructions for what to eat were fairly open-ended: lots of protein and limit the trans fats.

But pretty much everything was fair game.

"Because I lose weight so fast, I could eat really anything," Davis said. "I just went to the supermarket and just filled my refrigerator up with a bunch of steaks, just eating those every day.

"And also protein shakes. I was throwing ice cream in it and things like that, and that was hitting about 1,200 calories just in one shake. I was drinking those about three times a day, too, just straight out the blender."

So steaks and ice cream are the secrets to becoming an All-Big Ten defensive end?

"Yeah," Davis said, cracking up. "Definitely."

Several of Davis' teammates, including linebacker Brit Miller, spent the summer trying to drop weight, even holding a "Biggest Loser" competition to see who could trim down to 240 pounds first. But others saw the positive effects the high-calorie diet were having for Davis, who converted his extra pounds into muscle in the weight room.

A few Illini defensive backs even tried the Davis Diet.

"I don't know if they could get 6,000 calories in 'em," Davis said. "I don't think their stomachs are big enough."

Davis eventually got big enough, 264 pounds to be exact. Named to the Ted Hendricks Award preseason watch list, Davis anchors a defensive line that coach Ron Zook expects to be one of the team's strengths this fall.

Happy with his playing weight, Davis is no longer consuming 6,000 calories a day. It's more like 4,000 now.

"It was a lot of hard work," he said, "but I got there."

Hard work. Riiiiight.