This is an extended version of a story from ESPN The Magazine's NFL Preview Issue.
DAVID LOUGH MADE what some considered the catch of the year in a late-April game against the Royals. Thanks to an incredibly strong core, the 28-year-old is able to sustain impact to his body, which he says is all part of the team effort. Lough may be 10th in the AL with nine defensive runs saved this season, but his rate is similar to that of Kansas City's Alex Gordon, the league leader. Not to mention that the O's are on top of the AL East (as of Aug. 11). Here, he talks with The Mag about how a low body fat of 3 percent gives him the energy to stay fast on the field.
Dan Friedell: What are the challenges of maintaining your regimen on the road?
David Lough: We don't have cars, so either we'll cab it to a Whole Foods or some type of health store that's close by. I get things like brown rice, organic ramen noodles, brown rice cakes, almond butter and coconut manna. Little things you can mix for snacks here and there. Clubhouses are tricky. Most places don't have good food, but you don't want to just eat rabbit food like salad. You need healthy protein and fatty foods like beef. I'm not totally against beef. If I see steaks, like tenderloins, I'll eat that.
When did you start incorporating healthier eating habits?
My mom worked at a grocery store for 35 years. She still does. When all the organic stuff started coming out -- she worked in that department -- she was bringing it home and cooking it. She always brought home healthy food. She always had that lifestyle, and it kind of rubbed off on me.
How did you manage your diet as a child?
I was always the fastest kid in high school, but I was also very athletic. It wasn't really until college that I started the strength training, but it wasn't very strict. When I played football in college, that's when I put on a lot of weight. I probably weighed close to 200 pounds. I'm only pushing about 180 now, even a little under.
How does your current routine help on the field?
I think it's just a lifestyle thing. If I'm going to eat this way, I'm doing it for a reason. I don't want to be on certain medications, I want to get my nutrition and everything my body needs from food. That's kind of how I approach things. I want to live a long and prosperous life. I'm not going to live to see 120, but I want my body to feel good. It's going to prolong my career. I think it helps me just by doing it year after year. And I stay on the field. I've never been on the DL.
A big highlight for you this season was that catch you made on April 27 against the Royals. What's your thought process behind playing the field?
I'm trying to help my team and my pitcher any way I possibly can. If I let that ball drop and the other team ends up scoring, that's on the pitcher, and it's an earned run. I'm trying to help our team stay in ballgames, win ballgames. I don't take it lightly.
Did your crash landing hurt?
Yeah, making plays like that always hurts like hell the next day, but I play through it. That's the kind of teammate I am, and that's what they expect of me. I've made tons of diving catches in the outfield, and it hasn't affected me one bit.
Talk about your low body fat. How does it improve your game?
Some people say your body has to have this much fat, you have to do this, but I haven't gone on the DL yet with a low level of body fat. People have their theories. I have my own theory, and I think it's worked for me, so I stick with it.
How do you push through while you're training?
It's all about mindset; I really do think it is. That's why trainers are there to push you. When I work out in the offseason, I want someone to be there pushing me or working out with me. I had someone who would work out with me, but he was also my trainer. We would maximize what we could do in and out. We knew when I needed rest and when I needed to push it back. One week you go up in weight, the next week you're plateauing.
Do you have a must-do exercise?
I love a hang clean. It's a full-body exercise. You have the weight on the side, pull it up, then bring it down a little bit. When you start getting into heavier weight, you're using your back, but your entire body needs to stabilize that weight.