'I've been eating a ridiculous amount lately': Inside Joey Bosa's quest to bulk up

COSTA MESA, Calif. – Los Angeles Chargers outside linebacker Joey Bosa spent his offseason eating until he was uncomfortable.

Then he ate some more.

“Eating isn't really enjoyable these days,” Bosa said. “It's more so just part of the job.”

The calories consumed by Bosa -- he estimates between 4,500 to 5,000 per day -- were all part of a well-constructed plan to enable him to pack pounds onto his 6-foot-5 frame as prepares for his eighth NFL season.

Bosa, 28, felt a need to return to a heavier version of himself after playing last season at 250 pounds, down from the 265 to 270 range that he played at earlier in his career, and well below the 280 mark he played at during his collegiate career at Ohio State.

“I specifically tried to really eat good and put some weight on this offseason, get back to my weight I was at a few years ago, where I could really use my power,” Bosa explained after a training camp practice. “Really handle guys in the run and be more effective in that part of the game.”

The plan to bulk up was put into motion following a 2022 season that saw Bosa spend 12 games on injured reserve after undergoing groin surgery, and which saw the Chargers fail for a second season to stop the run, allowing a league-worst average of 5.4 yards per carry.

A discussion with position coach Giff Smith -- who has coached Bosa since he was selected with the third overall pick in 2016 -- helped further the idea that adding weight would enable him to regain power.

“When we went to this system of defense, he thought he needed to be a little bit lighter and he was dealing with some nagging injuries, so you always lose a little weight when you have some lower half injuries,” Giff said. “He's finally healthy and he was able to add the muscle mass, good muscle mass, and he feels comfortable. And then it does expose the power. Everybody knows how gifted he is with his hands and his movement, but when you can shock [opponents] with the power, it just has another element to his game.”

Coach Brandon Staley, who scrapped the Chargers' 4-3 defensive scheme for a 3-4 when he was onboarded in 2021, endorsed the change.

“That's where he's most comfortable,” Staley said. “You have to be able to establish power as a rusher, that's what's going to make you really, really dangerous. He has some of the best hands in the NFL, which is kind of what he's famous for, but to set those hands up, you have to really establish power.”

Arguably no player has felt Bosa’s strength in training camp like left tackle Rashawn Slater, who must contend with him daily.

“I noticed that right away,” Slater said of Bosa’s weight gain. “I feel a little extra pop with him this year for sure.”

To gain the weight, Bosa continued his usual offseason training regimen with his brother, 49ers star defensive lineman Nick Bosa, in Florida, but adding pounds required working closely with a nutritionist and maintaining close proximity to a refrigerator so that he could consume five to six meals per day and constantly snack.

“Was able to stay consistent with all the things that I normally would do,” Bosa said. “But the key to gaining weight is just to eat a lot. Eat way more than you want to. And it's no fun a lot of the time.”

Before a morning run, Bosa would drink plenty of fluids, maybe eat a little fruit. He’d follow his run with a small breakfast.

Then, the eating marathon would commence.

Five more meals with plates full of red meat, chicken or fish. A big dose of protein, some vegetables and often a version of his guilty-pleasure carbohydrates, like chickpea pasta.

And snacks. Lots of snacks -- think pretzels, nuts and fruit (But no honeydew or cantaloupe, which Bosa despises) -- often smothered in creamy peanut butter. And a smoothie.

“I'll just eat berries in the peanut butter because my chef in Florida said that the fruit, you need a fat with the fruit for it to really have its whatever benefit,” Bosa said. “So that helps with the weight gain and getting all the vitamins and stuff from the fruit.”

Gaining the weight while dripping sweat during hour-long workouts in the summer Florida humidity proved difficult, but perhaps not as hard as maintaining his weight during training camp in Southern California, where the Chargers spend about 2 ½ hours daily sweating on the practice field.

And Bosa’s fast metabolism has required that he not miss a meal. If he does, the consequence will be felt the following day when he weighs a few pounds less.

“I've always been kinda the one that needs to eat a ridiculous amount to keep on weight,” he said. “I've been eating a ridiculous amount lately.”

But for all the eating and bulking up, outside linebacker Khalil Mack says you can’t tell by looking at Bosa.

“Which is a great thing,” Mack said, before chuckling. “It's not like he has a gut or anything now.”

Bosa will test the results of his offseason makeover -- which also included chopping off his long blonde locks in favor of a buzz cut -- when the Chargers open the season against the Miami Dolphins on September 10 at SoFi Stadium.

“I definitely feel stronger,” Bosa said.