Embargoed for The Sunday Telegraph. Supplied image of Rugby player Quade Cooper training during Covid-19 restrictions.
Embargoed for The Sunday Telegraph. Supplied image of Rugby player Quade Cooper training during Covid-19 restrictions.

How extreme diet worked wonders for Quade

It's the radical vegetable-free diet that has Quade Cooper in career-best shape at the age of 32.

Cooper, Sonny Bill Williams and Broncos NRL star Tevita Pangai Jr are all on the carnivore diet, eliminating vegetables, fruits and carbohydrates from their daily meals while gorging on plates of steak and seafood.

Cooper and Williams began the diet eight months ago and the former Wallabies star said he has not been stronger or leaner throughout his professional career.

"Me and Sonny started doing this just before he went to Toronto," Cooper told News Corp Australia.

"I'm no expert in this field, this is my science, it's what works for me.

"Tevita's been doing the carnivore diet, being a big island boy it's about keeping the weight off, so he's enjoying eating all the meals he'd love to eat and keep his weight low but also feel strong.

"Others might try it and say, 'It's not for me'.

"I've been on the carnivore diet for eight months, before that I wasn't a full vegan but I was trying to eat healthy like that, trying to stay low on my meat and eat more veggies, no dairy.

"But I felt like I got quite lean but also soft in my muscles. Although I was training really hard, anytime I'd take contact I'd find I was getting hurt.

Quade Cooper is ripped.
Quade Cooper is ripped.

"Now I've combined this diet with pre-hab, looking after my body before I get on the field, before I leave the house, that has been a game-changer.

"The way I feel physically and mentally right now, it's much better than 2016 or 2017. It's a good feeling to know the things you're doing and put time and effort into are paying off.

"This is just how I eat now."

Cooper's "pre-hab" routine includes meditation and 90 minutes of stretching every day - three half-hour sessions, including three-minute holds on each stretch.

But it is his new diet that will raise most interest.

The carnivore diet is a more extreme version of the ketogenic diet that promotes an abundance of protein over carbohydrates and sugar, although the keto approach includes vegetables and fruit.

Quade Cooper and Tevita Pangai Jnr train at Red Hill.
Quade Cooper and Tevita Pangai Jnr train at Red Hill.

"I haven't really had a veggie or piece of fruit for a while, maybe four times in the last three months, on a cheat day where I'd eat a hamburger or something with lettuce in it," Cooper said.

"The only fruit I'll have, if I need a snack, is blueberries with double cream, which is like a keto meal, low in sugar.

"The diet is none to low sugar, and very high in fat and protein.

"I'm no scientist, but a nutritionist explained to us that our body is naturally designed to absorb meat, that's what our stomach acids are designed to do, not to digest vegetables and salads.

"The reason it made sense to me was that I was trying to cut my eat intake, eat lots of veggies and salads, and I'd be bloated and gassy in my stomach, so then it was by accident I started eating more meat because I've always felt good on it, so I'd be having meat on three quarters of my plate and veggies one quarter, and I felt so much better.

"When me and Sonny went to this nutritionist and he started explaining this stuff, that just went along with what I had been doing anyway, but this was just taking it to a new level.

Cooper is a changed man from 2017.
Cooper is a changed man from 2017.

"It's like any diet, people are going to have their opinions. That's what I say to a lot of the boys that ask me about diet, I'm in no place to be giving advice, this is just what I do, and what works for me.

"I've been in professional sport for 15 years, I've gone through stages where I'm only eating what our dietitian says and I didn't feel great, feeling bloated and getting reflux.

"I've tried being vegan three times a week, vegetarian three times a week, tried eating normal, then I've gone no carbs, I've played around with certain things and found out what's worked best for me at the moment.

"I've really enjoyed the benefits of this meat diet. It does seem strange to a lot of people because what we're told is normal - 'eat vegetables otherwise you can't digest your food' - I've had no problems whatsoever."

Cooper said the diet and disciplined stretching regime has done wonders for his fitness and recent lack of injury.

"I feel like I've got a lot more energy, I feel a lot stronger, my muscles are a lot more dense and hard, and I've been able to keep my weight on, so I've been able to put on weight but lose fat which is ideal for a collision sport," Cooper said.


Cooper and Sonny Bill Williams have both been transformed by the diet.
Cooper and Sonny Bill Williams have both been transformed by the diet.

"That's where I was coming up short before, I was getting leaner and lighter and losing that cushioning that your body ultimately needs for a sport like rugby."


Quade Cooper's day on a plate

7am: Bulletproof coffee (2 cups of coffee, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon of MCT oil)

9am: Sip bone broth throughout workout

10.30am: Two rib-eye steaks with salt and butter

6pm: 800 gram tomahawk steak with roasted bone marrow, a dozen oysters.


Cooper shuts down 2020 NRL talk

Quade Cooper has not shut the door on playing in the NRL one day, but it won't be this year.

Cooper has spoken of his desire to switch codes, and has recently been linked to various NRL clubs including the Brisbane Broncos after training regularly with Tevita Pangai Jr and Jamil Hopoate, but the 32-year-old gave the strongest indication that his future is in Japanese rugby with club Kintestu Liners.

"On the NRL, I've always supported the game, I've always known I'd be good at the game and I've wanted to test myself," Cooper said.

"I've heard other people' opinions about how it would be a money-grab, they should be in a better position to understand.

"I'm very happy where I am.


"If the opportunity is there and someone is interested, of course I will listen, NRL is something I've always loved and enjoyed and I believe I will be able to flourish in the game.

"But it's pie in the sky stuff. If someone was to approach me then great, but otherwise I'm contracted till March, and if that contract gets extended I very much look forward to spending more time in Kintetsu and trying to win a Top League trophy next year."

Cooper is in Brisbane after the Top League season was cancelled due to COVID-19, however players will return to training as soon as Japan reopens its borders, potentially from September.

"I'm very grateful to Kintetsu for the opportunity to go over there and play and learn," Cooper said.

"The club has been amazing, very supportive of us being over here and staying safe with our families, and they're doing everything they can with their government to get things ready for us to return.

"Japanese rugby - I was a bit nervous to go over there at the start. Once I got over there, they're as professional as you can imagine.

Cooper has been training at Red Hill.
Cooper has been training at Red Hill.

"It's fortunate that money is not an issue around the club, they have great facilities, amazing staff, the competition is thriving.

"To play in front of huge crowds again, as an athlete I missed that. By no way is that a shot at rugby here in Australia, it's just that as an entertainer you're doing what you love, and it's a pat on the back for us as players when you can do that in front of a big crowd.

"I'm very committed to my club and enjoying it, I've been treated with respect by a club that wants to have me and the feeling is very mutual."

Originally published as How extreme diet worked wonders for Quade

Cooper tucks into a steak.
Cooper tucks into a steak.
Cooper and Karmichael Hunt circa 2015.
Cooper and Karmichael Hunt circa 2015.