The Real-Life Diet of Aaron Judge, Who Swears by a Postgame Cold Plunge

Aaron Judge sticks out. At 6’7″ and 282 pounds, he is one of the tallest and largest professional baseball players ever. And on this particular day, the New York Yankees captain sticks out just a little extra because he smells so good. He’s the face of Ralph Lauren’s campaign behind the launch of the brand’s newest men’s fragrance, Polo 67. Ralph Lauren—the man, not the brand—is a Bronx-born New York native, after all. What could be a more natural linkup than with the five-time All Star?

The Yankees are currently atop the AL East, with Judge’s powerful hitting—along with the recent additions of Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo—helping the team stack up the wins. Judge sat down with GQ to talk about his extensive workout routine, strict diet, and his meditation routine for staying present in the moment.

For Real-Life Diet, GQ talks to athletes, celebrities, and other high performers about their diet, exercise routines, and pursuit of wellness. Keep in mind that what works for them might not necessarily be healthy for you.

GQ: I heard you’re just coming from a workout, yeah?

Aaron Judge: I was just at our apartment. We have a nice little gym setup, so I try to get something in every day.

So what does your postgame workout look like?

Postgame, I always hit the cold tub. A little cold plunge to shock the system and start the recovery process, and then do a little bit of sauna work with that—it’s contrast [therapy], so I go back and forth. If I’m working out that day, I pop into the weight room. I love doing total body [workouts]. I don’t like to do just legs today or just upper body. I love going through a whole total-body lift: legs, arms, chest, and back—kind of hitting everything. It’s great for flushing some stuff out. You’re already warmed up since you just played nine innings so it’s always a good time to get in there and move around a little bit.

Do you work out before a game?

Yeah, it’s like a modified mini-workout: A warmup right when I get to the field and then, maybe an hour before the game, I’ll pop back in the weight room to do a modified total body workout just to touch some weights. Because I think besides warming up the body, it psychologically gets you in the mindset of “Hey, it’s time to go out there and prepare for battle.” It primes the body and mind.

Can you walk me through the workout?

There’s a lot of stuff that changes every day. I love a lot of glute activation, a lot of core stuff. Stuff like glute bridges, dead bugs—kind of weird little core exercises.

Oh yeah, those are tough.

Yeah, it gets everything primed. I feel like for baseball players, if your glutes, your abs, and your core are primed, then everything else is in alignment and will work the right way. So we start there and then it goes to different band routines for shoulders, couple jump ropes, and then you get it rolling for the game.

I know you recently got a clean bill of health [following an abdominal injury in March, after which you got an MRI showing there was no structural damage]. How are you feeling about that?

We feel good, we feel good. I think it was more precautionary than anything, just to make sure we were ready to go into the season.

What was the recovery like for that?

It was really the same: to stay on top of a lot of the core stuff. A lot of stretching. Nothing really changed too much, just staying on top of the core activity. You know, during game time, you can have a little tweak or something or something gets out of line, and all of a sudden something in your ab will affect your shoulder or go down the chain in your lower body. So it’s just about making sure everything was in alignment and then kind of going to work from there.

What does your diet look like during the season?

It depends—we travel and we’re playing games every single day. I’m big on fasting. I think fasting is a big part of letting your body calm down. Because you get to the field, and they got food ready for you—before the game, there’s food; after the game, there’s food; you come home, and you probably have snacks in the fridge. So for me, once I get to the field, I’ll have my first meal. And then the last meal is the minute after the game—so I try to have two meals. I like to have a good protein if it’s a chicken or a fish option, a rice or pasta to give me some carbs to get some quick energy, and then vegetables. It’s some pretty bland, basic food options, but I think the basics are what’s really the easiest, sustainable, and repeatable. A lot of guys might get sick of it, but I like eating the same thing every single day, for the most part.

So then what’s your diet like in the offseason? Are you just eating whatever you want?

Yeah, there’s about two-week period where you reset the body. I think it’s tough for anybody—any athlete or regular people—to stick to a diet regimen. You cut everything out and stick with something, and it’s tough on not only your body but your mind. You start to have cravings, and then there’s like a two-week period where we’re going out getting pizza or going out to our favorite restaurants. Then we can look forward to getting back into it, like we did our two weeks on vacation and it’s time to get back into healthy eating and all that good stuff.

Here’s a two-parter: What’s your cheat meal, and what are your favorite New York restaurants?

Cheat meal? I gotta go pizza. If we have a good night and, especially being here in the city, we’ll try different pizza places and load up. Favorite restaurant? That’s tough. 4 Charles Prime Rib is one of my favorites. We know a couple of guys over there. Carbone, I love a go-to Italian spot. Lucali is a Brooklyn pizza joint—that’s one I like to take teammates, take my wife, take some people out there for a special occasion. Mark [Iacono], the owner, always takes care of us there.

We’re here because of your partnership with Ralph. How’d that come to be?

Organically! I think I’ve always been about working with iconic brands. My agency got things working, and we jumped right on with it when they called. They said “Do you want to do something” and I said “Where do I sign?”

What do you like most about the fragrance?

It’s honestly different than any other fragrance I’ve ever smelled. It’s a little—I feel like I sound like someone drinking wine—woodsy, citrusy. It’s just fresh. For me, it’s a fresh fragrance that kind of gives you a little bit of energy any time I use it.

Would you do a spritz before a game? Does it make sense to smell good while you’re at bat?

Yeah, you got to smell good out there. Some guys get a little excessive with the amount they put on, but for me, it’s one good spray and you get out there. If you’re feeling good when you’re stepping on that field, you’re gonna play good.

Few brands are as rooted in American culture as Ralph Lauren, and baseball is obviously such a huge American sport. It sort of makes sense that you’re here for this.

Definitely. That’s the thing that I’ve always loved about this brand: It’s kind of a mix of fashion and the athletic side of things. I love sports, I love fashion, my wife loves fashion, so it’s a good mix.

Do you ever get used to having hoards of fans cheering for you?

Not really. You’re playing in front of 40,000 people every single night, and they’re yelling and screaming, maybe you get kind of used to it. But I’ve always tried to take a moment before every game, around when I step on the field, to look around and thank God. To appreciate this moment. Very few people get this opportunity, and these are like pinch-me moments. It’s pretty special.

How do you stay present in these instances?

I try to meditate in the morning and meditate at night after games. And especially when you’re in a cold tub and you’re freezing your butt off, spend a couple of minutes in there thinking about stuff. It’s just about enjoying the moment. I’m not looking ahead; I’m not looking back. I’m just trying to enjoy the time I get to spend with you.

How’s center field treating you [since you’ve mostly been a right fielder in the past]?

I love it. I love playing center field. And I got to play a little bit of it in ‘22 before we went out and got Harrison Bader. But it’s fun, especially when I got Juan Soto to my left and Alex Verduga to my right. We communicate well out there. That’s always the toughest thing when you add new outfielders—there’s that little bit of hesitation when you’re both going for the ball like “Am I going to run into you? Do you know I’m coming?” So it’s been great. Those guys communicate well, and they’re great outfielders. When I see them make a great play, it pushes me like, “Hey I gotta go out there and make great plays.”

The energy in the locker room must be amazing.

It’s incredible. You got 26 guys in there that want to want to win every single night and expect to win every single night. You hold that standard not only for yourself but the team. That’s what really transformed the locker room, the clubhouse, and culture.

And who do you think your biggest competition is this year?

Oh, everybody in the AL East. For me, the Blue Jays are tough. They got a great young lineup and great pitching staff. Tampa’s a young team that’s always winning games. Boston, our rival, you know you can never count them out. Orioles as well, they won the division last year. I think just our division is a tough one.

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