As time goes on, I'm learning of more famous people who have discovered both the health and performance benefits of a diet focused on natural foods and restricting (or eliminating) sugars and processed foods.
Without reviewing Grant Hill's entire career resume, he basically saw his career plunge from multiple-time NBA All-Star with the Detroit Pistons, to plagued by ankle and foot injuries that kept him out of action for years. After sporatic playing time with the Orlando Magic, he ended up in Phoenix (with Nash) and at age 37 has seen a career resurrection and is somewhat of a medical marvel.
He interviews about his new-found dedication towards food intake here, I was particularly drawn to his tales of negligent eating as a young athlete which sound familiar to my own poor habits:
Q: What have you cut out?
A: My first year in the NBA I ate nothing but fast food. There was a street in Michigan near my home that had seven or eight fast-food places. I went eeny-meeny-miney-moe. I got a chef my second year, but I still kept two or three pitchers of Kool-Aid in the refrigerator. And of course we had to have Sprite (which Hill endorsed commercially). And we made lot of cakes. So I would go to bed with a quarter of a cake and a Big Gulp-sized container of Kool-Aid. I’d take that to bed with me.
Q: When did you change?
A: It was gradual. At one point, I cut out all drinks except water. That’s when I started getting away from some of that. I was still eating red meat, less pasta. As I’ve gotten older and become more educated about it, I’ve slowly changed. My wife (Tamia) and I practice a macrobiotic diet. (A macrobiotic diet eliminates processed foods and emphasizes water, vegetables, fruits and organically grown grains, such as brown rice. It typically does not include red meat, dairy or eggs.)
It’s hard to eat like that on the road, but you want to try to make healthy decisions. When we get on the plane after the game and the options are turkey with mashed potatoes and yams, or a Cobb salad with chicken, I’ll get the salad. I drink a lot of water. It’s just understanding what you put in your body and how it will affect your energy level.
Here's another anedcote where Grant Hill talks about a typical day's eating and meals:
Q: In order to reach your maximum performance level for games, what meals do you eat pre-game? Post-game?
A: It’s easier at home to control what you’re eating. At home I eat an oatmeal batter made into a waffle and use agave nectar as a syrup. Agave is a natural sweetner that doesn’t have the rise in sugar levels that syrup or honey has. I tend to eat that in the morning for breakfast and usually a salad and some sort of fish, a sea bass or salmon. I may have that once or twice before a game, and then usually an hour or two before the game and in the locker room we have a fruit platter or tray of some sort. That’s what works for me.
Since I’ve become really particular in the last few years about what I eat, my energy level and my recovery level post-work out are so much better. I try to eat afterwards a salad and try to get some protein in my body, but keeping it simple, staying away from heavy pastas, sauces, butters, all those types of things I feel great. I feel better now than I did 5 years ago. My body feels better as I go through the season. I’m not as tired and sluggish and I sleep better. I’m not sore. A lot of that has to do with what I eat.
Not only has Nash's disciplined approach to his nutrition helped Hill, but teammate (and former Charlotte Bobcat) Jared Dudley has also seen benefits from taking food intake more seriously.
Those habits are what caught the eye of Suns swingman Jared Dudley. Whenever the team was flying on the franchise’s charter plane, Nash would almost always pass on the food prepared and order a salad. In addition, Dudley would overhear Hill and Nash discussing different nutritional strategies and he figured he’d seek out some pointers from the two co-captains. After losing 10 pounds, the third-year man officially became a convert.
“You ask them for hints and you try to use those tips because you see the ways your body reacts after you junk food,” Dudley said. “Those guys have played 13, 14 years and a lot of that has to do with God-given ability, but you see Steve and somehow his body is in shape and you know that if he just ate junk every day, I bet you he wouldn’t be the player he is now.”
The Suns already play an exciting brand of basketball, but for health-conscious people there's one more reason to pull for Phoenix in the NBA Playoffs later this month.