“You know, I’m just 6’9” and 260. And just so happen to be very good at playing basketball.” – LeBron James
As I’ve said before good genes are central to attaining athletic prowess and basketball star LeBron James is no exception. While persistence and practice are also pivotal to sporting success, they will not get you there without this inborn potential.
But what is nutrition’s role in this quest to be an elite athlete? Well, it makes its mark on the periphery. Although not a primary determinant of sports stardom, nutrition plays an essential complementary role. No one knows this better than “The King” himself. Want to eat like LeBron? Popular news reports give us a window into LeBron’s fueling strategies. Let’s break down the top three:
Eat Regularly and Consistently
Similar to many top professional athletes, James sticks to a regimented meal plan, particularly during competition season. LeBron also has the luxury of having a personal chef to avoid the pitfalls of dining out. It may be a little easier for him to stay on track, but with proper planning and prioritizing there’s no reason we can’t follow the same plan.
Here is a sample of one of James’ daily eating plans courtesy of Fitness Hacker:
- Meal 1 (6.25am): Whole wheat bagel with 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1/2 cup of strawberries, 1/2 cup cottage cheese
- Meal 2 (9.30 am): 1 cup orange juice, 1 banana, 1 scoop protein powder with 1 cup of milk (low fat).
- Meal 3 (12 noon): Lean roast beef with whole-wheat bun. Lettuce, tomato, 2 tablespoons of mustard, low-fat cheddar cheese, and a 1 cup milk (low fat).
- Meal 4 (2.30 pm): 1/2 cup blueberries, 1-cup low-fat natural yogurt, 1/2 glass milk, and one granola bar.
- Meal 5 (5.00 pm): 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup milk, 1 cup orange juice, and 1 cup low-fat strawberry yogurt (with or without 1/2 tablespoon of honey)
- Meal 6 (8.30 pm):1 1/2 cup small broccoli, 1/2 cup rice, 1/3 cup orange juice, 3 oz chicken breasts, sliced water chestnuts (4 ounces) and 1/2 tablespoon virgin oil
This synopsis seems a little light on calories for someone of James’ size and muscularity, but aside from this observation, three things stick out about his diet. Firstly, James sticks to a routine regarding types of food and timing of meals. When chasing a healthy way of eating routine is your best friend – it helps keep you on track. Secondly, except for a scoop of protein powder, he relies on whole fresh homemade foods to fuel up. Eating freshly prepared foods helps to minimize the extras like sugar and salt, and maximize fibre, vitamins, and minerals. And finally, James diet is loaded with fruits and vegetables. If you’re going to make one change to your diet, this is it. Eat lots of vegetables and the rest of your diet will follow.
Avoid Fatty Foods Before Game Time
Even the fittest sports stars will indulge in fatty foods like fries, pizza, bacon, and pies now and again. But most, like James, will tell you that they avoid high-fat food before hitting the court. The reason? Our bodies digest fatty foods more slowly than those that are lower in fat, and as such, they are more likely to give you stomach troubles during exercise. Even those athletes from predominantly skill-based sports avoid high-fat foods before the competition as anxiety can also reduce stomach tolerance to these foods. What should you eat before exercise? Think high carb, moderate protein, and low fat.
“Go Heavy on the Carbs” for Recovery
With 82 games in the regular season, and an average of three games a week, recovery is paramount to maximizing success and minimizing injury for the NBA player. How does LeBron fuel his recovery? He does what most athletes do: he “goes heavy on the carbs.”
While James has been an advocate for cutting sugar from the diet, he touts the benefits of fueling up on healthy carbs for proper recovery. Carbs can get a bad rap, but they are a crucial component of the active diet. Basketball is a high-intensity sport and as such players burn through their glycogen stores more quickly than most people would expect. How can a player ensure that he or she is game or practice ready for the next day? They can eat a high carbohydrate snack or meal following a game. Want to hear what LeBron says about this strategy. Listen to what “The King” says in this video from Stack.com.
Eating like LeBron James may seem far-fetched, but it is within reach for aspiring athletes and regular Joes alike. The key is routine, consistency, and avoiding processed foods. Eating low fat before hitting the court and high carb afterward will further help to get you game ready. In the words of James’ hero, Michael Jordan “get the fundamentals down and the level of everything you do will rise.”
Nutritional planning is integral to achieve your optimal athletic performance. Gazelle Nutrition Lab delivers one on one or group nutritional counselling and consulting to both recreational and high-performance athletes. Also, the Food For Thought Blog is a free resource for healthy recipes and health tips. Have questions? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch!