What NBA Players Eat: Breakfast like The Lakers
There’s been a lot of talk recently about how and why NBA players such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have been slimming down, and revamping their approach to nutrition. (see here, here here, here and here)
I caught up with the LA Lakers Strength & Conditioning coach, Tim DiFrancesco to find out more about their nutritional program – PRO Nutrition. One of the things I wanted to find out about, was what exactly NBA players have for breakfast…
— Tim DiFrancesco (@tdathletesedge) July 25, 2012
Being a Lakers players certainly does have its advantages, and one of them is that breakfast buffet is put together every morning by the team’s own in house chef, Sandra Padilla. But breakfast is not mandatory. In fact, one of the messages that Tim tries to communicate to the players is that if they’re not genuinely hungry, they should skip breakfast. And they shouldn’t feel bad about it, because in actual fact it isn’t the most important meal of the day. Regardless, force feeding yourself just because you think “it’s the right thing to do” is likely the wrong thing to do.
“We have the guys conditioned so that when they come in the morning they kinda think “Am I hungry right now… yeah, so let’s eat. Or maybe, Hmm, I ate late last night and had a big meal so I’m not kinda hungry so let’s just go and work out”.
One the most important skills that Tim has been teaching the players is to become better at listening to their bodies:
“It’s about listening to our bodies, and that’s what we do a terrible job of in this country. We eat because we’re bored. We eat because it’s on front of us. We eat because its breakfast time, lunch time or dinner time… that’s not how the human body works”.
Eggs are an extremely popular choice. The team’s chef, Sandra, runs the omelette station, which includes some really great stuff like full fat cheeses, leafy greens like spinach and kale, peppers as well as mushrooms. The players are encouraged to use the full eggs (rather than just the egg whites) – as yolks contain plenty of protein, as well as healthy fats.
— Tim DiFrancesco (@tdathletesedge) September 14, 2013
There’s bacon too, but not just any old bacon… it has to be from humanely raised, antibiotic free, hormone free pork. But it’s bacon nonetheless, which came as a surprise to a lot of players.
“When the guys initially sit down and look and listen to what we’re saying they say “huh, we’re allowed to eat that bacon?! I don’t have to stuff it in my pocket?! Well, that’s worth a go”!
The breakfast choices are part of a progressive nutritional strategy called PRO Nutrition (Performance/Recovery/Orthogenesis), which was developed as a combined effort by Dr. Cate Shanahan, Gary Vitti (Head Athletic Trainer), Lakers Chef Sandra Padilla and of course Tim.
This program actively encourages players to eat LOTS of leafy/colourful vegetables, as well as high quality protein and healthy fats. Sugars and anything with toxic vegetable oils are to be avoided, while starchy carbs are kept to a minimum. Some players find it difficult to get their heads around the fact that they are now discouraged from eating too much starchy cards such as pasta, as they’ve spent their whole lives being told the opposite.
— Tim DiFrancesco (@tdathletesedge) September 20, 2013
Choice is a very important aspect of the PRO Nutrition program. They want the players to pick the very best options, but if they fancy something else… it’s still available.
“Some players may still want pancakes, even once in a while… so we’re gonna keep them on the buffet menu. This isn’t a dictatorship here. We want them to take ownership of understanding why and when they might be better off choosing the pancake, and when they might not choose the pancake”.
That said, even if a player wants to eat oatmeal or pancakes, they are encouraged to also take in some healthy fats:
“If a player wants to eat oatmeal, we suggest putting half the usual amount in their bowl but loading it up with butter, cream etc. Same with pancakes… half the usual amount, less syrup, and with a pat of grass fed butter between each one and pastured whipped cream on top”.
Education is really important to the Lakers. Tim and Dr. Cate Shanahan spend a huge amount of time teaching the players about nutrition and how it impacts them. Ultimately, they want the players to choose the best options and understand why.
Follow Tim on twitter: @tdathletesedge