ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — Considering the last post I did was about the Pacers having a huge team meal, it seems fitting that this next post would also focus on food. Because even when you’re running and exercising as much as elite NBA athletes are, you apparently still have to watch what you eat.
I don’t think anyone would ever consider Dwight Howard out of shape — even when he was recovering from injuries, Dwight never seemed to be in anything less than prime condition. But as CBS Sports’ Ken Berger found out, Dwight wasn’t exactly putting the best fuel into his engine. When the Lakers brought in some nutritionists to work with the team, they checked out Dwight’s diet and were rather surprised…
With Howard, the intervention began where it does with most athletes (and non-athletes, for that matter) who need to change their diets. It began with sugar. It turned out that Howard was consuming the equivalent of 24 Hershey bars a day in the form of candy and soda — not to mention the additional sugar his body was making out of all the empty starches he was eating.
“We knew Dwight had a sugar-intake issue,” said Luke Shanahan, whose Masters in Fine Arts from the world-renowned Iowa Writers Workshop has served him well in his role as the program’s architect and co-pilot. “We just didn’t know how bad it was.”
It was bad. At Cate Shanahan’s request, Howard had undergone a blood screening that revealed a frighteningly pathological profile. His glucose readings were through the roof, much higher than they should have been for a ripped, 27-year-old professional athlete who used to call himself Superman.
Howard had to make a radical shift in his eating habits, but the change apparently paid huge dividends…
Within weeks of starting the program, Howard said his blood-glucose levels declined 80 percent. After increasing his consumption of healthy fats and decreasing processed carbs — “No bread,” Howard said — all the blood markers that are indicative of heart health went in the right direction, too. After some initial lethargy during the detox phase, Howard said his endurance improved and his energy levels became more consistent. His body-fat percentage — hovering around 5-6 percent his entire career — dropped to 3 percent, he said.
“I would always tell [the Lakers] how bad I wanted to get back to being Superman,” Howard said. “Their response was, ‘Well, you have to sacrifice something.’ “