He’s a three-time NBA champion, four-time NBA MVP, double olympic gold medalist and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ all-time leading scorer. LeBron James is known as “The King,” and eats like one, too. Like most royalty, he has his own personal chef to prepare his favorite foods, as well as a whole staff nutritionists to ensure that he eats well and continues to be the best.
After talking with NBA personnel to learn about LeBron’s eating habits, I discovered that being an athlete of this caliber requires an enormous amount of the proper food for fuel and recovery. The team managers and nutritionists have developed programs and meal plans for their players that focus on these two essential elements to build the strongest possible basketball player.
The timing of LeBron’s food consumption is crucial, especially in regards to before and after his workouts. He drinks a supplemental shake 45 minutes after every workout to provide protein and carbohydrates necessary for muscle recovery. Also following each game, the Cavaliers are provided a team meal inside the arena so they get all the necessary nutrients following an extremely intense workout.
For every high-level athlete, this is the perfect formula for ultimate performance. Early in LeBron’s career, he could get away with eating anything he liked, but as NBA players age, it gets increasingly important to eat right because that is what makes their careers last as long as they do. A good diet is the ticket to their next contract, and they’ll have all the time in the world for indulgences once they retire.
If you start eating like him now, you’ll be in perfect shape for training camp.
Fruits and Veggies: Yes
For 67 straight days before his 12th season in the NBA, LeBron was on a customized Paleo diet that consisted of only meat, fish, fruits and veggies. His motive for the diet was to be in great shape for the start of training camp and to be mentally strong to be a top competitor. People quickly noticed he had slimmed down, and his diet became one of the most-talked-about in sports. If this doesn’t serve as motivation to eat your fruits and veggies, I’m not sure what will.
Next time you’re questioning the high amount of carbs in a plate of pasta, just remember, if LeBron can eat this, so can you. We all know carbs are an essential element to an energetic and athletic lifestyle. Eat that pasta like the champion you are. Pro-tip: according to his personal chef Glenn Lyman, LeBron’s go-to game-time meal was chicken and shrimp pasta.
Blaze Pizza: Yes
In fall 2015, LeBron chose to part ways with McDonald’s and sign on as the spokesperson for Blaze Pizza, the fast-growing chain that lets you build your own personal pie. Last April, he helped the team prank customers in Pasadena, CA. “Basketball – is that where the referee holds up the goal posts?” joked the King.
After winning the national championship, LeBron stopped by Blaze and ordered a pizza with 16 toppings.
Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Ice Cream: Yes
He may be a king, but he’s also human, so he loves Ben & Jerry’s. His favorite flavor is Chunky Monkey. We all know he was celebrating his ESPY award for Best Male Athlete with an extra pint or two. Besides, banana ice cream totally counts as a fruit, right?
LeBron is a big fan of cereal, especially Trix and Fruity Pebbles. Although it can be high in sugar, which isn’t ideal for an athlete with zero body fat, Trix cereal is fairly low-calorie, so it makes for a nice, negligible indulgence even on a strict athlete’s diet. Fruity Pebbles were the inspiration for his Nike LeBron 12 shoes in 2015.
Peanut Butter Dream Smoothie: Yes
Back when he was in Miami, his favorite post-workout boost was this smoothie from the Juice Spot. Crucial to post-workout recovery, this protein-packed smoothie helped to replenish LeBron’s muscles and each one brought him one step closer to his next national championship. The King’s beloved juicery has sadly closed, but you can still make your own version of this protein-packed smoothie here.
German Chocolate Cake: Yes
This is a tradition on his birthday, but this birthday happened to fall right in the middle of his diet, which was clearly devastating for him.
Red Meat: No
Surprisingly, the King doesn’t eat much red meat. Instead, he eats lots of lean meat, such as chicken, turkey and fish. This way he keeps the fat intake to a minimum to maintain the low body fat percentage required to stay as active and strong as he is.
Fast Food: No
Fast food is something a young athlete can get away with on a regular basis while staying healthy and active, but as for the more mature, professional athletes, they have to bear in mind the negative effects this overly processed, greasy, and fattening food would have on their careers. For someone as focused on excellence as LeBron, fast food is just not going to provide him with the proper fuel to power him through a game or workout.
Although LeBron loves to reminisce about his favorite elementary school donuts, he doesn’t eat these while in season. Instead of downing Dunkin’ donuts, The King dines on healthy fats like nuts and avocado.
When one of your main goals as an athlete is to stay fully hydrated, alcohol is one of the easiest ways to reverse this. Consuming large amounts of alcohol can be extremely dehydrating because it decreases the hormones that allow the body to absorb water properly. Though he does have the occasional glass of wine to celebrate, LeBron has to be mindful of how what he drinks will affect his health and performance on the court.