A recent article in the Detroit Free Press described how Richard Hamilton of the Detroit Pistons uses a full time chef to prepare his meals. According to the article, this chef and his team of helpers are responsible for making sure the leading scorer of the Detroit Pistons "eats right." From breakfast to the post-game meal, his meals are designed to fuel Richard and his crew.
Based on the report it looks like breakfast usually consists of grits mixed with eggs and cheese or waffles with pecans and peaches. The lunch menu includes grilled chicken salad, tuna salad or his favorite, a sweet corn soup. For dinner, Hamilton enjoys crab-stuffed steak or barbecued salmon or white chicken lasagna. Favorite desserts are lemon cake or gooey butter cake. Let's take a look at what's on the menu:
Yellow Corn Grits with Cheese
Coffe with cream and sugar
Grilled Chicken Breast
Shredded Romain Lettuce
Italian Salad Dressing
Crab Stuffed Steak
Baked Potato with Sour Cream
Broccoli with Butter
Waffles with Peaches and Pecans
Coffee with Cream and Sugar
Chicken Corn Chowder
Yellow Corn Grits with Cheese
Coffe with Cream and Sugar
Grilled Chicken Breast
Mixed Baby Greens
Clearly Richard Hamilton and his chef are not nutritionists. His diet is designed to meet Richard's taste preferences, not to maximize health and performance. Let's take a look at what this fit basketball player eats, we'll do a complete dietary analysis of his meals and see if his diet comes up healthful or not.
I had my staff dietician analyze these menus with a computer software program to document the poor nutritional quality of Hamilton's diet. For any person to expect to remain in excellent health as they age, the vast majority (meaning 75- 90 percent) of calories must come from unrefined natural plant foods, not white flour, sugar, oil and animal products. Because Richard's diet is profoundly deficient in vegetables, beans, fresh fruits and raw nuts and seeds (high nutrient plant foods), we can use his diet as an example of a disease-promoting diet-style.
The highlights of our computerized analysis are highlighted below:
Sodium: 6550 mg (recommended level--below 1500)
This high sodium diet guarantees Richard will develop high blood pressure in later life and be at high risk of both a heart attack and a stroke.
Fiber: 26 grams
This low level of fiber assures us Richard will develop colonic diverticulum and remain at higher risk of colon cancer.
Cholesterol 1082 mg, Saturated Fat 52 grams
This high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol guarantees Richard will develop a high cholesterol in later life and will clearly be at high risk of heart disease and cancer, like the rest of Americans.
Vitamin C 165 mg, Vitamin D 96 IU, Vitamin E 13 mg, Molybdenum 34 ug, Beta Carotene 5108
These low levels of antioxidant vitamins and minerals assure us that Richard will age prematurely and cut short his years of athletic prowess.
If you have been living in a cave for the last five years and haven't heard, a diet is considered healthy only if it gets the majority of its calories from natural plant foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, avocado, raw nuts, seeds and other nutrient-rich foods. When one bases their diet from a combination of animal products and processed foods a deficiency of plant-derived phytochemicals leads you down the road to cancer later in life.
Even though Richard Hamilton is only 29 years old, slim and wiry, and in great cardiovascular condition does not mean that his body will hold up to this level of activity as he ages. His diet may supply him with adequate macronutrients (fat, carbohydrate and protein) to sustain a high level of physical activity, but because the micronutrient levels are so low, he places himself at risk for a shortened career with injury and premature aging of his joints and connective tissues. As a result of this diet I would not risk a long term contract on Richard. His diet will likely prevent him from continuing this high level of athleticism that he displays past the age of 36. When we consider the productivity of players past the age of 36, we must look at their diet. Shaq is 34 years old and clearly his days are limited. It is rare that a person can compete at a professional level effectively past the age of 35.
There are exceptions to the rule, and dietary excellence is the way that young athletes can prolong their athletic careers. Look at Martina Navratilova, the tennis player who has been competing at a high competitive level for decades. She can do this because her diet is scientifically designed to be rich in antioxidants and phytocheimicals.
When I design diets for professional athletes we talk about what they want to achieve. Increase stamina? Strength? Reduce chance of catching infections? Achieve athletic longevity in their sport? Or just maintain their health as they age? You would be amazed that athletes are pretty smart in what they expect nutritional intervention to do.
For example, Dr. Dean Nicolas is a friend or mine who consults with me about nutrition. He coaches world and Olympic ski racers and is cognizant that a racer who is frequently ill or suffers from a prolonged viral infection during the winter can lose his high ranking in the world merely from a bad showing in a few races due to a poorly timed illness. When one of his racers gets ill and has a subsequent poor performance in an event, the ranking loss could cost him as much as $500,000 that year. Not a trivial infection. For example, Eric Schlopy who has skied in three Olympic Games has the good sense to design his diet with intelligence and precision to maximize his performance, disease resistance, and prolong the years of his athletic fitness.
We know that Dwyane Wade had a viral infection that almost cost the Heat their place in the finals and may have had something to do with his mediocre performance in the first two games against the Mavericks. Maybe these young athletes will wake up and realize that nutritional excellence can dramatically increase their resistance to infection, especially when they are on the road so much, exposed to so many people and under stress. It could make the difference between a victory or a loss in the NBA finals and it can prolong their playing years, not to mention their life. Pass all that cake, bread, pasta and cream to the other team Richard, it might get you a few more years of good play and be worth millions to you.