At age 34 and in his 17th season, Kobe Bryant has reached the pinnacle of his profession. Yet he is honest enough to know that father time is catching up to him and that his days of dominance are numbered. However, instead of accepting the inevitable, Kobe discovered the paleolithic lifestyle as a means of squeezing out a few more great season from his aging body.
From an article titled “Kobe Bryant’s Diet Helps Maintain Elite Level Of Play“:
‘Bryant finished the final month of the 2012 calendar year with averages of 33.79 points, 5.57 rebounds and 4.64 assists, all-time highs in each category for any month during his entire career. That streak also coincided with 10 straight games of 40-plus minutes.
“My wind feels even better,” he said postgame after the Lakers 111-98 victory over the 76ers. “I feel like I can run all day long. A lot of that has to do with diet and being committed to it, and watching what I eat.”
The advancements in sports science and medicine, particularly understanding the nature of eating and avoiding certain foods, have aided Bryant in changing his diet. Whereas some athletes might go through their usual offseason routine even as they age, Vitti said the 16-year veteran changed his habits beforehand.
“Kobe never got to that point where he came in behind and had to figure it out,” Vitti said. “He saw the future before the future came and he’s already made the adjustment.”
Part of that changed diet and those healthy eating tips come from Dr. Cate Shanahan, a team consultant who has her own practice in Napa Valley. Pasture-fed foods – pasture-grazed beef from a pasture-fed cow, eggs from a free-range chicken (not a cage chicken) – are just some of the main staples of Bryant’s diet. Sugars, specifically anything with corn syrup, should be avoided, and the intake of carbohydrates has been scaled down, consumed in moderation.
“What happens is the athlete consumes one of these products high in carbohydrates and sugar, they get a spike of energy and feel really good,” Vitti said. “Your body knows that, sends insulin and then they crash. As soon as they crash, they need another sugar fix, and they’re yo-yoing up and down. If we get them off that stuff and get them into more of protein and the right kind of fats, then they’ll have a higher level of energy without the lows or the dips.”
More findings examine the ratio of high-density lipoproteins (HDL’s) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL’s), better known as “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol, which can be monitored. The common thought was the ratio for of HDL’s to be high and LDL’s to be low. But according to Vitti, new findings are changing that perception.
“We’re finding out now that a higher level of LDL’s, which we thought was bad, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad,” he continued, “because within that category, there are good LDL’s and bad LDL’s. Even though you might have an elevated level of LDL’s, it might be the right kind of LDL’s.”
For example, eating fats, when they’re the right kind of fats, can be packed with nutrients.
“What I’ve done really is just train really hard and watch my diet,” Bryant said.
“All this fat free stuff and all these things we’ve been doing has been the biggest proponent of it,” Vitti said. “When they strip the fat, they strip all the nutrients with it. We don’t necessarily want to stay away from fats, but it has to be the right kind of fat.”
Vitti acknowledges they have created, not only for Bryant, but also all their players, food groups that are red, yellow and green. The traditional food pyramid is not what they’re preaching to the players. In fact, it’s the inverse.
“The current science reverses the pyramid,” Vitti said. “The base of the pyramid is on the top. We’re not telling them to just eat fat – it has to be the right kind of fat. Pasture-grazed beef and products from that; you can eat butter, but it has to be pasture-fed. Not pasteurized, pasture-fed. There’s a big difference. Milk from a pasture-fed cow, cheese from a pasture-fed cow.”
Altogether, the shift in dietary habits is one of the reasons why the five-time champion has performed at such an effective and efficient level this late into his career. No guard in NBA history has averaged over 15 points in his 17th season or later, but Bryant ranks second in the league in scoring at 29.2 points per game, while also shooting at a 46.5 percent clip.
“What I’ve done really is just train really hard and watch my diet,” Bryant said. “I think that’s the thing that catches guys most. They don’t do self-assessing. They feel like they can go out there and do some of the things that they did when they were younger and eat some of the things that they’ve been (eating) and not accept the fact that what you put in has an impact.”‘