While most players in the NBA follow sugar-laden, starchy diets that would give a nutritionist nightmares, the Lakers are scoring big by eating low on the carbohydrate food chain, reported Diets in Review on Dec. 12. The radically different diet emphasizes protein and healthy fats, while sidelining sugar, processed foods and unhealthy oils. It's a Paleo-style diet that the Lakers and Kobe Bryant are cheering about.
The decision to make the change stemmed from team physician Dr. Cate Shanahan. It's based on her book "Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food" (click for details).
"She's not pushing supplements on us," Lakers point guard Steve Nash told CBS News recently in reference to the diet. "It's all natural foods. There's nothing processed; nothing unnatural. ... Although it is a bit of an extreme diet compared to the traditional diet, what works in its favor as far as a safeguard is that it is a natural diet."
The result of the food plan, which features grass-fed meat and real foods: Weight loss, body fat reduction and even faster recovery from injuries.
"If you really stick to it, it really makes a difference," player Steve Blake said. "Everything they're telling us, one, it makes sense, and two, [Shanahan] has science to back it up."
Kobe Bryant agrees, emphasizing that he trusts the physician's advice.
"It's a different philosophy," he said. "It's something that we all had to adjust to, but we trust Dr. Cate implicitly. I've seen great results from it from when I started doing it last year -- watching your sugar intake, making sure you're eating healthy fats. You've got to find a balance in that system. It's worked well for me."
And that system is highly detailed when it comes to what's allowed.
The Lakers eat only beef from humanely raised, grass-fed cows with no added antibiotics. The reason: Grass-fed cows produce meat with higher levels of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The fish is wild, and free-range chickens and pigs are featured on the Lakers menus.
"There's a right way to raise a pig and a wrong way," Lakers strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco said. "Pigs that are raised with hormones and fed corn and grains, yeah, that'll kill you."
The Lakers' program is called PRO Nutrition: Performance, Recovery and Orthogenesis. Translation: Dr. Cate believes that evolution is strongly influenced by environmental factors.
What that means: Turning the traditional food pyramid upside-down by encouraging players to get at least 50 percent of their calories from fat, and no more than 25 percent each from protein and carbohydrates. It's a plan that an increasing number of health experts support, such as neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter (click for details).
Learn more about the science behind low carb, high fat, high protein ketogenic diets by clicking here to read Professor Tim Noakes' views.