Point guard Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers is known as being one of the fittest players in basketball. The 36-year-old, who alongside Kobe Bryant has won five NBA championships, is in 15th season, and he keeps draining 3-pointers and making players much younger than him look foolish on the court. So as he leads the Lakers into the playoffs yet again this April, he’s the perfect athlete to talk to about eating healthy and what foods to avoid if you want to stay on top.
Do you eat differently during the season?
Yes, but in reverse. In the off-season it’s really clean, really lean. I’m really conscious of preparing my body for the season. I drink tons of water to keep my body hydrated and flush everything out. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables. I can’t have enough green on the plate—broccoli, salads, kale, bok choy—and lots of fish and chicken. I eat almost zero red meat in the summer. Sometimes during the season because of how much we expend and how much our bodies put out, I can feel my body calling for a little red meat, so every now and then I’ll have an eight-ounce filet to get that iron in. During the season it’s more difficult because of the travel. You’re on the go a lot more. You’re eating room service a lot more. As with all Americans when we travel, it’s harder to stay right in pocket with your nutritional diet.
What’s your best tip for people trying to stay healthy on the road?
Snacking is the most important thing. It’s easy to go long periods of time without eating. Then the time comes when it’s time to eat and you’re just ravenous. You haven’t eaten all day because you’ve come off of a three– or four–hour flight. If you can prepare to travel and have some almonds or fun little snacks that are healthy to keep with you so that by the time you get to your city or back home, then it won’t be six or seven hours since you’ve put something in your body. Staying hydrated is another thing. A lot of times those hunger pains are coming from dehydration. Traveling dehydrates you even more, so drinking water is key as well.
Do you eat pasta? Everyone thinks professional athletes have to load up on carbs.
I do eat some pasta. I used to eat a lot more. I love a sweet baked potato. If I can get a whole wheat penne, I’ll go that route. Or if it’s regular penne pasta or a bow tie, I try to add tons of broccoli, tomatoes, green beans, onions, and all kinds of vegetables into the mix. Maybe I’ll add some chicken.
No Alfredo sauce?
No, no Alfredo sauce. Those days are over.
At what point did you change and give up things like Alfredo sauce?
After my first few years in LA I started to change. I was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas and ate typical mid-South, Southwest cuisine. You’re eating chicken fried steak or fried chicken or fried catfish. Everything is breaded in some form. My palate started to change a little bit once I got to LA and I started to try different things and branch out. My wife introduced me to sushi and other types of cuisine. From there I kept getting curious.
Do you cook?
I don’t cook as much as I used to. If I do cook it’s primarily breakfast. Most of the time it’s egg whites, turkey bacon, or turkey sausage, whole wheat or whole grain waffles, fruit. I’ve really gotten into homemade granola or granola mixed with a fruit yogurt. A lot of times I have lunch at the practice facility. My wife pretty much has the dinner. When I’m done playing and traveling I’m actually looking forward to taking culinary classes and learning how to really, really work the kitchen. I want to be in the kitchen with the kids and whip some things up and do some fun things.