A Diet Fit For A King?


LeBron James on the Court

Image source: articles.businessinsider.com.

So the prodigal son has finally returned. Yep, King James has left the cushy confines of South Beach to go back to where it all started  You can question his real motive–he returned to a team with three number draft picks under age 25, two of whom were subsequently traded for 25-year-old all star forward Kevin Love–but Lebron is back and the Cavs have all but guaranteed themselves a trip to the NBA finals.

Though James has decided to take his talents and sizable bank account back to the Forest City, it seems there is one thing he left in sunny Miami: his obsession with sugar. As Tony Manfred reported on Business Insider, James has shed significant weight this summer by slashing carbs from a notoriously carb-friendly diet that included a not-so-surprising addiction to sugary cereals. Just one cup of Trix, a former favorite of the King, contains 10 g of sugar, which isn’t surprising considering that even healthy-sounding varieties like granola often sneak in loads of sugar.

According to ESPN NBA insider Brian Windhorst, the King slashed weight because he felt that he was out of shape coming into last season and had become self-conscious about his appearance. Everything is relative of course, and what constitutes “out-of-shape” when you’re talking about a 29-year-old world-class athlete and three time NBA champ who averaged  26 points, six assists, and six rebounds per game last year is open for debate. But James clearly felt motivated enough to embark on a carb-free diet, which has cut 10-12 pounds from his 6-foot-8, 250 pound frame.



Credit: Courtesy Lebron James; inset: Alexander Tamargo/Getty

In the past, Lebron had been linked to a much healthier (but unverified) diet, but celebrity food watchers can only speculate as to what he ate–or didn’t–to lose 10-12 pounds in just six weeks. In all likelihood, his carb-free regimen would have included some variation of the popular Paleo Diet. But whatever he’s doing, it’s obviously working.

What can we take from James’ rapid weight loss? Should we all be following a similar low-carb eating plan?  It’s important to remember that James exercises for a living, typically burning thousands of calories a day during on and off the court workouts. Whatever diet he chooses, his job offers advantages that the world’s legion desk jockeys and other sedentary folks just can’t touch. And even if they could, some studies have shown the vigorous and/or endurance sports don’t necessarily offer an advantage over less less vigorous sports. In fact, a Dutch study found that athletes who participated in physically demanding sports, particularly those that involved body contact, had a higher mortality after they reached age 50 than those who participated in sports with less wear and tear.

And even we could exercise more, it might be not make that much of a difference, as most studies show that exercise has a negligible impact on weight loss. Really, it’s just a numbers game. If we follow the old formula of 3500 calories equalling one pound of body fat, it would take a 150-pound  man walking at a rate of 4 miles per hour nine hours (that’s 36 miles if you’re keeping score) to hit the mark (running at 6 miles per hour would cut the 9-hour time estimate in half). Hello? Other than elite athletes, who has that kind of time? Shedding the same pounds by dieting, would require just a relatively modest 500-calorie per day cut.

I tell patients that if they rely on exercise to save them, then they’d better get a roadmap to Beijing. Their legs will never move as fast as their fingers! Remember, the most important exercise of all for lasting weight loss can’t even be found at the gym. It’s the exercise of good judgment with your food choices.

It worked for a King. Make it work for you.