Paul George reinvented his diet before the best season of his career
The buttery smell of popcorn drew Paul George to the open side door of the concession stand after practice in Toronto last week.
He lingered, talking to the person inside, who was presumably preparing for the Raptors game that night.
The attendant offered him a bag.
“Is it ready?” he asked.
It would be soon.
George was the last player to exit the Scotiabank Arena concourse, but he did so with a snack. Even NBA All-Stars get cheat days.
Last summer, George completely reinvented his diet. He went from eating fried food and hamburgers to vegetables and fish. He said he feels lighter and has more energy in a season in which he injected himself into the MVP conversation for three straight months.
Some of George’s elevation in play this season, a year after the Pacers traded him to the Thunder, can be attributed to him settling into his new team. Thunder coach Billy Donovan said he also thought getting leaner helped George.
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“I think he prepared himself that summer (before the trade) in a way where he tried to get stronger, he put weight on, he just wanted to deal with the rigors of what he was expected to do in Indiana,” Donovan said. “I think when he got traded it was an eye-opening experience playing with Russell (Westbrook) and how fast he is.”
Donovan himself went through a nutrition-awakening during his playing days. His came at Providence when coach Rick Pitino, as Donovan retold it, “told me I was fat.”
“I remember when I was playing we used to load up on pasta and carbohydrates, it was like a big thing back then,” he said. “All this nutritional stuff seems to me, as more and more research comes out, it all changes.”
Thunder rookie Deonte Burton cut carbohydrates out of his diet almost completely this summer and went protein-heavy. The Thunder athletic performance staff and cooks at the practice facility guided him through his change in diet as he transitioned from playing in South Korea to the NBA and shed about 10-15 pounds, by Burton's estimate.
“It’s not as strict as you might think,” he said of his diet over the summer. “You’re conscious of your intake all the time. Just being conscious of what I’m eating, when I snack, when I don’t snack, how much water I’m drinking. Hydration is a big thing, and also breakfast is a really big thing in losing weight.”
George said he’s had the same chef for five years, but for the past year he’s had to switch up his recipes. A lot of George's decision to change his diet had to do to with a move from the Eastern Conference to the West.
“It’s a much faster pace,” he said, “and I think now the NBA overall is catching up to the Western style of playing fast with four out, one in. The East is catching up a little bit to it. But for sure it’s definitely a difference between the West and the East.”
It also had to do with George’s age. At 28 years old and in his ninth season in the NBA, George has realized what most basketball players have to accept at some point in their careers: he can’t get away with eating whatever he wants anymore.
“My body doesn’t respond the same way, especially with injuries and nicks and bruises,” said George, who has been playing through left shoulder issues. “So, a lot of the stuff that’s going to get me back healthy and get me back right is what I’m eating.”
Once in a while, George will splurge on a bag of popcorn. But more often he walks into the arena carrying a container of food made by his chef, tailored to his new diet.