Damian Lillard’s vegan diet has joined Jazzercize, ephedra and Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo in the fitness graveyard. After getting snubbed for another All-NBA team and All-Star roster in 2017, Lillard was looking for an (legal) advantage. This summer, he thought he found one in veganism. Lillard dove into a vegan diet in an attempt to drop 10 pounds off of his 200 pound frame. However, during an appearance on the ESPN Hoop Collective’s Run A.M.C. podcast on Wednesday, Lillard revealed that after realizing he’d lost 17 pounds, more than he intended, he cut the diet and welcomed beef and chicken back into his belly.
“I did it to lose some weight and be easier on my feet, knees and ankles,” said Lillard, who is averaging 25 points, 6.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds this season. “I had a few injuries, so I was trying to get lighter and trying to get healthier and put better stuff in my body. It helped a lot as far as my energy and how I felt.”
Athletes have switched to the vegan diet before, believing it would imbue them with significantly more energy, but Lillard’s story is a cautionary tale about the negative aspect of a diet that bars amino acids from animal protein that aren’t present in plant proteins.
Lillard would have been better served getting advice from Denver Nuggets forward WIlson Chandler about the proper way to mix the vegan lifestyle with the demands of a professional athlete. Chandler went vegan during the spring of 2016, but initially dealt with bouts of low energy.
“I was winging it. I just jumped in. But as I learned more and figured out which foods had more protein, I was fine. But at first it was hard to keep my stamina up and I would get tired faster, but now I’m more knowledgeable,”
Lillard hasn’t completely given up the vegan lifestyle, however, he appears to have embraced a more balanced diet. Lillard intended to mitigate the stress placed on his lower body, but his health this season hasn’t varied from past campaigns.
A hamstring injury kept Lillard out of the lineup for five games at the end of December and a calf strain forced him to miss another two games. Overall, Lillard is still having a superb season, averaging 25 points and at last five assists for the third season in a row. Unfortunately, the weight loss may not help get him into the All-Star Game as his prospects appear slimmer than ever, telling ESPN’s Chris Hayes that he expects to be absent from another All-Star roster.
“I’ve gotten frustrated just for the fact that it feels like I always got to be the fall guy and every other guy has been deserving.
“In the past, the thing has been, ‘All right, my team has been 10 games under .500 or not in the playoffs,’ but every year we’ve found a way to be in the postseason, and this year I think we’re in much better position than we have been in the past two seasons that I didn’t make it.
“I think I’ve gotten over the emotional part of it the last few times that I didn’t make it. Now I’m kind of like expecting it to go that way, but I feel like I should be there.”
On the plus side, at least he can now drown his sorrows in a nice sirloin steak.
– – – – – – –