MIAMI — Dwyane Wade was sitting on a table in the Miami Heat training room about an hour before game time Sunday doing something he never would have envisioned a few years ago. In his lap: small servings of pasta and fruit.
“When it comes to food,” Wade said, “I understand the things that I need now.”
Wade turns 30 later this month and, in his ninth pro season, nutrition is as important to him as any other part of his regimen.
That wasn't always the case. Even when he was on his way to being MVP of the NBA finals in 2006, Wade could get away with eating just about anything he wanted, chicken fingers and cheeseburgers seem to be staples in his diet.
Not anymore. Farewell, sweets. Hello, salads.
And Wade says changing the way he fuels his body has him feeling as healthy as ever.
“The protein, the drinks, the carbohydrates, I know all the things I need,” he said. “The biggest thing is that I've talked with a nutritionist, who's working with the team, who understands what we need, how much we practice, what weight I need to be at, what body fat, this, this and this. Put them together, come up with a master plan and I reap the benefits.”
Wade came into the season with a body fat of less than four percent but says he has enough strength and bulk to get through the grind of a condensed 66-game regular season. He credits the culinary changes for that belief.
One of his secrets: chlorophyll.
Yes, the stuff that allows plants to extract energy from light is helping energize Wade as well.
“I put it in juices for him,” said Richard Ingraham, a personal chef for Wade and his longtime girlfriend Gabrielle Union. “He does a juice now that I make out of beets, chlorophyll, ginger. I'm giving him a nature-made Red Bull. It's all about giving him energy and keeping him as healthy as possible.”
Ingraham often tweets descriptions and photos of some of the things he's whipping up in the kitchen, whether it's red velvet waffles, toffee butter cookies or spice cake with cream cheese frosting and a rum glaze.
Union has been known to tweet her delight with some of the chef's selections. Wade doesn't mention them often and, apparently, there's a reason for that.
“They're not for me,” he said. “That's not mine. That's the ladies’.”
Wade loses about five pounds per game, so his postgame meal tends to be as important as, if not more so, than the pregame one. Ingraham tends to keep things simple: chicken breast, turkey breast, that sort of thing. On occasion, he says, he'll make one of Wade's former favorites as a treat but, for the most part, Wade sticks to the better choices.
Not long ago, Wade tweeted his breakfast menu: bacon and egg whites on wheat toast, calling it “breakfast of a champion.” He still likes cookies and milk sometimes but, clearly, his palate is changing.
“He doesn't really like vegetables,” Ingraham said. “When I put the salad down, I know that's something he really doesn't want to do but he knows it can help him. It's not like I'm putting down asparagus. We're taking baby steps. But it works.”
Wade agrees — it is working. And someone who once famously said he'd rather eat just about anything other than salad is starting to change his tune.
“It's working for me,” Wade said. “It's not bad. It's better than I thought. Just trying to give my body an edge. I'm just trying to do whatever I can within my limitations of doing it. Most of my salad consists of fruit. It's helping me out. I'm just trying to figure out ways that I can make sure I at least give my body a chance to be as healthy as it can be.”
Photo: Dwyane Wade