Sometimes it’s hard to imagine what can make a star athlete improve even more. These are people who have worked their whole lives to become professionals, and who are accustomed to the best coaches and trainers, the most effective workout routines and equipment, and a general level of excellence most casual athletes can’t dream of. Even with all of this, however, some start athletes seem to find a way to rise to new levels – and often, it’s thanks to nutritional efforts.
Kyle Lowry (NBA)
Kyle Lowry was a late bloomer in the NBA – a very good college basketball player who took his time finding stardom as a professional. There are numerous reasons for this, but one is that he struggled somewhat with his weight and fitness in his younger years. A few offseasons ago, however, Lowry made a fairly dramatic physical transformation, dedicating himself to workouts and better nutrition. Lowry excluded dessert, butter, and oils and consumed a diet consisting largely of lean meat, egg whites, kale and salads. He’s since become a far fitter professional, and a perennial All-Star candidate in an extraordinarily competitive league. There is a clear link between his nutrition and his improvement.
Venus Williams (WTA)
Venus Williams, one of the most famous tennis players of all time, actually changed up her nutritional routine for a very specific reason. Stricken with a serious autoimmune disease, she transitioned to a raw vegan lifestyle and saw nearly miraculous results. However, there’s also an argument to be made that cutting out animal-based and processed foods has allowed her to maintain an elite level of fitness beyond holding off her condition. As a guide to the 2017 U.S. Open said, Williams now holds the record, for men or women, for most Grand Slams played (at 75). That kind of longevity can be attributed to many things, but one is surely a diligent focus on nutrition in the latter stages of her career.
Katie Ledecky may be the most famous swimming alive not named Michael Phelps. Before she burst onto the scene in the 2012 London Olympics, however, she was essentially average in her sport, finishing with modest results in trials and barely ranking in some of the events she would wind up winning gold medals in. Ledecky has credited her sensational improvements largely to keeping a log of her workouts and diet – which, while not a recommendation of a specific nutritional routine, is good advice for all of us. Keeping a log of what you eat is a great way to maintain discipline, recognize habits, and generally better your lifestyle.
Novak Djokovic (ATP)
Getting back to tennis for a moment, this conversation would feel incomplete without mention of Novak Djokovic. Years ago Djokovic was recognized as the most promising young talent in the game, and potentially an all-time great. However, he had problems with consistency and would occasionally grow frustrated or fail to finish matches. Djokovic eventually found his consistency and achieved all-time great status, and though much of his journey appeals to have been mental, he has credited his transition to a gluten-free lifestyle. When healthy, he now has as formidable a fitness level as can be found in the sport.
Simply by the eye test, Cristiano Ronaldo might be the fittest athlete alive, or at least one of them. He’s also commonly recognized as one of the two best soccer players alive, alongside Lionel Messi. Naturally nutrition and exercise have played major roles in his development and success. He’s even been recognized by Herbalife for his achievements, as a sort of acknowledgement that he’s a strong representative for proper nutrition. In Ronaldo’s case, his example is perhaps best for serious athletes. He famously focuses on a carb-centered diet to keep his energy up for rigorous training sessions.