Elena Delle Donne is one of basketball’s brightest stars. In addition to being named WNBA MVP in 2015, the Washington Mystics small forward is a seven-time WNBA All-Star and a three-time All-WNBA First-Team Selection.
She finds an edge with her nutrition. Elite athletes find themselves in a unique position where their performance very much depends in part on their diet, yet they often must deal with crazy travel schedules that are rarely conducive to healthy eating. Delle Donne knows this all too well, but she’s found a way to make her diet work in her favor.
STACK caught up with the former WNBA scoring champion to get the lowdown on her nutrition.
Note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity
STACK: What do you look for in a quality pre-game meal?
My wife, Amanda, makes me breakfast on home game days. (It’s) usually eggs, pancakes and bacon. I like to snack throughout the day, as well. My go-to for that would be apples with peanut butter. Usually an hour before the game, I have half a bagel with peanut butter. I try to keep it light the few hours before a game but then after the game, I’ll refuel with pasta and a protein.
What nutrients are the most important for you?
Definitely a lot of protein and good carbs, so foods like chicken, brown rice, sweet potato, etc. Whatever the meal is, it has to be packed with nutrients to fuel me for my game. For dinner, one of my favorite dishes is chicken with sautéed onions, mashed sweet potatoes, and veggies.
How hard is it to stick to your best eating habits on the road?
It’s a struggle because your schedule is so packed that you just want to turn to what’s quickest and most convenient. However, I always remind myself that my diet is important not only for my basketball career, but also for my health in managing my Lyme disease. So it’s really important to try and stay true to my nutrition plan. At this point, I’m used to playing in different cities, so I’ve found my go-to spots in each city where I know I’ll be able to find a great meal.
What supplements do you take?
I have to take lots of medicine/supplements for my Lyme disease, so most of what I take is centered around that. The supplements help with joint and muscle inflammation and then other supplements to support my immune system.
What advice would you have for younger athletes when it comes to nutrition?
It’s obviously a large part of what allows your body to be in peak form to compete at a professional level. I would just recommend making sure you do your research and find out what works best for your body, because it’s different for everyone. The key is having a well-rounded nutrition plan that includes a little bit of everything. Also know that no one is perfect, so you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. It’s OK to indulge every now and then or have cheat meals, just focus on getting back on track afterwards.
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Speaking of cheat meals, what’s your favorite go-to cheat meal?
Hmm my favorite cheat meal would have to be dessert. I have quite the sweet tooth for cake and ice cream. I also love to snack on popcorn. Movie theater style popcorn is the best.
I know you use the HowUdish app to help with your diet. How much has that helped?
It makes it way easier to eat while I’m on the road. In the offseason, I follow a modified Keto diet, so being able to enter my dietary restrictions and instantly being provided options of meals I can order at different restaurants saves me so much time.
Why should other people consider using an app like HowUdish?
It’s always a great feeling to have a community of people surrounding you as you try to reach your goals. HowUDish gives users just that. Whether you’re looking for great restaurants in a new area, sharing healthy alternatives on how to make your favorite restaurant dishes, or sharing your nutrition tips, you are engaged with a community that shares and supports a similar goal. And…of course saving money when you eat at select restaurants with Sponsored Dishes is a bonus, ha!
For more information on HowUdish, go to www.HowUdish.com
Photo Credit: David Sherman/Getty Images