Wilson Chandler knew he needed to do something different.
After being told he’d miss the entire 2015-2016 NBA season with a hip injury, a frightening pattern had emerged. Injuries had also hampered him in the past, as he played in just 8 games during the 2011-2012 season and 43 games in the 2012-2013 season.
Interested in keeping himself healthier on and off the court, Chandler started following a pescatarian diet (which is similar to a vegetarian diet but allows for fish). But as he continued to do more research, he came to the conclusion a vegan diet—which excludes all animal products—would be best-suited to his needs.
His play last season speaks volumes. Chandler appeared in 71 games while posting new career highs in points per game (15.7) and rebounds per game (6.5). The 30-year-old forward was a key cog in a Denver Nuggets lineup that won the franchise’s most games since 2012-2013. After seeing great results both on the court and in his daily life, Chandler isn’t planning on giving up his vegan ways anytime soon.
“This is something I’m not really doing for like a 30-day challenge or my basketball career,” Chandler recently told Business Insider. “I think this is a lifestyle thing.”
Chandler told Sentient Fitness he rarely makes exceptions to his diet—he’ll occasionally eat a dish that contains dairy and every “once in a blue moon” he’ll eat fish. While sticking to his diet during the craziness of the NBA schedule can be challenging, technology has helped. “I try to stick to it as much as possible. (I’ll) use different apps like Postmates or UberEATS to find different healthy spots or vegan sports,” Chandler said.
One of the most difficult aspects of the transition was finding the right nutrient balance for his own needs. When he first started the diet, he felt sluggish and out of sorts. That’s probably because he wasn’t eating enough protein—a common problem for athletes who embrace vegan diets, but one that can be solved.
“When I first made the transition, I struggled a little with fatigue,” Chandler told GQ. “Because 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.” Chandler reports one of the biggest changes he’s seen since becoming vegan was improved recovery, which allows him to enter games and practices feeling more refreshed.