The Cleveland Cavaliers are down 2-0 to the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals, but we wouldn’t count them out just yet.
Why? Because Cleveland still has LeBron James.
After flirting with a triple-double in game 1, LeBron posted a ridiculous stat line in game 2—29 points, 14 assists, 11 rebounds, 3 steals and a block. And he did it while shooting 66 percent from the field.
LeBron might need to do even more if the Cavs are going to have a legitimate shot to come back in the series. The good news for Cleveland fans is that LeBron is one of the few players who seems to get stronger throughout the course of the playoffs. His nutrition has a lot to do with that.
LeBron explained the importance of his diet and its impact on recovery during a video on his UNINTERRUPTED network:
“The thing that I started cutting down is the sugars. When it comes to the playoffs, it kinda slows down the process of recovery. During the regular season it’s OK to have a little bit. But in the postseason, optimal recovery—whoever can recover the fastest from game to game is going to put themselves in position to be successful. So the sugars I kinda cut out, but the carbs I kinda ramp up,” James says. “Because you’re losing so many calories, burning so many calories, burning all your energy throughout those games. So I kinda go heavy on the carbs because it gives you energy. It’s worked for me. When you understand your body and you have your chef and people around that understand it as well, it definitely helps out.”
Running out of carbs during a game or training session can make you feel like you’re moving under water. Your first step is slower, you have trouble finishing plays and your reactions aren’t as sharp. “Carbs are the fuel of exercising muscle,” says Roberta Anding, RD and a team dietitian for the Houston Astros. ”Human bodies don’t necessarily stop when they run out of carbs, but they do slow down.”
Sugar itself is a carbohydrate. So when LeBron says he cuts out sugars but ramps up his carb intake during the playoffs, he means he’s increasing his intake of carbohydrates that do not include added sugars.
But is he right about sugar having the potential to slow down recovery?
Indeed he is. Inflammation is the natural enemy of recovery, and according to a 2005 study on the topic, “diets that promote inflammation are high in refined starches, sugar, saturated and trans-fats, and low in omega-3 fatty acids, natural antioxidants and fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.” Cutting down on his sugar consumption may also help LeBron keep his mind sharp. A 2012 study from UCLA found that a high fructose diet “slows the brain” by hampering memory and learning.