Dwight Howard Needed Radical, Complete Diet Change

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 11, 2013

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"I would always tell (the Lakers) how bad I wanted to get back to being Superman. Their response was, 'Well, you have to sacrifice something.'"

Dwight Howard doesn't seem like the type of NBA player who has needed to sacrifice much throughout his professional career, especially after he was pursued by several teams this past offseason before signing with the Houston Rockets.

But sacrifice he has, and it's come in the form of his diet. 

As CBS Sports' Ken Berger wrote in his absolutely fantastic article (seriously, go read the whole thing) on D12 and the Los Angeles Lakers' dietary habits, this is a player who was completely addicted to sugar:

It turned out that Howard was consuming the equivalent of 24 Hershey bars a day in the form of candy and soda—not to mention the additional sugar his body was making out of all the empty starches he was eating. 

The big man even spoke about his candy addiction during last year's All-Star break, per BioHealthScience.org's Adam Camara: 

Am I a big candy person? That's an understatement. My pantry is full of candy. Skittles just sent me 30 pounds of Skittles. I have a nightstand full of every candy you could think of. Skittles, blow pops, Laffy Taffy, Reese's Pieces, Kit Kats, all types of candy was in the drawer. 

Camara noted how Howard looked like a different player once he changed his diet, including having more energy on the court.

In the past, Howard was just one of many NBA players who didn't know how to take care of his body. 

But that has changed under Dr. Cate Shanahan's supervision, a nutritionist from Napa Valley who has had a significant impact on the Lakers' eating habits. And it's an impact that clearly resonates, as Howard has brought his newfound diet with him to Houston. 

Steve Blake said that his joints haven't felt better since he was back at the University of Maryland. Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant are buying in. Even Chris Kaman—the noted outdoorsman—spoke highly of the new system.

That said, the best success story may belong to Lakers forward Shawne Williams, who dropped 20 pounds and had to buy a whole new wardrobe for his svelte frame. 

Oct 29, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA;  Los Angeles Lakers small forward Shawne Williams (3) blocks a shot by Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) in the second half of the game at Staples Center. Lakers won 116-103. Mandatory Credit: Jayne
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Here's the basic breakdown of the diet, per Berger, although the details are far more nuanced and complicated: 

The Lakers' program is called PRO Nutrition, which somewhat obtusely stands for Performance, Recovery and Orthogenesis—the latter being the theory that evolution is strongly influenced by environmental factors, such as diet. It seems extreme because it has basically turned the government's sacred food pyramid upside-down. Shanahan wants the players to get at least 50 percent of their calories from fat, and no more than 25 percent each from protein and carbohydrates. Wait, what? That's right. Basically the opposite of what you and everyone else alive have been doing for years.

While it's still the Lakers' program, Howard has adopted the principles Shanahan preaches so readily that Houston general manager Daryl Morey has signed a deal with Whole Foods. He wants to promote D12's healthy habits, so he ensured that the grocer would cater Rockets' road trips.

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 08:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Houston Rockets take a free throw during the game against the Orlando Magic at Toyota Center on December 8, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by download
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Not only is Howard much healthier, but he claims to have more energy and endurance, all while dropping his body-fat percentage from 5-6 percent all the way down to—if you're self-conscious about your own body, you probably want to stop reading—3 percent. 

It's safe to say that Superman is back.

Hell, Clark Kent himself probably never got into that type of shape.