From 2011-12 to 2013-14, Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler played only 113 of a possible 246 games.
Then, after playing 78 games in 2014-15, he missed the entire 2015-16 season with a hip injury.
Tired of consistently battling injuries and other health-related stresses, Chandler looked for a different approach to his health and finally found what appears to be a solution: veganism.
Now a year and a half into his diet, Chandler says he is not going back.
“This is something I’m not really doing for like a 30-day challenge or my basketball career,” Chandler told Business Insider. “I think this is a lifestyle thing. It’s up and down, there’s certain food you can’t have, so it’s up and down, but for the most part I stick to it.”
Chandler said he’s “99% sure” he’s never going back to an omnivorous diet. And why not? In 2016-17, Chandler played 71 games, averaging 15.7 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game (both career-highs) while boasting a 54.5% True Shooting percentage, the second-best mark of his career. He said he’s been most impacted by his ability to recover after workouts, practices, and games and feels a difference in his energy.
Chandler was first turned onto the concept by former NBA guard Chris Douglas-Roberts. Chandler said after making inroads in what he called the “vegan and vegetarian crowds,” he moved from being a pescatarian and vegetarian to strictly vegan.
A typical meal for Chandler isn’t all that different from what a non-vegan would eat. For instance, after working out, Chandler said he has a vegan protein shake and some carbs. The day before our phone call, he said he had eaten a vegan burger, sauteed broccoli, blackbeans, and drank kombucha.
Initially, eating on the road was difficult, but he’s gotten to know vegan spots in different cities. Chandler says Los Angeles has a good vegan and plant-based food scene, as does Chicago, but Detroit has his favourite vegan restaurant, Detroit Vegan Soul. Chandler’s go-to is a platter with foods like mac-and-cheese (vegan, of course!), collard greens, black-eyed peas, and yams. He’s also a fan of their fried cabbage sandwich.
While Chandler said he would gladly recommend the diet, he believes it’s already spreading to more and more players. Chandler hasn’t personally talked to some player’s he’s seen “experimenting” with plant-based diets like Portland’s Damian Lillard and Sacramento’s Garrett Temple, but thinks knowledge of its benefits will help players around the league.
Of course, it’s not as if Chandler still doesn’t have temptations to eat poorly. There is one food he still misses.
“The thing I probably miss the most probably would be tacos, man,” Chandler said. “Just like authentic tacos. They have plant-based tacos, but it’s different from what you grew up on.”
Though Chandler said the Nuggets can help him prepare food if needed, he mostly handles his diet himself and feels more confidently about it now that he has a season under his belt.
At 30, entering his tenth season, Chandler is going to stick with what works, though not just for basketball; Chandler feels as though he’s found a winning recipe.
“This is something I wanna do for my life.”
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