It wasn’t until my early 20s that I became conscious of what I was eating. I often think how much better my teenage years would have been if I had a better diet. I never really drew the correlation between my diet and my health, but as I got older and started traveling and competing, I became really on top of my eating. I still make sure I read about different diets, foods and the effects they have on the body. As a professional athlete, you are always looking for that edge. You don’t ever want to have to question it. You want to do the work early and know that it is there.
I first seriously learned about nutrition when I bought a tape for $1 in a health food store called “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie.” It had all this stuff on it about the effects of food, degenerative diseases and lack of nutrients. It was the first time I truly realized that if you don’t have the right diet, it can cause so many problems. On top of that, in 2003, my father died of cancer and I’ve had a lot of friends who have been either sick or died from a lot of diseases. All those situations made me become passionate about my health and longevity and being careful of what I put in my body. I read the ingredient panel of everything I buy. I think it’s hugely important. I can’t understand why someone wouldn’t want to read them.
Eating clean to me means not eating too many different types of foods all at once. I also try and eat a wide variety of the same nutrient. For instance, if you are into eating protein, I don’t think you want to always eat the same protein. You want to vary the types of amino acids you are eating. I’ve been eating chia for a number of years, but last year I was working out with a friend in Hawaii who said you can soak chia in coconut water overnight and eat it for breakfast. He said it has all the essential fats (Omega 3) you need and the amino acids. So I started doing that, then added berries and some nuts. It has become a staple for me.
I think when you hear the word fat, people think it’ll make them fat. Americans have the lowest fat diets in the world and have the biggest and most obese people. There is a correlation between the two. People don’t realize the positive effects of healthy fats on your brain, digestion and joints. We have good fats too. People talk about coconuts and avocados being fatty. Avocados, coconuts, and chia seeds are natural foods. They just grow on the earth as they are. They’re unprocessed and they’re some of the healthiest foods in the world for you.
Food, for me, is about being able to know where it comes from. When I visited The Chia Company farms, I obviously learned a lot about the local area, the irrigation systems, the water, the wet and dry seasons, but for me it’s about the farmers and the passion the farmers have for the product. I really don’t like to work with things I’m not passionate about and that don’t have a place in my life. I don’t want to just stamp my name on things. I like to work with people who have similar visions to me.