All-Star’s Personal Chef Talks About Eating to Fuel Performance
Prior to scoring 39 points, leading his team to the national championship and being named MVP, Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant had a nice lunch of pan-seared salmon topped with homemade tzatziki sauce, served with wild rice and a medley of zucchini and squash. He eats fish – a lean protein that sustains his energy levels without weighing him down – before nearly every game.
In fact, Durant eats seafood at least six times a week – 8-ounce servings of some of his favorites, including salmon, sea bass, scallops and shrimp, says the man who cooks these all-star dishes for him, chef Ryan Lopez.
“In order for me to perform the way I want to perform,” the two-time Olympian says, “I need some good energy in my body and [Lopez] provides that for me.”
Lopez says, “I need to make sure he’s fueled for the game,” and seafood is light, easy to digest, offers energy and helps with muscle recovery. Adding, “as a trained chef, it needs to be healthy but I make sure it tastes good, too.” He takes classic comfort food dishes and puts a healthy spin on them.
Lopez has cooked for Durant for nearly six years, moving to Oklahoma City and then to the Bay Area when he transferred from the Thunder to the Warriors this season. And, this season while Durant was out with a knee injury, he needed to focus even more on nutrition to get him toward his goals of recovery.
Lopez works with six other athletes, as well, including professional boxers and Oakland Raiders players, and personalizes meal plans for each of them based on blood work to get to peak performance through measures of inflammation, cholesterol, glucose, omega-3s, and gluten.
To decrease inflammation and to aid in muscle recovery for his athletes, Lopez encourages them to get a significant amount of omega-3s a day, with a goal of an omega-3 blood level of 10% to 15%. He acknowledges this can sometimes mean they need to supplement with fish oil.
For Durant, Lopez prepares balanced meals that rely on lean protein, minimally processed carbs (plus he’s been gluten free for three months) and a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables.
A typical day includes:
One of Durant’s favorites is the miso-glazed sea bass. “I fell in love with sea bass when [Lopez] started cooking for me,” he says. “That’s like the one thing I have to have all the time.”
Lopez tries to cook seasonally, so currently halibut and soft shell crab are favorites right now.
Find Lopez on Facebook or Instagram to follow along with his kitchen creations.
Pro Cooking Tip:
When cooking a fish filet without the skin, Chef Ryan Lopez prefers pan searing in a little avocado oil. On high heat, sear for 3 to 4 minutes until it starts to release off the pan and has a brown crust, then pop into the oven for a few minutes to cook to medium. Then let it rest for a couple minutes before serving for a nice crust.
If the filet has skin, start with skin side down in the pan and, while searing, push it down for 30 seconds so it doesn’t curl. Then the last step is to flip it over, flesh side down, for the last step of cooling. You’ll get crispy skin.
Seafood Nutrition Partnership created a new one-page resource highlighting best choices when it comes to omega-3 in various species.
Health organizations suggest an intake of at least 250 to 500 milligrams of omega-3 EPA+DHA per day. Find out which seafood has the most omega-3s:
Meet Shauna Nosler, managing editor of Edible Indy
and read her latest article, Getting Hooked on Salmon
Tell us a little about what you do?
I’m the managing editor of Edible Indy, which means I’m involved in all aspects of the editorial process: helping to plan future issues, assigning stories to writers, editing articles (over and over and over again), writing features, etc. I also freelance (both as a writer and editor) for a number of other organizations including U.S.A. Track & Field, The Indianapolis Star, U.S. News and World Report and others. When I’m not on a deadline I try and keep up with posting on my blog, The Flavored Word (note the word “try”).
How did you get involved with the Seafood Nutrition Partnership Indianapolis?
Through the magazine … I heard SNP wanted to work with people who share a love for seafood, and who want to educate others on why they need to eat more seafood -- I’m looking forward to our partnership. And I’m looking forward to posting more Instagram shots of all the awesome seafood available in this landlocked state of ours : )
Why do you think it’s important to educate Hoosiers about the health benefits of seafood?
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest -- which means I grew up eating seafood. A lot of seafood. Here in Indiana, and I suspect much of the Midwest, seafood isn’t necessarily something people consume on a regular basis. But they need to.
Of course, it takes more than just telling them what the USDA recommends. And it takes more than simply relaying the nutritional information. People need to be taught how to buy seafood, what to buy, where to buy it, and what to do with it when they get it home.
Recently, I worked with SNP President Linda Cornish and fellow coalition member Nick Caplinger on a story specifically about salmon. The article’s full of great information on sustainable fishing practices and includes a guide to the species (the different kinds of salmon available) as well as suggestions on how to prepare it at home.
What’s your favorite seafood dish?
I’m a sucker for seafood paella and order it at any restaurant brave enough to attempt the Spanish dish. At home, we eat fish, or some type of seafood, at least five nights a week. I’m a big fan of salmon, lingcod (which is nearly impossible to get in the Midwest but pretty easy to fish for in the PNW), king crab, scallops, and most shellfish -- especially mussels and raw oysters, which oddly I didn’t become a fan of until I moved here. Go figure!
Whether it’s on the basketball court or on the sidewalks of your neighborhood, regular physical activity is imperative to living a healthy life. Paired with a balanced diet, it can lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer – and give you more energy, focus and drive.
In honor of National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, Seafood Nutrition Partnership has asked some star basketball players how they eat to play their best – because they know that training must go hand-in-hand with healthy eating and proper nutrition.
“We have huge challenges ahead of us to get healthy as a nation,” said Detlef Schrempf, three-time NBA All-Star and founding board member of non-profit Seafood Nutrition Partnership. “When we were raising our two boys we were very busy, but took the time to educate ourselves on what the right food choices were. It took a conscious effort not settling for the convenient fast food option, because we’re all tired at the end of the day, but rather to plan ahead to prepare nutritious meals for our kids.”
“When I was playing,” said the 16-year NBA veteran, “part of my success, was really living a healthy lifestyle and eating well. I hope I can inspire young people to make healthy choices that will have lasting impacts.”
Through his foundation and volunteering with Jr. NBA and NBA Cares, Schrempf tours the country speaking with students about the importance of physical activity and good nutrition, because it takes both to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Research shows that when children are physically active, they do better – they achieve higher grades, don’t get sick as frequently and have a more positive outlook.
An inspiration for the future All-Stars, Schrempf also speaks with athletes to instill the importance of nutrition paired with training for optimal performance. College basketball standout Dedric Lawson, who led the Memphis Tigers scoring this year and heads to the Kansas Jayhawks, said Schrempf inspired him to eat seafood twice a week.
“I’m trying to cut my body fat down,” Lawson told The Commercial Appeal newspaper, “cutting back on sweets, cutting back on a lot of fried foods and I’m eating a lot of seafood, things that will help my body.”
Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter has also realized that good nutrition impacts performance.
“My first year in the NBA I was a really bad eater,” said Kanter, who helped bring his team to the NBA finals this year. “I was up to over 280, so I started a diet of just seafood and vegetables, and I lost over 40 pounds in one summer. I came back in my second season and I felt just so much better. I was running down the floor better, I was moving better. It impacted my performance, too.”
He is putting that life lesson to use impacting the community through his work with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, where he works to bring healthy food to those in need. To raise funds for the food bank, he’s combined his passions and created an online cooking show, Kitchen 11.
Also taking it digital, Schrempf recently paired with NBA Cares to create a series of videos encouraging healthy eating choices and for people to take the Healthy Heart Pledge.
“Take it from an athlete,” he starts in one video, “maintaining a healthy heart and brain is easy when you add seafood to your diet. Seafood is rich in healthy fats known as Omega-3s and full of lean protein.”
Joe Urban Is Inspiring Kids to Eat Healthier by Redefining What School Food Can Be
The staff, Board of Directors, and chef ambassadors of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership invite the public to join us in sharing the health impacts they have achieved through the Healthy Heart Pledge. We invite you to share your story!