Steve Nash Scores
The basketball star’s success on and off the court comes from a
natural approach to healthy living.
by Allan Richter
At 6 foot 3, Steve Nash is by no stretch among the tallest players in a game that treasures height for court advantage. Yet Nash is uniformly recognized as one of the National Basketball Association’s most respected players. Nash, in his seventh season with the Phoenix Suns, is known for his strategic thinking on the court—he can see a play developing before it takes shape—and is widely considered one of the top point guards in the game. He was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2005 and 2006.
“Even at 36, after a series of injuries, thousands of miles on his wheels and the loss [to the New York Knicks] of [former Suns coach] Mike D’Antoni and [former Suns teammate] Amare Stoudemire, it’s impossible to knock Nash out of the discussion of the league’s top five point guards,” Washington Post sportswriter Michael Lee wrote after the Suns trounced the Wizards in December. “Try as you might, you just can’t. He still has enough speed, and much more intelligence, which makes him a difficult cover.”
Much of Nash’s success, on and off the court, clearly comes from his diet, supplementation and fitness regimen. He has a broad love of sports and a finely tuned whole-food supplementation program tailored to his lifestyle: a supplement for joint health that includes glucosamine, chondroitin, yucca powder and a form of organic nutritional sulfur; and an anti-inflammatory supplement that combines amino acids, wheat germ, vitamin C from acerola cherry and a blend of nutrient-freeing enzymes.
Outside the game, Nash, who turns 37 this month, has coupled his entrepreneurial spirit with his passion for fitness in a number of venues. Next month, he opens his 18th Steve Nash Sports Clubs fitness center in Canada, where he was raised. The eco-friendly clubs are equipped with stationary bikes that generate electricity. Since 2001, he has been running his Steve Nash Foundation to help educate underserved children about health and personal development. His latest venture is as investor and spokesman for Tempe, Arizona, supplement maker OneBodē, for which he helps with R&D by providing feedback on how new formulas are working for him. Nash spoke with us from the road before a game.
Energy Times: Many athletes devour carbs for energy, but few nutritionists would recommend that for the average person. What is your approach to diet and nutrition, and how has it evolved?
Steve Nash: My mom encouraged us to eat healthy. We always had a balanced diet, but you can always learn more. Obviously as it relates to my profession it’s so important. Early in my career, I thought that pasta and carbo-loading was good, and then I realized it’s not; it’s full of sugar, starches and refined ingredients, so I changed that. I stay away from processed pastas, breads and sugars. I stopped eating pasta five or six years ago.
Now I eat as much raw and natural food as I can. Nothing processed, no refined sugars. I eat fruits, vegetables, lean fish or chicken, preferably wild fish or consciously raised chicken, and raw nuts and legumes. I’ve been eating that way for two years. My whole career, I’ve been eating healthy but I learn more and more every year. It’s always evolving.
I like to wake up with a protein and berry shake. I also have a steady diet of fresh fruit throughout the morning. Snacks are a must since I am always traveling. I like to eat easy stuff like salt-free nuts or dried fruit. Whether it’s the NBA season or not, my diet fits into a healthy lifestyle and is full of fresh steamed vegetables and fish such as wild salmon. It might seem a bit austere, but I don’t eat rich sauces or a lot of meat.
ET: Why does your supplementation program change throughout the year and why does your fitness regimen also vary?
SN: My supplementation program changes depending on whether I am in training or perhaps recovering from an injury during the season; then I will use a different combination of supplements to focus on that particular health concern.
My fitness regimen is pretty varied. I enjoy exercising outdoors when I can, but normally I am training specifically with my long-time trainer. In Vancouver [where Nash grew up], for example, I will work out at the Steve Nash Sports Clubs that are state-of-the-art facilities and represent an eco-sustainable environment.
Actually, I really enjoy working out, so even during the off-season, my mindset is that I’m still in training. During the off-season it’s not like I sit back, let it all go to fat and then show up for pre-season like, ‘Hey guys, check out my spare tire.’ It really is a lifestyle for me. In the summer I might try to add more power and strength in my routine, but I really try to enforce proper movement patterns.
ET: Your father played semi-professional soccer. Do you play soccer and other recreational sports?
SN: I enjoy all sports. They have been a great outlet for me. Sports have been a passion of mine since I can remember. I play soccer and tennis. I’ll play whatever anyone’s playing, but those are the ones I’m active in.
ET: In addition to the stationary bikes that generate electricity, how else are your fitness clubs environmentally friendly?
SN: We try to be as sustainable as we can and still have a profitable, successful gym that people can enjoy. We try our best to have environmentally friendly lights and electrical usage. We work with people to find the best ways to conserve electricity as possible. We also use many recyclable or reusable materials in the construction and we try to limit water consumption. We want to be proactive.
ET: How are you eco-friendly in your personal life?
SN: I drive a hybrid car and I have solar panels at the house. I would never individually charter a plane. It’s a huge waste of gas and energy, and it has a huge impact on the environment. If a private plane is going to the same place as me and there’s an extra seat, it’s not like I’m going to say there’s no way I’m getting on that thing. But I definitely don’t charter planes for myself.
The most important thing is to want to engage and want to understand, and to conserve our resources. The energy that you put into it is what you’ll get out of it. You educate yourself. We’re still learning more and more about what the best practices are. To me the most important thing is to have the motivation to do it and to educate yourself.
ET: On the court, you are known for your cerebral approach to the game. What is your philosophy about how our mental state affects our physical health? How do you apply your thinking or psychology for your physical health, both on and off the court?
SN: Without a strong mental attitude, there can be no true physical health. Stress, mental anguish, depression—these are all debilitating to our physical health. I know that when I go on to the court, my body and my mind are perfectly in sync from hours of training and repetition. I am not the biggest or tallest guy on the court, so I have to be the fastest, both mentally and physically.
No matter where I am, I find a way to work out. This takes creativity sometimes, though. If I’m traveling I will work out in the hotel, even if they don’t have a gym, whether it’s in the room or as a younger player I’d run the stairs or take a jump rope. You don’t need a gym to work out. A gym gives you more versatility and convenience and maybe inspiration, but you can work out anywhere.
ET: What satisfaction do you derive from basketball, both as a physical and mental pursuit?
SN: It’s a kids’ game. It’s competitive. You get to be part of a team, which is extremely enjoyable for me. You get to be creative. I can express myself. It’s having a place to challenge myself and grow as a player. And if you want to grow as a player, you have to grow as a person. It’s very important to my life. To have a creative outlet and be part of a team is a lot of fun.
ET: Who were some of your favorite players growing up?
SN: Isaiah Thomas did it all. He was my size, but he was extremely competitive, skillful and creative. He could shoot, pass and score. He was very clutch, very tough. I really admired him.
ET: Describe your interest in the child welfare and environmental causes that you support.
SN: My foundation focuses on increasing access to critical needs resources for underserved children. Since 2006, we’ve honed our programs to assist in making sure children have their very basic needs met—to be safe, to be learning and to grow up to be the foundation for healthy communities. That starts very early. Initiatives like our Educare work on early learning, our child abuse policy platforms and our healthcare projects in Paraguay use what the science of childhood development is telling us and informs our daily efforts. So we know it’s effective, and I’m incredibly proud to play a part in it. That we do it all with an underlying commitment to conservation is very consistent with my own ethos, and true to what we’re working to accomplish.
ET: As a parent, and as a philanthropist who is attuned to child welfare and health issues, what approaches to good health do you impart to your own children? What tips can you offer other parents who perhaps have a difficult time getting their kids to eat healthy or find it difficult to make the time to keep their kids physically active?
SN: The most important thing to remember as a parent and as a child welfare advocate is that every child is different. Every child is unique. Kids notice when you take the time to acknowledge who they are, and to find their strengths. Look at what makes your child happy and encourage it.
My kids love soccer, so it’s easy to have them run around with a ball. But maybe another child loves bugs—go on a bug hunt each morning. Or race to the bus together; count stairs as you’re climbing.
Make it something they know you’re into, too. There are a lot of ways to get active as a part of a daily routine that don’t require organization or leagues or massive time commitments. Scientists are telling us now that just being outside is a critical part of early development.
Eating is tough; I think if you consistently present good foods, kids will gravitate towards them, even if it takes time. Be patient, keep modeling the kind of healthy lifestyle you want them to have, and they’ll catch on.