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Julius Randle is having a breakout season with the Knicks, and there could be a lot of reasons why—perhaps the guidance of new coach Tom Thibodeau, or his commitment to working out through the pandemic pause. But Randle says the seed of his breakthrough was planted even earlier, in 2017, when he was still with the Lakers. At the end of his third season, he got a personal challenge from none other than Magic Johnson. The then-Lakers exec was blunt: It's time to get in shape. Randle took the challenge to heart, working with super trainer Amoila Cesar to overhaul both his conditioning regimen and his diet. Within weeks his body started to transform, and Randle hasn’t looked back.
Now the 26-year-old is on pace for career highs in points, rebounds, assists, and is a significant force on a New York Knicks team that is suddenly giving it's long-suffering fans some reasons to be optimistic. Randle’s play earned him his first All-Star nod—now he's looking to lead the Knicks to their first playoff berth since 2013.
GQ caught up with Randle to discuss the overhaul to his training and nutrition and how that journey has helped lead to him playing the best basketball of his life.
GQ: This was your first year as an All-Star. What did that recognition mean?
Julius Randle: Just to get the recognition is obviously great but for me, it was cool because it helped me reflect on the journey of my career and it makes you really appreciate the steps, the grind that you have to make year over year to reach an accomplishment like that. It was also amazing to be able to share that with my family because they’ve been along on that journey with me—they’ve sacrificed right along with me.
A big part of that has been working on your nutrition and fitness. What went into making the transformation to your body?
Magic [Johnson] issued me a challenge to get in the best shape of my career—that was something that really resonated with me and I started to take my weight very seriously from that point. It was great working with Cesar. Obviously he pushed me in the weight room—with my conditioning and body. But he also had a tailor-made plan for my nutrition as well. From that point on, I really started taking conditioning and nutrition in the offseason seriously.
What has the difference been from how you’ve felt since that time compared to your first three years in the league?
I feel amazing. My body responds and recovers really well game after every game. But it’s a journey and a process. I’ve learned more and more about my body and ways that I can help myself recover better to get the best optimal performance out of myself. That’s what it’s all about. It’s the training, recovery aspect, nutrition you put in your body; all of that works into one to get your peak performance to give you an advantage on a game-to-game basis.
What would you say were some of the biggest changes you made to how you were eating before then?
For me, as a 19-year-old kid going to L.A.? I ate whatever I wanted. I ate all the fast foods, the sweets —that was nothing to me. Now, I’m very conscious of what I eat. I have chef Adam [Lajara] here. He’s actually here cooking for me right now! It smells good—I’m hungry.
Every day that he’s cooking for me, it’s the best kind of food and ingredients. It’s the best kind of meat for my protein, the best vegetables and options for carbs. It’s not also just about what you eat, it’s also how you cook your food. The ingredients are very important, like what type of oil you’re using, and I try to stay away from sugar as much as I can—I have a sweet tooth.
I can definitely feel the difference with what I put into my body now, as far as how I wake up, the type of energy I have, how I feel going into games.
How difficult has it been this season to find good quality food on the road when your travel schedule is intense and COVID is disrupting so much?
Obviously you have your Postmates and UberEats, but honestly, the Knicks have done a great job of having chefs cook for us every night when we’re on the road. The meal selection has been great. They’re working with the nutritionist on the team, so we know we’re putting the right stuff in our body. I have to give a shout out to the Knicks and Uncle Wes [William Wesley, Knicks Executive Vice President] because he’s really made it a point to make sure we’re happy with the food selection and they’ve done a great job of providing food for us.
What does a cheat meal look like nowadays?
I’m a Southern boy, so I’ll definitely do some Southern comfort food. But I also love Italian food. I’ll have a chicken alfredo. Love the pastas. I’m from Dallas, so Tex-Mex is huge. I’ll do some Mexican food. I have a couple of different options when it comes to cheat days.
You have to have a balance. Obviously, going from city to city is different now because of COVID and we’re not able to go to restaurants. But I also enjoy myself as well—you have your favorite restaurants in certain cities you that you can look forward to going to. You definitely have to treat yourself in that aspect, but that can also make the road hard. So you just have to have a mindfulness about what you’re putting in your body and find a balance.
You've now partnered with the energy drink brand Celsius. How has that fit into your overall routine?
It’s very authentic to me as far as nutrition and putting the right stuff in my body. It’s easy to grab a coffee to start the day, put a bunch of cream and sugar in there, but that’s probably not the best type of energy boost that you want to begin a workout. Celsius is a great drink that gives me a lot of energy, the taste is amazing and it’s healthy. It has essential vitamins, and no sugar or artificial flavors. Even before I signed with them, we were drinking it like crazy in my household.
You played alongside Kobe for your first two seasons. Given the maintenance and work he had to put into his body during those last couple of years, did you learn any lessons there?
Just his commitment dedication and the mindset that he had. Kobe was my favorite player from just the way he went about competition. He was so skilled, but his mindset and his approach were really what I took away from him more than anything. How tactical, passionate and detailed he is about the game–he really loved the game.
What’s your typical game day routine?
I wake up, do my meditating and devotional to make sure my mind is right. We’ll have a shootaround and I’ll come back home usually. On game days, I like a huge breakfast. It’ll be some eggs, preferably an omelet, some protein. It has to be a huge. My chef does a good job at switching things up with what I like. I’ll take a nap, wake up and meditate again for about 30-45 minutes.
My chef usually has a small pre-game snack for me, like a sandwich or wrap. I’m not huge on eating much before the game. Once I have my snack and Celsius, I have a physical therapist I work with at the house to get my body right. I’ll get to the arena and do some contrast with the cold and hot tub, get some more stretching in and then it’s time to warm up, get my shots up—then it’s time to go to work.
The Blink-182 drummer (and Kardashian boyfriend, and CBD entrepreneur) is a regular at both the Muay Thai gym and Erewhon.
Originally Appeared on GQ