The Real Life Diet of Myles Turner, Who Swapped Taco Bell for Yoga

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Photograph: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

In his third season, Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner saw and felt the shift in the game going to a faster and more spread-out style, and he knew he needed to make some personal changes. He didn't like how gassed he started becoming during games and didn't like how sluggish his movements looked when he would review film of himself.

Being born and raised in the South, Turner enjoyed his seasonings, and it was common for him to partake in some of his favorites, like Popeyes and Taco Bell, consistently and even before games. To be the force he wanted and enjoy a long career, he got serious about eating and took up yoga. Consistently amongst the league leaders in blocks, he's currently averaging career highs in points, rebounds, field goal, and three-point shooting percentages this season.

Now, eight years into his NBA career, Turner spoke with GQ on the diet change that helped change his career trajectory, why yoga has been so beneficial for him, and his personal recommendations if you're in Indy.

GQ: What were some of the foods you were downing your first few years in the League?

Myles Turner: Like any teenager, I felt like I could eat whatever I wanted and still be able to perform at a high level. I was big on Popeyes, and I sometimes ate that right before a game. I would still eat Taco Bell as well. I was putting down pizzas and a whole bunch of greasy foods. Looking back at it, if I were even to attempt to do that now, I'd be out of commission for at least a week. My body can't function that way anymore. The way you fuel your body is important. They always compare NBA players' bodies to a Rolls Royce. You can't put cheap tires on that and standard gas in there. You have to put the best stuff to keep it running smoothly—and I'm a big believer in that.

Did the way the game was changing play a part in helping you make that change?

Oh yeah! In my third year in the League, I started putting on a lot more weight, and I was getting tired much quicker on the floor. It became noticeable in how I tried to move my knees and joints. For a while, I couldn't figure out what was happening, and then I just looked in the mirror and realized it was my diet. You're unable to play at a high level because you're not putting high-level fuel into your actions. It's changed the trajectory of my career. It keeps me healthier and keeps me on the floor longer. I play 30-plus minutes a night over an 82-game season, and that adds up.

Do you see it easier for guys now since all teams have chefs and nutritionists on staff?

Somewhat. There's still an ignorance of that when you first come into the League. I had a lot of that stuff provided for me, but my attitude was: "I made it this far, so I'm going to continue what I was doing." As you level up in life, you must change how you move. You will get the same results if you keep moving the same way. I think younger players who come into the League now are not necessarily being told that, but as I said, my third year was when I started seeing the negative effects, and it's like: "Oh, I have to start doing things the right way." For some players, it might click in the first year or the tenth year if you're fortunate enough to make it that far. It's just a matter of what suits you the best.

What are you eating throughout the day?

For breakfast, it's something easy like egg whites, maybe some turkey sausage or turkey bacon, or some oatmeal with a bunch of fruit. I'll have a chicken salad for lunch to keep the carbs light. Around dinner time, anything with fish is what I'm big on. I try to stay with white meats and whatnot. I still eat things like red meat and sugar here and there—but just in moderation. So, I could have a steak and some rice that's a lighter carb. I'm big on a bunch of protein. You have to have your natural sugars with fruits; your starches and vegetables are obviously important.

What would a cheat meal be?

I'm a sucker for a good burger—even just a straight, greasy, fatty burger. There's no way to make burgers healthy, but give me a good one, and that's a good cheat meal.

What NBA city has the best food?

That's tough, man. I'm from the South, so I love all of my seasonings. I'll go with New Orleans because I'm a sucker for a good Cajun-fusion type of place. You have your spots like New York, which has everything. Houston has great food spots as well. I'm from Texas, so I get my Southern spots in, but I probably go to New Orleans as my number one spot.

I spoke with your teammate Tyrese, and it seemed he hadn't found quality food spots in Indy yet. What would your recommendations be?

Bru Burgers is a big one. Like I told you, I'm a big sucker for burgers, and that's a spot I go to. The Eagle is dope. Prime 47 is one we always go to after games. I also love Kuma's Corner for burgers. Mori Sushi would be a good one for Tyrese. Yats is also a good Cajun spot.

Along with the change in diet, you took up yoga. What interested you about the practice?

I did one class in high school, and I thought it wasn't for me, and I would never do it again because it seemed dumb. I won't sit here and stretch, listening to boring music for long. In my third year, going into that summer, I just realized how good it was for the longevity of your career. Being a seven-footer, your muscles get wound up a lot tighter, and your career doesn't last as long as typical guards. Being able to lengthen and strengthen my muscles that way, cutting my body up and going into the spiritual and meditation side of it, was big for me. I've been practicing now for six-plus years. I still find time during the summer to get in the studio and do what I need to do. It's been very rewarding and fulfilling for me. You meet a lot of great people within that process as well. A lot of people have changed my perception of a lot of things in life.

Have you tried any other form of cross-training?

I've tried CrossFit, and I love Soul Cycle. That's one thing I have done a lot since getting into it. It's been good for my body because it gives me a different connection.

I have to ask about the LEGO collection. Is this something you picked up when you got to the League?

I've been doing that since I was young. My father was the first one to put me on them. Do you remember the Lego BIONICLE sets? He and I used to work on those together, which grew my love for Legos, and it trickled into the League. When I first got to the League, I was 19 years old and in a new city. You're not old enough to go out to the clubs, so I had to find ways to occupy my time, and I just went back and nurtured my inner child and started doing bigger sets. It's something that's always been relaxing for me, and even being in my eighth year in the League, I still do it to pass the time and have a sense of accomplishment when I finish.

What's been the most time-consuming and challenging set?

The most challenging one was probably the Death Star. That's obviously from the Star Wars series, and it was just a bunch of small, intricate pieces to set up as you were going. There are little scenes from the movie that, if you didn't set it up right, you had to start all over, and it was a tedious process. The longest one was the Titanic. I believe it was last year, and that was about 10,000 pieces. That took me about a month and a half to complete because I was on and off throughout the season.

What are you doing on the day of a game?

My routine is simple. I sleep until about 10, get up, and make sure I have a nice breakfast. I usually wear my recovery boots, watch film, and chill for a little bit. I have to take a pre-game nap because that's a big ritual of mine. I try and sleep for about an hour and a half. Once I get up, I like getting to the facility early. If we play at seven, I want to get there around four to start getting my body ready. I'll get treatment, and we'll have a team meeting. After that, I'll get in the weight room and lift. I'll go into the massage room after that and get stretched. After that, I'll get on the court and shoot around a bit. We'll have another team meeting, and it's time to prepare for the game.

What are you eating right after a game?

I have a full-time chef, so she makes the menu for me. I usually never ask what she's making. I like being surprised by whatever she makes. She's a nutritionist as well, so she'll make anything, and it's healthy. She goes wherever I go during the offseason. She has a delicious Philly cheesesteak. She makes it healthy, and that's one of my favorite meals. She does a great job mixing it up. She made this homemade healthy pop tart the other day. It had spinach, salmon, cream cheese, and hot sauce. She does a fantastic job of mixing things up.

You'll be in Indy for some more time now. How will it feel to continue your work with your W.A.R.M. (Work As Role Models) foundation?

It's incredibly rewarding. It took a community to get me where I am today, and I want to make sure I pay my dividends. I always told myself that if I ever were to be fortunate enough to have some wealth, I'd give back in a way my community gave to me. A big goal of mine is to be able to change lives one person at a time and change people's perspectives on how homeless people and the less fortunate live. One act of kindness can change the trajectory of a person's week. What I've accomplished thus far is a beautiful thing, and I want to continue pouring into it.

Originally Appeared on GQ