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Andre Iguodala's balancing act is on his dinner plate, not the basketball court

In his 14th season, Iguodala says switching up his diet has helped his body recover and keep muscle on. Eventually, he wants to go vegan.

2017 NBA Finals - Game Five Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Andre Iguodala is getting dressed. His button-down shirt is tight, his jacket is, too; but neither are too tight. They hug just enough for his definition to show.

Iguodala is swole. He’s brolic. He’s fit, buff, you get the point: The man is solid, and it’s all by design.

At 33 years old, Iguodala is still one of the NBA’s best inside-out defenders, and his chiseled physique is key to keeping up with the league’s spry, young wings. Aside from his workout routine, diet has been vital for Iggy, who says he can’t eat the same things he once did.

“I’ve switched it up a lot,” he says, though conceding he won’t share his exact meal plan. “But a lot of things I cut out my diet.”

He doesn’t eat bread, for one, and shies away from dairy. After consulting an allergist, the Warriors’ versatile forward has stopped eating a lot of seafood, too.

Iguodala has come a long way from the high school kid who used to eat McDonald’s before games. That used to be his good luck meal. Now, every bite he eats serves a purpose — to fuel his body to be as efficient as possible.

“You just try to find things that go well with someone like myself who’s an athlete, who has to run a certain number of miles per game, and move a certain way and keep his body healthy,” Iguodala said. “You figure out what food’s good for the body, that’ll help you recover well, keep muscle mass on and not cause inflammation.”

Midway through his 14th season in the NBA, the seasoned veteran from Springfield, Ill. is finding the balance between what he needs to eat to be prepared on the court and what he wants to eat for life off of it.

Like many kids, Iguodala ate trash growing up. Not literal garbage, but foods loaded with preservatives, pesticides, “and all that crazy stuff.” But as he’s grown older — and wealthier — he’s done his own research on what foods work best for him.

Iggy knows his food groups: he eats mostly fruits, vegetables, and starches, with key proteins sprinkled in. He’s not 100 percent vegan, unlike many of his peers, but he says he’s close.

Iguodala says he may go all the way once he doesn’t have to worry about defending LeBron James.

“When I retire. I don’t think I can be [vegan] right now. I’ll lose too much weight,” he said when asked if he’ll ever go fully plant-based. “I did it last year and I lost a ton of weight. I lost like 15 pounds.

“Then I had to go in the Finals and then people didn’t wanna call fouls on LeBron to help me in the post,” he jokes. “Nah, I just needed my strength, so I had to put the weight back on so I could get it back.”

Many NBA players are going vegan and vegetarian

As Iguodala gets dressed, his teammate JaVale McGee is fleeing the scene in an all-black outfit with red sneakers. The 7’0 center is among the many NBA players who have recently switched to a vegan or vegetarian diet. He used to be listed at 270 pounds, but lost 15 since making the transition to a fully vegan diet two summers ago.

“When I go vegan, I lose weight, and I like staying at a certain weight,” McGee says. “So that’s really the reason I do it.”

While going vegan causes Iguodala to lose some much-needed muscle and strength, the plant-based diet gives an already bouncy McGee an indirect energy boost.

“I’m already a hyper person, so I didn’t really feel my energy go up,” he said. “But I definitely feel leaner and lighter, and I guess that, in turn, can turn into energy because I’m a real springy and fast player.”

Similarly, Al Jefferson lost 40 pounds by going vegetarian. Damian Lillard made the transition to veganism this summer and dropped down to 190 pounds from 200. Jahlil Okafor lost 20 pounds by following a "mostly vegan" diet.

And as Kyrie Irving continues his MVP campaign in Boston, he credits his vegan diet for a spike in his energy.

But does going vegan invariably mean an athlete will lose his strength as a result? Not so fast.

Patrik Baboumian — the man who has shattered several powerlifting records — is vegan. In fact, he said he got stronger when he made the transition from vegetarian to vegan.

"I got heavier, I got stronger, I won the European championship title in powerlifting, I broke three world records so everything was going perfect,” he told Susie East of CNN in 2016. “My blood pressure went down, and my recovery time was so much faster so I could train more."

Former NFL defensive linemen David Carter also went vegan and was able to increase his bench press to 465 pounds.

“The biggest and strongest animals on the planet — elephants, gorillas, rhinos — are herbivores,” Carter, who is currently a free agent, told Kristen Hartke of The Washington Post.

But Iguodala trusts his gut

For Iguodala, it’s simple: he listens to his body and stays away from what doesn’t feel right. That’s his barometer for what he should or should not eat. Certain foods make him feel sluggish. Fruits and vegetables are not on that list.

“I love burgers,” he said. “Like, I like burgers. Like that’s one of my favorite things. [But] If I eat a burger, like 20 minutes later I’m like it’s over, I gotta go to the bathroom. If you don’t eat vegetables and then all you eat is vegetables for like three or four years, your stomach’s not gonna be messed up.

“You’re gonna feel fine. So when you eat something and you feel messed up, you know you’re not supposed to have that.”

Iguodala knows one thing: he doesn’t have all the answers. But between the vault of books he reads on health and nutrition, and the research he does on the foods he puts into his body, he seems to be invested in learning more.

So while he won’t go all the way vegan just yet, it’s in his plans for the near future.

“We’re athletes, so we do have to have some type of protein, so you’ve gotta figure that out as well,” he said. “So I’m not 100 percent vegan, but I’m close, just because I’m trying to figure out about the proteins. I’m still doing more and more research as I get older.

“But I’ve got a good system set up. It costs a good amount of money, but it’s worth it. Not just for basketball but just for me.”