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There’s Nothing Sweet about O’Quinn’s New Diet

Kyle O’Quinn has dropped his body fat from 16 percent to 9 percent with a new diet.

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Tis the season of cookies, candy and every kind of sugary treat imaginable. This year Kyle O’Quinn will be staying away from them all.

The Orlando Magic big man has adopted a new diet in which he monitors his sugar intake to cut down on body fat. The objective: Scale back on unhealthy foods while still maintaining his weight to bang around the paint.

At 6-10, O’Quinn likes to stay around 254 pounds to keep his strength competing around the basket. Even though he had gained some weight since entering the league in 2012, he had been eating what he liked, burning off calories through games and workouts.

After a month without basketball activity, O’Quinn said he reached 265 pounds with 16 percent body fat in May. That changed once he got into his offseason workout regimen at Impact Basketball. O’Quinn ate with the staff after his training and noticed a glaring difference between their meal selections. This sparked him to make an adjustment, one which has dropped his body fat to 9 percent.

“It’s kind of hard to eat a fried chicken sandwich with the cheese hanging off when these guys are ordering pasta with no sauce,” O’Quinn told Basketball Insiders. “It attracted me to it and it was something I wanted to do.”

He worked with trainers to map out a new diet with body fat goals along the way: 16, 12, less than 10. Sugar became enemy number one. O’Quinn cut out cheese completely during the offseason, stopped requesting toppings such as mayonnaise, increased his water intake and opted mostly for clean foods.

“I’m always mindful of the grams in sugar in everything,” he said. “Sometimes I have cheat days, but I won’t just blindly eat something without knowing how much sugar is in it.”

Once the season began, his biggest change was his postgame meal. In years past he had ordered a cheeseburger, wings or fries as his way to hold himself over until the next day. Now he eats fish and pasta to refuel on carbohydrates or a smooth with vegetables and protein.

“I eat a much lighter meal because at the end of the day you are going to sleep within the next three or four hours, whether it’s on the plane or going home, so I don’t want to go to sleep with all that on my body,” he said. “I used to eat terribly.”

O’Quinn has also incorporated breakfast into his daily routine. He had skipped it in the past, but now goes to a local breakfast cafe where he tailors his meals to include fruit, oatmeal, egg whites, turkey bacon or hash browns. On occasion he will have pancakes, a food he didn’t usually eat before but now describes as “like heaven.”

A chef at the Magic facility helps him select his post-practice meals. For lunch, he eats at Chipotle (hold the cheese and sour cream) and other restaurants in downtown Orlando. Dinner has been the most challenging for him as he continues to learn about portions.

The main difference O’Quinn has noticed is his recovery after games and workouts. The foods he is consuming help him recharge for the next day. He remembers how sluggish he felt after an 11p.m. chicken alfredo splurge this offseason and hasn’t been able to eat it since.

Aside from his own personal results, he stays motivated by seeing how veterans around him extend the longevity of his career. Former teammate J.J. Redick used to tell him about the importance of options. Ben Gordon, who O’Quinn said is “really, really inspiring,” reminds him it is ok to have an off day as long as he doesn’t do it every day. Only in his third season, O’Quinn hopes these adjustments early on will help his long-term performance, too.

“The biggest part is you,” he said. “The food is there. You just have to be disciplined enough to subtract what you need to subtract and eat what you need to eat. How hard is it to say, ‘No mayo, no cheese?’”

Jessica Camerato is a bilingual reporter who has been covering the NBA since 2006. She has also covered MLB, NHL and MLS. A graduate of Quinnipiac University, Jessica is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

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