This Is What LeBron James Really Eats

LeBron James is arguable one of the greatest basketball players of our time, and he has the hardware and trophy cabinet to prove it. 

After 17 seasons in the National Basketball Association playing for three different teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat, and the Los Angeles Lakers, James has accumulated three championship rings, three most valuable player awards, and 16 All-Star Game nominations (via Land of Basketball). He's been voted NBA Player of the Week a whopping 63 times and was Rookie of the Year during his inaugural season in 2003-04 (via ESPN). And to top it all off, he's got two Olympic Gold medals as well as a bronze. 

Some might say that James is fueled by his drive and motivation, but at a more molecular level, the NBA champion is fueled by what he eats. From salads to chocolate chip cookies to copious amounts of red wine, here is what LeBron James really eats.

LeBron James' former teammate says he eats junk

Given LeBron James' career, it might stand to reason that the he eats a healthy diet to keep himself in good shape. Former teammate Tristan Thompson, with whom he played on the Cavaliers from 2014-2018, promptly shatters that illusion. In a 2020 interview with The Athletic (via Bleacher Report), Thompson said, "He has the worst f***ing diet ever. Ask him what he eats for breakfast. He has like five French toast, drowns it in syrup with strawberries and bananas. Then he has like a four-egg omelette and then he goes and just f***ing dunks on somebody. It doesn't make sense." 

While his trainer confirms his client enjoys French toast, he says he eats it with healthy sides. "For breakfast, he loves an egg-white omelet... we'll do a turkey bacon or turkey sausage; some nice avocado on the side," he explained. (via GQ)

What makes allegations of James' junk food habit particularly interesting is that James, now 35, is getting old in basketball terms. With an average age of 26 in the league (via NBA), it would stand to reason that James is in the twilight of his career. While some athletes change their diets as they age, (via My Sports Science) it appears that James is not in this category, though his performance does not appear to be suffering. 

"He eats desserts with every meal," Thompson added. "He'll come with his one-week diet, vegan crap, but he literally eats like it doesn't make sense. He's really a specimen."

LeBron James loves tacos

There's only one thing that fans can count on more than LeBron James putting up impressive numbers season after season, and that is his devotion to his Taco Tuesday ritual. His unbridled enthusiasm for the themed meal is infectious, and he's put up dozens of videos showcasing his enjoyment of taco night (via YouTube) over and over again (via YouTube). 

James is so infatuated by the weekly event that he even tried to trademark the term in 2019, although the United States Patent and Trademark Office denied his application, ruling that the phrase was "commonly used in everyday speech" (via The New York Times). According to his lawyer, James never meant to actually own the phrase, he just wanted to make sure he could use it himself without liability.

James' Taco Tuesdays involve his family, who are just as keen to shout the phrase at the top of their lungs, as well as special guest appearances from teammates like Lakers superstar Anthony Davis (via USA Today). James has never spilled the beans about what type of tacos he enjoys most on his favorite night of the week, but those with a keen eye will be able to pick out some details from the videos he's posted. Both hard and soft taco shells seem to be available, as well as guacamole, cheese, salsa, and shredded lettuce available as toppings (via YouTube).

LeBron James does not eat a lot of McDonald's

Due to his advertising deal with the McDonald's (via iSpot), many people associate LeBron James with the chain and presume that he snacks on burgers and fries from the Golden Arches frequently. After all, if we see it on a commercial, it has to be true, right?

McDonald's commercials feature the basketball star dunking Chicken McNuggets and sinking his teeth into burgers, but it's unlikely that he was ordering from the fast-food chain very often off-camera. In a press conference in 2015, James suggested to reporters that he'd actually sworn off the fast-food joint early in his career. His first few years as a player, he said, his young body could handle the unhealthy meals (via Bleacher Report). 

When he realized his gaffe might not be taken well by a company paying him roughly $4 million every year to advertise their product rather than disparage it, James quickly shifted gears and joked with the reporters that he ate McDonald's "every day, every day, every day. I had it this morning. Egg and sausage McMuffin. All day." 

Later that year, James ended his endorsement deal with McDonald's and it's estimated that by ending his deal (which McDonald's would have extended for another four years), he left $14-15 million on the table (via Forbes). 

In any event, James might actually prefer Wendy's. A 2008 video posted by former teammate Chris Bosh shows LeBron and his teammates on the United States Olympics team eating at a Wendy's inside of a rest stop on their way to the airport to compete in Beijing (via YouTube), and he looks like he's enjoying himself.

LeBron James is a sommelier extraordinaire

If things hadn't worked out for LeBron James in the NBA, he could have entered the wine industry.

James appears to have a rarefied taste for red wine, constantly posting photos of what he's drinking with his wife, his teammates, or himself on Instagram. And it should go without saying that most of what he's uncorking is on the pricey side. One such post was a birthday present (via Vine Pair) from the headphone company Beats by Dre, in which James is an investor (via Insider). The gift for the superstars 34th birthday in 2018 was a case of 16 rare and expensive wines, including an Italian Cabernet Franc – Cabernet Sauvignon blend from Italy that was nearly as old as James and cost more than $400. The cost of the full case was well over $1,000.

James even once arrived at the Staples Center for a game against the Los Angeles Clippers with a glass of red wine in hand (via Sports Illustrated). James doesn't solely imbibe on celebratory occasions or weekends, and he often posts wine pictures on nights before he has games, but it doesn't appear to affect his performance. "I've heard it's good for the heart," James told reporters. "As far as healing powers, I'm playing the best basketball of my life, and I'm drinking some wine pretty much every day. So whatever it is, I'll take it" (via Vine Pair). 

But while some wine lovers are willing to entertain other alcoholic drinks, James is not. "I'm not much of a beer guy," he told reporters after nearly colliding with a roving drink vendor during a 2017 game against the Toronto Raptors and pretending to take a sip out of a beer bottle (via USA Today).

LeBron James slimmed down with the help of a strict Paleo diet

When LeBron James introduced a new pair of shoes in his sneaker line during the off-season in 2014, his fans noticed something different about the basketball star (via Sports Illustrated). After James was finished talking about his shoes at the event held at Nike World Headquarters, a group of reporters noted that he looked slimmer than any point since 2010. He then switched gears and started talking about what he'd been eating to cut down on his frame. 

James told the media about the Paleo diet he'd undertaken to lose the weight. "I had no sugars, no dairy, I had no carbs," he said. "All I ate was meat, fish, veggies, and fruit. That's it. For 67 straight days." James said that sticking to the regimen was a "mental challenge" but he was able to push through because his eating habits caused his body to feel so good. It was a dramatic diet and resulted in a dramatic change to his physique.

Naturally, the guidelines of his diet meant that he wasn't able to enjoy any of his favorite cereal from childhood, Fruity Pebbles (via Goat). Perhaps the reason he offered an exclusive spin-off of his LeBron 12 sneaker that was Fruity Pebble themed (via Sporting News) was because he missed them so much during his diet. On Instagram, while modeling the cereal-themed shoes, he wrote, "Fruity Pebbles is still one of my all time favorites" (via Instagram).

LeBron James really loves Blaze Pizza

LeBron James has been known to post pizza pics on his Instagram, especially from Blaze Pizza, a made-to-order pizza restaurant based in Southern California, modeled off make-your-own restaurants such as Chipotle (via Business Insider). Pizzas are baked in a stone hearth oven and one price allows you to add on as many toppings as you like. There are, of course, certain people who take advantage of that offer, including a certain basketball superstar. During the 2016 off-season, James posted a photo to Facebook of a Blaze pizza receipt with a custom order that he'd placed with a whopping 16 toppings including kalamata olives, spinach, turkey meatballs, and green bell peppers, and more. As if that wasn't enough, he also enjoyed a side salad with chicken on top and a s'more pie for dessert.

James called the first time he had a Blaze pizza "phenomenal" and liked it so much that he took a second pie back to his hotel to eat later (via INC). James is such a believer in the restaurant's approach that he invested in them. James reportedly put up an initial investment of less than $1 million in the company back in 2012 (via Bleacher Report), which garnered him around a 10 percent stake in the company. In 2017, the restaurant sold an ownership percentage to a private equity company, which valued the company at $250 million, meaning that James' stake was worth quite a bit more than when he plopped down the initial capital five years prior. James has also been paid for endorsements of the pizza chain, including a rather hilarious video in which he pretended to be a new employee named Ron (via YouTube).

LeBron James goes with healthy options to fuel up before games

In the off-season of 2016, after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA finals, reporter Alyson Shontell asked LeBron James if he prepared for competition like Olympic gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps, who was known to eat  around 12,000 calories leading up to the Beijing Olympics (via Business Insider). James responded that he didn't subscribe to the Phelps approach, and instead eats carbs and protein like "like a chicken breast and maybe a little pasta" which provide him with energy for the game.

"A salad and some veggies will have me perfectly fine [too]," he told Shontell. "And before the game I might have a protein shake and some fruit, and I'll be ready to go." 

While Phelps was notorious at the peak of his career for downing heavy fare before his events, James said that he tries to steer clear of greasy things like pizza and fries until after the game is over. According to James' personal chef, Glenn Lyman, who cooked for James for half a decade, the player's favorite meal to eat before a game is chicken and shrimp pasta (via Charlotte Magazine). Lyman also dished that James "doesn't eat a lot of red meat or pork."

LeBron James loves chocolate chip cookies

Mike Mancias is LeBron James' trainer; they've been working together for 15 years. Mancias also serves as an adviser for Ladder, James' nutritional supplement company. According to him, James loves to treat himself to chocolate chip cookies. "Maybe he'll have a chocolate chip cookie from time to time," he told an interviewer (via GQ). But this usage of the singular "cookie" seems rather suspicious. Would someone who does everything as big as LeBron James does things really have just one chocolate chip cookie? Children aren't satisfied with one chocolate chip cookie let alone a man with the wingspan larger than a king-size bed (via Hunker). Later in the interview, Mancias revises his answer slightly and discloses that James likes to indulge in "chocolate chip cookies [note the plural] with vanilla ice cream" in the summer.

James confirmed this in a post-game press conference after scoring 30 points against the Clippers one night in 2013. Rather than getting caught up in a question a reporter asked him about drama relating to his future team, the Los Angeles Lakers, James replied (via SB Nation), "I don't know if I want to comment on the Lakers saga again. Last time I commented, Kobe said do I want a cookie. So, I'm gonna leave it alone. Leave it alone. I like cookies, by the way. Chocolate chip cookies, by the way."

Although james been known to indulge at times, Mancias isn't worried. "This machine runs itself," he often jokes to people, suggesting that James is something of a freak of nature who can process anything he puts in his body and still excel on the court.

LeBron James loves his salads

Like anyone trying to stay moderately healthy, LeBron James has a decent intake of salads, which he's posted to Instagram (though not recently, so perhaps he's off the salad train for now). They typically feature a protein like chicken, like this arugula salad with grilled chicken, strawberries, mango, and cashews. Something must have posed a risk of getting stuck in James' teeth though, as a single-use flossing stick can be spied on a paper towel next to the plate. Another salad spotted on James' Instagram was with lobster, asparagus, and mango chutney.

Jimmy Kimmel's sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez went to the NBA All-Star Media Day in 2018 to ask the star to describe his perfect salad. James chuckled at the bizarre query and responded that he didn't really have a perfect salad, just that he needs a protein, a vegetable, and a fruit.

"Do you like Chinese chicken salad?" Rodriguez asked.

"That's cool, I'll take that too, I'd take that too" James said.

Rodriguez took the answer quite literally and later that year, Rodriguez tried to give James a Chinese chicken salad from Trader Joe's at the NBA Finals, but was snubbed. (via USA Today).

Japanese pub food is a hit with LeBron James

When LeBron James is on the road and finds himself in San Francisco, he goes to Pabu, a Japanese izakaya (bar) and sushi bar (via Eater). In February 2020, he visited with his teammates Anthony Davis and Quinn Cook, but he'd been to the restaurant before when he was playing with Cleveland. 

When James visited the restaurant as a Cavalier, he and his teammates ate chicken karaage, rainbow rolls, and the Ken roll, which consisted of shrimp tempura, avocado, spicy tuna, and pine nuts. The restaurant has two other locations in Boston and Nashville, though it's not clear if James has visited those locations while passing through town. 

While they may have well enjoyed the food (reportedly James "really loved the Ken Roll"), it did not bring them luck on the court the next day as they lost to the Golden State Warriors by a final score of 124-114. Given what James and his teammates ordered, and with a quick peek at the menu, it might be deduced that James isn't much of an adventurous eater. While cuttlefish, beef tongue, and chicken tail are all the on the menu, (via Pabu) James and company's choices seem to be rather tame.