Al Harrington: The Real-Life Diet of the NBA’s Weed Ambassador

The 16-year veteran on how marijuana helped him recover from injuries—and how he fought off the munchies to stay in playing shape.

When Al Harrington saw the medication lined up on his grandmother’s counter that she used to deal with diabetes, glaucoma, and a variety of other ailments, the former NBA player has a suggestion for Grandma: Perhaps medical marijuana could be a helpful alternative. Harrington spoke from experience. The 16-year veteran suffered a variety of injuries over the course of his career, many of which required surgery, and to deal with some of the post-procedure pain, he had treated himself with cannabis. She listened, and afterwards, she told Harrington she was able to see clearly and read the Bible with no trouble for the first time in three years.

These experiences inspired Harrington to start his cannabidiol (CDB) company, Harrington Wellness. While he has become known as the “former basketball player promoting weed,” this business venture is just part of his ongoing search for wellness: Harrington maintains a mostly-vegetarian diet, with smatterings of eggs and fish, and his strict workout regimen keeps him in shape for BIG3 basketball in the summers. We caught up with the 38-year-old to talk about dieting in the NBA; how the Filet-O-Fish saved him while he played in China; and how he avoids the munchies when high.

GQ: What’s your day-to-day eating routine like?

Al Harrington: In the morning, I usually drink a fruit smoothie. During the day, I’ll grab a salad and sandwich. At night, we have a chef at home, who makes jackfruit dishes, and a lot of different things. But one thing for me is no tofu. I don’t like the soy.

How tough is it to stay in shape after your playing career ends?

It’s very difficult. Obviously, when you’re playing, you had a paycheck. [laughs] Now, it’s the challenge of fighting the attitude where you say, “I’ll just do it tomorrow,” or “I just won’t eat anything today.” I hate working out. But you need to go out and do something every day.

I work out now for the BIG3. That’s the main reason. Aside from that, I don’t ever want to be big and sloppy. That happens to a lot of players, when they lose all motivation to take care of themselves. That’s something I fight against.


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What are some of your cheat meals?

For me, it’s the sides. I still love macaroni and cheese, especially if it’s my mother’s. Ice cream, too. I’m a big sweets guy. If I’m going to cheat, it’s going to be one of those two.

Do you have favorite snacks?

Right now it’s definitely Trolli candy. I like a lot of the Hershey chocolates too.

Was dieting and physical fitness a big deal to you when you first got to the NBA as an 18-year-old?

Man, when I first got to the NBA, McDonald’s was an acceptable dinner for me. [laughs].To go from that to now, where I make sure everything is all-natural—I didn’t even think about my diet until my third year in the league, when I came into training camp overweight, and [Indiana Pacers general manager] Donnie Walsh was like, “You’re too young to be overweight.” That was the first time it hit me how much weight I was carrying around.

Were you ever around teammates who just did whatever they wanted with their off-court eating habits and it didn’t matter?

I definitely had a couple teammates like that. It was always the little guys, the guards. They were the ones who could pull that stuff off. Even a guy like Stephen Jackson—he was a guy who did whatever he wanted and worked out whenever he wanted, but he was always at his playing weight and always went out there and dominated.

You played in China too. How did you manage your diet in a foreign country?

I was in China for about 16 months, and no one knew English where I was staying, so I ended up going to the buffet, and all they had was bok choy. For the first two days, I didn’t really eat—I was trying to figure out how to feed myself. I ended up going to McDonald’s. I had Filet-O-Fish every day that I was there.

You played for eight different NBA teams. Did you find a difference in the way each team treated your diet and monitored your weight?

Totally different. I’ve been on teams where diet wasn’t something they talked to players about, and on teams where all they wanted to talk about was your diet. Back then, it just wasn’t as popular to monitor everything a player did. Now, every team has a chef, and they cook for players before and after practice. On the road, they have specific foods delivered.

One of my last NBA stops was in Orlando, and they had a person who was teaching us how to sleep. We had to sleep with this hat that was connected to these things that monitored your sleep—that’s when I knew it was getting popular. Now, they try to control every part of the body so they can put a better product out there. I think it’s starting to make the players soft. [laughs].

Do you feel like it’s a different era now when you watch the NBA? People use social media to beef with each other now after games, and nothing ever really happens on the court.

You’re right, nothing happens. But it doesn’t feel different because we all know no one really wants to fight. It costs too much. Back when Larry Bird and all those guys played, a lot of times you would fight and just stay in the games. You didn’t even get fined. It was a different time. It’s just a part of it—you have to stand your ground on the court, and if someone is going at you, you have to say something.

You’ve been in the news a lot post-retirement for your marijuana ventures, and your push for leagues to legalize weed. When did wellness become a part of your lifestyle?

I’ve always been looking for ways to make myself better, whether it’s food, or the way I train, or the way I approach the game. Wellness is the same thing. I’ve had a lot of injuries and surgeries in my life, and for the time that I’m going to be here, I want to be able to move around and enjoy it and be around my kids.

When I learned about cannabis, it taught me the value of being able to medicate yourself naturally. I always try to figure out advantages to make me feel a little better, and that’s how I got into this whole wellness business.

Since we’re on the topic, I have to ask: What advice would you give for people who tend to really want to eat a lot of bad snacks when they’re high?

Don’t have it in the house! That’s the best advice I can give people. [laughs].Just try to change up what your snacks are. Instead of candy, maybe eat some cherries or grapes. And while there are strains that will make you hungry, there are also strains that don’t give you the munchies. I always try to educate people about that. You don’t have to get high and have an eating issue, too.

source: gg.com

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