Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday is champing at the bit for the NBA playoffs. Holiday, who spoke to Dime before the end of the regular season, compared the 2020-21 season to the lockout-shortened campaign, calling the last year “exhausting.” His hope is that the playoffs, while more intense on-court, will offer some kind of reprieve.
“I think navigating the schedule is the biggest, not traveling as much,” Holiday says. “Which, again, it seemed like we were never home this year, which, I’m pretty sure everyone has felt that way. But just the games and the back-to-backs and just how the schedule went, it was like, ‘Man, I don’t who hated us, but our schedule was terrible.’ Mentally, I think for the playoffs you get kind of locked in and everything. But there’s just this extra energy that the playoffs bring, so I’m just kind of looking forward to that.”
Holiday spoke to Dime on behalf of Ripple Foods to talk his partnership with the company, their plant-based protein shakes, his approach to nutrition, possible NBA rule changes, and more.
How has nutrition evolved over time for you as you’ve been in the league longer and learned more about health and fitness?
It’s been huge. I came in at 18 or 19, and when you’re a young kid like that, for one, you bounce back quick, and you don’t really watch what you eat. You feel the same every single day. Whether you play or not, you can go out and eat McDonald’s. I’ve eaten a whole pack of Honey Buns in one sitting and been fine at 19, 20 years old. But as the years went on, and I’m in year 12 now, I would say in year six or year seven I started having injuries and I had surgeries and I had to really start thinking about my nutrition and my body and what I was putting into my body. That’s where it started, it started just with being injured and knowing more about my body when it came to fitness and nutrition.
Now, I’m not plant based, but I do my best to be able to put the best things in my body. We’re like cars, right? We are Ferrari’s and you always put the best thing in these types of cars, and that’s how I treat my body and how I do it with my family, too, just to make it easier for all us to be on the same page.
How does it work in a pandemic? Is it even more challenging, because this season is such a grind?
No, it’s easier. I think once you find great products — like this Ripple product, who has a plant-based alternative focus — it makes it easy. Sometimes, when I’d have dairy, I’d get really mucus-y. Now that I use a product like this, I feel like I have more energy, I sleep better, I feel like the way I recover is way better. And again, it makes it easier because my whole family does it. It’s not just me. I have accountability. I think the best part is probably being able to fill the [benefits] of it and feel better. I feel like for an athlete, that’s huge. Again, I’ve been injured plenty of times, but to be able to recover as fast as I do in my 12th year is huge, especially in a season like this.
Walk me through a game day. What does your pre-game, your post-game, and everything else look like in terms of what you’re eating and working out, aside from playing the game itself.
When I wake up, what I have for breakfast is oatmeal. I’m pretty true to that. For shootaround, before shootaround, I get in there, get treatment. I end up doing a lift and then after the lift, I have one of these Ripple protein shakes. Vanilla is my favorite one. After that, we go through walkthrough, we go through the other team’s stuff, get our shots up and then I go back and take a nap. And then before the game, I usually eat a penne pasta with some pesto sauce and get my protein in there, too. I play the game. And then after the game, I have another Ripple shake to put proteins and minerals and vitamins back in my body so I can recover as quickly as possible.
When you’re on the road, is there someone on the Bucks staff that is responsible for having your Ripple shakes on the plane so that when you to Cleveland or New York or wherever you’re going, you can stick to this routine?
Ya. You make me sound bougie or high maintenance. [laughs]
I would be doing the same thing, 100 percent. You have enough to worry about. You have defensive assignments to worry about and schemes. Just have someone else get the shakes.
Ya. So it’s usually right after the game and they have it right there and it’s chilled and ready to go. Right after the game as I’m icing down and just cooling down after the game. Our training staff does a great job of that. Different people have different things, but mine is carrying the Ripple shakes with them. I get it after the game and for an away game, hoping on the plane, I feel like I feel the [benefits] right away. Like you said, a lot of times I’m defending somebody hard and it’s a tough game and then just to be able to have those aches and pains decreased because of something like this and what you put in your body is huge.
What is in your morning oatmeal?
Oats, blackberries, and a nut medley.
Like actual nuts and not a nut butter? I ask because I’m a big nut butter guy, maybe with some berries or zucchini.
Ya, actual nuts, ya.
As far as dairy-free goes, and I know you’re not dairy-free fully — why does it resonate with you and why is it something you’ve embraced?
For me, it started off with my daughter having ear infections and we went somewhere and they thought it was the dairy and milk. We needed an alternative. Ripple has Ripple Kids where it’s dairy free and done the right way. And when it’s done the right way, you don’t taste the difference, you don’t lose anything. You get the 20 grams of plant-based protein in every bottle and it’s not chalky or gritty at all, which is super important for someone who is trying to find an alternative. You want something that you like.
For me, this is the right product. It’s allergen and GMO-free. I have a niece who has a nut allergy and for her to be able to drink this kind of milk, it’s super huge. That’s kind of where it started and, from there, even just diving deeper into my nutrition and everything like that, this has because a constant in my diet.
You’ve mentioned your family a few times and your wife, Lauren, was obviously a high level athlete. How helpful is it for you to be doing this with your family as a unit vs. you on your own?
It’s a lot easier. Again, my wife is THE athlete of my family. Even before I knew her, she was really into nutrition and what she put in her body, so that made it easier for me. Now that she cooks and does all that kind of stuff, she makes quite a bit of the decisions on what we eat. So for us to keep each other accountable and for me and my wife to do the things we want to do athletically, it’s needed.
My wife is going to run a marathon. For us to hold each other accountable, I feel like it’s a huge. Not only that, but we’ve passed it down to my daughter and will to my son once he’s old enough to drink or have different kinds of products. Right now, he’s still on breast milk. We pass it through to the family and it’s just a lot easier to do it all at once. And also, it takes the temptation out of it. When you go to the store and we say, “Nah, we’re not going to get that one, we’re going to get this one,” that’s our lifestyle.
As a quick follow-up: do you think you’ll ever run a marathon?
No. [Laughs] That’s an easy no. Being a soccer player and her running and doing all that, she enjoys running. She enjoys it and is good at it. I also run a lot, but I run with a basketball. I don’t really see a point of me running if I don’t have a ball. [Laughs]
Ya, like you’re sprinting more vs. a soccer game where you’re maybe jogging a little bit more. It feels almost like the way your body reacts to soccer is more akin to running. That’s not scientific or anything, it just makes sense in my brain.
For sure. Definitely different sports. When my wife tries to get me to run in the offseason, like a jog around the neighborhood or something, I definitely give her a hard time. I end up doing it, but I give her a hard time. Then after I’m like, “I don’t know why you enjoy doing this.” Sometimes it’s nice and it’s nice outside and nice weather and everything. But for the most part, I’m like, “I’m just trying to get this over with.” [Laughs]
Are there any other Bucks, any of your teammates, that are into dairy-free or some kind of clean diet?
Quite a few. One of the biggest ones is Khris Middleton, who completely changed his diet. I don’t think he’s plant based completely, either. But he’s dang near close to it. I feel like we average about the same amount of minutes and we’re playing most of the game. Hopefully this year, we’re going deep into the playoffs and we have to keep our bodies up and right for that. Khris Middleton is definitely one who watches his diet probably the most out of anyone I can think of.
Is nutrition and general well-being that is more broadly discussed now in the Bucks locker room or with other guys in the league now more than even like five years ago?
For sure. Especially when you have products that are good substitutes for beef, chicken, things like that. We all definitely do talk about it because for one, we do want to be able to perform. That’s why I’m with Ripple and we partnered. But when it comes to longevity, these are the conversations that we have. To be able to look back and know that, at this time, I changed my diet and started drinking Ripple or started using this product and even feeling better the next day after a game and being able to recover, it’s huge because you want to be able to play basketball as long as you can.
And you want to be healthy and strong as long as you can. Even five years ago, being able to lift was a big deal. At first, I thought people were thinking that it doesn’t work because you’re not going to be strong enough, not get enough protein in. And at that point, it’s not true anymore. This Ripple product gives you the same amount of protein as regular milk does. So I think to have this substitute is awesome. But at the same time, it’s about longevity and maximizing how much money you can make, and really, it’s about your legacy. Being able to go as long as you can and just showing the world you can do.
I know you recently talked to Chris Haynes about Defensive Player of the Year. Do you feel like with guys like you who play on the perimeter, and are extremely versatile, and switch so much, maybe people with votes or the “media” are missing something in identifying Turner or Gobert or Embiid or Capela as candidates vs. perimeter guys?
I mean personally, I think so. It’s nothing against the big guys or the shot blockers. I think to be able to have to pick somebody up 94 feet is a lot. A lot of the best players in the world are perimeters. And even the best bigs step out to the perimeter now.
But a lot of the best players in the world are perimeters where you have to guard them 94 feet, you have to fight over screens. You have to be able to guard them one-on-one from 35, 40 feet out. And then a lot of them post up to and you have to guard them in the post.
So, ya, I just feel like a lot of bigs who are great at blocking shots and protecting the rim and the basket don’t necessary have to go through the same thing that a guard or perimeter player has to go through because they don’t have to fight over screens. Maybe Joel Embiid or someone like would shoot for 40 feet, but he doesn’t really do that. Steph is doing that at a very high rate. Dame is doing that at a very high rate. I think it’s different and maybe it’s a little more difficult to be a guard than a big.
As I told you, I primarily cover the Cavs and I watch Isaac Okoro defend guys like you, Harden, KD, Kyrie night after night. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do — fight over screens, get his hands up — and it doesn’t matter because the skill level is so high. Is perimeter defense as it seems to me on the outside covering the game?
Yes, it is. It’s a lot of studying. It’s a lot of being able to know tendencies. And it’s a lot of effort. Most of the time, someone like myself is not just playing defense. I’m also on offense and I have to score as well. I have to run the team, I have to get in some sets. I have to make sure people are getting their shots. I feel like that also helps the argument of defenses is just really, really hard.
And again, a lot of the guys you just named are perimeter players. Let’s talk about the Nets going from Kevin Durant to James to Kyrie all in one game. It’s very, very difficult to deal with and then you still have to go down to the other end and score. It’s about effort. It’s about pride and wanting to do your best to slow somebody done because in the game today, you’re not stopping anybody from scoring.
Woj reported that the NBA is planning to address the “unnatural shooting motions” of guys like Harden and Trae Young, Kevin Love does this as well. A) How much easier would your life be if that’s phased out and, B) how frustrating is that for your when that call happens in the game?
A, my life would be a lot easier. [Laughs] B, I think that’s it a really tough call because sometimes, as a defender, you might be leaning into the guy. I feel like it’s a really hard call to make. So it should just be consistent and just be one way, because there are times when the guy is straight up and the offensive player makes the contact and then I get penalized for that. That’s not fair, in my opinion. But other times, it’s a smart play because you’ve outwitted the defender. To take it way, I’m not really sure they’ll ever take it away. I do feel like the things the NBA does now is to speed up the game and that’s something that slows the game down. So maybe they will change it.