Julius Randle made a decision to transform his body this past offseason. Entering his fourth year in the league, and with the Lakers adding reinforcements to their frontcourt during the offseason, Randle wanted to be in the best shape of his career as he was preparing to fight for a spot in the team’s rotation.
After changing his diet and exercise routine, Randle went from 258 pounds and 12 percent body fat at the end of the 2016-17 season to 240 pounds and six percent body fat at the start of this year. We caught up with the Lakers’ forward to talk about how losing the weight impacted the game, Magic Johnson’s influence on the Lakers, and whether he has ever been approached by a certain teammate’s dad about joining Big Baller Brand.
Your entire basketball career you’ve been on teams that win, from high school to Kentucky. But the Lakers have struggled the last few years, have an eye on the future, and have an eye on being a team that’s going to be racking up titles sometime soon. What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned going from a guy who is always on winning teams to a guy who is part of a rebuild that is looking to the future?
For me it’s a tough adjustment. I’ve learned patience in the process of things. When I was at Kentucky, we didn’t win right away, it took us time to really catch our rhythm and really win at that level. Kinda taking that and carrying it over to here, so for me, it’s just the patience of things, the process of things, and keeping that competitive nature and killer instinct.
Was that something you didn’t have earlier in your career and had to develop, and now it’s something you’re more at peace with?
I have no patience for losing, and I still don’t have any patience for losing, but it’s just learning when you’re going through those times how to lead and lead with your energy every day even though things aren’t going the way you want them to go necessarily.
It seems like there’s been a change in the conversation around the Lakers since Magic has come back to the team and has started in the front office. Any good advice that he’s given you as a young guy in the league?
Yeah, he’s always around giving good advice. Never scared or hesitant to give his opinions, so that’s always a positive. He has an open door policy, guys want to talk to him or whatever it is, and that not just basketball. He can always come to us, from a guy of his stature, to help us with basketball or outside of basketball, it’s pretty cool to have him around, for sure.
What would you say is the most useful piece of advice he’s given you?
For me, it was coming into the season in the best shape I possibly can. For me, my physical gifts and physical tools are really what kinda separates me from the average person or player. So for me it was that, and I was able to do that this summer, able to kind of really take my game to the next level by consistent training in the weight room, on the court. And off the court, with my diet, and Met-Rx was really able to help me through that as well. For me, I’m not a huge kid anymore, and for me to be able to have a meal replacement with the Big 100 bars, it was good because I could just grab one of those, it’s easy to grab and go, and it carried me through my workout. I had a tremendous amount of energy.
So you came into the league with a ton of hype — you’re a top-2 recruit, top-10 draft pick, you’re all these things. This year the Lakers get another guy like that in Lonzo Ball. Have you helped steer him on how to handle being such a highly-regarded rookie since you were in that spot three years ago?
I haven’t really had to do much. Zo is a very humble guy. You would think for somebody that’s coming in with so much hype around his name, he might have an ego or he might feel the pressure of the world on him, but he doesn’t have any of that. Very humble, humble guy, none of that gets to him, you never would be able to tell that he has so much hype around his name. Naturally he has that characteristic about him where he doesn’t really have to say much. He just goes out trying to play the game the right way.
Be honest, has he or LaVar tried to get you or anyone else on the team onto Big Baller Brand?
[laughs] Nah, I’m a Nike guy.
Something I find interesting, and you can tell me based on your experience if this is true, is it seems to me that Kentucky guys seem to be tighter than guys from any other schools. Is that something that you’d say is true or is that something that looks true to fans but it’s not necessarily the case when you’re in the league and you see how guys interact with dudes from their school?
It’s true for sure. I think a big credit to that goes to coach Cal, he likes to call all of us his sons, and it’s like a big family. He’s really huge on family and not just when we’re there, but keeping up with us and talking to us when we’re not there. Like I said, a huge credit of that goes to coach Cal, because he always is keeping us close together and tight.
Is there like some big Kentucky basketball alumni group text or anything like that where you all keep in touch?
Nah, none of that, just always love and laughs whenever we see each other.
Any older Kentucky guys who, when you get into the league, they’re guys who helped you navigate things?
All of them, honestly. Everybody does their part in making sure the young guys when they come in the league that we’re all good.
Yeah and I would guess that now there are guys like De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who you feel like you have to pay it forward because that’s your family, that’s the kind of thing you do.
Yeah, a hundred percent. A hundred percent.
So let’s talk about your physical transformation. I know you put a ton of work in in the weight room this summer. Was this the most intense offseason training regiment you’ve had as a pro?
For me, yes, because it was very specific on what I wanted to do. Was very specific on wanting to get in the best shape possible so I could take my game to the next level. Like I said, it’s not between the weight training and the core training, but my diet and Met-Rx being a huge part of fixing my diet and helping me have a more consistent diet with, like I said, the Big 100 bars. Definitely very intense and, I would say more than anything, more structured.
What was behind the decision to put in the extra work in the weight room? Was it a basketball thing, was there a personal life element to it, anything like that?
Just for me, I know to be the best player I could possibly be, I have to be in the best shape. Like I said, my physical abilities, that’s what helps me separate myself from other players and guys at my position. For me, that’s what it really was about, wanting to come in and physically be the best player I could be, best shape I could be. That’s really all it was for me, just try and be the best player I can be.
I know you mentioned the Met-Rx bars, were there any other ways that you overhauled your diet over the offseason?
My trainer, he had a very specific plan for me, day-to-day, meal-to-meal. That was huge for me, that I had structure, and that I had a plan to follow, a routine to get into when I figured out what works for my body. I really learned my body, what works for me and what doesn’t, and that was huge.
Any foods or anything that you thought you disliked and as you get into training you’re like “Oh, wow, I really liked that”?
Nothing really specific. I had eaten pretty much everything that he had, it was just about cooking stuff the right way, the right seasonings, the right oils, as well as portion control and learning to eat multiple times in a day. Not just one or two or three big meals, multiple times in a day. Stuff like that was my biggest adjustment.
Whenever you hear of athletes going on a diet like this, there always seems to be that one food where it’s “I can’t get rid of this from my diet, I love it too much.” Did you have anything like that?
Nothing specific. I will say, for me, every once in a while I had to get myself a cheat meal. So whenever I would crave something like, I may crave sweets and I had my cheat meal and it would be sweets. And then I would crave fried chicken or something, so it would change for me from meal to meal. It would just be different, once I had my cheat meal I would just crave something else, so it was nothing really specific.
Have you felt a change in your game now that you’re in a better place physically? Do you feel like you’re able to do things on the court a little bit better than you had before when you had that extra couple pounds on?
For sure. Stuff just feels a lot more effortless, just being able to move around the court without thinking, play effortlessly, run, all that type of stuff to where you know it’s not so hard on the body anymore. Recovery-wise, not so hard. I’m just able to do that stuff effortlessly, I think that’s the biggest change for me.