HE'S KNOWN as the Outback Assassin, Down Under or, to teammates, simply Delly. No matter the nickname, Cavaliers guard Matthew Dellavedova carries his Australian heritage with him everywhere he goes—which can be a problem when navigating American grocery stores lacking Tim Tams, Vegemite and other Aussie staples. When the point guard joined Cleveland as a rookie free agent in 2013 after four years at St. Mary's, he quickly turned to team nutrition consultant and registered dietician Stacy Goldberg to build a customized eating plan suited for his NBA goals.
"I would always be a little bit hungry, and I wouldn't have the best fuel when we were on the road," says Dellavedova, 24. "It was more about trying to make small improvements to give me that consistent feeling of energy."
To help Dellavedova understand food and how it affects performance, Goldberg began with the basics, like reading a nutritional label, understanding serving sizes and learning the difference between proteins, carbohydrates and fats. While animal proteins tend to be a huge emphasis for most athletes, Goldberg also stressed the importance of plant-based protein sources such as hemp, chia seeds and peanut butter. "Delly was really interested in taking responsibility for his own cooking and shopping," says Goldberg, who works closely with the team's strength and conditioning coach, Derek Millender. "I taught him to prepare simple recipes and put together unique foods, like a portabella mushroom pizza with tomatoes, vegetables and cheese."
In the supermarket, Dellavedova says he learned to find foods packed with extra vitamins and minerals—"My smoothies had a bit too much fruit, so now I put some more veggies in there to keep it balanced"—and sought out high-fiber snacks or more nutritious options. Goldberg uses Pinterest to curate recipes for Dellavedova to cook at home, and she advises him to order foods that aren't on the room-service menu: If he sees chicken fingers and fries, he should ask if they have grilled chicken and sweet potatoes. "Room service is a snapshot of a larger banquet menu," she says, "a larger selection of fresh ingredients in the kitchen."
Dellavedova has gotten the point. "Nutrition and recovery are not things that you change or ramp up because of the playoffs; it's something you need to keep consistent," he says. "At the facility it's convenient, and on the road you have to plan ahead, but it has helped me this season."
SI presented Cavaliers nutritionist Stacy Goldberg with a supermarket challenge: Pick five menu staples and suggest nutritional alternatives for each. She shared her shopping list for peak performance:
[check] WILD SALMON
Packed with heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, or Omega-3s, it's a good protein source.
It may seem foreign, but it provides more muscle-building amino acids.
[X] JUICE, BAG SALAD
The dark, leafy greens are great in juices, smoothies and salads.
[check] ICELANDIC YOGURT
Thicker and higher in protein, it's a slam dunk over the flavored varieties.
[X] POTATO CHIPS
[check] BLACK BEAN CHIPS
They're more nutritious, especially when dipped in monounsaturated fat-rich guacamole.
For more athlete training profiles and tips, go to SI.com/edge
ANDREW D. BERNSTEIN/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (DELLAVEDOVA)
TONY CORDOZA/GETTY IMAGES (SALMON)
DEBBI SMIRNOFF/GETTY IMAGES (QUINOA)
ALASDAIR THOMSON/GETTY IMAGES (KALE)
GETTY IMAGES (YOGURT)
LOUELLA FOLSOM/FOTOLIA.COM (CHIPS)