#UPPInterview: Basketball Star Anthony Ireland Debunks Health Myths, Talks Eating Right & Mental Health

More Than Basketball. Connecticut native and Waterbury bred athlete Anthony Ireland, took the city by storm with his endurance, talent and overall drive as a High School Basketball star at Crosby High School. Continuing his legacy on the West Coast, at Loyola MaryMount University, The CT repper went on to play through 3 West Coast Conferences, and was highlighted as one of the Universities’ most underrated player making big shots in a 2014 LA Times article. The then college graduate would take his dreams of the league on the road, signing to International teams based in France, Greece and currently Poland.

Never forgetting where he came from, Anthony Ireland has used his success as a tool to help youth in his hometown of Waterbury, by holding an annual Basketball Camp. The AI3 camp is a space for the future athletes to escape their cities misfortunes, through hard work, practice and tips learned straight from basketball prodigies native to The Brass City. The AI3 Camp was influenced through fellow mentors, raised in the city like hometown basketball hero, Ryan Gomes.

Now the International Basketball Star has opened up about his current Healthy Eating lifestyle, hoping to inspire and educate another seeking to join the journey. Giving his insight on his experiences across the globe, Anthony Ireland goes in depth about the causes, effects and mental benefits of eating healthy.

At What age did you start your journey with Basketball/ Athleticism?

I was about 5-6 years old super young. My dad (Bernard Ireland) played basketball and was a well known player in Waterbury. He went to Crosby High School and as a kid I’d always look through his scrap book and see that he was really good. I always wanted to emulate him. And Allen Iverson. He was a small guy, kinda like me and he just had a lot of pressure on him since he was young and he was really overlooked because he wasn’t so tall.

What are some of the things you would use as fuel during your early stages in your basketball career?

I always looked to see what was the next best thing, or see what I can do to improve my game or smarter or just overall more athletic or be stronger. I was always looking to better my basketball career. The competition, the nay sayers, I’m small, I’m not really tall a lot of coaches a lot of guys really overlooked me. I’ve carried that chip on my shoulder to this day. I think it turned out pretty well for me.

What inspired your journey towards being more healthy?

It started with just doing a lot of research and you know just really looking into the things that I would put into my body. It would help me on the court. So I knew becoming a professional, or even in college the things that I ate, the things I put into my body would affect how I would feel the day after a game, or a three hour practice or weight room. So I’ve always looked for ideas or tips, but I never took full control of my own health, or really put it into my own hands, until my first year out of college, my first year being a Pro.

Gonzaga’s Gary Bell Jr., left, and Loyola Marymount’s Anthony Ireland go after a loose ball during the first half of a West Coast Conference tournament NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, March 9, 2013, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Have you seen any changes? If so, how? Mood, physically?

Ive definitely seen many changes. For example the vegetarian diet I’m on right now, I definitely recover faster after a game or practice. My body is more efficient and recovers more efficiently just because of the way the body breaks down the nutrients in plants and fruits. Its much easier for your body to break that down vs. a 3 lb. steak.

I actually did an experiment when I was out in France my first year, and this was when I was a Pescatarian and was just trying to find my path. I did an experiment and an hour before practice I ate a cheeseburger from Mc Donalds. I just wanted to see how I would react and my mind would react, during practice. You know when you’re an athlete or actually in any career, you step into that zone where everything is flowing you’re performing through your instincts, you’re not doubting yourself, you’re not second guessing yourself everything is so fluent. And I noticed when I ate the cheeseburger it was harder for me to tap into that Zone. I just wasn’t playing like myself. I was two steps behind.

So then the next week, I ate an apple an orange and maybe like a peanut butter jelly sandwich before practice and I was much more efficient. I was able to tap into my zone as soon as I stepped on the court. It made the game so much easier for me just having a clear mind. Once I saw the evidence for myself I made the transition into becoming a Vegetarian and Pescatarian.

What is the biggest “Health” myth you’ve come across?

Oh, theres plenty out there. But I think my main one that people don’t understand is that you don’t need meat to live. If you just think about the way animals are slaughtered, there’s no humane way for an animal to die for consumption. During these times the animals are undergoing stress, fear, all types of negative emotions. We know energy is continuous and contagious it could never be created or destroyed. You’re putting this back into your body when you consume the animal. I won’t even get into what is injected into the animal to make it bigger, preservations,meat coloration, steroids and so on. But when you take a steak and cook it, you’re putting that dead, negative, stressful, fearful energy inside of you, and not only does it take your body 2-3 weeks to break down a piece of steak it its also affecting you on a mental level, and a spiritual level. People wonder why they go through mood swings, or writer’s block. You are what you eat.

Why do you think there is a protein infatuation when it comes to being “healthy”?

I have a particular outlook on this just because I’m able to be in Europe and different countries and get to see the way they eat and their lifestyle and compare it to the U.S. In the U.S. and Europe everyone just loves protein. I think it’s just propaganda. Its what the food industry wants you to put in your body. We see it on advertisements, big letters, over saturated and think we need it in our diet. But people don’t understand your body will be able to regulate and figure out if you need it on its own. I’ve never met a person who’s been protein deficient.

Also theres a misconception that when you think of protein you think of meat. There is protein in nuts, seeds, broccoli. Your body breaks this protein down more efficiently than it would a piece of dead meat.

What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to your healthy lifestyle?

I’m learning everyday. Getting rid of or “unlearning” all you’ve learned your whole life when it comes to consumption. And the way I look at it is to not think about all the things i cant eat like a grilled cheese, or a cheeseburger. I’m not going to dwell on those things i’d rather look forward towards the things that I have never eaten in my life that will help my mind, body and soul. thats how I look at it now but its definitely super challenging. I grew up like most drinking milk, eating cheeseburgers eating whatever I wanted and not thinking.

What are a couple of starter tips that can help start one’s healthy living journey?

First, Just be conscious about what you’re putting in your body. The good and the bad. Many eat based off their appetite, we’re not consciously controlling our eating decisions. We’ve been trained to eat improperly we’ve been trained to eat McDonalds, crave chocolate, ice-cream etc. And those little cravings are hard to break. Once your conscious and realize you’re committed it makes the decision making easier. You go to like a Stop N Shop and want to buy a quick snack, I know to go and grab a bagel and cream cheese and a side of chips. OR i can grab two bananas & almonds after I work out. And its ultimately cheaper, being conscious is a good saver all around.

You have to do your research. Everyone’s (health) journey is specific to them, your body needs, know what you like, know why you don’t like it. For example, upper going to have to figure out Why steak isn’t necessarily good for you after you work out and the why’s. You have to figure out when you wake up in the morning, and have been fasting all night is it better to eat fruit than a heavier meal? Just because its easier to digest .

Do you think it’s easier to be healthy if you have the means vs. someone who can’t afford it? (If so what tips can you provide for those wanting to be healthy but can’t make it to a whole foods regularly for example)

I think thats a myth. A lot of people say the reason they don’t eat healthy is because its too expensive. In the beginning it may be expensive just because you don’t understand, you just want to get a bunch of food because you’re used to stocking up on your meats, beef, chickens, etc. But now you’re going to go to the grocery store and choosing wheat pasta vs. another, broccoli, etc. You get a stock of broccoli and that can benefit your body longer than a piece of steak will. And your bodies ultimately able to break down the broccoli faster, than red meat or steak that stays in your digestive system up to three weeks to month. Going back to the original question, I feel thats a myth. You can make a smoothie that can fill you up for a few hours, out of ice, banana, apple juice, throw in an actual apple whatever you have laying around and all of these items are fairly cheap. I go to the grocery store and go straight to the produce section, thats where the real food is and rack up on fruits. You can get a variety of fruit in the grocery store and the total will come up to $50 versus paying for all of your meats or your regular diet.

Obviously when you go out to eat, it’s cheaper to grab a burger from McDonalds. If we’re talking fast food and going out to restaurants yes eating healthy will be a bit more expensive. Fish vs a bigger is a different price range. But if you go and purchase all of these items before hand at the grocery store its actually cheaper than what many may think.

What tips do you have for those battling mental health?

Mental Health is a problem within everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re Lebron James or the local person on the corner. Everyones dealing with some type of mental health issue. We’re in a society where everyones trying to be flashy, or we’re overwhelmed with propaganda, advertisements, overwhelmed with what beauty should look like, whats the stereotypical kind of cool everyones trying to fit in. All these comes when you aren’t comfortable within your own skin, or aren’t taught as a young person to be confident in yourself you grow up to be insecure.

In highschool, I’m just speaking for myself, When I was in High School I was insecure. I was a basketball player so I wanted to carry myself as an “athlete” you know, or how an “athlete” was expected to carry himself. I bought all of the nice sneakers, I had to get these Jordan’s if I wanted to fit in, I had to wear these type of khaki pants and had to make sure they were a certain way to look cool. If you don’t have these things people are going to think lesser than of me, you know?

Another example, In my experience through basketball in particular, perception is big. Ever since we were young the concept was get a lot of girls get a lot of girls, don’t treat them right, just because thats how we were raised. Thats who we were around, my friends were doing this, my idols were doing this. I didn’t even necessarily even know how to treat a woman. It wasn’t till my experience through college that I grew to realize why I didn’t treat women correctly, or like a Queen, it was because of my own insecurity issues that I had. I though I had to be a certain way, I though I had to treat them in a negative way, in order to achieve the “Athlete” persona.

Mental Health goes hand in hand with your diet. For example, when a cow is slaughtered for a burger they’re under stress, tortured, scared, paranoid all of these negative effects/feelings are happening to them. The meat gets broken down, artificially, and then we buy this. Cook it, and intake all of this energy like I’ve said before. These effects cause mood swings within those that ingest it. All of the effects that the cow experienced before slaughter, are now causing mood swings within you. People wonder why they feel weird after eating certain foods and this is why.

If you clean up your gut you’re going to eventually clean up your brain.

Tips for battling Mental Health?

Figuring methods, ways to be secure and confident within yourself. Know Thyself. Know your history, Learn your families history, Know where your culture came from. In order to succeed you need to understand where you came from. Not just where your mother, father came from where your bloodline came from. You need to understand what your grandparents, great grandparents, great great grandparents had to overcome, once you realize what they had to go through it will make your life much easier.

Another tip, is definitely clearing up your diet, I said it earlier but definitely something that can help with Mental Health. A lot of people find comfort within food. Thats a vice or drug for some. Some may get stressed, smoke weed, drink, go shopping but some also eat excessively. I feel like you can overcome these situations if you’re putting live energy inside your body rather than dead energy. You literally are what you eat. Once you clear your system you’re going to be able to tap into your third eye.

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