How Sixers are adjusting their workouts and nutrition with help from team chef

Image courtesy of Philadelphia 76ers

How Sixers are adjusting their workouts and nutrition with help from team chef

Since the news of the NBA’s hiatus nearly four weeks ago, the Sixers' staff has been committed to helping the team’s players through all facets of this crisis.

“From Day 1, we were ready to take care of our players,” said Lorena Torres, the team’s Performance Director, who was creating individualized workout plans the night the NBA announced its suspension.

“We were prepared … and we are a team that believes in individualization, covering individualized needs,” Torres said. “But it’s more than just physical plans, it’s also about the mental and nutritional side of it.”

Torres worked closely with JaeHee Cho, the Sixers’ Executive Chef.

“It was actually really incredible to see all the different talented people, and people at the top of their field, all working for the Sixers,” Cho said, “and all of a sudden the goal wasn't how do we win basketball games anymore, it was how do we keep everyone healthy and fed properly during a pandemic? What does that actually mean?

“It was an incredible amount of information being exchanged, and from a professional development point of view, it was pretty cool to see how fast we could mobilize actions and get things done.”

From a physical performance aspect, getting strength, cardiovascular and recovery equipment for the players was a priority. And from a nutritional aspect, making sure players had the least amount of interruption as possible to their individual diets was of utmost importance.

(Image courtesy of the Philadelphia 76ers)

How was that done?

Well, Sixers rookie Matisse Thybulle gave us a glimpse into one of the ways on his TikTok account, saying that when he pulled up to the Sixers’ training facility, he opened up his trunk and had it loaded up with supplies.

Cho also credits the Sixers’ catering partners for being a huge help, especially during the initial two weeks, making sure that none of their core nutritional guidelines had to change.

And now, the team is continuing to adapt and evolve.

“We've done what we can to make sure guys are comfortable,” Cho said. “Now, it’s how do we continue to challenge them and continue to meet their needs, as they change, and the key to that is staying in touch without overloading them with information.” 

The mental aspect is equally important. 

“Being in social distancing and self-isolation can raise stress hormones,” Torres explained. “Activity and moving your body can help balance those hormones, and so can cognitive activation.”

Books, classes, yoga, meditation and mindfulness — it’s all about finding the balance between your mental state and your body.

“We need to stay mentally healthy and occupied and keep our minds busy,” Torres urged. “Maybe it’s a good moment to discover some tools, like mindfulness, meditation or reading and finish a book, trying to stay focused and have a purpose. Keep your mind busy, active, creative and focused, because the mind and the body are very linked.”

And while these are all ways in which the Sixers’ performance department has continued their commitment to taking care of their players during this time, these are also tips that all of us can take away.

Including you reading this right now.

So, I asked both Torres and Cho to share tips for all of us.

Torres’ tips for your physical wellness

When it comes to staying active, Torres noted that it doesn’t always have to be a workout. The key is to move. For example, if you’ve never been someone with an active workout routine, you can dance, do yoga with kids, have activities in the backyard.  

“It’s about moving and rising your heart rate,” Torres said. “You need to activate certain systems in your body to keep you healthy in general.”

For those looking for help with workout routines at home, Torres has provided us with some examples. Please note these are recommendations, but people should adjust to what equipment they have, and also to their level of fitness and experience.

Torres notes it’s important to involve the full body with an emphasis on the lower body, since lower-body muscles are bigger and more demanding.

“The more muscles you involve in your body, the better,” she said. “Big range of motions.”

Target one or two programs that you can do anywhere from two to five times per week.

(Image courtesy of the Philadelphia 76ers)

Cooking and nutrition tips From JaeHee Cho

Educate yourself as much as you can about food safety and COVID-19
This includes good hygiene, washing hands, not touching your face when you're cooking and keeping your work area really clean. You can learn more here.

Make it easy on yourself to eat healthy 
Don’t get into the habit of snacking on foods that cause inflammation or indigestion — that means highly processed foods, sweeteners, sugars, refined grains, trans fats, artificial colors and flavors. If you don’t have it around, you won’t eat it! Do your best not to shop for pre-packaged stuff like chips, snacks, candy bars, etc. Have healthier produce and food around the house.

Pro tip: Processed foods and snacks can contribute to chronic inflammation and quick and unnecessary weight gain. Instead, get your fill of healthy foods from fresh produce, nuts, seeds and proteins from traceable sources.

Food routine/eating schedule 
Let me preface this by saying everyone is different. You might be a person who likes to eat three meals a day, or a person who prefers to eat five smaller meals. Now is the time to pay attention to your eating habits, make a schedule and follow it. Whatever it is that you know works for you, stick to it.

Eat more greens, drink more water 
Vitamin D, Vitamin C and probiotics (which are great for gut health) are also really important, and if possible, do your best to get them from real foods, rather than from a supplement.

Eating and cooking should be a source of joy and stress reduction
Now more than ever, eating and cooking should not be a source of stress. One thing that is really important in making this happen is being prepared and mindful, and focusing on what you're doing. Know what you are going to cook and map out your steps before you get into the kitchen, just as you would before you start a workout. If you approach food shopping and cooking with that same mindset, it can make it that much more enjoyable and fun. A good shopping list means a faster and more efficient experience.

Be present in your kitchen. Put your distractions away and focus on the task at hand. I think you will find that you know more about cooking and techniques that may have seemed daunting and scary before, you will realize how fun they are and you'll start to approach it differently.

Pro tip: Medical studies show that getting good sleep, reducing stress and eating well can be a huge boost to the immune system, which is always important, but especially so right now. 

Don’t know what to cook? 
Give yourself time. Maybe now is the time to pull a cookbook off the shelf. Call your parents, grandparents and friends, and ask them for recipes or inspiration. 

(Still in a cooking rut? We asked Cho to create a special recipe for fans. Just check the end of this article.)

Do you have a favorite dish from a local Philly restaurant? Think about how you could try to recreate that at home. And while you’re doing it, why don’t you give that business a like on social media to show your support for your favorite local restaurants during this time.

Speaking of restaurants and the service industry, now more than ever is a time to think about your local neighborhood restaurant. Is your favorite restaurant open for takeout and/or delivery right now? Now is the time to support them while being mindful of public health guidelines for physical distancing and safety during this crisis. Sports and entertainment are such a part of our social psyche, and local, independently owned restaurants are too. 

For our Philly neighborhoods, Philadelphia as a whole, southeastern Pennsylvania, south New Jersey — in general, we used to rely on them so much to nourish us, celebrate with us, provide us community and entertainment. Now is the time they need our support more than ever.

Hate doing dishes? 
My tip there is eat and clean as you go. If you’re following a recipe, one of those steps  should be “now is a great time to wash that pot or clean that cutting board!”

If you approach washing the dishes with disdain, you've already lost the battle, so understand that doing the dishes and cleaning up is just as much a part of the process. Then I think it becomes a little more palatable, even enjoyable.

Green herb rice pilaf recipe

Cooking rice can be deceptively simple.  There are a large array of types, a myriad of different techniques and countless variations.

The simplified rice pilaf outlined is an easy way to upgrade your meal and practice a new technique.  The recipe below will go nicely with a simply prepared protein.


2 Tablespoons of Butter (or oil)
1 medium onion, small dice
2 to 3 cloves of Garlic, minced

2 cups long grain rice (such as basmati or jasmine rice)
2.5 cups vegetable stock, chicken stock or water

Salt and pepper

About 2 cups of fresh herbs, chopped

Tools needed

A medium pot (3 Quarts) or skillet or Dutch oven with a lid
A medium-sized bowl, for “cleaning” the rice
Cutting board and knife
Wooden spoon or rubber spatula


Clean the rice by placing in a bowl and filling the bowl with cool water to cover from the tap. Using your hands, gently swirl and stir the rice in a circular motion — you will see the water turn opaque from the starch that is being rinsed from the surface of the rice.  Pour the water out carefully by letting the rice settle to the bottom of the bowl first.  Repeat three times or so until the water runs relatively clear. (To be conscientious of water usage, you can pour the water out into another container and use it to water your houseplants.) Set the rice aside.

Put the oil in the pot over medium heat.  When the oil is heated, add the onion and garlic and cook until softened and translucent — about three minutes. Add the rice, stirring to coat the rice in the butter. Keep toasting and stirring until the rice begins to give off a nice aroma — about two to three minutes.

Add the water or stock, a pinch of salt (about one teaspoon) and turn the heat up to bring to a boil. Lower the heat to bring the water down to a low simmer and cover with the lid. Set a timer for 15 minutes.

Now would be a good time to clean and chop up the fresh herbs. I like to use fresh, leafy herbs like parsley, cilantro, chives, or mint, depending on what you are having with the rice. If you don’t have herbs in your house, you can swap it out for anything that can steam in 10 minutes, such as baby spinach, peas, broccoli florets and grated carrots.

When the 15 minutes are up, turn the heat off, remove the lid and carefully stir in the herbs (or your substitute ingredient) with a fork. Replace the lid and rest the rice for at least 10 minutes, but up to 20 minutes. While the rice rests, you can tidy up the kitchen, set the table, etc.

This technique can be easily varied by substituting the fat or vegetables to suit your tastes! Leftovers can be easily microwaved for another meal.


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Floyd, a 46-year old black man, was killed Monday while in police custody. Video showed Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck, for more than 8 minutes. His death has sparked protests against racial injustice and police brutality around the country. Chauvin was fired and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other officers on the scene, Tou Thao, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, were fired but have not been charged.

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Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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