If you watched Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens defeat the Cincinnati Bengals last night 44-13 you might have also noticed a different looking Ray Lewis. He’s lighter, faster and stronger this year due to his new secret – Juicing.
At 37 years old and looking for something to keep him playing at a high level, the greatest linebacker of our generation – or perhaps any generation – Lewis has taken to juicing twice a day, every day. And not the kind of juice that would result in a positive test for steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.
The kind that comes from the fresh vegetables Lewis prepares each day and pours into a plastic cup. One for the morning, and another in the afternoon. And he can still eat to his heart’s content.
Lewis shows a visitor at his locker the remains of the morning concoction, his eyes lighting up and voice rising in excitement at the chance to talk about a new dietary regimen that he believes will ultimately extend an already remarkable 17-year career. These days, Lewis is as consumed with learning about the nutritional values of broccoli and okra as he is with pumping iron and running sprints.
“Juicing allows me to be at my best,” said Lewis, who started juicing several months ago at the suggestion of a friend. “I did it not just because of sports, but because of how healthy it was for lifestyle. It’s a different kind of mentality because you know what you’re putting in your body.”
The results are noticeable. Lewis is down to 235 pounds, the lightest he has ever been since joining the NFL in 1996. During the Ravens’ 2000 Super Bowl season, Lewis weighed 260 pounds. His recent inclusion of bicycling has also helped keep him in terrific shape, although he says it’s the juicing that has made the biggest difference of all.
“When I first tried it, I was like, ‘Wow, I’m getting kind of light,'” he said. “I was like, ‘Ok, just don’t stop it, just roll with it.’ The thing is you never want to lose weight and lose strength. But I actually got stronger the more weight I lost.”
Lighter, Faster, and Stronger? At 37?
“He’s moving around this year as well as he has the last three or four years,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said of Lewis. “His change of direction, his burst and quickness, they’re all there. I’ve watched the evolution of a young man over the years, and seen how he continues to stay ahead of the curve.”
He stays ahead of the curve in a way few others have. At an age when most players are out of the NFL, Lewis remains an elite linebacker and a major contributor to a team that figures to be in the hunt for a Super Bowl championship. Lewis seems just as enthusiastic about this year’s team as any other, including the 2000 team that crushed the Giants 35-7 in the Super Bowl.
“How would it ever get old?” Lewis said. “Every year is a new year, and nothing stays the same. So there are changes every year, but every year, there is opportunity.”
Yet it is nothing short of remarkable that Lewis has lasted this long and has been this good. Certain to be a first-ballot inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Lewis looks at maintaining his level of play as a huge challenge. And he takes his inspiration from some unlikely places.
“People only get old because we stop taking care of our bodies,” he said. “We believe that once we get to a certain age, we shouldn’t physically take care of our bodies. But you can be as strong as you want to be if you maintain.”
All Lewis needs to do to find motivation for staying young is to look at the window of his home in Boca Raton, FL.
“Some of the greatest inspirations are the older community, because every morning, there’s this lady who walks on the sidewalk, and she’s 93 years old,” he said. “There’s another lady who’s 84. There’s a guy who’s 74 riding his bike. You’re sitting there thinking, what motivates them? It’s just life. So for me, every year it’s just a different challenge. How do I want to challenge my body? How to I want to get better? It’s always evolving.”
“Juicing can be a very healthy detox,” said renowned nutrionist Heidi Skolnik, who has worked with the Giants, NBA, Major League Baseball and other sports teams. “Adding juicing to a good diet and exercise program is great. It’s a great way to get in a lot of nutrients the vegetables and fruits have. Juicing isn’t the end-all, but it can be a great addition.”
Lewis hopes to get his message about the benefits of juicing to others, in part because he has seen several people close to him die of health issues related to poor nutrition. He has plans to eventually come out with a line of juicers.
“Four people close to me have passed,” he said. “My motivation is to get people to reinvest in themselves. That’s what I did for myself. How can I live longer? How can I feel better? If I can take care of my body when I’m young, it will take care of me when I’m old.”
17 years and counting. How much longer will he play? “We’ll see,” he said. “Only God knows.”
And the juicer? “God and the juicer,” he said with a laugh. “That’ll keep me going a long time.”