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Mark Teixeira’s Performance-Enhancing Diet


ENLARGE

Grab some spinach. Mix in berries, and of course the coconut yogurt. Blend.


Now pick up a bat and go hit.

Forget a new stance or a re-engineered swing: The keys to

Mark Teixeira

’s latest attempt at a renaissance? Smoothies, bison burgers and turkey bacon.

“Turkey bacon’s OK,” Teixeira said. “Turkey bacon is better than regular bacon, I think. And I’ll say this: Bison is better than steak.”

In the years since his body and his production began to decline, Teixeira, 34, has become the master of reinvention. He will try anything to get back to where he once was, the mashing perennial MVP candidate whom the Yankees signed to a $180 million deal before the 2009 season.

He has become a devotee of obscure workout methods and has sought nutritional aids on every shelf. (He even invested in a juice company.) He has tried to slim down to increase quickness and flexibility and avoid injuries, only to reverse course and bulk back up when he felt a lack of strength. To manage his nagging injuries, he has endured punishing deep-massage techniques, focused on building up the small balancing muscles he felt he was neglecting, and alternatively lifted heavy weights just to build raw power. He has swung more, swung less, swung differently—anything. A few methods have worked. Most haven’t.

“I convinced myself one off-season that I wanted to work on my swing more, and swung so much that I blew out my wrist,” Teixeira said Wednesday, when the Yankees’ position players officially reported to training camp here in Tampa. “You learn. You learn from mistakes. I think you’re always learning from mistakes.”

So the latest cure-all, the latest bid to get back to the 30-home run, 100-RBI plateaus that Teixeira has been chasing since he last reached them in 2011, is diet. This winter, he hired a new trainer and embarked on a quest to reduce inflammation in his body via the food he eats.

“I think the diet was a big thing; I had a really high inflammatory diet,” Teixeira said. “When I told my trainer I had three cortisone shots in my wrist and two in my back, he said, ‘It sounds like you have a lot of inflammation in your body.’ Hopefully taking care of those type of things, the aches and pains, the little muscle pulls and the inflammation in your joints, hopefully those things go away.”

With that goal in mind, Teixeira did away with foods containing dairy, gluten or sugar—he calls it the “no-fun diet”—and replaced those perceived offenders with leaner foods like bison and salmon. It’s a variation on a health movement known as “elimination diets,” wherein entire food groups are cut out in an effort to avoid either their fattening or inflammatory effects.

Turkey bacon’s OK. Turkey bacon is better than regular bacon, I think. And I’ll say this: Bison is better than steak.

—Mark Teixeira

Injuries have piled up for Teixeira in recent years; his calves, back and hamstrings, among other things, are frequently problematic, and he underwent wrist surgery before the 2013 season for a tendon problem. Along the way, he has developed a reputation for being injury prone, with the minor tweaks that knock other players out for a few days seeming to hit him harder. Teixeira has played a maximum of 123 games a season since 2012.

His production has sagged as well, with a paltry .216 batting average, 22 home runs, and a .711 OPS marking his disappointing contributions to the 2014 Yankees. It’s his belief that diet was the cause.

“The gluten and the dairy are very inflammatory, so anytime you get a little tweak…”

He paused. “Everyone in here is going to have a tweak at some time in the season, but you want that tweak to be one or two days, not two weeks. The more inflammation in your body, the worse it is, and the tougher it is to get back from those little injuries.”

The first baseman says he shed 15 pounds of fat and added 13 pounds of muscle over the winter, and that he feels younger and stronger than he has in years. Manager


Joe Girardi

said he was thrilled at Teixeira’s physical shape, and that the Yankees need bounce-back seasons from Teixeira and

Carlos Beltran

in particular if their lineup is to thrive this season.

“My thought is, if they play the way they’re capable of playing and are physically healthy, it’s like adding two pretty good bats in the lineup,” Girardi said.

If all goes well, Teixeira plans to follow this diet until the end of his career. So there are some things he’s going to be spending years yearning for.

“Oh, in the morning, a cup of coffee and a muffin, I miss that,” he said. “I miss pancakes with the kids; the kids are eating pancakes and I’m having a vegetable smoothie and turkey bacon.”

Write to Daniel Barbarisi at [email protected]

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