No, it’s not an obnoxious piscine, it’s Mardy Fish.
Two years ago, tennis player Mardy Fish suffered a knee injury (and resulting surgery) that didn’t just sideline him from competing, but from exercising altogether. A mainstay on the tennis scene, Fish had never captured top rankings. Determined to bounce back stronger than before, he realized weight loss had to be part of his recovery plan—clocking in at more than 200 pounds wasn’t good for his game or his knee.
“He knew that in order to speed the recovery and prevent any recurrence of knee problems that he would need to drop some excess weight,” says Fish’s personal physiotherapist, Christian LoCascio. When Fish finally made it back onto the court last year, he showed off his new slim physique, having shed 30 pounds in about three months.
Instead of relying on daily courtside practices to burn massive calories, Fish had to rethink his diet and recover lost time in conditioning. It took time and determination, but it worked: Fish entered this year’s U.S. Open Tennis Championship as the No. 8 seed and highest-ranked American player. In an exclusive interview with Men’s Health, Fish and LoCascio share the secrets to achieving peak physical condition after an injury.
More from MensHealth.com: How Evan Longoria Came Back from Injury
Men’s Health: What role did your diet play in your recovery?
Mardy Fish: I realized that if I could shed some extra weight, it would make a huge difference for my knee. My diet wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either. We cleaned up my diet and did a better job of timing my meals throughout the day. It was really tough in the beginning because I went from playing tennis every day and eating what I wanted to barely being able to move around and feeling like I was starving on my diet. After about two weeks, it got better and I started to see some results on the scale. That’s when it started to get fun and became a game for me.
MH: What was the diet like?
Christian LoCascio: Early on before [Mardy] could exercise very much, we limited his carbs to only vegetables and Generation UCAN (a product made with “superstarch,” an engineered carbohydrate that’s slowly released into your blood stream for sustained energy and a lower insulin response) and forbade him from eating anything after dinner. After he saw such dramatic results from diet alone, he realized just how large of a factor it is and how much of an advantage he’s able to give himself by simply eating well.
More from MensHealth.com: Lose More Weight By Eating Smart
MH: You went from daily courtside practices to being sidelined for three months. How did you ease back into workouts?
MF: In the beginning, Christian did rehab and exercises with me at the house. It was all very basic, but I had to rebuild my quads in my left leg. It was tough to walk for a while and there was no chance of me going near a tennis court. We also spent a lot of time in the pool doing exercises and working on building back some power in my leg. Once I could get back in the gym, Rodney Marshall [a United States Tennis Association strength coach] guided me through workouts at the USTA facility in Carson, California. I learned that I had the willpower and ability to reshape my body and my lifestyle.
MH: What helped you stay focused during the long recovery process?
MF: I had a lot of support. My wife and Christian ate the same food as me every day and I had a personal chef who worked with Christian to make all of my meals. We tracked every single thing that I ate and calculated everything on a computer program called NutriTiming. It wasn’t always easy and certainly wasn’t always fun. It took hard work and was a real grind sometimes—especially the hard pool workouts—but it was worth it times 1,000 in the end. I just feel much better physically and mentally for having gone through the process.
CL: It’s not about starving yourself or spending hours in the gym every day, [but more about] eating smarter and working out more efficiently.