Kris “Hi-Lite” Bruton, 47, has just returned from a grueling European tour with the legendary exhibition team the Harlem Globetrotters.
His secret, he says? Going vegan.
“I was never lacking for energy. I was never not strong enough to perform anything that I had to do, and I didn’t have any injuries,” Bruton told MensHealth.com. Since adopting a plant-based diet, however, “I feel great, I think I look good physically, and I just hope people give [veganism] a chance to see what it could do for them.”
Known for his wiry strength, above-the-rim style and humorous exchanges with fans (like this one in Barcelona recently), Bruton is the oldest active player on the Globetrotters. (He's also the longest-running, having played 17 seasons with the team.)He started his career playing with the Chicago Bulls for two seasons in 1994 and 1995 before his career was sidelined by a thigh injury.
As a Globetrotter, Bruton plays an average of 150 games around the world every year. To sustain that kind of grueling schedule, every player must have top-notch endurance and athleticism to match their hoop skills, as well as the ability to entertain audiences. But at 47, Bruton shows no signs of slowing down, which he credits to switching to a plant-based diet last year.
Bruton's switch to veganism was prompted by the passing of his mother, who died of leukemia in August 2017. When his brother was later diagnosed with leukemia (he is now cancer-free), Bruton, believing he could be genetically susceptible to the disease, started researching the subject at length. He found a handful of studies suggesting that adopting a plant-based diet could lower his cancer risk.
To be clear, there's no evidence to suggest that any diet (vegan or otherwise) can flat-out prevent cancer. Yet in general, limiting consumption of red and processed meat and eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans have been found to reduce cancer risk.
Typically, Bruton will start his day with a bowl of oatmeal with raisins, wheat toast without butter, and a piece of fruit (a banana, apple, or orange). For lunch or dinner, he'll typically have roasted potatoes, beans - black or pinto - brown rice, asparagus and romaine lettuce, which he says provide “more than enough” fuel for the court. As a snack, he'll have peanuts or cashews, a piece of fruit, or a cup of freshly-squeezed orange juice. (His favorite cheat meal? A vegan burger at LTO Burger Bar in his native South Carolina, which he says "taste better than a regular cheeseburger.”)
While on tour, Bruton bolsters his diets with a calisthenics-focused fitness routine, which include crunches, planks, body-weight squats and pull-ups, each to three sets of 10 reps, in addition to 100 pushups a day. His go-to exercises at home? The bench press and squats (each to 135 pounds), also for three sets of 10 reps.
Like many active men, Bruton was concerned that on a vegan diet, he wouldn't get enough protein to get the necessary energy to run up and down the court for the Globetrotters’ games. But he says it hasn't been a problem so far. “If you eat a plant-based diet and keep it balanced,” he says, “you’re going to get all the protein you need.”
He's also far from the only athlete who has openly embraced veganism. Boston Celtics point guard Kyrie Irving has spoken at length about making the change to a plant-based diet, as have Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara and Oakland Raiders wide receiver Griff Whalen.
Since going green last fall, Bruton says he's lost almost 15 pounds. And even though a vegan diet isn't necessarily a guarantee for weight loss, he says going vegan has made him a better finisher. “People are watching me dunk on guys. I’m moving, I’m quick, I’m not tired … [it's] almost like I turned back the clock,” says Bruton. “People are like, ‘Is he 20 or is he 40?’"
Bruton's lifestyle change haven't escaped the notice of his younger teammates, four of whom have since dabbled in veganism, including ,>
“When he first told me about this, I said, ‘Kris, you’re going too far, man,’” Law told MensHealth.com. “He started telling me things about going vegan, how it changed his life and how he’s feeling better. Kris is somebody I look up to because at his age, to be able to do what he’s still doing is just phenomenal.”