Dwyane Wade Reveals the Post-Retirement Health Scare He’s Been Managing All-Naturally

Ahead of his NBA Hall of Fame induction, Dwyane Wade opens up about the roadblocks he's overcome to maintain an elite level of wellness.

From regular courtside seats to red carpets with wife Gabrielle Union, maybe you’ve noticed that Dwyane Wade didn’t exactly disappear after his 2019 retirement from the Miami Heat. After three NBA championship wins, 13 NBA All-Star appearances, and now his upcoming induction into the NBA Hall of Fame on August 12, it’s no surprise that at 41, Dwyane Wade is still hungry.

Dwyane Wade played 16 years in the NBA, when the average career in the league lasts less than five years. Clearly he’s got wisdom when it comes to staying healthy. Since his retirement, Wade has explored what it means to be well off the court in a journey that includes a current partnership with Thorne, a testing, supplement and health education company that he credits as one key player in his current wellness regimen. “For about two years, it was already a part of our routine,” Wade says of the brand. “To be partners and to come full circle with it is pretty cool.” Also participating in the collab is Wade’s 21-year-old son, Zaire Wade, who followed in his dad’s footsteps on the Salt Lake City Stars in the NBA G-league and now plays on the Basketball Africa League’s Cape Town Tigers.

In a recent conversation with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest, Dwyane Wade opened up about life after basketball and how he plans to stay strong for the long-term.

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Dwyane Wade and sonArmand Lenoir/BAL/Getty Images
Dwyane Wade and son Zaire Wade

The Healthy @Reader’s Digest: Tell us about the project with Thorne and teaming with your son, Zaire.

Dwyane Wade: We’re a family brand. My wife and I collab, we collab with our kids on different things, but you try to make sure that it’s authentic and that you find the right things to collab on. So my son and I both being athletes, him more now than I, it’s all about making sure that we can maximize. As an athlete you want to maximize your potential. Maximizing your body is obviously important, but we understand that it is more than that—it’s maximizing your mind, as well. What I try to do for him is to make sure that he doesn’t step on some of the traps that I did, and really try to help him understand very early how to take care of his body.

This has been a journey for both of us. When I retired, what my body went through…it was terrible for the first couple of months and I had to find solutions. And so I just went out on a health tour. I was like, “You know what? I’m not going to be the athlete that said I’ve worked out my whole life, and I’m done with that. I’m actually gonna be the athlete that probably does it even harder than he did, or different than he did, when he was playing.” So enter trying to find the things that give you a little bit more than what you just have. I don’t have what I had at 21. And so before the Thorne partnership, we were already using it in our household. For about two years, it was already a part of our routine. To be partners and to come full circle with it is pretty cool.

Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle UnionCindy Ord/getty images
Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union in April 2023

The Healthy: You brought up some of the different traps that you felt like you had to navigate, and that you’re trying to help your son avoid. Can you elaborate a little bit more on what some of those were?

Dwyane Wade: One of the things that really derails you is your focus. That’s one of the key components of trying to accomplish something great. You have to, as much as possible, eliminate the distractions. But in trying to eliminate the distractions in life, how do you focus on making sure that you get the best out of yourself? And so, you gravitate and use things that help you to do that.

For me, one of the things I’ve always hated is taking pills. Anybody who knows me, knows that I’m not a good pill taker. If I’m looking at something, and it’s telling me that I’ve got to take 38 to 40 pills to accomplish the things I need to, to make sure that my focus is there, and my energy is there, I can’t do that. That’s why I wound up getting with Thorne. Because you look for a product that can have it all within one.

My conversations with my son are about the things that are going to help us focus. So let’s make sure that we add this into our day, just like we add brushing our teeth and washing our face because we need it. That’s what I look for in products. I look for things or products that I know can help me and I don’t have to be all over the place.

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Dwyane Wade on his health

The Healthy: Your health has obviously been a priority for years. What would you say was your biggest secret for keeping yourself healthy enough, focused enough, and able to perform at such a high level for that length of time?

Dwyane Wade: Definitely what you are putting in your body. I have, and have had, a chef pretty much my entire adult life. And so I understood the importance of the nutrients that go into my body, and my chef understands the importance of going out and finding things that help me in eliminating inflammation in my body. Stuff that I don’t even know he is doing.

I came into the NBA with knee pain and knee surgery from college. The doctors only gave me five years before I started having problems with my knee. I still have that to this day. I have bone, and I have joint aches and pains. I just can’t sit around every day and wake up and not do anything. I played the game with reckless abandon at times. [Laughs.] And I’m paying for it a little bit too.

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The Healthy: Is there one daily self-care practice that you refuse to skip? I know you’ve highlighted some things with nutrition—what else?

Dwyane Wade: Quiet space for myself. That can be an hour, that can be four hours, or that could be 10 minutes. I have to find that. It’s that mental space. I’m a firm believer in what they tell you on a plane: Put your mask on first before you take care everyone else. I haven’t always been that way, and I have a lot of responsibilities. I’m trying to accomplish a lot of things, and I’m trying to be there for a lot of people as the leader of my family. Our slogan is Built to last, and I would not be built to last if I don’t take care of me first. So I make sure that’s what I do every day.

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The Healthy: I love it. There are a lot of people that need to hear that message, for sure. You touched on something in one of your first responses: There are a lot of professional athletes, and even more amateur athletes, who find themselves very unhealthy and out of shape when their career ends. How do you view your health post-retirement, and how is your routine different now than it was when you were playing?

Dwyane Wade: When I was playing, I relied on the team to give me all of the information I needed about my body. I wanted to know what I needed to do to play: Give me those pills, give me that shot, whatever it is, right? As athletes, we are trained that way. That doesn’t work in this life.

I’ve been retired going on five years. I live in Los Angeles and obviously have some of the best care in the world. I spend a lot of time understanding my body. I had some liver issues that I didn’t know I had, that was affecting me when I first retired. So that starts my journey to research the things that are going to help my liver. It’s just understanding that you’re not that young. I’m not a young whipper-snapper anymore. I don’t have 5,000 miles on my car…I’ve got a lot more. It’s really being a student of your body.

Now I’ve got to go find my own information, and it’s actually better because it allows me to have more education and knowledge on what is going on inside my body. I don’t do things in life anymore for the endorsement of the actual dollar. It has to make sense for my life. And so I’m talking to you this morning because this makes sense for my life as someone trying to be healthy, and understanding the importance of talking to men, especially black men, about taking care of their body. Not waiting until something happens. Actually going and checking on yourself to see how you can maybe stop something, catch something early, or get ahead of something.

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Dwyane Wade on his mental health

The Healthy: There was a fairly recent interview where you were talking specifically about mental health. It was more in relation to your children and social media, but I’m curious about your own. You eluded a little bit to the quiet time, but is there anything else regarding your mental health routine or things that you are doing to keep your mental health strong?

Dwyane Wade: When I’m at home, my routine every day is that I work out right away. Every morning. Whether it’s four in the morning, or I hop up at five or six. Whatever time it is, I get right to it. I’m making sure that I’m having that space mentally in the gym, but also physically, and working on what I feel like I need to. I only work with a trainer if I’ve got a shoot coming up, and I need to try to get sexy real quick. [Laughs.]

That’s something that’s very important to me. Getting up every day and making sure that I’m feeling that sweat, and I’m feeling the burn a little bit. And I’m challenging myself because as an athlete, I’m used to challenges. In this life, it’s very hard to push yourself to that level. Are you gonna quit or not? And so I’ve even got to do that in the gym sometimes. I’ve got to push myself and do things to see if I’m gonna quit or if I’m gonna push through and win that day. And so it starts there. And then from there, as an athlete, it’s about recovery. So as soon as I get done in the gym, I do the sauna, I do the steam, and I do the cold tub. This is my routine before my family wakes up.

From there, I go immediately into the kitchen, and it’s about putting my shake together. It’s about putting all the things inside of my shake that I feel like I need. That’s one thing that has been made easy for me. Because I’ve never known how to do that. I could take some spinach and some bananas or something and throw it in there, but to be able to now have a brand [Thorne] that supports all my needs…all I’ve got to do is read. This focuses on joints, this focuses on liver, this focuses on detox. That’s how my day starts. And then from there, I go off, and I’m on everybody else’s time.

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Jeff Whittington, MS, CPT, CNC
Jeff Whittington, MS, is a former San Diego Firefighter/Paramedic turned entrepreneur. He’s a self-described adventure seeker who’s passionate about human performance optimization and longevity. Jeff operates as a Peak Performance Coach, where he utilizes a diverse background of certifications to work with clients on life changes that enhance their overall performance and health in their daily lives. His education/certifications include Personal Training (NASM), Nutrition Coaching, XPT® Performance Breathing, Life Coaching, and Mindfulness/Meditation practices. Jeff lives in San Diego with his two children and his wife Hillary, author of the memoir Raising Ryland (HarperCollins Publishers, 2016), for which Jeff was a contributing writer.