The Lifestyle Habits That Helped CC Sabathia Shed 40 Pounds After Retiring

A few years removed from the league, the former Yankee is in the best shape of his life

CC Sabathia at Coors Field in 2021.
Remember this guy? Sabathia lost a ton of weight after hanging up his spikes... then gained back 20 pounds of muscle.
Tom Cooper/Stringer

CC Sabathia’s kept busy since he retired from baseball at the end of the 2019 season.

He sat down for an HBO Original documentary about his life, career and struggles with alcohol addiction (he’s over six years sober), moved his popular baseball podcast R2C2 , hosted with announcer Ryan Ruocco, over to The Ringer Podcast Network and recently accepted a role as MLB’s new Special Assistant to the Commissioner.

Last week’s press release read: “An advocate for amplifying diversity, strengthening the sport, and impacting the community, CC will bring a player’s perspective as a liaison for decision making.” Expect Rob Manfred to lean heavily on Sabathia, regarded as one of the game’s most popular players from the last two decades, as he looks to repair his shattered, post-lockout reputation with players.

Amidst all that action, the former Yankee great has also somehow found time to get into the best shape of his life. Seriously — if you haven’t paid a visit to his Instagram in a while, you might find yourself surprised. The six-time All-Star trimmed 40 pounds from his hefty frame, then added back 20 pounds of muscle.

How did he pull it off? Sabathia hasn’t adopted anything too crazy — he’s just been consistent. For the last two years, he’s been weightlifting, golfing and following a Mediterranean diet. Occasional posts show Sabathia in the gym, where’s he comfortable with the equipment and progressions from a lifetime of working out as an athlete, while according to Insider, he was “bit by the golf bug” early in quarantine, and has since made sure to get out on the links multiple times a week.

The key to each of those activities is that Sabathia actually wants to do them. Fitness journeys are too often derailed by disinterest and intimidation, but it’s clear the 41-year-old has landed on activities that keep him engaged and inspired. Little wonder he looks so good — everyday movement is undefeated.

As for the Mediterranean diet, there’s a reason it continually gets the nod from medical professionals. It’s a heart-healthy slate of plant-based whole foods, with specific attention paid to whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts and healthy fats like olive oil. There are far more restrictive/manipulative diets out there. This one follows a natural eating pattern of a region where an inordinate number of people live to triple digits. While Sabathia’s commitment to exercise has been key, this switch is likely why he was initially able to shed so much weight.

Sabathia employed various diets throughout his career. He lost 30 pounds before the 2012 season, and switched to a vegan diet to expedite his recovery process from knee surgery before the 2018 campaign. But his lone Cy Young Award came when when he was well over 300 pounds, during his 2007 season with the Cleveland Indians. Sabathia was absolutely dominant that year. And his greatest success with the Yankees — two straight 19-win seasons — also came when he was at his heaviest. According to data from FanGraphs, that’s because Sabathia’s fastball lost velocity as he lost weight. He began to rely more on secondary breaking ball pitches… and lose more games.

He made a decision at one point to purposefully “play overweight,” noting that he could “feel [his] body better in space,” when he had a bit more of a gut. That might not make complete sense to us, but then, the overwhelming majority of us have never painted the corner with a 97-mph fastball. Only Sabathia could’ve known what he needed to get the job done. Sabathia also says of one of his early diets: “”It was no carbs for the whole off-season. There was no way I was going to be able to sustain that.”

His current approach, though — squats, nine-irons, fatty fish — looks extremely sustainable. Go ahead and poach some of the man’s lifestyle secrets. It might be a little difficult to get on the greens three times a week without a big baseball contract, but start with some long walks. If Sabathia can make time in his schedule, so can you.

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