Jake Gibb has won more than $1 million in prize money during his career as a beach volleyball player. He has represented the U.S. at two Olympic Games. He is one of the most successful (and popular) players on the Association of Volleyball Professionals tour. But of all his many accomplishments, it’s his two victories over cancer that are the most notable. Gibb had skin cancer removed from his shoulder in 2004 and then inconceivably battled through testicular cancer — sanschemotherapy — before the 2012 Olympics. Today, the humble pro and new dad is back to dominating in the sand and in the gym with a fresh perspective on health, nutrition and training.
What have your experiences with cancer taught you about the value of proper nutrition?
The biggest for me was just being very aware of what I put in my body. I became a junkie about finding info on cancer, causes, reading different opinions. If you don’t clean up the quality of what you put in your body, there can be consequences. Obviously, the healthier you are, the less likely you are to end up with certain types of cancer. Everyone is different, but for me, I removed most dairy, and I eat four times the amount of grains that I ever ate before. And I’m not organic everything, but I do buy organic versions of the things that tend to carry the most pesticides. My doctor says I’m the healthiest testicular cancer patient he’s ever had!
What’s the hardest part about playing such an explosive sport in the sand?
The first and biggest challenge is loose footing. If you’ve ever walked across the beach, it takes you forever to get where you’re going. We tell new people to give it a month or two to get your “sand legs.” It’s more quad-based jumping. On hardwood, you can be more springy and reactionary. It’s more big, physical jumps in the sand. You have to make a big plant because your feet need to settle under you first.
You have a pretty intense competitive schedule. How do you eat to sustain performance?
My wife would say I’m strict, but I’d say my diet is pretty general. I think we all know what not to eat. I’m 37 now, so I can’t be carrying around any flab when I need to move it up and down the beach. I have no clue on calorie count, though. We have a nutritionist through the U.S. Olympic Committee, and we go over my weight and body fat. I have a playing weight where I’m comfortable, which is 208, so we just adjust from there. That’s why Musclewerks’
(musclewerks.com) D-Fine8 is so huge in my offseason. It helps me get as lean as possible, and it gives me energy without having a crash.