Justin Turner shares the secret to how his career is still going strong at 39

Despite now being in his 16th Major League season, Justin Turner continues to produce at a high level and it's down to one significant dietary change.
New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays
New York Yankees v Toronto Blue Jays / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages

It's fair to characterise the Blue Jays' offence as disappointing so far in 2024, contributing significantly to the ball club sitting under .500 following Wednesday's slate of games. Among other things, they are ranked 26th in runs, 23rd in batting average and 22nd in OPS.

However, one player who cannot be blamed for the anemic offence to date, is Justin Turner. In fact, you have to wonder how much worse the Blue Jays would be, without him in the lineup?

At the time of posting, Turner is leading the Blue Jays in hits, doubles, RBI and batting average. He is also pacing all regular team starters in OBP, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+.

In some respects this shouldn't really be a surprise to people. After all, consider that just last season was one of the most productive of the two-time All-Star's career, including setting a new personal high of 96 RBI.

At the same time however, it's still extremely impressive that Turner continues to perform consistently at the plate, given he is now playing his 16th year in the Majors. So what's the secret?

Some invaluable advice from a teammate

It turns out that the 39-year-old has a broken wrist during spring training in 2018 to thank, for extending his career. As per Sportsnet's David Singh, this led to some life-changing advice from then Dodgers teammate Chase Utley: "First thing, he came to me and was like, 'Hey, if you want to get back as soon as possible, you need to stop eating dairy,'" Turner said. "'You already have a ton of inflammation in there. Dairy is just adding more inflammation. You need to get as much out of it as you can.'"

Turner returned from his injury within two months and went on to have an excellent season. Among other things, he produced the third-best batting average of his career, as well as his second-best OBP, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+.

Unsurprisingly as a result, the 2020 World Series champion became a great believer in Utley's recommendation, with other Dodgers teammates also following suit. He has continued to have a dairy-free diet to this day and is technically the oldest outfield player in the Majors this season, albeit he mostly sees time as the Blue Jays' DH.

Interestingly, as noted by Singh, scientific research on the link between dairy and inflammation remains inconclusive, to the point of almost contradicting Turner's perspective. For example,as per a study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, dairy foods may actually be linked to a decreased risk of inflammation.

Turner discusses the benefits of no dairy

Regardless, the 2017 NLCS MVP remains convinced that removing dairy from his diet, is the prime reason for his continued productivity. He said: "I feel like I sleep better, I recover better, my knees feel better, I don't ever feel bloated after meals. I think it's just from not putting inflammation into me."

When the Blue Jays signed Turner to a one-year, $13M deal back at the end of January, there was a certain section of the fan base underwhelmed by bringing in an aging slugger. In fairness, pretty much any signing was going to be considered underwhelming, after missing out on Shohei Ohtani. However, he's turned out to be an excellent addition, apparently in no short part due to the decision to remove dairy from his diet.

in turn, this has overhauled the Long Beach, California native's approach to eating in general, with him reaping the benefits in the process. He said: "The great thing about doing the non-dairy is it led us to try the Whole30 [program], which was cutting out [added] sugar, alcohol, carbs, legumes and dairy. And then, because of that, it led to us actually starting to read labels. And now you're reading labels, and you're seeing all the extra stuff that goes into some of these ingredients, and you're like, 'Oh, man.' It makes you think twice about picking what you're picking when cooking."

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Given how the Blue Jays' offence has been performing overall so far in 2024, maybe some of the players should copy what the Dodgers did, and go to Turner for some advice on their eating habits. It certainly couldn't hurt, especially if he continues to thrive as the main threat in the lineup.

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