Jan 2, 2012 ⇢ By: Ira Winderman

Dwyane Wade appreciating these are his salad days

SAN FRANCISCO— The irony amid the yapping between commercial collaborators Charles Barkley and Dwyane Wade, with Barkley seemingly sniping at the Miami Heat at just about every opportunity, is that the two share a common ground.

Each has seen the light when it has come to a more fit lifestyle. With Barkley, it’s the current Weight Watchers campaign. With Wade it’s a lifestyle makeover that just happens to tie into the new Gatorade campaign of internal fitness.

But while Barkley last week mocked the notion of getting paid to lose weight, believing his microphone was not live during TNT’s telecast between the Heat and Atlanta Hawks, Wade said nutrition has become an NBA life lesson as he closes in on his Jan. 17 30th birthday and awaits his return from his current foot ailment.

“Now I’m starting to do stuff like eating salads. I never ate salads,” he said with a scrunched up face, as if someone was trying to foist castor oil on him. “It’s painful, but now I’m eating salads with all my meals.”

It’s a concession, he said, that is almost mandatory at this stage of his career.

“We like to look good. We like to put the right things on our body to make sure we can perform at our best,” he said, “but a lot of things that we didn’t hear when I was growing up was how important it is for what you put inside your body.”

At times, that had put Wade at odds with Heat President Pat Riley, who is a stickler for body fat, targeted weight and overall fitness.

Wade said if he knew then what he has come to appreciate, it is angst that could have been avoided.

Amid the new Gatorade campaign, Wade said he has had to own up to a past that had him hardly sculpted during his formative basketball years, and later poorly hydrated and cramping during the Heat’s 2006 playoff series against the Chicago Bulls.

“I was just asked a question about what I used to eat in high school,” he said. “I said I ate anything I could get my hands on. I drank anything I could get my hands on.”

Growing up poor, he said he appreciates that sometimes any meal is a good meal, simply because it is a meal, that he drank “pop” before games, “because that’s what somebody would give me.”

But even when presented with better choices, he acknowledged not always making them.

“It wasn’t laid out as it is now, when they tell you, ‘This is what you need to do. This is what helps you,’ ” he said. “And right now, in my life, it’s about nutrition, because this is what gives me an edge.”

In many ways it also is the Heat way. Just this past Saturday, strength coach Bill Foran had a somewhat troubled looked as he walked alongside one of the Heat’s younger players who told him he had gone out for a burrito the previous night. As the ingredients were listed, Foran muttered something along the lines of, “You didn’t have to eat the whole thing.”

Fact is, between Eddy Curry trying to work himself back into shape, Dexter Pittman trying to get into shape and enough young players around to rekindle memories of the Daequan Cook endless Skittles (and ensuing dental-issues) days, the soon-to-be-30 Wade finds himself as somewhat of a meal-time mentor.

“If it’s a young guy, I would say something to a young guy,” he said. “But someone who’s been around for a while, I’ll live and let live. But if it’s a young guy, I’ll say something to him.

“I know how it was when I was younger. I was stubborn. People would say stuff to me all the time, ‘You need to eat this; you need to eat that.’ Now I find myself thinking, ‘I wish I would have given it a try.’ “