Nutrition For Basketball Players

Two basketball players in action in gym in lights
Nutrition for basketball players. Copyright: tnn103eda / 123RF Stock Photo

A couple of basketball fanatics in the USA were just commenting on a game involving Kansas Jayhawks and how fit these guys must be. It makes you wonder how they keep going for so long. Its clear that professionals like them have exceptional nutrition plans with carefully crafted diets to match each of their needs before, during and after a game.  I’m no basketball officionado but a couple of players I know gave me their food plans and preparations. 

Before working out

The objective here is obtain all the nutrients needed in preparation for a long arduous game ahead. Muscle soreness and tiredness are the consequences of strenuous physical exercise so any ways in which the body can recover quickly are to be looked for.

Best to eat any meal at least 1.5 hours before a game. Suffering butterflies before the big game never helps and it certainly doesn’t with a meal inside you so close to game. Best to eat a few hours before hand if this is an issue !

Protein, some fats and carbohydrates (carbs) in a balanced format is ideal. The fat incidentally just helps to even out nutrient absorption which extends it closer to the game itself.  My mate swears by a protein shake he developed using about 50g of whey protein in fat-free or semi-skimmed milk with some peanut butter (2 tbsp) and a spoonful of oats. If the taste of peanuts isn’t to your liking then cashew or almond butter also works well. A few sandwiches with meat taken at the same time works too, but I know one guy who swears by a single salmon sandwich along with his protein shake.

During The Game

No-one wants to throw up but I’ve seen plenty of guys nibbling some food during the game or their workout. It makes you wonder why on earth but it’s about keeping energy ‘momentum’ and staving off tiredness later on with the benefit of reduced recovery times. Make sure any food is easily digestible and doesn’t sit in the stomach. Nothing worse than stomach cramps or that feeling of it wobbling around. Half a banana does it for me but I know two guys who swig water on its own or with just 1 scoop of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) added. They got this recipe off the internet  and claim it works for them.

I find a half jam and peanut butter sandwich works for me when I’m goalie for indoor football but a full sandwich has been known to pass down my gullet if I think the game will be slightly easier. Sipping water wherever possible is a must simply to avoid excessive dehydration.

After The Game

 Feeding after the game in the post-workout phase is perhaps the most critical aspect after basketball game. Our guys have to eat within 30 minutes after the game because muscle need to rebuild quickly. This is where amino-acids such as BCAAs for example come in. I notice it when I’ve not followed this regime as my muscles feel tired and extremely sore.

The protein shake works well here but I’ve also heated up some fish soup (really posh) and taken that down. Rapidly ingested carbohydrates are also required so a bottle of your favourite energy drink is ideal. Choose the isotonic varieties to avoid dehydrating. Many basketball players swear that water alone is enough – I’m not convinced and the guys I know have started adding a teaspoon of salt to sugary orangeade to improve rehydration.

I avoid alcohol now simply because it doesn’t rehydrate me as well as it used to.  The non-alcoholic versions have a rich carbohydrate content which should help with general energy recovery. I’ve also eaten a few tart cherries of the Montmorency type given the research conducted on them. Admittedly, it’s tart cherry juice that seems to be the drink of choice here and I’ve written about this before (see article) on studies in marathon runners.

If you have any diet plans for sports generally I’d like to know. I’ll post them up too.

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