In order to maximize potential on the court, it is imperative for basketball players to develop healthy eating habits. What a player eats determines their body fat levels as well as how much energy they have for intense workouts, practices and games.
Dave Stagnita, the brilliant strength and conditioning coach at the Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas, believes nutrition accounts for upwards of 80 percent of a player’s training results. That means if you really want to maximize your offseason workout gains, you need to eat well!
Any food can be incorporated in moderation. However, to maximize performance, you need to reduce the intake of refined sugars (soda, candy, etc.) and "man made" fats (chips, fried foods, etc.). You need to eat fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein (egg whites, chicken, fish, steak, etc.) as well as foods like oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, almonds, avocados, and beans.
Here are three common questions basketball players have about their nutrition:
How Do I Gain Weight?
Most youth and high school basketball players are tall and slender, and are looking to add muscular body weight. In order to gain weight, you must consume more calories than you expend on a daily basis. This means players looking to put on weight must eat, eat, and eat! Most players think they eat a lot, but in reality they don't. In order to gain muscle, you need to be on a progressive, age appropriate strength program as well.
To determine a very rough estimate as to how many calories per day you should consume, multiply your current body weight by 25. For example, a 150 lb. basketball player trying to gain muscular body weight requires around 3,750 calories a day (150 X 25 = 3750). Depending on individual metabolism, as well as daily energy expenditure through physical activity, this number may need to be slightly adjusted. Your goal should be to gain ½ to 1lb. of body weight per week for 10-12 straight weeks. If you aren't gaining weight with what you are currently eating... eat more!
Should I Drink Gatorade or Water?
You can incorporate both, although I believe you should drink water 90% of the time. Drinking Gatorade during and after workouts and games is fine to help replenish electrolytes, etc. I think the new G1 -- G2 -- G3 concept is on the money, but I don't know how many youth and high school players are actually doing it. If I was filthy rich, or if I was sponsored by Gatorade, I would use the G Series for my own workouts.
Bottom line is this: it is important to be well-hydrated, especially during intense workouts and games. Your performance on the court can decrease dramatically when your body is low on water. You should aim to drink water all day long; don't wait until you are thirsty.
What Should I Eat Before or After a Workout or Game?
There is no "right" answer, everyone will be slightly different. The most important part is that you do eat something light before you workout and play. You don't want a full stomach to weigh you down. Aim to eat 2-4 hours before your workout or game; this gives your body plenty of time to digest. The closer it gets to 'go' time, the smaller the meal. Make sure the meal includes good carbohydrate choices (for energy) but also has adequate protein (to help ward off hunger).
Once your workout or game is over, consume carbohydrate rich foods and beverages as well as lean sources of protein, as soon as possible. This will replenish your muscle's energy stores.
If you are playing multiple games in one day (AAU tournament), then make sure you eat a hearty breakfast, light snacks in between games and a substantial dinner once your games are over.