Nutrition and Recovery Tips for Basketball Players

Proper nutrition is critical for a basketball player to fuel during practice and games, and for proper recovery. Here are some guidelines to help you stay healthy, gain strength, and perform at the highest level.

Last week I had an unparalleled opportunity to spend 48 hours in Houston, Texas as a member of an exclusive Gatorade Sports Science Institute Basketball Task Force. It was an honor to take part and a thrill to meet and learn from some of the brightest minds on the planet regarding nutrition, hydration and performance enhancement.

I wanted to share some of the highlights of what I learned from the speakers:

Building Strength

If you want to gain muscular size and/or muscular strength, you must consume adequate protein after your workouts. Your body can only use approximately 20 grams of quality protein in one meal, so taking in less is inadequate and taking in more is unnecessary for muscle growth.

You should aim to take in 20 grams of quality protein every 4 to 5 hours during the 24 hours following a workout (with the first 30 minutes after you workout being the most important).

Chocolate milk or an appropriate recovery shake are perfect to consume after a workout.

Age appropriate strength training is extremely beneficial for youth and adolescents because the body’s connective tissue finishes developing by age 17 (NOTE: not muscle development, connective tissue development).

As body weight increases (primarily in the form of body fat), the occurrence of injury increases. So it's important to incorporate conditioning not only for performance but for injury prevention.

Nutrition for Mind and Body

Proper nutrition isn’t just about fueling your body. It's also about fueling your mind.

Can you make correct game speed decisions when you are fatigued? You can’t play if you can’t think.

Nutritional success depends on your ability to plan ahead and prepare.

"A proper diet can’t make an average player elite. But a poor diet can make an elite player average."

The recommend daily protein requirements for elite level athletes is 1.3 to 1.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration impairs cognition and mental readiness.

As little as 2 percent dehydration will (negatively) affect performance.

How can you tell you're dehydrated?
  • You are thirsty
  • Your urine is dark yellow
  • You see a slight drop in normal body weight.

Muscle Cramping

If you are experiencing muslce cramping one of these may be the culprit:

  • Fatigue
  • Electrolyte deficiency
  • Dehydration


The most underrated recovery technique to aid in max performance is sleep!

Teenagers need 9 to 10 hours of quality sleep (very few every get that).

Checklist for quality sleep:

  • You fall asleep within 30 minutes
  • You sleep through the night with minimal interruptions
  • You feel refreshed upon waking up

How to get quality sleep:

  • Keep your room cool, dark and quiet
  • Remove all electronics (computers, phones, TV’s etc.)
  • Have a consistent routine (aim to go to bed at the same time each night.)

Naps are an excellent way to aid in rest and recovery:

  • Do NOT nap within two hours of a game (you will feel groggy)
  • Do NOT nap after 4pm (it will throw off that night’s sleep)
  • Do NOT nap longer than 30 to 45 minutes

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