Basketball is an extremely demanding game. Unlike some athletes, the basketball player gets very little “downtime” during the game. Yes, there are time-outs and the like, but a game of basketball is a flurry of motion in which everyone on the court stays moving at all times. As you might guess, you need to have proper nutrition if you’re going to do well in an environment like that.
While strength is important for a basketball player, agility, and speed (combined with an accurate throw) are the main qualities that allow a person to succeed in basketball. In this article, we will be looking at the basic principles of nutrition that are used by top basketball players to stay fit for a demanding sport.
How Important Is Nutrition For Basketball Players?
There is no doubt that proper nutrition will affect your game. To get a better idea of how it will affect your game, let’s take a look at this guide, published by the College And Professional Sports Dieticians Association.
In this guide, we can see that diet is very important to the athletic performance of a basketball player. So important, in fact, that they recommend eating extra meals to keep your energy up. Once again, we are talking about a fast-paced and high-energy game, so all of this makes good sense.
The main importance of nutrition in basketball (at least from a performance standpoint) is the importance of keeping your energy levels high. This is achieved through a high-carb diet. If the body does not have enough carbs to use during physical activity, it will begin to eat into your muscle. Thus, carbohydrates will prevent muscle loss.
Because basketball does not involve any resistance/strength training activities, most of its motion could be described as cardio. Think about it: What does a person do during a basketball game? They run, they jump, they spin and dodge, they pass the ball around and throw it in a hoop. All of those activities Are cardio-based. That’s where we run into trouble. Although cardio workouts are great for weight loss, they can also cause muscle loss if the body runs out of carbohydrate energy.
Basketball Players Need A Lot Of Carbs
When your body takes energy from food, it stores this energy in one of two forms: Fat or glycogen. Simply put, fat is long-term stored energy while glycogen is quick fuel. It might be compared to the difference between kerosene and gasoline. Gasoline, like glycogen, burns hotter and faster and is much more reactive. Your body burns this up in a quick flash of hot energy that keeps you going on the field. The fat is more like kerosene, in the fact that it’s meant to be burned slowly and has a longer shelf life.
So, you will need lots of carbs to ensure both adequate energy and to avoid muscle loss. This should include a high-carb meal three to four hours before a game. There is no need to re-state these factors, but there is one other factor that we didn’t mention: Carbs will help you with post-game recovery.
This study measured the effect of carbohydrate ingestion on post-workout recovery. By giving their test subjects 100 grams of carbohydrate, they were able to improve the rate of muscle protein synthesis in all the test subjects. To be fair, the differences were not all that large, and the test also found that amino acids were more effective for this purpose. At the same time, there is no doubt that carbs will play a role in your post-game recovery.
It should be said that not all carbs are created equal. If you think about it, carbs can be either healthy or unhealthy. For instance, that limp and greasy potato stick that fast-food restaurants call a “French fry” is technically a source of carbs, but there are several things that make it a poor-quality source. First, it has been cooked in fat, making it far fattier than a potato would ever normally be. Second, those kinds of fries are often made from genetically altered potatoes, and there’s no telling what could be in those!
When sourcing your carbs, you want foods that provide good, healthy levels of carbohydrate while also being relatively low in fat and high in other nutrients. Don’t just think about what the food is; think about how it will be prepared. For instance, potatoes and sweet potatoes are great sources of carbs when they are baked or boiled. Once you fry them in a big tub of lard, they absorb too much fat and become unhealthy.
Most fruits and vegetables are also great sources of high-quality carbs. Apart from this, whole grain bread is one of the best available sources of good carbs. Better still, whole grains offer a whole range of side benefits that make them well worth the extra expense.
Basketball Players Need A Diet That Is Low In Fat
It is highly important for basketball players to be light and fast. Agility might well be described as the most important quality for a basketball player to have. In order to maintain the light and speedy build that you need, a diet that is low in fat should be considered essential. Before you choose to eat that piece of fried chicken (or whatever) take the time to think about your chosen sport. You, as a basketball player, have to be lighter and slimmer than the average person.
That being said, fat is essential for certain bodily functions, so it’s not a good idea to banish it from your life altogether (which would be very difficult anyway). Fats are used by the body for the synthesis of hormones and cell membranes. Even the American Heart Association, an organization that certainly does not promote obesity, says that a little bit of fat in your diet is crucial to maintain cellular health. They also acknowledge that fat is essential for the production of some hormones.
Basketball Players Need Plenty Of Protein
Protein is important for a basketball player, but not quite as important as it would be for a bodybuilder or other strength-focused athlete. This is because a basketball player doesn’t necessarily want to have the biggest build that is possible. Protein is less important than carbs because it doesn’t give you the fast and direct energy that you would get from a carb-rich food.
The body has a harder time processing protein, which makes it a poor choice of short-term energy. In fact, the body sometimes spends more calories in processing protein than the calories gained from the meal. We can see this when we look at people who have suffered from protein overdose as a result of eating rabbit meat. Rabbit meat is insanely high in protein while also being extremely low in fat. This means that the body spends more calories to process the meat than it gains. You can literally starve to death from eating too much rabbit.
That being said, you do need protein for one important purpose: Recovery. Proteins, especially amino acids, are the building blocks that the body uses to build new tissue and repair old tissue. After a game, you really need a good dose of amino acids. We would recommend using a supplement that contains plenty of amino acids or eating a meal that is high in amino acids. Foods that contain a lot of amino acids include:
- Red meat
- Seeds and nuts
- Dairy products
It is worth noting that the study we cited above contained an interesting conclusion: Amino acids by themselves are not that effective. They found that, in the absence of proper nutrition, these amino acids alone did not improve the rate of muscle protein synthesis. In other words, they didn’t speed up the recovery of the muscles until they were combined with other nutrients.
Basketball Players Need Plenty Of Hydration
The importance of staying hydrated while active cannot be overstated. Dehydration is usually a mild problem, but it can become a much bigger problem for especially active people. Chronic dehydration will eventually result in death, although few cases go this far. There is no need to talk about the solution to this problem because that one is obvious: Drink plenty of water. Drink it before, during, and after the game.
Now, let’s take a look at the symptoms of dehydration so that you can learn how to detect your dehydration before it becomes a problem.
The first and most obvious symptom is thirst. Anytime you feel thirsty while performing any intense physical activity; it would be a good idea to get some water. However, you don’t always have the option of choosing your time. Unless a time-out is called, you will just have to wait until the end of that period. For this reason, you should always drink extra water during breaks in the game, even if you aren’t really thirsty.
If you stop to urinate during a break in the game, you can look at the color of your urine for a certain idea of how well-hydrated you might be. As a general rule, darker urine means that you are dehydrated while lighter-colored or clear urine indicates good hydration. If you have a “dry mouth” sensation, it is likely that your dehydration is getting a little worse.
Once you get past the initial stages of dehydration, you start to experience dizziness, muscle weakness, general lethargy, and headaches. Needless to say, that can (and probably will) put you out of the game. Once your coach sees you staggering around and looking weak, they will (hopefully) pull you from the game and replace you. Still, who wants to be replaced? Just think about how bad it would be to miss that winning moment in the game because you failed to drink enough water beforehand.
Proper nutrition is no joke. In the short term, a person can ignore these guidelines without too much harm, but it will catch up with you in the end. A poor choice of lifestyle usually tends to do that. So, let’s summarize what we have learned.
In terms of nutrient balance, we have learned that a basketball diet should focus on good-quality carbohydrates, with a lesser emphasis on protein intake. Fat and fiber should be kept at a healthy minimum without eliminating them. It will be up to you to determine how you will use these principles, as there is no one diet plan for everyone. However, we hope that we have given you the knowledge to make a diet plan that will take your game to the next level. If you think we have done that, please hit that button to follow us on Facebook and get more useful information like this delivered straight to your daily feed.