Basketball Nutrition & Sports Supplements for Basketball Players
Jumping, repeated short fast sprints and explosive breaks are the main elements of play in the exciting game of basketball. This all means that basketball players need to utilise both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.
Looking at these energy systems and in particular basketball nutrition and hydration in a more structured way can really help to improve overall athlete performance and post-event recovery.
As any good athlete knows, to be successful you also have to think tactically and show good technical ball skills throughout a game.
Depending on the level of competition and local circumstances, basketball players will probably need to train for at least one session per week at one end of the scale, to two sessions per day at the other, professional/elite end of the spectrum.
Whilst the common conception is that basketball players are renowned for their towering height, in reality it is a game for athletes of all shapes and sizes. What is common is that they tend to have low to medium body fat levels which helps to improve speed and agility on the court.
Remember that basketball is not only a game of high- intensity running, but it is also a sport that requires concentration, fast decision-making and ball-handling skills, which are all adversely affected in some measure by dehydration and low blood glucose levels.
As fast sprints are essential in the make-up of any successful player it is important that muscle tone and strength are maintained at optimum levels, which normally means sticking to a diet that has the correct levels of carbohydrate in it.
In order to maintain the energy levels required to allow you to perform on court at your optimum, you need to ensure that diet your is low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals – which means eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
It is also important that you stay correctly hydrated, and in order to achieve this, fluids should be consumed before, during and after routine training and competitive games.
You should also be aware, however, that body fluid losses will vary depending on effort levels, training and competition times and venues.
For example, if playing on an indoor air-conditioned court, you may find that you don’t sweat as much as if you were playing on a badly ventilated court, or outdoors in the hot sunshine.
At the same time, although hot playing conditions will result in appreciably higher body fluid losses, you should also be aware that you could still lose significant amounts of body fluids when playing in air-conditioned venues.
The trouble with conditioned environments is that, due to the cool conditions, your body can get confused and you are unlikely to feel the need to replace these fluid losses.
Taking all this into account, rather than relying on your sweat rate or feeling of thirst to determine fluid needs, a much more reliable method of assessing body fluid losses is a “weigh-in” before and after the game or training.
For each kilogram of body weight lost, you should be encouraged to drink approximately 1.5 litres of fluid, either in the form of water or a specially formulated sports drink.
Good nutritional plans can help basketball players optimise their performance so it is important to be aware of what to eat and drink before training or competition – and in what amounts.
Your aim should be to begin any exercise session or competitive encounter well hydrated, which means drinking regularly throughout the day before your activity.
You should be looking to get into the habit of taking a drink of some kind to accompany all intake of food, whether it be a meal or simply a snack.
Then, immediately before the training or competition begins, you should aim to consume between 200ml and 600ml of fluid.
This not only helps with personal hydration, but also prepares your stomach to accepting fluids throughout the game.
Your pre-event/pre-training session meal needs to provide fuel three to four hours prior to the game, so it really needs to include some carbohydrate and a source of protein. Here are some useful suggestions you may wish to consider:
- Chicken or tuna salad sandwiches.
- Baked potatoes with a low-fat filling. Try to avoid adding butter.
- Pasta with a low-fat sauce.
- Toast or crumpets.
- Fresh or dried fruit.
- Rice pudding, try adding your favourite fresh or dried fruit.
Your pre-event snack should ideally be eaten one to two hours beforehand to provide fuel right through training or a game.
It needs to be high in carbohydrate, low in fat and tried and tested by you in training so as to avoid any unwanted surprises.
Some suitable pre-event snack ideas could include:
- Jam, honey or banana sandwiches.
- Toast or crumpets with your favourite topping, say jam or peanut butter.
- Sports nutrition bars.
- Scone with jam.
- Rice pudding with fresh or dried fruit.
- A bowl of your favourite breakfast cereal with low-fat milk.
If you are not comfortable with eating solids before a match, specially prepared liquid meal supplements, a fresh fruit smoothie or sports drinks are all possibilities.
Nutrition and hydration during competition
So what about nutritional intake during competition? Well, indoor environments, coupled with high-intensity exercise, can lead to considerable sweat losses – especially in larger players – but the frequent breaks during a game of basketball provide the perfect opportunity to take on-board fluids.
And while water is a must during training and for hydration during the day, sports drinks during a game can promote improved performance because they not only deliver fluid, they also deliver some carbohydrates to the brain and working muscles.
Sports drinks can also be more palatable than plain water, they also help to deliver some salts which can increase thirst – therefore encouraging fluid intake – and help to replenish salts lost through sweating.
Remember that basketball is not only a game of high- intensity running, but it is also a sport that requires concentration, fast decision-making and ball-handling skills, which are all adversely affected in some measure by dehydration and low blood glucose (energy) levels.
Sports drinks are ideal as a means of topping up energy levels during the game and/or training.
The recovery phase
After a game or an intense training session it is essential that you recover body carbohydrate and fluid stores before the next session.
The recovery process is vitally important and there are no two ways about it; basketball players need to recover properly, especially if they want to keep their body fighting-fit and in the best possible shape.
There are three golden rules to successful basketball player rehabilitation; and we refer to them as the three R’s:
Bodily carbohydrate stores (glycogen) must be quickly restored to allow performance levels to be maintained – the optimum time to restore muscle glycogen stores is during the first hour after training or competition and this is when you need to consume carbohydrates.
If you do not replenish glycogen stores adequately however, recovery may well be affected leading to unwanted fatigue and poor performances may then follow.
We’d suggest that a recovery snack similar to the following should ideally be taken within half-an-hour of finishing a game or training session:
- Fresh fruit, natural yoghurt and fluids.
- A chicken or tuna salad sandwich and fluids.
- Fresh fruit smoothie.
- Instant-soup, bread roll and perhaps some fresh cheese.
Players should always look to pre-prepare their own snacks – as there may be only crisps, pies, greasy burgers and hot dogs available at the venue!
A more substantial meal must then follow the snack, within three to four hours of completing the activity and this could comprise:
- Baked beans on toast.
- Whole grain rice with a low-fat chicken sauce.
- Pasta with a low-fat sauce.
- Jacket potato with low-fat fillings.
- Noodles, salad with lean beef and fluids.
- Grilled chicken breast with potato and fresh vegetables.
Rehydration is also vital after exercise.
Being weighed before and after your activity provides a good measure of fluid lost and, assuming that 1kg of body weight lost is equivalent to 1 litre of fluid, for every litre of fluid lost, it needs to be replaced by approximately 1.5 litres.
This fluid replacement should be consumed over a few hours after exercise, or, if a game finishes late at night, some fluid afterwards and more the following morning.
So what about alcohol intake?
It should be in moderation, if at all. Excess consumption can impair recovery and effective rehydration, and can have a negative impact on your recovery, fitness and general basketball performance.
Want to get involved in basketball?
If you’re not currently involved in basketball as a recreational activity or at a competitive level and are keen to learn more about taking part then read on. Here we’ve brought together a number of useful links to basketball organisations that may be able to help you.
Want help with nutrition?
Get in touch now for more information about basketball nutrition and the use of sports supplements to help improve your on-court performance. Our team of sports scientists and nutritionists are always happy to help.