Proper Nutrition for Basketball Performance
Carbs are the energy source your muscles use to perform at their peak level. If you don't eat enough or the right type of carbs you simply will not perform as impressively as you could be. Let me put it this way, if you had a magic pill that would immediately make you 20% better, how excited would you be? But what if there just one catch, and you had to eat fairly healthy for the magic to work? Would you feel differently about eating healthy? I think most probably would. In basketball, that extra 20% could be the difference between making a couple more of your missed shots or free throws, having that early recognition and burst necessary to get those 50-50 balls, or being able to sprint back and pick up ball in transition to help a teammate while having the clarity and energy to communicate with your teammates to pick up yours. Proper nutrition will improve how hard you can go, and for how long; while increasing your focus and results.
The good carbs, the bad, and the ugly.
Once eaten, carbs breakdown into smaller sugars (mainly glucose and fructose) which are used as energy. Any glucose not needed right away is stored in the muscles and the liver in the form of glycogen. These glycogen stores are the fuel your muscles will use for intense exercise. If you are running low because you haven’t consumed enough calories or too much of the wrong calories you will run out of energy quickly. If you are low in glycogen your body can also turn to protein for it’s energy source and this could result in loss of muscle which is definitley not what you're looking for.
So now that we know we need enough calories in the form of good carbs before we play, what should we be eating? Below are some good and not so good choices for your diet during the days leading up to a hard practice, workout, or game.
The good – These are complex carbs that release a slow, steady stream of energy throughout your game or workout.
Whole grain pasta – Spinach – Whole Barley
Oatmeal – Zucchini – Broccoli – Navy beans – Garbanzo beans
Sweet potatoes – Artichokes – Museli
Cabbage – Brown rice – Yams – Cucumbers – Pinto beans – Potatoes
Brussels Sprouts – Cauliflower – Kidney beans
Whole grain cereals – Multi-grain bread – Carrots
Apples, grapefruit, cherries, plums, oranges, grapes, kiwi
Whey protein shakes that have additional good carbs added like Cytogainer
The Bad – These are simple carbs that are broken down into sugars quickly. This can lead to blood sugar spikes and early fatigue.
Bread made with white flour
Pasta made with white flour
The ugly – Avoid these as much as possible up to several days before a game or intense training. Youth players - try not to get in the habit of eating this stuff at all or at least very often. Candy and some simple sugars have their uses during extended workouts but are typically not the best possible option.
Candy, cookies and chocolate
Doughnuts and pastries
The Day of the Practice or the Game.
As a general rule try to eat your pre-practice or pre-game meal 2 to 3 hours before if possible. For many youth players that have really fast metabolisms, 1-2 hours can be enough. It's really important to have eaten enough good complex carbs to last through the event.
If your practice or workout will last longer than 60 minutes, bring some simple carbs with you to eat part way through or at half time.A sports drink or even some candy will give you a quick boost of energy.
Load up on good carbs 2 to 3 days before training or a game to ensure adequate glycogen stores.
Hydrate and drink several glasses of water 1 to 2 hours before your game or practice. These things will make sure you're body is perform at its best every time time you step on to the court.