In just 60 minutes, a 175-pound person burns nearly 900 calories playing full-court basketball. Between regular practices and competitive games, a player needs the right kind of fuel to keep his body in tip-top shape to dribble, dodge and make the shots that win the game. This means regularly eating a balanced diet, with particular emphasis on pre- and post-game nutrition.
The NBA recommends a balanced diet of 55 percent to 60 percent of calories from carbohydrates, 15 percent to 20 percent from fat and 20 percent to 25 percent from protein each day. These ratios should be broken down into three meals and three snacks -- mid-morning, post-workout and before bed -- per day. When picking your foods, choose those that limit your intake of saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Healthful options include fish, chicken or lean red meat for protein; oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, beans, fruits and other vegetables for carbohydrates; and fats from fish, nuts and peanut butter.
A balanced diet also provides the proper number of calories for a basketball player's active lifestyle. However, the actual number necessary depends on the player. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises that a small high school female player might need around 2,000 calories a day, while a much taller male professional player could need up to 6,000 to 7,000 calories a day. Generally speaking, if you train 90 minutes a day and you're male, eat at least 23 calories per pound of body weight per day. Females who train the same amount of time need about 20 to 23 calories per pound per day.
Your pre-game nutrition is essential for keeping yourself fueled and energized for a big competition. If you're playing a morning game, NBA.com suggests eating a high-carbohydrate meal the night before. The morning of the game, choose a light, balanced breakfast of cereal and nonfat milk and fresh fruit, or a bagel or English muffin and nonfat or low-fat yogurt. For an afternoon game, eat a high-carb breakfast and choose a light lunch such as a salad with low-fat dressing or a turkey sandwich with a piece of fruit. For an evening game, eat a high-carb breakfast and lunch, and then choose a light dinner such as rice with vegetables or noodle soup with crackers.
A basketball player's balanced diet must include plenty of fluids, as dehydration leads to early fatigue while on the court. The Gatorade Sports Science Institute reports that when playing at just a 2 percent dehydration level, a basketball player can have a 10 percent to 15 percent decrease in shooting percentage. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends drinking 2 to 3 cups of fluid two to three hours before tip-off, and then another half-cup to 1 cup 30 minutes prior. During practice, drink a half-cup to 1 cup of water during every break; during a game, do so during every timeout and during halftime. Replenish your fluids after practice or a game by drinking 3 cups of water for every pound you lost during physical activity.