Eating the right high-energy foods before your basketball game will "maximize your speed, agility and power," reports the American Dietetic Association. Ideally, you should eat two to four hours before your basketball game, as well as between games if you're in the middle of a multi-game playoff tournament. Basketball and dietary experts, including NBA basketball superstars, offer their own suggestions on choosing the best foods for a top-notch game of hoops.
Before a Game: Carbohydrates
Basketball players have a higher rate of energy expenditure than many athletes, thanks to an average of 997 movement changes during a single 48-minute game. All that movement means your muscles need lots of carbohydrates to fuel them: 2.7 g of carbs daily per pound of body weight. Recommended high-carbohydrate foods that provide a dose of carbs without cramp- and nausea-inducing side effects include low-fiber fruits like bananas, pasta with a lightweight sauce such as tomato sauce, and low-fat yogurt.
Before a Game: Protein
Protein doesn't just provide energy, but also helps your muscles and tendons repair themselves during and after a strenuous game of basketball that often includes intense running and quick turns that stress your ligaments. The typical basketball player needs a daily dose of 0.8 g of protein for every pound of body weight. Suggested sources of lean protein include legumes, low-fat dairy such as skim milk and cheese, nuts and tofu.
During a Game: Fluids
Fluids enhanced with sodium and carbohydrates don't just give you energy in the middle of your game, but also help keep you hydrated. Dehydration can quickly sap your strength and make you lose focus of the net during critical moments like a free throw. Fruit juice works well and sports drinks enhanced with electrolytes. To sustain your energy drink 1/2 cup at every break during practice, and 1 cup during every timeout and half-time session during an actual basketball game.
After a Game
A small, carbohydrate-rich snack after practice or a hard basketball game will enhance your body's recovery time, refueling your muscles and replenishing their depleted glycogen stores. Try a high-carb beverage, such as soda pop or juice, or a energy bar. Meanwhile, NBA superstars Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac suggest grain products like whole grain bread.
- "Eating Before & Between Athletic Events"; Robert Keith, Alabama Cooperative Extension System; August 1998
- "Fueling Basketball Players"; American Dietetic Association; 2006
- "iHoops"; How to Eat Healthy Before Playing Basketball; Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac; 2010
- "HoopsVibe"; The Perfect Basketball Diet; Editors of HoopsVibe; June 2006