As a basketball player, I always wondered how vital of a role food and nutrition had in my playing ability. During a camp one summer there was a nutrition specialist there and I asked him this question, "does it really matter what we eat before a game?" All I can say is that he laughed for a bit and then compared our bodies to cars and the fuel that we put into them.
If we put junk in our cars they don't drive well and the same is true of our bodies. I took what he said very seriously and will never forget the recommendations he gave us. This article will summarize his advice and will serve as a guide for basketball players looking to improve their playing ability simply by being smart about what they eat and drink.
You hear a lot of negative things about carbohydrates these days but basketball players need to know that carbohydrates serve an important purpose - creating energy. Because of this, they should be regular part of your diet but shouldn't be eaten excessively.
While breads are full of carbohydrates, he recommended wheat breads and not in high amounts. They are a heavier food and tend to sit in your stomach longer than other foods. Light pastas were mentioned with spaghetti being one of the simplest foods to break down and produce energy. The red sauce, with tomatoes and other vegetables, was also mentioned as a positive to have as a staple of your diet as well as a pregame meal.
No player who wants to get stronger or healthier can do it without the aid of protein. Specifically mentioned were lean proteins like turkey or boneless skinless turkey breasts. I was very interested to learn that fish can provide probably the least fat and best protein available. My favorite fish, salmon, wasn't on the list of the least fatty fish available and I was surprised about that. Halibut, tuna and cod are all great protein foods that have minimal fats.
One of my favorite meals became spaghetti with red sauce and grilled chicken breast. It provided the protein and necessary carbohydrates to have enough energy to compete at the level I needed to compete at.
When I was growing up Gatorade wasn't nearly as popular as it is today. If you got Gatorade you were considered lucky. Today we have so many choices of products to keep us hydrated it is amazing. From Propel to energy drinks to regular water. I don't and won't ever recommend an energy drink as something to take immediately before a sporting event. I don't think it is healthy and I don't think we have enough study materials to prove if it is safe or not. The caffeine and sugars that are typically in those drinks creates a quick fix but causes a lag as the game goes on.
For simple hydration water is generally the safest bet. It is recommended that a player should drink over a gallon of water a day. That's a lot of water, but if you compare it to the amount of sweat that you are producing it really isn't that much. The more water you drink the more energy you will have and the better you will feel. One of the worst things you can do as an athlete is not drink enough.
Any product that is processed that is white is caused because of sugars. Yes, that includes white bread. 100% whole wheat bread aids in digestion better and helps to process the other foods. Sugars, if unused, simply turn to fat and that is bad in any sense of the word. People ask me about steaks and such. Steaks are tricky because they are generally very high in protein but can also be very high in fats. Certain cuts of steak obviously have more fats than others.
I counsel people to eat them in moderation. Steak is one of my favorite foods and while I was playing I would typically lose weight during the season. A steak every now and then helped me maintain my weight and my strength and I feel it was very necessary for me.
Mainly, watch out for processed foods and eat foods that are equally balanced throughout. Don't just eat only wheat bread. Don't just eat turkey meat 10 times a day. Be smart and be reasonable. Remember that what you put into your body plays a large role in how you play. If you need an edge it could very well come down to diet and that may make all the difference.