Nutrition Advice for Competing Adult Basketball Players in Season
While most athletes are on healthy diets consisting of nutritious carbs, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables and healthy fat sources like nuts and avocados, during the busy and exciting competition times, there are a few extra dietary needs they have to pay attention to.
Iron is one of the most important nutrients for athletes, as it is responsible for oxygen transportation around all parts of the body, including muscles and it aids energy release from cells. Athletes with an iron deficiency will feel tired and will not perform to their full potential. Basketball players looking to be at their best for competition should eat plenty of leafy green vegetables and lean meats, chicken and seafood, as they are rich in iron.
To strengthen and protect athletes’ bones during competition, adequate calcium intake is crucial. Dairy products are rich in calcium, so athletes should consume plenty of milk, yoghurt and cheese. For vegan athletes, soy milk, tofu, broccoli and kale are good sources of calcium.
Nutrient Replacement and Rehydration
During competition periods, it is important that besides maintaining healthy diets, basketball players prepare their bodies for each training session or match, and that they take care of their body after those sessions, by refuelling their bodies with nutrients and rehydrating, as they burn a lot of calories and lose fluids and sodium through sweat.
3-4 hours before:
Athletes should eat carbs to give them energy and lean proteins to energise their muscles. Avoiding fats is also recommended. Meal suggestions include:
Pasta with Low-fat Tomato Sauce
- Salad sandwich
- Tuna or chicken with rice and green vegetables
- Fruits such as banana with yoghurt and muesli
1-2 hours before:
Players should have a snack. Usually light snacks and liquids are preferred. It is recommended that athletes drink 200-400ml of water; besides helping with their hydration, this is to prepare their stomachs for accepting fluids during exercise. Some snacks options are:
- Muesli bar, raw almonds or seeds
- Fruit smoothie
- Sports drinks
Within 60-90 minutes:
Carbs and proteins are essential to refuel athletes’ bodies, and fluids lost during the game need to be replaced. For each kg of body weight lost, 1.5L of water or sports drink is recommended. Recovery meal options include:
- Pasta with low fat bolognaise sauce
- Rice with skinless chicken curry
- Homemade pizza with lean toppings
Finally, a word on hydration:
For low-intensity exercise, water is very good for rehydration. Water is cheap and readily available which is enough for most recreational exercisers. However, for athletes taking part in high-intensity sports training lasting 60 minutes or more, as well as water, a drink such as milk or a commercial sports drink which contains carbohydrate and electrolytes, is generally more effective than water alone. These drinks contain carbohydrate to help delay fatigue by providing glucose to the muscles, and electrolytes to replace sodium lost in sweat.
Note: Always consult a medical professional before making any dramatic changes to your diet.