Basketball is a professional sport that is played extensively by both men and women throughout Australia and overseas. Basketball is played from primary school upwards at a variety of levels both amateur & professional. Basketball is an Olympic sport and the main competitions in Australia are the NBL and WNBL.
Basketball teams consist of 10-12 players, with five players on court at any one time. A basketball match is comprised of four quarters of 10-12 minutes each, with a very short break at quarter and three quarter time and a main break of 10-15 minutes at half time. With many stoppages throughout the game, players in senior competitions will often be on-court upwards of 60 minutes, but may only be in active play for a shorter time. At the professional level, games may take two hours or more to complete, with time taken for time-outs, scheduled breaks and potential over-time minutes. Different competitions mean participants can play basketball all-year-around.
Basketball is a fast-paced game characterised by jumping (to contest possession), and repeated short fast sprints with varying periods of recovery. Therefore, basketball players will utilise both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Players are also required to think tactically, have fast reaction time and display technical ball skills for the duration of the game.
Depending on the level of competition and various team requirements, players will train anywhere from one session per week to one or two sessions per day. Juniors playing in local and representative teams may have a busy schedule of training, games and tournaments over a week.
Many basketball players are tall and athletic, and many tend to be lean for speed and agility on the court. However, there is a wide range of heights, from the taller forwards and centres to the relatively smaller guards (remembering that guards at the professional level are still likely to be over 6ft tall).
A general healthy eating pattern helps to support the needs of fit, energetic and lean basketball players. Nutrition is often based around lean proteins for muscle repair and recovery, with carbohydrate appropriately timed for fuel. In addition, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains provide important vitamins and minerals, with healthy fats also contributing to a balanced intake.
Individual nutrition requirements will be determined by training load, specific athlete needs, training goals, body composition goals, health and adjustment for growth in younger athletes. Many basketball players have high energy requirements due to their body size, training demands and growth for junior athletes.
Basketball is a fast moving game that requires high-intensity running, fast decision-making and skillful ball handling. Studies have shown that dehydration can negatively impact performance, specifically shooting accuracy, speed, agility concentration and coordination.
In order to stay hydrated, players should drink fluids before, during and after training and matches. However, body fluid needs will depend on individual fluid losses, which vary depending on individual sweat rate.
Basketball is predominantly played indoors, often without the luxury of air-conditioning, which increases the risk of high fluid losses. Even in cooler conditions, players should still be aware that they can lose significant amounts of fluid through sweat. Rather than relying on perceived sweat rate or thirst to determine fluid needs, players are encouraged to assess their unique sweat rate to guide how much to drink during training, games and for recovery.
The aim is to start any exercise session or competition well hydrated. This requires drinking regularly throughout the day leading up to training or competition. Having a drink with all meals and snacks is a good start.
EATING BEFORE COMPETITION
It’s important to start training and games well-fuelled. Each athlete is different, but players may eat a pre-game meal around 3 to 4 hours before the start of the match. This meal should contain some carbohydrate for fuel as well as some fluids for hydration. A small amount of protein in the pre-game meal is also useful, as it can help to prevent hunger during the game.
Some suitable pre-game meal ideas can include:
- Wrap or sandwich with chicken and salad
- Bowl of muesli with yoghurt and berries
- Pasta with tomato-based sauce
- Soup served with toast/roll
- Chicken stir-fry with rice or quinoa
Many players will also benefit from an additional small snack 1-2 hours prior to the game. This is often something light that is rich in carbohydrate but relatively low in fat and fibre so it is easy to digest.
Some suitable pre-game snack ideas include:
- Yoghurt with fruit salad
- Banana and a handful of almonds
- Peanut butter on rice cakes
- Toast with vegemite
If solids don’t sit well before a game, or players are very nervous, a liquid source of protein and carbohydrate such as a fruit smoothie can be a good option.
EATING AND DRINKING DURING COMPETITION
Indoor environments, combined with high-intensity exercise can lead to high sweat losses, especially in larger players. Frequent breaks in game play, such as substitutions, stoppages, quarter and half time breaks, provide the perfect opportunity to get some fluids in.
Water is the priority fluid during training and for hydration during the day, and is often all that is required during games. Sports or electrolyte drinks may be useful during a game for players identified as having high energy requirements or heavy fluid losses as they can deliver some carbohydrates and electrolytes.
During tournament-style play it is important to keep fuel levels topped up over the day to prevent fatigue. Light, easy to digest carbohydrate rich snacks such as muesli bars, fresh fruit, flavoured milk and simple sandwiches are all good options for refuelling between games. Players should work closely with an Accredited Sports Dietitian to trial nutrition strategies around training and games to find which foods work best for each player.
There are currently three golden rules in recovery nutrition:
- Refuel muscle glycogen (carbohydrate stores)
- Repair muscle (for function & development)
- Rehydrate (replace fluids lost through sweat)
Recovery meals and snacks should contain carbohydrate (fuel), some protein (for muscle repair and development) and plenty of fluids and electrolytes to replace sweat losses.
A recovery meal or snack should be consumed soon after exercise, remembering that recovery nutrition extends well beyond the initial hours post-game, particularly when the next training session or game is the next day. Fluids (mainly water) should also be consumed, based on estimated losses.
Some recovery food suggestions include:
- Chicken, avocado and salad sandwich
- Salmon with brown rice and steamed vegetables
- Dairy-based fruit smoothie
- Yoghurt + muesli with nuts and seeds
- Burritos with beef, cheese, avocado and salad
OTHER NUTRITION TIPS
- Be organised Players should have snacks ready to go at the stadium as it can be difficult to rely on the venue to provide appropriate choices.
- Young athletes who are still growing should aim to get meet their nutrition and protein needs from carefully planned and timed meals and snacks rather than supplements.
- Young players may need to move out of home for their sport, making the development of food preparation skills important for a smooth transition out of home.