Nutrition – It’s Basic, but Essential

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This article was written by free-lance writer, Helen Young

Just like training and adequate rest, nutrition is an absolutely essential factor in becoming a great basketball player. When it really comes down to it, your body is a fairly simple equation – you get out what you put in. Supplements are great, but to really get results, you need to take in nutrients in the form in which your body has evolved to deal with them: food. With this in mind, here is what you should be putting into your body to get the best results out.

Protein

If you’re trying to achieve a lean, muscular physique, then protein is probably the most important thing you can take in. Protein is essential for building muscle mass, and it also increases your metabolism to help you burn off any excess fat which might be slowing you down. Ideally, an average-sized player should eat 20 grams or so of protein per day (adjust this accordingly if you are significantly bigger or smaller framed than average). Protein is generally found in eggs, dairy products, and meat. However, if you’re on a vegan diet which prohibits these things, this does not mean that you have to give up your basketball dreams. There are plenty of vegan athletes who’ve won great triumphs and achieved great things. However, you do have to work at it a bit. You can find protein in things like chickpeas, but you have to eat a lot more of them than you would meat or eggs in order to get the same effect. There are some vegan-friendly protein-supplements out there, so this may be your best bet.

Carbohydrates

Carbs get a lot of negative press, particularly in the wake of fads like the Atkins Diet. However, they are actually pretty vital when it comes to bodily performance. As the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois point out, “carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel” [1]. They estimate that between 45-50% of a person’s total calorie intake should be in the form of carbohydrates. This is not to say, of course, that eating too many of the wrong carbs won’t make you fat – it will – and reducing your carb intake certainly can help if you want to lose weight. Researchers have consistently found that obese people placed on a low-carb diet have “lost more weight, showed a greater increase in their good (HDL) cholesterol levels, had a greater reduction in triglycerides and abdominal (visceral) fat, showed improved blood sugar levels, and were more satisfied with their diets” [2]. It’s all sound and seductive science. However, basketball players are not obese couch-potatoes who need to lose weight. They’re athletes, and athletes need fuel. If you want energy for a game, and don’t want your body to start consuming muscle, then you need to eat some carbs. The precise amount can be tailored to fit around training sessions, games, and rest periods. Whole grains are a good source of nutritionally-rich carbs.

Vitamins and Minerals

Perhaps the most important thing about a basketball player’s diet is that it should be balanced and varied – which means taking in plenty of fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide a motherlode of essential vitamins and minerals which you need to keep yourself on top form. Harvard state that the best, healthiest, most effective diets out there contain plenty of fruit and veg – and “plenty” means “More than most Americans consume” [3]. A lot more. The CDC further point out that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can do an incredible amount of good for your body, keeping it running smoothly and efficiently, as well as reducing “the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases” [4]. While protein and carbs will build and fuel a body, they can’t do their jobs properly if they don’t have a lot of fruit-and-veg nutrients to help the process along. Fruit and vegetables will also ensure that your brain is firing on all cylinders, that your immune system is pumped and ready for action, and that your heart and lungs are as ready as they’ll ever be to fire you into the big time.

[1] McKinley Health Center, “Macronutrients: The Importance Of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat“, University of Illinois

[2] Robin Miller, “Robin’s Rescue: Low-carb vs. low-fat diet“, AZ Central

[3] Harvard School of Public Health, “Vegetables and Fruits: Get Plenty Every Day

[4] Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, “Fruits and Vegetables

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