7 Reasons Why Hoopers Need to Pay Attention to Nutritition

7 Reasons Why Hoopers Need to Pay Attention to Nutritition

May 15, 2020

By Sports Nutritionist Tommy Clark

As a basketball player, I think it goes without saying that you understand the importance of training… Without constantly working on your skills, there’s absolutely no way to make it to the next level of the game as a high school, college, or professional player. But like I said, you already knew that, and you spend hours upon hours in the gym on a weekly basis.

Now, let me ask you: Have you ever been in a position where you know deep down that you’re one of the most skilled players on the court, but weren’t able to fully put those skills on display because of a lack of physical strength, explosiveness, or speed? Have you ever experienced dead legs in the second have of the game that’s impacted your ability to perform in the clutch? Maybe your coach even had to sub you out in the 4th? Have you ever dealt with nagging overuse injuries and illnesses that impacted your ability to train or compete to the best of your ability during the season? Have you been training insanely hard and consistently on the court and in the weight room, but not seeing the level of progress that you feel like you deserve to see? Have you tried to gain muscle before, only for your metabolism to be “too fast” and ending up right back at square one? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, now let me ask you: If I presented you with the solution to each and every one of those problems and unlocked the ability to get the most out of your training and truly achieve your athletic potential, would you like that?

Obviously… Well, today I do have the solution for you: NUTRITION! For whatever reason, nutrition and proper eating habits often fly under the radar for most basketball players. In my opinion, there are a few reasons for this:

1 - We (I hooped, too) tend to be taller and lankier naturally and burn a ton of calories on the court, so it’s very difficult for us to gain weight even if we eat junk all the time. This lack of fat gain leads us to believe that our eating habits are “fine” and we don’t need to worry about it. As you’ll learn by the end of this article, that couldn’t be any more false!

2 - Nutrition advice to athletes is often communicated very poorly. I don’t know about you, but if someone’s best advice is to “eat your vegetables” and “cut out fast food” without any further explanation as to how that’s even helping me, I’m probably not going to listen. As a basketball player and as someone who’s taking the time to read this, you’re a hard working individual who’s hungry to get better. I’d argue that if you truly understood the treasure chest of results on the court that you would be unlocking by eating properly, you would be open to implementing those strategies. By the end of this article, you will have a crystal clear understanding of exactly how fueling properly will allow you to use nutrition as your “secret weapon” and finally achieve the level of athletic performance on the basketball court that has been eluding you for so long. Let’s get into it!

REASON #1 - FOOD IS FUEL FOR PERFORMANCE ON THE COURT

Quite literally, food provides the energy you need to fuel performance and play your best on the court. We take in energy through food in the form of calories and we use these calories on the court, in the weight room, and through a number of other processes in your body! One of the main reasons that you actually start to get tired and run out of energy on the court is because you didn’t eat enough. You can think of under-fueling like starting a long road trip with a gas tank that’s half full. You’re going to need to stop and take a break to refuel earlier than if you took the time to fill up your gas tank completely. So, if you’ve been feeling more tired than usual in the second half of your games or later into your workouts, odds are that you aren’t eating enough calories!

REASON #2 - EATING PROPERLY HELPS YOU RECOVER BETTER

Logically, in order to progress on the court you need to be able to push yourself during your training sessions. Additionally, we know that results don’t happen overnight. Elite shooters like Steph Curry didn’t develop sniper-like range in one workout. It took him years upon years of hard work to get there. In order to effectively put in those years of hard work and high quality training sessions necessary to reach the highest level in basketball, you need to be able to bounce back and recover from your previous workout. If you fail to recover effectively, not only are you setting yourself up for increased risk of injury (more on this later), the quality of your next session won’t be as good. Your reps might not be as sharp, you might not be as explosive, etc. How do you avoid this and truly maximize each and every session? You do this by fueling yourself properly (eating the right amounts of the right types of food)! In future articles, I’ll go over more in depth strategies on how to accomplish this. For now, I just need you to understand that fueling properly will undoubtedly improve your ability to recover from your training sessions.

REASON #3 - FUELING PROPERLY IMPROVES DECISION MAKING

It’s one thing to be a freak athlete, it’s another to actually make good decisions on the court. Not fueling correctly can have dire consequences when it comes to your ability to stay mental sharp, especially late in the game when it matters most. Earlier in the article we established that your muscles need fuel to perform at a high level for the duration of your training sessions and competitions. What is often overlooked is that your brain needs fuel too! To be exact, it needs roughly 130g of glucose (a type of carb) per day. If you don’t meet those needs through diet, then your body will actually be more prone to break down muscle tissue to create new glucose to fuel your brain. A little sciencey, I know; but, it’s important to know why this is so important! With that being said, the extent of nutrition’s impact on the brain isn’t limited to fueling. There are also other essential nutrients that our food provides us that support your mental function and ability to make sound decisions, remember plays and defensive assignments, etc. For example, a special type of fat called “omega-3” fat is an important component of your nervous system and helps to manage inflammation throughout your body, brain included. Additionally, the building blocks of proteins called “amino acids” help to make neurotransmitters, which is how the different cells in your brain actually talk to each other. Lastly, other vitamins and minerals further help you to fight off inflammation and keep your brain functioning properly.

REASON #4 - PROPER NUTRITION IS ESSENTIAL FOR MUSCLE GROWTH AND FAT LOSS

There’s simply no way around it. Unless you’re a true beginner and have never stepped foot into a weight room, nutrition affects your ability to effectively put on muscle and lose body fat to get lean. Odds are if you’re a hooper, you’re probably trying to put on muscle and get stronger to be able to hold your own on the court and give you an increased level of confidence. This may seem impossible because of the amount of running up and down the court that you do and the insane amount of calories that you burn. You may have even tried lifting in the weight room and seen some progress at first, only to have it level off and get stuck at a certain body weight. The reality is that your ability to gain muscle consistently over time comes down to your nutrition. See, muscle is an “expensive” tissue. It takes a lot of calories to build and maintain. So, if there aren’t enough calories coming in, it doesn’t really make sense for your body to invest in muscle growth! Because of this, you need to be in a calorie surplus to gain muscle. This means that you’re eating more calories than you're burning every day and you actually have energy leftover to build muscle. If you’ve ever hit a muscle growth plateau and wondered if genetics or some mysterious outside force is limiting your progress, think again. You simply need to eat more calories! And it’s hard to accomplish this unless you’re actively paying attention to your eating habits.

REASON #5 - FEW ATHLETES ACTUALLY PAY ATTENTION TO NUTRITION You’d be surprised… Despite the insane amount of benefits (on and off the court) that come from fueling yourself properly, a large amount of athletes don’t actually pay attention to this stuff. Even at the professional level, there are guys that still eat like garbage. However, there’s a VERY important distinction to be made here - The guys that actually last in the League or overseas for 10+ years almost always have their nutrition dialed in and are taking care of their bodies. I recently interviewed NFL Linebacker, Josh Martin, on my podcast and he made the statement that: “You don’t see guys lasting in the league that don’t take care of their bodies.” This also applies to basketball, no doubt. How do you think that guys like Vince Carter, LeBron James, and the late great Kobe Bryant were able to last as long as they have in the NBA? So, if you want any chance of being like these select few elites, proper nutrition is a must. It’s also important to note that because so many athletes disregard this stuff, it presents you with a very unique opportunity. If you are part of that select group of hoopers that actually dials this stuff in, you’re putting yourself in a position to absolutely dominate your competition. All things being equal (talent, genetics, etc), the athlete who is fueled properly and eating the right foods will win every single time. So, I urge you, take advantage of this opportunity and use nutrition as your secret weapon. You’ll have your teammates and competition wondering how on earth you’re not dying during conditioning, how you’re able to last so deep into the 4th quarter without your legs giving out, how you’re able to stay healthy year round with these nagging injuries that plague many players… It’s a fun place to be, trust me :)

REASON #6 - NUTRITION HELPS YOU GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TRAINING SESSIONS

If you’re going to put in the amount of work in the gym and on the court that it takes to become an elite basketball player, wouldn’t you agree that it’s important to squeeze every ounce of progress you can out of each training session? Training is an investment, and proper nutrition helps you to maximize your return on investment. Like we talked about earlier, if you’re not implementing a proper fueling strategy, the quality of your training session and the amount of benefit that you will get out of it will be significantly diminished. If you’re under-fueled, fatigued, achy, etc… Your reps will not be as sharp, you’ll be more prone to mess up on drills, and you simply won’t have the fuel left in the gas tank to perform that last drill in the session to be the best of your ability. If you’re serious about maximizing your results and actually seeing the progress you deserve from the work you’re putting in, nutrition needs to be considered an essential piece of the puzzle.

REASON #7 - NUTRITION WILL HELP YOU STAY HEALTHY YEAR ROUND. Logically, how do you become an elite level basketball player? You have to train hard and you have to train often. You also need to be available to perform when it matters during your season. There’s no way around that. Now, to be able to train hard and often, you need to be available and healthy enough to train. To be able to show up day in and day out during your season, you need to be healthy enough to play. If you’re constantly injured or dealing with illnesses, both of these requirements will be difficult (or impossible) to meet. While sometimes injuries and illnesses simply just happen, a lot of times they are preventable through taking the appropriate steps to take care of your body. A major component of this, as you’ve learned so far in this article, is nutrition! Consistently under-fueling leads to a situation known in scientific research as relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S). When you don’t eat enough, one of the major consequences is an increase in risk of injury and illness. Additionally, other nutrients in your food like vitamins and minerals help your body to fight off inflammation (a key contributor to many overuse injuries). You get these vital nutrients from high quality foods like meats, fruit, veggies, nuts, to name a few (there are many more). Dehydration (not drinking enough water) can also lead to an increased likelihood for injury and illness. Water actually serves as a lubricant for your joints to keep them operating smoothly and also impacts your ability to get rid of toxins in the body through sweat and going to the bathroom. Long story short, if you’re goal is to stay as healthy as possible so you can actually be healthy enough to train the way you want and show off the results of all that hard work… Nutrition must be a part of your game plan!

WRAPPING IT UP RECAP

Why do you need to pay attention to your nutrition?

REASON #1 - FOOD IS FUEL FOR PERFORMANCE ON THE COURT

REASON #2 - EATING PROPERLY HELPS YOU RECOVER BETTER

REASON #3 - FUELING PROPERLY IMPROVES DECISION MAKING

REASON #4 - PROPER NUTRITION IS ESSENTIAL FOR MUSCLE GROWTH AND FAT LOSS

REASON #5 - FEW ATHLETES ACTUALLY PAY ATTENTION TO NUTRITION

REASON #6 - NUTRITION HELPS YOU GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TRAINING SESSIONS

REASON #7 - NUTRITION WILL HELP YOU STAY HEALTHY YEAR ROUND.

 

I hope that I’ve convinced you by now! As you’ve learned, nutrition is an integral piece of any truly successful basketball player’s plan of action. Without a doubt, if it is ignored, you’re leaving untapped potential on the table (and I know you don’t want that). In future blog articles, I’ll be going over some of the specific strategies that I use with my elite athletes in order to fuel them for optimal performance. In the meantime check out my podcast, the Peak Performance Project, for more in-depth discussion on exactly how to use nutrition to maximize your potential as a basketball player. If there is any way that I can personally help you with your nutrition or answer any questions that you have, please feel free to reach out to me at @tclarknutrition on Instagram or email me at tclarknutrition@gmail.com See you next time! -Coach Tommy 




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