Daily Dose of Coach #236: Fueling the Basketball Athlete Through AAU Season

Basketball travel season is about to kick into full gear. As travel and tournament schedules get crazy, it's important to understand how to fuel and hydrate the body to maximize performance. This requires high energy output and can be difficult to maintain without proper nutrition.

It's easy to hit fast food joints and make quick decisions about what to eat between games and practices. But understanding how to fuel the body properly can make all the difference in the world.

One problem is matching the need for high levels of energy output with low appetite. I've found this to be a problem with young athletes as they are moving from games to practice to more games. They miss a lot of meals because of this. And having to get up early to eat breakfast and eating dinner late at night doesn't help.

Here are a few ways to combat this balance of high energy needs, little time to eat, unconventional times to eat, and low appetites.

  •    First things first; Do your best to hit three square meals. This means breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Those these may fall at the strange times during a busy AAU schedule, try to eat this at each meal: 1-2 Palm Sizes of Lean Protein, 1-2 Fist Sizes of Vegetables, 1-2 Cupped Handfuls of Carbohydrate dense foods, and 1 Thumb Size of Fat. A typical breakfast could look like an egg omelet with vegetables, potatoes, and fruit. Make sure these larger meals are not eaten right before a game. Try getting them done 1-2 hours before.
  •    Packing snacks. It's understandable that not all meals may be met and met perfectly. So keeping nutritional snacks in your backpack is always a good idea. I remember being at these tournaments at eating skittles and snickers from the concession stand. This is no good. If you want to be a great player, you must learn to prepare at all angles. Pack food like pretzels, nutrition bars, apples, bananas, trail mix or mixed nuts.
  •    Drinking Some of Your Calories: During times of high output, it's never a bad idea to carry a sports drink or two with you. This can help give you a quick boost of carbohydrates, electrolytes and keep you hydrated. If they bother your stomach because of sugar content, I recommend doing half sports drink, half water.
  •    Proper Hydration: Dehydration can do everything from decreasing the speed of your movement to reducing reaction time, to slowing your decision making on the court. And if you are playing major minutes, it's vitally important that you stay hydrated throughout the day. You can drink a combination of sports drinks and plain water throughout the day. I recommend at least 16oz of water with every meal if not more. Also, make sure that you are drinking plenty during the game. In that backpack that holds your snacks carry a refillable water bottle and sip on it throughout the day. You don't want to water-log yourself, but to perform at your best you need to stay hydrated.