5 NUTRITION Mistakes BASKETBALLERS NEED TO STOP DOING TO IMPROVE PERFORMANCE - Sports Dietitians PERSPECTIVE
Basketball performance and nutrition go together like spaghetti and meatballs. Without the correct nutrition programming, a hooper is not going to achieve their peak potential. However, many basketball players make mistakes with their nutrition that limits them even if they are doing the right things at the same time.
In today's article, you will learn about what NOT to do so that you can focus on what TO DO in the best way possible. May this be your sports nutrition "no no" list going forward!
Basketball players are some of the most genetically gifted athletes in the wide world of sports and are involved in a lifestyle that requires a commitment to a brutal training and competition schedule that not only requires physical but also mental prowess. Therefore, there’s no denying the importance of nutrition in optimising a ballers potential on the field.
In my experience working with basketballers (and being one myself), I have a unique insight into the do’s and dont’s of basketball sports nutrition. Optimising your nutrition game will help you attain the performance level you need to become the best hooper you can be. However, basketballers are not exempt from making key mistakes with their nutrition.
Today I deep dive into the 5 mistakes I see ballers make with their nutrition that if you avoid doing, will help you reach your peak potential.
The Nutrition No No's for Basketball
These nutrition mistakes (or “no no’s” as I like to say), are not only limited to basketballers but the impact it has on your ability as a baller is undeniable. I have even been guilty of some of these myself and you may find you are already doing at least 1 yourself. However, regardless if you are or aren’t, let this list serve as things to be aware of and avoid doing in the future.
So without further ado...here is the top 5 list of things every basketballer should STOP DOING NOW:
1. Not eating enough calories to fuel your needs
If there is one thing you could do tomorrow with your nutrition and see an almost immediate improvement in your balling, it’s ensuring you are eating enough calories to fuel your training, games, mind, and body. I’ll often assess a player and determine very quickly that they are under-eating calories - which impacts not only their performance but also their wellbeing.
I’ve found that the main reasons for inadequate food intake include:
Fine-tuning your nutrition to ensure you maintain a physique you desire while balancing it out with performance-focused fuelling, can be a fine line. Nonetheless, it should be a priority to ensure you meet energy requirements first if you want to be the best baller you can be.
Fuelling your sporting and training needs WILL improve your potential. Losing some extra body fat to be EVEN leaner, won’t necessarily. So it’s about #priorities. Your choice but I know what I’m recommending every time.
Now you may be wondering how you can know if you are not eating enough. And that is why I have you covered with this mini-list:
These are signs you may be under-eating:
Keep in mind this list is to guide you but isn’t conclusive nor necessarily exhaustive. That is why you should always look to work with a Sports Dietitian if you want to truly optimize your sports nutrition for your performance and athletic needs.
2. Relying on supplements before addressing food
If I had a dollar every time I was asked about a supplement by someone who was yet to perfect their food situation, I’d have a heavy wallet. The focus on supplements is quite prevalent among many athletes and basketballers are no different. Supplements for a lack of a better word, are hella popular!
The issue lies in the way supplements are used and the focus that is placed on them before more important foundations are built. Supplements are supplementary to your diet - not the necessary foundation. And you need to start looking at it this way or you’ll continue doing yourself a disservice.
Here is the truth:
Now add to the situation that many supplements don’t even work, and you can quickly see how prioritises can become skewed without any benefit. So what should you do? It’s actually quite simple.
Then (and only then), should you even start looking at placing more focus on what supplements can give you an edge or elevate your game further. The only exception is protein powder as it’s more of a nutritional supplement vs a sports performance supplement. Nonetheless, the point is that supplements can play a part but you should first worry about other aspects of your nutrition.
If you are ready to do so and want to learn how and what supplements can elevate your ball game then reach out to me to discuss coaching and how I can design a sports nutrition focussed plan to get you results without unnecessary food restriction.
3. Going keto or paleo
There has been no diet quite as popular as keto in recent years. And before keto, there was paleo. And you know what they both have in common?
You can try to dispute me on the first. Good luck denying the second. But the third is unquestionably real and you can thank sports nutrition science for that. I have seen it among various athletes (from cross-fitters to ballers) the impact diets such as keto and paleo have on performance and longevity in the sport. They are quite simply, not suited to optimising ones fuelling and recovery strategy.
Basketball is a sport that involves intermittent bouts of moderate to high-intensity activity, and most of the energy needed to drive this comes from an anaerobic, glycolytic system. This means it's a sport that requires adequate carbs as part of a properly calibrated fuelling strategy. Keto and paleo limit your carb intake and diminishes recovery potential….you do the math.
So what should you do? Start with the simple stuff. All I want you to do for this is start embracing carbs and focussing on eating them around training and competition to fuel your needs in the most optimised way. And I repeat, do not follow keto or paleo or [INSERT OTHER LOWER CARB DIET TREND].
4. Doing a “dirty bulk”
I’ve found when working with ballers, there are two main goals they are usually focussed on achieving.
Earlier I spoke about the main problem that occurs when trying to achieve number 1. However, number 2 also comes with its issues when not done properly - namely doing what’s called a “dirty bulk”.
A dirty bulk is when you bombard your body with calories and/or bulk without managing food quality. Essentially, instead of eating a well-balanced diet and strategically achieving a surplus in calories, you eat as much as you can which leads to excessive weight gain from fat (in addition to the muscle being built).
Why is this a nutrition no-no for ballers? Because the excessive fat gain leads to a sudden increase in non-functional body mass which directly limits power to weight ratio and therefore impacts your leaping ability and agility on the court (oh and increases injury risk too). Indirectly, it may also lead to a 180 swing from bulking to severely restricting calories to get leaner again quickly (see point 1 for a reminder on why this is bad too).
Instead, do the following:
There is no room for a dirty bulk for the baller who wants to become their peak self. Instead, approach your muscle-building in a way that's focused on consistency, strategy, and gradual progress. Doing so will help minimise unwanted change and maximise desired adaptations.
If you need help designing a muscle-building nutrition plan that is calibrated with the hooper in mind, CLICK HERE to reach out now.
5. Not periodizing your nutrition across the year
Your basketball schedule is broken down by seasons. In-season, post-season, off-season, and pre-season. So why is your nutrition strategy not adjusted for the same?
A key concept I work through with my athletes when I’m doing their nutrition programming is the “Nutrition Seasons”. The purpose behind it is simple yet so crucial for their success in sport. It’s about periodising their goals and nutrition for each season in the same way your physical training is adjusted based on if it's the off-season or pre-season or whatever.
Nutrition periodisation is something that most athletes only think about from the perspective of carb periodisation or calorie cycling because of the preoccupation with body composition and physique. However, my approach goes much further and is centred around developing the peak within the athlete. That is why you need to start focusing on specific nutrition programming for each “season”.
The specific nutrition considerations for each season depends on various factors such as sport, goals, position, and current nutrition strategy of the specific athlete (aka its highly individualised), and is therefore hard to articulate in detail here. However, I want to leave you knowing that you need to start thinking of your goals and sporting success in a phasic and periodized fashion that doesn’t start and stop with the desire and accomplishment of a single goal.
If you want to chat more about my concept of “The Nutrition Seasons” with me, send me an email by CLICKING HERE.
As a basketball player, you need to embrace the importance of nutrition for reaching your peak potential on the court. Then you need to actually take action and implement the correct nutrition plan and avoid the common mistakes so many others make such as the ones I have introduced you to earlier. As mentioned, ballers are some of the most physically gifted athletes involved in some of the most gruelling training and competition schedules around, which makes your nutrition game a top priority.
Therefore, from today onwards I want you to start eating enough calories, stop relying on supplements, avoid low carb diets, don’t bulk rapidly, and start periodising your nutrition across the seasons of your sport. By avoiding making these mistakes, you will be ahead of the competition who are left doing the same wrong things over and over again. Now it’s time for you to start becoming the baller you want to be.
Here’s to your success!
P.s. Want me to personally help you achieve the above by being your personal 1:1 Sports Dietitian and Nutrition?
Well, I can take out the guesswork so you can focus on balling and help you get results without the stress and without the inconsistency that has led you to not realise your true potential on the court.
If you want to see what this coaching experience is all about and how I can help you reach your peak potential, then CLICK HERE to apply now and I’ll be in touch.
I have a few spots available currently, so the timing is perfect if you are ready to take action.
Accredited Sports Dietitian & Nutrition Coach
Hi there! My name's Aleksa Gagic - i'm a Brisbane Dietitian & Nutritionist. The aim of this blog is to provide value and spread quality evidence-based nutrition information to counter the BS floating around.