Basketball Nutrition - What to Eat Before a Game or Practice

By Dr. James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook

Athletes should maintain a healthy diet every day, not just on game day, for overall well-being.

Now on game day...

Use a diet high in carbohydrates (avoid fats, grease) about 1-2 hours before game-time or practice (you need time to digest it). Players should eat enough to feel their hunger is satisfied, but not overeat or stuff themselves. If it is a larger meal (lunch or dinner), eat at least 2 to 3 hours before the game; if it is a snack (you already had lunch or dinner earlier), eat the snack 1 hour before the game.

Suggested foods:

Some kind of pasta is a good lunch or dinner choice.


Cereals and grains
Peanut butter crackers
Peanut butter sandwich
French toast
Orange juice
Lean Meats

cereal and bananas

Avoid dairy products high in fat. Low fat yogurt would be fine.

Adequate fluid intake is important before and during the game to avoid dehydration - but again, too much is not good medicine. In addition to water, sport drinks or fruit juices are good choices.

If your practices or games are late in the afternoon, right after school, make sure you eat breakfast and lunch that day. Some fruit like bananas or oranges one hour before the practice or game would be a good booster.

Read this senario...

Recently our boys played a triple-overtime tournament game on a Wednesday evening. We won and everyone was exhausted after the game. We had a practice the next afternoon, and the final game of the tournament of Friday evening (two nights later). Here's what I advised the boys.

After the Wednesday triple-overtime game, go home and eat some protein. Then the next day, eat a lot of carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, etc. The reason for this is to replenish the glycogen stores in the muscles, which were probably depleted after the triple-overtime game. Glycogen is the storage chemical in every cell in the body that stores glucose for metabolism.

To replenish those glycogen stores, eat a lot of carbohydrates (starch) the day before the final game. Not doing so, could result in those glycogen stores running low sometime in the second half of the final game, contributing to physical and mental fatigue. So carbohydrate load the day before the big game, and eat normally as suggested above on the day of the game. That's what we did, and we did win the final game by 10 points.

Also, see conditioning-fitness expert Tom Emma's article on "The Recovery Snack" - what to eat right after a hard work-out.

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