The Ten Nutrition Rules To Live
Nutrition is something that affects every athlete, yet every athlete eats for completely different reasons. As a basketball player, putting thought behind what goes into your mouth can do wonders for health, but most importantly, performance. The thought process behind choosing the right foods or combinations of foods seems to be the most paralyzing for most athletes. There are so many different opinions, ways of doing things, answers to weight loss, answers to weight gain everywhere you turn that it can become confusing to a point where acting on good intentions seems to halt. By no means do I want to downplay the complexity of nutrition, but what does all the science matter if you don’t change the way you eat?
After years of working with professional athletes in a variety of sports, including basketball, we break down our methodology into “10 Rules to Live by” that can be simplified to five categories: eat clean, eat often, hydrate, recover, mindset. These five categories will allow us to assist our athletes in streamlining their healthy and performance eating efforts. These are not exact recommendations, but are the first steps in choosing the right foods to fuel the game you play.
Come Back to Earth.
This simply means to choose the least processed forms of foods, specifically carbohydrates, when building the majority of your meals. Typically the less processed the foods and the closer the food that you are eating is to its natural state, the better it will be for you. An easy way to do this on the carbohydrate side of things is to simply look at the label and the amount of fiber that is in the product. If the product has at least three grams of fiber or more per serving, it is a good choice. The average athlete gets about 15 grams of fiber per day, which is far below the recommendation of 25-35g per day. Carbohydrate is your body’s number one fuel source, so you want to make sure that at each meal, 50% of what is on your plate is some type of carbohydrate while fiber helps to stabilize your energy levels and give you more efficient forms of fuel. If you feel energized, recover fully, are at a healthy performance weight, and are performing, you are probably eating the right amount of carbohydrate.
The Less Legs the Better.
Protein is a critical part of the diet for the athlete, specifically the type and the amount. When focusing in on the type of protein, typically the less legs the animal has before you actually consume it, the better the source. Fish, turkey, and chicken rank high. You need to be more selective with dairy, red meat, and pork products. Low-fat dairy, lean cuts of pork and beef, and grass fed four legged animals are best. As a basketball player, you are at the high end of protein needs. You want to consume about 0.8 – 1.0g of protein per pound that you weigh. Protein keeps your metabolism going strong, can help to increase the satiety of meals, helps the body maintain muscle, and should be included as part of your recovery meal or snack. Splitting the total protein intake over the course of the day by including some in each meal will help to ensure absorption and utilization.
Eat Fats That Give Something Back.
Diets too low in fat can be detrimental to basketball players; however, diets too high in fat (as with anything) will lead to increased fat accumulation. It is recommended that 20 – 30% of the total calories come from fat. The best types of fats to include are raw nuts, seeds, olive oil, nut butters, and fatty fish. The forgotten fats in the US are the essential fatty acids, specifically the omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids help with decreasing inflammation and due to their essential nature, must come from the diet. Those who do not consume fish 2-3 times per week may want to consider supplementing with fish oil.
Eat a Rainbow Often.
The vitamins and minerals that our body’s need naturally come from the foods that we eat, specifically fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables in a multitude of colors will help to ensure that you are getting the variety of nutrients that you need. Some of the best fruits are blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, granny smith apples, sweet cherries, and black plums. The best vegetables are to reach for are stewed tomatoes, dark leafy greens, and anything that is rich in yellow, orange, and red color. It all sounds so simplistic, but still the average athlete only consumes about three servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The athlete that eats more fruits and vegetables gets more of what the body needs to speed recovery, improve energy production and help to improve the immune system.
Three for Three.
Eating consistently maintains energy levels, keeps the body in a fed state, and prevents mood swings and binging. Keeping the body fueled will prevent extreme hunger, which will make healthier food selection easier. Combining the three main nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat) every three hours (hence the three for three) will keep you fueled and keep you on track. Planning out meals and snacks ahead of time will ensure that you stick with your fueling regimen. Keeping healthy snacks, bars, and ready to drink meal replacements with you at all times will ensure you have fuel on hand to keep you going.
Eat Breakfast Everyday.
There is a lot of debate on why this is important, but I still believe that eating breakfast everyday is critical and find it to be an absent habit for most of us. “There isn’t enough time,” “I’m not hungry in the morning,” and “it’s too complicated” are common phrases I hear. Breakfast does not have to be buckwheat pancakes and an egg white omelet. Breakfast could be a blend of yogurt, high fiber cereal, a scoop whey protein, and frozen berries mixed together or simply whole wheat toast, peanut butter, and a banana. Eating breakfast will give the body the fuel it needs, jumpstart the metabolism, and set you up to consume the number of calories they should be eating throughout the day.
Dehydration = Decreased performance. You should have the goal of drinking while training and playing to prevent a 2% loss in fluid and an extreme disruption of electrolyte balance. To do this you need to ensure that you are hydrated before you step onto the court or into a training session. A case study performed at Athletes’ Performance in 2008 found 98% of our athletes to be dehydrated prior to their am training session. When you think of hydration you need to think of it in terms of all day and during training. We recommend drinking . oz to 1 oz per pound of body weight per day. Fluids should consist of primarily water and other naturally low or non caloric beverages, followed by 100% fruit juices (depending upon calorie requirements). In order to prevent dehydration during excercise, you should create an individual approach to minimizing fluid loss during training by weighing in and out of sessions and tracking how much fluid is consumed. A general place to start is to drink 17 – 20 oz prior to exercise, 7 – 10 oz every 10 – 20 minutes during exercise, and 17 – 24 oz for each pound lost during exercise. During times of intense activity, extreme temperatures, and long duration, a carbohydrate electrolyte beverage is optimal in addition to water because it is imperative to replace fuel and the fluid and salts lost from sweat.
Don’t Waste your Workout.
Even with the abundance of research available on the benefits of post workout nutrition, I still see athletes skipping the recovery meal or snack. As a basketball player, this is hands down your most important meal of the day. The mindset of many still involves a hesitation to consume calories after just burning them. In order to optimize the benefits of a training session and jumpstart recovery for maximal gains, it is critical to consume a post workout recovery meal that blends both carbohydrate and protein as quickly as you can after training, playing or practicing. It is important to get this meal, shake or bar within 45 minutes after stopping your activity. This recovery meal should contain around 25-45 g of protein (depending on size, the bigger you are the more protein you need) and at least 2 times the amount of carbohydrate in relation to protein. So, if you have a shake with 25 g of protein you need to make sure you get 50-75g of carbs with it. By consuming this snack, meal, shake, or bar that hits your protein and carbohydrate requirements as quickly as possible after training, fuel repletion, muscle mass gains, performance at your next session or game and immune function will be optimized.
There are so many supplements on the market that it becomes difficult to decipher which ones are needed. Supplements should “compliment” what you are currently eating and how you are training and a mentality of food first supplement second should be employed; however, there are a number of situations that warrant a basic supplementation protocol. For example, athletes who do not get the recommended three servings of fatty fish per week should consider supplementing with an Essential Fatty Acid supplement. Those who do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables should be taking a multi-vitamin. Supplements that reach beyond that scope can be taken, but should be chosen only after an evaluation with a doctor and dietitian. When choosing any supplement, make sure that it has a Good Manufacturing Practice and is certified to be banned substance free.
Get Back in the Kitchen.
In a world of convenience, travel, and life on the go, we turn to restaurants, fast food, and “quick” food for our nourishment. Restaurants, regardless of the type, do not take into consideration your calorie needs or your health when deciding upon their menu. Eating out is tricky as the majority of items are oversized and have significantly more fat and calories than similar dishes made at home. At the end of the day, if you really want to maximize your body composition, hit your nutrient and calorie goals, and just eat cleaner, you or a personal chef who is fully aware of your needs and goals are your best ally. The more you can prepare your own food, the more control you will have in the nourishment of your body.
When it comes down to nutrition, there is not one answer, one magic pill, one supplement, or one tip that will give you the results you are looking for. It involves taking the 10 tips above, creating “Perfect Days”, and mastering the consistency of implementing the strategies listed above into daily life until it becomes a habit. So, how are you doing?