During my senior year of high school, I went into my last basketball season weighing 210 pounds—much of it hard-earned muscle that I’d built during long gym sessions. I was determined to keep all of that beef and play my last game at the same weight I carried into my first. But as the weeks wore on, I steadily lost weight. By the end of the season I had dropped to under 198, and I didn’t have the same power I’d felt at that first tipoff.
That was when I realized just how hard it is for basketball players to get proper nutrition during their grueling season. And it should be a wake-up call for you, too.
Think about it: basketball players cover between three and four miles during each game. That might not be a big deal if they were casually jogging, but they’re not. They’re sprinting, jumping, changing direction, and then stopping on a dime to sprint the other way. The effort is intense, causing the body to burn many more calories than it would during a light, evenly-paced run. So even if you’re a big eater who dominates buffet lines, you still may not be taking in enough calories to support your activity level.
That’s why some ballers eat between 4,000 and 5,000 calories per day in-season. That's the right idea, but there’s a problem: those calories aren’t always from the best sources. Take in that many calories from fast food, and you'll feel tired, sluggish, or just “off.” (Check out STACK's infographic to learn about some of the worst calorie sources). But get those cals from lean meats, whole grains, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, and you’ll feel sharper and stronger.
Follow these three tips to stay fueled up all season long and maintain the muscle you worked so hard to build.
Tip 1: Make a “mass shake" and drink it once or twice per day. It will provide you with a large number of quality calories in a quick, easy-to-consume manner. The ingredients may sound heavy, but remember: the goal is to increase your calorie intake. This drink will get you there. Mix:
- 1-2 cups grass-fed milk
- 30 grams non-heated whey protein
- 3 scoops almond or peanut butter (2 tbsp. of grass-fed butter if allergic to nuts)
- 1 cup oats
- Dash of cinnamon
- 1 banana
- 2 scoops organic ice cream
- Blend and enjoy
Tip 2: Drink branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) during workouts or practices. BCAAs help prevent muscle breakdown and accelerate muscle growth during recovery. Take between 12 and 25 grams per workout. Look for a flavored version—the unflavored stuff tastes nasty.
Tip 3: Eat during workouts. This may sound weird, but it will keep your energy stores high, so your body doesn’t have to break down muscle protein for fuel. (Learn more about nutrient timing.) One good option is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which contains some healthy carbs, fast-acting sugars, fat and protein.
Lern more by checking out STACK's Guide to Building Muscle.