Are you confused by all the conflicting nutrition advice that you’re getting from friends, family and the media? One day you read about a vegan diet and the next day you hear the importance of eating fish. How should a player eat for optimal basketball nutrition?
After doing thousands of nutrition consultations and seeing the common eating patterns of athletes, I developed the 3 Levels of Nutrition. This gives players a step-by-step path to optimally fuel their bodies for the demands of basketball, school and training.
FUEL. FIRE. FOOD.
How Do You Teach Nutrition?
3 LEVELS OF BASKETBALL NUTRITION
You wouldn’t take a first-time runner and sign them up for a marathon. You would never put 300 pounds on the bench press for a kid who has never lifted before. Progression is the key to building success.
Basketball nutrition is the same. We must have a system to progress the way we eat.
The 3 Levels Of Nutrition shows athletes what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat so they can be their best on and off the court.
LEVEL 1: FUEL
Just like gasoline is fuel for your car, what you eat is fuel for your body. You’d never drive across the country without filling up your gas tank first.
Yet, many athletes will show up to practice on an empty stomach.
The most important basketball nutrition habit you can do is to make sure you eat enough. That’s why FUEL is the first level of nutrition.
If you don’t have enough fuel in your body, you’ll run out of energy and won’t have the building blocks to create new muscle.
Here’s an article I wrote about getting the right fuel in before games:
LEVEL 2: FIRE
Building a meal is just like building a fire. You need to have multiple fuel sources if you want your energy to last.
The first material you’d need when building a fire is paper. It lights up quick and gives you instant energy. This is what carbohydrates do.
Carbohydrates (potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.) are like pieces of paper. They light up quick and give you a burst of energy, but it doesn’t last long.
That’s why you need multiple sources of energy.
Protein (chicken, fish, eggs, etc.) are like sticks that give structure to the fire. They provide a medium energy source and also create every structure in our body.
Every muscle, tendon and bone is created from the protein we eat.
Fat (peanut butter, avocados, cashews, etc.) is like the big log on the fire. It doesn’t light up quickly, but provides long-lasting energy.
Once you’ve passed Level 1 and are eating enough fuel, you should make sure that your meals consist of a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat.
LEVEL 3: FOOD
If you’re eating enough (FUEL) and also eating the right mix of nutrients (FIRE), you’ve earned the right to work on LEVEL 3: WHOLE FOOD.
A whole food is any food where the name of the food is the ingredient of the food.
The ingredient of an apple is an apple. The ingredient of chicken is chicken.
Whole foods contain all the right nutrients, in the right ratios, that get delivered to your body at the right time.
If you’re already getting enough calories in and have protein, carbohydrates and fats at each meal, the next step to improving nutrition is to replace processed foods with whole foods.
Here’s an article I wrote about adding whole foods into your diet:
What’s My Next Step?
PICK ONE HABIT
Research shows that we are more successful when we focus on one thing at a time.
In his book, The Power of Less, Leo Babauta explains why change is difficult and shares how to successfully build habits. If you’re to trying to improve your basketball nutrition, his advice is to only make one change at a time.
Here’s the powerful research that Leo has discovered:
You have an 85% chance of being successful when trying to create one habit.
Working on two habits at a time drops your success rate down to 35%.
If you try to change three things at a time, you have less than a 10% chance at being successful at any one of the three.
MINIMUM EFFECTIVE DOSE
When analyzing player’s food journals, I look for foods we can add or subtract that would produce a positive change.
As I build a list of things we can improve, the next step is to find the easiest adjustment they could make that would still make a difference.
Notice that I want the easiest change… not the most difficult.
Once we identify the basketball nutrition habit to implement, I ask them how confident they are that they can do it. If they say anything less than 100%, I find a new habit.
If they’re not 100% confident while they’re motivated and talking face to face with a coach, they’ll most likely fail when they’re alone, tired and unmotivated.
I’ve found that success breeds success. Build you basketball habits one at a time and over time you’ll optimize your nutrition for success on the court.
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