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Basketball Nutrition: Use of Carbs, Proteins & Fats

     Welcome to our Hoop Food Series! We have partnered with Briana Butler, registered dietitian, nutritionist, former WNBA player and co-owner of Power Portions. We put together an in-depth mega-blog regarding all things nutrition dedicated to the basketball community. If you are looking for a quick hitter of our nutrition philosophy when it comes to the round ball, check out our podcast HERE. Have a bit of extra time, carry on we are glad to have you along for the discussion!

Today we will be focusing specifically on macronutrients, and whew, it is loaded with information! So, grab a coffee, kick your feet up and scroll on!

Hoops & Carbohydrates

     Carbohydrates, oh how a hooper needs thee! Y’all, seriously as a hooper, you should be loving on carbs. They are sooo essential whether you are a post player going rim-to-rim, a floor general pg or a 3-pt line extended shooting guard, a combo guard, or stuck running 17s because someone missed a free-throw. Oh yea and even if you have special body goals – you need carbs! Here is the tea on why.

The Basketball Doctors Nutrition: Carbohydrates

Number One Energy Source

    Between what is already stored in your body (glycogen) and what comes through your diet, your body will use both to power through your toughest workouts & games. Without incorporating them pre- and during training/games, you can’t meet your ATP (adenosine triphosphate) needs. In other words, no carbs = no power in your post up, no power in your attempt to grab a board, no legs for your jump shot… NADA.

On-Court Focus

    Your brain uses glucose as its number one fuel source. Glucose is a building block of many carbohydrates that we eat. So essentially, for a hooper, the right amount of carbs can help you focus – on the scouting report, on the multiple play variations, on the fact that you have zero timeouts left in an OT game. So yea, it’s pretty important lol.

Post-Game Recovery

    When a game is over you have to replace what is lost. We have many basketball players who mention that they want to get stronger. However, they aren’t sparring their muscles by incorporating enough food, let alone carbohydrates, into their diets. If you want to build, you MUST re-fuel and replace!

Fueling For Off-Season Training

    Carbohydrate intake can be manipulated and adjusted according to the training type. So, if you are looking to lean out or really power up – there is absolutely no need to be afraid of carbs to do so. In fact, precise carb intake and availability may pair very well with power training by providing our bodies with just enough energy to do one more rep, or add on that extra weight. Furthermore, research suggests the intake of carbs before short duration high-intensity exercise (I.e your quick power lifts) can improve performance.

Hoops & Protein

In continuation of our series let’s dive into PROTEIN a bit! Sometimes, protein can slip through the cracks due to hyper-focus on carbohydrates and understandably so. However, protein can hold its own in regard to the benefits it can bring you. Here is how it can elevate your game

The Basketball Doctors Nutrition: Protein

Gain Muscle

    Want to get stronger in the paint? Pair resistance exercise (especially in the offseason) with protein. The intake of amino acids (especially leucine) via dietary protein can help our bodies to take advantage of muscle changes brought on by training and ignite the synthesis of muscle.

Repair Muscle & Recover

    Got a back-to-back? Or had a tough game/practice? Protein can help your body to reduce the amount of muscle that is broken down and repair muscle that may have been damaged during training or a game.

Extra Source of Energy

    Looking for a tiny bit of extra energy? Basketball, though mainly anaerobic in nature, has some secondary reliance on aerobic energy systems meaning protein may have the opportunity to provide a bit of energy while you are playing/practicing! But, carbohydrate still remains the unanimous favorite in the energy category.

Improve Court Vision

     Need court vision assistance? Some proteins (eggs, salmon, and other fish) contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Both of which play a key factor in overall eye health and vision.

Limit Muscle Loss After Injury/Surgery

    Injured and going to be immobile for a bit? Protein paired with early rehab may help to reduce your risk of sarcopenia or muscle loss due to lack of movement.

     Typically for basketball players, it is recommended to consume anywhere between 1.4-1.7 grams/kg of protein per day. Additionally, protein is best utilized by the body when the highest quality protein is used (complete proteins containing all 9 essential amino acids – in particular, leucine) and when it is spread across the day. Examples of high-quality proteins include eggs, fish, chicken, beef, pork, milk, yogurt, whey protein, casein protein, and soy – with the animal products ranking highest. 

     Possibly the most consistent question we hear is: how quickly should I get protein in after a game or practice? The answer is: the timing for the ingestion of protein post-workout is still up for debate. However, we are clear that the longer you wait (especially past 24hrs) to properly refuel with protein, the less opportunity for sufficient muscle repair and anabolic benefits. 

     If you are looking for more information about the timing of meals and particular components – check out our basketball fueling decision-maker for FREE (click here)

Hoops & Fats

     If you are still reading, this is our last macronutrient of the series, so let’s get down to the fat of the matter! Fat can sometimes feel like a third wheel, as most of us athletes tend to focus our attention on what can give us immediate energy or make us stronger. However, fat can really be the difference maker between you being good and you being GREAT. Let’s explore how fat fits into the performance picture of a hooper!

Reach Caloric Goals

     It’s no secret that hoopers have a HARD time reaching calorie goals – and there is no shortage of people telling us that we needed to put weight on. But, instead of always reaching for the protein powder, you can incorporate healthy fats. Fats pack a whopping 9 calories/gram, 5 calories/gram more than protein and carb. In other words, your 2 oz snack pack of trail mix is likely upward to 300 calories. Due to its heavy load, adding healthy fats to your meals and snacks to beef up the calorie content can help you reach your daily needs.

Possible Assist w/ Post-Concussion Recovery

    Get knocked out by a hard screen? Some research suggests the incorporation of EPA and DPA or omega 3s have the potential to reduce brain injury side effects and their duration, as well as, reduction of concussive damage.

Helps Fight Inflammation

    Just play on a tough court or dealing with stiffness due to previous injuries, or just old and ready to retire lol? Healthy fats have the potential to reduce inflammation, fighting off muscle stiffness, and soreness in the body.  Regularly incorporating foods such as avocados, fish, plant oils, nuts, and seeds can keep your body feeling good!

Recovery Following Injury

Healthy fat and leucine can partner up and help to reduce muscle loss and damage after injury. So it’s not a bad idea to enjoy a nice piece of fish after a gauntlet of a game – you know the ones where the refs swallow their whistles lol.

     You may be asking yourself, “well how much fat do I need?”. It depends on you and your caloric needs, but a common rule of thumb is that fat calories should make up anywhere between 20-35% of your total calories for the day. This is the proper level to ensure there are no deficiencies that may manifest due to insufficient fueling… athlete, or not. Further, there have been no performance benefits found across any sport when dietary fat falls below 20% of total calories.

Now What?!

Well, obviously everyone’s body is different. Even with all of these recommendations and pointers, you will still need to find out what your personal needs are. We recommend you contact Bri at Power Portions to help get you there! Looking to get a bit more in-depth on your personal nutrition, book a package now and let us help you to level up! (Learn more about what we offer HERE.) 

Are you a player looking to power up during the quarantine? Or a team or coach looking to provide physical therapy, strength and conditioning, and nutrition programming to your athletes? Contact Us for details about our various and upcoming programs!


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Barrett, Erin Cernkovich, et al. “ω-3 Fatty Acid Supplementation as a Potential Therapeutic Aid for the Recovery from Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion1,2.” Advances in Nutrition, vol. 5, no. 3, 2014, pp. 268–277., doi:10.3945/an.113.005280.

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Impey, Samuel G., et al. “Fuel for the Work Required: A Theoretical Framework for Carbohydrate Periodization and the Glycogen Threshold Hypothesis.” Sports Medicine, vol. 48, no. 5, 2018, pp. 1031–1048., doi:10.1007/s40279-018-0867-7.

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Karpinski, Christine, and Christine Rosenbloom. Sports Nutrition: a Handbook for Professionals. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2017.

Phillips, Stuart M. “Protein Consumption and Resistance Exercise: Maximizing Anabolic Potential.” Gatorade Sports Science Institute, Jan. 2013,

    Briana Butler is a registered dietitian nutritionist, former WNBA player and co-owner of Power Portions. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Performance from the University of Southern California and a masters’ degree in Clinical Nutrition from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Briana has worked with thousands of collegiate athletes and professional athletes in nearly all major sport leagues, under world-renowned brands such as Southern Methodist University, EXOS, Gatorade Sports Science Institute – NBA G league, and the Dallas Cowboys.

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