Here are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to eating before lacing up and hitting the court.
Foods to Eat
Bananas are a great light snack, high in carbohydrates and easy to digest. Not to mention your body will thank you for all that delicious potassium! A body low in potassium is prone to muscle spasms, among other things, and suffering a charlie horse mid-stride down the court is never a fun experience.
If bananas aren’t your thing, this combo of potassium and carbs can be found in other fruits and veggies, but avoid fruits with a skin, like apples, because of high fiber.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
Bread is another excellent source of carbohydrates. White bread is lower in fiber and breaks down faster so it is recommended over other types of bread. Depending on how close to game time it is, you can opt instead for half a sandwich.
But use a low-sugar jam and take it easy on the peanut butter, as protein can take a while to digest.
Starting to see a trend? Carbs, carbs, carbs! Carbohydrates fuel muscles and are easy to digest. Popcorn makes for great light snacking and has the addition of salt.
Your body loses salt and water when you sweat profusely. This can lead to sodium depletion and dehydration. Salt also helps your body absorb water faster, so you’ll be prepared for a fierce, drawn-out competition.
Foods to Avoid
McDonald’s Big Mac meal
Where do I even start with this one? Fries, double-decked beef burger with cheese, pop: all this means an incredibly fatty meal filled with proteins and sugar.
Your body takes a lot of energy to break down fats and proteins, and fatty foods sit in your stomach for a long time. Instead of lightning quick reflexes, you’ll be dragging your feet and wishing the basketball was a pillow.
Sugary drinks (and other sugar high substances such as candy) cause your blood sugar to sky rocket and then drop, draining your energy and leaving you burnt like unwatched toast.
Bran Cereal with Milk
Fiber and dairy foods, like other foods in this avoid list, take a while to break down. They remain in digestion longer and can cause distressing gastro-intestinal problems such as cramping, nausea, and diarrhea.
What? Broccoli? Aren’t fresh veggies a great source of carbohydrates?
Yes, this is true, but broccoli is also a prime producer of intestinal gas. Other foods like this include beans, cabbage, onions, and brussel sprouts. Burping, bloating, and flatulence are common symptoms of intestinal gas, so unless you want your butt calling the shots, skip the kale!
And there you have it! In general, food should be eaten at least an hour before being active. The less time between eating and playing, the less should be eaten. Any sooner and the focus should instead be on liquids.
That said, some people who eat within the hour are perfectly fine, even experiencing performance enhancements!. So experiment to find out what is best for you.
It goes without saying these food recommendations are for the players. If you’re going to watch from the sidelines, then by all means, eat what you like!