Healthy Diet for Youth Basketball Players - Yahoo! Sports

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As a youth basketball coach for many years, I have seen young players not get the proper nutrition they need for good health and for stamina during the game. It shows on the court and after the game.

Girls basketball.
Lisa Mason

As a coach, these are things I have to look for in my players and identify signs of unhealthy diet. It is also a great opportunity for me to be a positive role model and set the right example about healthy eating. Each season, I make my players "diet cheat sheets" with ideas for good, healthy meals for them.

Here are some of the tips I give my players about a healthy basketball diet:

Balance Your Carbs: We hear a lot of negative stuff about carbohydrates these days, but carbs are used as fuel for the body. A basketball player, especially a young person still growing, needs to have carbohydrates as part of his or her healthy, balanced diet. Wheat bread is a good source of carbs, but should be eaten in moderation since it can be very heavy on the stomach, especially right before a game. Light pastas, vegetables and fruits are all great sources of healthy carbohydrates.

Stay Hydrated: You hear it all the time in sports because the importance cannot be stated enough. Always stay well hydrated. Drink water and avoid sodas and sugary drinks. I bring extra water to all of our games and practices for my players. You also want to be sure the young basketball player is drinking water regularly every day and not just filling up on it right before a game. The ACC says, "The two performance nutrition keys for basketball are minimizing carbohydrate depletion and staying adequately hydrated."

Get Your Protein: Basketball players also need healthy sources of protein. Lean proteins like turkey or boneless skinless turkey breasts are the best choices. Chicken, yogurt, tuna fish, and almonds are other good sources of protein. Low fat protein sources are best for the young athlete.

Watch the Sugar: Kids love sugar, but the serious athlete needs to cut back on his or her sugar intake. This doesn't mean you can't have candy or sweets now and then, but you want to avoid them before and after games and limit the sugar in your daily diet. This also means sodas or sugary drinks, and watch processed foods and white bread and rice. Any food bleached white probably has high sugar counts.

Keep in mind when planning your basketball diet that it's not enough just to make a healthy meal or snack right before a game. A growing young athlete needs a regular, daily, balanced diet. You need each meal to be healthy in order to perform to your maximum capacity at games and practices. After-game recovery snacks and meals are also important, so don't bring junk foods or candy snacks for after the game. Instead, consider a quality low-sugar sports drink, banana or fig bar.

Lisa is a youth basketball coach and played basketball herself before graduation. She also coaches various other youth sports, mainly with players aged 3-12.

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15 Oct, 2011

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