This chapter has been contributed by:

Dr Louise Burke

Head of Sports Nutrition, Australian Institute of Sport; Chair of Sports Nutrition, Australian Catholic University

Beccy Hall

APD, AccSD Australian Institute of Sport, Sports Nutrition Fellowship

There are two further aspects in which coaches can assist their players to be prepared to perform at their highest level:

  1. Nutritional strategies;
  2. Recovery strategies.

To perform, athletes need to be adequately “fuelled”, and whilst coaches are not expected to be “experts” in regards to nutrition, they should be able to give some general advice to players and also to assist them, if necessary, in seeking more detailed advice.

“Recovery” is simply the ability of an athlete to get their body ready for the next training/game following physical exertion.

Training Nutrition

The role of an athlete’s everyday diet is to promote good health and maintain the enjoyment of favourite foods and social eating opportunities, as well as to support the special needs of their sporting commitments.

Regular training increases the body’s demand for energy and a variety of nutrients that allow it to complete and adapt to the exercise tasks. Combining these with the additional requirements for growth and development during adolescence presents a challenge for the young basketball player and their family.

Good food knowledge must be matched by practical nutrition skills and careful organisation to assist the junior athlete to fit in the necessary meals and snacks around their school, sport and social commitments.

However, with a few key strategies it is possible to meet these requirements and to prime the body for optimum performance.

Carbohydrate intake should reflect daily training demands.

Carbohydrate is the preferred muscle fuel for high intensity exercise as well as an important brain fuel. It is obtained in the diet from grains and cereal-based foods, fruit, starchy vegetables and legumes.

Since basketball is a sport that incorporates many short bursts of high intensity activity around skill execution and decision making, it makes sense to have adequate carbohydrate supplies on board for each practice. The flip side is that insufficient carbohydrate supply can impair performance with signs including early fatigue, poor skill execution and a reduced ability to concentrate.

Daily carbohydrate intake should track with the demands of training – increasing on days with hard practice and decreasing on rest days or during a break. An easy way to achieve this, which also ensures that fuel intake is centered on the time it is most needed, is to incorporate extra carbohydrate containing snacks before and perhaps after the training session, while forgoing those snacks on days without training or when the session is easy or skill-based.

Hydration and fuel around practice

Good hydration habits contribute to sustained performance and concentration during training sessions. Many young people are not good at staying well hydrated over the day, either because their thirst does not fine tune their drinking behaviour or because their busy lifestyle doesn’t provide enough access to fluids.

Although there is some debate over the level of dehydration associated with an impairment of sports performance, it is usually recommended to keep fluid losses to less than 2% of body mass (e.g. 1 kg for 50 kg athlete, 1.5 kg for 75 kg player). Some studies in basketball have shown that fluid deficits of this volume can interfere with skill and endurance, as well as increase the perception of how hard an exercise task feels.

Training sessions are the time to develop good drinking habits; each player should check that they consume adequate volumes of well-chosen fluids over the day so that they arrive to the session well-hydrated, and then drink appropriately during practice. A good drinking plan should allow fluid intake to track with sweat losses over the session, neither allowing a large deficit to occur nor excessively over-hydrating. The coach should play a role in enabling and encouraging these practices (see checklist).

Water is sufficient to meet rehydration goals for easy or skill based training sessions, although carbohydrate containing drinks (e.g. sports drinks, cordial/Kool-Aid or juice) may provide high-energy consumers with another contribution to their daily Calorie/ kilojoule targets. Fuel-containing drinks or snacks consumed just before and during practice may promote endurance and concentration over long sessions of higher-intensity work, and should be factored into the daily carbohydrate targets. (see checklist).

Recovery and adaptation to training

Recovery after a hard practice calls for intake of the key nutrients for rehydration (water and electrolytes), refueling (carbohydrates), repair and adaptation (protein and vitamins/ minerals). In many cases, there is value in promoting early recovery by consuming these nutrients soon after the session (e.g. within a 30-60 min window). This may be as simple as following the session with the next meal, but may also need the preparation of a well-chosen snack.

Adolescent athletes who must travel long distances to and from training may need to plan ahead with ready-to-eat snacks or meals that can be consumed while travelling. When all members of the team are in the same situation, a recovery table can help everyone recover quickly to restore performance for the next session.