Written By: Tiffany Chag, MS, RD, CSCS; Performance Coach at HSS

Being the fastest, strongest, best player on the team requires discipline and hard work on the court and in the gym. It also means providing your body with the fuel (i.e. food) it needs to support the hard work you do.

Think about how many foul shots you practice a week. The more you do, the better you get. The same thing can be said for what we eat. Practicing good eating habits can improve your performance on the court. This means, at the end of a game when your opponent is tired, you still have enough energy to beat them to a loose ball and take it to the rim…and that could be the difference between a win and a loss.

Here are a few tips to help you fuel smart for your sport:

  1. Eat enough. When you are active your body uses more energy. Eating enough to meet those needs will give you the energy you need when you play. Plus, it can decrease your risk of injury.
  2. Carbohydrates are your primary source of energy. How much you need will depend on how hard and long you play. The harder and longer you play, the more carbohydrates you should eat. Aim to incorporate carbohydrates into every meal and snack. Some examples include rice, pasta, cereal, potatoes, and bananas.
  3. Protein helps build and repair musclesafter games and workouts. Try to eat some protein during every meal and snack. In this case, how much you eat doesn’t need to change based on how hard or long you play. Eating a piece of protein that is the size of your palm (or two) should be enough for each meal.  Some examples include lean meat, chicken, eggs, beans, yogurt, and milk.
  4. Drink up! If you play for less than 60 minutes you only need water. However, if you play for more than 60 minutes, sipping on an electrolyte beverage will be helpful. If you’re unsure whether you’re hydrated or not – check your urine color. Yes, look at your pee. It should be light yellow or clear… anything else means you’re probably dehydrated. Also, if you’re thirsty… you’re already dehydrated!
  5. Time it out: When you eat is just as important as what you eat. Aim to have a balanced meal 2-3 hours before you play. Then, have a small carbohydrate-rich snack about 30 minutes before you play. Avoid having high fat or fried foods before practice or a game as they can make you feel sluggish.
    1. Meal examples: ham and cheese sandwich, chicken burrito, PB&J
    2. Snack examples: bananas, graham crackers, pretzels

Tiffany Chag is a Performance Coach at Hospital for Special Surgery’s James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center and Tisch Sports Performance Center. She is also a registered dietitian/nutritionist and holds a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition from Teachers College, Columbia University. A lifelong athlete who played Division 1 soccer, Tiffany loves putting her body to the test and has completed several marathons and triathlons.