General Nutrition Guidelines for the Professional Athlete

By Tavis Piattoly, MS, RD
Sports Dietitian

Professional basketball players must maintain a well-balanced diet in order to compete at the high levels. Check out these helpful tips provided to New Orleans Hornets players. By adhering to these tips, you will be well on your way toward improving your diet and overall healthy living.

As a professional athlete, you’ll maximize your energy levels by eating a well-balanced diet. It is important to get in the habit of Eating every 3 hours to maintain a high level of energy, improve recovery, and maximize performance goals.

Carbohydrates are the major source of fuel for muscles. Athletes should consume high quality carbohydrates throughout the day to maintain optimum energy levels. High quality carbohydrates include whole grain breads (ex. Whole Wheat bread, oatmeal, and barley), cereals, rice, potatoes, beans, dried fruit and fresh fruit.

Consuming high quality lean protein throughout the day is essential for effective recovery and repair of damaged muscle tissue. High-quality leans sources of protein include meats that are grilled, baked, broiled, or boiled such as: fish, chicken, turkey, seafood, egg whites, and lean beef, such as round, sirloin, and filet.

Fat is not a good source of energy – it takes a long time to digest and break down into energy. Fat intake should be moderate throughout the day.

Drink plenty of fluids – this will help prevent dehydration, fatigue, and muscle cramps. This is extremely important before, during, and after a game.


Under-eating or not eating enough calories is not a safe and recommended method for weight loss. Eating too few calories can decrease your metabolism, strength, and performance which will affect your overall performance on the field and in the classroom.

Remember – your goal is to eat to:

1) Improve your overall quality of life
2) To optimize recovery, energy levels and performance
3) To practice good nutrition habits

Well-balanced eating is a way of life ~ it’s not something you do only as an athlete. After your playing days, what you eat will be one of the major contributors to specific diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer.