(English) Dehydration and fuel depletion are potential factors of reduced performance, and even if these do not occur over the course of a single game, they may accumulate over a road trip or tournament scenario where the player has not achieved full recovery from one match before the next tip-off.

Eating strategies before, during and after/ between games should try to address the potential causes of fatigue, reducing their impact or delaying their onset.

Pre-game meal

A carbohydrate-rich meal is encouraged for the pre-game menu, particularly to allow players who have lots of court time to top up muscle stores of this important fuel. It is generally recommended to consume this meal 2-4 hours before the start of the game, from a selection of foods that are familiar and known to be well tolerated.

Foods that are hard to digest or likely to cause gut distress (e.g. rich or spicy foods, foods high in fats or fibre) should be avoided. Typical choices according to the time of day are suggested in the checklist but can be altered according to the preference and experience of each player.

Some players also like to consume a light snack even closer to game time, and fluids consumed during this period can ensure that good hydration levels are achieved for the game. Scenarios which provide the opportunity for a team pre-game meal can be used to ensure that all players achieve their nutrition goals as well as to commence other aspects of match preparation.

Examples of pre-game meal options (eaten 2-4 hours prior)

  • Crumpets/crumpets with honey
  • Cereal with low fat milk
  • Pasta with light sauces
  • Fruit yoghurt with untoasted muesli
  • Baked potato or starchy vegetables with accompaniments
  • Bread rolls/sandwiches with meat and salad fillings

Fuel and fluid during the game

Actual fuel and fluid needs during a game will be individual to the player, their game patterns and court-time. The fast paced nature of the game and enclosed court environments often mean high sweat rates for active players.

However, there are usually opportunities during time-outs, breaks on the bench or time between halves/quarters to regularly replace fluid losses. As at practices, individual drink bottles should be kept courtside to provide players with ready access to fluids and an opportunity to gauge how much they have consumed.

Even when it is not necessary to consume additional carbohydrate as a muscle fuel during the game, there is emerging evidence that regular intake of carbohydrates during shorter/high intensity sports stimulates the brain to feel energised. Although research hasn’t investigated the performance benefits of this tactic in a basketball scenario, it could help to sustain running and concentration over the duration of the game. This can be achieved by the choice of sports drink or cordial/Kool-Aid as the game fluid.

Post-Game Recovery

Optimal nutritional recovery involves the same processes as described in the section on training nutrition. These strategies may become particularly important during a tournament or a road trip when several games are to be played over a day or two.

Recovery snacks or a meal should be organised so that they can be eaten soon after the game according to practical issues such as travel times to the home base or team accommodation, and facilities at the game arena. This also often provides an opportunity for team eating to promote camaraderie or game analysis.


examples of recovery snacks examples of recovery meals
  • Fruit yoghurt and cereal bars
  • Ham and cheese toasted sandwich
  • Low fat flavoured milk
  • Chicken and salad wraps
  • Pasta meal
  • Healthy pizzas with meats and vegetable toppings
  • Rice based meals – e.g. risotto
  • Mexican burritos with meats/beans and salad


Eating “on the road” - Coping with travel

Travelling to games and tournaments calls for special eating skills. The challenges include disruption to normal eating routines, limited access to familiar foods, unpractised exposure to group eating and less suitable food choices, and the loss of normal supervision around eating.

It is also important to consider food/ water safety and the risk of getting sick on the road. The principles of travel nutrition start with preparation before the trip to plan and organise a suitable meal schedule and may include bringing supplies of important foods on the trip to supplement local fare.

Achieving an eating plan that meets nutrition goals instead of haphazard intake requires input at the team level as well as individual responsibility (see checklist).

Special strategies for coaches

  • Plan for travel - try to find out what food is likely to be available, location of shops etc
  • Educate players on food safety and good hygiene practices prior to departure
  • Encourage athletes to plan snacks in advance to reduce the need to rely on roadside / airport stops
  • Encourage optimal hydration by providing players with individual travel drink bottles
  • Provide distraction and other activities to help reduce boredom eating
  • Schedule regular meal and snack breaks around flights / road trips to limit disruption to eating patterns