The body requires energy for growth, sport and other incidental exercise, as well as the healthy functioning of many body systems. When a player fails to achieve their energy budget, either because energy intake is restricted (for example, with excessive weight loss diets or fussy eating) or high volume training is undertaken without adequate energy replacement, some of these processes miss out.

This can lead to reduced growth and development, delayed menarche (the first occurrence of menstruation), increased risk of illness and injury and reduced performance gains. Planning meals and snacks around needs can help to avoid this problem.

Protein provides a source of energy in the diet, but more importantly, it provides the building blocks for new tissues for adolescent growth and development, as well as repair and adaptation to exercise. Protein is found in both animal-derived foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy) and vegetable sources (e.g. legumes, nuts, cereals, soy product), with the animal sources being considered higher quality.

Although many athletes think that high-protein diets are needed for sport, in fact, the best way to meet additional protein needs is to include a modest serving of protein in the post-training/ game meal, as well as 3-5 meals and snacks over the day. There is no need for expensive protein supplements. Excessive consumption of protein can be detrimental if it displaces other important nutrients in the player’s diet or requires excessive costs to the food bill.

Minerals also play a role in the development of new tissues as well as the regulation of body metabolism. Iron is important for the development of red blood cells and the brain, while calcium is essential for the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Foods rich in these and other minerals (see checklist) should be regularly included in meals and snacks.

Vitamins and other more recently identified chemicals can be found in a range of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and legumes) and animal sources. Dietary variety and a focus on nutrient-rich foods at each eating occasion will ensure that the player receives the health benefits of these products without the need for dietary supplements.

Indeed, since many foods are excellent sources of several key nutrients (see checklist), or can be mixed and matched with other choices at meals and snacks, good menu planning will allow players to meet all their nutrient needs, including additional requirements arising from their exercise programme.

Adolescence is a time of growing independence in many areas including social eating and food habits. Indeed, it is ironic that the player may have greater need for family support to meet their special nutritional needs for basketball within a busy lifestyle, just as they are trying to become responsible for their own choices and outcomes. It is an important time to help the young player develop the knowledge and practical skills to manage their own nutritional needs.

It is sometimes challenging to develop an interest in exploring the range of colour, texture and tastes of wholesome food choices - particularly fruit and vegetables - in children and adolescents.

Nevertheless, it is an important feature to develop in the player’s nutrition plan. Not only does it enhance the nutrient density of the diet, but it helps to develop the flexibility in eating patterns that is necessary to survive the rigour of travel that becomes part of the life of a high performance athlete.

Checklist of Food Sources of Key Nutrients

Carbohydrate Rich Foods

Protein Rich Foods

Iron Rich Foods

Calcium Rich Foods

  • Breads
  • Rice, pasta, noodles and other grain foods
  • Oats & breakfast cereals
  • Potatoes, yams and starchy vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Flavoured milk and yoghurts
  • Honey and jam
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Beef & lamb
  • Eggs
  • Milk, cheese & yoghurt
  • Legumes
  • Tofu and soy products
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Chicken
  • Legumes
  • Tofu
  • Iron fortified breakfast cereals
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yoghurt
  • Calcium fortified soy milk products
  • Fish with soft bones
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Almonds