How Many Calories Should A Basketball Player Eat


How many calories should a basketball player eat? The actual number varies depending on several factors – but the first step to calculating this number is learning how many calories you already consume. The amount of food that the body needs changes based on gender, age, weight, height, and level of physical activity.

Athletes and spectators alike are always very curious about the caloric intake of athletes. Questions like, “How many calories should a basketball player eat?” are common questions asked by sports fans all over the world.

Basketball Nutrition

Basketball is an explosive sport with very specific energy needs. Basketball players have very specific demands on their body. While running for most of the game, starters need to preform many short, explosive movements, over the course of a game. The average basketball player runs between 2-3 miles per game, with many starters sometimes reaching in-excess of 6 miles per game. This is in addition to jumping, passing and shooting. Due to their constant movement as well as short explosive bursts, basketball can be considered both anaerobic and aerobic.

Understanding the difference between these energy systems and how to properly fuel your body can make the difference between being an average player and an all-state player.  Many NBA players credit their nutrition and healthy eating to be the difference that sets them apart from average players.

Nutrition For Basketball

The average female basketball player who is a starter needs approximately 3,500 calories a day to maintain energy levels and muscle mass, the average male needs approximately 4,500 calories. The primary fuel for basketball is carbohydrates. In order to compete optimally a basketball player requires 55% to 65% percent of their daily caloric intake to come from carbohydrates, 15-25% from protein and 15%-20% percent from fat. In other words, your diet should be nearly 2/3rds carbohydrates and 1/3rdprotein & fats, with an emphasis on healthy fats. Not all carbohydrates are created equal though, a whole wheat bagel is a better option than a doughnut. Pasta and sweat potatoes should be chosen over fried foods like french fries or breading on fried chicken.

Lactic acid build up and cramping is also a big concern for many basketball players. With proper nutrition and supplementation cramps and muscle fatigue due to lactic acid can be greatly reduced or eliminated all together. Our certified staff has under gone some of the most rigorous training available, including the USADA drug testing program. This gives our clients the peace of mind that our programs and supplement recommendations will never interfere with high school, NCAA or professional regulations.

Proper hydration is crucial for athletic performance. Dehydration can cause over-heating, reduced reaction time, cramps, muscle tears, decreased strength and endurance. Hydration isn’t just for practice and games, staying hydrated all day is very important.

How Many Calories Does a High School Basketball Player Need?

Making sure your teen athlete is eating the appropriate amount of calories and nutrients each day is a big job. It’s hard to know exactly how much a teenager will eat in a day, let alone an active teen athlete. 

High school basketball players need around 2,400 calories per day for females and 3,000 calories per day for males, depending on several factors like gender, height, weight, and activity level.

Help your teenage basketball player perform at the best of their ability and remain healthy. Get calorie recommendations, daily food group amounts, healthy tips, and more below for feeding your basketball star. 

How Many Calories Should a Teenage Basketball Player Eat? 

Some teenagers can eat! Especially teenage athletes. How do you keep those kids fed? Teenage basketball athletes need about 3000 calories per day and sometimes as much as 4000 calories per day. Teenage athletes are going through a big stage of growth, plus they are exercising many hours per week. That means they need a lot of energy and nutrients! Make sure they are eating the right stuff to fuel their body for top athletic performance and growth benefits for success.

When it comes to eating, diet and exercise go hand in hand in order to have top health and performance of high school athletes. To help you have an idea for how much food a teenage basketball athlete should be eating, this post discusses calorie recommendations and nutrient requirements.

What Factors Increase Calorie Recommendations for Teenage Basketball Players: 

Growing teenagers going through puberty need extra calories and have additional nutritional needs.

Athletes need extra calories and have additional nutritional needs.

So teenage athletes are like the double bonus- they have major additional nutritional needs.

Your body requires more calories during the teenage years than at any other time in life. High school basketball players are expending more energy plus they are growing and developing into adults. They need the appropriate calories to fuel their bodies for basketball and growth. The extra calories are needed to help them grow taller and bigger and develop more muscle mass.

Caloric and nutrient needs increase with height, weight, BMI, more exercise, and other factors. Basketball players also may have more muscle mass than typical teenagers, meaning they burn more calories at rest and require more calories to maintain muscle mass.

The amount of food and calories teenage basketball players can eat also depends on age, gender, and skill level of the basketball player (how vigorously they move during basketball). Because basketball is an intense sport, high school basketball players need more calories and nutrients than the average teenager during basketball season.

How Many Calories Should A Teenage Basketball Player Eat?

The average teen male requires around 2,800 calories per day while females require 2,000 calories per day. With participation in higher intensity sports, such as basketball, teen athletes need more nutrients than the average teenager. The daily calorie recommendation for teen basketball players is anywhere from 3,000-4,000 calories per day for males and 2,000-3,000 calories per day for females.

At this stage of teenage puberty years, nutrient needs are increased to support growth and development and hormonal changes. Then a teenage basketball athlete needs an additional increase in calories to also fuel physical activity appropriately.

In general, I would recommend starting with at least 3000 calories per day for a teenage male high school basketball athlete, and 2400 for females. My meal plans are written at 2,400 calories per day for females and 3000 calories per day for males, but amounts can easily be adjusted based on needs. 

Calorie needs are just an estimate, not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. This is based on age, average size, and amount of exercise per day for a basketball athlete (about 2-3 hours of basketball practice). Individual requirements can be calculated and are based on gender, height, weight, body composition, activity level, and more.

A Nutritional Guide for Basketball Players

Granola bars can be a great mid-day snack.

Optimum performance on the basketball court requires sound nutritional habits, as being adequately fueled directly affects your stamina and focus.

You can get your daily requirement of nutrients and calories through everyday food. It is rare to need the use of supplements, with the exception being weight-gain shakes for those of you who have trouble consuming adequate calories to provide for muscle gain. You should most certainly steer clear of performance-enhancing supplements, such as creatine and ephedrine, because of the possible side effects.

Do not underestimate the role nutrition plays in acquiring maximum physical development. What you eat on a daily basis helps to determine body fat levels, as well as how much energy you will have for intense workouts and practices. Whether you are trying to gain muscle, reduce body fat, or maintain your current stature, it is very important to follow these basic dietary recommendations:

  • A balanced diet consists of approximately 60 percent carbohydrates, 20 percent fat and 20 percent protein.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc.).
  • Limit the intake of fat, sugar, and sodium.
  • Drink plenty of water. Many nutritionists recommend a minimum of 64 ounces of water per day.
  • Eat 5-7 small meals throughout the day. The size of the meal depends on the actual goal (weight loss vs. weight gain), as well as level of activity (two-a-days versus regular practice, tournaments versus regular games, etc.).

Weight Gain the Healthy Way

Most basketball players are tall and slender, and are looking to add muscular bodyweight. In order to gain weight, you must consume more calories than you expend on a daily basis. This means if you are looking to put on weight, you must eat, eat, and eat! Now for the select few looking to lose weight (i.e. reduce body fat), they must do the opposite — consume fewer calories than they expend. This is done by controlling their portion sizes.

Below is just a very basic and general sample menu one can follow to get an idea of how much food he or she needs to consume on a daily basis to gain weight. A reasonable goal is to try and gain one pound per week for an 8-10 week stretch:

Example Menu No. 1

  • Breakfast: Orange juice, four pancakes w/syrup, and four scrambled eggs.
  • Snack: one cup of low fat yogurt, granola bar, and a banana.
  • Lunch: two deli sandwiches on whole wheat bread, an apple, and a glass of milk.
  • Snack: two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a glass of milk.
  • Dinner: Steak, potatoes, steamed vegetables, and a roll.
  • Snack: two sticks of string cheese and crackers

Example Menu No. 2

  • Breakfast: Granola with dried fruit and milk.
  • Snack: two cups of instant oatmeal.
  • Lunch: four slices of cheese pizza and a salad.
  • Snack: Trail mix: peanuts, raisins, and dried fruit.
  • Dinner: Pasta with meat sauce, garlic bread, a vegetable, and milk.
  • Snack: Weight Gain Super Shake (see below)

Weight Gain Super Shake

  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup of orange juice
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 cup of low fat strawberry yogurt
  • 3 scoops of protein powder

5 Nutrition Habits of Explosive Basketball Players

Basketball players: One of the major factors that determine whether you’ll become a good player or a great one is your diet.

The proof is in the physiques and performance of today’s top NBA stars. These athletes have muscular builds with very low body fat percentages—body structures that allow them to be explosive on the court.

It’s difficult to build muscle and stay under 10% body fat. It’s actually impossible unless you have both a solid diet and weightlifting plan.

From my experience, I have noticed a trend in the way these athletes eat. My athletes, who develop amazing physiques, all share the following five superior dietary habits.

They eat protein at every meal

Protein is the most important macronutrient you can eat when trying to achieve a lean physique. It builds muscle while increasing your metabolism so you can continually burn fat. You are not eating a real meal if your plate doesn’t have at least 20 grams of protein.

  • Aim to eat 0.75 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.
  • The majority of your intake should be from real protein sources (e.g., chicken, fish, grass-fed beef, eggs, turkey, quinoa, Greek yogurt and mixed nuts).
  • Within 30 minutes after a workout, drink a protein shake or chocolate milk to quickly provide a flow of amino acids to your muscles.

They tailor carbohydrate intake to daily workout demands

Every day you should consume a high level of protein and healthy fats. But your carbohydrate intake should change with your day’s activity.

Think about your body as a Ferrari. It requires a lot of fuel to drive a Ferrari around all day. But if the Ferrari sits in the garage, it won’t need fuel.

Carbohydrates provide energy (e.g., fuel) for your body. So if you have a scheduled weight training, sprints or practice, you’ll need a lot of carbohydrates. But on light or off-days, you require fewer carbs. You won’t use the extra fuel and it may be stored as fat.

  • Stay away from simple carbohydrates throughout the day (e.g., candy, sugary drinks and white bread). Stick to complex carbohydrates (e.g., oatmeal, sweet potatoes, fruits, vegetables and legumes)
  • 45 to 90 minutes prior to a demanding workout, consume a small amount of complex, slow digesting carbohydrates.
  • After hard workouts consume at least a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. Generally this will be around 40 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein.
  • Sway toward simple, fast digesting carbs immediately after workouts to spike insulin and increase anabolism.
  • After light workouts, consume a 1:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein.

They don’t rely on supplements

To get lean, you need to eat real, nutrient-dense foods. The base of your diet should never be supplements. That is a costly mistake. If your diet is broken, no amount of supplementation will fix it.

  • Use protein powder only in your post-workout shakes.
  • In my opinion, three essential supplements belong in your kitchen: fish oil, vitamin D and protein powder.
  • You may take a multivitamin to ensure you don’t have any vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

They eat breakfast every day

Lean athletes eat breakfast every day. Numerous studies show that eating a high protein breakfast helps maintain a lower body fat percentage.

When you wake up, your body is in a fasted state and your muscles need nutrients. Going long periods of time without eating puts your body in fat storage mode. Explosive athletes cannot afford to strip muscle and gain fat.

  • Eat at least 20 grams of protein for breakfast.
  • Stay away from sugary cereals.
  • Consume a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fat.
  • Hydrate well during breakfast.

An example of a great breakfast

  • Egg omelet with turkey, cheese, onions and bell peppers
  • One cup of Greek yogurt with blueberries
  • One slice of bread with almond butter
  • Two glasses of water or green tea

They develop food preparation strategies

None of the above information will work unless you develop food preparation strategies.

People turn to fast food because they don’t have time to prepare high-quality meals throughout the day. Here are a couple of great food prep strategies:

  • Use the 3/1 split. Many of my athletes enjoy this because of its simplicity. For every three hours you spend working out in the gym, you must spend one hour doing kitchen food prep. It’s not optional. The one hour spent in the kitchen should be thought of as a workout. You can prepare enough meals to last you for the next three days. Pair together full meals in individual containers so you can always grab a healthy meal on the go.
  • Pack plastic bags full of almonds or trail mix for snacks.
  • If you have trouble waking up early enough to cook breakfast, cook hard-boiled eggs for an instant high protein breakfast. Separate servings of oats into plastic bags so you have them ready to go.
  • Go grocery shopping every three days.

3 Common Nutrition Questions for Basketball Players

In order to maximize potential on the court, it is imperative for basketball players to develop healthy eating habits. What a player eats determines their body fat levels as well as how much energy they have for intense workouts, practices and games.

Dave Stagnita, the brilliant strength and conditioning coach at the Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas, believes nutrition accounts for upwards of 80 percent of a player’s training results. That means if you really want to maximize your offseason workout gains, you need to eat well!

Any food can be incorporated in moderation. However, to maximize performance, you need to reduce the intake of refined sugars (soda, candy, etc.) and “man made” fats (chips, fried foods, etc.). You need to eat fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein (egg whites, chicken, fish, steak, etc.) as well as foods like oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, almonds, avocados, and beans.

Here are three common questions basketball players have about their nutrition:

How Do I Gain Weight?

Most youth and high school basketball players are tall and slender, and are looking to add muscular body weight. In order to gain weight, you must consume more calories than you expend on a daily basis. This means players looking to put on weight must eat, eat, and eat! Most players think they eat a lot, but in reality they don’t. In order to gain muscle, you need to be on a progressive, age appropriate strength program as well.

To determine a very rough estimate as to how many calories per day you should consume, multiply your current body weight by 25. For example, a 150 lb. basketball player trying to gain muscular body weight requires around 3,750 calories a day (150 X 25 = 3750). Depending on individual metabolism, as well as daily energy expenditure through physical activity, this number may need to be slightly adjusted. Your goal should be to gain ½ to 1lb. of body weight per week for 10-12 straight weeks. If you aren’t gaining weight with what you are currently eating… eat more!

Should I Drink Gatorade or Water?

You can incorporate both, although I believe you should drink water 90% of the time. Drinking Gatorade during and after workouts and games is fine to help replenish electrolytes, etc. I think the new G1 — G2 — G3 concept is on the money, but I don’t know how many youth and high school players are actually doing it. If I was filthy rich, or if I was sponsored by Gatorade, I would use the G Series for my own workouts.

Bottom line is this: it is important to be well-hydrated, especially during intense workouts and games. Your performance on the court can decrease dramatically when your body is low on water. You should aim to drink water all day long; don’t wait until you are thirsty.

What Should I Eat Before or After a Workout or Game?

There is no “right” answer, everyone will be slightly different. The most important part is that you do eat something light before you workout and play. You don’t want a full stomach to weigh you down. Aim to eat 2-4 hours before your workout or game; this gives your body plenty of time to digest. The closer it gets to ‘go’ time, the smaller the meal. Make sure the meal includes good carbohydrate choices (for energy) but also has adequate protein (to help ward off hunger).

Once your workout or game is over, consume carbohydrate rich foods and beverages as well as lean sources of protein, as soon as possible. This will replenish your muscle’s energy stores.

If you are playing multiple games in one day (AAU tournament), then make sure you eat a hearty breakfast, light snacks in between games and a substantial dinner once your games are over.

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