The biggest college basketball tournament is underway and these men who have made it to Division I train day in and day out to keep themselves in peak physical condition. Of course there are seemingly unlimited drills and practice methods, but when it comes to preparing for a game you need more than muscle memory and conditioning. You need to know how to eat/hydrate and warm up to make sure you can last the duration of the game as well as prevent career ending injuries.
This article will focus on what you should eat 48 hours up to 30 minutes before a game, how much and what to drink, and how to properly warm up to prevent injuries and sufficiently be ready to play without using unnecessary energy.
How To Fuel For A Game
Being hydrated is vital for sporting performance. As an athlete it is important to drink around a half gallon of water a day (or about two liters). This number is only the bare minimum though; with a more realistic number being around a gallon (or about four liters) depending on how long you are training for and how much you sweat that day.
While the majority of your hydration can come from water, it is also important to replenish your electrolytes. When sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium and chloride are unbalanced in the body from excessive sweating or poor diet, many negative things could happen when on the court. You will most likely experience muscle spasms and cramps that could leave you benched. Your sleep patterns will be off and more than likely you won’t be able to get good enough quality sleep to recover, meaning you could still be sore much longer than usual, leading to sub optimal performance and training. The best way to prevent an imbalance is to keep your sodium low the day before and hydrate with drinks that have added electrolytes such as Gatorade and coconut water.
Along with hydration, what you eat the day of and the day before a game is just as important. You must know the basic fundamentals of nutrition, such as how to read food labels and know the difference between complex and simple carbs as most of your foods will be high in carbohydrates.
Starting the night before, especially if you trained the day before, you will need to have a large carb heavy dinner with lean protein. This can include pasta, rice, potatoes, and chicken breast/fish. This is filling up your energy reserves known as glycogen, making sure you can run and jump as long as possible tomorrow.
In the morning of game day you want to stick to the same routine: lots of carbs and a low fat protein source. This could include bagels, toast, oatmeal, pancakes, fruit; cereal with low fat milk and a fast digesting protein shake such as Impact Whey.
Throughout the day, right up until the game, you should be snacking on fruit to again keep your electrolytes in balance to prevent cramps, as well as energy bars to keep glucose circulating in your blood up until the game, ready to be used as energy. You shouldn’t be hungry or have to eat 30 minutes before the game. You need to allow your body to finish digesting what you’ve eaten throughout the day as a full stomach will only make you feel more sluggish.
If you follow all of these steps and be smart about your nutrition you will be the best off on the court!
How To Warm Up Before A Game
Not only is a proper warm up routine important to prevent injuries from playing with cold muscles, it will also prime your body for the intense work it is about to perform, meaning you will be more than ready when that whistle blows.
✓ Get Moving
The first warm up to just get the blood pumping is a light jog around the court, nothing that will raise your heart rate a lot or cause you to sweat excessively, but enough to let your body know it’s about to work.
Skipping is a very important warm up for basketball players, as it helps prep your lower body for things such as rebounding, pivoting, and jumping quickly. This can be done on its own or added into your few minute jog. The last distance warm up is known as pointed toes, where your knees are kept straight and your toes are pointed up as you speed walk on your heels. This will loosen up your shins and give you an advantage on ankle breakers and pivoting. Again this warm up can be done on its own for a few minutes or included into the jog in intervals to save some time.
Finally you should include dynamic warm ups to keep the lower body limber. It is important to keep the distinction between static and dynamic stretching apparent, as static stretching can actually loosen up your muscles too much making you more susceptible to injury.
Instead you want to do dynamic stretches, which are normally held for about 5 seconds or you’re constantly in motion. A few dynamic stretches include high knees where as you walk across the court and lift your knees up towards your chest (and can be followed by a large step into a lunge before alternating legs). Butt kicks can be done walking, standing or jogging and are simply flexing your glutes and hamstrings trying to touch your heel to your butt.
Lastly there are defensive slides, where you would get into your defensive position (knees bent, chest up, butt out, arms up), and shuffle from side to side. After your body is warm and limber you can spend the rest of your time before the game practicing. Things such as: drills, layups, shooting free throws, three pointers, field goals as well as dribbling exercises.
Take Home Message
Whether you’re a backup on a high school team or a starter in the NBA, we all need to prepare the same way to strive towards perfection. To recap all the important steps you can’t forget to:
☐ Hydrate with at least half a gallon of water a day, but increase that number steadily as you sweat more in a given day
☐ Replenish your electrolytes to prevent spasms and debilitating cramps during the game and practice
☐ Carb-load the night before and the morning of on complex carbs to fill your energy stores and snack on simple carbs such as fruits throughout the day of the game to stay fueled
☐ Warm up with an easy jog along with skipping and pointed toes to warm up the lower body
☐ Do various dynamic stretches to loosen up and get ready to play intensely
☐ Finish your practicing and warm ups with free throws and drills to get a feel for the court and the ball