Former NBA point guard Darrell Armstrong was known to drink six cups of coffee before every game. Another NBA point guard, Rod Strickland, was known for eating hot dogs before games–and sometimes at halftime as well. These odd diets worked for them, but what should you be eating and drinking before you hit the hardwood?
It’s understandable if you don’t want to gorge yourself before a game because it makes you feel slow and lethargic, but don’t skip eating before playing altogether. Feed your body before asking it to perform. It’ll help boost your stamina.
As with any fast-paced athletic endeavor, take in plenty of fluids in order to avoid dehydration, which can lead to cramping and fatigue. Water has no negative properties. Gatorade, the most popular sports drink, has sugar in it but it also helps replace electrolytes, which keep your muscles and nerves working properly. And as ill-advised as it might sound, Armstrong’s coffee habit might not have been such a bad idea. Some athletes swear the caffeine in coffee makes the rigors of their sports seem a bit more effortless.
Eat foods high in complex carbohydrates, which keep your blood sugar at an even level and promote a feeling of fullness so you don’t get hungry during the game. Some foods rich in complex carbs are leafy greens, all forms of whole grain–oatmeal, for instance–and berries. Rice is another good option and is more filling than fruits and vegetables.
Starchy foods such as potatoes are recommended. The starch digests easily and keeps blood sugar levels high, which is important in vigorous competition. Foods with protein, such as nuts and chicken breast, stimulate insulin and help energize your brain.
Avoid eating foods high in fat. Fatty foods take longer than lean foods for your body to digest and convert them into energy. By the time you’re getting any fuel from your pre-game meal, the game might be over. Also avoid high-fiber foods such as bran, which can lead to cramping and the need for unexpected bathroom breaks. Also avoid salty foods, which will cause you to retain water and feel bloated.