Correct nutrition can make or break your athletic potential. Perform at the top of your ability with a healthy body that can work hard, recover quickly, and grow stronger each day. Make the most out of the basketball season and rise above the competition with my meal plan.
If you’re looking for help off the court with food and nutrition, I offer a free one-week meal plan below as well as a five-week meal plan ebook. The best eating plan for basketball is 3 meals a day at 500-900 calories each with 1-3 snacks at 100-300 calories each. Meals and snacks should focus on healthy carbohydrates, enough protein, and fruits and vegetables.
Snack ideas, calorie levels, fueling before exercise, meal timing, and more is also described below. Get the meal plan below.
Free Meal Plan for High School Basketball Athletes
Teenage athletes can really be at a disadvantage if they don’t focus on proper nutrition. Huge benefits of energy, recovery, strength, endurance, health, growth, adaptation to exercise, and so much more will be recognized with a nutrition game plan to fuel your activity and help you play at your top potential.
It may seem like a lot of work for a teenager to plan meals and focus on what they eat, just another thing to add into their day, but it can be so easy! And it’s definitely worth it! A good eating plan will provide the fuel and nutrients to help a high school athlete train harder, recover quicker, and perform at the top of their ability.
Get started on a basketball meal plan below!
I’ve also listed common questions regarding high school basketball nutrition such as protein intake, sports drinks and water, calorie intake, best workout foods, and a free meal plan below.
Running ladders and eating more veggies will only get you so far! If you’re interested in more tips and resources for your basketball athlete, check out my Nutrition Game Plan for Teenage Basketball Players ebook.
This book will help you learn what to eat, when, and how much for the best season of basketball you’ve ever had. You’ll learn essential tips and how to get to your ideal basketball season weight. This 50+ page eBook includes meal tips, a 5-week meal plan, snack idea list, weight tips, supplement recommendations, meal schedule, and more!
I also have a free one-week sample meal plan below!
Parents Listen Up!
With a busy day at school, 2-3 hour practice everyday, games a few times per week, plus homework and other extracurricular activities, a high school athlete can be so busy. Trying to eat healthy food with this hectic schedule can be very difficult, and many high schoolers lack the skills to prepare their own meals.
Teenagers can still meet daily nutritional needs, with a little help of parents/guardians and family members, friends, and coaches. My meal plans are written with the assumption that at least one person helps with grocery shopping and food preparation in the food, such as a parent. This is a perfect time for a teenager to be involved in food preparation to learn basic skills for a healthy lifestyle longterm!
Parents, please help your athlete– Make sure healthy food is on hand! Please ensure they are getting an adequate breakfast, have access to food for lunch and snacks, and get a nutritious family dinner when possible. This can be a great time to focus on improving nutrition habits for the whole family.
How Many Calories Should a High School Basketball Player Eat?
How much should a basketball player eat?
A high school basketball athlete may need anywhere from 2,000-4,000 calories per day depending on gender, weight, height, activity level, etc. Basketball athletes tend to be tall, slim, and muscular.
In general I recommend at least 3,000 calories per day for males, and 2,400 calories per day for females for a high school basketball athlete. My meal plans are written for 3000 calories per day, but can easily be adjusted based on needs and preferences.
How to find your own calorie level:
Take your weight in kilograms (divide pounds by 2.2 to get kilograms) and multiply by 30 and then 35 and that should give you a pretty good range of calories to get you started.
3,000 calories is the estimate I choose because it is based on the age of a high school player and average size, amount of exercise, etc. 3,000 calories can be divided up during a practice or game day by eating around 800 calories at 3 meals and 200 calories at 3 snacks throughout the day.
That being said, counting calories isn’t usually necessary for teenagers (unless you have specific goals). It’s best to learn to eat mindfully by eating an appropriate amount of food and nutrients at appropriate times throughout the day.
Learn how to eat by filling up on healthy foods, listening to your hunger cues, and keeping in mind overall nutrition recommendations to fuel your workouts and help you recover.
What Should High School Basketball Players Eat During Basketball Season?
A specific, perfectly-planned meal plan isn’t always necessary for basketball athletes, an overall balanced diet of healthful foods is a better and simpler approach. Meals and snacks should be focused on carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as well as vitamins and minerals. Learn a few simple tips here for some quick examples of foods:
- Carbohydrates: Choose carbs from healthier options such as fruit, vegetables, brown rice, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, whole wheat bread/pasta/tortillas, etc. Limit intake of processed carbohydrates such as white bread, sugary cereal, and candy/treats/dessert.
- Protein: Choose poultry, fish, beans, legumes, low-fat dairy and other lean proteins.
- Fat: Choose healthier fats such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish, avocados. Limit butter and fried foods.
- Vitamins/Minerals: these micronutrients are found in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, meat and beans, and more. Eat a variety of food of all colors, shapes, and textures from each food groups for the greatest benefit.
Here are some good food examples for each meal for a high school basketball athlete:
Breakfast: Usually eaten at home, prepared by themselves or parents. Eat a regular meal focused on healthy carbs and lean protein. Examples:
- Eggs, toast, fruit, and milk
- Oatmeal with nuts and fruit
- Granola and Greek yogurt
- Green smoothie with toast or eggs
- Whole wheat pancakes/waffles with nut butter, milk
- Avocado toast and fruit
- Whole wheat muffin, slice of ham, fruit
- Whole wheat bagel, eggs, ham
Mid-Morning: Eat a light snack. Get some protein and carbs. Snacks should be brought from home and eaten during breaks between class or after school before practice. Don’t forget the water- stay hydrated during the day!
- Almonds or other nuts- small handful
- Banana, celery, or apple with peanut butter
- String cheese and an apple
- Hummus and veggies or crackers
- Pretzels and peanut butter
Lunch: Eat a regular meal. Focus on healthy carbs, lean protein, and vegetables. Lunch is best if it is prepared at home and brought to school. School lunch or eating out are also options, but may need to be supplemented with additional nutrient-rich foods.
- Sandwich with deli meat, fruit, pretzels, celery
- Chicken and veggie wrap, fruit
- Rice, lean beef, mixed veggies
- Pita with hummus and veggies
- Salad with chicken and a roll
Tips for School Lunches: Many high school athletes depend on school lunches to meet their nutritional needs. USDA school lunches requirements are designed to give the average student proper nutrition, however they don’t take into account the extra nutritional needs of a high school basketball player. High school basketball players may need to supplement school lunches with extra food from home for adequate calories, protein, and nutrition.
Pre-Workout Snack: (eaten after school 1-2 hours before practice) Eat something light with a focus on protein and carbs.
- Protein shake with fruit
- Greek yogurt with fruit and granola
- String cheese and crackers
- Trail mix
- Hummus with whole wheat crackers and veggies
- Apple with peanut butter
- Cottage cheese and fruit
- Cold cereal and milk
- Check out my post here for more ideas: The BEST Pre-Workout Snacks for Teen Athletes.
Post-workout snack: After a vigorous practice, it’s important to replenish and refuel with protein, carbohydrates, and fluid. This snack is optional if dinner is soon after practice. If dinner is a few hours away, then try to add a snack.
- Protein shake or smoothie
- Chocolate milk
- Protein bar
- Greek yogurt with fruit
- Peanut butter toast
- Crackers with hummus
- String cheese and 100% juice
- Check out my post-workout snacks post for more ideas (coming soon)
Dinner: Eat a regular meal. Always eat dinner at home, this is prepared by the parents with help from the athlete. Focus on healthy carbs, lean protein, and vegetables. Here’s some ideas:
- Fish, brown rice, broccoli
- Taco salad with lots of veggies
- Chicken, baked sweet potato, broccoli, and black beans
- Whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce, meat, and veggies
- Turkey burger and steamed mixed veggies
- Chicken and veggie pizza with a salad
The most popular foods chosen by high school athletes are meat and protein foods, as well as carbohydrate foods such as hamburgers, pizza, pasta, burritos, french fries, chicken, and eggs. The least consumed are vegetables. Vegetables are low in calories and provide essential nutrients for an athlete.
These favorite-foods aren’t off-limits, they should still be allowed, but in moderation. Help your athlete eat more vegetables by pairing them with favorite foods for a better balance at meals. Frozen, canned, fresh, and cooked vegetables are all a great choice and all have benefits. Choose 5-10 favorite veggies and be sure to always have those on hand for a quick, healthy snack.
What Foods Should High School Basketball Players Avoid?
Basketball players don’t need to go on a diet and shouldn’t eliminate foods or food groups, but certain foods should be limiting during the season and some should be avoided before practice or games.
Limit sugary treats and desserts, soda, fried foods, fast food, white breads, sugary cereal, and other foods with excessive fat, sugar, and salt that are high in calories but low in nutrients. These should be eaten sparingly.
Other things that should be avoided include:
- Excessive amounts of supplements (see below for more details)
- Excessive amounts of protein- including protein powders and protein bars (check out: Is Whey Protein Safe for Teen Athletes?)
- Excessive caffeine
Need more help for a basketball athlete’s nutrition plan?
FREE – One Week Meal Plan for A High School Basketball Athlete
This meal plan is made for 3000 calories per day with 3 meals of 800 calories and 3 snacks of 100-300 calories. These are just general suggestions, many athletes may need more or less calories depending on their size, activity level, and personal goals. The eating schedule and amount of calories per meal and amount of snacks may need to be adjusted for individual preference and daily schedule.
You’ll also see that I still included a variety of favorite foods- but with healthier spins. Basketball athletes don’t need to be on a “diet”, they just need to eat smarter with a balance of nutritious and favorite foods.
Hope you find this helpful! It can be a great starting place as you work with your teen athlete to make an individualized plan.
Here’s the snack list options that go with the meal plan:
- 1/4 cup hummus with 6 whole wheat crackers and veggies
- 12 oz protein fruit smoothie
- 1 cup Greek yogurt with granola and fruit
- 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese and fruit
- 1/2 cup pretzels and 1 T peanut butter
- PB&J sandwich
- energy bar
- 1 cup juice and 2 hard-boiled eggs
- rice cake with 1 T nut butter and banana
- string cheese and 4 oz applesauce
- 1/4 cup trail mix
- 1/4 cup almonds and 1 apple
- 1 banana or apple with 1 T peanut butter
- string cheese and 8 whole wheat crackers
- 1.5 cups cereal and 1 cup milk
- 12 oz chocolate milk
- string cheese and an apple
If you like this one-week meal plan, check out my Nutrition Game Plan for Teen Basketball Athletes eBook for a 5-week meal plan with tons of tips and tricks to help you know what to eat, how much, and when for your best and healthiest season of basketball yet!
How Much Water Should a Basketball Player Drink?
There are many options for hydration for athletes- water, gatorade, sports drinks, chocolate milk, juice, etc. Water is the best choice to stay hydrated throughout the day and for most training sessions and sporting events.
There are many different recommendations for water intake during exercise. In general, you’ll want at least 50 ounces of water per day, and then more with exercise and sweat. Just do your best to stay hydrated and drink about 4-8 oz water every 5-10 minutes of vigorous exercise. Be sure to rehydrate after exercise as well.
Sports drinks may occasionally be appropriate during exercise, depending on the length and intensity of your workout. If your practice is longer than 1 hour and is intense enough, you should consider drinking something with a moderate amount of carbohydrates to maintain your energy levels (Gatorade, Powerade, Propel, coconut water etc.). This will keep you at your top performance throughout your training session.
I wrote a post about when sports drinks are appropriate for football players, but the principles apply to all athletes. Check it out here: Should Football Players Drink Gatorade?
What Supplements Do Basketball Players Take?
NBA players often supplement with whey protein, creatinine, BCAAs, glutamine, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, and more based on individual preference, injury, overall health, etc. While some of these may be safe for NBA players, they are not recommended for teen athletes, and some may even be harmful! An expensive “pill” is not likely going to drastically increase your performance.
Supplements are not usually necessary for high schoolers or athletes, unless a deficiency is likely. A daily multi-vitamin may be beneficial to help with growth and development for a high school athlete. Choose food over supplements, when possible. Supplements can never make up for a bad diet!!
Protein powders are especially popular among athletes, but only a few kinds may be safe and helpful for teenagers. Check out my favorite types here: Is Whey Protein Safe for Teen Athletes?
What should you eat the day before a basketball game? The right meal before competition could help you perform at your best and have a little extra energy left in the tank when you need it. Fill up on carbohydrates the night before a basketball game, such as pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, fruits, and vegetables, etc. to help you build up your energy stores before a game. Choose foods your stomach can handle and avoid spicy foods, fried foods, and sugary foods. Also check out: The BEST Pre-Workout Snacks for Teen Athletes.
What should I eat after playing basketball? A recovery snack should replenish carbohydrate, protein, and fluid. Choose something that incorporates all 3. That’s why many people love chocolate milk as a recovery beverage. Other good choices are a sandwich, protein smoothie, cottage cheese and fruit, energy bar, apples and peanut butter, etc. Eat what is easy on your stomach and don’t forget the fluid!
- High school basketball athletes need a balanced diet with regular meals throughout the day focused on healthy carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.
- Pre-workout snacks and meals should focus on a lot of carbohydrate and fluid with a moderate amount of protein.
- Post-workout snacks and meals should focus on refueling and replenishing carbohydrates, protein, and fluid.
- Correct nutrition can increase your strength, endurance, power, recovery, and more.
Check out some of my other posts:
- Is Whey Protein Safe For Teenage Athletes?
- How Much Should a 16-year-old Teen Eat?
- The Best Pre-Workout Snacks for Teen Athletes
- The Best Fruit for Teen Athletes
- Nutrition Game Plan for Teenage Basketball Athletes
Eat. Fight. Win!
Katherine Harmer, RDN
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