What to eat before a workout or a game

Nutrition plays a major influence on our lives. In fact, if you think about it, it is the only fuel that we have! Through food, we obtain the amount of energy needed to perform our training, shooting, running, dunking, defensing, etc. The foods chosen throughout our day may impact our body composition and overall health, but the ones chosen before and after every workout are extremely important to improve our training skills (ensuring a good performance), to avoid fatigue, to promote recovery, and to minimize the occurrence of injuries.

Pre-training meals are particularly important, as they provide energy for subsequent exercise. This meal prepares your body to support training. Depending on your lifestyle (such as your schedule), on the meal and on your goals, there are a lot of approaches that you can follow before training.
Ideally, you should make a complete meal about 3 hours before your workout. This should contain, essentially, complex carbohydrates (e.g. brown bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, oats), which are absorbed slowly, and lean protein (such as milk, cheese, chicken, turkey). Some examples include:

Breakfast or afternoon

  • Milk + Brown bread with fresh cheese and strawberry jam + Fruit
  • Yogurt with oats, nuts, fruit and honey
  • Porridge with fruit, peanut butter and coconut

Lunch

  • Soup
  • Plate containing carbohydrate sources (e.g. rice or pasta or potatoes or couscous or quinoa), protein sources (e.g. eggs or lean meat or fish or soy or tofu or leguminous plants) and a lot of vegetables (consisting of ½ of the plate)
  • Fruit for desert

If you only have the opportunity to eat 1 to 2 hours before training, you should have a light meal, in order to avoid delayed digestion and gastrointestinal discomfort. Some options may include: white bread, jam, fruit, skimmed yogurt, cereals (corn flakes e.g.), rice or corn crackers, natural juice or cereal bars. As so, you should stay away from less digestible foods, like milk, legumes and leafy vegetables. Don’t forget to limit the amounts of fiber and fats ingested, since these nutrients delay the emptying of the stomach. The portions ingested must also be controlled, so you don’t feel full or bloated when the training session starts.

If you have a busy schedule and you feel like you can’t follow these instructions properly, a banana and toasts with jam are good options to insert in the 60 to 30 minutes before your workout. In this case, give preference to foods rich in carbohydrates of high to moderate glycaemic index, as they are absorbed faster.

Besides food, water mustn’t also be forgotten, as it is essential to our organism. Aim to start your workout in a well hydrated state. A good way of understanding if you are consuming enough water is by keeping an eye on your urine color. If it looks slightly yellow, you’re probably drinking enough water; however, if it presents itself in a dark yellow tone, you should drink more. Be aware that some foods (e.g. beetroot, asparagus) and drugs can alter urine color.

Next, let’s check what one of the best players in the NBA are eating during the season, to achieve great results when paying basketball:

1. Lebron James

During a pod cast at The Tim Ferriss Show, Lebron, tells us what he is eating on game days:

  • Breakfast: egg white omelet with smoked salmon, gluten-free pancakes with berries
  • Lunch: whole wheat pasta, salmon and vegetables
  • Pre-game: peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Halftime: sliced apples with almond butter
  • Post-game: protein shake (plant-based protein powder, almond milk, fruit)
  • Dinner: chicken parmesan with a rocket salad and a “beautiful glass” of cabernet

Also, main principles: “What we haven’t had in a long time— is artificial drinks, artificial sugars, and fried foods. We kinda stay away from the fried foods, at least during the season…I have artificial drinks from time to time in the offseason. But during the season, I pretty much don’t have any fried foods, and I don’t have anything that’s artificial. We want to keep it as—natural sugars and foods as much as possible. Just try to be clean as possible throughout the season when I’m burning so much and trying to get the recovery back”. 

2. James Harden

“Nutrition means everything. I know you have to make sure you’re putting the right things in your body so your career can last as long as possible.”

Pre-game: James sticks with pasta and a source of protein, like grilled chicken, to keep him energized through the final buzzer.

Post-game: is fish. Seabass and halibut are two of his favorites, served with rice and mixed vegetables as a meal. Omega-3 fatty acids in options like salmon can help recover from his time on the court. The steak is an option, and rarely some mac and cheese just on special occasion to celebrate a big win.

“Fish is pretty light and gives me a lot of energy,” says Harden. “Eating bad and not getting the proper rest takes a toll on my body, so I really try to focus on eating healthy.”

​Breakfast: Forget the cereal. Harden always keeps his fridge stocked with a variety of breakfast foods: eggs, turkey bacon, toast, potatoes. “For the most part it’s pretty simple,” he says. “On occasion I like pancakes and waffles too.” Harden also likes yogurt as a snack.

Fruit: Harden’s fridge is full of fresh fruits like pineapple, watermelon, strawberries, apples and oranges.

“The one thing I can make is smoothies. You just throw it in the blender,” says Harden. “Sometimes I go healthy with the greens like kale and the other nasty stuff, but sometimes I just go with the fruit. It depends on the way I feel that day.”

Hydration: Harden holds a stake in BODYARMOR, his go-to source for hydration. He drinks the sports drink throughout the day (his favorite flavor is strawberry banana) to keep himself hydrated.

Desserts: “Every year my diet is improving, but I do have my cheat moments,” says Harden. While he says he is not really “a candy or chips” kind of guy, Harden loves to indulge on anything sweet. “Cookies, ice cream, brownies, hot fudge sundaes,” he says, listing a few special sweet treats. “I like cookies and cream ice cream, and vanilla too.”

3. Stephen Curry

Each NBA player have his own chef who is prepare daily meals, but in case of Stephen Curry, the best shooter in NBA, all his meals are prepared by his wife Ayesha Curry, who has her own blog related to cooking segment. “I really want the show to be fun, fresh and approachable, without too much fussiness,” Ayesha says. “Everything you see me make is what you can make at home.”

Curry swears by her Vitamix blender, and usually starts each day making a big smoothie for Steph as he races out the door. “I make my kids and husband food every morning, but somehow I get lost in the shuffle,” she says. “I’ll drink whatever’s leftover from his smoothie, and I love making avocado toast lately. I’ll put Vegenaise on multigrain bread with a fried egg, Tabasco and chili flakes, and sharp cheddar. That’s all the nutrition you need in five minutes.”

With finals looming, having meals prepped and ready whenever someone needs them is more crucial than ever. Ayesha pulls out 10 GladWare containers at a time, filling each one with a vegetable, protein and healthy starch (often a potato or sweet potato). “Usually, it’s quinoa, chicken, a veggie and a sweet potato, but I love using Instagram and Pinterest to get ideas,” she says.

Ayesha preps meals 10 at a time so there’s always a complete meal on hand. “I’ll end up eating some, and my husband likes to grab them as a snack,” she explains. “He gets home around 2 o’clock, but he doesn’t have dinner until 7 or 7:30, so it fills him up until then.”

Curry has a weakness for brown sugar in everything—especially on bacon—and in her spaghetti sauce. “I swear it brings out every other flavor: The tomato, the basil, all those herbs,” she says. “It totally perfects the sauce.”

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