You are on page 1of 18

Heriot-Watt Basketball Club Diet Plan 2009-10


Carbohydrates provide the fuel needed for exercise and a high concentration of
muscle glycogen will allow you to train at your optimum intensity and offset the
effects of fatigue. A diet high in Carbohydrate will help to increase an athlete’s

However, there are different types of carbohydrate, usually labelled ‘simple’ (sugars-
smaller molecules) and ‘complex’ (starch-larger molecules). Both types effect the
body in different ways. However it is difficult to classify these carbs as most foods
will contain a mix and it is often not as straightforward as simple will cause a quick
burst of energy and complex provide a sustained energy release. It is more important
to measure these using the Glycaemic index (GI) which shows on a scale of 1-100
how a food will immediately affect blood sugar levels.

However, GI doesn’t take into account a food’s portion size, so many athletes will use
the Glycaemic load, which is worked out by multiplying the GI by the number of
carbs in the portion and then dividing the answer by 100. This gives a better idea of
what a food will do to your blood sugar, as some GI ratings can be misleading (for
instance, melon has a high GI, but as a portion is generally small, it doesn’t have a
great effect on blood sugar).

When eating for exercise, aim to eat little and often and if possible, eat foods with a
low GI as this will mean less fluctuations in blood sugar so you are less likely to
experience a dip (hypoglycaemia) come competition time. Also with a constant flow,
less is likely to be stored as fat. In addition to this you should balance carbs, protein
and unsaturated (good) fats in your meals.

Before Exercise

It is quite clear that carbohydrates are important for fuelling exercise but the
important question is when and how much.

In the 2-4 hours leading up to exercise you should aim to consume 2.5g of carbs per
kilogram of body weight. This should be factored in to your daily calorie intake and
should not be consumed in addition to. However, this is a rough figure, so experiment
and find what works for you.

As mentioned above, low GI foods, little and often work best as they maintain a
steady flow of carbs and maintain a constant level of glycogen in the muscles. High
GI foods may cause blood sugar fluctuations and as such, are risky.

During Exercise

Studies show an intake of 30-60g of carbs per hour is the optimum amount and any
more than this cannot be absorbed by the body, so won’t provide any benefits. It
takes about 30 minutes for carbs to be absorbed, so start consuming from the start of
High GI foods/drink are preferable as they will give a quick energy release. However,
there appears to be no difference between solid or liquid carbs, but most athletes will
find liquid carbs such as a sports drink more convenient as they are easier and quicker
to consume and they also provide the necessary salts and hydration. If you prefer
solid carbs then make sure you consume plenty of water as it speeds up absorption.
Bananas, raisins and fruit bars are good options for solid carbohydrates.

Studies also show that including protein in your intake is beneficial as it offsets
muscle breakdown and improves recovery. The optimum ratio is 4:1 Carbs:Protein.

After Exercise

Eat as soon as possible after exercise to get necessary nutrients into the body and
begin recovery process. The first two hours is when the body uptakes nutrients
fastest, so this is the best time to reload. Aim to get 1g of carbohydrate per Kg of
body weight in this time, and then about 50g per hour until the next main meal. After
the initial two hours, in the next four hours the uptake of nutrients is faster than
normal, but not quite as fast as in the first two.

Taking high GI foods immediately after exercise is beneficial because it is taken in

faster by the body. Then if you are training again the same day, continue to consume
high GI foods, but if you are not training until the next day, then a steady flow of low
GI foods is more beneficial.

Again, a mix of carbs and protein is beneficial as it encourages faster recovery by

promoting faster muscle tissue growth and faster glycogen refuelling. It stimulates
protein synthesis and inhibits protein breakdown. The ratio should, again, be 1:4 and
factored in to your daily calorie intake. Skimmed milk is near perfect in terms of
protein to carb ratio, fat and hydration. It also provides a more favourable hormonal
environment to sports drinks.

Between workouts

After the six hour post exercise window the uptake of nutrients slows down, so you
should return to a steady uptake of carbs (preferably low GI). Sugars and large,
irregular meals are more likely to result in fat gain. Carbo loading is unnecessary for
activities under ninety minutes. For basketball, if you maintain a high carb diet, this
should suffice.

Carbohydrates and Immunity

Athletes always have to be aware of illness (including fresher’s flu) as intense training
weakens the immune system. However, the following may help: Do not undereat
(even if hungover), keep up carb intake (drink extra sports drinks if necessary), keep
up vitamin intake (A, C and E especially), eat fruit, veg and whole grains, keep up
fluid intake to produce enough saliva to fight illness, antioxidants (green tea and
vitamin C) are important.
Summary of what, when and how much

Before During After Between

Exercise Exercise Exercise Workouts

How Much 2.5g / Kg of 30-60g / 1g / Kg of 5-10g / Kg

body weight Hour body weight of body

Time 2-4 Hours Begin about In the first 2 4-6 meals/

Period before 30 mins into hours snacks
exercise exercise and ideally, but between
at regular up to 4 exercise
intervals hours after
GI Low High High then Low

Examples Jacket Potato 500-1000ml of Meal Pasta/rice with

with beans, isotonic drink or replacement beans, chicken
chicken or diluted fruit shake. or fish.
cheese. juice (6g/100ml)
Fresh fruit, milk Noodles with
Pasta with Energy bar with and yogurt. chicken or
tomato sauce water. seafood.
and salad. Sports bar.
Raisins Beans on toast.
Rice with Tuna/chicken
chicken and 1-2 Bananas sandwitch. Jacket potato
Vegetables. with cheese,
chicken or tuna.

Protein is used in every cell and tissue of the body. It is used for growth and
formation of new tissue and also tissue repair. For most athletes the recommended
daily allowance (RDA) of 0.75g / Kg body weight is an insufficient amount of protein
to build and repair muscle. The more intense the exercise, the greater the body’s need
for protein.

For a basketball player, a predominantly strength and power sport, the requirements
will be far more than an endurance athlete and around twice the RDA. Beginners will
also need slightly more protein until the muscles become adapted to using protein
efficiently to rebuild tissue.

Beginning a session with well stocked glycogen stores will offset the breakdown of
protein and you will see greater gains in your training.

For a strength/ power athlete 1.4-1.8g protein/ Kg of body weight/ day is required. In
order to lose fat, the figure is 1.6-2.0g and for weight gain you will need around 1.8-

Try to consume protein with carbs in a 1:4 ratio.

However, there is not evidence that exceeding the above amounts of protein is at all
beneficial, and consuming the necessary daily amounts of calories with a balanced
diet, should provide the necessary amounts of protein for growth. Once optimal
protein intake is reached, there are no further gains to be had by consuming more.
The table below provides a good reference for where to find protein in everyday

Good sources of Protein

Food Portion size Protein (g) Kcal

Meat and Fish

Beef, fillet steak, 2 Slices 105g 31 197

lean, grilled.

Chicken breast, 1 Breast 130g 39 191


Cod, poached 1 Fillet 120g 25 113

Tuna, canned in 100g 24 99

Dairy and Eggs

Cheese, cheddar 1 thick slice 40g 10 165

Cottage cheese Small carton 112g 15 110

Skimmed milk Glass 200ml 7 66

Low-fat yogurt Carton 150g 8 105

Eggs Each 8 90
Nuts and Seeds

Salted Peanuts 50g (handful) 12 301

Peanut butter On slice of bread 5 125

Salted Cashews 50g 10 306

Walnuts 50g 7 344

Sunflower seeds 30g (2tbsp) 6 186

Sesame seeds 24g (2tbsp) 4 144


Baked beans Small tin 205g 10 166

Red lentils, boiled 120g (3tbsp) 9 120

Kidney beans, 120g 10 124

Chick peas, boiled 140g 12 169
Soya products

Soya milk, plain 1 glass 200ml 6 64

Soya mince 2 tbsp (30g) 13 79

Tofu 100g 8 73

Tofu burger Each (60g) 5 71

Grains & Cereals

Wholegrain bread 2 slices 75g 6 164

White bread 2 slices 70g 6 156

Pasta, boiled 1 bowl 230g 7 198

Brown rice, boiled 1 bowl 180g 5 254

White rice, boiled 1 bowl 180g 5 248

Vitamins and Minerals
Sports Suppliments

As an athlete it is important that you maintain a good diet in order to maximise your
sports development and achieve your fitness goals. However there is a great number
of sports supplements on the market that claim to improve all aspects of your health
and fitness. However, there is no specific national or EU legislation governing their
effectiveness, purity or safety. So as a result, athletes are asked to ensure that they
carefully read labels and understand what they are taking. And also, you must
understand that it is your responsibility to find these things out. You are accountable
for what you put into your body, but bear in mind that due to there being no
legislation and that they are classes as food they are not subject to the safety testing or
labelling requirements of medicines, so there is no real guarantee that they live up to

Deciding on a supplement can be an overwhelming task for athletes. Trying to find

which ones work and which ones don’t, when advertising is so persuasive is one task
in addition to ensuring that what you are taking is legal. The following section
provides advice on the most popular supplements that you are likely to encounter,
such as vitamins and minerals, carbohydrate, protein and creatine. If you need further
advice on anything else, then please ask.

Amino Acids

Claims suggest that they prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue during exercise.
Results from studies were positive, but not better than a carbohydrate and protein
drink, ratio 4:1 as mentioned earlier. Mostly just improves recovery.


Caffeine is a stimulant that increases alertness and concentration. If drinking coffee,

then drink with milk as it slows the absorbtion. Aim to take 150-200mg caffeine an
hour before exercise. However the risks are similar to high GI foods in that although
you may get a short-lived ‘caffeine high’, you are then also more likely to experience
a ‘caffeine low’. So if you are prone to blood sugar fluctuations, then it may be best
to avoid.


Creatine is a protein made in the body from three amino acids (arginine, glycine and
methionine), but is also found in meat and fish and in high doses as a supplement.
Creatine combines with phosphorus to form phosphocreatine (PC) in muscle cells.
This fuels your muscles during periods of high intensity exercise.

Supplements typically raise PC levels by about 2%, enabling longer sustained effort
and faster recovery between sets. Also promotes muscle hypertrophy by drawing
water into muscle cells. This leads to an increase in lean body mass and muscle
acidity, allowing more lactic acid to build before it causes fatigue. This is supported
by evidence from numerous studies.
Creatine moves water across cell membranes because an increase in creatine
concentration draws water to the cell resulting in around 15% thicker muscle fibres.
Also creatine may have an effect on protein synthesis, as athletes found that they saw
an increase in body mass when taking creatine compared to a placebo.

Cabohydrates increase insulin levels which will in turn help the uptake of creatine in
the muscles, so if possible, take creatine with carbs, either in a drink or by mixing
with food.

Usually the loading phase for creatine is 4 x 5-7g per day over 5-7 days, so about 20-
25g per day. However, studies show that it is better to take down small quantities at a
time, slow down absorption and load over a longer period of time. This lessens water
retention and reduces the amount of creatine that is excreted and not absorbed. So
studies show it is more beneficial to take 6 x 0.5-1.0g per day over 7-10 days. This
produces the same results as 20g per day and after the loading phase 2g per day is
enough to sustain creatine levels. Alternatively, for absolute minimal water retention,
load on 3g per day for 30 days.

Most side effects of creatine supplementation is purely anecdotal and there are no
clinical reports of muscle cramping, dehydration, muscle injury and kidney damage.
However, the short term, low dose (2g per day) supplementation may be safe, there is,
as yet, no research done into the long term and/or high dosage supplementation and
the combination with other supplements risks are unknown.

So the best form of creatine is creatine monohydrate as it is cheap, widely available

and has a molecule of water attached to stabalise it. Try to take with 50-100g of
carbs. This is easier to do with a meal as carb & creatine drinks are usually expensive
and increase calories. Try to take with whey protein after exercise as this is when
uptake is at its greatest. Take in cycles of 3-4 months with a 1 month break.

It is important to note that studies show that taking creatine in excess of the above
doses, although shows no harmful side effects, shows no increased benefits either.
Once you have absorbed all the creatine your muscles can store, the rest will be
excreted in urine, so if you take more than recommended above, it will just be a very
expensive waste of time.

Meal Replacement Products

The main type of meal replacement product is shakes and bars. They mix milk
proteins, carbs and vitamins to mimic the nutrition you should obtain from a meal. A
weight gain product contains more calories in the form of carbs and unsaturated fats.
These products aid growth and recovery by providing a balanced source of nutrition
and is often more convenient and readily available quickly after exercise. These are
useful if you are struggling to meet your daily calorie intake or are very busy and find
it difficult to eat a balanced meal between sessions. However make sure you factor
these into your calorie intake as they are usually quite high. Other than this, there are
no side effects.
Protein Supplements

These products contain concentrated protein to boost protein intake. They aim to
improve muscle mass and also help you gain strength. A good diet should provide all
the protein you need, but these are useful (as above) for athletes who struggle to eat
regularly or have very high protein requirements. For a basketball player, your
protein intake should be around 1.4-1.8 grams of protein per Kg of body weight per
day. Again, these products show no side effects, but consuming more than the needed
amount shows no benefit and can be expensive.

When you exercise you lose fluid through sweat and water vapour on your breath.
Not replacing these fluids can cause dehydration which will inevitably result in

A loss of just 2% of body weight through fluid results in a drop of 10-20% in

performance. A loss of 4-5% can cause a drop in performance of 30% and 8%+ can
cause nausea and vomiting and is very dangerous.

Hydrating well by drinking plenty of water before exercising can delay the onset of
dehydration, but it is also important to hydrate regularly during exercise too.
However, it is often difficult to find the balance between getting it just right and
over/under drinking.

It is also important to note that hydration is cumulative and if you are training daily,
please ensure you are constantly well hydrated.

The best test for athletes who are curious about their hydration levels is to look at the
urine. If the urine is pale to very pale yellow then they are at the optimum hydration

The dangers of over drinking are firstly that you will feel heavy and likely to
experience stomach cramps, but also that if over-hydration continues, the sodium
content in your blood will become less and this can be dangerous. So here are some
tips about hydrating on game/training day.

Before Exercise

Prevention is better than cure, so ensure that you are drinking water regularly and
making sure your urine is pale yellow.

Aim to consume about 4-600ml of fluid during the two hours prior to exercise.

Don’t force the drink in, take steady sips.

For exercise that lasts 1-2 hours, consider a sports drink as this will also contain carbs
and salts that will also be lost during exercise. However, you will need to find your
optimum level (this is why you often see sports men drinking one sip of water with
one sip of lucozade) as if it is too concentrated it will sit in your stomach and not
provide the hydration, but if it is too weak then it will not provide the nutrients. The
important thing is that everyone is different, so find what works for you.
During Exercise

Offset fluid loss by drinking early and often.

Drink according to thirst – don’t force it.

Over drinking can cause weight gain and water intoxication.

If exercise is over one hour then consider a carb drink (advice on making your own
later). Again, find the balance between sports drink and water.

Aim to consume 20-60g carbs per hour to maintain blood sugar levels and delay
fatigue. But the higher the concentration, the longer it takes to absorb, so make sure if
you are taking solid carbs (sweets etc) to consume plenty of water.

In hotter climates, dilute the concentration more than usual.

After Exercise

Drink 1.2-1.5L of fluid per Kg of weight lost. (Don’t try to work this out per session,
do it a few times by weighing yourself before and after a session and find the average
that works for you).

Consume as much as you feel you need immediately and then small sips thereafter.

Again, consider a sports drink as plain water may reduce blood osmolality.

Skimmed milk is a near perfect after-sports drink as it has all the vitamins, minerals,
protein and carbs at an optimal concentration so this may be a better alternative to
expensive sports drinks.

Non-Exercise Days

There is no evidence to support the ‘8 glasses per day’ theory, just rely on your thirst
and watch urine doesn’t become too dark and you will be fine.

Sports Drinks

These are drinks such as Lucozade, Powerade and Gatorade, that replace fluid faster
than water whilst also containing sugars to keep glycogen stores high.

These can fall into three categories. Hypotonic, hypertonic and isotonic. The one that
is most beneficial to basketball players is the isotonic sports drink as is has the same
osmolality as the body so can be absorbed quickly and also contain carbs. It is the
ideal compromise between hydration and fuel.
DIY Sports Drinks


These are some recipes that you can do at home to save money on expensive branded
sports drinks. Try them out and see what works best for you.

40-80g Sucrose
1L Warm water
1-1.5g (1/4 tbsp) Salt (optional)
Sugar free/Low cal squash for taste (optional)

200ml Fruit Squash

800ml Water
1-1.5g Salt (optional)

500ml Fruit Juice

500ml Water
1-1.5g Salt (optional)


It is quite obvious the effects of alcohol on training, and we also know that students
will inevitably drink. This is some advice on how to deal with a hangover, as we all
know advice on ‘responsible drinking’ is well advertised and also well ignored by

Hangovers are mostly due to dehydration and the swelling of the brain cells. So drink
plenty of fluids (make your own Isotonic sports drink), try to avoid tea and coffee and
try to eat as normal. Please do not try and train with a hangover as it can be as
dangerous as training when dehydrated. However, this is not an excuse for skipping
training. Drink before non-training days.

Aldo, remember to factor the drinks into your daily calorie intake and also that in
moderation, drinks like red wine can be good for you.
Competition Nutrition

Your diet leading up to competition can have a big impact on your performance, and
if done correctly, can give you the winning edge. Also, what you eat on the day of
competition can affect your ability to recover quickly and fully between events. This
next section provides a kind of summery for the previous sections as a way of linking
them all together and applying them to competition. Starting a week before
competition, leading up to the event and after the event. This should be used as a
rough summery and not a substitute for reading the whole booklet. This section has
been compiled specifically for basketball playing athletes but if anyone would like
specific advice for anything else, then please ask.

The Week Before

During the week before competition, you have two main aims:

1) To fill your muscle and liver glycogen stores so that you compete with a full
fuel supply.
2) To keep well hydrated.

As basketball is a weekly event with training in between matches there may be little
opportunity to rest before competition, so in the day or two before a match, try to train
a little lighter than usual or do a technical rather than a physical session. In the final
two days, increase your carbohydrate intake from 7-8 to 8-10g/kg body weight/day.

For all events your total calorie intake should remain the same, but the proportions of
carbs, protein and fats should be adjusted. Eat more carbs and less fat and protein
leading up to a competition/heavy training.

In practice, try to eat six small meals per day. Avoid gaps of more than three hours
without eating. The table below provides a basis for developing your own pre
competition eating plan. While the below plan has the necessary carbs for
competition, they are low in fat and protein so are not suitable for the rest of the
For 500g Carbohydrates For 700g Carbohydrates

1 Large bowl of Cereal 4 Thick slices of toast with honey
200ml Skimmed Milk 200ml Fruit Juice
2 tbsp Raisins 1 Banana
200ml Fruit juice
Morning Snack
1 Banana Sandwich 2 Scotch Pancakes
2 Apples
Jacket Potato 1 Large bowl of Rice Salad with 60g
Sweetcorn and Tuna or Cottage Cheese Turkey or 125g Beans and Veg
2 Pieces of Fresh Fruit 2 Slices of Bread
1 Carton of Low Fat Fromage Frais 2 Pieces of Fresh Fruit
Pre Workout Snack
1 Energy Bar 2 Bananas
During Workout
1L Sports Drink 1L Sports Drink
Post Workout Snack
1 Serving of Meal Replacement (Shake) 2 Cereal Bars
1 Pint of Milk
1 Bowl (85g uncooked) Pasta 2 Large Jacket Potatoes
125g Stir Fried Veg 115g Cottage Cheese or Fromage Frais
60g Stir Fried Chicken or Tofu Broccoli or Other Veg
2 Slices Bread and Butter 1 Piece Fresh Fruit
1 Bowl (200g) Fruit Salad
2 Slices of Toast with Honey 1 Carton (200g) Low Fat Rice Pudding
1 Carton of Low Fat Yogurt

Make sure that in addition to this you are hydrating properly also. See earlier in this
handout for information about hydration levels. Also avoid trying new foods before
competition, and if you are travelling away, then make sure you bring food and water
with you.
The Day Before

The day before competition your main goals are to:

1) Top up muscle glycogen levels.

2) Ensure you are well hydrated.

Continue to eat high carb meals with a low GI through the day and drink plenty of
fluid (remember dehydration is cumulative). To maximise glycogen storage, only
exercise lightly or not at all. Do not skip your evening meal as this is an important
source of energy. Stick to familiar foods, avoid fatty and oily foods, and obviously
avoid alcohol.

If you have trouble eating because of nerves, this is a common problem and you
should come see a member of the coaching staff immediately for individual advice.

On The Day

On the day of competition, your aims are:

1) Top up liver glycogen stores following the overnight fast.

2) Maintain blood sugar levels.
3) Keep hunger at bay
4) Keep hydrated

Eat your main pre-competition meal 2-4 hours before the event. This allows stomach
to empty and blood sugar levels to normalise.

The actual timing of your pre-competition meal and amount eaten depend greatly on
the individual but most studies recommend around 200-300g of carbs during the four
hours prior to exercise. Find what works for you and stick to it.

Your pre-competition meal should be:

• Based on low GI carbs
• Low in fat
• Low in Protein
• Low or moderate in fibre
• Not too bulky or filling
• Not too salty or spicy
• Enjoyable and familiar
• Easy to digest
• Include a drink – approx. 500ml 2 hours before event.

A list of suitable pre-competition meals are shown below, and remember, you can
reduce the GI of a food by adding protein.
Pre-competition meals

Breakfast (2-4hrs before)

• Breakfast cereal or porridge with low fat milk and fresh fruit
• Toast or bread with honey/jam; low-fat yogurt
• English muffins with honey
• Meal replacement shake

Lunches (2-4hrs before)

• Sandwiches or rolls with tuna, cottage cheese or chicken; fresh fruit

• Pasta or rice with tomato-based sauce; fresh fruit
• Baked potato with low fat filling; fresh fruit

Snacks (1hr before event)

• Smoothie
• Yogurt
• Fruit, e.g. apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, kiwi
• Tinned fruit
• Meal replacement or energy bar
• Sports drink
• Dried apricots
• Low-fat yogurt
• Rice pudding
• Mini or Scotch pancakes

So far this pack has been designed to give you an idea of what you need to be eating
to improve performance as an athlete. From it, you could take all the facts and figures
and rigidly set out a diet plan. However I appreciate that for many of you this may be
unrealistic, so it has also been designed to cater for those of you who may just want
some simple diet advice on what to eat and what not to eat. I hope so far I have
achieved this especially in the context of a basketball player.

So now to conclude, I have put together a section on personalising your diet plan to
cater for your own needs and the demands of the sport, and then also some recipe
ideas which are simple to make and cheap to buy. Also included will be some advice
on selecting decent food when eating on the go or out in restaurants. I hope this is
beneficial to all of you who read it.

If there is anything further you require (i.e. advice on fats, weight loss, weight gain or
being a vegetarian athlete) then please ask and we can work something out on an
individual level. The reason these sections weren’t included is that most people will
not need them, and the ones who do will require more personalised than general

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope it is as beneficial to you to read as it
was enjoyable for me to write.
Your personal