This article is written by Rusty Gregory of Forte Fitness. Rusty has been an Austin personal trainer for 25 years after earning his Master’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Michigan. Rusty also serves as a highly valued consultant to Austin basketball trainer (and Basketball HQ co-owner) Chris Corbett. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and a Certified Wellness Coach. Rusty is also the author of the following books: Self-Care Reform & Living Wheat-Free For Dummies.
Many people believe that to be the best basketball player, you can be is as simple as mastering the skills of the game. Although this is true, to a point, there is so much more to becoming your best.
Always question what you could be doing to improve and seek out experts to help you find your groove to develop that edge you are seeking. Ask yourself, “What is going to separate me from the pack?” and “What can I do right now, on and off the court, to get better?” can help you define your plan of action.
Other factors ultimately influence how successful you will become on the basketball court. These factors, or lifestyle behaviors, consider your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well being and will determine how far you progress. Attention to each lifestyle behavior can separate the greats from everyone else. So how bad do you want it?
The perceived healthiness of certain lifestyle behaviors will strongly influence the decision to participate in other lifestyle behaviors of equal magnitude. For example, if you are committed to a regular exercise program, you are more likely to have a healthy diet. Lifestyle behaviors work synergistically to produce a greater level of health. The same is true as they relate to your game.
Combine these lifestyle practices with your basketball training to catapult your game to a whole new level and give you that slight edge you need to become your best. Any of these not optimized will reflect potential not realized.
1. Ditch the Processed Foods from Your Diet (Sugar, All Grains, and Vegetable Oils)
When you remove these foods from your diet, your energy level, health, and how you feel will improve dramatically. Expect to see an increase in your recovery time, explosiveness, and quickness when you add nutrient-dense real food, such as pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed beef, organic green, yellow and red vegetables, and dark chocolate with 85%+ cacao to your diet. Not only will your health benefit from these changes, but your fans will appreciate it as well.
2. Moving during the Day Matters… Even for Basketball Players
This probably goes without being said, but I’m going to say it anyway, “Get up and move.” Even though you are playing basketball an hour or two a day, sitting the rest of the day can have dire consequences, especially as you age. Movement helps rev up your metabolism, prevents developing poor posture due to sitting, and speeds recovery after a tough basketball workout at the gym.
3. Practice Stress Management For Your Game and Life
The pressure to perform your best on the court and in the classroom and keep parents, administrators, and alums happy tends to send your stress level into orbit. This will affect your level of play on the court, both physically and mentally, and your health over time. Try these stress relievers to stay calm when demands mount:
- Take a hot bath and add Epsom salts
- Schedule a massage
- Practice deep breathing exercises
- Spend time with loved ones
- Listen to calming music
- Plan a relaxing vacation
4. Get Enough Sleep / Rest to Recover From Basketball Training
Sleep is not optional when performing at your optimal level on the court or studying for the big exam. If you are using an alarm clock to rise in the morning, you will probably not meet your body’s sleep needs. Studies show the majority of us need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. A sleep deficit can cause an inability to focus and concentrate and keep you from performing at your highest level on the court.
Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. So, turn off all lights, computers, televisions, and cell phones to maximize your sleep. Also, overtraining, not fully recovering from your workouts can lead to injury, excessive fatigue, poor performance, depression, and lack of focus.
5. Take These Supplements To Optimize Basketball Performance
The greatest diet in the world may be lacking important elements for optimal performance. The following supplements are essential to having your body perform its best and separating yourself from your competition.
- Magnesium helps lower blood pressure, regulates blood glucose levels, and increases blood flow.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. This helps to prevent many diseases where inflammation is the underlining cause.
- Cod liver oil is anti-inflammatory and improves heart efficiency. This potent trio of vitamins A, D, and K2 creates greater energy on the court.
- Probiotics increase your gut’s good bacteria and helps your body perform at its best. Delicious probiotic fermented drinks/foods include kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha.
6. Add Fermented Foods to Your Basketball Diet
Consuming fermented foods will improve your gut health and strengthen your immune system by increasing the number of healthy bacteria in your gut. Not only will you feel less bloated and gassy, but you will also reduce your risk of developing an autoimmune disease or chronic illness. Sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha are all good examples of fermented foods. A healthy immune system should never be underestimated. Staying healthy during cold and flu season is crucial to your team’s success.
7. Eat Healthy Fat To Fuel Basketball Energy and Brain Function
Healthy dietary fats control various hormonal functions, transfer vitamins A, D, E and K and assist in strong nerve, cell, and brain functioning. This translates into a higher level of performance due to overall improved efficiency. Make hormones work for you on the court by eating healthy fats (saturated, omega-3 fatty acids, etc.), not against you with unhealthy fats (trans fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, etc.). Some foods that contain healthy fats are avocados, wild-caught salmon, sardines, and mackerel.
8. Give Your Relationships the Attention They Deserve – On and Off the Court
Relationship issues with your girlfriend/boyfriend, teammate, roommate, or family member can not only create depression, anxiety, and psychological distress, but it can also weaken your health and ruin your game. Who wants any of that when basketball requires tremendous focus, attention, and optimal health to be at your very best? Relationship skills such as an attitude of service, expressing gratitude, and laughing together can go a long way in maintaining healthy relationships.
9. Be Mindful – Play & Live Present
Take your game to the highest level possible by becoming more mindful, non-judgmental, and having an in the moment approach to the game. This practice creates an attention to detail that increases appreciation and love for the game. Phil Jackson, former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach, taught this discipline to his players. Mindfulness can also improve and maintain a positive outlook, attitude, and confidence that are crucial in the game of basketball.
10. Make Time for Your Daily Spiritual Practice
Do your game and your life a huge favor, and attend to your spiritual life. Having your spiritual life in check will enable you to handle the adversities of life better. When a sense of meaning and purpose is realized, hope and optimism flourish, leading to a more positive outlook on life. This outlook will enrich your entire life, even on the hardwood.
11. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can not only have a devastating effect on your in-game energy level but your health as well. Staying on top of your water intake is not just important; it’s essential. If you reach the point of thirst, you are slightly dehydrated. Stave off the desire for water by drinking it throughout the day.
12. Supplement Your Basketball Training
Enhancing your game with cross-training exercise is not only a good idea; it is of the utmost importance. When you cross-train basketball energy systems, train functional movements, and strength train large muscle groups, you improve your power, strength, and explosiveness. This will prevent muscular imbalances, not to mention reduce your risk of injury. Be careful not to overdo it. Too much ballistic training, jumping, and other plyometric work without enough rest will lead to injury. A stretching program can also go a long way in keeping you out of the trainer’s office and on the court.
13. Keep Your Vitamin D Level Up
Eating foods rich in vitamin D (wild-caught salmon, cod liver oil, and swordfish), taking vitamin D3 supplements, and getting enough sunlight is essential to reaching optimal health. With a heavy dose of school and basketball practice dominating your schedule, sunlight can become a real challenge to obtain. Vitamin D from sunlight strengthens your immune system, warding off various diseases, and helps reduce the risk of depression.
14. Check Your Inflammatory Markers – Critical For Basketball Players
Chronic, low-grade inflammation is a recipe for disaster to a basketball player’s career. Inflammation begins in fat cells and “grows” as fat increases. This is a major contributor to obesity and diabetes. Eating non-inflammatory foods, maintaining healthy gut flora, and staying infection-free will go a long way in keeping inflammation down. Have these markers checked regularly to ascertain your inflammation level.
- Elevated High-Sensitivity c-Reactive Protein (HS-CRP)
- Elevated Blood Glucose
- High Homocysteine Levels (an amino acid used by the body to make proteins)
- Elevated Ferritin (a protein that stores iron)
15. Eat Your Veggies To Sustain Performance Levels
A diet rich in vegetables creates a sustainable energy level essential for competing at the highest basketball level. Carbohydrates from vegetables are slowly released into the bloodstream due to the presence of fiber. This slow entry produces an extended energy effect. Easily digestible carbohydrates from sugary, processed junk food quickly raise blood sugar and insulin, causing a sugar crash and a plummet in energy level.
Vegetables also provide many health benefits, such as:
- Help reduce heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, dementia, stroke, and arthritis;
- Help reduce bloating in healthy guts (healthy gut bacteria), not in unhealthy ones; and
- Reduce the risk of premature death of any cause.
Have any of you embraced some of these health laws and seen a positive impact on your basketball performance? We would love to hear from you in the comments below. Should you find value in this article, I want to thank all of you who take the time to share this article with your family, team, and colleagues. Visit me at RustyGregory.com or on Facebook.
Note: The content in this article should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs. basketballhq.com may receive some small Amazon affiliate commission for sharing my book at no extra cost to you.