Debbie J., MS, RD contributed this article –
If you play racquetball, volleyball or basketball, then you’re no stranger to the high-intensity physical exercise required to play on the courts. Of course, each sport has its specific skills needed to play effectively, but they are similar in that they all use short burst anaerobic movements to stay fast on your feet. Compared to field sports where playing fields can consist of upwards of 5,000 square yards, racquetball, volleyball and basketball involve more agility and rapid back-and-forth play since the area of play is much smaller: Basketball; 522 square yards; Volleyball (from baseline to net) 96 square yards; and Racquetball 88 square yards.
With the stop-and-go action of these sports, the work that your muscles go through is intermittent. This is especially true for team sports with some team members sitting on the bench awaiting play and muscle recovery happens between bouts of activity. Also, there is no specific muscle group at continuous work and continuously during play (unlike distance sports); rather, varying muscles are engaged as needed for sprinting, crouching, jumping, pushing and/or swinging. This creates an underlying overall aerobic demand, which varies especially when play lasts for an hour or more at a time.
A player’s carbohydrate needs vary depending on the type of high-intensity play, duration of physical exertion and rest periods, and overall length of the game. The frequency of games impacts metabolic demands; for instance, multiple matches in one day (as in tournament competition) is one example of that requires a heavy demand of carbohydrates. Read on to find out how to fuel these needs before, during, and after playing these high-intensity sports.
Having sufficient energy to complete a competition is immensely important.
Below are the approximate number of calories burned while playing basketball, volleyball, and racquetball, calculated from The Compendium of Physical Activities (2011)1:
|Over the course of 60 minutes of play:
||160 pound person will burn approximately:
||200 pound person will burn approximately:
Remember to adjust depending on your weight, as well as the number of games that you might play during “league competition” up to three 60 minute games for volleyball & basketball, and up to three 15 minute games for racquetball.
A good piece of advice is to consume half the anticipated calorie need prior to the session in solid food, a quarter during exercise in the form of sports drinks and a quarter in recovery nutrition afterward.
First and foremost, you need to be in balance energy-wise for the day. It’s not a good idea to come into a game with an energy deficit and try to make up for it by eating a bunch before you play. Your stomach will agree here!
Think carbohydrates (carbs) first, then protein and fat. Whether during aerobic or anaerobic work, muscles use glycogen and blood glucose (carbohydrates) for fuel. Most studies show that ingesting carbohydrate before and during play enhances intermittent high-intensity exercise capacity.2 Though, carbohydrates are the primary nutrient used to fuel muscle work, fat may contribute in longer practice sessions and multiple game playoffs. If inadequate carbohydrate is consumed, highly specialized protein might be burned to meet energy demands. You don’t want to sacrifice protein (the main constituent of muscle) for fuel, since protein is needed for so many other functions.
Carbohydrates should be easily digestible (often called “high glycemic”) for rapid energy and replenishment. Choose low fiber starches and fruit products like pretzels, water crackers, rice, pasta, canned fruit, applesauce and bananas. Sports drinks should have about 15 grams of carbohydrate per 8 fl. oz.; and the carbohydrates should come from glucose, fructose, or sucrose. For longer matches, carbohydrates may also come from maltodextrin. Take a tip that some competitive athletes follow and consume about 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during play and practice. Remember, to finish a competition with strong performance, you can’t be in a carbohydrate deficit.
Protein and fats should provide the remainder of your calories. Prior to game time, choose easily digestible protein sources such as egg whites, poultry breast, fish, soymilk/tofu, avocado and oils. If your body can tolerate dairy, yogurt is another good choice. Leave the heavy items like cheese, bacon and nuts for another time. During play, a small amount of protein (5-10 grams) in a sports drink is fine but not necessary. Postgame foods include up to 25 grams of protein in your recovery snack, bar or shake.
If you’re fueled and ready to play racquetball, volleyball or basketball, check out a list our available LA Fitness Club Leagues.
1. “2011 Compendium of Physical Activities: A Second Update of Codes and MET Values.” Ainsworth BE, et al. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2011; 43:1575-1581. Basketball, game 8.0 METs (Taylor, Jacobs et al. 1978); Volleyball 6 METs; Racquetball 7-10 METs (Kcal/kg/hr)
2. “Acute effects of carbohydrate supplementation on intermittent sports performance.” Baker LB, Rollo I, Stein KW, Jeukendrup AE. Nutrients. 2015; 7(7):5733-5763.