Listen To This Sports Nutritionist’s Advice On The Best Basketball Player’s Diet


Any basketball player knows the difference between feeling light on your feet or having lead in your shoes. That difference lies in a basketball player’s diet.

Basketball is a high-intensity sport that demands your peak performance, both physically and cognitively. More importantly, you need ready access to it. But even the most skilled NBA players can’t access peak performance levels without the proper nutrition to power them through games and countless hours of shooting hoops for practice

Whether in or off-season, pre or post-game, your body needs the right refuel to both perform and recover. Do you count yourself a real athlete? In that case, a smart meal plan for basketball players is going to be as much part of your performance plan as those countless hours of practice. 

Are you a budding athlete with dreams of taking your game to the next stage? In that case, nutrition is an even more integral part of finding your fitness during those formative high school years that eventually lead up to getting signed. With the right dietary approach, you can unlock explosiveness (think sprinting) on game days, grow muscle mass, optimize your cognitive performance, and improve your athletic development. 

We’re going to be honest here: there is no miracle sports nutrition for basketball players that will instantly improve your game. 

In fact, navigating the complex world of sports nutrition as a basketball player can be quite difficult. Without some expert guidance, you can easily fall into the trap of blindly following some diet trend that doesn’t meet your unique nutritional needs on and off the court.

This is where Ignacio Escribano Ott comes in. 

Ignacio Escribano Ott is not just a sports nutritionist. Escribano-Ott specializes in basketball player diets. Both a coach and a scientist, he’s currently working on his Ph.D. focused on optimizing nutrition for basketball players. 

In this dietary guide, let’s dive into Ignacio’s expert insights on building the (aspiring) professional basketball player diet. From pre-game fueling to post-game recovery, we’re going to uncover the secrets of some of the stars and unlock your NBA potential through nutrition.

Here’s what we cover:

  • Who’s sports nutritionist Ignacio?
  • Dietary trends vs the nutrition basketball players actually need
  • Finding the right nutrition for basketball players
  • Why you should take your post-game recovery seriously
  • Pre and post-game foods to fuel and recover
  • Healthy nutrition for injury recovery and prevention
  • Optimizing meal plans for basketball players: game days vs training days
  • A final advice for young and upcoming basketball players
  • Ignacio Ott’s basketball player diet chart

Read on for the ins and outs of nutrition for basketball players.

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Who’s sports nutritionist Ignacio?

When it comes to nutrition in basketball, few people are in a better position to give sound advice than Ignacio Escribano-Ott. As both a nutritionist and a basketball coach, Ignacio’s journey through academia and sports has been both unique and interdisciplinary.

After completing his undergraduate studies in nutrition, Escribano-Ott’s interest in both research and athletics – basketball specifically –  led the nutritionist to pursue a master’s degree under the Spanish Olympic Committee, where he focused on training methodologies. Think that’s an impressive resume? Well, Ott wasn’t done yet.

Ignacio is also certified to coach at Spain’s highest basketball level. In his journey to getting the degrees and certifications to coach at the upper echelons of Europe’s basketball leagues, he met many of the people who are now at the forefront of teams in both the ACB and EuroLeague. 

An expert himself, serving as professional basketball team Baskonia’s nutritionist, Escribano-Ott continues meeting his expert buddies in the 2023-2024 season as they lead their respective teams. It’s a “truly enriching experience”, as he himself puts it. 

Being both a coach and sports nutritionist, Ignacio has an excellent perspective on the specific needs of basketball players, in terms of physical conditioning and dietary needs. He has so much to share on the topic that he built an app tailored to basketball nutrition, called Menuba

ignacio escribano ott basketball nutritionist

When we asked Ignacio what’s special about Menuba, he said: “Menuba bridges the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application, merging the academic world with the physical demands of basketball, all through the convenience of technology and smartphones.” 

You can download Menuba for free from both the PlayStore and the AppStore. Additionally, Igancio and Menuba offer 1:1 consulting services online. You can find more information at or by sending an email to

Ignacio Escribano-Ott’s basketball player diet chart

To put all the guidance from nutritionist Ignacio Escribano-Ott into practice, we made an actionable dietary chart tailored specifically for the unique needs of basketball players. 

Here’s a diet table that captures all Escribano-Ott’s essential diet tips on optimized nutrition for basketball players – from game-day fueling strategies to post-workout recovery tactics:

Time PeriodNutritional FocusFood suggestions
Pre-game (<2 hours)Energy for performance, easy digestionSmall sandwich with jam, granola bar, rice cake
Pre-game (<1 hour)Rapid energy, minimal gut impactSports drinks, nutritional gels, smoothies
Halftime, timeoutsRehydration, carb/electrolyte replenishmentSports drinks, nutritional gels
Post-game (0-2 hours)Kickstart recovery, repair muscle damageProtein shakes (25g protein), dairy drinks, (chocolate) milk, greek yogurt
Post-game (0-2 hours)Sustained recovery, replenish glycogenSandwich with high-quality protein (tuna, eggs, ham)
TrainingpPractice DaysBalance nutrients, Increase fiberLegumes, fruits, vegetables, quinoa, whole grains
Injury recovery/preventionAnti-inflammatory, muscle tissue repair– Nuts, olive oil , avocados, fatty fish
Athletic development (youth)Meeting nutritional needs with proteins, sufficient caloriesHigh-quality protein snacks 2x per day

Ignacio has a lot of valuable insights you’ll want to hear on nutrition in basketball, from complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, to snacks on game days and optimizing your nutrient intake for muscle recovery. Let’s dive right into them. 

Dietary trends vs the nutrition basketball players actually need

Flicking through sports magazines and scrolling social media, there seem to exist as many diets as there are athletes. In the sometimes wacky world of nutrition, every newest diet craze promises results better than the one that came before it.

As an experienced sports nutritionist, Ignacio argues that you shouldn’t just blindly follow trends without considering your body’s unique nutritional needs. “There’s no one-size-fits-all diet that guarantees optimal performance for basketball players,” he asserts.

basketball player diet

Intermittent fasting and sports

Here’s one trend that is currently sparking hot diet debates: intermittent fasting. The diet has gotten a lot of attention, with famous proponents ranging from actor Mark Wahlberg to CEO Jack Dorsey. 

This somewhat counterintuitive approach involves cycling between periods of fasting and eating, with popular variations like the 16:8 ratio (fasting for 16 hours, eating within an 8-hour window), alternating days of fasting, and even multi-day fasting periods. 

But while intermittent fasting can offer metabolic benefits and studies show fasting can help with weight loss, Ignacio sees potential drawbacks for basketball players and other athletes.

“While it has its merits, intermittent fasting might not always align with the high-energy demands of basketball players. Engaging in high-intensity sports without sufficient energy stores can elevate the risk of injury and compromise recovery,” he cautions. “If the fasting window overlaps with critical post-exercise periods, it could hinder muscle repair and replenishment of glycogen stores, adversely affecting overall performance.”

But that doesn’t mean you have to completely dismiss intermittent fasting, either. With proper guidance and an individualized approach, you could tailor intermittent fasting to accommodate some dietary goals. Take Chicago Bulls center Andre Drummond, who experimented with intermittent fasting to get back in shape for the new season

Fun fact: Drummond’s unusual dietary doctrine also includes carb-loading (maintaining a high-carbohydrate diet) and drinking a beer a day. While it certainly is a unique way to meet your body’s needs for complex carbohydrates, many dietary specialists question the impact of regularly consuming alcohol on athletic performance. 

Following a plant-based diet

One type of diet that has garnered backers from Beyoncé to Brad Pitt is the plant-based diet. And it’s not just super celebrities that swear by it – some NBA player diets are strictly plant-based, too.

Chris Paul of the Golden State Warriors follows a vegan diet. In an interview with Men’s Health, the point guard even credits his late-career resurgence to the dietary decision to go plant-based. Paul became the face of veganism in the NBA when he switched to a vegan diet in 2019 at the age of 34, which helped him return to the NBA All-Star game for the first time in four seasons. Paul has now gone back each year since, bringing his career total to 14 at the age of 38. 

Other players implement a partial plant-based approach. Steph Curry, one of the NBA’s superstars, eats eggs and meat in the morning but has a plant-based lunch and dinner. Stephen began this particular diet after seeking advice from NFL legend Tom Brady, who follows the 80/20 rule of eating mostly plant-based food and 20% lean meat or fish protein.

And then there’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who also manages to reap some of the benefits of a plant-based diet without going vegan or vegetarian. The power forward for the Milwaukee Bucks simply drinks a celery juice smoothie every morning, which some experts say can reduce inflammation and in that way help with post-game recovery.

Striking a balance between diet trends

With so many dietary differences among the elites, there’s just no simple answer to the question “what diet does a professional basketball player have?” Even if you try answering that question, what works for Paul or Curry might not work for you.

Ignacio is an advocate of building a balanced diet. His holistic approach is tailored to each basketball player’s specific needs and goals.“There’s no one-size-fits-all diet strategy,” he repeats, “especially when addressing the nutritional needs of adolescents in their developmental years.” 

Working closely with basketball players, Ignacio helps them cut through the noise surrounding diets and build science-backed eating habits that work for their needs.

Finding the right nutrition for basketball players

So what is the best diet for a basketball player? Or, rather than best, what is a good basketball player’s diet? With no one diet fitting everyone’s needs, Ignacio focuses on a balanced diet that is optimized for the individual athlete. 

He stresses the importance of personalized nutrition plans that consider the player’s age, body weight, training schedule, and overall health. 

“The effectiveness of any diet depends on its alignment with an individual’s unique nutritional needs, physical demands, and personal goals,” Ignacio explains. “It’s about adhering to fundamental nutritional principles—ensuring a balanced intake of macronutrients and micronutrients, tailoring dietary strategies to support training and recovery, and considering the timing of meals.”

When we ask him what diet and nutrition guidelines he normally shares with basketball players, he responds that “we must cover the basics, providing enough energy in the form of carbohydrates and quality protein, optimizing the moments when the body is most favorable for recovery.

The tailoring of protein and carbohydrate intake depends on many factors. Consider the difference between male and female athletes’ nutritional needs alone. The average girl’s basketball nutrition is about 3,500 calories a day to maintain energy levels and muscle mass. Average male athletes need around 4,500 calories. 

And how many calories do NBA players eat on average, with their exceptional height and athletic abilities? According to the University of California San Diego, a 7-foot pro may need 6,000 to 7,000 calories per day.  

Filling the nutritional knowledge gap to break bad habits

With so many variables playing into dietary needs, one of the biggest challenges Ignacio sees as a nutritionist is players’ lack of nutritional habits and knowledge. “Many athletes find themselves at a disadvantage due to a basic lack of sports nutrition understanding, leading to dietary choices that fall short of their unique requirements as basketball players.” This insight was a significant outcome of his doctoral research

nutrition in basketball

One of the most important ways Escribano-Ott tries to help basketball players is by pinpointing the knowledge gaps each player has – whether that is about hydration strategies, diet planning, or managing body composition. “By identifying these areas, I can tailor the support they need, not just by filling these gaps but by empowering players through education.” 

Through his focus on education, Escribano-Ott hopes to give athletes “the autonomy to make informed nutritional decisions, crucial for their performance and overall health.” And as obvious as some dietary changes may seem, sometimes it takes professional advice for players to have that aha moment and make a change.

While playing overseas in the Adriatic Basketball Association, Nikola Jokic drank three liters of Coca Cola per day. It was on his flight to the States that he had his last can of soda. Jokic told Reuters that, if he hadn’t given up drinking soda, he’d never have made it as far.

Another example of breaking bad eating habits is cutting down on fried foods. Phoenix Suns superstar Devin Booker, who took his basketball game to the next level by breaking his habit of ordering fried chicken and instead focusing on a fish-heavy diet.  

The importance of personal goals

Finally, personal goals also play a big role in the dietitian’s advice because they determine an athlete’s nutritional needs. 

Take Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young. When he was coming out of college, Young was undersized for an ideal NBA prospect. To match his peers’ strength, the young athlete added 10 kilos in muscles during the draft process. How? He drank up to five protein shakes per day to create the calorie surplus that his body needed to build muscle mass.

“At the end of the day, I knew I had to sacrifice if I wanted to get something I wanted. Drinking those shakes? Part of the greater sacrifice,” he told QC.

Why you should take your post-game recovery seriously

Another point that Ignacio often observes where players can really improve is their approach to post-exercise recovery

“Many fail to capitalize on the crucial window immediately after physical exertion, during which the body is primed to absorb nutrients vital for recovery,” he explains.

This lapse not only concerns the quality of nutrients—specifically, the integration of essential carbohydrates and proteins—but also their timely intake. Ignacio further explains, “the golden period for nutrient uptake, which significantly diminishes after two hours, is often missed, hindering optimal recovery.” 

“Emphasizing the importance of seizing this window can markedly improve a player’s recovery process and, by extension, their performance,” the nutritionist further remarks. “Ensuring athletes receive the right nutrients at the right time is more than just a recovery strategy; it’s a performance enhancer.”

nutrition in basketball

Pre and post-game foods to fuel and recover

As Ignacio points out, “optimizing pre-game and post-game nutrition is crucial for peak performance and rapid recovery.” Immediately following a game or intense workout, the focus is on recovery, “specifically to replenish depleted energy stores and repairing muscle damage.” 

To that end, Ignacio recommends prioritizing protein-rich snacks or shakes, aiming for an intake of approximately 25 grams of protein alongside necessary carbohydrate intake. 

“For players experiencing reduced appetite post-exercise, liquid options like protein shakes or dairy-based beverages like chocolate milk can be invaluable for delivering these nutrients in an easily digestible form,” he suggests.

“Once appetite returns, solid foods can be reintroduced. A sandwich containing high-quality protein sources—such as tuna, a French omelet, or Serrano ham—serves as an excellent recovery meal,” Ott advises.

How to fuel up before a game

And what to eat before a basketball game for energy? What’s a good pre-game meal for basketball players? James Harden of the LA Clippers eats pasta and grilled chicken before games for energy and protein, he told in an interview with Sports Illustrated. Meanwhile, Phoenix Sun’s MVP Kevin Durant eats fish before every game, hoping to reduce inflammation. What the two diets have in common is both carbohydrates and low-fat, lean proteins

Ignacio advices to align the type of food with the available time before activity. “With at least two hours to spare, solid snacks are preferable.” What snacks are good for basketball players at that stage? “Options such as a small sandwich with jam, a granola bar, or rice cakes provide a good balance of carbohydrates for energy,” the nutritionist says. 

With less time to spare before a game or during half-time, Escribano-Ott recommends different foods. “Less than one hour before activity, semi-solid or liquid foods are more suitable to avoid digestive discomfort while still offering energy.” Examples that the Spaniard gives are smoothies, nutritional gels, or sports drinks, or smoothies, “designed for quick absorption and minimal gastrointestinal impact.”

 sports nutrition for basketball players

Healthy nutrition for injury recovery and prevention

Nutrition isn’t just crucial for recovery post-game – it also impacts the body’s healing capacity and prevention of injuries. Baskonia’s nutritionist cannot overstate the importance of food on the body’s recovery process, acting as both a shield against injury and a catalyst for recovery. 

Ignacio breaks it down, beginning with the need to rehydrate during time-outs. “Maintaining optimal hydration is fundamental,” Ignacio Escribano-Ott advices. Electrolyte imbalance often occurs during dehydration, “compromising motor control, reducing the perception of stimuli, and impairing decision-making during the game, all of which elevate injury risk,” he explains. 

Similarly, properly filling your energy reserves before physical activity, particularly your glycogen stores, is essential to prevent injuries. It helps to eat certain kinds of food, Ott tells us. “A strategic approach to nutrition can help mitigate injury risks by avoiding pro-inflammatory foods and harmful dietary habits that predispose athletes to injuries.” 

Speeding up your recovery

In a high-intensity sport like basketball, it’s inevitable that you get injured. When that happens, emphasizing foods with anti-inflammatory properties is crucial ot recovery. Think omega-3 fatty acids. 

“Ingredients like nuts, olive oil, and avocado can significantly aid the recovery process by reducing inflammation,” Ignacio advises, echoing the dietary habits of players like Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler, who incorporates avocados into every meal because they are a good source of healthy fats.

Equally important is the consumption of sufficient high-quality protein and muscle glycogen, which is vital for the repair of tissue damage, especially relevant for muscle injuries.  

“For athletes going through the recovery phase, incorporating these nutritional principles can accelerate healing and facilitate a return to peak performance,” Ignacio Escribano-Ott shares.“It’s about more than just recovery; it’s about empowering your body’s natural healing processes through thoughtful nutritional choices.”

basketball player diet

Optimizing meal plans for basketball players: game days vs training days

In basketball nutritionist Ignacio Escribano-Ott’s strategic approach to diet, game days are an impotant marker.  “A basketball player’s nutrition plan must be carefully tailored to accommodate the varying demands of game days versus practice or training days”, he explains.

“On days leading up to a game or intensive training, the focus shifts towards optimizing carbohydrate intake for energy and enhancing protein consumption for muscle repair and recovery,” Ott adds. 

As the nutrition expert explained earlier, this focus involves not only adjusting the quantity of these macronutrients but also the timing and type for maximum performance and recovery. 

Non-game days are for fibers and fruits

Ignacio views non-game or days with lighter training sessions as “excellent opportunities to incorporate a broader variety of foods, particularly those rich in fiber like legumes, fruits, and vegetables.” 

When asked why, the nutritionist tells us that “these types of foods are beneficial for overall health, but are consumed in moderation on high-intensity days due to their slower digestion, which could hinder immediate performance needs.” 

By building energy-rich meal plans around game days, Escribano-Ott aims at peak performance where athlates are energized and 100% ready to perform. Post-exercise, Escribano-Ott’s emphasis shifts to “rapid recovery, leveraging quality proteins and specific carbohydrates to repair muscle damage and replenish energy stores efficiently.”

“This nuanced approach”, Escribano-Ott adds, “ensures that the athlete’s body is in the best possible condition, regardless of the day’s specific demands.”

basketball player diet advice

A final piece of advice for young and upcoming basketball players

We ask the experienced sports nutritionist for a last bit of advice for basketball players in their teenage and adolescent years. Escribano-Ott’s response starts with his trademark disclaimer: “there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy, especially when addressing the nutritional needs of adolescents in their developmental years.

He adds that “the critical point here is not to underestimate young players’ energy requirements. A diet that is both diverse and balanced is essential, with a particular focus on incorporating quality proteins.”

How can young basketball players going to high school or uni, as well as to daily practice, fit such dietary needs in their schedule? “By incorporating at least two high-quality protein snacks during the day, specifically in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon.”

Escribano-Ott also remarks that it is “equally important to steer clear of foods that are less desirable for this age group, including high-caffeine energy drinks, alcoholic beverages, and other ultra-processed items.”

Get personal advice from a nutrition expert 

“Lastly,” Escribano-Ott continues, “it’s vital for young people to receive nutritional guidance from qualified experts. This guidance should be rooted in scientific evidence, empowering them to distinguish between fact and fiction in dietary habits, thus enhancing their overall training and development.”

ignacio escribano ott basketball nutritionist

Use these science-backed principles to fuel your body. You’ll be well-equipped to meet the physical demands of basketball while supporting muscle growth, injury prevention, and overall athletic development. Fuel your body right, and unlock your full potential.

[A good basketball player diet and workout can help you bring your game to the next level. Join EuroProBasket’s programs and get advice from expert coaches. And who knows, you might get scouted while you’re at it.]