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What is an NBA Players Diet?

As technology continues to evolve, so does the advancement of sports science. In the world of sports and especially the NBA, with each passing season franchises push the limits on elite performance as the science behind the game continues to push the boundaries.

What is an NBA Players Diet? NBA players consume between 2000-4500 calories a day which is made up of Carbohydrates, Protein and Fats. NBA players avoid empty calories from junk food and fizzy drinks.

One of the biggest evolutions in the NBA and sport in general has been the research behind nutrition and athlete diets in direct correlation with elite performance. As the years have gone on, NBA players have become more aware of what they are putting in their bodies to continue to compete at the highest-level night in and night out.

We see the high flying dunks, the chase down blocks and overall athletic excellence every night, but let’s dive deeper into what makes up an NBA player diet in order to perform in the best league in the world.

What an NBA player eats?

In any professional sport, the need for fuelling the body is at the heart of any athlete diet. For an NBA player, the capacity to exert as much energy as they need to on a daily basis is directly related to the foods they consume. These foods allow them to fuel their energetic output, and achieve their goals on the hardwood.

In a high intensity sport that demands both physical endurance and mental sharpness, the necessity for the adequate energy and recovery levels is paramount. As such, the foods NBA players eat are deliberate and beneficial to their everyday undertakings.


A majority of a typical NBA player’s diet will be made up of carbohydrates along with by a happy balance of proteins and fat sources. Complex carbohydrates are preferred, as they are slower releasing in the body allowing players to have sufficient energy levels for longer periods such as a 48-minute game. As the muscles preferred source of energy, on average, the NBA player diet should consist of approximately 55% coming from carbohydrate rich foods such as vegetables, pasta, bread, fruits and rice. This can of course vary depending on a player’s overall body mass index, and what is asked of them on a daily basis from the franchise.


The consumption of protein in an NBA diet is required for the maintenance of muscle mass, and plays an important role in recovery. Many athletes take supplements to aid this process, but usually with a well balanced diet this is not necessary. Notably, an excessive amount of protein intake can be detrimental to athletic performance, as the body can start to displace carbohydrates as the primary energy supply when levels are low. Most importantly, the consumption of adequate of amounts of protein on a daily basis will assist player’s recovery and ability sustain their high level of play.


Contrary to popular belief, fat also plays an important role in an NBA diet. Dietary fats play an integral role for a well functioning immune system, as well as synthesis of hormones and cell membranes. NBA players make a conscious effort to eat heart “healthy fats” (unsaturated fats) which include olive oil, avocado, salmon and flaxseed. Healthy fats make up the rest of the NBA diet once the carbohydrate and protein requirements have been met.

How many calories do NBA players consume?

The amount of calories an NBA player will consume will depend on their activity levels, athletic goals and body mass index. On average, an NBA player will eat anywhere between 2000 to 4500 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight, and keep up with the rigorous demands of the regular season and beyond.

What foods should NBA players avoid?

As stated earlier, there are certain groups of foods that NBA players should avoid eating in order to maximize performance. These include all saturated fats and an excess of carbohydrates or protein. Chocolate, fizzy drinks and foods that offer little to any nutritional value should be avoided in an NBA diet, but it doesn’t mean the presence of them doesn’t exist. It’s unrealistic to expect players to completely eliminate all guilty pleasures, but there is a direct correlation between the very best players in the world staying productive for years on end, and players that float in and out of their maximum output.

Excessive amounts of alcohol should also be avoided, as they can affect performance, focus, and speedy recovery.

Do NBA players eat at halftime?

During the course of a game, NBA players will consume food and drink to keep energy levels high. Ironically enough, the way players achieve a spike in energy levels is often down to sugar-based drinks and foods that enter the blood stream quickly and can suppress the steady onset of fatigue. Foods such as candy and chocolates, and drinks such as Gatorade are used to boost energy quickly in order to get through a game.

A real NBA player diet

Eight time All-Star Dwight Howard underwent big changes in his diet in 2012 in order to improve performance moving forward. According to the former number one pick, Howard’s diet consisted mostly of candy, soda and empty starches.

Famously, Howard revealed to CBS Sports “I was big on drinking Gatorades all the time. I didn’t drink a lot of water. I would eat candy and just drink Gatorade.”

After committing to change, Howard replaced candy with almonds and pecans, and within a few short weeks Howard’s blood glucose levels declined by 80%, as well as lowering his body fat percentage from 6% to 3%.

Howard replaced multiple Gatorades a day with natural juices consisting of kale, cucumber, ginger and beetroot. He also cut out bread completely, ate pasta only once or twice a week, and consumed white meat like chicken and fish instead of heavy red meats such as steak.

Below is an example of what Howard now eats on a daily basis for the Los Angeles Lakers.


– Eggs with yolks
– Spinach
– Kale
– Mushrooms

– Low fat yoghurt with berries and muesli

Lunch & Dinner:
– Lean meats
– Wild-caught fish
– Nuts and seeds
– Fruit
– Vegetables   

All in all, it’s safe to say an NBA diet is one of, if not the most important aspect of a long and successful career. Like us, players continue to be educated on the importance of the foods they consume. Now more than ever, athletes are doing everything they can to create an advantage over their competition, and diet is definitely at the center of it all.

Gone are the days of having a beer at halftime and a cigar at the end of the game.