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Depending on height, weight, activity levels, and gender a teenage basketball player can require anywhere from 2,400 - 4,000+ calories per day. Tall, lean, and growing teenage basketball players tend to burn more calories at rest than other teenagers and therefore require more calories just to maintain baseline muscle mass.
Female teenage basketball players can typically require anywhere from 2,000 - 3,000 calories per day just to break even, support muscle recovery, and provide energy for the court. Male teenage basketball players can typically require anywhere from 3,000 - 4,000+ to break even, support muscle recovery, and provide adequate energy. To achieve these numbers, you can not skip breakfast, have a light/quick lunch, and then scarf some fast food after practice at 8 pm. You will need to eat early and often throughout your day. Aim to hit 3 full meals at the usual breakfast, lunch, and dinner times and then pepper in plenty of calorie-dense snacks in between. See below for examples. You can safely start at the low ends of those ranges and then track soreness, fatigue, total weight, and hunger patterns.
If you find yourself constantly sore, unable to recover the day after a hard practice, game, or workout then these can be signs that you are not fueling adequately. Additional signs of not getting enough calories to support your basketball efforts include repeatedly running out of steam when you play, chronic and repeated injuries, feeling hungry all of the time, or noticing a steady drop in weight as the season goes on.
Keep in mind that if you have muscle/weight gain goals, you will need to nail 4 key ingredients:
1. Caloric Surplus: In other words, eat more than you burn.
2. Pack in the Protein: Shoot for .8 - 1.2 grams of protein per pound that you weigh.
3. Lift Heavy Stuff: Shoot for 3-4x per week of 45-60 minutes of quality resistance training.
4. Sleep Wins: Sleep is when your body makes its recovery gains and regulates its muscle-building hormones. You must prioritize sleep.
There are 2 other keys to optimizing muscle gain that I'll throw in as a bonus: Hydrate and get sunshine.
Proper hydration allows all of your body systems to operate at their top levels including muscle recovery and synthesis. Aim to drink enough water to make your urine light yellow or close to clear. Getting 15-30 minutes of sunshine per day can significantly impact your vitamin D levels which impacts muscle-building hormones and your body's ability to recover and synthesize muscle among many other benefits. 
What should a teenage basketball player eat to hit appropriate calorie and protein needs? Here is a great list of high-intensity and calorie-dense foods that should belong on the grocery list. Plan ahead and pack meals and snacks for the day so you don't get caught reaching for fast fixes from vending machines right before practice:
  • Eggs
  • Oatmeal
  • Fruit
  • Veggies
  • Nut butters
  • Mixed nuts
  • Milk & other full fat dairy products including yogurts and cheese
  • Animal proteins (chicken, beef, fish, other) 
  • Jerky
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Pasta 
  • Whole-grain breads - make a PB&J
  • Whey protein shakes 
  • Olive oil
  • Pastured butter
Oh, one more thing! You have to eat until you are 100% full. This means going up for seconds or thirds. If you are leaving the table hungry, it's a good signal from your body that you didn't top things off. 


Timothy DiFrancesco

Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT spent 6 seasons as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and is the founder of TD Athletes Edge. He is nationally renowned for his evidence-based and scientific approach to fitness, training, nutrition, and recovery for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

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