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Volleyball Nutrition 101

by | Sep 26, 2019 | Blog | 0 comments

The Volleyball Nutritional Guide is going to focus on what to eat, how to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat for optimal performance. Volleyball players need to view themselves as elite level athletes. Elite level athletes need to make elite level decisions in order to get the most out of their bodies. An athlete with a bad diet is like owning an expensive car, giving it the lowest grade fuel and not taking it in for regular oil checks, but expecting optimal performance. Younger aged athletes have a hard time understanding how important nutrition is on performance because they have NEVER had a healthy diet for a prolonged period of time.

Here is a quick breakdown of the macronutrients that we consume 


Proteins serve so many important functions in the body that I do not have close to enough time to write about all of them. Protein is the building blocks of our muscles, tendons, and ligaments. If you want to be a strong, powerful, explosive athlete then protein needs to be consumed in all meals. If you do not consume enough protein through out the day, your body starts to breakdown muscle in order to use protein as an energy source. This process makes you weaker and more prone to injury!

Good protein sources

Turkey, Eggs, Greek Yogurt, Milk, Lean Beef, Nuts, Fish, Chickpeas, Tuna, beans, lentils etc..


The first thing that needs to be made clear is that there are several different types of fats (saturated fats, unsaturated fats, trans fats, Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats, etc…). Eating fat does not make you fat. Eating the wrong types of fat makes you fat! Eating healthy fats actually helps keep you lean. A diet high in omega 3 fatty acids makes your fat cells better able to use fat as an energy source (burning fat). If you consistently eat bad fats your body becomes more resistant to using fat as an energy source.

Good Sources of fat

Avocados, olives, nuts, fish‐ particularly salmon, natural peanut butter, natural almond butter, flax seed, flax seed oil, coconut oil, olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil.

Bad fats

Anything that comes from a package, anything processed, processed cheese, ice cream, pizza dough. Packaged snack foods, fried foods, candy bars.

Carbohydrates (sugars)

Carbs are extremely important for optimal sport performance because it is our initial energy source (next to our phosphocreatine system). When you consume carbs your body stores these sugars as glycogen. Glycogen is like a fuel tank in a car. When you put your foot on the gas pedal, the fuel gives the car the required energy to drive. When you start exercising, glycogen (your fuel tank) begins to break down into sugars, which you will use as energy in order to match the demands of the task.

When your glycogen stores are full, any additional carbs consumed get stored as fat!!!!

There are many different types of carbs but I am going to place carbs into 2 categories: simple carbs and complex carbs.

Simple Carbs (Glucose, Fructose, Galactose, Sucrose, Lactose)

Simple carbs are what people generally refer to as sugar. If someone is eating something that tastes very sweet, then it is generally full of simple carbs.

Examples of foods high in simple carbs

Sports Drinks (Gatorade, PowerAde, etc), candy, most cereals, juices, pop, fruits, pasta noodles, white bread, etc…

Good Things about Simple Carbs

Simple carbs are great to consume in small amounts during exercise because your body is able to use the sugar as an immediate energy source. For instance, drinking Gatorade or some other sugary sports drink when practicing/competing/exercising will keep your mind and body energized for longer periods. The amount of simple carbs consumed during exercise should be relative to how hard and for how long you are exercising. In a 2 hour, high‐paced practice a full bottle of sport drink or 2 pieces of fruit would be sufficient amounts of simple carbs. In a less intense practice you should consume anywhere from no simple carbs to half a sports drink or 1 piece of fruit.

Bad things about simple carbs

You should have a very negative view of simple carbs (except coming from fruit) except anytime that you are performing strenuous exercise. The general population in North America is getting fatter and fatter. The increase in weight is more related to diets high in simple carbs then diets high in fats (but it is a combination of the two). Simple carbs are digested and absorbed really quickly, so if you are not exercising and your glycogen stores are full (which they normally are) the carbs are stored as fat.

Fruits*‐ fruits are composed of simple carbohydrates, but are digested much slower then sport drinks or pop because fruits also contain a fairly high fiber content which slows down digestion. Which means less fat storage!

Complex Carbs

Complex Carbs are the sugars that you should be consuming outside of physical activity. Complex carbs are digested much slower then simple carbs. Your body is constantly burning sugars even when you are not exercising in order to meet the demands of basic bodily functions. Since complex carbs are digested slowly, they are able to gradually meet the simple demands of your body, and slowly replenish glycogen stores, and not get stored as fat! On the other hand, simple carbs are digested very quickly and provide your body with an overwhelming amount of sugar and gets stored as fat.

Complex carb sources

Sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat bread, lentils etc…


A half‐cup of vegetables should be consumed at every meal! Vegetables are high in the essential vitamins that are necessary to make our bodies perform optimally. Vegetables are high in fiber. Fiber slows the digestion rate of whatever you are consuming. Things that are digested quickly, like simple carbs get stored as fat. By increasing the fiber content (adding vegetables) you slow the digestion rate and your body gradually absorbs the nutrients. Vegetables are low in calories, but make you feel full. Eating a lot of vegetables controls your hunger urges, limiting over‐ eating!

Balanced Meals

All meals should contain a healthy balance of carbs, healthy fats, protein, and lots of vegtables. The calories in a balanced meal should be composed of 45 to 55% carbs (except at night time), 30 to 40% protein, and 20 to 30% fat. You do not need to overly stress about the percentages, use them as a guideline.

Frequency of meals

Eating 4 or 5 smaller sized, balanced meals is much better then eating 3 large meals. When eating 3 large meals, your body is unable to absorb all the nutrients that your body is taking in. This causes fat storage. Eating 4 or 5 smaller meals is much more ideal because your body is able to fully absorb the nutrients. You should be eating every 3 or 4 hours.


Hands down the most important meal of the day!!! When you wake up in the morning your body is pumping out the hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is the same hormone that is released when you are really stressed out. Cortisol causes your body to be in a catabolic state (meaning your muscles are breaking down!). The sooner that you are able to start eating in the morning, the sooner your body is able to switch from a breaking down state (catabolic) to a building up state (anabolic).



Examples of balanced breakfasts

1. 2 eggs scrambled with added vegetables, 2 pieces of fruit, and 1 piece of whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter.

2. Plain cooked oatmeal with added blue berries, mixed nuts, greek yogurt, and a scoop of whey protein powder

3. A high fiber low sugar cereal with added berries and nuts

Examples of other healthy meals to be consumed through out the day

1. Half cup of cooked quinoa, mixed vegetables, avocado, chicken breast

2. Sweet potato, salad, Salmon

3. Brown rice, Broccoli, Lentils and Chickpeas, glass of milk

4. Whole wheat pita with mixed vegetables, rice, and turkey

Eating before practice/workouts
45 minutes before physical activity (practice or workout) eat a small carb/protein snack.

1. Banana and a glass of milk

2. Berries and nuts

3. 1 green apple, 6 raw almonds

Post Exercise

When exercising your body enters a catabolic state and will remain in this state until you eat! This is why a lot of athletes and body builders will have a protein shake immediately after exercising. You are able to limit the catabolic state when exercising by consuming small doses of simple carbs during the workout (sports drink, fruit, etc…). After strenuous exercise your body is craving nutrients. Your body needs both simple carbs and protein immediately post workout.

A good strategy is to consume a Whey Protein shake and a banana immediately after your workout or practice. 45 minutes after your workout consume a meal that is high in carbs and Protein.

Good options to have immediately post workout:

1. Whey protein shake and a banana

2. Chocolate Milk

3. Tuna Sandwich

4. Greek Yogurt and Berries

Meal options 45 minutes after your workout

This meal should be high in complex carbs and protein.

1. Halibut (or any other type of lean meat), 2/3 cup of quinoa, 2cups of greens (could be a salad, broccoli, asparagus, etc…)

2. Chicken , 2/3 cup of wild rice, potatoes (could be white or sweet potatoes)

Eating after 8pm

As you get closer to bedtime your metabolism begins to slow down. Eating a meal high in simple or complex carbs after 8pm will be mainly stored as fat. When eating after 8pm, try to stick with protein sources, healthy fats, and vegetables. If you have practice or a workout at nighttime it is ok to include carbs in your nighttime meal/snack.


The supplement recommendations that I am making are considering everyone is on a fairly tight budget. I could get much more detailed with supplementation, however I do not think it is practical for most people to pay over $500 a month in supplements. This is why I am going to recommend three staple supplements… multi-vitmain, omega 3 fish oils, and whey protein.

I recommend that everyone take a multivitamin after breakfast. A multivitamin supplies your body with the appropriate vitamins and minerals to allow your body to perform its basic functions properly. It helps your body absorb and utilize the nutrients that you take in through out the day more optimally.

Everyone should take a minimum of 3 grams of omega 3 fish oils a day (not omega 6, we get way to much of that in our diet). Fish oils is important for brain function, cardiovascular health, and helps your body better use fat as an energy source. Take 1 to 2 grams of fish oils after your breakfast and another 1 to 2 grams a couple hours before bedtime.

Whey protein is a convenient supplement to take post workout or if you are on the run all day and need to get some extra nutrients in your body. I do not recommend replacing whey protein with meals or snacks however whey protein can be a great addition to your snack or meal. For example, add a scoop of whey protein to your yogurt, oatmeal, or shakes. The ideal time to consume your whey protein is immediately post workout.

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