The diet to optimize your athletic ability and vertical jump is fairly simple oddly enough. If you get anything from this, calories are the most important aspect. However, diet is more nuanced than calories alone. The key is to optimize a calorie to nutritional value ratio. That way you can stay at a low body fat while your body is extremely healthy and firing on all cylinders.
The Basics: Calories
Calories is something that is extremely simple once you conceptualize calorie intake in a given day and week. Counting your calories and getting a general idea of what you eat is the first step to understanding why you are too fat or too skinny.
Let’s say you are too fat and your body fat percentage exceeds 25-30 percent. This means you need to cut calories out of your daily and weekly intake.
How many calories should I remove and at what pace?
This question is important because you do not want to cut too many calories at once. The higher your bodyfat percentage, the higher the cut you should start out with. But for most people, a 200 calorie reduction from their daily intake will see results.
But this is where the pacing comes into play. That 200 calorie reduction will eventually baseline and you will have to cut calories again. Typically this is about 2 weeks to a month. Repeat the process of cutting more and more calories until you are around 15-20 percent body fat.
Of course you can go lower than 15 percent body fat, but that requires a more muscular frame. Track your progress by using a scale. Your body takes a while to adjust to new eating habits. Do not expect to have instant results.
How about gaining weight for skinny people?
Typically you do not want to gain weight when it comes to dunking. However, if you are skinny and are weight lifting and training, you need those extra calories to put on muscle. The process is similar to losing weight, except you are adding 100-200 calories to your daily intake. You want to be careful to not increase your bodyfat percentage. If your body fat percentage increases, you will lose vertical, as you will have excess, useless weight. Individuals cannot dunk as effectively with more body fat percentage.
What about the food I am cutting out?
You will inevitably cut food out of your diet if you are cutting calories out. One would assume if you eat less, you are not getting as much nutrition for the day and week. However, that is why it is important to transition into more nutritious, calorie light foods (your parents telling you to eat more vegetables and healthy foods is starting to make some sense).
Theoretically, if you just take the calorie advice, you will lose weight if you eat strictly donuts or other junk food under the calorie limit you set for yourself. However, you will feel like crap for things like training, and you will have health problems over time. Your body cannot function without micro nutritious foods.
You get four benefits by eating healthier in your dunk journey.
1. You feel better overall and receive more energy for the training required to jump higher.
2. It makes the calorie deficit process easier because you can eat just as much as before, but at less of a calorie cost.
With cutting calories comes the third benefit
3. you look better
And the reason you are here
4. You jump higher, and therefore dunk, and dunk better.
What nutritional aspect should I focus on when choosing what foods to eat?
Focus on foods high in protein and fiber. These nutrients will make sure you recover from working on your vertical and reduce your hunger.
What foods do you recommend?
Lean meats like chicken and turkey have a very low calorie base and are very high in protein.
Beans and peas are great sources of protein and fiber. They are also extremely easy to prepare.
Eggs are high in protein, easy to prepare, and are filling. They also carry other important nutrients.
High in fiber and protein, oats are very filling, easy to prepare, and are nutritious.
If you have access to a blender, make a fruit smoothie with whey protein powder. It will taste good and be good for you.
Throw some strawberries, bananas, blueberries, raspberries and some ice with some creatine and protein powder.
food for thought
These foods are applicable for any athlete.
Of course, these foods only go so far. Implementing rigorous explosive training, both in speed and power are necessary for dunking. If you exclusively implement a diet, you will not increase your vertical very much. But losing weight alone can go a long way to improving athleticism and vertical jump.
Basically, do everything you can to improve in your dunking journey. If you are just training, implement an athlete diet. If you are just dieting, try to train.
I have articles relating to all things improvement. There is basketball skills training such as shooting and ball handling, and articles on what exercises to focus on for dunk training. If you are interested, check out my blog section for more information relating to the dunk and basketball improvement journey.