A baseball/softball player’s diet is a very important part of his training program. Poor nutritional habits can prevent a pitcher from reaching his full potential on the mound.
There are three parts to a complete baseball pitcher’s training program: workouts, nutrition, and rest. Each of these components has equal importance. A pitcher cannot train at maximum intensity if he is not properly fueled or properly rested.
Proper nutrition is essential for competing at the highest level and performing at the highest level. Sure you’ve heard stories of great baseball players like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle who paid little attention to their health and wellness while playing. The fact is, had they maintained a proper diet and trained correctly they would have been even better.
In today’s competative atmosphere an athlete needs to maintain a healthy edge which means eating right. Baseball is a combination of balance, agility, and concentration with bursts of physical activity. For power, speed, and good reaction time, what and when one eats can improve or worsen performance. If we add in the length of games, weather conditions, and long season, the player who is best nourished will be the one who finishes strong, and healthy!
The nutrition goals for baseball are designed to optimize performance. Food choices, adequate fluid intake, frequency of meals, and timing of meals to activity can provide the edge in practice, games, and recovery. Many athletes are interested in losing body fat, or adding mass, but every player can benefit from a boost in energy, being optimally hydrated, and having the fuel for mental concentration and physical activity.
Every baseball player should make it a point to do the following daily:
Consume plenty of fluids
Determine fluid loss during practices and games by weighing before exercise begins and again after exercise has finished. This gives a good estimate of how much fluid is lost during physical activity, and lets you know how much fluid you need to replace! Monitor urine output. See your pee. The goal is light in color and a large volume, especially in the first void of the day. Drink enough fluid. The guidelines are as follows: Weight ( pounds) x 0.67 = number of ounces of fluid required daily
Recommended fluid intake
Drink 2 cups of fluid 2 hours before a game or practice.
Drink 6-8 ounces of fluid every 15-20 minutes during games or practices.
Drink 24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost during practices or games.
Best fluids for pitchers?
BEFORE: Water or sports drink.
DURING: Water, sports drink.
AFTER: Sports drink, water.
Worst fluids for pitchers?
Juices may cause stomach upset during exercise.
Carbonated beverages can cause bloating, and can cause fullness before fluid needs are met.
Caffeine-containing beverages may have a slight diuretic, or fluid-losing effect.
Alcohol can affect reaction time and is also a diuretic, causing valuable fluid loss. In addition, alcohol after exercise, before the body is optimally refueled will delay the body’s recovery from activity and may decrease performance!
Eat something within 1 hour of waking up to jumpstart your body. Good choices are: Bagel with peanut butter, bowl of cereal, eggs and toast, waffles with syrup and fruit, a vegetable omelet.
Try to eat a meal or snack every 3-4 hours to give your body an energy boost. Make it a point to eat something within 15 minutes after the end of a practice or game. Good choices are: Sports drink, granola and cereal bars, trail mix of cereal, pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, pretzels and orange juice, banana, bagel.
Meal-time food choices
The body uses carbohydrate as the primary fuel source for baseball, so each meal and snack should include carbohydrate-containing foods such as: rice, pasta, bread, bagels, cereal, crackers, tortillas, fruits, veggies, sports drinks, corn, potatoes.
Protein and fat-containing foods are not used as much by the body during practices or games, so they don’t have to be used in large quantities. In addition, pre-game or practice meals should be lower in fat, since high fat foods stay in the stomach longer and may cause an upset stomach. Some high-protein foods are: beef, pork, lamb, veal, fish, shellfish, milk, cheese, eggs, poultry, yogurt, nut butters, nuts, dried beans, soy, tofu.
Before games, try to limit the use of the following foods, which are higher in fat and may not sit well in the stomach.
Late-night food choices
Since many baseball games end late, and the stomach is crying out for food, here are some ideas that won’t keep you up all night, but still help you to refuel: grilled chicken sandwich, roast beef sandwich, turkey sub, ham sub, cereal, pancakes and waffles, eggs and toast, fruit smoothies, cheese pizza.
Nutrition should be part of your play book. Eat at regular intervals to keep your body energized all day long. Being well hydrated boosts performance and decreases the risk of injury. Make sure that every eating episode has a mix of foods with an emphasis on grains, fruits and vegetables. Try to wait until exercise is done to eat higher fat food. And remember, eating well translates to a quick mind and a strong, fast, lean and healthy body.
Eat well to play well. Work on it.
By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro