Top 3 Nutrition Essentials of Baseball Performance
Baseball is the all-American sport, but elite baseball players don’t eat the “all-American diet”. They know that what they put on their plates will impact their performance at the plate – and for them, striking out is not an option. They also know that staying hydrated and well rested is the difference between playing like this and playing like this. So, what does this mean for you – a baseball player trying to reach the top? It means that your performance depends on more than your dedication to practice – it also depends on your dedication to nutrition, hydration, and rest. Read on to learn more about how these three components can be used to optimize your performance.
1. What to Eat Before Games and Practices:
While day-to-day fueling has the largest impact on performance, what you eat before games and practices will still impact how you play. These foods need to provide you with energy, but not weigh you down. What, and how much, you eat depends upon the amount of time that you have before your baseball game. If you’re eating 3 – 4 hours before a game, have a well-balanced meal consisting of complex carbohydrates, a moderate amount of lean protein, and a serving of healthy fat. Eating closer to an event is a bit trickier since you have less time for the food to digest. When eating 1 – 2 hours before a baseball game, choose foods that are high in easily digestible carbohydrates, but low in fat, fiber, and protein – since these nutrients delay digestion. Also, stick to familiar foods – you don’t want to throw your stomach a curve ball before a big game!
Carbohydrates: Carbs are your main source of fuel for activity – so getting the right amounts, and types, is key to optimizing your performance.
- Complex Carbs to eat 3 – 4 hours before:
- Cold whole grain cereal (high fiber, low sugar)
- Whole wheat pasta or bread
- Brown or wild rice
- Easily Digestible Carbs to eat 1 – 2 hours before:
- Most fruits
- Low-fiber hot and cold cereals (i.e. Grits, Cheerios, etc)
- White bread or pasta
- White rice
Protein: While protein is essential for recovery, it takes longer to digest – so you don’t want to eat too much before a baseball game. Consume between 20 – 30 grams when eating 3 – 4 hours before an event, but limit this macronutrient to no more than about 10-20 grams when eating 1 – 2 hours before an event. Protein is also essential for muscle recovery, making it important for baseball players.
- Lean Protein Choices:
- Chicken or turkey breast, without skin
- Lean cuts of steak or ground beef
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products (Greek yogurt, cheese, milk)
- Lean Ham or Pork
- Protein shakes
- Healthy Fat Choices:
- Nuts and nut butters
- Olive oil
- Seeds, including: Chia and flax
Hydration status, just like fueling, has a huge impact on performance. Dehydration not only affects physical play, but it also affects concentration, and as a baseball player, you know that your body and your mind need to be on top of their game. One way to monitor hydration status is to weigh yourself before a game or practice and then immediately after. The difference in weight will represent the amount of fluid lost during the event – because fat is not lost, and muscle is not gained that quickly. Another easier way to monitor hydration is by looking at the color of your urine. If it’s light yellow, you are well hydrated, but if it is dark yellow, you need more fluids. Use My Sports Dietitian’s water calculator to see how much fluid you need.
- Hydration Options:
- Reduced sugar sports drinks, such as Gatorade’s G2 or PowerAde Zero varieties
- Smart Water (Electrolyte enhanced water)
- Coconut water
3. Quality Sleep:
When schedules get busy, what usually gets reduced? For many baseball players, the answer is sleep. Unfortunately, cutting out sleep is not a good idea – especially for baseball players! The “8 hours a night rule” wasn’t created without reason. Adequate sleep is needed to maintain physical, hormonal, and mental health. While getting 8 hours of restful sleep each night may be unrealistic, it’s important to try to get as much as possible – even if it means adding in 10 – 30 minute naps during the day.
- Roles of sleep for baseball players:
- Improves hand-eye coordination and overall function
- Increases energy levels
- Essential for recovery
Now that you understand the three essential components for optimizing baseball performance, it’s time to put your knowledge to action and become the best baseball player that you can be. Eat up, drink up, and rest up – following the guidelines above, of course – and see your performance improve. To learn more about how to improve your baseball performance, check out www.mybaseballnutrition.com!
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Jenna Corbin, MS, RD, LDN, CSSD, CLT, PES, CES