Top 3 Nutrition Essentials of Optimal 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 can make a huge difference! 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 can 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 practice, workout, or game. Consume between 20 – 30 grams (about a palm sized piece of chicken) 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
Fats: Fats are an essential part of all baseball players’ diets as well. Fats are important in cognitive function and hormone balance. Choose healthy unsaturated fats when possible. Aim for 1 – 2 servings of fat in a meal eaten 3 – 4 hours before a baseball game, but limit this nutrient right before, as it takes longer to digest.
- Healthy Unsaturated 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. For every 1 pound of body weight lost during exercise, consume 16 ounces of fluid to replenish what was lost through sweat. 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 this urine color chart to gauge your hydration status.
- Hydration Options:
- Sports Drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade
- High water content fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, oranges, peaches
- High water content foods such as soups and smoothies
- Salty foods such as pretzels and soups (for electrolytes)
#3 Quality Sleep
When schedules get busy, what usually gets reduced? For many baseball players, the answer is sleep. 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
To gain a better understanding of how much sleep you need for your activity level and age, visit The National Sleep Foundation.
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!
Resources and Links
- 7 Tips for a Great Pre-Game Meal
- Increasing Protein for Athletes
- Sleep: Best Performance Booster for an Athlete
- Baseball Nutrition: How to Hit a Homerun!
- Talking Nutrition with Lance Berkman
- Sports Nutrition for the Major League Baseball Player
- Performance Nutrition for Baseball
- Role of Hydration and Athletic Performance
- Performance Nutrition for Baseball Players eBook
- Performance Nutrition for Baseball Players Course