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A baseball player's diet is just as important as a commitment to training. Healthy eating often separates the "great" players from the "good." (See The 5 Most Effective Supplements for Baseball Players.)
Here are some nutrition tips to help you recover and replenish so you can perform to the best of your ability.
It's the essence of life and vital for athletic performance. Water rids the body of toxins, flushes out waste, regulates body temperature, improves digestion, lubricates joints and protects organs. It also allows other organs to do their jobs—the liver, for example, which metabolizes fat into usable energy for the body.
Adding lemon to water is alkalizing for the body, conferring numerous health benefits and promoting hydration, which is really important during long, hot days on the field. (Check out Talking Water: Facts and Tips on Staying Hydrated.) Remember: 3% dehydration equals a 10% loss in strength and 8% loss in speed.
Recommended amount for baseball players: 0.5 ounces/pound/day + workout needs
Meeting your recommended daily requirement of protein is essential for proper hormone production, immune function and maintaining lean muscle mass. Good sources are eggs, lean poultry (skinless breast), whey, fish, lean meats and dairy (if not lactose-intolerant).
Recommended amount for baseball players: ~1g/pound/day
Carbs provide fuel for the body. Ditch them and say goodbye to high-intensity training. Good sources are vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes. Personally, I avoid wheat, because it makes me feel sluggish. Stick to oatmeal, quinoa, millet, rice, yams and sweet potatoes.
Recommended amount for baseball players: 1.5-4g/pound/day. This is a wide range because needs vary depending upon goals for weight loss/gain/maintenance, training intensity and training duration.
Healthy fats play an important role in hormone function and have anti-inflammatory properties. Fish oil, olive oil, oil blends, avocados, nuts and seeds are good sources.
Recommended amount for baseball players: around 20% to 30% total daily intake, depending on goals for weight loss/gain/maintenance and individual tolerance. Some athletes digest fat easily and feel good on a higher fat diet. Others do not. If you eat a high fat meal and feel sluggish, or it just "sits" in your stomach, stick to the lower end of the range.
To maintain consistent energy, eat every three hours. Never fast or starve. When the body thinks it's starving, it releases ghrelin, a hormone produced in the stomach whose function is to tell the brain that the body must be fed. Release of ghrelin favors an increase in body weight by slowing metabolism and decreasing the body's ability to burn fat. You will feel sluggish and slow.
Proper nutrient timing also results in a better ability to focus and concentrate, which is vital to success in baseball.
It's best to eat three small meals plus three snacks of workout-specific fuel. Divide your total daily requirements into five portions:
- 1 portion each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- 1 portion consisting of 3 snacks
- 1 portion that's workout-specific
To do: Achieve a constant energy balance throughout the day—never starving, never stuffed. Eat six times a day instead of only two or three times. Breakfast is the most important meal, because the body has been fasting all night. Prior to a morning workout, taking in even just 50 calories—such as with watered down juice, a bite of an energy bar, a piece of fruit or a couple of spoonfuls of yogurt—will keep your body from entering "starvation mode." Everyone's timing is different, so find what works best for you.
Check out a nutrition plan for baseball.
A proper diet takes commitment and work. Pre-planning meals and snacks takes the guesswork out and helps with shopping. Once you get a routine going, it becomes easier.