With so much misinformation and temptation surrounding food nowadays, it's hard for any youth, high school or college athlete to understand what a healthy eating plan is. Add in extra free time in the off-season, and an athlete can hit a home run or strike out on her softball diet.
Softball players deal with many of the same issues as other girls regarding body image and diets. Eating right is not just about looking good on a summer day at the beach—it affects everything we do, including sports performance. The first priority of an athlete should be game performance.
How we manipulate macronutrients in our favor can ultimately be the difference between producing amazing game time stats or being an underachiever. Read on to learn what softball players should incorporate into their diets to produce the best results.
Most serious athletes understand the importance of adequate protein in an off-season diet. Whole food choices like boneless chicken breast, salmon, eggs and grass-fed beef are first-class options for your protein intake. If time is an issue, look into getting a high quality whey protein isolate—your best bet for a protein supplement because it is lactose-free, has no fat and mixes easily.
Contrary to the latest diet fads, carbohydrates are not the enemy, especially for athletes. The problem is that most of the foods in the grocery store are heavy in carbs, and differentiating good carbs from bad carbs confounds even the savviest experts. Softball players need to find low-glycemic carbohydrate sources. These will not spike your insulin levels and leave you drained and hungry shortly after eating. Great sources of low-glycemic carbs are old-fashioned oatmeal, brown rice, bananas, sweet potatoes, Ezekiel Bread, blueberries and green vegetables.
But the body will use even sugary, high-glycemic carbs effectively if they are eaten at the right time. That's right—sports drinks, grape juice and even a moderate amount of candy are okay to eat—but only immediately after a grueling practice, workout session in the weight room or team conditioning. Eating sugar at the right time helps refuel the glycogen stores in the body and aids recovery.
The last and most misunderstood nutrient necessary for softball players is fat. Although fat has gotten a bad rap in recent decades, it is an essential nutrient. I'm not talking about greasy fries or chicken wings that contain trans fat. I am referring to healthy fats: mono- and polyunsaturated fats in foods like cashews, almonds, tuna, avocado, red meat, seeds and natural nut butters. These are calorically dense, so the body uses them after it has exhausted all available carbohydrates for energy.
If you start incorporating the foods mentioned above into your off-season meal plan, you'll notice a difference, not only in your body but in your performance on the diamond once the season starts.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock