A baseball player may notice how dietary choices affect training or play in a significant way. They may find themselves feeling sluggish after a morning meal of pop tarts or energized after three balanced meals the day before. Nutrition fuels and maintains the body and performance. Therefore, making the right choices can dramatically improve athletic capabilities of an athlete. So, what is the best diet for baseball players?
The best diet for a baseball player includes a variety of food groups and nutrients without relying on restriction or rigid food rules. Generally, teenage athletes will want to eat meals and snacks with a combination of carbohydrate, fat and protein. Teenagers can meet these nutrient needs by filling half the plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter grain. Choosing nutrient full foods more often also increases the nutrient quality of a diet. Furthermore, baseball athletes should hydrate appropriately with water and other unsweetened beverages.
The specifics regarding healthy dietary patterns cannot be detailed in one paragraph. Continue reading to better understand how a teenage baseball player can effectively fuel top performance.
What are Important Foods for Baseball Players to Eat?
A nutrient dense food contains a high amount of nutrients per number of calories. A poor nutrient dense food often contains higher amounts of sugar, saturated fat and sodium and less nutrients per number of calories. Choosing a majority of nutrient dense foods will support the health of a baseball player.
Often, less processed foods will provide more nutrients than ultra-processed foods. This statement does not mean all processing is bad. In fact, simply washing a piece of fruit or some salad greens counts as processing. Instead, a continuum of processing exists with washing and cutting produce on one end, and adding excessive added sugar, fat and other additives to packaged treats on the other end.
A teenager can still enjoy processed foods in moderation among a majority of more nutrient full foods. Some examples of low nutrient dense foods to limit include soda, chips, cookies, cake, ice cream, fried foods, sugar cereal, many granola bars, candy, and more. Using nutrition labels to identify sugar, saturated fat and sodium content in foods can help.
Nutrient dense foods will provide long lasting energy, support the immune system, boost performance and protect future health. The following lists provides just some of the many examples of nutrient dense foods from each food group.
whole grain versions such as brown rice, 100% whole wheat breads and tortillas, quinoa, popcorn, bulgur, barley, oatmeal
Apples, oranges, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, pears, unsweetened dried fruit, 100% fruit juice
Corn, all potato varieties, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, legumes (beans, lentils, soy), cucumber, beets
lean meat/poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese)
Water, unsweetened milk and plant-based milks, 100% fruit juice, herbal tea
What Does a Healthy Diet Look Like for Baseball Players?
Baseball players will find that following the principles of adequacy, balance, variety and moderation will best support performance goals. A good dietary pattern focuses on including more nutrient dense foods, not excluding specific types of nutrients, foods or food groups.
I’m fact, restriction often backfires, leading to a lack of energy, hyper focus on food and possible binging behaviors. A healthy diet includes space for favorite treats and snacks.
Adequacy– teenage baseball players should ensure they eat enough calories to fuel their bodies appropriately. Athletes who often feel tired and irritable or experience frequent injuries and sickness may want to assess if they consume enough during the day.
Balance– each food group provides unique nutrients and health benefits. Excluding an entire food group will lead to nutrient deficiencies and poor health. Therefore, a healthy diet should include all the food groups. The MyPlate website offers a calculator that provides estimated guidelines of the appropriate amount of each food group an active teenager should eat.
Variety– within each food group, a teenager can choose from a variety of foods. “Eating the rainbow” or choosing many types of fruits and vegetables helps teens meet nutrient needs. The principle of variety for each food group provides unique benefits. For example, always eating chicken for protein would cause a teenager to miss out on the inflammation fighting components of beans or the omega 3 found in seafood.
Moderation– too much of anything creates nutrient imbalances and encourages poor nutrition. Moderation means enjoying each food in an appropriate quantity that allows space for all foods in an eating pattern. A teenager should listen and respond to hunger and fullness cues through mindful eating.
Following these principles and emphasizing nutrient dense foods will help a baseball player maximize training to play well. Baseball players will also want to emphasize good hydration as fluids play a key role in a baseball player’s well-being.
What Nutrients Does a Baseball Player Need?
Nutrients help a teenager maintain good health and is essential to life. A nutrient deficiency will not only take away from a baseball player’s ability to perform but can cause sickness and poor health.
Macronutrients are those needed from the diet in larger quantities. These include carbohydrates, protein, fat and water. Micronutrients are those needed in smaller quantities and include all the vitamins and minerals. While baseball players need all these nutrients, some nutrients may require an added emphasis due to a higher probability of teenagers not including enough in the diet.
As a baseball player playing long hours in the heat, water should always remain a priority. Other nutrients of concern include vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, iron, potassium, calcium and omega 3 fatty acids. Discussing every important nutrient would require a textbook, but the following table provides information about some of the nutrients a baseball player should prioritize in the diet.
|Nutrient||Recommendation per day||Source||Function|
|Carbohydrates||45-65% of calories||Grains, fruit, milk, yogurt, legumes, starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, peas, winter squash)||Provides energy. These foods are often great sources of gut healthy fiber|
|Protein||10-30% of calories||Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy products||Build and maintains body tissue and organs, helps with feeling full and maintaining good blood sugar levels, plays a key role in immune and hormone function|
|Fat||25-35% of calories||Unsaturated fats: plant oils, seafood, avocado, nuts, seeds, olives||Provides energy, supports brain and heart health, helps with temperature regulation, cushions the body and organs, promotes taste and satiety|
|Vitamin D||15mcg||Fatty fish, egg yolks, UV treated mushrooms, fortified juice/milk, fortified cereals. One of the best sources of vitamin D is the sun||Assists in calcium absorption, immune function, and supports bone, muscle and heart health|
|Vitamin C||65-75mg||Citrus fruit, kiwi, strawberries, broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes, potatoes||Supports healthy skin, blood vessels, bone and cartilage. Acts as an antioxidant to protect health|
|Vitamin A||700-900mcg||Liver, fish, cheese, orange colored fruits and vegetables, leafy greens||Supports a healthy immune system, vision and the skin. It also acts as an antioxidant to decrease risk of chronic disease|
|Iron||11-15mg||Meat, poultry, seafood, tofu, beans, seeds, fortified cereal, leafy greens (pair foods high in vitamin C with plant sources of iron to improve absorption)||Used in blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.|
|Potassium||2300-3000mg||Most fruits and vegetables (potatoes, spinach, avocados, bananas, watermelon, raisins), legumes/beans, dairy, fish, meat, poultry, seafood, tofu, beans, seeds, fortified cereal, leafy greens (pair foods high in vitamin C with plant sources of iron to improve absorption)||An important electrolyte for fluid balance in the body. Also essential to muscle contraction and heart health|
|Folate||400mcg||Dark leafy greens, many other fruits and vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereal||Helps form healthy blood cells and prevents birth defects in babies|
|Calcium||1300mg||Dairy products, fish with bones, almonds, broccoli, beans, seeds, leafy greens, fortified foods, soy products||Important for muscle contractions, blood clotting and supports healthy bones and teeth|
|Omega 3||1-1.6g||Seafood, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, canola oil, grass fed animals, fortified eggs||Supports brain, heart and full body health. Omega-3 is essential to most cell membranes throughout the body. It can also help reduce chronic inflammation.|
Do Baseball Players Need Supplements?
Baseball players who eat a balanced and varied diet do not need supplements unless directed by a healthcare professional. Supplements not only add a high and unnecessary monetary cost but may also harm health in certain circumstances.
The FDA does not regulate dietary supplements well. These supplements may offer misleading claims and contain harmful contaminants, toxic amounts of nutrients and inaccurate ingredients. Those who decide to take a supplement should first talk to a healthcare professional and ensure reputable choices through choosing third party labeled supplements.
Foods to Avoid for Baseball
The day to day eating pattern of a baseball player allows all foods in appropriate quantities. Some foods should be enjoyed in limited quantities such as those high in sugar, saturated fat or sodium, with poor nutrient content.
However, in the hours prior to an intense workout or game, athletes may want to avoid certain types of foods. Food high in fat, fiber, sugar and sugar alcohols can cause gut distress and energy crashes when eaten too close to exercise. An athlete may find it helpful to avoid these types of foods 2-4 hours in advance of an event.
How to Plan Snacks Before, During and After Baseball Games
The type of snacks that work well can change depending on the time. The following section provides guidelines, but athletes should find what works best for them during training days. It is best to avoid experimenting close to game time to avoid unpleasant consequences of new foods or routines.
Meals and Snacks 3-4 Hours Pre-Game
This can be a light meal or larger snack to prevent hunger during the game. Try to avoid foods excessively high in fat, fiber, sugar or sugar alcohols. Choose a combination of carbohydrates, protein and little fat.
- Egg burrito with fruit
- Chicken and rice with some vegetables
- Baked potato with tilapia
Snacks 1-2 Hours Pre-Game
A snack of mostly carbohydrate with a little protein can provide energy before the game starts. Keep it simple!
- Peanut butter on toasted bagel
- Cheese stick and crackers
- Fruit, granola and yogurt
During the Game
Avoid anything heavy or hard to digest. Focusing mostly on carbohydrates and fluids will keep energy stores high while avoiding gut issues. Oftentimes a baseball player will find they do not need snacks, other than fluids, unless the time goes long.
- Unbuttered popcorn
- Pretzels or crackers
- Energy balls (peanut butter, oatmeal, dried fruit)
A high carbohydrate and moderate protein snack will help replenish energy stores and assist in recovery. Make sure to hydrate as well!
- Fruit smoothie made with cottage cheese or greek yogurt
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
- Bean and rice burrito
Muscle cramping, headaches, slowed reaction time, tiredness and poor concentration all come from inadequate fluid intake. A baseball player knows these health consequences will dramatically decrease performance. Even as much as 2% dehydration affects the body.
In addition to drinking regularly throughout the days and weeks, baseball players will want to drink about 16 ounces (oz.) water two hours before an event. Then an additional 8 oz. about fifteen minutes before the start of play. To continue with good hydration during a game or training, teenagers should drink 4-6 oz. of fluid every 15 minutes. Following play, athletes should replace every pound of water weight lost with 16-24 oz. fluid.
Games or workouts that last longer than one hour or include excessive heat may necessitate fluids that contain electrolytes and carbohydrate. Otherwise, water is the best hydration tool to avoid overconsumption of sugar and calories.
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