Between practices, games, school and other teenage responsibilities, softball players use high amounts of energy each day. A player’s dietary habits will significantly impact those daily energy levels. Furthermore, nutrition directly affects health and recovery, making a balanced eating pattern essential to optimal performance. The benefits of a good diet highlights the importance of the question, what is a good diet for softball players?
In a stage of growth and high energy demand, adolescent softball players should consume a diet that meets individual calorie and nutrient needs. Softball athletes should avoid restriction and focus on including a wide range of nutrient dense foods. Generally, a balanced diet includes 45-65% of calories from carbohydrate, 25-35% from fats and 10-30% from protein.
Many softball athletes find eating three meals with two to three snacks works well to meet needs. Balanced meals and snacks usually contain a grain or starchy vegetable for carbohydrates along with a good source of protein and healthy fat. A good diet also involves drinking water throughout the day for proper hydration.
Continue reading to for additional nutrition tips and information that help support a softball player’s performance goals.
What Does a Healthy Diet Look like for a Softball Player?
Dietary needs are unique to each teenager due to many different factors. A Registered Dietitian can help tailor an eating pattern to best meet an athlete’s needs. Another good resource is MyPlate, which provides an estimated meal plan for different ages and energy levels.
A healthy diet will include adequate amounts of calories and nutrients, a balance of food groups and a variety of foods within the food groups. Following these principles prevents poor nutrition and the subsequent decrease in performance. The following table provides a basic meal pattern guideline for a 2400 calorie diet.
|Amount per day||Examples||Why?|
|Grains||8 ounces||Choose nutrient-rich grain sources like whole grain bread, rice, pasta, quinoa, tortillas, oats, and crackers. Half of your daily grains should be whole grains.||Carbohydrates provide energy for performance. As one of the best sources of this nutrient, grains should not be feared. These foods also offer iron and B-vitamins for energy utilization. Furthermore, whole grains provide fiber for a healthy digestive system and gut.|
|Fruit||2 cups||Focus mostly on whole fruits, instead of juice. Try and include a variety of colors. Dried, fresh, frozen, and canned all provide similar nutrients, but those with added sugar or fats should be limited.||Along with vegetables, fruits cannot be topped for vitamin, mineral, antioxidant and phytochemical content. These components fight inflammation, sickness and disease. Each type of fruit or vegetable offers a unique array of nutrients, which is why variety is so key to taking advantage of all these health benefits. Furthermore, the fiber content also keeps the gut and heart healthy.|
|Vegetables||3 cups||Aim for many colors and variety to take advantage of the wide range of nutrients. Choose from fresh, canned or frozen vegetables prepared without a lot of saturated fat, sugar or sodium.||See above description for fruit.|
|Protein||7 ounces||Include a variety of protein sources in your meals and snacks. Lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, nuts, nut butters, seeds, dairy, and eggs all offer quality protein.||The nutrient protein is found in abundance among protein foods. This nutrient is the building block for the body. Protein plays a pivotal role in building and maintaining body tissue along with the immune system, hormones, and other body systems.|
|Dairy||3 cups||Yogurt, milk and cheese are all included in the dairy group. If you can’t eat dairy, or don’t get enough, check out this post for more ideas to still satisfy nutrient needs! Dairy-Free Teens post||Dairy is a great source of calcium, vitamin D and potassium. These nutrients are essential for teenage bone and heart health. Dairy products also offer quality protein.|
What Nutrients Are Important for a Softball Player?
A nutrient comes from the diet and is essential to human life. Athletes who experience a nutrient deficiency will see a corresponding decrease in performance and overall health. Most teenage softball players will meet nutrient needs though an adequate and balanced diet, without a need for supplementation.
All nutrients contribute to good health and athletic ability. The following table lists certain nutrients which adolescents are at a higher risk of having a deficiency, often due to popular dietary habits. Simple diet changes can help teenagers experiencing deficiencies meet recommendations.
However, those who continue to find it difficult to meet these nutrient needs should reach out to a healthcare professional such as a doctor or registered dietitian. These professionals can make safe recommendations and prevent unnecessary or dangerous supplementation and diet behaviors.
|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.|
A softball player will also want to practice increased diligence regarding water intake. This nutrient is absolutely essential to a softball player performing well during games, training and in other aspects of life.
Want more help with your softball nutrition from a registered dietitian nutritionist?
Check out my Teen Athlete Meal Plan and Nutrition Tips.
- 50+ pages with insightful infographics for quick tips
- 28-day meal plan to help you eat well and eat right
- Healthy snack list
- Tips for Gaining or Losing Weight the Healthy Way
- Calculations for Daily Calorie Needs, Protein Needs, etc.
- Supplement Recommendations
- Meal Schedule
- and more!
By focusing on your nutrition you’ll get ready for the best season of softball you’ve ever had!
What are Good Hydration Practices for a Softball Player?
A softball player can experience games and practices that last longer than an hour or more. The weather can also range from extreme low to high temperatures with everything in between. These softball season characteristics create the perfect conditions for dehydration when athletes do not use good hydration practices.
Studies show dehydration, even as small as 2%, significantly decreases athletic endurance, reaction times, and concentration. An athlete will also feel more fatigued and may experience symptoms such as a headache, dry mouth, muscle weakness and dizziness.
In order to prevent these debilitating effects, softball players should always prioritize adequate fluid intake. This means drinking enough fluids all throughout the week, not just during games and training. Thirst is a sign of dehydration and athletes can instead use urine color as an earlier sign of hydration status. Athletes should strive to maintain a pale-yellow color.
Water remains the gold standard for hydration. Unsweetened beverages can contribute as well and include milk, unsweetened plant-based milk, unsweetened herbal tea and 100% fruit juice. Avoid consistent intake of beverages high in sugar such as soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, fruit drinks and sweetened tea.
Water works great during some games and training. However, when training or games last longer than an hour and an athlete experiences excessive sweating, a drink with carbohydrate and electrolytes can help replenish lost energy and electrolyte stores.
Softball players will want to ensure they drink fluids throughout the game or training to continue to feel and play well. Rehydration afterwards will also make a significant difference in recovery and future events.
Check out some of these sports drink tips that apply to softball as well: Should Football Players Drink Gatorade?
What Does a Healthy Meal Look Like for a Softball Player?
A healthy diet is made up of balanced meals and snacks. A balanced meal combines a variety of food groups and nutrients to provide satisfaction and energy between eating occasions.
For meals, a softball player will want to include a source of carbohydrate, protein, healthy fat and fiber. Making half the plate fruits and vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter grains will help an athlete obtain these nutrients.
The quarter plate of grains provides many of the necessary carbohydrates for energy. Ensuring intake of more whole grains over refined grains will help prevent blood sugar crashes and promote fullness through the additional nutrients and fiber. Starchy vegetables such as any potato variety, many winter squashes, corn and peas offer similar energy and fiber benefits.
The quarter plate of protein ensures the body receives the important building block of protein throughout the day. Protein also acts similar to fiber in keeping athletes full between eating occasions and promoting long lasting energy by preventing blood sugar spikes and crashes. Frequent intake of protein also helps athletes best utilize this nutrient for building and repairing muscle and other important body systems and functions. The body can generally only use 15-30g protein every 3-4 hours before using the rest for other purposes. Protein with all snacks and meals creates the foundation for effective use of this nutrient.
Fruit and Vegetables
With few adolescents meeting fruit and vegetable recommendations, making half the plate full of these foods can make a big impact on an athlete’s well-being. Fruit and vegetable intake is linked to fewer chronic diseases, decreased risk of obesity and the antioxidant contained fight inflammation. Fruits and vegetables also contain an abundance of fiber, water, vitamins and minerals. An athlete cannot expect to experience the best health outcomes without including fruits and vegetables in their eating patterns.
Healthy fats support heart and brain health. They also make food taste good and increase satiety and lasting energy. Athletes who avoid fat will find that their ability to play well will decrease significantly.
Athletes should avoid complete restriction of any food group or nutrient. However, choosing more nutrient dense foods and eating foods high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat only in moderation will create a more balanced eating pattern. Many ultra-processes foods like packaged snacks and treats contain little nutrition and high amounts of sugar, saturated fat and sodium. These foods often lead to energy crashes and feelings of hunger between eating occasions when eaten alone or in excess.
Snacks should usually contain a source of carbohydrate with either a mix of protein or healthy fats. Eating just carbohydrates for snacks can lead to fast rises and falls in blood sugar, causing energy slumps and hunger. Some good examples of balanced snacks include fruit with nuts/nut butter, whole grain cracker and cheese, vegetables with hummus, yogurt with fruit/ nuts and trail mix.
The meals and snacks leading up to a game may require some adaptions to avoid an upset stomach.
See this article for more information about fueling before a game or training: What is the Best Meal Before Softball?
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