The end of a season doesn’t necessarily mean months of rest for baseball and softball players, especially if they take part in fall ball or instructional leagues. While players put a lot of effort into honing their physical skills, healthy eating habits are just as crucial to their development.
The concept of good nutrition might be the same in all sports, but dietary needs vary from one athlete to another, according to Tavis Piattoly, licensed and registered dietician and co-founder of sports nutrition education for My Sports Dietician.
Calorie needs for every ballplayer can vary daily, depending on their body of work.
“If a kid has two hours of practice one day versus one hour of lifting that same day, they’re going to need a considerable amount of calories,” explained Piattoly, who has worked with numerous high school and college baseball players. “If a kid is completely taking a day off, they’re going to need a lot less.”
Body weight is also a consideration. For example, a 220-pounder requires more calories than a 120-pounder. Depending on how active a player is during the fall season, his or her need for calories may be even greater than the spring and summer.
Here are six ways parents and coaches can maximize a ballplayer’s conditioning through proper nutrition.
Eat Smaller Meals Closer Together
A common mistake many young athletes make is creating large gaps between meals. Piattoly says it’s better to eat smaller meals and snacks every three hours, rather than having little or no breakfast, a workout, then two large meals four to five hours apart.
Don’t Sleep In
Kids might not want to hear this, but it’s best to keep sleep patterns the same during summer and other break times as during the school year. If they insist on sleeping later, try to get them up by 9 a.m. at the latest, rather than 11 a.m. or noon. “If you’re trying to build muscle and gain weight, you’re not going to do that by sleeping late, because you’ve missed out on so many calories, it’s hard to catch up,” Piattoly said.
Plan Meals Ahead
Make sure your child has plenty of snacks and meals that can be easily prepared and packed in advance for practice and road trips. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches, nutrition bars, and trail mix can help replace calories that maintain muscle.
Balance The Diet
Parents should maintain a combination of protein and carbohydrates in their child’s diet, says Nancy Addison, certified health counselor, best-selling author and host of the Organic Healthy Lifestyle Radio Show. Prepare carb foods that contain fiber, and avoid phytic acids, which can cause indigestion and prevent your body from absorbing nutrients.
“Most people don’t realize the carbohydrates they’re eating are not as healthy as they could be,” Addison explained. “When you take out the fiber in certain carbohydrates, it kind of turns into glue in your stomach, and is hard to digest.”
Addison warns against using sports drinks, which contain fructose and other additives. She recommends investing in a good water-purifying system, and putting a pinch of unrefined c-salt in every jug of water. This gives your body the electrolytes it needs to prevent dehydration.
Good nutrition habits should be developed at an early age. Piattoly says it’s the one piece of the performance puzzle many parents, coaches and athletes forget about. “You can spend all the time you want in the batting cage, you can work with a pitching coach, but if you don’t have the right fuel, none of that matters,” he said.
Article Content Credit To: GameChanger & Stephen Kerr