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Nutritional Guidelines

The Right Mix

Food fuels the body with energy. If you expend more energy, you need more fuel. The athlete needs high-performance foods. These high-performance nutrients for baseball players include the right mix of fluids, carbohydrates and proteins.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the master fuel for generating energy for practice and competition. The body breaks down carbs into glycogen, which is used in the muscle as fuel. Baseball players should keep their carbohydrate intake at 60-70 percent of their daily total calories.

There are two types of carbs: complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates provide a gradual release of energy over a long period of time. Simple carbs offer a quick fix. You want to take simple carbs which are found in fruits, root vegetables, beans, pasta, rice, breads and cereals.

Protein

15-20 percent of your diet should be made up of proteins. The body needs protein to repair and build muscle tissue but can only utilize a small amount. Any excess protein in the diet is broken down and stored as fat. Good sources of dietary protein are beef, chicken, turkey, fish, cheese, milk, egg whites and yogurt.

Fats

Your diet should consist of 15-20 percent of fat. The average diet contains more fat than is needed, leading to unnecessary weight gain. There are several ways to lower your fat intake:

  • Prepare food by broiling, steaming or poaching rather than frying.
  • Remove skin from poultry and fish.
  • Drink skim milk or water.
  • Substitute fish and chicken for red meat
  • Avoid foods packed in oil.

Hydration & Fluids

Warm weather athletes (baseball players) lose more body fluids through sweating. This increases the body's temperature which causes exhaustion, decreased performance and increased potential for injury. For these reasons, fluids are as important as a bat and glove to a baseball player.

Drink before you're thirsty: To avoid the risk of dehydration, you must replenish fluids before the on-set of thirst. If you've waited until you are thirsty to take a drink, you have waited too long. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already at about 1-percent dehydration; this equals close to three cups of sweat for a 150-pound person!

At 2-percent dehydration, your ability to perform in sport may drop as much as 15 percent!

When you become dehydrated, your ability to think and react slows, your stamina and recuperation becomes suppressed, power and strength output drops and the risk of injury increases dramatically!

Weighing yourself before and after games and practices is a good way to monitor fluid loss. Each pound you lose during exercise equals about two cups of sweat. The recommended amount of fluids per day for an adult male is 120 oz. For athletes working in the heat, this may be substantially more; drink as much as 8-10 ounces every 15-20 minutes or as much as you can handle.

Fruit juices, especially orange juice and pure peach and pear juice are great ways to replenish electrolytes lost via sweating. Mix them 25-percent juice and 75-percent water for the best results.

Sport drinks can also be used, but they too must be diluted with water at the 25/75-percent ratio. Most sport drinks have large amounts of sugar that just are not great for performance athletes, so use them sparingly.

Hydration for the athlete is a full-time job; as an athlete, you must start hydrating first thing in the morning and continue right to the time you go to bed.

The key is never to become thirsty!

Pre and Post-Game Meals

You should eat two to three hours before activity. This will prevent your blood sugars from getting low, which is a common cause of premature fatigue in many athletes. Avoid overeating and eating carbohydrates late at night, because your metabolism is slower at night and this late meal increases the chance this food will be stored as fat.

Things to consider for your diet

  • Eat breakfast -- it is the foundational meal of the day. Consume one-third of your calories here.
  • Eat extra carbohydrates, not proteins, except late at night.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially if hungry to fill the void.
  • Eat four to six smaller meals each day as opposed to three larger ones.
  • Eat two to three hours before competition.
  • Eat 60-90 minutes after competition to allow your body to absorb more nutrients and replenish itself better.
  • Do not overeat!
  • Eat light at night, more protein than carbs but not much of either.

Sample Daily Eating Schedule: (Six meals -- eating every three hours)

8:00 a.m.

1 cup oatmeal - complex

1 cup of fruit - simple

8 oz. glass of skim milk - protein

8 oz. glass of OJ - simple

11:00 a.m.

Meal-replacement shake with fruit - protein and carbs

2:00 p.m.

3 oz. chicken breast - protein

1 potato - complex

1 cup mixed fruit - simple

8 oz. glass of skim milk - protein

5:00 p.m.

Meal replacement shake - protein and carbs

8:00 p.m.

3-4 oz. of chicken or fish - protein

1 cup of rice - complex

1 cup of vegetables - simple

8 oz. glass of skim milk - protein

11:00 p.m.

Meal-replacement shake or bar - protein and carbs