General Nutrition for Baseball Players

Baseball success comes to those with precise preparation and execution. Proper fueling and recovery are no different. Similar to the benefits of putting in hours of practice in the off-season, nutrition can pay off big when it’s the little things that separate taking first or second place. The foundation of proper nutrition and hydration occurs from Monday to Thursday. It’s important to establish routine meal times throughout the week that consist of a well-balanced diet. It may sound cliché, but don’t underestimate the value of making family meal time the norm in your household. Also, advocate for a variety of meals and snacks to help provide a well-rounded diet and keep your taste buds guessing. To all of you parents and coaches, be a positive role model and walk the talk.

Pre-Game Nutrition

Parents have given their kids cash to go buy a hot dog or slice of pizza from the concession stand before their next baseball game. However, the importance of gameday fueling should not be overlooked. Preparation is the key to prevent falling victim to concession stands dictating our diet. Pre-competition meals should primarily be focused on fine-tuning for carbohydrate and fluid levels to ensure you feel comfortable and confident. If there is sufficient time, a pre-game meal should be consumed approximately three to four hours before exercise and a light pre-game snack about one to two hours before you exercise. It’s important to pack travel-friendly food options that you can eat on the go.

Carbohydrates drive the primary energy train for baseball players. This is why it is recommended that 60-70% of your diet should consist of carbohydrates. It’s important to distinguish the difference between complex carbs and simple carbs. Complex carbs take longer to break down which produce energy over an extended period of time and should be consumed three to four hours before game time. Some examples of complex carbs include rice, oats, whole-grain wheat, yams, zucchini, beans, and corn. Simple carbs are great for quick energy and can be beneficial right before playing and even during the game. Often times, athletes will obtain simple carbs through sports drinks, dried fruit, granola/sports bars, smoothies, and fruit.  

Consuming adequate protein (about 15-20% of your diet) is also important as it helps to promote muscle power required for strength, endurance, and recovery. On game day, an intake of about 25 grams of protein 3-4 hours before game time and about 15 grams of protein 1-2 hours before game time is sufficient.  Lastly, another 15-20% of your diet should consist of healthy unsaturated fats. Having one to two servings of healthy fat three to four hours before game time is suitable because fats take a very long time to digest. Some examples of healthy unsaturated fats include vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, and fish.

Hydration for Baseball Games

Mid game fueling should consist of very light eating in the form of simple carbohydrates for quick energy. Additionally, maintaining hydration may have more benefits than you might think. As we exercise outside in the heat for hours at a time, our body releases water and electrolytes as we sweat. This can lead to dehydration which increases physiological strain and perceived effort to perform the same exercise task, and this is further accentuated in warm-hot weather1. It doesn’t take much for these responses to occur. Even mild levels of dehydration can produce disruptions in mood and cognitive functioning such as concentration, alertness, and short term memory specifically in youth athletes2. Improper hydration is a common problem. In a recent study, at least 75% of children ages 4-8, 87% of girls ages 9-13, and 85% of boys ages 9-13 did not meet the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) adequate intake recommendations for water in the United States which recommends the following3.

IOM Adequate Intake Recommendations
Girls and Boys ages 4-8 57 ounces daily
Girls ages 9-13 71 ounces daily
Boys ages 9-13 81 ounces daily

Muscle cramping can be another concern and is a primary result of exercising with associated dehydration and malnourishment in a hot environment. Replenishing your losses through water and electrolyte consumption can help reduce your risk of cramping, injury, nausea, and decreased performance. An easy way to monitor hydration status is to pay attention to the color of your urine. A cloudy or darker yellow/orange color means you are likely dehydrated and you need to increase your water intake. A light, transparent, or pale honey color indicates sufficient hydration.

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  1. Sawka, M. N., Burke, L. M., Eichner, R. E., Maughan, R. J., Montain, S. J., & Stachenfeld, N. S. (2007). Exercise and Fluid Replacement. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,39(2), 377-390. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e31802ca597
  2. Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, Hydration, and Health. National Institutes of Health,68(8), 439-458. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x.
  3. Drewnowski, A., Rehm, C. D., & Constant, F. (2013). Water and beverage consumption among children age 4-13y in the United States: analyses of 2005–2010 NHANES data. Nutrition Journal,12(1). doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-85