In addition to proper fueling, baseball players need to focus on maintaining healthy hydration levels. Research shows that fluid losses resulting in as little as a 1-2 percent of bodyweight can negatively impact sports performance. Further dehydration can result in decreased muscle endurance, cramping, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. That makes hydration a top priority when it comes to both safety and performance in baseball, especially on hot, humid days.
Fueling and Hydrating Before Baseball Practice and Games
Since nutrition plays an important role in sports performance, it’s important to start practice and games well fueled and well- hydrated. The pre-training or pre-game meal will depend on how much time you have leading up to performance. As a general rule, if you have more time, you can consume larger, slower-digesting meals. If you have less time, meals and snacks should be fast-digesting and smaller in nature. See this handout for specific guidelines and examples on how to fuel up prior to performance.
Fueling and Hydrating During Baseball Games
The purpose of consuming fuel and fluids during training and games is to prevent carbohydrate depletion and maintain a good hydration status. Ideally, enough fluid should be consumed to prevent losses greater than 2 percent bodyweight. While drinking water is important, sports drinks have the additional benefit of providing carbohydrates for energy and electrolytes to keep fluid balance and help prevent dehydration.
Most baseball players prefer not to eat solid food while playing, but it’s still a good idea to have snacks on hand. It can be hard to predict how long a baseball game will last, and some end up going into extra innings, so you’ll need extra fuel.
Choose easy-digesting foods that can be consumed quickly on the bench, such as bananas, oranges, granola bars, crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or energy bars and chews. If unable to eat, most sports drinks contain sufficient carbohydrates to provide quick, usable energy when needed. If playing multiple games in a day, such as a tournament, foods with sufficient carbohydrate and protein should be consumed to help aid in recovery and help maintain feelings of fullness. Good examples include a deli meat and cheese sandwich, pasta salad with chicken, yogurt parfait, and a smoothie.
Refueling and Rehydrating After Baseball Games
Post-game recovery is critical for baseball players because in many cases, they will have another game the next day. Proper refueling after activity plays a major role in an athlete’s ability to come back stronger the next day. The right foods should supply sufficient calories and carbohydrates that can be stored for tomorrow’s use, protein to rebuild broken down and fatigued muscle, and fluids to help prevent dehydration the following day. Fluids also help remove metabolic waste from activity while carrying new nutrients throughout the body to any areas in need. At a minimum, athletes should drink enough to replace any fluid lost during activity. That can be monitored by weighing in and out before and after activity. See this article for specific examples of what and how much to drink after a workout.
Three examples of post-game and post-training recovery fuel options for baseball are:
- Rice bowl with chicken, beans, vegetables, cheese, lettuce, and guacamole
- Pasta with ground beef and cheese, side salad with added vegetables
- 16 oz. low-fat chocolate milk, banana, and trail mix
One final consideration for baseball nutrition is travel. Professional and collegiate baseball players frequently endure long bus trips, often overnight, where food options can be very minimal. Due to the popularity of travel baseball, this is now occurring with younger athletes too. Many families find themselves on the road all weekend during the summertime and parents are frequently scrambling for dinners during the week between their work schedules and their child’s practices and games.
This brings to light the importance of planning ahead. Be sure to have snacks, drinks, and even meals available for long car rides and in between activities. Keep a cooler packed with water and sports drinks, fresh fruit, yogurt, sandwiches, energy bars, chocolate milk and other ready-to-eat options. This level of preparation can save time, money, and make life easier for parents over the course of a long baseball season. Developing these nutritional habits from an early age sets baseball players up for success as they progress through their sports career.