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Nutrition for Baseball Performance

For baseball players, the fall season means it is time to start setting goals for the off-season. Whether it’s gaining or losing weight, increasing velocity, or just getting stronger, the fall is the time to start making these changes.

Nutrition often plays a large role in attaining your off-season goals. In the baseball world, nutrition is often overlooked, and not on purpose. It’s just not always convenient to eat a well-balanced healthy diet with hectic sport and school schedules. Baseball players know that nutrition matters, yet have no idea what to do when it comes to nutrition.

I often see the struggles baseball players face every day when it comes to nutrition, and I have lived it myself as a former player and coach!

 

Why Nutrition Matters to Baseball Players

As a baseball player, you have the power to improve your performance through food. You must have plenty of the right foods to compete at your highest level. The stress you endure through sport and school increases your nutritional needs.

 

This is why Mike Reinold and I developed The Champion Baseball Nutrition for Performance eBook. This eBook will help guide you in making smart nutrition choices throughout your competitive years and set you up for a lifetime of healthy habits.

As a former baseball player who has played at the collegiate and professional levels, nutrition was always something I personally struggled with. I never took it seriously in growing up, and never understood how much nutrition could impact my performance on the field.

This was what my day looked like when I was in high school:

I would skip breakfast.
Have junk food for lunch.
Get home and microwave some pizza, nachos or hot pockets.
Have dinner and repeat.

My body composition was obviously not the best, and my performance began to deteriorate. I had no idea what to do, how to eat, or what to eat. That carried on into showcases and camps. Then I had a college coach walk up to me while I was drinking a Mountain Dew. This coach told me they liked my skill, they liked how I pitched in the game, but he was disappointed with my food decisions. He made it clear, they are recruiting me to come to their school and be there for 4 years on my own and making my own decisions.

That was my wake-up call.

 

…But I still didn’t know what to eat or how to eat!

So, I did what most do. I went online and found some articles and began to make changes here and there. There was SO much information out there though. Most of it was very opinionated, or quick fix diets, or take a bunch of supplements.

So, while I tried to make changes, I fell back into old habits as it was easy. Once I got to a higher level of baseball, I realized how serious everyone was at taking care of their bodies. We were lucky, we had a team nutritionist. Most do not. Our nutrition coach helped changed my eating habits, and begin to change my performance and recovery. I went from a bad body composition, to a stronger and less injury prone player.

Once I got done playing, I got into baseball coaching and strength training. I began to see the same problems I faced as a growing athlete. Players knew that nutrition mattered, yet had no idea what to do when it came to nutrition.

I wanted to make a difference and help baseball players navigate their nutrition. The Champion Baseball Nutrition for Performance Program helps address the problems we’ve seen in many baseball athletes. Nutrition is often overlooked, and not on purpose, it’s just not always convenient to eat a well-balanced healthy diet.

 

The Champion Baseball Nutrition for Performance eBook

The Champion Baseball Nutrition for Performance eBook contains science backed information and studies written with young athletes, parents and coaches in mind. The goal is to provide you with clear and easy to understand information. To educate you about nutrition and how it affects the body and your performance.

 

This eBook will provide you with the education to start making changes to improve your baseball performance. No matter what issues you might come across, we’ve got you covered!

This 89-page eBook will provide you with the education to start making changes to improve your baseball performance. No matter what issues you might come across, we’ve got you covered!

Here are some of the items you will learn about in The Champion Baseball Nutrition for Performance eBook:

  • Learn How to Eat With a Purpose
  • Sport Specific Needs of Baseball
  • How to Create a Well-Balanced Meal
  • Learn How Food Fuels Your Baseball Performance
  • Game-Day Nutrition Tips
  • Grocery Shopping List to Take With You
  • …And so much more!

 

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Getting your nutrition dialed in is a very important step in enhancing your baseball performance, but when used in combination with a baseball-specific training program you’ll see even better results, especially for the long term.

Nutrition is extremely important for baseball players, not just in the off-season, but all year long. This is why Mike Reinold and I put together this eBook to help as many baseball players as possible. To celebrate the release of our new program, we are offering it for 50% this week only!

Click Here to Save 50% to purchase today:

The 3 Foundations to Your Nutrition: Macronutrients

When it comes to nutrition and athletes, understanding what you are consuming will go a LONG way! The 3 foundations fall under 1 major umbrella: macronutrients. Often known as “macros,” carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, supply all the energy to perform important bodily functions and daily activities.

The majority of your diet is made up of macronutrients.

Carbohydrates are glucose and can give long term or short-term energy depending on what you eat. Fats are energy dense foods and are separated into two groups: saturated and unsaturated fat. Protein helps recover your muscles faster from workouts.

In this blog, we will break down each macronutrient and go over some food choices!

Download My Top 10 Baseball Game Day Nutrition Tips

 

Carbohydrates

To start off I will give a little run down of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are formed from monosaccharides, oligosaccharides, and polysaccharides. The longer and more complex carbohydrate chains take longer for the body to digest. Longer digestion times supply energy over an extended period of time, while shorter chains and shorter digestion times provide quick energy supplies.

Polysaccharides (which are the longest chain) mostly include plants such as: rice, starch, whole grains, and beans.

To digest carbohydrates, it all starts with the mouth…of course. The first place where carbs are broken down is in the saliva. Saliva breaks the chains into polysaccharides, then they pass through the bloodstream into the small intestine.

Finally, they are stored as glycogen, more specifically known as glucose energy.

Now that the bases are covered we can get to how carbohydrates affect a daily diet. Carbs are the fastest macronutrients in and out of the body. When consuming carbs think of the time period you have before you need to exert energy and how long the energy needs to last. For example:

  • Right before a workout what should you eat? White bread, fresh or dried fruit. White bread contains smaller chains that are easier to digest. Which gives a brief burst of energy.
  • In the morning before work or school, what should you eat? Whole grain bread, lean protein, or other nutrient-rich foods. The wheat bread contains long chains of saccharides which make the energy last longer because they take more time to digest. These are things to consider for your diet. This gives you energy for a longer amount of time.

 

Fats

Now here is a rundown on fats. The most important fact to understand about fats are the two major categories: saturated and unsaturated fats.

According to the American Heart Association, “Saturated fats are simply fat molecules that have no double bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules.” To identify them simply look for the fats that are solid at room temperature.

Examples of Saturated Fats

  • Butter
  • Cheese
  • Fatty beef
  • Lard and cream
  • Lamb
  • Pork

Unsaturated fats are usually liquid at room temperature. “An unsaturated fat is a fat or fatty acid in which there is one or more double bond in the fatty acid chain.”  

Examples of Unsaturated Fats

  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Canola
  • Soybean
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut Oil

Fat is digested slower than carbs because it doesn’t go through the stomach and blood vessels as fast.

In a healthy diet or nutrition plan fats should provide the majority of energy. Each fat gram contains 9 calories, compared to carbs and proteins which only hold 4 calories.

Fats help make and balance steroid hormones, transport fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and provides omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

The healthiest diets have a variety and a balance between fats and avoid consuming processed fats as much as possible.

 

Download my Top 10 Game Day Nutrition Tips for Baseball Players

 

Proteins

Protein helps give us the “I’m full’ factor. It evidently takes longer than carbohydrates and fats to digest. Part of the reason pertains to protein starting the digestion process later in the stomach while carbs and fats start earlier. First, the acid in the stomach breaks apart the protein structures to make way for the pepsin to break apart peptide bonds.

Protein should be implemented into your diet, but it might not be the same as your peers. It can be based off your body size, preference, and needs. But the most important part is to have an assortment of protein sources.

High Protein Food Options

  • Eggs
  • Almonds
  • Chicken breast
  • Oats
  • Cottage cheese
  • Greek yogurt

Proteins are also filled with Branched Chain Amino Acids, the building blocks to your recovery and muscle repair. Make sure you have a lean protein source with every meal through the day!

 

Putting It All Together

Know we know that carbohydrates are the fastest macronutrients in and out of the body.

When consuming carbs think of the time period you have before you need to exert energy and how long the energy needs to last.

Fats should provide the majority of energy and the healthiest diets have a variety and balance between fat foods and avoid consuming processed fats as much as possible.

Finally, protein should be implemented into your diet, but shouldn’t be the same as your peers. It can be based on your body size, preference, and needs. But the most important part is to have an assortment of protein sources.

Adding this to your knowledge of diets and macronutrients has already provided you with the tools for a great nutrition plan.

5 Major Mistakes Baseball Players Make In-Season

With baseball season officially upon us, I wanted to break down the 5 mistakes I commonly see baseball players make in season and how you can avoid them. Baseball players often stop working out, and they have poor sleep and nutrition habits. These problems are compounded by poor time management skills. Here are some easy solutions on how to manage your time wisely to maximize your season!

If you are not a subscriber to Esposito Strength Club, make sure you click here to subscribe so you don’t miss out! You will also get access to all of my Free Online Baseball Courses!

 

1. You Stop Working Out

Look, I get it. I was a player and I remember the hectic schedule of school, practice after school, games, travel, lessons…but like a said above, it’s a SCHEDULE. I don’t know of many NCAA or Pro level teams not lifting in season. Making it a point to find 2-3 hours per week to take care of your body is not that much to ask.

Let’s put that in perspective. In a recent survey of time spent playing Fortnite during the week, 29.4% said they played Fortnite 0-5 hours per week while 32.5% played for 6-10 hours per week.

Now, I’m not saying to not play video games because, like many, I like to merk some noobs playing Battlefield 1 on the PS4 from time to time, but I don’t let it impact my training or my job.

 

What are Your Priorities?

Baseball in-season strength training is important for staying healthy and maximizing performance. Remember, some of you have spent months of training to get into the best shape you could be leading to this season. Your off-season was designed to maximize your on-field performance.

That can also be said about your in-season program, not only can you still increase your strength, but you are also maintaining your movement quality. This will have a large impact on your durability throughout the season!

If you stop training altogether, you run the risk of breaking down sooner, especially with an often hectic and busy baseball schedule. For some of you, you will go from 1-2 hours a week of baseball to potentially 15-20 hours!

Other in-season benefits will vary from player to player but include maintaining strength, managing stress placed on tissues during the season, and working to continue your athletic development.

If you are not sure what to do for in-season strength training, make sure you check out the program Mike Reinold and I put together: Champion In-Season Baseball Performance Program.

 

Baseball In-Season Strength and Conditioning Guidelines

I recently put together an In-Season Baseball Strength Training Series. I breakdown common myths, misconceptions, schedules and more! Make sure you check those out below.

In-Season Lifting Part 1: General Guidelines

In-Season Lifting Part 2: Youth Baseball

In Season Lifting Part 3: High School Baseball

 

2. You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is by far one of the most common areas that teenagers neglect. I’ve been there myself. On school nights, I used to stay up past midnight watching TV, playing video games (being on your cell phone wasn’t a thing yet in 2000-2004 when I was in high school). I’d wake up at 5:45 am and repeat for the week. Then on the weekends, I’d sleep till 1-2 in the afternoon. I was a SLUG! My grades suffered, and my body recovery was terrible.

 

Why Does Sleep Matter?

Sleep is one of the body’s most important biological functions with roles in performance, cognition, learning, development and mental and physical health.

While there are numerous consequences as a result of inadequate sleep, identifying sleep problems and following the recommended sleep guidelines can help ensure sporting performance is maximized.

 

 

From an academic perspective (don’t forget, STUDENT-athlete), we know having adequate amounts of sleep will increase your performance in the classroom. Not only can your test scores increase, but your cognitive function, thinking, and creativity can see improvements as well.

Now, put yourself in the mind of a college coach and recruiter…the more colleges you qualify for academically, the more you can consider athletically!

 

Sports Performance Benefits

From an athletic perspective, having an adequate amount of sleep has tremendous improvements to your performance.

“Sleep is the most potent performance enhancing activity that we know of.”

– Jeffrey Kahn, Sports Performance Scientist.

In a recent study, student-athletes who get less than 8 hours of sleep per night are 70% more likely to get injured. If you are getting less than 6 hours of sleep, you are reducing your reaction time by 18%.

Baseball is a reaction sport. Hitters are reacting to the pitcher. Fielders are reacting to the hitter. Baserunners are reacting to every pitch and play of the game! 18% is A LOT to lose.

Again, sleep is an obstacle that all athletes have to face. When you get optimal sleep duration (8-10 hours), one night of sleep improves motor learning task speed by 20% and accuracy by 39%. Baseball players improve reaction times by 122 milliseconds. To put that in perspective, a 90-mph fastball takes about 400 milliseconds to travel from the pitcher’s hand to home plate. Improved sleep can also decrease fatigue by 40%. I guess you could say sleep is important.

 

How to Help Your Sleep

  • Turn off the TV
  • Limit blue light use (phones, tablets, laptops, computers) 2-3 hours before bedtime.
  • Read a book
  • Watch caffeine intake during the afternoon
  • Get consistent with your sleep and wake-up schedule
  • Put items that can be a distraction in a different room

 

3. Your Nutrition Is Lacking

The nutrition and food choices you make every day will have a tremendous impact on your energy levels, baseball performance, and your overall health!

Without proper nutrition, you can become lethargic, you can lose the ability to concentrate, and you are missing out on your body’s ability to recover. All of these will have an impact on your academic and sports performance.

You need to remember; your food is your fuel. The quality and quantity of your nutrition matter a whole lot, especially in sports performance.

I really want to make sure you realize that this is not a “diet.” Diets are often restricting, limiting, and often difficult for athletes, especially NCAA, high school and youth athletes to follow. What we want is an abundance of good quality, highly nutritious foods.

 

A mistake many make is looking for a quick fix or a quick solution to what needs a long-term commitment. Sure, adding in nutrients you may be lacking and cutting out junk food will help short term, but you need to remember sports performance is year round.

 

Drink More Water!

Drinking water is something many athletes lack. Water can help maximize your body’s natural functions, as well as help you maintain your energy levels and brain function. Your body is constantly losing water throughout the day, then you go to play games and practice in hot weather.

While sports drinks do have some positives such as electrolytes and good carbs, you are also taking in large amounts of sugar.

 

Taking Control of Your Nutrition

I recommend you track your food and nutrition daily. This will give you a good idea of your eating habits, intake, and nutrient timing. You can use apps on your phone or computer, or the old-fashioned journal works just as well.

Another helpful tip is meal prepping and planning. Planning out your food will allow you to create and stick to a schedule. This will help you make better choices throughout the day. If you are not shopping for yourself, talk with your parents and help out with the grocery list.

Finding a nutrition plan can be hard as it should be unique to the individual. Everyone has different needs based on activity levels, goals, schedules, and personal lifestyles. I would recommend you see a nutritionist for more on that!

 

4. Time and Schedule Management

We touched on this above regarding strength training and finding time to lift. When it comes to time management, everyone can always do a better job. The number 1 excuse I hear from athletes, especially in-season, is they don’t have enough time. I call BS.

Athlete schedules can be all over the place in today’s sports world. There is really no way around that as that has become the norm for playing sports. What changes though are your priorities and your choices. These choices and priorities will impact your sleep, nutrition, and development.

 

What’s Out of Your Control

To begin to work on your time management, you must make a list of necessities or items that just simply won’t change or go away. For example, we know your school schedule really won’t change all that much. From roughly 7:30 till 2:30, you are unavailable.

Once the weather cooperates, typically your baseball games and practices are usually right after school. On average, you can be done by 5 pm. If you don’t get in bed until 10 pm, what are you doing with those 5 hours a day… which equals 25 hours from Monday-Friday?

Well, you have to eat, and family time is huge, don’t forget that. We also know you will have homework. Obviously, that will depend on your school, grade, and course load but that could take up 2-3 hours a day right there.

So that leaves you with potentially 2 hours a day or 10 hours during the weekdays. Those 10 hours can be spent on self-development, strength training, sport skill development, hanging out with friends or personal time.

 

How to Work on Your Time Management

I would highly suggest you make a daily schedule or journal for yourself to see where your free hours are and how you can maximize your time. Keeping a schedule will allow you to take control of your daily routine, start controlling external factors a bit better, and manage some potential stressors.

 

5. You Ignore Recovery

When we put the previous 5 mistakes together, that adds up to a lack of recovery and potentially impacts your baseball performance. Baseball is a very violent sport from a biomechanical standpoint. The demands and forces placed on your body are some of the highest in sports. Taking care of your body is like charging your batteries.

 

 

I recently heard a very good analogy from Cory Schlesinger, a strength coach at Stanford University. Cory discussed an analogy he got from Jordan Shallow and compared the athlete’s injury risks with outside factors.

“Jordan Shallow gave me this metaphor, he was saying this fungus will fill up a pond and it doubles its size every day. So, if it starts off at .2, then the next day is .4, he asked me, if it’s going to fill up a whole pond in 30 days, what’s the day it’s half full. Day 29. That’s how I look at the human body. It’s literally the last thing and then boom. We could’ve had all these interventions from Day 2 to Day 28 or Day 29 even, but it’s that one last straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

 

What does that mean?

There are many factors that go into your athletic development. As athletes, being able to manage your stress, school, sleep, nutrition, time management will lead to an optimized sports performance environment for you to thrive in. All those factors mesh and work together.

For example, many coaches will look for the exact moment of a sore arm, or injury from sport, but will forget to look at all the other factors that could’ve led to that injury. While being injured is not ideal, getting healthy and making sure it doesn’t happen again is key.

 

Final Thoughts

One big takeaway I hope you got from this post is that all of these mistakes can be 100% controlled by you. Your body’s recovery can be impacted by being proactive with your time and schedule management. This will allow you to maximize workout schedule and outside factors and stressors. Your nutrition and sleep will have an impact on your performance on and off the field as well as in and out of the classroom.

All of the mistakes work cohesively together. It’s up to you whether they work for you or against you.

4 Lifestyle Factors That Affect Baseball Performance

As the summertime rolls around, the baseball tournament season is beginning to get heavy. Schedules begin to fluctuate between morning double headers and long travel for tournament play.

Hopefully, your body isn’t worn down because you’re in a solid strength and conditioning program. It’s important to maintain your athletic qualities so that they enhance your athletic skills on the field.

However, what a lot of players forget to even think about is a bunch of lifestyle factors that ultimately affect their performance. These factors can be both negative or positive. I often like to highlight 4 specific lifestyle factors that you’re not considering. These include sleep, nutrition, stress, and soreness.

 

Positive Factors: Sleep and Nutrition

Sleep may be the most important of the positive factors. This becomes critical when schedules are hectic. If you aren’t well rested, this will negatively affect your performance.

When my athletes log how many hours of sleep they get, I usually take off an hour. This is because we aren’t in a “deep sleep” for those “x” number of hours.

What if you have an early 8:30am game, and need to be at the field an hour before? When should you realistically wake up?

Does it take a while for you to “wake up”? Do you usually feel exhausted?

Does it take a while for you to “warm up” and stretch out as soon as you’re out of bed stiff as a rock?

These are all questions the athlete must think about.

Sleep, the hopeful 8-hour window, is when recovery takes place. It is during this time where growth hormone peaks, and testosterone usually peaks as soon as you wake up in the morning.

In my eBook, “The Game Day Guide to Optimal Baseball Performance”, I talk about how you can develop a nightly routine so that you can wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go on a steady basis.

When it comes to nutrition, this positive factor should also be ranked above a “7”.

Realistically, it will never be a “10” or a “9”. When ranking yourself daily, it’s important not to cheat! Be real with yourself!

Do you usually skip breakfast?

Did you eat any sort of fast-food prior to sleeping?

Do you drink enough water throughout the day?

Do you have enough pre-game snacks stored with you?

Again, these are all questions the athlete must think about.

Here’s a sample of a quality pre-game snack that includes protein, quality carbs, and healthy fats

  • Protein shake, apple and banana, trail mix with some sort of nuts and raisins
  • Banana and almond butter, hard-boiled egg, oranges/clementine’s
  • Greek yogurt with raw nuts, chicken/fish

When it comes to timing for nutrition, this becomes highly individual. For some, eating 30 minutes before warming up for a game might be the best option.

On the other hand, I know a handful of athletes that would rather eat an hour before a game because they like to play “hungry” and “fueled”.

 

Negative Factors: Stress and Soreness

The body does not know the difference between the stress before a game, during the game, after the game, or in the weight room. Stress is stress. This is important to consider because too much stress on the body can negative affect performance.

Therefore, these negative factors should be ranked below a 3 on the 1-10 scale as previously mentioned.

I use a pitch grid for my pitchers not only to track pitch count, but to track stress and soreness throughout the entire game. This will dictate how far/how much they throw in the following days from a start.

For position players, tracking your stress, or just being cognizant of it, is just as important because you’re getting more time on the field than the pitchers.

Did you get a lift in before the game? A day before the game? Two days before the game?

Not to get too specific with strength and conditioning, but if you do too much before a game this will peak the stress levels in your body.

One thing that worked for me in my playing career if I felt stressed before a game was to use mental imagery before the game. Imagine yourself playing from a first-person view and a third-person view.

See yourself performing at high levels, trusting your abilities, acting confident, breathing, and committing to every single play!

Tracking stress along with soreness gives a better picture of accumulated fatigue in baseball players.

Is your arm hanging from your shoulder? Is your back super sore and achy from all the swings you take?

If you’re not feeling too hot when you arrive at the field, make sure you do an extended warm up on your own on top of your team warmup.

 

How to Calculate Your Readiness Scores

When tracking these 4 lifestyle factors, baseball players can be even more aware of what they need to do to become game ready. When we put these 4 factors together, we can compute a readiness score.

When you try to determine their impact on your performance, I often recommend that you use a scale from 0-10 to form your readiness score.

On a scale from 1-10, positive factors should be ranked high, ideally a 7 or above.

On the other hand, negative factors should be ranked low, ideally a 3 or below.

To create a readiness score, just add your positive factors together and your negative factors together. Then, subtract your negative factors from your positive factors.

Here’s what a typical readiness score would look like:

  • Sleep – Quality 8 hours of sleep but tossed and turned a little in the AM, so 9/10
  • Nutrition – Had a good meal earlier in the day but had fast food at night, so 5/10
  • Stress – Had a good day with minimal stress, so 1/10
  • Soreness – Minimal soreness from the past day, so 2/10

You would then add those up:

  • Positive scores 9 + 5 = 14
  • Negative scores 1 + 2 = 3
  • Positive scores 14 – negative scores 3 = 11 readiness score

If you have a high readiness score, realistically a 14 or above, expect a high-performance day!

If you have a low readiness score, realistically a 10 or below, don’t expect to be performing at high levels.

So based on the example above, You’re in the middle. It’s easy to see how you can improve your readiness for tomorrow based on this.

If we track these factors daily, we can see fluctuations in our readiness scores and our performance. This makes the light bulb turn on in players because it makes it easy to link your performance to these factors. You may make better decisions with your nutrition intake, or get a little extra sleep when the day was more stressful.

 

The Game Day Guide to Optimal Baseball Performance

To review more concepts like this, check out my new eBook, The Game Day Guide to Optimal Baseball Performance.

In the Game Day Guide, I go over everything from what you should be focusing on in the offseason to research driven techniques to enhance your game day performance, and everything in between!

With 80+ pages of content and more than 15 cited research articles, I give an unbiased opinion on what you could do to become a better baseball player. I lay out the facts, but it is up to you the player, or coach, to decide how this information can be applied today!