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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!

How a Bad Night Sleep Impacts Pitching Performance

A recent research report investigated the effect of travel on Major League Baseball teams and performance.  The authors found the MLB teams traveling eastward, such as those ending a series in Seattle and starting traveling to their next one in Boston, had an impairment in performance.

They authors found that some offensive statistics decreased, but pitching performance was the most impacted.  Pitchers traveling eastward with at least a 2-hour time difference allowed more home runs.

The results could be explained by the effect of jet-lag on the body’s circadian rhythms.  This likely resulted in fatigue that could have reduced velocity and command.

In my experience with the Red Sox, we often times sent our next starting pitcher to the next city early to assure they could get a good night sleep and be prepared for the game the next day.

Based on this information, I think it’s easy to say that a good night sleep the night before a start is very important for your pitching performance.

 

How jet lag impairs Major League Baseball performance.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Jan 23;:

Authors: Song A, Severini T, Allada R

Abstract
Laboratory studies have demonstrated that circadian clocks align physiology and behavior to 24-h environmental cycles. Examination of athletic performance has been used to discern the functions of these clocks in humans outside of controlled settings. Here, we examined the effects of jet lag, that is, travel that shifts the alignment of 24-h environmental cycles relative to the endogenous circadian clock, on specific performance metrics in Major League Baseball. Accounting for potential differences in home and away performance, travel direction, and team confounding variables, we observed that jet-lag effects were largely evident after eastward travel with very limited effects after westward travel, consistent with the >24-h period length of the human circadian clock. Surprisingly, we found that jet lag impaired major parameters of home-team offensive performance, for example, slugging percentage, but did not similarly affect away-team offensive performance. On the other hand, jet lag impacted both home and away defensive performance. Remarkably, the vast majority of these effects for both home and away teams could be explained by a single measure, home runs allowed. Rather than uniform effects, these results reveal surprisingly specific effects of circadian misalignment on athletic performance under natural conditions.

PMID: 28115724 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

Source: How jet lag impairs Major League Baseball performance.