Baseball players are all-around athletes, as the sport requires a blend of speed, strength and agility. In order to play to the best of your ability, you'll need to play close attention to your diet. What you eat before or after a game, or even during the off season (when bad habits are likely to develop), will have a great impact on how you perform on the field.
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Foods to Include
Be sure to eat a balanced diet, including plenty of lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, and complex carbohydrates. Recommended proteins include those lower in fat, such as chicken (roasted, grilled or broiled), turkey, fish and shellfish. Beans (kidney, garbanzo, black, pinto, etc.) are also a great source of vegetable protein, as well as being high in fiber. Just about any type of fruit or vegetable will do you good, as long as it is prepared properly, i.e., no French fries or baked potatoes loaded with sour cream and bacon. The way to get the most nutrients out of fruits and vegetables is to eat them raw, but you can steam or microwave your veggies and still keep most of the nutritional value. The best carbohydrates include whole-grain breads, pasta and cooked cereals such as oatmeal.
Foods to Avoid
Foods to avoid include all of the usual suspects-anything greasy, fatty, sugary or overly processed. Fried foods are not a part of any well-balanced diet-if you simply must have some of grandma's (or the Colonel's) fried chicken, think of it as an occasional treat, and don't let it become a habit. The same thing with sugary foods--doughnuts are not the breakfast of champions! And the more overly-processed a food is, with a mile-long list of ingredients, the less healthy it tends to be for you to eat. If you can't even figure out what most of the ingredients in a product are, and they sound more like something you'd mix up in chemistry lab than in your mom's kitchen, put it back and eat something you do recognize.
Water is your friend. You need to stay hydrated, particularly before and during practices and games. The amount of water you need to drink on a daily basis will vary with your size and weight, but the Institute of Medicine recommends at least 3L (13, 8-oz. servings) per day for most men and 2.2L (nine 8-oz. servings) per day for most women. While other beverages count towards this daily allowance, it is best to make sure that the bulk of the fluids you consume are, in fact, water. Sports beverages are OK as a supplement, but don't overdo these as they tend to be sugary and high in calories. You may drink several cups of skim, 1 or 2 percent milk per day, but avoid sugary fruit juices and sodas. Caffeine is also a no-no, as it can be very dehydrating, and alcohol not only contains empty calories but can also deplete your body of needed nutrients, as well as impairing your performance or even endangering your health if consumed in excess.
Nutrition On the Go
When you're on the run, rushing from school to baseball practice, or on the road traveling to out-of-town games, it can be difficult to stick to your healthy diet. If you plan ahead, though, you should be able to get the nutrition you need. Pack a stash of sports bars, trail mix, whole-grain crackers and beef jerky (look for a more natural, chemical-free variety, one with no MSG or sodium nitrate) to take with you so you'll have something to nibble on the bus or while waiting for practice to begin. When you go out to eat, order something lean, such as grilled chicken instead of fried, or a turkey or roast beef sub instead of a slice of pizza.
A daily multivitamin may be recommended, although it should not be necessary if you truly are eating a well-balanced diet. When it comes to other supplements, however, proceed with caution, and not without a doctor's guidance. Whatever you do, avoid steroids. Not only can these have serious long-term health consequences, but they are also illegal. If you get caught using them, your playing career may be over before it begins.