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A Baseball Player’s Guide to Gameday Nutrition

Spring means baseball, and all the practices, drills, and games that come with it. But one important element often gets overlooked by players, coaches and parents during the daily grind of a season: proper nutrition.

It’s important to maintain a balanced diet on game and practice days, said sports nutritionist and registered dietician Nancy Clark. She is the author of the best-selling book Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook and counsels competitive athletes and casual exercisers at her private practice in the Boston area.

Just as you put fuel in the gas tank of your car to keep it running, Clark said players need to constantly refuel their bodies with the right foods for maximum energy and performance.

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“If they’re training or having practice in the afternoon after school, then they need to pay attention and be responsible with eating breakfast, eating lunch, having a pregame snack,” she said.

While this routine applies to all athletes, baseball players typically focus more on concentration and use less physical energy than a football player or endurance runner. Clark offers some tips for choosing the right foods before, during and after a game or practice:

Before the Game: Prepare a light meal or snack using what Clark calls a “carb-protein combination.” Carbohydrates help fuel our muscles, while protein builds or repairs them. A peanut butter and honey sandwich, an apple with cheese and crackers, a granola bar with yogurt, or a trail mix of nuts and raisins are examples of a carb-protein balance.

During a Game: The most important thing your body needs while competing is fluids to keep it hydrated. Water is the best option, Clark said. Sports drinks such as Gatorade are fine, if you need an energy boost.

“The concern is that (kids) who slept through breakfast and didn’t have much lunch and they’re coming to practice on empty,” Clark said. “They’re starving during the game. So much of baseball is mental. If you’re hungry or have low blood sugar, you can’t concentrate or focus.”

The Postgame Meal: The body needs to refuel after extended physical activity, so a full meal is usually in order. Chicken with vegetables, spaghetti and meatballs, or fish with rice and broccoli are healthy choices. If some kids don’t go home right away, Clark suggests having something on hand immediately following the game. Chocolate milk is an excellent recovery food, since it quenches thirst, builds and repairs muscles, and provides calcium for growing bones.

The key to proper gameday nutrition is preparation. On average, people get hungry every four hours, so Clark recommends parents emphasize the importance of eating a good breakfast, packing a school lunch along with a light pregame meal or snack, and refueling afterwards with a solid meal. Coaches can also do their part to ensure their players get enough fluids and aren’t hungry during games or practices.

These tips should help all young ballplayers be physically and mentally ready when the umpire says, “play ball!”

From GameChanger and Stephen Kerr. 

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