3 Nutrition Rules Every Softball Player Needs to Know

3 Nutrition Rules Every Softball Player Needs to Know
By T.J. Allan, CSCS, CISSN
Without question, nutrition is the most overlooked performance enhancement modality available to softball players. With the help of an exercise program, it can increase strength, power, and speed as well as reduce injury potential and increase durability. Unfortunately, most softball players view nutrition as food – items they simply place in their mouth and have little, if any, repercussions. For athletes, nutrition is more than just food; it’s fuel – nutrients that power performance and repair the body after strenuous games.Here are the 3 biggest nutrition mistakes I see softball players make:

Not eating enough calories.
Softball players are notorious for overestimating the amount of food they consume. I’ve had countless players tell me they eat all day, and still can’t seem to add body weight, feel tired all of the time, and have trouble recovering from a hard practice. Yet, when we take a deeper look into their food diary, we find that the athlete eats 1-2 large meals per day, and then occasionally has a snack or two.  Once we calculate the total daily calories, we find at best, she’s eating just enough to maintain her current body weight, and at worst, she’s consuming a hypocaloric diet.

If a softball player is eating less energy than she’s using, that means she doesn’t have the energy to build muscle, strength, and power as well as can’t help her body repair itself after a tough game.  Thus, it’s extremely important she’s consuming enough calories to perform at a high level on the field. We start with a simple calculation – body weight in pounds x 14. So a 150lb player would consume 2100 calories per day. If she gains more than 2-3 pounds in the first week, we’ll reduce it by 250 calories per day. If she loses weight, we’ll add 250 calories per day until she’s either maintaining her current weight (or reaches her desired weight) or gaining 1-2 pounds per week.

Not eating enough protein.
Not only do softball players tend to not eat enough calories, but they also tend to not eat enough protein, the most important macronutrient for the muscle.  Protein builds muscle, helps repair the body, and can even help fight off infections. Plus, high protein diets have also been shown to reduce body weight so weight conscious players end up gravitating toward a higher protein diet because it helps them maintain their strength while also losing weight.
Again, we keep it simple. We tell our players to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. So our 150lb player from above would consume around 150g of protein per day.

Not drinking enough water. download (1)
The quickest way to decrease performance almost immediately is not drinking enough water and becoming dehydrated. A 2% decrease in body weight has been shown to impair mental and physical performance by up to 25%.  Adding to the severity of dehydration, our body, especially during games, has a delayed thirst response. Thus players essentially have to remind themselves to remain hydrated throughout the competition although they may not feel thirsty. By the time they realize they’re dehydrated, it’s too late. Their performance has already suffered.

Here’s the formula we use for practices, workouts, and games:
90 minutes before the game – 20 ounces of water
15 minutes before the game – 10 ounces of water
During the game – 10 ounces every 20 minutes of activityConclusion
Nutrition isn’t sexy. It’s not cool. It never gets the front page. However, it always gets the job done. Like a Swiss army knife, it can fix a variety of problems.  If you think you’re doing all of the right things but still not seeing the results you hoped for, start a food diary. More than likely, your performance is being handcuffed by your nutrition.

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