Baseball & Performance Enhancement
Supplements. Baseball. Ever hear those two together? Me neither. For whatever reason, baseball has been resistant to changes in terms of improving player performance.
Weightlifting did not become a constant fixture in training programs for professional teams until just a few decades ago. Nutritional advice for ballplayers probably came of age only a few years after that. Supplements are rarely talked about (except by the media) as a systematic approach to enhancing performance.
If you think about it, even the MLB's front office has been slow on the uptake of steroids, passing only a weak testing policy for its players. There is now a debate raging concerning where one draws the line on banning supplements that enhance performance.
The lines are blurred. Some get away with using seemingly powerful stuff, and some getting caught for using harmless supplements.
Until that line is clearly drawn, and perhaps a 3rd party's (a group independent of sports leagues) recommendations for illegal and legal substances is given, high school athletes are going to be in a world of relatively free boundaries and never-ending suspicion.
This article's purpose is to help you set up an effective supplementation regime that is both legal and safe, as well as help you to enhance your physical abilities. We will break up supplements in to three categories: those of nutritional, focus and fringe value.
This category consists of supplements that contribute to your nutritional goals. This can be something as simple as protein powder or a multivitamin. Let's start off with some basics.
Before you even think about mixing your first protein shake, we need to work on your nutrition. Refer to my previous nutrition article if you need to brush up on eating the right foods. If you don't have your nutritional goals in check, supplements will do you no good. Read all you can from Athletes.com as well as johnberardi.com for all the nutritional knowledge you need.
Now that we have nutrition down, let's begin with protein powders.
Protein powder is a staple of an athlete's diet. It can substitute for a meal, be used to help repair muscles after an intense game or workout, or help prevent muscle catabolism before sleeping.
I recommend purchasing two different types of protein powders. One to be used as a meal supplement and/or before bedtime to prevent muscle breakdown. New protein manufacturing breakthroughs have made micellar casein proteins cheap and plentiful. This is a step above simple whey proteins and usually causes less stomach distress.
Personally, I like Ultra Peptide by Xtreme Formulations, Grow! by Biotest (Unfortunately, this product has been discontinued by Biotest -ed.), or Muscle Milk by Cytosport. Any one of these would be just fine for a baseball player.
Also, I recommend purchasing a protein powder specifically designed to be used post workout. These powders usually have a specific ratio of fast-acting proteins and carbohydrates to maximize recovery for muscles after an intense workout. Make sure these supplements have whey-hydrolysate as the protein of choice, along with maltodextrin or d-glucose for a carbohydrate source.
I like Cytofuse by Xcell, Relentless by Xtreme Formulations, or Surge by Biotest. (Unfortunately, this product has been discontinued by Biotest -ed.) Any of these will help your muscles recover from a hard workout.
As a teenager, I know that many others like me do not get the recommended amount of
vitamins and other necessary nutrients each day. This is why I recommend a
multivitamin to use everyday. It's much easier to simply take one of these in the morning, and then not have to worry about eating obscure foods just to get enough of a certain mineral.
It would be hard to recommend a certain multivitamin because everyone has different needs, so I don't have a clear-cut choice for an athlete. I will say that when purchasing multivitamins, go a step above grocery store vitamins. These are often the lowest quality. Go to your local supplement store and get a good one, your body will thank you.
This is a somewhat controversial subject, not because its dangerous or illegal, but rather that it is hard to grasp by the average layperson. I do not advocate buying that psycho kid's Ritalin from down the street, or any of the "focus" prescription drugs. Those do indeed work, but they are intended for people who have chemical imbalances in the brain.
What most baseball players can benefit from are certain compounds that have a mild focusing effect, while simultaneously having no side effects, even at ridiculous dosage levels. I am talking about nootropics. I won't go too in-depth on them, as there is a wealth of articles all over the Internet explaining them much better than I ever could.
Most nootropics improve certain aspects of cognition. Some enhance creativity, some make you more focused and relaxed, but all benefit the brain in a good way. They are not stimulants like caffeine, and probably won't get you banned from sports competition. The best nootropics are notoriously hard to find (even online), and often come in bulk form, making correct dosing and flavor hard to do.
Luckily, Bodybuilding.com carries several pre-mixed types of compounds. These supplements usually contain a wealth of nootropics, and mask the taste well with a flavor agent. However, there are drawbacks. While dosing varies, most of the pre-mixed ones are underdosed on the ingredients that provide the most benefit.
If you want the full effect of certain nootropics, it is best to buy them separately where you can control the dose, instead of the manufacturer.
Aside from that, the pre-mixed compounds that I like are Power Drive by Biotest (Unfortunately, this product has been discontinued by Biotest - ed.), as well as NeuroStim by Scivation. Both of these will help your workouts and your focus during games. They might even make you smarter!
If you feel you need to go above the pre-mixed, here are some other nootropics to research and buy:
- Piracetam, and its other forms (aniracetam, oxiracetam, etc.)
Be aware that most of these compounds have no side effects (phenibut being the exception) even at really high dosages, but there is a certain "bell curve" in terms of dosage and efficiency. Also be cautious of pre-mixed compounds that have caffeine in them, you could be paying a ton of money for what is essentially caffeine pills/powder.
Fringe supplements are considered supplements that are not absolutely necessary, but if you have some extra cash, could help you out.
Branched Chain Amino Acids can aid in muscle growth and repair. I usually sip on BCAA's during my workouts, and in my opinion, could replace Gatorade as a sports drink to be used during games.
If you put a couple scoops in a water bottle, then fill it with water to dilute it, and use it during games, I think it would work incredibly well. Perhaps you could pair it with carbohydrates, and you would be set nutritionally for the whole game.
Everyone seems to use creatine these days, but I don't consider it a necessary supplement. If you have the cash, why not, splurge on it, and get ready for some slight benefits.
Expect a tiny increase in strength (5-10% stronger than normal) as well as a small increase in body weight (all water retention) of around 1-5lbs. There are many different forms of creatine, but don't buy into the hype. Just get some CEE or plain old creatine monohydrate, they all work (except for creatine serum).
Some people swear by this supplement. Simply
magnesium bonded to an aspartate, this compound provides increased zinc into a person's system, where most athletic males are deficient.
Most users I know take it only for the sleeping benefits, not caring at all about the nutritional benefits. Taking ZMA about 30 minutes before bed helps restore zinc levels, and anecdotal reports show most users getting a "deeper" sleep. ZMA is very cheap, and most companies sell a month's supply for around $9.
Supplements To Avoid
There are some supplements you should avoid like the plague. Most of these supplements will put a dent in your wallet while not providing much in return. In general, stay away from super duper creatine formulas (Cell Tech Hardcore), NO supplements (Nitric Oxide), and other fancy supplements that have been shown to work either poorly or not at all. Don't be stupid, and your wallet will thank you.