Nutrition, and even more so supplements, has been plagued with myths from the inner-sports circles and more importantly the media for years. Not only have we been given a plethora of information on the subject, there has also been a plethora of misinterpretation. I feel there are too many writers who try to capitalize on certain extremes in the nutrition arena, and fail to put together a cohesive and coherent nutritional plan.
The goal of a nutritional plan is to instill basic guidelines to follow throughout your athletic and lifelong career, not follow an eight week diet consisting of cabbage soup!
In the following article, I plan on outlining the basic principles of a good nutrition and supplementation program that will allow you to achieve optimal performance. Even though the title of the article says baseball, this can be applied to any sport, or even to your everyday life.
The Goal Of Nutrition In A Sports Program
Nutrition is paramount to athletic success. Nutrition provides the energy for sporting events, the nutrients for muscle growth, and overall performance. Nutrition allows for optimal body fat for our sport as well. Let's start with the guidelines:
This is the main macronutrient athletes should be concerned with. Protein helps build muscle, and help protein synthesis. This is prevalent in meats and dairy products.
This is a main energy source for the body. No, carbohydrates are not diabolically evil. Carbohydrates can be good, if you eat the right types. A type of carbohydrate that athletes need to be aware of is fiber. Fiber helps with digestion, and keeps you "regular", if you catch my drift. Carbohydrates are prevalent in grains.
Gasp! The dreaded fats! Actually, fats can be extremely helpful in nutritional plans. I am talking about certain oils that have preferable benefits to other junk fats, usually found in fried food. I will elaborate on this later on in the article. Fats are prevalent in oils, dairy products and nuts.
The Good Foods vs. the Bad Foods
What constitutes a good food, or more importantly a bad food? A good rule of thumb would be the perishable date factor. If there is no perishable date, there is a good chance it is a bad food. Why? The reason it is considered bad, is that to have a shelf life for a long time, it must contain preservatives to keep it that way, or maybe this supposed "food" was never alive in the first place. That is why I will never suggest eating potato chips, candy, or any other mass manufactured snack/dessert item.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the perishable items. Think about it, what kinds of items have perishable dates? There are such items as:
- Natural peanut butter
- Nuts (not the heavily salted kinds)
- And other great foods ...
The perishable food factor can be applied every time you go shopping. Oh, and just in case you were wondering about protein bars, yes even these are suspect, as there is (in my opinion) no viable protein bar option on the market with quality ingredients.
| The Truth About Carbs In Bars!
Time to eat my LOW-CARB protein bar. What the crap?! It says there are now 30 grams of carbs in my favorite "low carb" bar! Heads are gonna roll!! Or are they?
[ Click here to learn more. ]
There are too many sugar ethanols and companies lying about the ingredients.
The Good Liquids vs. the Bad Liquids
This is a pretty simple topic, so I will be brief. An athlete needs to avoid all liquids, except water, green tea and possibly milk. Ouch. This is because no other liquid (excluding protein shakes) has a good profile of macronutrients. It is never good to drink your calories, with milk being the exception with its high amounts of protein, and moderate levels of sugar.
This also excludes all sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade and even Propel. These drinks have too much sugar (Powerade lists HFCS as its main sugar source) and do not have enough favorable ingredients. With all that sugar, it will cause an insulin spike, followed by an unnecessary crash, which will hinder athletic performance.
Ingredients That Are A Cause For Concern:
I remember not too long ago, the adage "a calorie is a calorie" was popular. Now, with the advent of greater scrutiny on the ingredients in processed foods, the phrase has been molded into "A calorie is no longer just a calorie". Let's talk about some certain ingredients.
Trans-fats have been highlighted by the media as a dangerous ingredient that is a factor of the rising obesity rates. I agree with the media on this issue, and I suggest switching from regular peanut butter to natural peanut butter. Not only do you avoid some of the sugar in regular peanut butter, but more importantly you avoid the partially hydrogenated oils, which are never good for you.
High Fructose Corn Syrup is on top of my ingredients to avoid list. HFCS is prevalent in many junk foods such as soda, certain sugary candies, and even ketchup. HFCS is particularly bad because it is a type of sugar which is predisposed into storing itself as fat, instead of being used for energy. HFCS actually shows up in a ton of products nowadays, but is okay to have in small amounts. A good rule of thumb would be to avoid a food/drink product that has HFCS in its first five ingredients.
The Best Foods
We can simply define the best foods as ones that have a favorable macronutrient and ingredient profile, which suit our athletic needs. This means we will be substituting and/or eliminating several foods, for better athletic performance.
A General Meal Should Consist Of The Following:
- A decent amount of protein. Protein should be present somewhat at all meals. We want to keep our positive protein synthesis throughout the day, and reach our goal of 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Calculate Your Protein Needs:
- A combination of protein + fat, or a combination of protein + carbs. This is known as nutrient timing. To read more about the subject, check out John Berardi's article.
- Water, green tea, or milk/protein shake should be the beverage. Anything else has too much sugar, not enough protein, or sometimes a combination of both.
- The combination of macronutrients should coincide with the time of day. Protein+carbohydrates should be eaten earlier in the day, where you are more likely to burn the carbohydrates off as energy, and slow digestion of protein toward the night time with protein+fat meals to prevent catabolism of muscles.
- Supplements should do what they are supposed to do: supplement a meal. Supplements can rarely constitute themselves as meals, with the exception being post workout nutrition, and Meal Replacement Powders such as Muscle Milk by CytoSport. A good example would be oatmeal. By itself, it has a great amount of fiber, but does not have a favorable amount of fat or protein. You can sprinkle protein powder onto the oatmeal to turn it into a protein + fat meal.
Most have accepted that it is better to eat 5-6 "small" meals a day rather than 3 large meals, because of the ability to speed up the metabolism, and of course, you feel full all day! Therefore, it is imperative to plan meals accordingly. Unfortunately, most people have different schedules, so if this basic tablet does not coincide with your schedule, I suggest adapting it to your needs.
We need two things for our first meal upon waking up: carbohydrates for energy, and protein to combat the fasting-state in the body during sleep. Now that we know this should be a protein + carbohydrate meal, we have some options. I recommend oatmeal for its fiber content, and its ability to induce satiety for long periods of time.
For the protein aspect, you can either have a protein shake, or sprinkle some protein powder on your oatmeal, to help with the taste. Also, make sure to eat some fruits like apples or strawberries to add fiber, and antioxidants.
This can either be a P+C meal, or a P+F. I suggest having eggs, for their great fat content and for the protein. You can make it into an omelet, and load it up with cheeses (good fats and proteins) and vegetables like spinach for the fiber and antioxidants. Beef or other meats can work well here if you add some fish oils, or Essential Fatty Acids to the meal.
This will definitely be a P+C meal, as we are working toward eating all our carbohydrate meals early in the day. We also need this because for most, this will be our pre-workout meal. Obviously if you work out at a different time, this does not apply to you; so again, adapt the guidelines to your schedule. The protein and carbs will allow for energy and fuel the muscles for the workout. This can consist of meat and veggies/fruits, or possibly a combination of the aforementioned food items, and a pre-workout shake such as Vendetta by Xtreme Formulations.
This will be our post-workout meal. We want this to be almost exclusively a P+C combo. We want more carbs than protein, with a ratio of almost 2:1 carbs to protein. The carbohydrates should consist of maltodextrin, glucose, or similar sugars. The protein should be fast-digesting, such as hydrolyzed whey. Branched Chain Amino Acids would also be acceptable in a PWO shake.
This should be a P+F meal, unless you have already had too many P+F meals earlier in the day. The meal should consist of meat, veggies (fiber and antioxidants) and good fats.
I usually consider my nighttime meal the 6th meal. This should be the meal which will help prevent catabolism of muscle during the night. I suggest a slow-digesting protein, and good fats. An example would be cottage cheese. Unfortunately, not many like the taste of cottage cheese, so I suggest sprinkling protein powder on it, or making a protein shake with the following: Casein protein, natural peanut butter, EFA oils, blueberries for flavor/antioxidants. This will keep you full through the night, and hopefully prevent muscle catabolism.
I have mentioned several supplements throughout this article, but have not elaborated fully on them yet. So I will describe what I think are the basic staples of supplementation in a nutrition program.
Protein Powder: View All
It is very hard to get enough protein during the day to reach our goal of 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. Thus, it is necessary to supplement with protein powder. If you are strapped for cash, get a protein powder which can be used for post-workout nutrition and as a meal replacement.
If you have some cash to go around, I suggest getting two types of protein products: a post workout powder such as Relentless by Xtreme Formulations, and a casein powder for meal replacement. Casein protein is a slow digesting protein, suited for nighttime meals and throughout the day.
Multi-vitamins: View All
These are essential to make sure you get your daily dose of vitamins, as well as antioxidants.
These are supplements that are not absolutely necessary, but can be beneficial.
Joint Aid Supplements: View All
These are supplements that help with joint repair and joint pain. This can be useful for baseball players; the joints take a beating over the course of the season. Look for these aids to have glucosamine and chondroitin.
Branched Chain Amino Acids: View All
These can be useful under intense training periods. These are best utilized during workouts. They help with protein synthesis, yet do not cause an insulin spike. There is no digestion, only absorption. They enter the bloodstream extremely fast. Be warned, BCAA's taste extremely nasty. I have been using Xtreme Formulation's ICE, which effectively masks the taste. If you decide to use BCAA's, make sure you can handle the taste.
Creatine: View All
I have no doubt that creatine works. It has been proven multiple times. I am wary of all the "super duper creatine formulas" that are now on the market. Simple creatine monohydrate works extremely well. All that is needed is 5 grams a day, for as long as needed.
Calculate Your Creatine Intake - Based On Total Bodyweight
Therefore, it is proposed that the above equations would be more accurate if based on lean mass. Following the previous example, the 200 lb individual at 20% body fat would have 160 lb of lean mass (200 lb [total weight] - (200 lb * 0.2) [fat weight] = 160 lb [lean weight]). Using the above formulas, the dose would be set at 21.8 g / d for loading and 2.2 g / d for maintenance. These are the commonly-used protocols. The most effective protocol is the target of this article, and will be discussed in detail.
Calculate Your Creatine Intake - Based On Lean Mass
Read Jeremy Likness' article All About Creatine for more info.
Expect a slight increase in strength, and in bodyweight. The first increase in weight will be mostly water, so anything after that will be muscle/fat gain, or muscle/fat loss.
This article hopefully cleared up any questions you had on nutrition and supplementation for baseball.