A baseball player’s diet is a very important part of his training program. Poor nutritional habits can prevent a pitcher from reaching his full potential on the mound.
There are three parts to a complete baseball pitcher's training program: workouts, nutrition, and rest. Each of these components has equal importance. A pitcher cannot train at maximum intensity if he is not properly fueled or properly rested.
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The pre-game meal used to hold the spotlight in terms of how it could enhance performance. We now know that the foods you eat every day to support your training does far more to enhance your pitching performance than the foods you eat right before your game. That’s because from a nutrition standpoint, there is little you can do in the few hours before an event that will drastically improve your performance. Caffeine in the amount found in one cup of coffee (120 mg) is the sole exception, but consumption of too much caffeine should be avoided as it is a diuretic, which causes loss of hydration.
The primary purpose of the pre-game meal for baseball pitchers is to provide some of the fluid and energy they will need to stay comfortable and hydrated during a game. Although carbohydrate foods like pastas are often considered the cornerstone of the pre-game meal, it is important to note that other foods can be included in the pre-game meal. In fact, a high-carbohydrate meal like pasta may leave some pitchers satisfied, but a high-carbohydrate, low-fat meal may leave others uncomfortably hungry before a game.
Some pitchers find they are more satisfied and more ready to compete after the more traditional “meat and potatoes” meal. Still others prefer a MRP.
What’s important to remember is that a pre-game meal cannot make a superhuman out of a mere mortal, but it can have devastating negative effects if the meal gives you an upset stomach, or if it doesn’t supply adequate energy to sustain performance over a period of time.
Some simple rules that can help you avoid negative side effects of pre-game eating include:
* Eat foods you like.
* Eat the same kinds of foods you eat all the time.
* Include water, carbohydrates, and proteins into your pre-game meal.
* Avoid the simple sugars found in candy bars or sodas because they will sap your energy over the length of a game.
* If needed, drink a cup of coffee (without sugar) before a game to give you a “perk.”
The pre-game meal is not an experiment. It should be like your ball glove — familiar and comfortable. Choose foods that you like, foods that you normally eat, and foods that you tolerate even when you are stressed. The day of a game is not the time to try a new food or beverage. This can be challenging when you are on the road, so plan ahead and make sure you will have the foods you like around, even if it means packing your own cooler. What, where, and when you eat the meal should be fairly consistent.
Successful pitchers often make pre- game eating part of the ritual of mental and physical preparation that occurs before the game.
If you have not yet determined your game plan for pre- game eating, start by writing down what you eat before and how you feel after several games. Make changes until you have figured out what works for you and you’ll be on your way.
Because the human body is 70 percent water, proper hydration is as important as clean eating in order for pitchers to obtain optimum performance. That’s because during activity, the body’s hydration levels can become depleted, causing dehydration, which reduces skill and muscular performance.
Pitchers in the Chicago Cubs organization were encouraged to drink up to two gallons of water daily during intense training (the FDA recommends 64 ounces for non-athletes). Of course, you don’t want to drink it all at once, which is why I recommend that you drink two cups of water every 30 minutes of intense exercise. During games in which I was pitching, I typically consumed one to two cups of water in between innings to stay hydrated. On non-game days, I’d drink a cup or two of water every 45 minutes to an hour.
Water is the best source of hydration — and it should be your primary source of hydration — but some sports drinks like Gatorade and PowerAde are OK, too, since they are predominately comprised of water. When cho0sing sports drinks, however, avoid drinks that contain more than 12 grams of sugar per serving, and avoid drinks that contain carbonation as it can cause bloating and an upset stomach.
Juices like orange juice or grape juice may be healthy, but many athletes may find that they cause upset stomachs when consumed prior to intense performance. Often, orange juice is too acidic, and grape juice is too sugary. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages should be avoided, too, as both are considered to be diuretics, which causes fluid loss. Alcohol also impairs judgment and reaction time.
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