I was lucky enough to get to spend some time with the players + parents at the Rock Creek Select Baseball Academy this past weekend. I was invited to come talk nutrition and give the players a heads up about how to use food + nutrition to their full advantage on and off the field. Nutrition is often overlooked and mis-understood among young people, especially young athletes. The athletes who understand what they are fueling their bodies with [and how to fuel their body correctly] will have a significant advantage over those who overlook the importance of nutrition. Here’s why.
Sports Nutrition Guide
 healthy diet basics.
A healthy diet is based on a proper balance of macronutrients [carbs, protein + fat], and the quality of such foods. It’s important for athletes to understand what certain nutrients are doing for their body and how they can use carbs, protein + fat to their advantage.
- Protein – growth, development, builds lean muscle, energy, injury recovery, immune function
- Carbohydrates – body’s main fuel + energy source; carbohydrates → glucose [sugar] → energy
- Healthy Fat – energy, brain function, cell membrane structure, absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins [A,D,E,K]
A question I often get asked is how much of each macronutrient do you need. And the answer? It depends. It depends on your goals, your current health status, your current body composition, etc.
I don’t spend much time educating athletes about micronutrients, unless necessary. What I stress is the importance of variety in the diet, including plenty of fruits + veggies which provide the body with lots of vitamins + minerals. The diverse colors of fruits and veggies contain different nutrients and each play a unique role in the body. For some athletes, a whole-food multivitamin is recommended to help fill any nutrition gaps and to make sure that they are getting the proper nutrition for growth, development and performance.
Hydration is key to health, especially for athletes who lose water through sweat and are at risk for dehydration. Even slight dehydration can significantly decrease strength + speed. Being hydrated prior to and during a workout depends on how well you are hydrating throughout the entire day. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Make a goal to drink X amount of water before breakfast, X amount of water before lunch, etc. Drinking pure, filtered water is always recommended over processed sports drinks such as Gatorade.
For intense training + sweat loss it will be important to replace electrolytes lost in sweat which can be done by drinking coconut water or refueling the body with whole foods. If sports drinks are a go-to choice for you, start out by diluting it with ½ water.
 why nutrition is important for athletes.
Nutrition is important for everyone, no matter what their goals may be [i.e. weight loss, disease prevention, etc.]. But for the student-athlete, nutrition can be a game changer. Here’s why.
- Fuels the body with energy
- Helps train longer and at higher intensity
- Increases overall performance
- Reduces fatigue
- Reduces likelihood of injury + promotes recovery
- Improves body composition + strength
- Reduces body fat
- Enhances concentration
 basic carbohydrate needs + food sources.
General Recommendation: 2.0 – 2.5 grams carbohydrate per pound body weight daily
It’s important to note that specific carbohydrate intake needs vary greatly depending on:
- Activity level
- Performance goals
- Exercise intensity
- Weight loss/gain goals
Find what works best for you. Pay attention to your energy level, concentration, hunger, etc. when eating a certain amount of carbs, and then adjust the number if needed until you find your ideal range.
Healthy Carbohydrate Food Sources
- yams/sweet potatoes
- whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat [pasta, bread, bagels, etc.]
- beans, lentils
- vegetables – starchy + non-starchy [choose a variety]
- fruit – banana, berries, oranges, apples, etc. [fruit makes great, convenient, on-the-go snacks. Have fruit with you in your backpack or gym bag at all times]
Not-so-Healthy Carbohydrate Food Sources
- avoid junk-food + processed, high-glycemic carbs:
- sugar, donuts, pastries
- refined grains [white bread, sugary cereals]
- candy bars
- soda, juice [fresh juice okay]
- Sports drinks [dilute with water or decrease consumption]
Remember that whole food carbohydrates [veggies, fruit, whole grains, potatoes] are much more beneficial than carbs from added sugars. Added sugars do not belong in an athletes regular diet. Eating whole food carbs will provide plenty of energy + glucose without the negative benefits from eating processed sugar. An athlete can experience the following from processed sugar consumption:  decreased performance  decreased concentration  increased inflammation + chance of injury  decreased healing + immune system function  increased unwanted body fat + fat storage.
 basic protein needs + food sources.
General Recommendation: 0.5 – 1.0 grams protein per pound body weight daily
Just like carbohydrates needs vary, so do protein needs. Again it’s important to find what works best for you based on your specific goals. And when choosing protein sources, make sure they are high quality [i.e. organic meats when possible].
High Quality Protein Food Sources
- Quality Animal Protein
- organic poultry + pork, grass-fed beef + bison
- Wild-Caught Fish
- Organic Eggs
- Quality Plant Protein
- whole grains
- beans + lentils
- raw nuts + seeds
- High Quality Protein Powder
- contains no artificial sweeteners, flavors, additives
- my recommendations: Garden of Life Raw Meal, Sun Warrior, Gold Standard Natural Whey Protein
 basic fat needs + food sources.
In general most people [athlete or not] don’t get adequate amounts of healthy fats in their diet. And they tend to over consume unhealthy, inflammatory fats. A general recommendation for athletes is to eat a moderate amount of healthy fat, or have some sort of healthy fat source with each meal, with one exception: fat consumption should be limited following a workout/training session. This is because fats are digested slowly by the body compared to protein and carbs. Post-workout fuel should be mainly protein + carbs so your body and muscles can be refueled as quickly as possible for ideal recovery. Fat consumption will slow this process. Outside of your post-workout meals, choose healthy fats such as the following:
Healthy Fat Sources
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- organic butter
- raw nuts + seeds
- nut butter [no additives, no added sugar, no trans fats]
- organic eggs
- organic dairy [plain yogurt, cheese, milk]
- wild-caught fish
Unhealthy Fat Sources
Unhealthy fats in the diet  promote inflammation,  increase an athletes susceptibility to injury,  and negatively affect overall performance. Please limit or avoid unhealthy fats as much as possible, from sources such as:
- Fast Food, Fried Food
- Packaged/Processed Foods
- Vegetable Oils
- canola, soybean, corn, vegetable, sunflower, safflower
- Trans Fats
- partially hydrogenated/hydrogenated oils
- fast food
- non-dairy creamers
 basic calorie needs.
General Recommendation: 15-20 calories per pound body weight daily
Calories are critical for energy, fueling for performance + building muscle. Calories are essentially the fuel that keeps you going on a daily basis. And if you want to perform at your best, you have to give your body the nutrition + building blocks it needs. Put simply, in order to eat sufficient calories you need to eat. This includes eating:  a balanced breakfast  whole-food snacks throughout day  a balanced lunch  pre/post workout snacks, if necessary  a balanced dinner. Your calorie needs will vary from other athlete’s needs, which means that you need to determine what works best for you.
 meal/nutrient timing.
Meal/nutrient timing is essentially timing your intake of carbs, protein + fat to a certain time of day [i.e. pre-workout + post-workout]. While nutrient timing can be extremely effective and beneficial for a high-level athlete or during times of high intensity training, overall nutrient intake is going to be most important. This means that you make is a priority to supply your body with whole foods rich in protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, fiber + nutrients everyday. You can do this by eating balanced meals, starting with a high-quality breakfast.
 importance of breakfast.
Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day for a student-athlete. Skipping breakfast deprives the body of essential nutrition for performance + concentration on and off the field. If you don’t provide your body with fuel first thing in the morning, the body will break down your muscles to gain energy, which is counterproductive when trying to gain muscle and strength. Think about what you’re eating for breakfast. It is balanced? Does it contain the necessary amount of carbs, protein, fat + calories? If not, that needs to change if you are serious about advancing as an athlete.
A balanced breakfast should contain: Carbohydrate + Protein + Healthy Fat
- Super Green Smoothie [increase/adjust amount of fruit, protein, nut butter as needed]
- Super Green Overnight Oats
- Oatmeal + fruit + mixed raw nuts + 2% milk [no pre-packaged, flavored oatmeal]
- Egg sandwich [whole grain toast + 2-3 eggs + cheese + spinach] and piece of fruit
 pre + post exercise nutrition.
30–60 Minutes Pre-Workout
[small protein + carb containing snack]
- small protein shake [fruit + veggie + protein]
- fruit + nut butter
- fruit + cheese
- whole wheat toast + nut butter
- fruit + hard boiled egg
0 – 60 Minutes Post-Workout
[protein rich + carb]
Immediately following an intense workout or strength training, your nutrition needs are very important. This is a critical time for proper recovery for muscle growth, repair + nutrient replenishment.
- protein smoothie [fruit + veggie + high quality protein powder]
- protein shake [high quality protein powder + water]
- hardboiled eggs + fruit
- chicken + veggies
 a snapshot look at an athletes day of eating.
Getting in enough calories is hugely important for an athletes success. If you’re not used to eating throughout the day [or eating enough throughout the day], this can be challenging. But it’s necessary. Once you’ve determined your individual needs [calories, carbs, protein + fat] I suggest that you track your intake so you have a better idea about whether or not you’re meeting your nutrient needs or falling short. Here is a general idea of what you should be shooting for:
Breakfast [protein + carb + healthy fat]
Snack(s) [smaller amount of protein + carb + healthy fat]
Lunch [protein + carb + healthy fat]
Pre-Workout [snack-size protein + carb]
Post-Workout [protein + carb, low-fat]
Dinner [protein + carb + healthy fat]
Pre-Bedtime, at least one hour before bed, if needed [snack-size, protein + carb]
Overall, an athlete’s nutrition needs vary greatly. For any athlete that is trying to gain a competitive edge and learn how to eat better, nutrition is your ticket.
I would love to have the opportunity to work one-on-one with you. Email me here for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org