To achieve success in sports one must practice hard and fuel their body properly. Softball is a game of skill that requires short bursts of energy for running, fielding, throwing and batting. Besides becoming skilled in a particular position and developing speed, strength, power and agility an athlete must also focus on their sleeping habits, their stress level and their nutrition. Making sure that you are properly fueled to last an entire game or practice takes some planning. Without proper planning, performance can definitely suffer.
What should a softball players diet look like?
Depleted energy stores during games and practices are a big problem for many athletes. To stop this from occurring the proper amount of carbohydrates must be eaten before, during and after games and practices. Not only are carbohydrates imperative for a good physical performance they are also important for a good mental performance since they are the brains main energy source. Keeping energy stores at proper levels will aid in good decisions on and off the field. Since softball is mostly anaerobic, the amount of carbohydrates consumed will be less than other athletes that are engaged in more aerobic types of sports. Note: During preseason conditioning larger amounts of carbohydrates will be needed.
When to eat
A meal rich in carbohydrates should be eaten 3-4 hours before games and practices and if needed a small snack 1-2 hours before.
- Grilled chicken sandwich, side salad, pretzels, water
- Sandwich with deli meat, baked chips and lemonade
- Oatmeal, toast with peanut butter and orange juice
- Pasta w/ marinara sauce and sliced grilled chicken, steamed veggies, water
Snack Ideas (if necessary): bagels, animal crackers, trail mix, granola/energy bars, fruit, sports drink or crackers
Avoid: high fiber foods, spicy and fried foods and milk based foods, which can cause stomach distress.
Protein is essential for the building and repairing of muscles as well as providing a small amount of energy during prolonged exercise, such as during practice or a game. Since softball relies more on the anaerobic system, protein needs are a bit higher than other athletes. Protein intake does not need to be monitored however because a typical diet usually provides enough protein. If an athlete is restricting certain foods from their diet, protein intake should be monitored then. Good protein sources include: fish, chicken, lean meats, low-fat milk, eggs, nuts and soy.
Most people think of fat as the enemy but it plays an important role in the body. Restricting fat excessively can lead to nutritional deficiencies. When adding fat to your diet, choose wisely. Choose heart-healthy fats like vegetable oils (olive and canola), nuts, seeds, avocado and fatty fish.
It is very important to stay hydrated. Being dehydrated can lead to early fatigue. To make sure you stay hydrated, drink fluids throughout the day by consuming a combination of water and sports drinks. As a rule of thumb, always practice your fluid intake on non-game days so you know what works and what doesn’t.
Ways to stay hydrated
- Stop at the water fountain between classes
- Pack a water bottle or sport drink in your backpack
- Drink as soon as you get up in the morning
- Drink extra fluids at lunch to prepare for afternoon practice
- Drink during games and practices
Post game Recovery
Following games or practice it is important to eat within 1 hour. This allows the body to recover properly and to replenish diminished energy stores. When a meal is eaten immediately after exercise the rate of recovery and replenishment is much higher than if a meal is consumed at a later time (>1 hr).
Snack ideas: Any of the pregame snack ideas will work as well as string cheese, milk, deli turkey, or peanut butter. A sports drink and bar could be consumed as well.
- Pasta with tuna, olive oil, garlic bread, salad and brownies and milk
- Grilled chicken with rice, beans, vegetable
- Lean meat, with potatoes, broccoli and small dessert
Top 3 Take-away nutrition tips
- Adopt a training diet that will fuel your workouts
- Eat carbohydrate-rich foods or fluids right after games or practices
- Eat before you train
Katie Valdes MS, RD. For questions e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Sports Nutrition for Softball Players, Thomas 2006
How many calories do you need: www.kidsnutrition.org/healthyeating_calculator.htm
Katie is a Registered Dietitian specializing in weight management, sports nutrition and child nutrition. Katie maintains her own practice in Southern California consulting with individuals of all ages. She has taught university nutrition classes, conducted nutrition seminars and lectures, and continues to author a nutrition newsletter.
She is an avid runner, having regularly run long distance competitively in high school, at USC, and she continues to do it today while pushing two of her three children, ages 2, 5, and 8, in a stroller. Katie has placed 13th overall female in the Los Angeles Marathon, 4th overall female in the Napa Valley Marathon and regularly ranks at the top of her class in races today.
Katie holds a Masters Degree in Nutrition and is Board Certified in Sports Dietetics in addition to her Bachelor Degree in Exercise Science from USC.
Softball image by Ron Cogswell on Flickr Creative Commons