Eating to Fuel Performance in Softball Players

Eating to Fuel Performance in Softball Players

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.

Meal Ideas:

  • 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.

Meal ideas

  • 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

Sources: Sports Nutrition for Softball Players, Thomas 2006

How many calories do you need:

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 25, 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 



Eating Healthy on the Road



Road trips and airplane rides can be a breeding ground for nutritional disaster, especially if you are not prepared. Yes, vacation is a time to let loose, but not so much so that you come back 10 pounds heavier. To keep this from happening, make sure that you have a plan.
Spend your calories wisely and plan out your indulgences. For example if you know that you are going to have a decadent dinner later on plan out your other meals and snacks appropriately. This can be done by packing smart snacks. Fresh fruit, energy bars, trail mix and air-popped popcorn travel well and are easy to eat while on the road. If you have ready to go healthy snacks in the car you are less likely to stop at a convenience store and buy junk food or overeat at your next meal.
Not only are your food choices important, but your beverage choices as well. Not all beverages are created equal. Water, especially on long flights or road trips will keep you well hydrated. Unsweetened ice tea can also be a good choice if caffeine is not a problem for you. If you must have a soda, choose a diet soda. But be careful, some studies have shown that drinking diet soda may cause a person to snack more on salty foods and consume more calories in general than if a person were to drink just plain water.
Airplanes can also be a trap for eating high calorie unhealthy foods. Pack a snack while traveling by plane and try and stay away from the boxed lunches and snacks that are served on the plane because many are loaded with fat, calories and sugars. Carrots, apples, bananas, granola bars, water, and peanut butter pretzels are easy portable foods that can be brought on an airplane.
One final component of being able to indulge on vacation and not come back with tight fitting pants is to remember your exercise routine. If you are taking a long road trip map out places that you are able to stop for a walk or hike and include in your itinerary. Also once you reach your final destination check with the concierge at your hotel for all the local running/bicycling/hiking paths as well as the hours of the gym located in your hotel. If you are traveling by plane make sure you get up frequently from your seat to walk around the plane and stretch your muscles.
You are on vacation so let loose and enjoy yourself. But remember if you have to think twice about eating something, it’s probably not worth eating!
Have a great vacation!

YUCKIE! I’m not eating that! 6 Tips to better eating!

YUCKIE! I’m not eating that!  Are these familiar words at your dinner table?  Does your child hide their food or try to feed it to the family pet?  If so, you are not alone.  This is happening in many homes and is actually quite normal in the developmental process.  Because of these behaviors though, many parents worry that their children are not meeting their daily nutritional needs when they refuse to eat certain foods or refuse to eat at all.

When a child refuses to eat certain foods it may be because they are not familiar with the food.  As with all new things in life, they are programmed to be cautious.  Even with new foods.  In fact it could take as many as 20 different attempts for a child to accept a new food.  One way for your child to gain familiarity with a new food is to have the food in plain view around the house, whether it is fruit in a bowl on the counter, a basket of fresh vegetables on the table, or better yet, fresh fruits and vegetables picked from your own garden.  Once a child becomes more familiar with a food they are more willing to try it.

Texture might also play a role in refusing to eat certain foods.  This is important because the texture of food may determine how hard or easy a food is to eat.  (The other day my 3 year old stuck too much “chewy meat” in his mouth all at once and ended up spitting it out because it was too hard to chew.  Note to self:  cut it into smaller pieces next time).  But again just because your child does not like the texture of a new food the first time, do not give up hope!

Sometimes though there will be foods that your child will just flat out refuse to eat, no matter how hard you try.  For example they may not like cauliflower.  Not to worry though.  As long as they are not rejecting all vegetables, not eating cauliflower is fine.   If they like 10 other types of vegetables focus on those 10 and forget about the cauliflower.

The following are some tips that will keep your picky eater from becoming pickier:

  1. DO NOT make your child a separate dinner.  When your child realizes that you are willing to make them their own meal, they will never want to try new foods.  Whatever the grown-ups are eating, the kids should be eating.
  2. Sit down at mealtime and make it family time.  Foods that are eaten on the go tend to be less healthy and include less fruits and vegetables.  Let your children see you eating fruits and vegetables.  By sitting down as a family for meals, your child can see you eating the foods that you want them to eat.  Remember you have to model the behavior.
  3. Don’t hover over your kids while they are eating.  The bigger the deal you make of their eating behaviors, the more you will be met with resistance.
  4. Don’t let your child graze all day long on snacks.  Plan out snack time and have a beginning and end to it.  When dinner comes around, if they are full from all the snacks they have been eating, they are not going to want to try new foods.
  5. Get your child involved.  Have them go grocery shopping with you or accompany you to the famers market where they can help you pick out fresh fruits and vegetables.  Plant a garden.  Your child will love being able to pick fresh food from their own garden that they grew.  (There are lots of cool weather vegetables that can be grown during the fall and winter months.)
  6. Lastly, hang in there!  Your picky eater will not starve themselves and if you as a parent do not back down and keep introducing those new foods, your picker eater will come around.

Katie Valdes MS, RD, CSSD



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