A Pitcher's Nutrition Plan
A Pitcher cannot expect to perform at peak performance if he ignores what he puts in his body. We as a nation have been facing an obesity epidemic for years and it is continuing to grow every year. Each year as I watch more athletes perform, I see young pitchers becoming overweight.
A few years ago I had some parents approach me regarding their son who they and other coaches and parents expected great things from as a pitcher. I watched him a few times and noticed the he did have a great ability to throw. As I observed his throwing style I also couldn’t help but notice at fourteen years of age he was about 50 pounds overweight. The parents spoke with me several times about getting their boy in to see me so that I could help with his mechanics. He had a lot of flaws in his delivery; I could tell the boy would have serious arm problems in the future if he did not one, correct his mechanics and two; lose the unnecessary weight by controlling his diet and start a regular exercise routine. The weight of his body going in the wrong direction (not toward home plate) was simply putting to much strain on his arm. I received a phone call from his mother a couple months later with sobering news. This young athlete had major arm trouble. His shoulder was shot and he was a good candidate for Tommy John Surgery. When I heard the news I was disappointed, I only wish he would have developed a diet and exercise program that would not only help prevent injury, but establish good habits that could stay with him throughout his life.
I am not writing this article to tell pitchers they need to lose weight or think that starting a nutritional program means starting a diet. It doesn’t! I want to help young athletes understand that they need to develop good nutritional habits early on in life, so they can perform to the best of their abilities and enjoy a great lifestyle for years and years to come.
First of all, I want you to understand that there is no perfect nutritional program out there. Every body is different in some respect and therefore some individuals require more caloric intake than others. It also depends how many calories are burned on a daily basis. Nobody is going to follow the perfect nutritional program. We all have foods that we enjoy that are not the greatest for our bodies. We can eat those foods sparingly and still adhere to some basic guidelines that will allow us to perform the best that we are capable of. I want to write about some guidelines to follow. If these guidelines seem simple or familiar to you, it is because they are; the key is putting them to practice.
Foods to avoid:
- Soda: We are seeing a trend in our schools that is not going to stop anytime soon. In most cases companies will pay a district thousands of dollars to put their soda machines in all of their schools. The problem with soft drinks is that they contain empty calories, caffeine and salt. These all have an adverse effect on our bodies’ metabolism. Soda also contains about 18 teaspoons of sugar.
- Fatty and Fried Foods:We all know what most of these foods are, you can find them everywhere particularly in fast food restaurants. There are healthy alternatives in most fast food chains now, so there are no excuses. It takes more energy to move fat around than it does lean muscle. There are healthy fats that can be found in nuts (raw almonds are great), olives, avocados and fish. Choose a fish oil vitamin if you don’t eat enough fish.
- Alcohol: There is nothing good about alcohol despite what others may say, like a glass of wine a day is good for you. Well, again, there are many alternatives aren’t there? Bottom line with alcohol is that it depletes us of body fluids, oxygen, and necessary nutrients that your body needs to perform every day tasks. It contains many unnecessary calories and it can be very addicting.
- Nicotine: It, like alcohol, not only is very addictive, but it also affects our bodies’ ability to get oxygen to our muscle tissue. Unfortunately, smokeless tobacco is used by many baseball players. These ball players have made the decision to affect their ability to play at their full potential. Why work hard to get to the next level and waste some of that potential.
- Processed foods: Limit the amount of processed foods you eat. Theses foods remove vitamins, minerals, fiber and other things that are good for us, and replace them with fat and carbs like sugars.
- Excess Condiments: salad dressings, sauces, butter etc. Excess weight is never good. These calories add up drastically when you think you are eating a healthy salad covered with ranch dressing. Choose oil or vinegar instead.
- Steroids: We are living in the steroid era. Many athletes have chosen this route to cheat their way through sports. It will be sad to see what happens to their bodies as time goes on. We can talk all day long about the side effects and issues with this powerful drug. Just Avoid Steroids! If you choose to take them you will regret that and possibly live your life in fear like some Baseball players are right now.
What to choose and what to eat:
- Multivitamins- These should be taken daily to ensure that our bodies are getting the proper nutrition that we deserve. Even if we follow a great nutritional plan our bodies lack some essential vitamins and minerals that are found in these pills. Make sure you get a multivitamin and mineral your body can absorb properly.
- Proteins- We need protein to boost our metabolism and build muscle tissue. Choose lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, egg whites etc. We know we can get a lot of protein from a cheeseburger at any fast food chain, but if you are craving a double burger with cheese, turn to the healthy alternatives even a low calorie protein shake. Broccoli is an outstanding source of protein.
- Fresh Fruit and Vegetables- They are the best when they are raw. I like using a vegetable steamer if I get frozen vegetables to keep as many nutrients in the food as possible. Also, our bodies need to be more alkalin than acid. Fresh greens in the produce section of any store are great sources of energy. I also like drinking a green drink packed with phytonutrients to start my day.
- Fiber- Oatmeal, apples, beans etc. These help absorb some fat from our digestive tract moving it along and diminish our body’s ability to digest fat. Good fiber sources are found in, but are not limited to Kashi cereals, oranges, whole-grain breads, fruits and vegetables like soybeans.
- Eat slower and eat often- It is no surprise that Americans overeat. It isn’t a hard thing for any of us to do. Our body will give us signals when we are full, if we eat to fast our brain doesn’t register how much we have truly eaten. Eating often (smaller portions of course) keeps our metabolism going and helps prevent intense hunger pains that keep us non-selective in our food choices. When we are that hungry we tend to eat whatever is in front of us. A good friend of mine told me to chew my food twenty times before I swallowed. That serves two purposes, one it helps us not to overeat and our digestive system can run much more effectively breaking down food much easier.
- Liquid Calories- We already discussed the issues with soda, however make sure that you don’t drink to many fruit juices and sodas. The calories in these add up quickly just as they do in condiments. If you feel that you are lacking alternatives and are thirsty, you cannot go wrong with water. It is recommended that we drink eight glasses of water everyday, in some cases even more. Don’t forget our bodies are made of mostly water anyway.
- Avoid eating in front of the television, surfing on the internet, while doing homework or just being sedentary. It is easier to choose the wrong foods to eat and you will tend to overeat.
- Go to the Glycemic Index: www.glycemicindex.com and choose foods that are on the low end of the index.
Dan Gazaway has instructed over 1,000 pitchers in the last five years. He received his Coaches Certificate from The National Pitching Association in November 2004 and received personal instruction from Tom House, “Father of Mechanics”, for many years. Dan also received his Bachelor’s Degree as a Health Education Specialist in 2002 from Utah State. Be sure to check out Dan's Pitching Mechanics DVD .