Baseball is a sport unlike any other. Practices can be LONG. Some practice days can last 4-5 hours, leading to long periods of time without eating. Baseball is hard enough as it is, but when you’re not energized, it’s even harder. Looking back 15 years ago, the culture of baseball and the food associated with the sport was not the healthiest. Club houses were filled with processed and fried foods that didn’t promote good recovery. Fortunately, baseball players at the college and professional level are making the connection between the importance of good nutrition and career longevity/injury prevention.
In college, the average baseball player plays 56 regular season games between February and May. In the pros, the season consists of 162 games in 180 days. With this intense schedule, recovery nutrition is important. Having healthy snacks available when athletes are hungry increases the likelihood the athlete will eat. Whether an athlete is trying to gain weight, maintain weight or lean down, here are my top five snack picks for spring training:
- Oatmeal: Many athletes tend to skip breakfast, leading to low energy during practice and poor food choices later in the day. Oatmeal is a fiber-rich, easy-to-digest whole grain that has staying power and takes little time to prepare. Add peanut butter or milk for additional protein, fruit for antioxidants and chia seeds for Omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in joint lubrication.
- Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt is one of my all-time favorite snacks. It has twice the protein of regular yogurt, aiding in muscle recovery and repair. Smoothies are a great way for athletes to incorporate Greek yogurt, fruit and even veggies into their diet.
- Chocolate Milk: On a hot day at the ball field, there is nothing better than recovering with cold chocolate milk. It is a perfect recovery beverage, because it provides fluid to rehydrate players, electrolytes to replenish what they have lost in sweat, carbohydrates to restory energy and protein to rebuild muscles.
- Nuts and Nut Butters: Trail mix and peanut butter for sandwiches are staples in club houses. The healthy fats and fiber that nuts provide satiate hunger and control blood sugar levels.
- Fruit: Physical activity brings on oxidative stress and tissue damage. Antioxidants, found in fruit and veggies, can be helpful in reducing tissue damage and aid in post-workout recovery. Pairing fruit with a protein like string cheese will prevent hunger between meals.
Kelsee Gomes, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, CLT is the Director of Sports Nutrition for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and oversees the nutrition department for 28 varsity sport programs. She works daily with the athletic teams providing sports nutrition education, nutrition counseling and meal planning assistance. She is a former collegiate athlete and current marathon runner.