Brain In The Game
Food and water affect how your brain performs during baseball. Because baseball players need to strategize, make quick decisions, focus for many innings and require impeccible eye-hand coordination, you need to fuel your brain adequately for peak performance. The brain has very high nutrient needs, especially of glucose (from carbohydrates), amino acids (from protein) and omega-3 fatty acids (from healthy fats). Brain cells cannot store glucose (from carbohydrates) and therefore rely on steady replenishment from food for refueling. Glucose deficiencies can cause weakness and dizziness.
There are two primary types of carbohydrates – simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates (found in sugary foods) contribute to weakness, mental fog and can create blood sugar imbalances. Avoid simple sugars on game days and limit sources on other days for better overall health and to tighten up your game. Ideal sources of healthy complex carbohydrates come from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. These are the foods that your brain craves that will help give you a mental and physical edge on the field.
Since the brain is around 78% water it needs to be replenished constantly. Water is the most essential nutrient the body needs. Good hydration actually helps to increase endurance during exercise and also helps to prevent muscle cramping and fatigue. A 1- 2% reduction of water from your body weight during exercise can reduce performance by as much as 15-25%! Cold water is absorbed faster by the body than warm water and helps to lower body temperature more quickly. Drink before you feel thirsty – if you’re thirsty you are already dehydrated. Rehydrate all day long, everday. Drink 1-2 cups of water ½ hour prior to exercise and, if possible drink ½ -1 cup every 20-30 minutes throughout exercise.
Eating on the Road
Since traveling is synonomous with baseball you will have to eat snacks and meals on the way to games or while traveling to and from distant games. It’s helpful to get in the habit of taking a cooler with fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese sticks and yogurt. Other healthy portable snacks include health food store granola, whole grain crackers, whole grain mini-bagels and whole grain PB&J sandwiches.
Here are some restaurant ideas for when you need to eat out: scrambled egg white omelet with vegetables; fruit, yogurt and granola; whole wheat toast with lite cream cheese; sub sandwich with lean meat, veggies and mustard (skip the mayo); grilled chicken salad with lots of veggies and lite dressing; grilled fish with brown rice or a baked potato/sweet potato and fruit.
Lean cuts of red meat are great for replenishing iron stores, but since they take a long time to digest are best consumed the day before a game. Avoid breaded and fried foods that will deplete you of energy.
Injury Prevention and Healing
Consuming the right foods can help the body decrease the time it takes to heal from injury. Foods that fight inflammation should be a regular part of the diet, before and after injury.
- Fresh pineapple contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called bromelain
- Fresh papaya contains an anti-inflammatory enzyme called papain
- Yucca plant, an herb, can be found at a health food store in capsule form
- High potassium foods: bananas, potatoes, melons, raisins and oranges
- Citrus fruits: grapefruit, oranges, lemon and lime
- Green foods: spinach, dark leafy greens, arugula
- Beans: all kinds
- Cruciferous vegetables: cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
- Berries: strawberries, boysenberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
Nutritionist Darci Steiner teaches sport nutrition to high school, collegiate and adult athletes. Programs are provided for individuals or teams and are sport specific. For more information visit www.attainablenutrition.com or call 303-618-7899.