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Interview: Optimal Nutrition for Tournament Softball Players

One of the things I remember most clearly about my tournament softball days is how difficult it was to stay nourished over the course of a long weekend full of games. Early morning games, erratic schedules, and processed snack bar food all make it very difficult to eat properly; yet you’re exerting yourself all day, especially when the weather is hot, good nutrition is extremely important.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Elizabeth Greig, a nurse practitioner specializing in functional medicine at Blum Center for Health in Rye, New York. Elizabeth and the rest of the team at Blum Center for Health help people overcome chronic conditions and live healthier lives through holistic methods. With an on site kitchen and a wide array of cooking classes available, educating their patients about proper nutrition is a big part of what they do. Fastpitch Power is very fortunate to be able to share Elizabeth’s thoughts on how softball players can stay properly nourished during their physically demanding tournament play. To read more about Elizabeth, be sure to check out her profile on Blum Center’s website.

What Does Your Body Need for Peak Performance in Multiple Games on the Same Day?

Those of you who are experienced tournament softball players know that an average day can consist of 3 to 5 games, if not more, sometimes in 85 to over 100-degree temperatures under a blazing sun. These conditions can drain your body of energy very quickly. I asked Elizabeth what softball players should eat over the course of a typical tournament day:

“I would say that the important thing is, in addition to carbs for energy, that they definitely need protein for every meal,” Elizabeth says. “When you’re playing like that and you’re using your muscles so much, you start to break down your muscles, and so you’ve got to really replenish them by having plenty of protein.”

I know from my personal experience that sometimes you don’t have the biggest appetite on tournament days, and you don’t necessarily want to eat a lot right before a game, especially if you’re pitching or catching. The good news is you don’t need to eat heavy proteins. Some of Elizabeth’s suggestions include bean sprouts, hummus, a little bit of chicken, or a protein bar. You’ll want to look for whole food protein bars—that is, bars with whole, recognizable ingredients and no strange additives—without added sugar.

Breakfast can be one of the biggest challenges. The first game of the day is often very early in the morning, and you may not be hungry, or you may be short on time or stuck in a hotel room. “That might be the time to have a shake,” Elizabeth says. “Protein drinks are ideal, because they’re pretty easy to digest, they’re already in powdered form, and you can mix them with coconut milk or almond milk. Coconut milk has really healthy fats in it, and you need fats for energy, particularly sustained energy. The carbs you burn up pretty quickly, so you want to have enough healthy fats and proteins.” You can flavor a protein shake with some fruit or honey as well, if you’d like. Having one early in the morning so you’ve got some fuel for the first game, then having a more substantial breakfast afterward is a good way to go.

If you know you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to eat a lot when you’re playing all day, you can drink protein shakes throughout the day as well. In general, players facing a full day should opt for small frequent meals rather than one or two large meals anyway. “I would say they should eat every three hours, and never let themselves get too hungry,” Elizabeth says. “Once you get too hungry, a) you know that you’re already in calorie deficit, and b) you’re going to eat the wrong things.”

Staying Hydrated

In a recent post, I talked about some healthier alternatives to common sports drinks. Elizabeth offered some additional suggestions for things you can eat throughout the day to make sure you’re getting those much-needed electrolytes:

“For sure, you want to have your electrolytes,” she says. “And you get those in fruits and vegetables, particularly things like tomatoes. Citrus fruits have a lot of nice electrolytes. Watery fruits, the ones that have a bit of an acidic taste to them, also tend to have a lot of electrolytes in them.”

As for drinks, Elizabeth suggests lemonade (all natural, no corn syrup), tomato juice and other tomato-based drinks (which contain a lot of potassium and vitamin C), and seltzer with some lemon or lime and a bit of honey. The combination of salts and sugars in these kinds of drinks helps to pull fluids into the body.

 

If your eating habits during your softball tournaments aren’t the best, give these suggestions a try to improve your energy, your performance, and your overall health. As always, feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments below.

About the author

Carly

Carly is a windmill pitching specialist and co-founder of Fastpitch Power. She has coached teams at every level from 10U to NCAA. She also designed and built fastpitchpower.com. Please feel free to leave questions and site feedback in the comments or via our contact page!

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