I remember the long days of summertime softball tournaments. At times we drove for hours, stayed up to the wee hours of the morning battling out a tie ballgame, only to wake up the next day and do it all over again. The days were long, hot, exhausting and exhilarating all in one. But changing just one part of my training would have improved my energy levels, performance and recovery: better nutrition. (Learn about Justin Verlander's nutrition strategy.)
As high school students, my teammates and I would hit the local fast food restaurants between games of a doubleheader. If possible, I would get my favorite meal—a McDonald's chocolate shake and Little Caesars breadsticks. Now, as a sports dietitian, I look back at that fat and sugar-laden meal wondering what on earth I was thinking? Sure it tasted good, but it also left me feeling sluggish and searching for a caffeine pickup before it was my turn to pitch.
So that you don't make the same mistakes I did, check out my 3-part plan for choosing better pre-, during and post-game options.
First, check the location of the ballpark and what restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations are nearby (yes, some gas stations have an array of decent food options). And of course, look at your schedule. Is there enough time between games to run out and get food. Do the nearby restaurants have good things for you to eat—such as grilled chicken or deli meat sandwiches, baked potatoes, burritos and fresh fruit? (See Restaurant Eating Guidelines.)
Imagine the healthiest, tastiest food right there, one mile from the ballpark. You have your between-games meal picked out and beverage choice ready to go. But Game 1 went into extra innings and the next game starts in 10 minutes. Long games and extra innings happen, so you need to be prepared. Regardless of which restaurants are close by, bring an array of foods and beverages in case you don't have time to leave the ballpark. Nutrition bars, cereal, fresh fruit (oranges, grapes, bananas, sliced watermelon are all great options), a sandwich from home, sports drinks and plenty of water are all excellent choices.
Finally, pick good foods wherever you are. This may mean making a meal out of what's at the concession stand. Pre- and post-game foods should be low in fat and fiber (this is not the time to load up on beans and vegetables); high in carbohydrate such as bread, pasta, potatoes and fruit; and moderate in lean protein like chicken, turkey or white fish. Go ahead and salt your food. (Learn why electrolytes are important.) The sodium in salt will help your body hang on to the fluids you are drinking before and during your game.
Here are some excellent options from the concession stand, pre- or post-game:
- Grilled chicken sandwich
- Cheese pizza
- Deli meat sandwich
- Chicken burrito (skip the beans pre game!)
- Soft pretzel (salted)
- Fresh fruit
Now that you have a 3-part approach to double-header nutrition, you should be covered regardless of where you are, what food is nearby and what the concession stand offers.
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