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Eat well for better performance

By Gene Coleman

"That makes me a Jelly-Nellie, Ding Dong, and Big Gulp."
- Mike Scott, when asked if he had ever heard the statement, "You are what you eat."

For good health and maximum performance, you need to eat well year-round. There are no valid reasons for poor food choices, only excuses. Sleeping through breakfast, missing meals, eating just before bedtime, and pounding candy bars and soft drinks are not sound nutritional practices.

Take control of your diet, and your health and performance will improve. The choice is yours. You can start eating better today or keep on making excuses for why you’re tired, sluggish, and overweight. The essential things that you need to know about sport nutrition, health, and performance are in this chapter. Read the information, try the options, and determine what works best for you.

The three most important factors for athletic performance are genetics, training, and diet. You can’t do anything about heredity, but you can control training and diet. Although a balanced diet won’t guarantee success, an unbalanced diet can undermine even the best training program. Most popular diets and supplements won’t provide the results you want, and some are actually harmful. The best-tuned car can’t win the Indianapolis 500 on half a tank of gas, and the best-trained athlete can’t go nine innings on a Twinkie and Coke. To be successful, you must eat the right foods, at the right times, and in the right amounts.

Nutrients - Building Blocks for Performance
Nutrients are life-sustaining substances obtained from food. They work together to give you the energy you need to compete, build muscle, and maintain health. There are at least 50 nutrients in food that can be classified (by chemical structure or function) into six major groups: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water. Three of these - carbohydrates, fats, and proteins - provide energy (calories). Consuming extra vitamins and minerals will not give you more energy, and losing water weight will not make you leaner. Vitamins and minerals help convert the carbohydrate, protein, and fat in food into usable energy for work, metabolism, growth, and repair. Water is the medium in which nutrients are suspended within the body.

Your car runs on gas; your body runs on food. Energy is measured as heat and expressed as calories. A calorie is not a nutrient but a unit of measure expressing the energy value of foods.

Fat has the most calories, about 9 calories per gram. Carbohydrate and protein contain about 4 calories per gram. By knowing the exact amount of each (grams of each), you can estimate the total caloric content of the food. An Egg McMuffin, for example, has 31 grams of carbohydrate, 18 grams of protein, and 15 grams of fat. If you multiply the grams of carbohydrate (31 grams) and protein (18 grams) by 4 and the grams of fat (15 grams) by 9, you find that an Egg McMuffin contains approximately 331 calories. Read the labels: if a product has a lot of grams of fat, it will have a lot of calories.

Energy Needs
The trick in any diet is to match your caloric intake to your caloric needs. If you consume more than you need, you will gain weight. Consume less than you need, and you will lose weight. Active people need more calories; inactive people need fewer calories.

The caloric cost of playing baseball varies by position. Infielders and outfielders expend fewer calories per minute in game situations than catchers or pitchers. In a typical nine-inning game, fielders will burn about 1,000 calories, catchers will expend 1,100 calories, and pitchers will use 1,440 calories. To estimate your postseason caloric needs, multiply your body weight in pounds by 15. A 200-pounder, for example, will need about 3,000 calories to keep from gaining or losing weight in the postseason. Once you start working out, multiply your weight by 18. The same 200-pounder will need 3,600 calories to fuel training. When games start, multiply weight by 23 if you’re in the starting lineup and by 20 if you’re an extra man. A starting 200-pounder will need about 4,600 calories on game days. Between appearances, relievers and starting pitchers should multiply weight by 20.

This is an excerpt from 52-Week Baseball Training.

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