Refueling During, Between and After Baseball/Softball Games
PBSCCS was recently contacted by a mom who wanted to know what she could do to improve the stamina and performance of her 16U son and 14U daughter when they played multiple games per day in tournament play. She said that they seemed to run out of gas between games, especially when playing 3 games per day, and wondered if there was something that she could provide between games that would increase their energy and help improve performance on the field. PBSCCS submitted this question to several sports nutritionists and the following was prepared from their responses.
Between game and post-game meals and snacks are essential if athletes are playing more than one game per day and games on consecutive days. Your first objective to make sure that they consume a quality breakfast before leaving home or on the way to the game (http://baseballstrength.org/youth-sports-eating-before-a-morning-game/). Second, make sure that they hydrate and eat something as soon as possible between and after games, because their snacks and meals provide the nutrients needed for energy, muscle repair and recovery. The sooner they start replacing energy and the recovery process the better.
During games. If they had a solid breakfast, the primary objective during games should be to stay hydrated. Water is the primary source of fluids for games lasting an hour or less. Sports drinks are recommended for games lasting longer than an hour. The key is to staying hydrated is to drink on schedule, consume 6-8 ounces of cold fluid every 15-20 minutes (inning or half-inning). If you they complain of being tired or get hungry during games, have them hydrate and eat a banana or consume a gel pack, sports beans or sports drink.
More than one game/day. What they eat and drink and how much they consume between games is determined by the amount of time that they have between games. The more time between games, the more food they can consume and digest and vice versa.
If they have 2 hours or more between games, they should hydrate and consume approximately 700-800 calories. Acceptable options include an 8-ounce turkey sub with baked chips, fruit juice or sports drink and an apple or orange; nut-butter and jelly sandwich and grapes; granola bar and banana; and fruit yogurt, nuts and dried fruit.
If they have an hour between games, they should hydrate and consume about 300 calories from items like a cereal or granola bar, gels, sports beans, chews, fruit, pretzels or sports drink.
If they have only 30 minutes between games, they should hydrate and consume about 100 calories in the form of fruit (banana or orange), yogurt, salted pretzels or sports drink.
Between game days. Their goal between games on subsequent days is to start to rehydrate and initiate the recovery process as soon as possible after their last game. A recovery drink like a Muscle Milk, Core Power, Boost, low- fat chocolate milk, fruit juice, sports drink or fruit smoothie is the perfect way to start refueling, especially if they have to wait in a restaurant or travel a long distance to get home. Not only are they portable, they are an immediate way to reload the body’s glycogen stores. They should drink one within 30 minutes after the game, because that’s about the optimal recovery window.
About an hour later, they should follow up with a high-carb, protein-rich, low-fat, solid meal. If the only option is a fast-food restaurant, try a grilled chicken wrap or a lean hamburger. Hold off on high-fat toppings such as bacon and extra cheese. While one slice of cheese is a good source of calcium and protein, extra slices tend to add more fat than nutrients. Make sure to include carbs in their post-workout dish. If their burger comes with fries, substitute a baked potato. Depending on their caloric needs, they can add a salad, piece of fruit or cup of fruit juice. One third of the meal should be lean protein, one-third should be carb-rich foods and another third should be a fruit or vegetable. “While carbs are essential, they need the whole balance, not just protein or just carbs.”
For a good fast-food meal, try a carton of low-fat chocolate milk, low-fat milk, Boost, Ensure or Muscle Milk with a Wendy’s Jr. Hamburger and baked potato. While it might be fast food, it’s high in carbs (65% carbs) and protein (21% protein), low in fat (14% fat) and provides a lot of energy (840 calories).
If they are eating at home, try a ham or turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich on whole grain bread with mustard rather than mayo. And load up on the veggies – lettuce, tomato, pickles, etc. Wash it down with a glass of low- fat milk or low-fat chocolate milk, and top it off with a banana, apple or grapes.
If they are eating at a sit-down restaurant, good options include:
Grilled chicken breast, baked potato, vegetable and dinner roll
Chicken or beef fajitas with rice and vegetables
Pasta and chicken in a tomato or marinara sauce
Grilled chicken sandwich, side salad and applesauce
Turkey club, baked potato and fruit cup
Steak kebabs and rice
Roast beef, mashed potatoes and salad
Hamburgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, baked potato, side salad and juice.
For more information, see the following references:
Bonci, L. Sports Nutrition for Coaches, Human Kinetics, 2009.
Coleman, E. and S. N. Steen, Ultimate Sports Nutrition, 2004.
Mangieri, H. R. Fueling Young Athletes, Human Kinetics, 2017.
Troup, Rasa, What are good meals to eat before a tough workout or game? http://baseballstrength.org/what-are-good-meals-to-eat-before-a-tough-workout-or-competition-by-rasa-troup-rd-ld-cssd/
US Olympic Committee, Athletes Plate, http://coachrey.com/volleyball-blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/USOC-Nutrition-Guide.pdf