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Nutrition Tips For The Minor League Baseball Player

Nutrition Tips For The Minor League Baseball Player

Sports Nutrition

This topic hits close to home. From my professional experience working with baseball players across the country to my personal experience being married to one, I have seen firsthand the challenges that come from playing in the minor leagues.

There’s this false belief that minor league teams each have their own chef, dietitian, and that players have plenty of money to spend on food. That meals are catered to fit each players individual performance and recovery needs, or that there’s a team nutritionist and chef on hand at all times when needed. In reality, the majority of these minor leaguers are choosing between food from a gas station or a Subway in the middle of a 9-hour bus ride. There is often only one dietitian for the entire organization, roughly 290 players spread between the seven affiliates. They’re served post-game meals that often lack in both quality and quantity, due to limited budgets to feed an entire team and limited options especially in smaller towns. Not only that, but a lot of these players are making below minimum wage, so depending on their income, some of my suggestions below may even seem out of reach.

With over 140 games in 5 months, time is definitely a concern. These athletes want to improve their nutrition, but with as little time, effort, and money as possible. Athletes will spend hours training, but when it comes to optimizing performance, proper recovery, and preventing injury, nutrition is just as important. Having a healthy and well-fueled body is essential for their line of work. I’m sharing a few of my top nutrition tips for minor league baseball players that I know through experience are realistic and achievable. These tips can absolutely apply to athletes in other sports (minor league hockey, college athletes) that are in a similar situation.

Nutrition Tips for the Minor League Baseball Player

You will absolutely have to alter your daily routine in one way or another to improve your nutrition. And yes, you have time to do so. We are talking 5 extra minutes to make your own breakfast or smoothie, 10 minutes to throw something into a crockpot, or planning ahead to make healthier choices when grabbing food to go. My first tip is to put your time and effort into the meals you do have control over away from the field. Breakfast at home, lunch (depending on how early you head to the field) and a potential smoothie/snack beforehand.

Cook at least one meal at home: Whether you’re renting an apartment, living in a hotel room, or staying with a host family, you should still at the very least have access to a mini fridge and/or a microwave. On evenings after a day game, or mornings before a night game go to the nearest grocery store and load up on items to make your own breakfasts. Some non-perishable breakfast items I recommend are oats, peanut butter, and sliced almonds. You will not have to worry about these items spoiling while you are away on a road trip for a few days, or re-buying every ingredient each home-stand. You can easily make your own oatmeal if you have a microwave, and I promise even the busiest baseball players have 3 minutes to make their own nutritious breakfast. Purchase rolled (or old-fashioned) oats, fresh fruit (berries, bananas), peanut or almond butter, crushed walnuts or sliced almonds, and if you have access to a stovetop, buy eggs to make along with your oatmeal. If you don’t, you could buy precooked hard-boiled eggs from the store, or stir in some protein powder into your oats.

Not a fan of oatmeal? Purchase whole grain bagels to top with avocado and eggs. Buy only what you will use that home stand for perishable items (eggs, avocados, fruit) – the rest will last, and still be usable after long road trips. A common breakfast my athletes have includes: 1 cup oats made with water, spoonful of peanut butter, crushed walnuts, blueberries, a banana, and 2-3 eggs. This comes out to be ~880-950 calories.

Make smoothies/shakes: This is an easy, affordable way for athletes to pack in a ton of nutrients/calories and requires very little time, effort, and money. If you use bananas or frozen berries, peanut butter or ground flaxseed, raw spinach, milk/almond milk, and protein powder, you’re looking at less than ~$3 a smoothie. This provides you with at least 20 grams of protein, servings of both vegetables and fruit, carbohydrates and optional healthy fats. Since night games are most common, you could make this before heading to the field. Depending on when you ate breakfast, you could drink this on the way, or store in clubhouse as a post-workout/pre-BP snack.

While some clubhouses do have smoothie stations/blenders available, this isn’t always the case. I recommend investing in your own blender. This Nutribullet is only $49 on amazon. If you’re okay with spending more on a blender, I highly recommend Vitamix. I’ve had the same travel-size Vitamix for 8 years and have yet to have any issues; it’s been well worth the cost. If you have to check out of your hotel room every time you leave for games on the road, leave the blender and any other cooking supplies in a backpack at the clubhouse until you get back.

If you enjoy cooking, try meal prep: This is where either a crockpot or instant pot will come in handy. You can get a crockpot for just $25 from Bed Bath and Beyond. You can also buy containers from Amazon to store and take your meals to the field. Often I challenge my high school athletes heading to college or the minor leagues to make this meal prep burrito bowls recipe on their own. Just two ingredients go into the crockpot – chicken breasts and canned salsa – the crockpot cooks it on low for 6+ hours, while you go on with your day. Use two forks to shred the chicken up and portion it out into your containers. This can then be paired with precooked frozen rice and veggies that can be microwaved to complete your quick and affordable meal prep. I have several simple recipes available for free across my website, many of which only require a stovetop or one baking sheet. If you would like more guidance and direction on how to meal prep on a budget, I recommend checking out my cookbook, Fuel Your Body.

Don’t want to cook? You can still make healthier choices dining out: 95% of baseball players will eat at Chipotle at least once this season. Ok, ok I may have made up that statistic, but if you’re around baseball, you know this isn’t too far off from the truth. Regardless of what MiLB team you’re on, chances are you’ll be visiting either a Chipotle, Qdoba, Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks, or Panera at least once on a road trip. Here’s a quick healthier option to choose at each:

Chipotle/Qdoba: Burrito bowl with rice, beans, chicken or steak, lettuce, fajita vegetables, salsa. Could add a small side of guacamole, but omit the sour cream, cheese, and tortilla chips.

Chick-Fil-A: So maybe you can’t pass up on the Original chicken sandwich – but you could make this healthier by having an extra side choosing either the ‘kale crunch salad’, fresh fruit cup, or even just the side salad to make sure you’re getting some fresh produce here. Otherwise, the grilled chicken sandwich or grilled nuggets are good options.

Starbucks: There are several good breakfast and snack options here for on-the-go, but you’ll definitely be spending more than if you were to buy these items (like trail mix, energy bars, fresh fruit) in advance before a road trip at your local grocery store and pack them in your backpack. The classic whole grain oatmeal and ‘protein boxes’ are a few good last minute options if you didn’t plan ahead.

Panera: Most of their sandwiches are great options, just make sure to limit the cheese and sauce, and opt for a whole grain bread. Choose side salad or apple instead of the baguette to increase your fresh produce for the day. Other good options are their breakfast sandwiches, steel cut oatmeal, salads and bowls.

When out to eat, limit your intake of foods that are described as being fried, breaded, crispy, creamed, creamy, scampi, or au gratin. Instead, choose options that are described as being steamed, broiled, roasted, boiled, or grilled. Make sure your meals contain a lean protein, at least one vegetable, a whole grain/starchy vegetable, and a healthy fat.Here’s 3 Examples: 1. Grilled chicken with roasted potatoes and asparagus both sautéed in olive or avocado oil 2. Baked salmon with quinoa and roasted broccoli with olive oil 3. Grass fed ground beef or tofu with jasmine rice, peppers, onions, and fresh avocado

Plan ahead for road trips: Pack your favorite snacks with you to take on the bus so you are not stuck late night needing takeout, or caught in the middle of a bus trip with no food and an empty stomach. Some of the snacks I recommend my athletes bring with them are: energy bars (GoMacro, Larabar, Perfect Bar), mixed nuts, apples, oranges, bananas, EPIC Jerky bars, cut up veggies and Triscuits (in case you find hummus at a gas station), peanut butter packets, air-popped popcorn. Most of these options are also available at gas stations, in case you forgot to plan ahead or run out during the trip.

When on the road, use google maps/apple maps/yelp to find restaurants that are nearby each other. One uber/cab ride could allow you to eat breakfast, walk to a grocery store, or grab your lunch/snacks for the rest of the day. This well help you save on food delivery costs and cab rides.

Supplements that may be beneficial for the minor league baseball player + worth the cost:

Vitamin D + Omega-3s

A quality whey protein or plant-based protein powder

Creatine

Remember you must only use supplements that are NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Sport Certified. Either of those logos should be visible on the label, and you can do a quick product search here and here to see if the items you’re using are safe. I’ve done reviews on whey protein and plant-based protein powders based on certifications, quality, and cost you may find helpful to read through before purchasing. For vitamin D and Omega-3s, I most frequently recommend Nordic Naturals (Ultimate Sport) which is NSF certified, or Klean Athlete. Klean Athlete also has an affordable and safe creatine option. If you use this affiliate code: WKLN-3101 to order from Klean, you will receive 30% off at checkout (Note: in order to provide athletes with the highest possible discount of 30%, I donot receive any commission on Klean Athlete sales)

Unlike what supplement companies want you to believe, supplements do not offer superior benefits to whole food sources. In reality, real food contains a wider variety of nutrients, and the complexity of real food sources has been shown in multiple studies to be more beneficial to your overall health than supplements alone. There definitely are certain supplements that can be beneficial to athletes, but it’s important to have a sports dietitian really assess your diet first, and educate on what supplements are actually safe and effective before using them. I talk more about dietary supplements on this episode of Cressey Sports Performance Elite Baseball Development Podcast. I also have a Dietary Supplement Guide, if you’d like to learn more about this topic.

If you have the ability to with your budget, I highly recommend scheduling a consultation with a sports dietitian to conduct a complete nutrient analysis, provide specific nutrient and supplement recommendations, and create an individualized meal plan based on your body composition goals. Sports nutrition goes far beyond a few calculations and can vary based on many factors. A minor league baseball player’s training regimen and lifestyle, eating habits and dietary preferences, body composition, position (i.e. starting pitcher vs. outfielder), medical history, even genetics can all play a role in varying nutrition needs.


sports nutritionbaseball
Angie Asche

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