#1: Start your Day Strong
Getting game day ready starts the night before with a good night\'s rest. You will make better food and nutrition choices after your body has adequate sleep.
Sleep matters (Learn How Sleep Impacts Your Performance), aim for 8-10 hours per night, more if you have been pushing your body hard. Nutrition is often the limiting factor in performing your best. Those who optimize nutrition, optimize performance.
Plan your day around foods that help you feel and play your best. Remember how you fuel your body will be reflected in your performance. Wake up early so you have time for preparing without the stress of rushing.
Start your day off right by eating a good clean breakfast within 1 hour of waking up. Here's a link to some breakfast recipes.
#2: Pack and Plan your Food
Plan for nutritional success. If you want to perform like an athlete, you have to eat like an athlete. We cover everything you need to know in our Meal Prep 101 for Softball Players blog.
Plan out and pack healthy meals, snacks, and water for the day. Plan for obstacles that could come up.
How will you heat your food?
Will you have access to a kitchen or will you be eating out?
Will you need a cooler?
If you plan ahead, you can avoid and prepare for situations that could lead to poor nutritional choices which leads to fatigue or decreased performance before the day even starts.
Choose foods that are familiar and easy to digest to avoid an upset stomach.
Proper hydration is an all-day affair. You should be drinking water before, during and after the game. Dehydration causes fatigue, cramping, and a decrease in performance.
Water is the best way to stay hydrated, but if you will be in the heat for extended periods of time electrolyte replacement drinks can be taken.
Avoid sugary drinks, concentrated juices, and energy drinks. Keep water nearby at all times; in your bag, the locker room and on the field. Learn about the importance of water here.
#4: Fuel your Body
Consuming the proper amount of carbohydrates will ensure that you have balanced energy and performance throughout the day.
Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel system for both the muscular and nervous systems. Avoid processed carbohydrates.
Choose clean, whole foods to fuel your body, avoid fatigue and aid in recovery. Here's more about what foods to choose.
Great choices include oatmeal, brown rice, high-fiber cereal, quinoa, and whole-wheat bread. Portions should be roughly fist size. Fuel up about every 3 hours.
#5: Get Enough Protein
Great sources of protein include fish, lean cuts of red meat, chicken, dairy, and eggs. Portions should be roughly the size of your palm.
A softball athlete's typical pre-game meal should consist of a 1;1 ratio of carbs to protein. It is suggested to have 40-50g of protein post-game to aid in recovery. We cover everything you need to know about protein here.
#6: Eat Fats that Give Back
The healthiest and most beneficial sources of fats include seeds, nuts, fish, flaxseed, olive oil, and avocados.
Avoid unhealthy fats such as saturated fats from processed meat, butter, lard and trans fats from biscuits, cakes, and other prepackaged foods. Portions should be the size of your thumb tip.
Healthy fats help regulate insulin levels in the body and maintain sugar levels in the blood all day for balanced energy. Fat is a necessary part of a healthy diet.
However, fat takes a long time to break down and be converted to energy. So, moderate your fat intake around training and competition times to help you perform better. For more about fat and how it impacts you, click here.
#7: Power up with Vitamins and Minerals
A colorful and clean diet full of a variety of fruits and vegetables typically provides all the vitamins and minerals you need. We cover everything you need to know about vitamins and minerals in this blog post.
Make it a goal to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits at every meal. Always aim to fuel your body with real food first and supplements second.
Great sources include broccoli, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, asparagus, bell peppers, cauliflower, celery, eggplant, mushrooms, onion, winter squash, zucchini, and spinach.
#8: Avoid Unnecessary Substances and Supplements
Supplement wisely by complimenting your body with what it really needs. Check out our Softball Player's Guide to Supplements for more on that!
Do not take risks trying to get a competitive edge that could ruin your athletic career.
Supplements WILL NOT make up for a lack of training, poor nutrition or inadequate sleep. Supplements are not always nutritionally balanced and could lead to unwanted side effects.
Many supplements available online have not been FDA tested, verified for safety or health claims. Some may even contain illegal or dangerous substances.
Meeting energy requirements through whole food sources is essential in order to function and perform at your peak. Drugs and alcohol could cost you more than just your game day performance, they can cost you your entire career.
#9: Get in your Zone
Get in the right mindset about nutrition. Understand that it has the power to improve energy, endurance, capacity, strength, skill, speed and recovery.
Create rituals and routines to simplify the nutrition process. Media presents an image that the average American needs to cut back on calories/ carbs/ fats/ etc.
You are not average.
As an athlete, your needs are unique and exceed the needs of non-athletes. Do not follow the masses, take care of your needs as an athlete and commit to fueling your body. Use your support system.
As a student-athlete, you have a lot of support around, coaches, team doctor, athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach, sports nutritionist, among many others. Being an athlete requires dedication, inspiration and a lot of hard work.
Your support \"team\" is here to help.
#10 Rest, Recover and Repeat
To recover from the high demands of games, tournaments, and practices, you should refuel your muscles with complex carbohydrate foods within 1-2 hours after physical activity.
Remember carbs are the gasoline for your body. They keep your body\'s fuel tank full. You will recover faster and minimize fatigue.
Plan ahead to have the right healthy post-game foods available.
Game days can be mentally and physically draining. Be sure to get adequate sleep to allow your body to fully recharge and recover.
Maximum recovery means you can come back 100% the next day for your next game or workout. For more on recovery, make sure you check out this blog!