Players at all levels of baseball need to excel at throwing, hitting, running and catching. That calls for a sound training program. Today, baseball coaches and athletic trainers are facing an unfamiliar training concern – players who report overweight. Carrying around excess pounds can reduce a player’s speed and agility, diminish endurance and make hot weather more uncomfortable. Where should overweight players start?
A player should base their weight-loss goals on their percent of body fat, which should be measured by an experienced professional. Weight-for-height charts and body mass index tables, which are suggested for the general population, are not appropriate for athletes who routinely carry heavier weights because of greater muscle mass. Desirable or goal fat percentages for professional baseball players are pitchers and catchers at
approximately 12 percent and infielders/outfielders at approximately 10 percent.
If body fat percentage is high, it can be reduced. The athlete needs to consume fewer calories from food and expend more energy through additional activity.
To consume fewer calories, reduce foods that are high in sugar and/or fat. Some fat is necessary to provide a feeling of satiety or fullness, which prevents hunger from returning too soon. However, overindulging in sweets and high-fat snack foods (cheese, ice cream, chips, pizza) can send total calories soaring.
Balance eating throughout the day and avoid oversized portions of any food. Include breakfast and lunch to avoid becoming ravenous at dinner. Follow the Food Guide Pyramid and eat at least the minimum number of servings from each of the five food groups.
To increase calorie expenditure, do additional walking, running, stair climbing or cycling. Endurance activities will use some of the calories ingested, rather than storing calories as added fat. Resistance training is also important to maintain lean muscle tissue.
Players should never dehydrate to lose weight. An athlete who loses just 2 percent of body weight through dehydration (3 pounds for a 150 pound player) can drop 8 to 10 percent in performance. All players, including those trying to lose weight, should drink often and on a schedule, to replace sweat losses.
Choose a sports drink containing carbohydrate and adequate electrolytes to provide muscles with energy as well as fluid. The carbohydrate and electrolytes in sports drinks, (which are not present in water) provide athletes in stop-and-go sports, like baseball, greater endurance and power over the whole game. Sports drinks also taste good, so players tend to drink more and hydrate better.
Scott Byrd is coordinator of the Fort Sanders Sports Medicine program, certified by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) and Licensed by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners. Scott is also a National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) Approved Clinical Instructor as well as a NATA Board of Certification approved examiner.