UNDERSTANDING NUTRITION PART 1: CALORIE BALANCE AND MACRONUTRIENT PERCENTAGE
The last couple of articles talked about supplementation and how some supplements can give you that extra push for peak performance. However, as I stated in one of my articles, you should first have a well-balanced diet.
When talking about nutrition and performance for the baseball athlete, there are so many variables to consider. Here is a simple visual on what different factors to focus on, and their level of importance:
This visual is based off the book “The Renaissance Diet” by Dr. Mike Israetel. I’ll be using this visual to break down the first two blocks at the bottom of the pyramid: Calorie Balance and Macronutrient Percentage
Our body requires a certain number of calories to survive, known as our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). Let’s say for example, your body burns 2000 calories per day at rest. This means that by eating 2000 calories per day, you are in an energy maintenance, or an energy balance of zero.
This concept is SO simple, and people want to make it complicated sometimes. If you eat more than your daily expenditure, you are in a positive energy balance, resulting in tissue weight gain.
If you eat less than your daily expenditure, you are in a negative energy balance, resulting in tissue weight loss.
IT IS THAT SIMPLE!
Our body (which is pretty smart, by the way) constantly strives to put us back into homeostasis (energy maintenance). If you are trying to build muscle or lose fat when you are eating on calorie maintenance, it makes your goal even that much harder to attain.
Research shows that our tissues can only basically “handle” 1-2 pounds per week (in a healthy manner) either weight gain or weight loss.
Just like getting stronger in the weight room is a slow, continuous process, weight gain/loss is the same battle.
When striving for weight gain/loss, the consensus is a 500-calorie buffer zone. If you want to gain some mass, start with eating 500+ calories per day. If you want to lose some fat mass, start with eating in a 500-calorie deficit.
So how can we know how many calories we are taking in if it’s that simple?
Well, there’s a free app in the App Store called “MyFitnessPal”. Although not the most reliable source, it is better than nothing. I generally tell people to track their food intake for one week and take an average of their daily calorie intake. With that number, you can then take a step back and see how much you need to take in, or eat less of, to get you to your goal.
Now it’s time for carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to get the spot light here. This information is only important if you can master the bottom of the pyramid.
What do these guys even do, anyway?
Protein is arguably the most important macronutrient because it can do so many great things. My favorite part about protein is that it is directly related to building muscle tissue, and reducing the likelihood of muscle tissue breaking down.
Therefore, ingesting protein after your game or after the weight room is severely important: promoting muscle tissue growth and the prevention of muscle tissue breakdown!
- The minimal protein dosage for an athlete is 0.6g/kg of body mass. Although, 1g/lb of bodyweight may be towards the higher end of the scale to help you build muscle faster.
- Protein intake should approximate to 20-25% of your daily intake
- 1.0-1.5g/kg of body weight
Carbohydrates come next in importance for your baseball performance. Call these guys the “fuel” to your training engine. Glucose, the most available carbohydrate source in the body, can either be used right away for energy or it can be stored in our muscle tissue (known as glycogen).
If you read my last article, Creatine works so well with carbohydrates and protein because it gets transported directly into the cell so it can be used instantly. Since Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for the Central Nervous System (our brain), having an ample amount of carbohydrates will allow for better muscle recruitment, mental focus, and muscle activation.
Therefore, having carbohydrates before and after your game/training session is vital because we need to replenish our fuel stores once they have been used up!
I like the idea of carbohydrate cycling: eating more carbs surrounding your training days, and eating less carbs on your non-training days.
- On non-training days, try consuming 4-5g/kg of body mass
- On training days, try consuming 5-6g/kg of body mass
- Carb intake should approximate to 50-60% of your daily intake
Fats are NOT as bad as they seem. I repeat, Fats are NOT bad. Don’t let them fool you!
I’ll put it this way, if you restrict yourself with a very-low fat intake, say goodbye to your testosterone stores…
Fats are a VITAL component for hormonal production and secondary messengers to translate our DNA. Adding fat into your diet is actually a great idea for a few reasons: fulfilling feelings of hunger, weight control (monounsaturated are the best), and calorie density.
I like to think of a fulcrum when it comes to macronutrient percentages. Theoretically, let’s use protein as the fulcrum. Here’s what I mean:
If you eat more carbs in one day, you’ll need to eat less fat in the same day, while protein remains as your fulcrum.
If we restrict our fat intake, then muscle-building pathways inside the body will be heavily affected.
- Fat intake should approximate to 20-30% of your daily intake
- Reducing your fat intake to around 10% will worsen your lipid profiles and hormones
- High fat diets have actually shown to decrease at tissue in the body
Setting training goals are great and I encourage everyone to do so. BUT, there are so many factors that come into play, it’s hard to stay on track sometimes. That’s why I love this pyramid that breaks everything down into levels of importance.
Hopefully now you understand that first and foremost you need to hit your daily calorie intake. If you want to gain some mass, eat more. If you want to lose some mass, eat less!
Once that is covered, then it’s time to look at how much protein we should be consuming, as this is arguably the most important macronutrient. Next is to balance out our carbs and fats, while having most of our carbs around our training session.
Next article, I’ll be going over exactly WHEN you should be consuming these macronutrients and food quality versus quantity.
Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS