With spring training soon underway, I had an opportunity to speak with Mitzi Dulan, Team Nutritionist for the Kansas City (KC) Royals baseball team. Mitzi is co-author of The All-Pro Diet and is the owner and head coach of Mitzi Dulan’s Adventure Boot Camp for Women in Kansas City. (Twitter @NutritionExpert). Here’s a rundown on how she helps the pros eat healthfully and shape up for training.
Q: What is your role with the KC Royals?
As Team Nutritionist, I work with the players to help them fuel their bodies to perform their best on the baseball field. Major League Baseball has a very long season and a grueling travel schedule, so showing players how to boost their energy levels and recover from games is very important. I also travel to spring training in Arizona two times each March to speak to our Major League and Minor League teams.
This will be my seventh season with the KC Royals. I provide various services for them throughout the year, such as helping players with their off-season nutrition goals, finding a personal chef, and creating meal plans. I also work with our clubhouse guys on the best foods to have on hand for the players.
Q: At the start of the season, what eating recommendations do you give players to help get them in top shape?
I recommend the following:
1. Eat “clean” foods 90% of the time. This means avoiding foods with artificial ingredients as much as possible. For example, replace artificial sweeteners with a natural sweetener like pure honey. One great pre-game snack is a thin sandwich with whole wheat bread, almond butter, banana, and honey – delicious, clean, and high energy!
2. Stay hydrated. Drink water and sports drinks during training and games and within 30 minutes afterward. Optimal hydration is a must for professional athletes.
3. Eat nutrient-rich foods. Choose whole grains such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oats to boost your fiber and protein levels. Load up on fruits and vegetables such as spinach, carrots, and broccoli. And choose “good” fats like Hass avocados on a sandwich instead of foods high in saturated fat.
4. Eat protein at every meal. This will give you staying power and help stabilize your blood sugar levels. One ounce of fish, chicken, or pork tenderloin provides about seven grams of protein. A great snack option is a handful of almonds, which provides about three grams of fiber and six grams of protein.
Q: What are the protein needs of a professional baseball player?
Baseball players need about 0.7 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. I encourage players to get their protein from a variety of sources, including salmon, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, bison, and lean red meat. My other top protein foods for athletes are Greek yogurt, almonds, black beans, and quinoa. Protein is especially important for pros because it helps them build and repair muscle and keep their immune systems strong.
Q: What about vitamins, minerals, protein, and other supplements?
I encourage players to think “food first” before supplementing. Nevertheless, supplements definitely have a role in a professional athlete’s diet. As Team Nutritionist, I can only recommend supplements that have been approved by the National Science Foundation and labeled “Certified for Sport.” Protein powders can be an easy way to boost protein intake without a lot of calories. A multivitamin and mineral with a good amount of vitamin D is also a good choice. And I like to recommend a high-quality fish oil, which provides anti-inflammatory benefits.
Toby Amidor is a registered dietician and the owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition. She holds a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from New York University. You can follow her on Twitter at @tobyamidor.