We don’t just work with collegiate and professional athletes: we serve a select few youth organizations who value individual athlete development, opportunities beyond their program, stand-out performance, and winning.
While other practitioners often fail to show meaningful results, we do just the opposite. Here’s a peek into a nutrition program we implemented over the last few years to enhance player performance in a 13u-18u youth baseball organization…
13u and 14u Training Tables.
A large focus is on motivating young
players to begin thinking about nutrition as a means to performance enhancement. By bringing in delicious food after practice and connecting it through fun back-and-forth discussion to clear performance outcomes that players care about – strength, exit velocity, playing high school baseball, etc. – coaches and parents see young players lay the foundations for performance and life-altering habits. Discussion and handouts typically revolve around how our bodies use the different foods we eat, fueling training and games (nutrient timing - how to eat before, during, and after), goal setting and individual progress, what “healthy” really means, how all foods can fit, and incorporating nutrient-dense foods to fuel performance.
* indicates significant statistical difference vs. control (p<0.05). Anonymous results from 13u and 14u players who did (gold) or did not (black) receive training tables as part of the club nutrition program. Results were collected via an online survey taken at least 4 months after the last team training table and included over 40 players from 4 teams with a variety of questions assessing knowledge and habits.
15u and 16u Cooking Workshops and Nutrition Challenges.
Cooking workshops are used at one of these levels to enhance self-efficacy to power athletes through high school and prepare them for college and adult-life. We kick off workshops with competitions to reinforce and build on athletes’ sports nutrition knowledge… and set the stage for a high-energy, engaging environment. Focuses are on topic-relevant snack sampling and food exposure, cooking skill development, and food players can prepare at home to fuel performance. Results from 47 anonymous player surveys collected over the last two seasons include:
100% would recommend these sessions to another player.
96% set more goals because of these sessions.
98% added new foods, meals, or snacks into their diets.
98% feel more comfortable/prepared to do things in the kitchen.
100% have a better idea of how to eat pre-training/game.
100% have a better idea of how to eat post-training/game.
100% can better control their weight.
“Nutrition Challenges” at this level were implemented to help players navigate health and performance during COVID when gatherings weren’t permitted in the off-season. Weekly virtual challenges included cameos from alumni players at and above collegiate levels, reviews of the science between topics and performance outcomes, and goal setting… with an emphasis on inter- and intra-team competition: group text picture submissions made up the core of the challenges where athletes submitted foods, meals, snacks, and more that were representative of the weekly topic and their individual goals.
18u Winter Training and more. The emphasis at the 18u level is on bringing past education together to enhance gains in strength and lean mass during the Winter as well as on habituating nutrition strategies so that players are prepared to focus on playing when the high school and Summer seasons kick off.
One of many targets we set internally for this program over the first few years was that each team is bigger and stronger than the team before it. It took two to three years to bring player body composition numbers up to averages seen in NCAA DI collegiate baseball teams. Consider that most players currently in the 2021 season started working with us and setting their foundations at the 14u level.
Average 18u weight and lean mass data assessed at the end of Winter hypertrophy training seasons. For reference, NCAA DI average weight 188-200lbs and lean mass 159-168lbs (Czeck et al, 2019) corrected upward for bias between caliper- and DXA-based analysis.
Given past experience with us, the 18u program involves greater player accountability and resources as well as more advanced team discussions on a variety of sports nutrition topics. Even still, we continue to take very contextual, value-oriented approaches to motivating players with process/outcome goals and paces that are appropriate to them as individuals… which is one great oversight made by many nutrition programs – treating a team according to an average or the lowest common denominator when it is really a group of individuals.
We see both greater Winter training gains and better Summer league performance with nutrition.
Over Winter training, players who utilized nutrition resources gained an extra five to seven pounds of lean mass.
* indicates significant statistical difference vs. “Limited” utilization, p<0.05. There was no correlation between initial lean mass and change in lean mass, change in lean mass percent, or nutrition utilization (R^2<0.05). Thus, it is quite likely that this nutrition program was important for optimizing lean mass gains from training.
Home run rates were about four times higher with nutrition utilization (2.3% vs. 0.6%, p<0.05) and were correlated with lean mass such that every 10 pounds of lean mass was associated with almost one extra home run per 50 at-bats (R^2=0.43). More lean mass simply means stronger, faster, and more injury-resistant athletes. Interestingly, lean mass was not well associated with slugging percentage while nutrition utilization still was – likely because base hits and outs heavily influence slugging percentage… thus lean mass (through strength/power interactions) will not be as well correlated, while other nutrition impacts on performance such as mental and physical fatigue resistance will be. And this is exactly what coaches reported: their players are not only stronger, but much higher energy through doubleheaders.
* indicates significant statistical difference vs. nutrition utilization, p<0.05.
Win percentage increased about 10% per year since data was collected and the most recent season record (including tournament games) was an impressive 38-8.
A few places players have gone on to play since 2017: