Updated: May 25, 2019
It seems as if players are developing better habits in their drive to become the best version of themselves. Maybe I'm a bit biased, but the players I've worked with are getting after it in the gym, winning reps on the field, and owning their recovery protocols. They are researching their craft, taking care of their sleep, and making sure to drink enough water.
The one area in which I think players are consistently lacking is nutrition. They don't eat well because it's not always convenient, comfortable, or fun. But if the goal is to turn over every stone in the search for one's potential, players are going to have to start taking ownership of their nutritional habits.
Hopefully the following information will be helpful on your path to better fueling.
First, consider your goals. Do you need to gain weight? Lose weight? Improve body composition? Do you need to be faster? Stronger? More powerful? These are important considerations and ones that should be discussed with knowledgeable coaches.
For reference, these are the average weights and body fat percentages of professional baseball players at different ages:
And here are the target weight ranges for players of different heights at 12% body fat:
CALCULATING DAILY CALORIC NEEDS
Once you've determined your goal, the next step is to identify how much you're currently eating and how it's impacting your bodyweight and body composition. To do this, take one to two weeks - and without changing a thing - track your daily intake along with your daily bodyweight. (First thing in the morning is ideal, but just make sure to weigh yourself at the same time each day.)
Follow these rules for a good approximation of your daily caloric needs:
1. If your weight is stable, you can consider your current average daily intake to be what you need to maintain weight.
2. If you have gained weight, multiply the number of pounds gained by 3500. Then divide that number by the number of days you tracked. Finally, subtract that number from your average daily caloric intake.
3500 Average Calories
1 lb gained
1lb x 3500 = 3500
3500/10 = 350
3500-350 = 3150 daily maintenance calories
3. If you have lost weight, simply follow the same formula, only this time add instead of subtract during our final step.
3000 Average Calories
2 lb lost
2lb x 3500 = 7000
7000/14 = 500
3000 + 500 = 3500 daily maintenance calories
By pairing your maintenance needs with your goals you can now come up with a daily caloric target. Think of it like this:
If the goal is to gain .5lb/week, eat 250 calories per day more than your maintenance levels.
If the goal is to gain 1lb/week, eat 500 calories per day more than your maintenance levels.
If the goal is to gain more than 1lb/week you will either be gaining lots of fat, or you are an absolute beginner. (Absolute beginners can gain up to 2lbs/week for a short period. After that, most people will be able to gain about .5 lbs of quality mass per week. Eventually it will be hard to gain more than .5 lbs of mass per month, but that won’t happen until much later in your training career.)
If the goal is to lose .5lb/week, eat 250 calories per day less than your maintenance levels.
If the goal is to lose 1lb/week, eat 500 calories per day less than your maintenance levels.
If the goal is to lose 1.5lb/week, eat 750 calories per day less than your maintenance levels.
If the goal is to lose 2lb/week, eat 1000 calories per day less than your maintenance levels.
Don't lose more than 2lbs/week!
Now that you know how much you need to eat each day to achieve your goals, do it! Track your calories. Track your weight. Reassess your needs every two weeks or so, and adjust your intake based on how quickly you're gaining or losing weight.
As for macros, let's keep it simple:
Aim for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. More is fine but not necessary. Try to spread out your protein consumption if at all possible. Ideally you're eating 30-40 grams of protein every 3-4 hours throughout the day, but this is a tertiary consideration.
If you are trying to lose weight, shoot for .4 grams of fat per pound of body weight.
If you are trying to gain weight, try to get 20%-40% of your calories from fat.
Fats from plants are generally better for you than fats from animals, but if you are trying to gain weight and you like fatty meats, please don't shy away from them. In an ideal world things like avocados, nuts and nut butters, and olive oil would constitute a majority of your fat intake.
The rest of your calories should come from carbohydrates. Ideally they should come from natural, whole grain sources. Think oatmeal, rice, etc. If you have trouble getting enough calories in while only eating unprocessed foods, shoot for less processed over more processed.
Brown rice is better than bread, and bread is better than tasty cakes.
There is so much more nutritional information out there, and it's easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole, but if you want to dig a bit deeper, check out these resources:
Eric Cressey's Eight Nutritional Strategies For Those Who Can't Gain Weight
Ryan Faer's Nutrition For The Busy Student Athlete
Ben Brewster's Bulking on a Budget
Purchase Building the 95 MPH Body. (Totally worth it)