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Mehring Monday: Eat Like a Champion

January 11, 2010
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The last thing I want to do today is to write about football.  So, I'm going to write about something else that I enjoy but at times can be extremely hazardous to me...food.  You can probably imagine my surprise when I discovered that my usual diet of All-You-Can-Eat Chinese buffets, frozen pizza, soda, delicious Hostess products, and fast food turned out not to be good for me.

This all started before the Christmas break. 

Over at Rattler Radio, I put up a post the linked to a Wall Street Journal article dealing with food in major league clubhouses that...

...covers healthy eating in baseball in about the way that you would expect the Wall Street Journal to cover healthy eating in baseball:

Baseball's War Against Hamburgers
As Players Get Health Conscious, Teams Banish Clubhouse Junk Food; Edamame Anyone?

The doughnuts, fried chicken and candy bars that have long populated baseball's clubhouses-where players eat the majority of their meals-are being banished.

The Los Angeles Dodgers will ship their players to Arizona next week for a six-day health-food boot camp. The Kansas City Royals are planning to put up posters in the clubhouse offering nutritional advice. And the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays both say they're experimenting with the idea of preparing foods for the players that are rich in antioxidant grains like quinoa, teff and spelt.

At baseball's just-concluded winter meetings in Indianapolis, major and minor league strength and conditioning coaches devoted 12 hours on Saturday-about half of their total meeting time-to discussing matters such as including edamame and snow peas in the postgame buffet to whether teams should order "fun size" candy bars rather than the odious regular-sized variety.

"There's nothing wrong with a Reese's peanut butter cup every now and then," says Perry Castellano, the Minnesota Twins' strength and conditioning coordinator. "The issue is when somebody eats eight at a time."

This may seem like another case of paternalistic owners and team executives trying to maximize their multimillion-dollar payrolls. But in many cases, it's the players who are demanding healthier options: This past season, six members of the Los Angeles Angels approached the team's dietician, without prompting, to ask her to write them "food plans" to improve their diets. Heath Bell, a relief pitcher for the San Diego Padres, says he gets irritated on the road when teams set out buckets of cookies in the clubhouse while leaving the fruit and vegetables tucked away in refrigerators in side rooms. When teams do put fruit out, he says, they often don't even bother to clean or cut it. "If the fruit is out and set up well, I'll eat it," Mr. Bell says. "But if the cookies are there, I'm taking them. That's my downfall."

Then, there was a post by Garrett Broshuis, a minor leaguer in the Toronto organization, on his blog that had the following information:

I've written before that it's difficult to eat healthy in the minor leagues. Minor leaguers are constantly on the road, fighting a losing battle with Domino's and KFC (oh, but it's grilled now--with the help of beef fat). Players only receive $20 per day for meal money (over half of which goes to clubhouse dues sometimes), and frankly, some players are just idiots when it comes to food.

Some teams are beginning to take steps towards changing things for the better. While at the Winter Meetings, I heard one official claim that an increase in minor league per diem was being discussed. I almost took off my shirt and ran around Indy half-naked, but I've been unable to confirm this (other people I spoke with said they hadn't heard a darn word about it). I'm hoping it was at least informally introduced. I'll keep working on it.

One thing that seems more concrete comes via Blue Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos. In a fan chat, he recently talked specifically about minor league per diem:

We addressed improving the nutrition at the big league level last year and I've talked to our Minor League trainers and strength coaches about doing so in the Minor Leagues. MLB rules dictate that club pay their players $20 a day for meal money, we've already instituted a policy to increase that to $25 a day in addition to having our strength coaches work with clubhouse people to provide nutritional and healthier options for our players.

Now, if you are like me, you stopped reading after 'increase in minor league per diem'.  I'll be honest. I receive a per diem on the road and I am - paraphrasing Mr. Boshuis above - just an idiot when it comes to food.  If I had an extra couple of bucks a day on the road, the vending machines in the hotels on the road would be virtually empty instead of practically empty.

But, if you are like loyal reader - and Brew Crew Ball head blogger -- Kyle, you send the following e-mail to a guy who might actually be in a position to give you the information: I know you touched on the subject briefly, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on this in a more extended form, or perhaps a guest post from the guys that put food together for your players.

Kyle must not have received an answer from that guy, so he sent me the same e-mail later that same day if I make my guess correctly.

Now that you have more background than any other Mehring Monday ever before...To the column!

There is a weight room at Time Warner Cable Field.  Wisconsin Timber Rattlers Strength & Conditioning Coach Jake Marx has a desk in there.  He also has a bulletin board on the wall behind his desk.  Tacked to that bulletin board are 10 sheets of paper.  Six of those sheets are part of a packet titled EATING OUT GUIDELINES - HIGH PERFORMANCE CHOICES.  Two of the sheets are part of a handout titled TOP 10 for BASEBALL.  The other two sheets are part of another handout titled PERFORMANCE ENHANCING EATING STRATEGIES. 

I'll pull out the highlights and comment (in italics) where necessary on each of the handouts.

EATING OUT GUIDELINES - HIGH PERFORMANCE CHOICES:

Good words to look for: Seared, char broiled, blackened, grilled, steamed, baked, roasted, and broiled.

Watch out for: Large fries, gravy, chimichangas, and Double Stuffed anything!

I always watch out for those!  To be more accurate, I am always on the lookout for those!

Pizza: Try to limit to 3-4 slices so have a salad or soup with the pizza

Is it okay to save the other 4-5 slices for breakfast the next day if I have a steak, egg, and cheese bagel to go along with them?

BAR FOODS: WATCH OUT FOR THESE - If this is where you go, then try to limit the amount you eat

Wings - each wing is 100-150 calories and no one eats just one. And the Blue cheese or ranch dressing adds more calories.

Alcohol: It will make you hungrier.

It will also make you funnier, smarter, stronger, and more attractive.  But, I can see the point.

And you can have my post-game wings when you pry them out of my cold, dead, ranch-dressing-and-barbecue-sauce-stained fingers...probably sooner rather than later.  But, still.

There is also a list of good foods and a list of bad foods at certain chain restaurants.  But, I will leave that for another time.

PERFORMANCE ENHANCING EATING STRATEGIES

TIMING:

20 ounces of fluid one hour before BP/Workouts/Games

Something to eat one hour before: Half a turkey sandwich, a wrap, Yogurt and fruit, a smoothie, a shake, or a bar

WITHIN 15 MINUTES:

As soon as games are done...I want you to eat and/or drink something WITH calories: A sports drink, half of a shake, a handful of trail mix.

When it comes to a handful of trail mix - like wings - I cannot just eat one.

THE WINNING PLATE

EACH MEAL:

¼ of the plate should be protein:

More: Eggs, Egg whites, Fish, Poultry, Veggie Burgers, Beans

Less: Bacon, Bologna , Fried Fish/Chicken, Prime Rib, Loads of Cheese

I don't know if I want to live in a world with less bacon and less loads of cheese.

¼ of the plate should be starch:

More: Wraps, Rice, Pasta, French Toast/Waffles/Pancakes

Less: Pastries, Doughnuts, Alfredo Sauce, Fried Potatoes, Cookies

More pancakes?!?!  Why didn't you say so?

½ of the plate should be fruits of vegetables:

More: Raw, Cooked, Salads, Salsa

Less: Fried, Dressing on Salads

Stir-fried?  Does that count?

Some fat at each meal:

More: Nuts, peanut butter, light dressings

Less: Cream Cheese, Mayo, Sour Cream

Now, this...I have no problem with this.

And with each meal:

AT LEAST 20 ounces of fluid:

More: Water

Less: Fruit punch, soda, energy drinks, sweet tea.

 Is that caffeinated water available?  Is that good for you?

I'm just going to share the TOP 10 for BASEBALL list without comment...well, with one comment.  See if you can spot it:

1. Timing is everything: Equip Your Body -

Fuel up 1 hour before (yogurt, glass of chocolate milk, sports drink, or water and a granola or cereal bar)

Fuel during games: sports drink or pretzels

Replace what you lose - within 15 minutes of the end of the game (a bar, a shake, a handful of trail mix, or ½ a peanut butter sandwich)

2. Fluids-enough and often

125 ounces per day

20 ounces one hour before practice/games

20-40 ounces per hour

24 ounces post-practice/games for every pound you lose

3. Good Carbohydrates

Rice (white or brown)

Bread (whole wheat), wraps, tortillas, pita, whole grain rolls

Pasta

Whole grain cereals

Fruit/Vegetables

4. Protein

Eggs

Low Fat Dairy

Poultry, Fish, Lean Meat

Beans/Whey Protein

Nuts/seeds

5. Good fats

Nuts/peanut butter

Guacamole or avacados

6. Salty foods/beverage if you are a salty sweater

Pickles

Pretzels

Tomato or V8 Juice

Adding salt to foods

7. Vitamin C containing foods

Oranges/juice

Grapefruits/juice

Tomatoes

Kiwi

Strawberries

8. Green and yellow vegetables

Carrots (Green or yellow?  Really?)

Spinach

Corn

9. Potassium containing foods

Milk, yogurt

Fruits/vegetables

Nuts

Beans

Potatoes

10. Anti-inflammatory foods

Omega-3 fatty acids: salmon, tuna, sardines, ground flaxseed, walnuts, fish oil supplements (1-2 grams per day)

Vitamin C containing foods

Ginger - as ginger root, pickled ginger, ginger capsules: 500 milligrams per day

Green Tea (as a beverage; hot or iced - NOT as a supplement

Tart cherries: juice, dried frozen

Selenium - in Brazil nuts, tuna, salmon, turkey, pork, sunflower seeds

There you have it.  Everything you need to eat like a healthy ballplayer.  But, since these are just words on a computer screen, this topic may be revisited during the season with Jake as a segment or three on Timber Rattlers Field Pass.

I will pass on putting together a column that covers how to eat like a broadcaster.  H.P. Lovecraft wrote that column in At the Mountains of Madness.

OFF-SEASON MEHRING MONDAYS:

9/21: It's a Common Question

10/5: Other Sports

10/12: Spinoff

10/19: Sick Day

10/26: Fat Pat

11/2: MVP

11/9: Veterans

11/16: Appleton's Cy Young Award Winner

11/23: Prognostication

11/30: Bo

12/7: Bird on a Monday Night

12/14: History Lesson

12/21: So close

1/4: Futureball