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The shelves of your local GNC store are packed with all kinds are crazy advertisements that claim results that only a high dose of anabolic steroids could ever provide.
This includes everything from pre-workouts, to HGH boosters, nitric oxide supplements, aromatase inhibitors….I could continue this list forever.
90% + of them are crap.
And I do truly mean crap, they are a complete waste of money.
I know this because not only have I tried every supplement you can possibly imagine in my younger years, but, as I grew older I have now also studied the exact science behind what it means to be an objectively proven supplement for sports performance, and not some testimonial from a sponsored athlete.
The sport supplement industry is a strange animal. There are both good and bad options to go with.
Some have been demonstrated effective to improve performance, while others have no demonstrated positive effect or have only been researched on rats (and not humans, which changes the game entirely).
Beyond this, there are many supplements/compounds that we don’t even know the safety profile of, nor do we know the effects that they can have on the human body over the long term.
All is good and well in a short-term study of 4-Weeks, but what happens if I take this for my entire baseball career?
Too much confusion here and not enough answers.
But, first and foremost, I can offer you my empathy.
I too was super confused when it came to supplements when I first got into this industry.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of scientific publications out there and in the beginning, it can be hard to differentiate between what is quality research, and what is market-driven poor research (you know, the research they only do to collect a data point for marketing).
Today, I am going to cut completely clear through the confusion, myths, clutter, and outright bullshit in this industry to offer you only the products that will have a direct carryover to baseball performance.
Let’s get into it – below are the best supplements for baseball players:
Creatine is a substance that can be found naturally in the body, we make approximately 1g of our own creatine on a daily basis to provide the raw material for anaerobic energy production. It can also be found in red meat and some seafood.
Creatine is a great supplement to start with for baseball since it is arguably the most researched supplement in the history of sports nutrition, with well over 200 studies at this point in time.
Research has demonstrated that creatine in both safe and effective for baseball players, and has been documented to do the following:
- Build muscle mass and improve strength levels
- Improve anaerobic running capacity
- Reduce muscle damage and soreness from exercise
- Improve explosiveness and power output
- Reduce lean muscle mass loss during a diet
And for you players who are worried about the dugout talk of creatine being “bad for your kidneys”… this has been repeatedly disproven within the data.
In fact, within healthy subjects, creatine has been demonstrated to have zero harmful side effects in both short or long-term usage.
Although, as a disclaimer, since I am speaking to a large audience, it is not advised for those with pre-existing kidney disease to supplement with creatine.
In case you haven’t picked up yet, the safety profile plus the benefits profile means that creatine can improve your quick feet, batting power, muscle mass, throwing power, ability to repeat all-out sprint efforts, and reduce your soreness for tomorrow’s game!
Yes, creatine is definitely a baseball-specific supplement and is a compound that requires no selling, the data does that for itself.
“Ok I get it! Creatine is a Rockstar in the baseball world. What kind should I take though? There are so many out there.”
I’m with ya, this is once again the supplement industry trying to make money by creating something that doesn’t need to be created. What do I mean by this?
There is absolutely no need to ever go outside the classic creatine monohydrate.
It is the undisputed winner within the research, has the most research behind it, has the greatest safety profile behind it, and offers no negative side effects (despite what some of the bogus supplement labels may claim to try and make monohydrate sound inferior).
Other creatines are not more effective than the monohydrate version so we do not need to overpay for them.
Creatine monohydrate is the king, is the best bang for your buck, and is the standard at which all other creatine’s are measured beside.
For my baseball athletes, I prefer to use Natural Stack’s Bio Creatine.
This has gotten excellent results in my experience and offers tremendous convenience due to it being in pill form. 4-8 capsules per day at any time slot you like will do the trick here.
The mechanisms by which citrulline malate works is due to increased ATP (energy) production, efficiency of ATP usage and potentially as a buffering agent to reduce fatigue.
Through experimentation, it is thought that citrulline malate is able to recycle fatigue producing by-products out of the muscle quicker than it otherwise would have been.
For example, if your muscles REALLY began to burn at 12 reps on the bench press, on citrulline malate the burning may only begin to get intense on the 13th or 14th rep.
This may not seem like much, but, allowing your body to create a greater muscle and strength building stimulus than it otherwise would have is a big deal. Especially if you consider compounding effects over time.
Because of this, citrulline is also proposed to improve muscular endurance within sport settings, which would be more important when training in a highly fatigued state, such as during the later innings of the game.
For those of you who have been in some brutal games, you know that any edge you can get in the later innings puts you at a great advantage over your opponents who are beginning to tire out.
Equally as exciting, four very recent studies have been published relevant to muscle and strength development utilizing citrulline malate, from two separate groups of researchers (it strengthens the validity and trust of unbiased research when you get a wider variety of funding/research groups).
One of these studies used 80% of 1-Rep Max (1RM) on the bench press and leg press for multiple sets taken to failure with just 60secs rest between sets.
While more total volume was performed when using citrulline compared to the non-citrulline control group, it didn’t tell us much what would happen within a longer rest period setting (such as within a baseball game between hits/innings).
However, two of the other studies, one with participants performing chin ups, pull ups and push ups to failure and another with participants performing leg presses, hack squats and leg extensions to failure with 60% 1-Rep Max, also reported more total training volume performed when using citrulline malate.
More convincingly this time, in these studies a 3-minute rest interval was used. Additionally, the last of the studies in question found an increase in maximal grip strength in the group using citrulline malate– which is surprising given this is not a measure of muscular endurance either globally or acutely.
To lend a bit more credence to these findings, it should be pointed out that all of these studies were double-blind, placebo-controlled trials. This is the gold-standard for research protocols and provides strong confidence that citrulline malate has passed the test within the data to be fearlessly recommended as a baseball performance supplement.
I have been consistently using ATP Enos with my athletes and getting tremendous results. Six capsules 30mins prior to training really changes the game here.
Beta-alanine was a real up and comer in the 2000’s with some major studies, but also had a couple of subpar studies which temporarily delayed it sitting atop the mountain alongside the already discussed creatine and citrulline malate.
But as time passed, many more positive and sports performance benefiting studies were conducted. At the end of dozens of well-controlled trials, beta alanine stood the test of time and became an overwhelmingly supportive supplement for baseball performance.
Although, uniquely, it’s not beta alanine in its original form that is what brings the positive performance adaptation in baseball. Once you have ingested beta alanine and it enters the body, it binds with another amino acid known as L-histidine to create a compound called carnosine.
You know that burning feeling you get when exercise becomes extreme as our body tries to keep up with the demand of the effort?
Well, that’s the accumulation of lactic acid, hydrogen ions, and other fatigue producing by-products in our muscle cells.
How carnosine helps here is it acts as a buffer between muscular contraction and the fatigue-inducing metabolites, delaying overall muscular fatigue. To put it short, beta alanine helps to improve your endurance both on and off the diamond.
The good part?
Beta-alanine works best in anaerobic capacity scenarios, making it bring about its most beneficial performance effect to the direct sport-specific environment of baseball.
Additionally, this will also improve your in-the-gym work as well because if you’re training on a true baseball-specific program, you will benefit from anaerobic capacity work.
Once again, I love the product ATP Enos for Beta-Alanine as well.
Six capsules 30mins prior to exercise has helped my athletes immensely. I want you to try this out because not only does the research tremendously back this product, I have seen it work first hand with my athletes.
It’s also worth mentioning (many of you may have already felt this if you have tried beta-alanine before) that beta-alanine can create a tingling, itchy feeling on your skin. This is a completely harmless side effect and is known as paresthesia.
It doesn’t last long at all, but, if it becomes overwhelming for you, you can take smaller doses throughout the day to eliminate this feeling.
Although it is my experience both with myself and with my athletes that once you have taken it for a couple weeks or so, the feeling goes away.
Carbohydrate Powder + Electrolytes
Carbohydrate powder is probably the most underrated supplementation tool in baseball today.
Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for both the muscular system and nervous system, especially during anaerobic physical activity.
Most athletes are familiar that carbohydrates can fuel their muscles, but I surprise most with the nervous system fact. This is very important to care about because nervous system fatigue can occur before local muscular fatigue.
For example, if you’re training your biceps, your nervous system can fatigue before your biceps do, shutting down physical activity before muscular fatigue has truly been reached.
This means that you reach “failure” in your set, but it wasn’t actually your muscles that failed so a lesser signal of muscle building/strength will be sent to the body from this work.
Carbohydrates prevent both nervous system and muscular system fatigue, allow you to train harder, longer.
This is also without mention we have known carbohydrates to improve performance parameters for decades now, within both strength/power movements as well as endurance capacity/time to fatigue.
When it comes to performing to the top of your ability, you need to have readily available forms of glucose in your system ready to rock for muscular contraction to support your baseball performance.
Carbohydrates also secrete insulin, which is an anti-catabolic hormone (protects muscle tissue) and also upregulates nitric oxide production in the body; this allows for more blood flow to working muscles.
These combined effects contribute significantly to exercise and sport performance.
Having said this, carbohydrates are not for all physical activity scenarios.
For baseball players, they should be had during resistance training and during games.
For aerobic work and anaerobic conditioning sessions, they are short enough in duration where a simple carbohydrate + protein meal prior to physical activity will be enough to do the trick. No intra-workout carbs needed.
In my opinion, carbohydrates in a large water solution should be had during games instead of water, and of course during any form of resistance training.
Many baseball teams have only water on the bench and that’s ok, but if you can have your own mix on board you would be doing yourself a big performance, endurance, and recovery favor.
Ideally, your carb mix should be a combination of multiple simple sugars and, depending on your size and the duration of activity, aim for anywhere between 30-60g carbohydrates per hour of exercise.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t overdo your carbohydrate consumption, always test out how you feel with your mix in the gym before you try it during a game simply due to potential G.I. distress. The last thing you want during a game is a bloated gut.
Beyond carbohydrates, electrolytes are critical for baseball performance. Many people think that hydration is just water intake, it’s not, hydration is your water intake + your electrolyte status.
You need electrolytes because they regulate fluid levels in and out of cells, they are responsible for muscular contraction and relaxation, and they also regulate pH balance within your cells—all major factors for sustained high-performance during a baseball game.
In this area of baseball-specific supplementation, I really like the product ATP Pentacarb as it contains the ideal combination of multiple sugars and a proper dose of electrolytes for baseball athlete’s all-in-one formula.
This product makes things easy, and the scientifically supported to provide that boost you need to your game.
Baseball Supplementation Recap
In conclusion, the supplements mentioned above are what I feel (based on the current body of evidence in 2017) are the top baseball performance supplement options athletes can use both in and out of the gym.
Although these are my top four, I consider other supplementation to be “Conditionally effective” depending on your current context and goals. Meaning, depending on your specific goals there may be some supplementation that can help you individually that cannot be mentioned in a more broad-stroke recommendation like I am doing within this article.
I will be doing future blogs on context-specific supplements for baseball, and will also be providing customized protocols within my baseball training programs.
I hope this helped clear the air and provide you some insight on what’s really worth your money, and what’s really not!