In the sport of baseball where the talent pool is so deep and nearly every young kid plays it growing up, there isn’t a lot of room for error as you continue to climb the league ladders and enter the next “step up” in competition.
When I say that there is a very small margin for error, I want to be clear here that you have to be nearly a perfect athlete in order to keep climbing the ranks. “Good enough” doesn’t cut it in modern times, that may not rub everybody the right way because “Baseball is supposed to be fun!”
I totally agree with you, baseball can and should be fun.
For those of you who are serious about becoming the best baseball player you can possibly be, this means you have to:
- Be fast
- Be explosive
- Throw exceptionally well
- Hit exceptionally well
- Have the right attitude (no team is keeping you if you’re a self-centered jerk. I can promise you that)
- Be strong
- Have natural athleticism
- Be conditioned
- Be able to endure the long seasons
And in almost all cases… you have to be lean.
Being lean is a massive advantage in baseball because you cannot contract body fat like you can contract muscle tissue. Bodyfat offers nothing but extra baggage for baseball athletes, in almost all cases my athletes get faster, jump higher, and become more conditioned with a drop in body fat percentage alone. Meaning, their muscle tissue could still have the exact same technical and physical ability, but, the drop in bodyfat allowed them to have a greater relative strength (absolute strength in relation to your body weight) and therefore positively contributed to their speed, explosiveness, and conditioning.
Moreover, leanness is associated with greater carbohydrate tolerance and increased levels of anabolic hormones in the body. Whereas higher bodyfat percentages are associated with decreased carbohydrate tolerance, increased inflammation, reduced testosterone levels, and increased estrogen levels—not exactly the physiological cocktail we are after to become the best baseball players we can possibly be.
First things first when it comes to getting lean the smart way, you have to get your mind right and have an honest talk with yourself about what you want. Your internal motivation is what is going to drive this process more than anything else, if it’s not there you won’t be getting any leaner. Additionally, you need to get your mind ready for the preparation that getting lean requires. If you think:
- Buying groceries a couples times a week
- Meal prepping every 3-4 days
- Eating vegetables
- Eating fruits
- Eating healthy fats
- Eating healthy carbs
- Eating a protein source with every meal
- Not eating crap several times a week
Are all “too much”, then getting leaner might not be something you’re prioritizing enough in your life right now and you should find a way in which you can prioritize it by making a plan that works for you.
Fat Loss For Baseball Performance
Once you have your mind right with the above two options, you need to focus on the physical aspect of dieting for baseball performance.
Notice how I bolded performance there?
That was no mistake.
You see, athletes make such a giant mistake all the time. Instead of prioritizing performance, they prioritize fat loss. Although I understand where they are coming from, this is the wrong way in which you should be approaching your goals.
Fat loss and performance are not always mutually beneficial, depending on how hard you’re training for one or the other. For example, dieting so hard for fat loss can disrupt your recovery that you need in order to be able to perform to your potential in a baseball game. Looking the other way, sometimes it can be hard to drop body fat if you feel like shit all of the time on fat loss diets and you need to be performing well for your team.
Weight loss is tough on performance and needs to be done carefully and at the right time in order to get both athletic and aesthetic results.
Although, if I may sidestep for one moment. DO NOT BE ASHAMED OF YOUR AESTHETIC GOALS. It is 100% fine to want to look like an athlete, and not just be one. There is zero shame in wanting your body to look and represent the hard work that you’re putting into this sport, this is human nature and is totally normal. The only factor that comes into play here is that you need to organize your programming properly so that you don’t sacrifice either performance or your fat loss goals.
Organization and execution is the heart of intelligent programming and will allow you to get the best of both worlds.
Let’s play out a scenario you don’t want to fall into.
It’s May, you have been doing some training lately and tried eating a little bit cleaner and it’s paid off. You look better, you feel better, and you’re seeing results. This is GREAT. But, you want a little bit more. You see, it’s May right now and in only two months it’s going to be summer and you want to be super lean for the beach. You jump on a new crash diet to get lean for the beach and justify the diet by saying “it’s clean food so it will help my baseball performance too”
This is going to have a negative impact on your baseball performance AND your physical appearance.
“How is this going to hurt my performance?”
When training for baseball and playing baseball, you have to maintain a very high volume of training. You need to keep up with your weight training, hitting practice, games, conditioning, etc…
Keeping up with your well-rounded fitness levels is an integral part of any baseball athlete’s yearly periodization. Here’s the problem, dieting hard while simultaneously trying to keep up with the high demands of being a baseball athlete (and having a life outside of that as well) increases overtraining symptoms and increases rates of muscle loss.
When you diet hard, your body is very happy to lose both muscle and fat. It will not preferentially hold on to muscle tissue if you are burning the candle at both ends. This muscle loss can be decreased with an adequate intake of protein, but not eliminated through this strategy alone. High volume training + low overall caloric intake disrupts homeostasis in the body and ends up in a scenario where you quickly reach net losses in muscle tissue once recovery from exercise has been completed. To put it another way, your body will use it’s own muscle tissue as a fuel source for the activity your doing.
But, let’s say you flipped the coin and decided to decrease your training volume so you could match you low calorie diet. Well, I can tell you that optimal performance for baseball will never happen when on a low-calorie diet AND on a low volume training program.
I don’t care how accurate your numbers are, you are going to perform much better in an isocaloric state (calories in = calories out every day) or in a hypercaloric state (calories in > calories out every day). You’re under-fueled, undertrained, and do not have the raw material required to produce the energy you need for game days.
Another issue is the reality that if you lose a lot of weight really fast on your diet, you will feel differently out on the field. Sure, you’re still the same driver, but your vehicle (body) is totally different now.
Your leverages, your movement, the normal feel you have for your plays, your batting technique… all of this can vary when you lose 10+ pounds of body weight. Quick weight loss = Quick changes to your normal ingrained movement patterns. This can negatively impact performance in baseball until you allow some time for mechanical adjustments.
“Ok I got it, dieting hard to lose fat fast probably isn’t good for my performance. But, you also said is wasn’t going to be good for my looks either? How does that make sense?”
As previously mentioned, a baseball players total weekly training volume is incredibly high. Your body is very happy and comfortable losing both muscle and fat during your cutting phase under these types of circumstances.
Ever feel starving after a game?
Yeah, that’s your body asking for recovery fuel.
When you don’t meet these demands in an intelligent way, your body is likely to sacrifice muscle tissue along with it’s fatty tissue. This isn’t ideal for your aesthetic goals because what you are likely shooting for at the end of this diet is a lean, muscular, and defined physique. Losing fat AND losing muscle will do absolutely nothing for your definition or leanness.
Your muscle is what provides your definition, if you lose that you end up looking more like a skinny-fat golfer.
Beyond this, if you are losing both muscle and fat at the same time, you will definitely be losing weight at a fast rate. But since you’re losing muscle as well, it’s highly likely your body fat percentage won’t change much. If you lose lean tissue while you lose fat tissue, you’re still landing around the same body fat percentage each time you drop weight. Which ties back into my previous statement, no muscle = no definition (not to mention no performance either).
“Hold on a second, so what am I supposed to do then if I want to drop body fat?”
I’m not saying that you can never drop body fat, all I’m saying is it requires a lot of very special and organized planning. Like I said previously, cutting bodyfat is massively beneficial for baseball performance in the long run and will keep you very competitive with all of the other players out there.
All I’m saying is you don’t want to diet fast.
You have years to do this properly, crash dieting to look good for the beach is likely the worst thing you can do for both your performance and cosmetic looks. You are much better served to suck it up and save the diet for whenever your offseason is or whenever you are playing your least important baseball.
Patience, recognition of the importance behind mindset/planning, understanding speed dieting is silly for everything you’re trying to accomplish, and following the comprehensive fat loss layout I wrote over on stack.com will allow you to look good and perform your best.
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Then I have what you’re missing, check out the selection of high-performance baseball training programs and start dominating your league today!