Feed the Beast

We are excited to present an article today by one of our Certified Instructors, Jesse Hutchins, from Seabrook, New Hampshire. Let’s get right to it.
One of my favorite quotes: “Athletes fuel and train, they don’t diet and exercise.” All too often, I see girls enter my facility with an iced coffee or a “protein bar” only to have a drastic energy crash in the middle of our one hour lesson.

Unfortunately, the mainstream health and fitness industry is more concerned with selling the latest and greatest product rather than affecting long-term lifestyle and nutritional changes and education. This leads to more complications when the person in question is participating in at least one, often two, sports year-round.
How does this relate to pitching? Out of curiosity, I polled each of the pitchers I see in a typical week to see what they ate before our lesson and at what time they ate it. At the end of each lesson, I gave them a performance rating: below average, average, above average. This rating was not based on their mechanics or technique, but rather their ability to focus, execute corrections, and verbalize what they were feeling. For all sessions in which I felt the pitcher had performed “below average”, they had “fueled” for our session with refined carbohydrates and high sugar foods. In other words: empty calories. Would you fuel a diesel car with unleaded fuel?
This brings about my next thought – As an athlete, calories are your friend. Because, what are Calories? Calories are simply a measure of energy. However, with that said, not all Calories are equal. Calories provided via protein and fats take longer to break down and serve a great purpose in rebuilding and repair of the body. Additionally, despite the low-carb diet craze, it is my opinion that complex carbohydrates are essential for maximal athletic performance. The complex carbohydrates break down into glucose, which is the primary source of “brain fuel”. Given the high amount of concentration needed for a successful pitching lesson, it is very important for there to be adequate amounts of fuel for muscles and the brain.
So, you may be wondering – what SHOULD I eat? Before a lesson, it is best to eat a small meal, about one hour beforehand, full of healthy fats and complex carbohydrates. Things like nuts, berries, whole wheat bread, avocado, high fiber fruits, etc. are ideal for pre-pitching meals. For post-pitching meals, high protein and low fat meals are ideal. Examples would be meat, post workout protein powder, high protein grains like quinoa, vegetables, etc. Additionally, making an effort to eat any and all foods that come from nature, as they are found in nature, is a great “rule of thumb”.
Why does all of this matter? We, as Tincher Instructors, often talk about lessons as an investment. Parents invest almost as much time as the athlete, and invest a heck of a lot of money over the athlete’s career. If I were to make an investment in someone, like parents do with their children, I would want to know that my child is getting as much out of the investment as possible. During the grueling year round athletic schedule, each lesson, workout, game, and practice counts as much as the last. It is essential that the “gas tank” remain full in order for the pitcher to always perform at her highest level.
*Note: Jesse has a degree in Exercise Science, has been named Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and holds a Level 1 Sports Performance Coach certification through USA Weightlifting.