Full disclosure: none of these are actual pharmaceutical drugs. I’m taking creative license, but don’t let that diminish how powerful these three things are!
PED #1: Whole, nutrient dense foods
Guess what? That bag of Cheetos you have for lunch everyday isn’t doing you any favors. In fact, it’s probably making you feel and perform worse than you would otherwise.
You should be eating whole, nutrient dense foods. By eating real food, you’ll limit digestive stress, improve insulin sensitivity, reduce body fat, and optimize cognitive function. That’s actually just a snapshot of the myriad benefits of eating actual food. In reality, the list of positives seems to be endless.
On the other hand, eating pre-packaged, processed junk food (which seems to be the American norm), sugary sodas and sports drinks, and endless amounts of pastries, candies, and carbohydrate-laden baked goods, is a quick way towards childhood and young adult obesity.
If you want to start eating real foods, but don’t know where to start, follow two simple guidelines:
Food you buy should not have ingredients. The only time ingredients come into play is when you are preparing already bought food as part of a recipe. You don’t, however, want your actual ingredients to have their own ingredients. If you want to roast broccoli in coconut oil, you would need to buy broccoli and coconut oil. Neither of those two things have anything else in them. They are their own ingredients.
The more recently your food was still living, the better. You want fresh foods that are minimally processed with nothing done to them to extend their shelf life. As such, things that were living a very short time ago are really your only option. Fresh protein options like wild caught fish, grass fed beef, and heritage pork are excellent (and spoiler alert: were swimming, mooing, and snorting not too long ago).
PED #2: Complete and restful sleep
Did you know that sleeping is when your body recovers from the accumulated stresses of the day? You rebuild muscle, replenish brain glucose and fatty acid stores, heal injuries, return hormone levels to appropriate biological ranges, and have epic dreams (that one’s a bonus).
The average teenager gets about 7 hours of sleep per night. Unfortunately, that’s just not enough. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adolescents need 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Athletes will always need more sleep than non-athletes, so you might as well tack on an extra hour or two.
The brain is highly involved in athletic activities. Your central nervous system controls almost all of your motor movements, from sprinting to swinging to seed spitting, so it needs to be operating at tip top shape. More importantly, however, is the role your brain plays in your decision making ability: how you perceive information from your environment (like the spin of a ball), how and how quickly you process that information (hey, that looks like a curveball), and whether or not you can draw on pre-existing mental models fast enough to make an appropriate decision (I need to swing with the coming curvature of the ball flight in mind).
In baseball, and many other sports, you simply don’t have time to spare. Milliseconds matter. If your brain is operating even 5% slower because of poor sleep, that could be the difference between a hit and a strikeout, a stolen base and a caught stealing, or a diving play and a 20-hopper that barely squeaks by your outstretched glove.
If you want to improve your sleep game, try these three simple changes:
Choose a set bed time, then stick to it. Your body loves habits and thrives on set routines. When it comes to sleep, since the entire process is largely controlled by circadian rhythm and your biological clock, it’s very difficult to just sleep whenever you want (and even more difficult to wake up). By sticking to a set bed time every day, you will normalize your body’s restful/wakeful ebb and flow, allowing you to fall asleep without any hiccups.
Eliminate electronics an hour before bed. Screens emit blue light, which is a wavelength that our brains are particularly affected by. When we are exposed to blue light, the necessary buildup of our sleepy hormones get suppressed, and we stay wakeful as if it’s still daytime. Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to rise and fall with the sun, so when it’s time for bed, you need to create scenarios that, as closely as possible, mimic nighttime. That means no light from screens.
Write down all the things on your mind. It’s very difficult to go to sleep when your mind is racing. We all have daily stresses, things that need to get done, important events to remember, and assignments that are due third period. When it’s time for bed, you want all those thoughts put to rest (pun intended). Oftentimes, unscrambling your mind is as simple as putting that chaos of thoughts down on a piece of paper. Try writing a to-do list, or just go full blown stream-of-consciousness a la David Foster Wallace.
PED #3: Consistent training
I’ve trained hundreds of high school athletes, and can generally put them into two categories: those who show up and do the work, and those who make excuses and don’t.
The most insidious excuse of them all isn’t even an excuse. In fact, on the surface it seems like exactly what you want from your athlete. The problem is program hopping, and it is responsible for the downfall of beginner trainees to the most advanced.
If you are always searching for the next best thing, and constantly searching for ways to improve the program you are currently on, then you are falling victim to this phenomenon. Here’s a news flash: results are not immediate. You need to stick with a program for months, not days, if you want to see anything resembling progress. And you need to stick with it consistently.
For the majority of the guys that I work with, from young beginners to Major Leaguers, I program 3 hard training sessions per week. Rarely do they take over an hour. If you can’t commit three hours a week on a regular basis, then you are lost before your journey has even begun. It’s not about a perfect training program (because such a thing doesn’t exist). Instead, it’s about being as close to perfect with your consistency as possible. Results will follow.
Still looking for a training program that you can trust? Want something that takes all the thought out of which exercises to do, how many sets and reps to use, and what order everything should go in? Be sure to check out our 20-week high school baseball offseason training program. It’s specifically designed for early high school ballplayers looking to add a consistent, full-scale strength and conditioning regimen in order to augment their athletic abilities.