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Body composition, weight preferences, and dietary macronutrient intake of summer college baseball players.


The purpose of this study was to assess body composition, weight preferences, and adequacy of dietary energy and macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) intake of elite college baseball players (N = 15) during a summer competitive playing season. Percent body fat was estimated from skinfold measurement, a survey assessed weight preferences, and a 3-day dietary intake record assessed home game day dietary intake. Outcomes of this study indicate: (a) participants had low to moderate body fat percentage, ranging 7-16%, (b) desired goal playing weight was 104[+ or -]6% (M [+ or -] SD) of current weight, 83% of players wanted more muscle mass, and (c) the dietary intake of baseball players needs improvement in an effort to optimise health and physical performance. Mean carbohydrate intake of 4.2 [+ or -] 0.8 gm/kg and daily meal frequency of 3.7[+ or -]0.7 were inadequate, mean fat intake of 1.4[+ or -]0.3 gm/kg was excessive. Furthermore, although mean dietary protein intake of 1.7[+ or -]0.6 gm/kg was adequate to meet the needs of competitive baseball athletes, 40% of athletes unnecessarily supplemented with protein. Mean energy intake of 36[+ or -]6 gm/kg was adequate to meet energy demands of a competitive baseball summer season. Findings from this study have practical application for professionals working with baseball athletes.

Body composition, weightpreferences, and dietary macronutrient intake of summer league college baseball players

The athleticism of baseball has been overshadowed by media attention regarding steroid use among Major League Baseball Association (MLBA) players. In a statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Allan (Bud) H. Selig, Commissioner of the MLBA, reported his commitment to "the idea that baseball must have a program on performanceenhancing substances that is consistent with accepted international standards for sport..." (2004, 11). In January 2005, Mr. Selig and MLBA Executive Director Donald M. Fehr announced a tentative policy on steroids and performance enhancing substances that includes random drug testing throughout the playing- and off-season, disciplinary penalties for positive test results, and broadening the list of banned substances ( 2005, [paragraph]1 - 4). The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) prevents use of illegal performance-enhancing substances by college athletes through random drug testing and expulsion of athletes from NCAA sport participation for positive results (NCAA Banned-Drug Classes, n.d., [paragraph] 3-10).

With increased attention and regulation associated with banned substances, baseball athletes are seeking legal performance enhancing alternatives (Adams, 2005). It is well recognized that optimal nutrition, including appropriate selection of food and drink, and timing of intake, can promote athletic performance and enhance recovery from exercise (Manore, Barr, & Butterfield, 2000). The macronutrients, including carbohydrate, protein, and fat, serve as energy fuels for the body and substrates for biochemical reactions and cellular body functions. Carbohydrate, as glucose, is the preferred fuel for the body during physical activity. Because carbohydrate stores are limited, consuming carbohydrate throughout the day in adequate amounts is necessary to replenish glycogen, the storage form of glucose (Coleman, 2005). Thus, adequate intake of carbohydrate is essential to optimize physical performance. Furthermore, exercise results in acute and chronic alterations in protein metabolism throughout the body. Protein needs are higher for athletes compared to non-athletes. Additionally, it is recognized that protein and amino acid ingestion can alter muscle adaptive response during recovery from exercise (Gibala and Howarth, 2005). Finally, and importantly for athletes who have difficulty "keeping weight on" during the competitive season, fat serves as a major energy source to meet energy demands of physical activity (Jonnalagadda, 2005). In summary, the total intake of each macronutrient, in addition to the distribution of kilocalories provided by the macronutrients, are factors that can impact performance and recovery from exercise. To promote health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that adults consume 55% of total kilocalories from carbohydrate, 18% from protein, and 29% from fat (USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005). To promote health and performance, the American Dietetic Association recommends that adult baseball athletes consume 5 to 7 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram body weight, 1.2 to 1.7 gm/kg protein, and 1 gm/kg fat (Dunford, 2005). Ensuring adequate intake and appropriate distribution of kilocalories from the macronutrients may be of interest to baseball athletes seeking a competitive edge.

There has been no research to date investigating body composition preferences or dietary intake of baseball athletes. The research topics under investigation include assessment of body composition, weight preferences, and adequacy of energy (kilocalories) and macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, fat) dietary intake among elite college baseball players.



Participants were male college baseball athletes (n = 15) who were members of the same Coastal Plain League (CPL) summer team. The CPL is sanctioned and certified by the Major League Baseball Association and endorsed by the NCAA. CPL teams

recruit from the top 10% of college players; the majority are recruited to play professional baseball (L. C. Toombs, personal communication, September 22, 2005). After being fully informed verbally and in writing of the study protocol, informed consent was obtained in accordance with the university's Institutional Review Board for Research with Human Subjects.

Body composition assessment

One anthropometrist took all body composition measurements, which occurred during the initial dietary instruction session. Participants wore athletic shorts, but were otherwise bare, for body composition measurements. Weight was measured to the nearest 0.1 kg (Tanita body composition analyzer, Arlington, IL), height to the nearest 0.1 cm (Seca portable height stadiometer, Leicester, England), and skinfold measurements (chest, triceps, and subscapular) to 1 mm (Harpenden skinfold caliper, Vital Signs model 68875, Country Technology, Inc., Gays Mills, WI). American College of Sports Medicine procedures were used for skinfold measurement (Armstrong et al., 2005, p. 62). Skinfold measurements were converted to an estimation of body fat percentage using a 3-site skinfold equation (Armstrong, Balady, Berry, et al., 2005).

Demographic and weight preference survey

A sports nutritionist originated a survey to assess demographic information and weight preference. The survey was reviewed for content validity by four experts in this area of sport, including a former CPL player, a CPL general manager, a CPL team president, and a sport management professor who serves as a consultant to a CPL team. To pilot test the survey, a small sample of nine college baseball players completed the survey. Modifications to the survey were not necessary, based on the responses.

Dietary intake assessment

Three home game day dietary records were used to collect intake data during the summer competitive season from June to August. During this time, participants were in peak conditioning and playing competition games on a regular basis. A three-day monitoring period is reported to provide an accurate and precise estimate of habitual energy and macronutrient intake among athletes (Magkos & Yannakoulia, 2003). Dietary intake records have been used to assess nutrient intake of college athletes (Clark, Reed, Crouse, & Armstrong, 2003).

Each participant met individually with a Registered Dietician on two occasions. Participants initially received verbal instruction and written handouts to aid accuracy with dietary reporting. The importance of accurately recording items consumed immediately after consumption and to follow usual eating habits were emphasized during the instructional session. Handouts included a written summary of the verbal instructions, examples of measurement units for reporting, portion size examples, blank recording forms, and a sample complete record. Participants stapled food packages from convenience items consumed to daily records, and reported specific restaurant and convenience store items consumed, when applicable. Information provided on each dietary record included amounts and descriptions of all foods, drinks, and supplements taken for the day, and time of consumption. The second session was a review of dietary records. In an effort to provide uniform instruction and data collection, one Registered Dietician provided instruction and collected all data. Food models, household measuring utensils, and packages from foods commonly consumed by baseball athletes (sports drinks, sunflower seed packages, energy bars) were used during the instructional and review sessions to visually illustrate portion sizes.

We were interested in assessing adequacy of dietary macronutrient intake from foods, drinks, and meal replacement supplements. We excluded single-nutrient supplement sources, such as protein powders, from the analysis. Mean energy (kilocalories) and macronutrient (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) intake were determined using the Interactive Healthy Eating Index tool (Interactive Healthy Eating Index, n.d.). Mean number of daily eating occasions was calculated using the method described by Drummond and colleagues (1998).

In an effort to identify under-reported dietary intake, data from participants with the ratio of energy intake (EI) to basal metabolic rate (BMR; El: BMR) less than or equal to 0.9 were excluded from analysis (Farajian, Kavouras, Yannakoulia, & Sidossis, 2004). Energy intake was calculated from dietary records, basal metabolic rate was estimated from the Dietary Reference Intake estimated energy requirements for men (Food and Nutrition Board, 2002). Statistical analysis

Analysis were performed using JMP IN[R] software, version 5.0 (Sail, Creighton, & Lehman, 2005). Descriptive analysis included means, standard deviations, and frequency.


Overall, 28 athletes were recruited to participate. Eleven were released from the Coastal Plain League team before complete data were collected, for poor performance (n = 5), medical (n = 3), and personal (n = 2) reasons, and being recruited to play for a professional baseball team (n = 1). An additional two were excluded for underreporting of dietary intake. The final sample size was 15, which was a 53% participation rate for players from the Coastal Plain League team surveyed. Mean age of participants was 20.5 years (SD = 1.3), 77% were White, 23% were Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, or Hispanic. Asthma was the only reported chronic or persistent medical condition, reported by 15% of participants. Primary playing position was fielder (47%), pitcher (40%), and catcher (13%). The majority (93%) of participants had aspirations of playing professional baseball.

Body composition characteristics of participants are reported in Table 1. Regarding research topic one, assessment of body composition and weight preferences, all participants had low to moderate body fat percentage, ranging 7% to 16% (Armstrong et al., 2005, p. 66). Participants desired a weight that was 104% of current weight; with 87% of participants reporting they wanted more muscle mass.

Dietary intake data are reported in Table 2. Regarding research topic two, adequacy of energy and macronutrient dietary intake, energy intake was adequate to meet the energy demands of adult male baseball athletes, as indicated by mean energy intake of 36 kcal/kg, which approximates estimated energy needs of 35 kcal/kg (Food and Nutrition Board, 2002). As compared to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2005), the mean percentage of kilocalories from carbohydrate was 9% less than the recommendation of 55%, mean percentage of kilocalories from fat was 6% greater than the recommendation of 29%, whereas mean percentage of kilocalories from protein was the recommended 18%. Similar results were found for macronutrient intake on a gram/kg body weight basis. That is, mean carbohydrate intake was inadequate, with intake 84% of the recommended intake of 5 gm/kg for adult male baseball players and mean fat intake was in excess of recommended at 140% of the recommended 1 gm/kg (Dunford, 2005). Protein supplements were being used by 40% of participants in an effort to increase weight and muscle mass. Finally, mean daily meal frequency was 3.7 (see Table 2).


Findings from this study indicate that the diets of college summer league baseball athletes need improvement, particularly in the areas of carbohydrate intake (inadequate), fat intake (excessive), and meal frequency (inadequate). Despite the fact that proper nutrition is essential for athletes to meet energy demands of training and competition and to optimize performance (Dunford, 2005), it is not uncommon for athletes to have diets that need improvement (Frentsos & Baer, 1997) and have athletes who rely on nutrition supplements rather than nutrient-dense foods to meet daily nutrient needs (Beshgetoor & Nichols, 2003). Nutrition supplementation coordinated with daily training has resulted in improved performance and daily macronutrient intake among elite triathletes (Frentsos & Baer, 1997). Furthermore, Drummond and colleagues (1998) reported that the percentage of energy provided by carbohydrate was positively correlated with eating frequency among adult men. These collective findings suggest that baseball athletes may benefit from strategies designed to increase eating frequency, particularly of nutrient-dense high carbohydrate foods and supplements, and strategies designed to replace high fat foods with low fat/high carbohydrate alternatives. We also found that protein supplementation was being used unnecessarily by 40% of athletes, with dietary intake of protein being adequate to meet the increased needs associated with playing competitive baseball.

Findings from this study have practical application for professionals working with baseball athletes. First, dietary manipulation can be healthy, cost-effective means to promote performance among baseball players. Second, suboptimal macronutrient intake and meal frequency are common among summer league baseball athletes. Nutrition education strategies to promote performance of baseball athletes should focus on ensuring carbohydrate intake is adequate, fat intake is not excessive, and meal frequency promotes restoration of body nutrient needs. Third, despite athletes having healthy body fat percentage, the majority of baseball athletes desire more muscle mass, and 40% unnecessarily supplement with protein in an effort to promote muscle anabolism.


Adams, R. (2005, October 22). After Steroids: The New Juice. The Wall Street Journal, p. 7.

Armstrong, L., Balady, G. J., Berry, M. J., et al. ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. 71 ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2005.

Clark, M., Reed, D. B., Crouse, S. F., & Armstong, R. B. (2003). Pre- and post-season dietary intake, body composition, and performance indices of NCAA Division I female soccer players. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 13, 303-319.

Coleman, E. J. (2005). Carbohydrate and exercise. In M. Dunford (Ed.), Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals (4' ed.) (p. 14). Chicago, IL: American Dietetic Association.

Drummond, S. E., Crombie, N. E., Cursiter, M. C., and Kirk, T. R. (1998). Evidence that eating frequency is inversely related to body weight status in male, but not female, non-obese adults reporting valid dietary intakes. International Journal of Obesity, 22, 105-112.

Dunford, M. (Ed.). (2005). Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals (41h ed.) (p. 14). Chicago, IL: American Dietetic Association.

Farajian, P., Kavouras, S. A., Yannakoulia, M., Sidossis, L. S. (2004). Dietary intake and nutritional practices of elite aquatic athletes. International Journal ofSportNutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 1, 574-585.

Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences (2002). Dietary Reference Intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein, and amino acids. Retrieved November 11, 2005, from

Frentsos, J. A., & Baer, J. T. (1997). Increased energy and nutrient intake during training and competition improves elite triathletes' endurance performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition, 7, 61-71.

Gibala, M. J., & Howarth, K. R. (2005). Protein and exercise. In M. Dunford (Ed.), Sports Nutrition: A Practice Manual for Professionals (41h ed.) (p. 33). Chicago, IL: American Dietetic Association.

Interactive Healthy Eating Index. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2005, from

Jonnalagadda, S. S. (2005). Dietary fat and exercise. In M. Dunford (Ed.), Sports Nutrition: APractice ManualforProfessionals (41h ed.) (p. 50). Chicago, IL: American Dietetic Association.

Magkos, F., & Yannakoulia, M. (2003). Methodology of dietary assessment in athletes: Concepts and pitfalls. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 6, 539-549.

Manore, M. M., Barr, S. I., & Butterfield, G. E. (2000). Nutrition and athletic performance - Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100, 1543-1556. (2005, January 13). MLB and Players Association Reach Tentative Agreement on New Steroid Policy. Retrieved December 13, 2005, from release.jsp? ymd=20050113&contentid=930757&vkey=prmlb&fext=.jsp

(1)Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA

(2) Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia, USA

(3) Corresponding author:, phone: 252-328-4274, fax: 252-328-4276, address: 148 Rivers Building, East Carolina University, Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, Greenville, NC 27858-4353

Key words: baseball, nutrition, dietary intake, macronutrient, body composition
Table 1
Body Composition Characteristics of Summer League College Baseball

 Variable M [+ or -] SD

Height (inches) 72.5 [+ or -] 1.3
Weight (pounds) 194 [+ or -] 19
Body mass index (kg/[m.sup.2]) 25.9 [+ or -] 2.0
Body fat (%) 12.7 [+ or -] 2.4
Reported goal playing weight (pounds) 201 [+ or -] 12
Reported goal playing weight 104 [+ or -] 6
 (% of current weight)

Note. N=15.

Table 2
Mean Energy and Macronutrient Intake and Meal Frequency of Summer
League College

Baseball Players

 Variable M [+ or -] SD

Energy Kcal/day 3197 [+ or -] 570
 Kcal/kg body weight 36 [+ or -] 6
 % of Dietary Reference Intake * 102 [+ or -] 17

Carbohydrate Grams/day 365 [+ or -] 73
 Grams/kg body weight 4.2 [+ or -] 0.8
 % oftotal kilocalories 46 [+ or -] 7

Fat Grams/day 125 [+ or -] 31
 Grams/kg body weight 1.4 [+ or -] 0.3
 % oftotal kilocalories 35 [+ or -] 5

Protein Grams/day 146 [+ or -] 49
 Grams/kg body weight 1.7 [+ or -] 0.6
 % oftotal kilocalories 18 [+ or -] 4
Daily meal 3.7 [+ or -] 0.7

Note. N=15.

* Food and Nutrition Board (2002).
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Article Details
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Author:Malinauskas, Brenda M.; Overton, Reginald F.; Corbett, Ashley B.; Carpenter, Ashley B.
Publication:VAHPERD Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2006
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