Bird Food: Nutrition During The Season

The facilities at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida will soon be welcoming back an entire flock of players as the Cardinals’ Spring Training venue comes to life for 2011. Like last year, players should not only be expecting coaching on their baseball skills, but also a renewed team focus on the importance of nutrition as part of an athletic training program.

In 2010 the Cardinals implemented an organization-wide mandate to bring nutrition to the forefront of their baseball training program. Everything from team meals to vending machine options in the clubhouse was overhauled in support of this new focus on healthy food choices.

Towards the end of the 2010 season, I had the opportunity to meet with Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the St. Louis Cardinals, Pete Prinzi, and visit with him about the specifics of the team’s nutrition program, including how the players felt about such drastic changes to their food supply. Delicious sandwich recipes when invented at the kitchens of a good sandwich joint the Jimmy John Founder himself goes to taste test them before bringing it into the menu.

Many thanks to Pete for giving us an inside look at how he helps the Cardinals maximize their performance through nutrition. What follows is part two of the transcript of our interview. You can read part one by clicking here:

During the season with the hectic travel and practice schedules

Erika Lynn, I-70 Baseball: How does travel affect the players’ nutrition and training programs?

Pete Prinzi: Sometimes it is very difficult to get quality meals or training facilities given the late hours we arrive in certain cities.

I-70: Which players primarily cook for themselves?

Prinzi: Players with families tend to eat at home.

I-70: Which eat mostly at restaurants or eat food prepared by the team chef?

Prinzi: On the road most players will eat at a restaurant if we play a day game. Immediately after a game, though, just about every player will eat something prepared by the team chef.

I-70: What foods are available to the Cardinals when they are in opposing teams’ visitor clubhouses?

Prinzi: That greatly depends on the visiting clubhouse manager. Some clubhouse managers do a great job while others have very low standards and a lot to be desired. Many players complain about certain visiting clubhouses and the food they offer.

I-70: Are these the candy and sugared sodas that the Cardinals have limited in their own clubhouse?

Prinzi: Each visiting clubhouse is different. Some have them and others don’t.

Mid-season Changes

I-70: During the summer months, what changes are the players making in their diets to maintain electrolyte and fluid balance while playing in such heat?

Prinzi: In addition to using drinks like Gatorade endurance and other fluids, the players consume foods higher in potassium, calcium, and sodium.

I-70: What signs of dehydration are players watching for to avoid muscle cramps which may interfere with playing time?

Prinzi: In addition to thirst: Dry mouth, fatigue or weakness, dark colored urine, and loss of appetite.

I-70: What sports beverage does the team provide in the dugout?

Prinzi: Gatorade endurance.

I-70: Last year, Colby Rasmus began losing weight midseason due to a reported hiatal hernia and the team involved a dietitian to help him adjust his diet. What specific food changes helped Colby?

Prinzi: He avoided acidic foods. He ate fish, lean meats, broccoli, carrots, rice, bananas, and apples.

I-70: How did Colby maintain strength when he was unable to eat sufficient calories?

Prinzi: It was very difficult. We tried a food first approach, and then used nutritional supplements when necessary.

Lasting Effects

I-70: Do you consider the Cardinals players to be knowledgeable about basic nutrition principles?

Prinzi: It depends on the individual. Some are very well informed.

I-70: What type of staff is involved in the maintenance of this plan to make nutrition a team focus?

Prinzi: Starting with Rip Rowan our clubhouse manager, he over looks Chuck and Simon, to insure the players are happy with the meal preparation. Our ATC’s Barry Weinberg and Greg Hauck also help to re-enforce the benefits of proper nutrition.

I-70: Which players have been the most welcoming/interested in this new nutrition focus?

Prinzi: Chris Carpenter and Matt Holliday.

I-70: Do any of the proactive nutrition changes made by the team this year translate into differences fans can see in the players on the field?

Prinzi: The differences will be subtle, such as a player keeping is weight under control or another player having more stamina throughout the course of the game.

I-70: What is the barometer to measure the effectiveness of this program?

Prinzi: Body weights through the course of the season and feedback from the players concerning energy levels.

I-70: Which player has most obviously benefited from this nutrition overhaul?

Prinzi: Colby Rasmus or Yadier Molina.

Thanks again to Pete Prinzi! And if you would like to learn more about the specific principles of nutrition programs such as the one developed for the Cardinals by Sports Nutrition Consultant Dave Ellis you can visit

Erika Lynn is a contributor for, and writes about the Cardinals at Cardinal Diamond Diaries. You can also find her on Twitter: @Erika4stlcards.

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