When it comes to reaching the top of your game on the softball field, it isn't just about hours spent training and playing -- you need a solid diet too. Your diet must support recovery from competitive games and intense practice sessions, as well as give you energy to perform throughout both. While exact diet plans vary from player to player, follow some basic guidelines for increased chances of success.

The Hard Facts on Softball Nutrition

Calories come first when designing your diet. In "Sports Nutrition for Coaches," Leslie Bonci recommends athletes eat between 14 and 27 calories per pound of body weight each day 1. If you're training three to four days per week go for the lower end of this, or go slightly higher if you're training five to seven times. While softball can be intense, you're not on the go all the time, so your calories should be somewhere in the middle of these guidelines. Start out with 18 to 20 calories per pound and see how you fare. The Australian Institute of Sport recommends tailoring your calorie intake to your day's activities 2. If you're training hard or have a game, eat more calories and snack more regularly; if it's an off day, reduce your intake a little.

Pitching Protein and Catching Carbs

Protein and carbohydrates are both important macronutrients in your diet. According to the American Dietetic Association, players need 0.55 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day and 2.3 to 3.2 grams of carbs per pound each day 3. Matt Meinrod, head of performance training at iQ Fastpitch suggests getting your protein from grass-fed beef, chicken breast, salmon and eggs and your carbs from oatmeal, green vegetables, berries, bananas, grain bread, sweet potatoes and brown rice.

Game Time

Consider your nutritional strategies for before and after training sessions and games. A softball performance coach recommends eating something light, but high in carbs before a competition so you feel energized but not bloated. Afterwards, eat a food high in carbs again -- fruit juice, cereal bars, and bagels all help restore your glycogen stores. Ensure you stay well-hydrated too, by drinking water regularly.

Sample Softball Diet

The amounts of food you eat depends on your caloric needs, but a rough template can help you design a diet that will increase performance and recovery. Begin the day with a protein and carb combo, such as poached eggs and lean ham on an Engish muffin, or low-sugar yogurt with fruit salad and a bowl of oatmeal. At lunch, have a whole-grain wrap or sandwich with turkey breast or tuna, some low-fat cheese and salad, accompanied by some mixed nuts and a couple of pieces of fruit. At dinner, grill a piece of steak or salmon, load up on vegetables and get some carbs in the form of a baked sweet or white potato, brown rice or pasta. On game days, add in carb-based snacks and drinks when you need them.