- LA Dodgers star Justin Turner, who is having a career year at 36, emphasizes lean protein in his diet.
- Following healthy eating patterns can be challenging with a demanding baseball schedule.
- Turner used to eat for convenience, but his play has improved since switching to low-carb snacks.
Professional baseball players live highly demanding lifestyles during the MLB season, and for some it can affect their diet. Players play six to seven games per week and travel by plane two to three times per week.
This leaves them with a much smaller window to eat three meals a day, and even less time to cook those meals.
For Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, the schedule forced him to eat more for convenience than nutrition during the first four years of his MLB career with the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles from 2009-13.
But over the years, particularly since moving to the health-conscious city of LA, Turner has become more focused on his diet and nutrients. And he says it’s made him a better, stronger player.
It’s easy to late-night snack if you’re a baseball player with a packed schedule
Baseball is a unique sport, in that most games are at night. While football, basketball, and hockey players get days off to rest, that’s not the case with baseball.
Starting out in the MLB, Turner and his teammates were eating unhealthy meals at unhealthy times — making a bee-line for the Taco Bell drive-thru or pizza joints after games in New York and Baltimore.
Looking back, Turner says he believes it was affecting his fitness, performance, and physical durability. He missed games due to injuries to his ankles and hamstrings, which limited him to playing an average of just 99 out of 162 games per season from 2011-2013.
“Those sluggish mornings that I used to have where it took me forever to get out of bed and get my day going, and some of the injuries I probably had, I could probably point towards my diet and what I’m putting in my body,” Turner said.
There is plenty of research that the time at which someone is eating can have just as much of an impact on their health as what they’re eating. It’s something professional sports teams are increasingly aware of, hiring nutritionists to optimize when and what food their players are eating for better digestion and performance.
Breakfast is always high protein, high fiber, low carb
Since signing with the Dodgers in 2014, Turner has earned two All-Star nods. At 36, he’s in the midst of a career year.
2014 was also when he overhauled his diet, and Turner doesn’t think it’s a coincidence.
His baseball schedule hasn’t gotten any easier over the years (he still doesn’t have time to cook), but he now gets all of his meals delivered, with a personalized meal plan from Fresh N’ Lean.
His daily plate is heavy on protein and limits carbs.
He starts his day off with a couple of eggs and bacon or turkey sausage, along with a bowl of oatmeal.
When he’s playing during the day, he can have a big dinner afterwards, but eats light before night games
If Turner is playing a day game he has time to eat dinner afterwards, and his options include Italian chicken sausage meatloaf, Teriyaki chicken, chicken sausage with peppers and broccoli, chimichurri braised beef with vegetables, or steak.
On days where his games are at night, he will often eat ground turkey or a lean turkey patty without any bread for lunch before the game.
After a game, Turner eats a high-protein snack like beef jerky
After 12 years in the game, Turner has accepted late-night snacking is often inevitable — his job involves intense physical activity in the evening. But he’s landed on a few snacks that, he says, make him feel good and recover well.
“If you are going to [snack at night], you want to make sure you’re putting food in your body that can help you recover as best as possible,” he said.
After night games, instead of eating a whole meal, Turner may have a high-protein snack. His snack options include hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky, or a handful of walnuts and cashews.