MESA, Ariz. — Jake Arrieta carried a half gallon of a green liquid in the Cubs clubhouse last summer that could have passed for a mint shake or green tea.
But it was kale juice, a small but effective part of Arrieta’s healthy routine that he has developed over several years of research and success.
“I try to start every day with some sort of vegetable and fruit juice before I eat any kind of solid food,” the Cubs starter said. “Because that really jump starts your body and digestive system with the high content of micronutrients that your body needs.”
This winter, Arrieta believes he found the right blend of nutrition and fitness.
“I was open to new avenues of training and health and wellness,” the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder said. “It’s kind of something I came up with on my own, and trainers in the past expressed the importance of different functional movements.”
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For starters, Arrieta performed Pilates exercises six days each week to improve his range of motion and enhance his durability and stamina on the mound.
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“A lot of guys are starting to get way from trying to jerk these heavy weights and throw all these heavy weights around,” said Arrieta, who often displays perfect posture. “Building strength is very important, but there are many ways to do that. That’s why I got into Pilates because I can reduce the stress and impact in my joints while still being able to increase strength and flexibility, and it’s going to pay dividends.
Arrieta says he already has felt the benefits of diminished soreness after workouts, and he believes the exercises will help him recuperate quicker while pitching more frequently on a normal four days’ rest.
Arrieta has studied various diets but is turned off by the multiple contrasting styles.
“What are we supposed to eat?” Arrieta said. “You tell me.
“People come out with a diet structure based on a certain type of food group, and then two months later, it’s the complete opposite. For me, I think people just need to keep it simple.”
In Arrieta’s case, he focuses on a high concentration of vegetables and fruits. Lean chicken and seafood replace red meat, which Arrieta says he eats only once or twice a week.
“The first thing you have to do is understand the nutrients your body needs,” Arrieta said. “The best way to get those sources of nutrition is from vegetables, nuts, beans and things that aren’t processed.”
Arrieta’s diet has been sculpted over the last five years while taking into consideration the type of training he must perform as a pitcher and the baseball schedule.
He admits it’s tough to stay on his diet, and he occasionally will ”splurge” with consideration given to nutrients.
But when Arrieta commuted from his Austin, Texas, offseason home to Arizona for spring training, he packed a cooler filled with vegetable juice, kale juice and bags of almonds and dried fruit.
“When we get to a point when we’re really hungry but don’t have any options, that’s when we tend to eat and make poor choices,” Arrieta said. “I try to prepare as well as I can for situations like that and let my body tell me what it needs.”
But before leaving Texas, Arrieta dominated during a two-inning stint in an alumni game against nationally ranked TCU.
“The biggest thing he learned from last year was to try to get more out of the offseason and try to get more prepared,” pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “I’ve seen an entirely different animal this spring, compared to last year.”
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