Carbohydrate Loading and the continued role it plays to Athletic Performance

      Athletic Performance Team.jpg    As we approach the climax of the summer months, a period marked by increased activity, sport and competition, it is important to consider the vital role nutrition plays towards these endeavors. Since scientists first began to explore the relationship between nutrition and performance, we have come to understand that the food choices we make can uniquely improve our potential to perform.  The manipulation of glycogen for exercise performance is a great example of the transformative role nutrition plays within the various components of sport performance. The history and current practice of glycogen loading reflects the pervasiveness of this sound nutritional strategy despite a continued rise in scientific developments concerning nutrition strategies aimed at improving exercise and sport performance.

carboload.jpgIn 1967, researcher Björn Ahlborg delivered a report on the effects of muscle glycogen during prolonged exercise at an annual meeting of the Swedish Medical Society (Ahlborg, Bergstrom, Edelund & Hultman, 1967). In this investigation, Björn and colleagues identified a relationship between diet and muscle glycogen stores and demonstrated that the capacity for prolonged work is directly correlated to the glycogen store in the working muscles (Ahlborg, Bergstrom, Edelund & Hultman, 1967). Their investigation proved to be notable as it demonstrated the ability to manipulate nutrition for the benefit of exercise performance. In particular, results from their study showed that when a low carbohydrate diet is followed by a high carbohydrate diet, glycogen concentrations first decrease in response to the low consumption of carbohydrates and then rebound to double baseline glycogen concentrations.  This phenomenon is known as glycogen supercompensation (Jeukendrup & Gleeson,2010).
          Bike carbload.jpegThis particular carbohydrate loading procedure developed by Björn and colleagues in the1960s is still used by athletes today through various methods to help ensure optimal intake of energy substrates, augment muscle glycogen stores, and to ultimately improve potential for high performance in exercise and sport (Zydek, Michalczyk, Zajac,& Latosik, 2014). Through the investigation of the purpose, methods and current use of glycogen loading techniques we will learn that increasing our understanding regarding the demands of sport and exercise as well as the specific physiologic responses established through strategic manipulation of nutrition is critical for improving exercise performance at a high level.  Additionally, this growth in perspective regarding glycogen loading may help us to appreciate the value it can play within a multifaceted and periodized approach to athletes year-round for the purpose of greater exercise and sports performance.
                 shutterstock_389061919.jpgIn order to understand the value of glycogen loading to exercise and performance we must first understand the importance of carbohydrates to exercise and performance.  The carbohydrate macronutrient is one of the most important sources of fuel for the body during physical activity and at rest. This highly versatile macronutrient is one of the first options for energy needs during various types of activities and intensities and is considered a key fuel for the brain and central nervous system (Williams & Rollo, 2015). Carbohydrates are stored in the form of glycogen in both skeletal muscles and in the liver. On average a person stores about 500 grams of glycogen in their muscles and 100 grams of glycogen in their liver (Jensen, Rustad, Kolnes, & Lai, 2011). Our ability to exercise at a given intensity depends on the capacity of our skeletal muscles to rapidly replace energy (in the form of ATP) used to support all of the energy-demanding processes during exercise. The two metabolic systems that generate energy, or ATP, in skeletal muscle are described as ‘anaerobic’ and ‘aerobic’.
         Athlete+Running.jpgDuring both anaerobic activity or high intensity activities and aerobic activity or relatively lower intensity activities the production of energy in the form of ATP is fueled in part by the breakdown of glycogen. For instance, during a high intensity activity or an anaerobic activity such as a 6 second sprint, muscle glycogen contributes to about 50% of energy production (Williams & Rollo, 2015).  However, as the duration of activity begins to increase and/or the intensity levels begins to decrease, the metabolic system that drives energy production within the body shifts from a mostly anaerobic to aerobic process. Moreover, during aerobic activities or relatively lower intensity and longer duration activities such as long distance running the degradation of glycogen is a slower and less reliant process as compared to its role in anaerobic activities.  Despite the diminished role in energy production, glycogen breakdown produces 12 times more ATP during aerobic activities as compared to anaerobic activities (Williams & Rollo, 2015).
Carbo-Loading.jpg         The availability of this stored form of carbohydrate has been shown to impact the performance of prolonged sub-maximal, moderate and/or intermittent high-intensity exercise activities greater than 90 minutes.  Carbohydrate availability also contributes to an important role in the performance of brief or sustained high-intensity work (Hargreaves, 1996). Through a special process of carbohydrate consumption known as carbohydrate loading, individuals can maximize muscle glycogen stores (as well as beyond normal levels) and thus improve their potential to perform optimally in endurance exercise and events lasting longer than 90 minutes (Beck, Thomson, Swift, & von Hurst, 2015).  This process of carbohydrate or glycogen loading can help to delay the onset of fatigue (by approximately 20%) and result in a performance increase of of 2%–3% (Beck, Thomson, Swift, & von Hurst, 2015).  

Alberto_Contador_1674878b.jpg4-Figure2-1    It is important to note that the process of carbohydrate loading is also termed glycogen supercompensation. This term results from findings which show that when carbohydrate loading involves a depletion phase (produced by 3 days of intense training and/or low carbohydrate intake) followed by a loading phase (3 days of reduced training and high carbohydrate intake) glycogen concentrations rebound to super-physiological levels or levels greater than normal. This method is understood as the classical supercompensation protocol.  Researchers have also demonstrated that protocols designed to increase muscle glycogen concentrations can be enhanced to a similar level without a glycogen-depletion phase (Sherman, Costill, Fink, & Miller, 1981).
In fact, over the years researchers have continued to produce various protocols which can be used for the process of glycogen loading and/or glycogen supercompensation. Listed below is an example of a glycogen loading protocol used for athletes preparing a week or more in advance for an exercise event or sport competition with a duration greater than 90 minutes.

Screen Shot 2018-07-19 at 1.38.47 PM.png
(Jeukendrup, A. E., & Gleeson, M. (2010)

largepreview.pngIn addition to the classical supercompensation protocol researchers have demonstrated that glycogen loading can be achieved with a 1 to 2 day modification of the diet and ingestion of carbohydrates at a rate of 10 grams per kilogram of body mass per day as well as a change in training loads (Zydek, Michalzzyk, Zajac & Latosik, 2014).  Some researchers have shown that combining physical inactivity with a high intake of carbohydrate enables trained athletes to attain maximal muscle glycogen contents within only 24 hours suggesting that glycogen loading can take place within a 24 hour period (Bussau, Fairchild, Rao, Steele, & Fournier, 2002).
Nonetheless, the practice of glycogen loading has been shown to increase levels of glycogen within muscle and can remain elevated for a number of days. Authors note that athletes following a supercompensation cycle can experience at least 3 days of elevated glycogen levels (Goforth, Arnall, Bennett, & Law, 1997). This elevated response can provide athletes enough time to rest and recover from physical activity and also allow for significantly high levels of glycogen to be maintained in preparation for a specific exercise or sport event.  Athletes interested in improving muscle glycogen stores must be aware that the process of carbohydrate loading rests on appropriate consumption of carbohydrates as well as proper amounts of vitamins, minerals and water.


Elevated glycogen response from the classical supercompensation model can provide athletes enough time to rest and recover from physical activity and also allow for significantly high levels of glycogen to be maintained in preparation for a specific exercise or sport event.

       Glycogen loading is a powerful example of how nutrition is increasingly recognized as a key component of optimal exercise and sport performance. As our understanding of the demands of sport and exercise as well as the science and practice of sports nutrition develops we will continue to see notable examples of the far reaching and positive impact nutrition provides to exercise and sport.  

periodization.pngIn addition, it may be useful to view certain nutrition strategies such as glycogen loading as part of a larger systematic approach to nutrition aimed at improving certain areas related to exercise performance during specific periods. Authors call this strategic aim to obtain adaptations in support of exercise performance through the combined use of nutrition and exercise training (or nutrition only) nutrition periodization (Jeukendrup, 2017).
         With the rise of nutrition programs and diets such as the ketogenic diet, “train low, compete high” along with long established nutrition programs such as “glycogen loading” or “supercompensation” it is increasingly important for athletes, coaches, nutritionists and performance specialists to recognize the multifaceted ways in which nutrition planning can help deliver both long term and short term benefit and ultimately result in the production of greater potential and high performance for a given athlete.



Ahlborg, G., Bergstrom, J., Edelund, G., Hultman, E. (1967). Muscle glycogen and muscle electrolytes during prolonged physical exercise. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 129-142.

Beck, K. L., Thomson, J. S., Swift, R. J., & von Hurst, P. R. (2015). Role of nutrition in performance enhancement and postexercise recovery. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine6, 259–267.

Bussau, V., Fairchild, T., Rao, A., Steele, P., & Fournier, P. (2002). Carbohydrate loading in human muscle: An improved 1 day protocol. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 87(3), 290-295.

Goforth., H. W., Arnall., D. A., Bennett., B. L., & Law., P. G. (1997). Persistence of supercompensated muscle glycogen in trained subjects after carbohydrate loading. Journal of Applied Physiology, 82(1), 342-347

Hargreaves, M. (1996). Carbohydrates and Exercise Performance. Nutrition Reviews, 54(4), 136-139

Jensen, J., Rustad, P. I., Kolnes, A. J., & Lai, Y.-C. (2011). The Role of Skeletal Muscle Glycogen Breakdown for Regulation of Insulin Sensitivity by Exercise. Frontiers in Physiology, (2) 112.

Jeukendrup, A. E. (2017). Periodized Nutrition for Athletes. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z.), 47(Suppl 1), 51–63.

Jeukendrup, A. E., & Gleeson, M. (2010). Sport nutrition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Sherman, W., Costill, D., Fink, W., & Miller, J. (1981). Effect of Exercise-Diet Manipulation on Muscle Glycogen and Its Subsequent Utilization During Performance. International Journal of Sports Medicine,02(02), 114-118.

Williams, C., & Rollo, I. (2015). Carbohydrate Nutrition and Team Sport Performance. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z.)45(Suppl 1), 13–22. 

Zydek, G., Michalzzyk, M., Zajac, A., Latosik, E. (2014) Low- or high-carbohydrate diet for athletes? Trends in Sport Sciences, 2(4), 207-212.

Understanding environmental and societal factors in effort to develop effective methodology and solutions for weight management in elite football athletes – Part 3



        In Part 3 of “Understanding environmental and societal factors in effort to develop effective methodology and solutions for weight management in elite football athletes”  we will evaluate the various relationships between weight gain and football athletes and complete the foundation for an effective methodology to weight management for elite football athletes.

         It seems reasonable to expect that a rise in energy dense, nutrient poor, highly processed foods along with reports of increases in both child and adult obesity reported both nationally and worldwide may also be reflected in individuals who engage in the sport of football.

   Researchers from the University of Minnesota investigated the relationship between sport participation and diet and found that sport participation is associated with more fast food, sugar sweetened beverage consumption and greater overall calorie intake (Nelson et al., 2011).  Additionally, there is evidence to demonstrate both a predisposition towards obesity as well as increase in fat mass in certain sports – namely football. A cross-sectional study on athletes in the state of Mississippi single-sport football players demonstrated a statistically significant increase in the prevalence of obesity when compared with single-sport athletes in other sports (Stiefel et al., 2016).

        This finding is reflective of the similar rise in waist lines noted in the public (and detailed in part 2). One can argue that as the average weight of the public has risen over the years, the average weight of football players has also increased over the years. Take a look at the historical changes in weight in one of the most imposing figures on the football field – The offensive linemen.  Data published by researchers in 2013 shows that the average body mass of an offensive lineman has increased by more than 66 lbs over a 45 year period (Anding & Oliver, 2013)

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

       Today’s NFL athlete is far larger, heavier and stronger than years past. A 2013 research study evaluated 411 NFL athletes just before the 2013 NFL draft or selection period for NFL teams. The following values represents and insight into today’s NFL athlete (Dengel et al., 2014). 

The Body Composition and Anthropometric values for today’s NFL athlete are as follows.


Baltimore Sun Media Group publication

Defensive linemen

Average Height: 75 + 1.1 inches

Average Weight: 293.0 ± 32.4 lbs

Average Body Fat: 25.2 ± 7.6 %

Average Lean Mass: 209.9 ± 12.1 lbs

Average Fat Mass: 73.4 ± 27.1 lbs

Offensive linemen


Average Height: 75.9 ± 1.6 lbs

Average Weight: 310.6 ± 13.4 lbs

Average Body Fat: 28.8 ± 3.7%

Average Lean Mass: 212.7 ± 9.9 lbs

Average Fat Mass: 86.6 ± 13.2 lbs


Wide Receiverfantasy-football-draft-prep-wide-receiver-rankings

Average Height: 73.1 ± 1.5 lbs

Average Weight: 207.2 ± 13.2 lbs

Average Body Fat:  12.5 ± 3.1 %

Average Lean Mass: 172.6 ± 9.5 lbs

Average Fat Mass: 24.9 ± 7.7 lbs


     Authors report that an increase in body mass or height is associated with increased playing time as well as greater rates of pay in football (Anding & Oliver, 2013).  When we combined the financial incentive for mass gain, with a current climate involving both environmental and/or societal factors (food industry/food distribution) that helps to facilitate weight gain, the results can be a challenge for both athletes and the individuals tasked with managing their weights. While the thought that “Bigger is always Better” continues to prevail in certain sports, evidence may prove otherwise. 


       One must also consider that a relative increase in fat mass, can predispose individuals to injury and degradations in performance. This is due to evidence which shows that fat-free mass has a direct correlation with performance measures including strength, speed and explosiveness (Anding & Oliver, 2013). In other words, it’s not good not to have just bigger athletes but we also want bigger athletes with better body composition. The objective for athletes have always been to decrease percentage body fat by simultaneously decreasing fat mass and increasing lean body mass. In addition to increasing on-field fatigue, increases in fat mass can contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome, which includes impaired glucose tolerance, dyslipidemia and hypertension. Excess body fat also contributes to obstructive sleep apnea, vitamin D deficiency and cardiovascular disease (Skolnik & Ryan, 2014).

Limitations in the amount of time for which these football athletes can train presents another “difficulty” for weight management during off – season training.


      While the establishment of resistance and conditioning programs has allowed for increases in measures of strength, power and body composition there are limitations to the degree and duration of impact for which these training programs can have on athletes.  For instance, the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, a contract between NFL players and owners, allows a relatively limited training period that promotes the interaction of football athletes with team Strength and Conditioning programs (NFL collective bargaining agreement, 2011). NFL players can report voluntary to meet with strength and conditioning coaches for a period of roughly two weeks prior to engaging in football athletics. Interaction between strength and conditioning coaches and athletes prior to this two-week period must operate in a limited “supervisory” fashion.  The results of this limitation in strength training and conditioning combined with the aforementioned environmental and societal factors that contribute to weight gain can provide a challenge for the potential detraining effects that are characteristic with both long competitive seasons as well as “Break” periods from the NFL.  It should not be surprising then that the off-season period (a period of extended can be a difficult period of time for athletes to maintain body composition.

2015-espn-body-issue-odell-beckham-jr.-cover-650x800.jpgBody composition changes may be the most important manner for which athletes can manifest improvements in performance.

       It’s also important to revisit the relative importance of body composition changes in the NFL to the improvement of athletic performance. Since the majority of athletes are gathered from the highest level of function in football collegiate sports we can infer that these athletes are likely to have four or more years of resistance training history and have come close to their peak of training. Studies note that performance measures in factors such as speed, power and vertical jump can significantly improve within the first two years of a collegiate strength and conditioning program with no significant changes thereafter suggesting that athletes can reach a training limit from strength and conditioning training in certain measures related to athletic performance (Jacobson, Conchola, Glass & Thompson, 2012). In fact, researchers in health and human performance from the University of Oklahoma suggested that speed cannot be significantly improved in collegiate athletes over 4 years of training. In a 2013 longitudinal study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, football Collegiate linemen saw just a 2.7% increase in speed performance. This change in linemen speed was positively correlated with a reduction in fat (Jacobson, Conchola, Glass & Thompson, 2012).

      maxresdefault  Additionally, football players chosen to participate in football’s highest level are likely to have a minimum of two years of collegiate football experience due to the NFL draft requirements. The rules of the NFL draft indicate that for an individual to be eligible for the draft, players must have been out of high school for at least three years and must have used up their college eligibility before the start of the next college football season (The rules of the Draft, 2018). Moreover, in 2009 greater than 80% of athletes selected in the NFL draft were participants of the NFL combine, a standardized assessment where NFL teams consider a player’s performance on a set of physical ability tests. (Lyons, Hoffman, Michel &Williams, 2011).  The rising number of combine preparation programs demonstrate both the value of performance training for success within this event but also underscores the high training age of athletes who make up the NFL performance fabric.  This evidence serves to highlight the relative importance of body composition change as a notable and useful method to provide meaningful change to football athletes in preparation for a competitive season.  If two years of training is enough time for which collegiate athletes need to reach high levels of physical performance than further improvements in performance and injury must be mediated by a centered focus on body composition.

NFL player body composition changes over an NFL season

      Few studies have examined the nutritional intakes of NFL players over the course of a season and its influence on body composition and long-term performance. Understanding the impact of nutrition and training during the period of preparation prior to competition can be of significance to an athlete’s potential for high short term and long-term performance.

    68c33c1423a222190fc70090ffec6a35.jpg  To understand this importance, it is important to review, a typical NFL season. By the time a season ends, NFL athletes are likely to “take time off”. And rightly so, as a traditional NFL training season can last well over 36 weeks when we accrue various training periods such as training camp, off Season training, regular season and playoffs.  This can result in large physical and mental toll to athletes. Thus, a time away or off from football is certainly justified as it allows athletes to physical and mentally recover. However, this time off or potential period of detraining can result in devastating changes to levels of fitness and pose a challenge for those individuals accustomed to the daily training regimens involved during a football season. 

     download.jpeg For instance, just five weeks of detraining produced significant changes to body composition, fitness and metabolism in competitive collegiate athletes. These Athletes also saw increases in fat mass, waist circumference and body weight as well as reductions in measures of aerobic performance (Ormsbee, & Arciero, 2011). Keep in mind that NFL detraining periods or “time off” can last from anywhere from two to four months depending on team success. Highly successful teams will account for more weeks of training due to their participation in post season competition while less successful teams will begin their break at the inception of the post season. Additionally, teams will also issue “Break” periods prior to the start of the Pre-season or Training Camp period prior to the competitive season.

       Figure4-Relationships-between-training-load-training-phase-and-likelihood-of-injury-in.pngInterestingly, several investigations show that the preseason period provides the greatest risk for soft tissue injury. In a 2011 study, Elliot and colleagues showed that the first weeks during a competitive football season also known as the preseason period can place football players at increased risk for soft tissue injury. In fact, More than half (51.3%) of hamstring strains occurred during the 7-week preseason (Elliott, Zarins, Powell & Kenyon, 2011). This data become increasingly relevant when we consider that competitive teams have an incentive to quickly return to a level of performance that can allow for voluminous practices and opportunities to evaluate and/or development skills related to high performance.

        The incentive to prepare returning athletes to proper shape can often fall on the shoulders of NFL strength and conditioning staffs. However, the NFL collective bargaining agreement (CBA) allows just two weeks of uninterrupted training with strength and conditioning staffs prior to the introduction of competitive football practice conditions dictated by various football coaches. This can result in a formidable challenge for both strength and conditioning professional and athletes when we consider

1. Reports for rising rates of obesity in children, adults and football players 

2. Evidence which suggests the proliferation of highly processed foods for increases in weight gain and obesity.

3. Data demonstrating rising rates of mass in NFL athletes and evidence for the increasing role body composition plays to NFL performance. 

       These results help to shape a methodology which can provide an effective solution for performance athletes in the face of these challenges.  In particular athletes utilizing the methodology of body composition change through diet may provide useful in mitigating injury and alleviating the difficult associated with weight management in today’s society. 

The use of low carbohydrate as well as the Ketogenic diet to improve body composition during the “off-season” or  “Break” period for Football athletes.

       1_P6SRCPWWTlbFuuYH8i5x2w.jpeg The ketogenic diet can be a useful resource for a number of athletes who are interested in improving factors related to athletic performance thereby diminishing chance of injury and increasing likelihood for football success.  This particular diet contributes to positive changes in weight loss such as diminished fat mass. The dietary protein needs associated with the diet may also assist in promoting improved performance through protective effects of fat free mass. 

      Investigators from the University of Padova publish a study in 2012 where their objective was to determine if a very low carbohydrate Ketogenic Diet (VLCKD) could be useful for elite athletes without negative changes to measurable in performance and certain body composition values such as lean muscle mass (Paoli et al., 2012). 

      Their study included nine male athletes competing in several portions of Italy’s highest level of gymnastics. The workload for this group of individuals was tantamount to that expected for elite professionals with a training volume averaging of 30 hours a week. These athletes were asked to keep to their normal training volumes while consuming a very low carbohydrate Ketogenic diet for 30 days.  Performance measurements relating to force and strength were measured through a litany of tests that included various forms of jump testing, and upper body strength assessments such as dip tests, Pull ups Tests, and push up tests(Paoli et al., 2012).  The use of a contact mat known as Ergojump provided a measurement of height of jump, time of flight and time of contact.  Investigators also measured body composition, through an equally comprehensive battery of tests. These tests include 9 skinfold measurements, 6 bone diameters (elbow, wrist, knee, ankle), waistline and hip circumference measurements. It should be noted that air plethysmography through tools such as COSMED’s Bod Pod and/or dual energy x-ray absorptiometry are highly regarded as accurate measures of body composition these tests were performed as pre testing and post testing protocols and occurred at the beginning and end of the 30 day very low carbohydrate ketogenic dietary periods. During the 2nd investigation the athletes took part in a western diet and served as controls (Paoli et al., 2012)).

      Results of the study showed that there was a significant difference in the pre-testing and post testing of the very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet in body weight with a change from a mean weight of 69.6 ± 7.3 Kg to 68.0 ± 7.5 Kg with a significance of  p< 0.05. In addition, values showed that fat mass changed from 5.3 ± 1.3 Kg to 3.4 ± 0.8 Kg with a significance of  p< 0.001. Body Fat Percentage change was reflected with a pre – test value of 7.6 ± 1.4 to a post test value of 5.0 ± 0.9 with a significance of  P< 0.001(Paoli et al., 2012).  In comparison to the body composition value change during the very low carbohydrate ketogenic dietary period, athletes showed was no significant difference in body composition when comparing pre testing and post testing while consuming a Western Diet(Paoli et al., 2012). 

     The results of this study suggest how a very low carbohydrate ketogenic diet can impact fat loss and may be useful for those athletes who compete in sports based on weight class.  Authors of this study, acknowledged these conclusions. In spite of concerns of the potential detrimental effects of low carbohydrate diets on athletic performance. In a more recent study published in Journal of Sports, investigators sought to understand the effects of a 12-week ketogenic diet on body composition, metabolic, and performance parameters in participants who trained recreationally at a local CrossFit facility (Kephart et al., 2018). These researchers noted several previous investigations which supported the use of ketogenic diet for improvements in body composition, muscle mass and strength with notable reductions in fat mass.

       As part of this study, twelve subjects were recruited from a local CrossFit gymnasium a local Auburn community. Subjects were selected based on a particular criterion that included age, strength to mass ratio, and training age at the local cross fit center. The experiment consisted of ketogenic diet group and a normal western diet group. It should be noted that the cross-fit community has been associated with a relatively low carbohydrate diet known as the paleo diet. Thus, it should be specified what diet control members utilized within this study. The Ketogenic group were provided dietary guidelines to follow over 12 weeks while CTL participants were instructed to continue their normal diet throughout the study.  All participants continued their normal CrossFit training routine for 12 weeks. Measurements for this study included body composition, blood variables and various performance tests. Body composition was evaluated using a dual X-ray absorptiometry. Researchers, keenly evaluated for levels of hydration prior to conducting body composition. Using a hand-held refractometer participants with a urine specific gravity ≥ 1.020 were asked to consume tap water every 15 min for 30 min and then were re-test. To demonstrate the great deal of evaluations performed in this test, investigators also assessed Respiratory Energy Expenditure and VO2 max post body composition.  Venous blood assessments included blood glucose, lipids, and beta-hydroxbutyrate (BHB). Performance measurements included 1 RM Back Squats, Power Cleans, a Push Up test and a 400-meter sprint test.  These measurements were likely selected due to the likely familiarity that comes from training in a CrossFit manner, however to complement these values and to reflect more objective measures of performance tools such as a just jump or force plate could have been used. Limitations can also be seen in the form of dietary monitoring. Subjects were required to record and report food logs. Food Logs are a subjective form of assessment and can be largely inaccurate to true both nutrition composition and intake (Kephart et al., 2018). 

      Results of the study were neatly arranged and detailed.  Researchers reported a time interaction was observed for change in fat mass between groups (p  = 0.126, ηp2  = 0.218. DXA fat mass decreased by 12.4% in KD (p  = 0.058). In regard to profile changes, researchers reported similar changes in fasting glucose, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides between groups. However, it should be noted that LDL cholesterol increased ~35% in KD (p  = 0.048). Lastly, performance measurements Between-groups showed similarities in one-repetition maximum (1-RM) back squat, 400 m run times, and VO2peak (Kephart et al., 2018). Researchers appeared to meet the aim of their study with some limitations. They reached a conclusion that individuals who train recreationally at a CrossFit gym while adopting a Ketogenic diet for 12 weeks experience a reduction in whole-body adiposity with little influence on metabolic or exercise performance measures.  The reports provided by these authors helps to highlight the useful application of ketogenic diets as a resource to reduce fat mass while facilitating improvements in performance measures (Kephart et al., 2018).

Relationship of Ketogenic Diet to measures of performance: Increased protein intake and fat free mass

      keto-meal-plan-700x1756.jpg  Researchers Michael J. Saunders and Colleagues recently published an article titled “Protein Supplementation During or Following a Marathon Run Influences Post-Exercise Recovery” in the Journal Nutrients (Saunders, Luden, DeWitt, Gross & Rios, 2018). These authors address various finding related to the ingestion of carbohydrate and protein and its effects on post-exercise recovery in endurance athletes. They begin by describing the past evidence which demonstrates a positive relationship between protein supplementation and post exercise performance markers such as reduced muscle soreness, creating kinase, myogoblin and enhanced mood. This information is followed by a relatively limited amount of contrary evidence to the positive effects of carbohydrate protein supplementation. The ambiguity in findings likely stems from experimental methods as reported by these authors. However, the purpose of their study aims to study the effects of carbohydrate and protein ingestion on a specific population.  These author aim investigate the efficacy of carbohydrate and protein in specific sport populations, in order to provide appropriate recommendations for endurance athletes (Saunders, Luden, DeWitt, Gross & Rios, 2018).

     As part of this study, authors recruited subjects from the university. These subjects were both male and female with no history of marathons using a similar training program to prepare for an upcoming marathon. Subjects were divided into two groups based on muscular responses from a training run taken in the 11th week. Experimental groups consisted of a carbohydrate group and a carbohydrate and protein group. As part of the study both groups were provided their corresponding nutritional sources at a fixed number of aid stations along the marathon course. These subjects were instructed to consume gels ab libitum and thus were not required to consume all of the nutritional aids offered. Therefore, each individual is likely to experience variability in the nutritional intake during the marathon which can impact markers of recovery and thus represents a limitation to this study.

          This is apparent within the results of the study. Investigators demonstrate that the  carbohydrate only group consumed 4.5 ± 1.4 gels during the run, resulting in 123 ± 36 g CHO ingested (0 g protein, 0 g fat). However, the carbohydrate protein group consumed 5.9 ± 1.5 gels, with 118 ± 29 g CHO, 29 ± 7 g protein during the run. As a result, the protein intake during the marathon was higher in  the carbohydrate + protein group(Saunders, Luden, DeWitt, Gross & Rios, 2018).  As a result the calorie intake is likely to be larger in one particular group as compared to another which can potentially impact level of exertion, markers of muscle damage and levels of soreness. In fact, the authors indicated within this study that although carbohydrate + protein ingestion during the marathon had no meaningful effects on any recovery markers 24 h post-exercise, in comparison to carbohydrate, differences were observe at 72 hours post marathon. Investigators indicated that at 72 h post-marathon, various ratings of soreness and mental and physical energy/fatigue were reduced in the carbohydrate protein group versus the carbohydrate only group. These results highlight the importance of protein in its role as a resource to decrease levels of soreness and physical energy/fatigue.  It also suggests how valuable protein may be in the beneficial effects of ketogenic diet to performance. This positive finding attributed to protein intake can also be shown during periods of significant energy deficits (Saunders, Luden, DeWitt, Gross & Rios, 2018).

7414_Ketosis_graphics_v2.png       Researchers from Spain conducted a study to examine the role of exercise volume and dietary protein content. In particular they sought to understand the influence of low-intensity exercise and/or protein ingestion on lean mass during severe energy deficit diets (Calbet et al., 2017). The foundation for this study rests on several investigations presented by researchers which demonstrate that very low calorie diets result in both loss of fat, but also loss of fat-free mass. Investigators randomly assigned 15 overweight volunteers to receive 0.8 g/kg body weight/day of either whey protein or a similar amount of calories in the form of sucrose during 4 days of extreme energy deficit. As part of the experimental study these overweight subjects participated in a baseline phase, followed by 4 days of caloric restriction and exercise and then followed by 3 subsequent days on a control diet in combination with reduced exercise (Calbet et al., 2017).Various measurements were taken during this experimental protocol such as body composition, Peak power, VO2 and blood analysis. Results of the study showed that Lean body mass was reduced from 64.3 ± 4.9 at baseline to 61.5 ± 4.7 and 63.3 ± 4.5 Kg calorie restriction and during the control diet. These comparisons were exhibited with a significance of P < 0.01). Additionally, measurements of peak power after the controlled eating portion were 15 and 12% lower than the corresponding baseline values. This was exhibited by a change from 300 ± 23 to 254 ± 25 watts and a change from 84 ± 0.33 to 3.37 ± 0.43 L/min. These changes were exhibited by a significance of P < 0.01.  As part of this discussion, authors stated that their findings demonstrated a clear impact of exercise in its ability to preserve lean mass, even with an energy deficit and significant dietary protein exposure (Calbet et al., 2017).


      Consider an athlete with a moderate volume and strength program that helps to maintain the needed strength associated with performance.  A six to twelve-week low carbohydrate, high fat and/or ketogenic dietary program focusing on a macronutrient content that provides calories from 19 % carbohydrate, 26 -30% protein and up to 65% fat can be a useful resource prior to training.  This can be especially suitable for individuals who are unlikely to participate in voluminous, high intensity fast pace running drills for which a higher carbohydrate intake can be of greater need.

       Let us consider the 300lb offensive linemen once more. Due to the nature of the “Break” period he no longer takes part in two to three hour long football practices.  With his activity level at a relative low he no longer needs a surplus of calories to maintain both performance and body mass. Thus he shifts his caloric intake to 3200 calories with 10% resulting from the consumption of carbohydrates 30% protein and 60% fat. He spreads this daily need into 5 meals which elicits 80 grams of carbohydrates, 300 grams of protein and 213 grams of Fats. An example meal for this particular diet can be shown in a meal containing the following:  ½ cup of chopped avocado, 4 scrambled eggs,  sautéed spinach and smoked salmon.

        The result of such a meal and diet can provide athletes and strength and conditioning coaches a useful tool and  path toward improved body composition and performance. In today’s climate of rising obesity associated with the challenges that come with performance training at the elite level, tools like the ketogenic can offer tremendous and long lasting benefit.


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Understanding Environmental and Societal Factors to Develop Effective Methodology and Solutions for Weight Management in Elite Football Athletes


To understand the potential solutions in weight management for football athletes we must first understand the factors which can impact in individuals weight in today’s world. While some of the most elite football athletes may contain the gift of genetic talents in speed, power, neuromuscular & motor skills as well as the benefit of access to high income and state of the art training facilities, these individuals are in many ways expose to the same environmental, social conditions that facilitate weight gain in today’s society. It can be reasoned that some of the most elite athletes who perform in the national football league today are strongly impacted and the potential byproduct of a global force in food distribution and availability that has contributed to rising levels of obesity and challenges to weight management both nationally and internationally. Hence, determining an effective solution for weight management for elite football players within today’s society requires us to understand these specific challenges and /or forces that have been noted to contribute to changes in weight.

Weight management can be a difficult endeavor for most individuals including elite athletes (Manore, 2015). The challenges of maintaining weight can be reflected in the continuous and growing reports of high numbers in both overweight and obese individuals nationally and around the world (Swinburn et al., 2011; Skinner & Skelton, 2014; Skinner, Ravanbakht, Skelton, Perrin & Armstrong, 2018). Past reports indicate that 66% of the US adult population is either overweight and/or obese, with 34% being obese (Flegal, Carroll, Ogden, Curtin, 2010).

This should come as little surprise as this rise in obesity has been explored on numerous occasions- especially in our children (Skinner & Skelton, 2014; Skinner, Ravanbakht, Skelton, Perrin & Armstrong, 2018). Most recently, health services researcher and associate professor at Duke University, Dr. Ashely C. Skinner and a team of scientists published a report that gives insight to the rising trend of obesity in our children. In their study, they determined that since 2013, there has been a significant increase in severe obesity among children aged 2 to 5 years as well as other groups (Skinner, Ravanbakht, Skelton, Perrin & Armstrong, 2018). This finding shares similar conclusions to studies reported by scientists presently and almost two decades from today (Nicklas, Baranowski, Cullen, & Berenson, 2001;Pan, Park, Slayton, Goodman, & Blanck, 2018). The multiple decades of reports demonstrating growing childhood obesity in the US affirms this epidemic to our national history and our social fabric. This epidemic has been reported for such a long period that one must wonder the long-term effects to both our children and today’s society.

In fact, almost 10 years ago today, investigators reported findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey studied over a 14-year period (1999 – 2012) and their conclusions reflected increases in all classes of obesity in children. More specifically, in 2011 to 2012, 32.2% of children in the United States aged 2 to 19 years were overweight and17.3% were obese (Skinner & Skelton, 2014). Additionally, 5.9% of children met criteria for class 2 obesity and 2.1% met criteria for class 3 obesity (Skinner & Skelton, 2014).

Some of these children have reached adulthood and it appears that the growing obesity epidemic has accompanied their rise in age. New data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reflects that nearly 40 percent of adults were obese in 2015 and 2016 (Hales et al., 2018). Experts largely view this change as a sharp increase from the previous decade.

Public health approaches to develop population-based strategies for the prevention of excess weight gain has been advocated for many years (Ulijaszek, 2003). Health officials have even considered legal interventions as means for combating the rise of obesity (Dietz, Benken & Hunter, 2009). It is reasonable to expect that the presence of public polices and legal interventions detailing the health risks of obesity and weight gain would promote a positive change to reports of obesity. Yet, recent research by scientists show that public health intervention programs have had limited success in tackling the rising prevalence of obesity (Chan & Woo, 2010).

Perhaps our consciousness of the health risks associated with uncontrolled weight gain promoted by various health outlets plays a relatively small role in helping to shape our weight and our thoughts concerning weight gain. Maybe our inability to manage weight stems from larger forces that overshadow those health agencies which promote the adverse effects of weight gain. Some experts believe that the obesity epidemic we continue to face is rooted in the global food system and its availability.

Dr. Boyd Swinburn, a professor of population nutrition and global health at the University of Auckland along with several nutrition health experts have largely attributed the obesity epidemic to the changes in the global food system (Swinburn et al., 2011). Particularly, these health experts assert that the comparatively higher production of highly processed, more affordable, and effectively marketed food in recent years have contributed to an epidemic of weight gain. In other words, the diminished ability to manage our weight (and of our children) globally stems from the increased supply of cheap, palatable, energy-dense foods as well as the improved efforts of food distribution systems to make food products much more accessible, convenient and more persuasive than ever before (Swinburn et al., 2011). Outside of the growing weights and waistlines, across the US and the world, there appears to be a great deal of evidence for this association.

Dr. Urmila Chandran, an epidemiologist, and colleagues published conclusions regarding weight gain in a 2014 study where they sought to understand the independent association between frequency of consumption of foods and drinks that promote weight gain. In this report found in the Journal of Nutrition and Cancer they state the following;

“According to past National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, energy-dense and nutrient-poor foods contribute about 27% of total daily energy intake, with desserts and sweeteners making up almost 20% among all energy-dense and nutrient-poor food groups (Chandran et al., 2014).”

These experts of health and nutrition, in their conclusions continue to note the strong relationship between both the increase availability and consumption of energy dense, nutrient limited foods to reports of weight gain and obesity in all ethnic groups across the US (Chandran et al., 2014).

Additionally, authors of the research article “Prevention of Overweight and Obesity: How Effective is the Current Public Health” also point to the food industry as one of the many reasons for the systematic increase in weight nationally and internationally. They explain that the food industry’s financials incentive to maximize profit through the promotion of larger portions, frequent snacking and the normalization of sweets, soft drinks, snacks and fast food jeopardizes public health efforts for obesity control (Chan & Woo, 2010). Some authors have even asserted that this proliferation of processed and convenience foods means that food corporations have increasingly shaped what and how consumers eat ((Belasco and Scranton, 2002).

To gain greater perspective to the impact of the food industry to the food consumption and weight management, it may be useful to review recent reports of food purchases regarding US households. The results of a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Nutrition indicates that the majority of US purchases are processed foods (Poti, Mendez, Ng, & Popkin, 2015). These, processed foods are described as foods other than raw agricultural commodities that can be categorized based on the extent of changes occurring to them as result of various forms of processing (Poti, Mendez, Ng, & Popkin, 2015).

Dr. Jennifer Poti, a nutritional epidemiologist and a team of investigators found that more than three-fourths of energy in purchases by US households came from both moderately processed (basic processed foods with the addition of flavor additives such as sweeteners, salt, flavors, or fat) and highly processed (multi-ingredient industrially formulated mixtures processed to the extent that they are no longer recognizable as their original plant or animal source) foods and beverages (Poti, Mendez, Ng, & Popkin, 2015).

Similar results were found from a study investigating the consumption of ultra-processed foods. Ultra- processed foods are understood as ready‐to‐consume products entirely or mostly made from industrial ingredients and additives (Monteiro, Moubarac, Cannon, Ng & Popkin, 2013). Published reports indicate that ultra-processed foods comprised 57.9% of energy intake of the US diet in a national health and nutrition examination survey (Steele et al., 2016). In other words, over half of the food items that we purchase and consume is either moderately and/or ultra-processed.

Furthermore, some of food items are considered to be extremely profitable to the food industry. In the book “A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System authors described the impact high profitability of highly processed products such as convenience foods. They note the popularity of convenience foods among food manufacturers because of the high earnings for which they provide. For instance, among the 10 most profitable food production categories in the United States, 6 are convenience/snack foods: snack foods; cookies, crackers, and pasta; chocolate; sugar processing; ice cream; and candy (Nesheim, M. C., Oria, M., & Yih, P. T., 2015). As noted by the authors, the majority of these foods are of low nutrient density or high in sugar, salt, and saturated fat.

Through this brief review of literature, we have established

  1. Evidence that the proliferation of processed and convenience foods appears to be financial rewarding for the food industry (Chan & Woo, 2010; Nesheim, M. C., Oria, M., & Yih, P. T., 2015).
  2. Growing evidence continues to note the increasing availability and consumption of moderately, highly and ultra-processed or nutrient poor foods to individuals. (Belasco and Scranton, 2002; Chandran et al., 2014; Poti, Mendez, Ng, & Popkin, 2015; Steele et al., 2016).
  3. The availability of these processed foods manufactured by a rising food industry has a direct correlation to what we eat and the rates of obesity (Belasco and Scranton, 2002; Swinburn et al., 2011
  4. .There is a continued rise in the rates of obesity within children and adults over the last years both nationally and worldwide. obese (Flegal, Carroll, Ogden, Curtin, 2010; Hales et al., 2018; Pan, Park, Slayton, Goodman, & Blanck, 2018;Swinburn et al., 2011; Skinner & Skelton, 2014; Skinner, Ravanbakht, Skelton, Perrin & Armstrong, 2018)

Understanding these factors provides perspective to the scope of various challenges that may play in to weight management of the athletes for which performance specialists are responsible for. Engaging in solutions to better help athletes perform to their potential requires comprehension of both their environment and the societal stressors for function. If performance specialists and coaches value an athlete’s weight as an important metric for performance than a sound methodology for improving factors concerning weight management must first acknowledge evidence of environmental stressors of an increasing availability consumption of moderately, highly and ultra-processed or nutrient poor foods to individuals and/or athletes. (Belasco and Scranton, 2002; Chandran et al., 2014; Poti, Mendez, Ng, & Popkin, 2015; Steele et al., 2016). Secondly, this methodology and/or form of solution for weight management must be aware of thate the availability of processed foods manufactured by a rising food industry has a direct correlation to what society eat as well as well as societal rates of obesity (Belasco and Scranton, 2002; Swinburn et al., 2011. Third a perspective for solution must acknowledge that there has and continues to be a rise in the rates of obesity within children and adults over the last years both nationally and worldwide ((Flegal, Carroll, Ogden, Curtin, 2010; Hales et al., 2018; Pan, Park, Slayton, Goodman, & Blanck, 2018;Swinburn et al., 2011; Skinner & Skelton, 2014; Skinner, Ravanbakht, Skelton, Perrin & Armstrong, 2018). And finally, a methodology designed to improve weight management for football athletes must recognized the relationship of reports of weight gain in society to evidence of weight gain in football. In Part 3 of challenges of weight management in elite football athletes during the NFL Off-season: Understanding environmental and societal factors in effort to develop effective methodology and solutions for weight management in elite football athletes we will evaluate this relationship and complete the foundation for an effective methodology for weight management for elite football athletes.



Chandran, U., McCann, S. E., Zirpoli, G., Gong, Z., Lin, Y., Hong, C.C, Ciupak, G., Pawlish, K., Ambrosone, C.B., Bandera, E. V. (2014). Intake of Energy-Dense Foods, Fast Foods, Sugary Drinks, and Breast Cancer Risk in African American and European American Women. Nutrition and Cancer, 66(7), 1187–1199

Flegal, K.M., Carroll, M,D., Ogden, C.L., Curtin, L.R. (2010) Prevalence and trends in obesity among US adults, 1999–2008. JAMA. 303(3), 235–241.

Hales, C. M., Fryar, C. D., Carroll, M. D., Freedman, D. S., & Ogden, C. L. (2018). Trends in Obesity and Severe Obesity Prevalence in US Youth and Adults by Sex and Age, 2007-2008 to 2015-2016Jama, 319(16), 1723.

Manore, M. M. (2015). Weight Management for Athletes and Active Individuals: A Brief Review. Sports Medicine Journal of Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z.), 45(Suppl 1), 83–92.

Nesheim, M. C., Oria, M., & Yih, P. T. (2015). A framework for assessing the effects of the food system. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

Nicklas, T. A., Baranowski, T., Cullen, K. W., & Berenson, G. (2001). Eating Patterns, Dietary Quality and ObesityJournal of the American College of Nutrition, 20(6), 599-608.

Pan, L., Park, S., Slayton, R., Goodman, A. B., & Blanck, H. M. (2018). Trends in Severe Obesity Among Children Aged 2 to 4 Years Enrolled in Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children From 2000 to 2014. JAMA Pediatrics, 172(3), 232.

Skinner, A. C., & Skelton, J. A. (2014). Prevalence and Trends in Obesity and Severe Obesity Among Children in the United States, 1999-2012. JAMA Pediatrics, 168(6), 561.

Skinner, A. C., Perrin, E. M., & Skelton, J. A. (2016). Prevalence of obesity and severe obesity in US children, 1999-2014. Obesity, 24(5), 1116-1123.

Skinner, A. C., Ravanbakht, S.N., Skelton, J.A., Perrin, E.M., Armstrong, S.C. (2018). Prevalence of obesity and severe obesity in US children, 1999-2016. Pediatrics, 141(3), :e20173459

Skolnik N.S., Ryan, D.H (2014). Pathophysiology, epidemiology, and assessment of obesity in adults. The Journal Of Family Practice 63(7), 3-10.

Swinburn, B.A., Sacks, G., Hall, K.D, McPherson, K., Finegood, D.T., Moodie, M.L., Gortmaker, S.L. (2011). The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments. Lancet. 378: 804–814.

About the author:

Dan Liburd has over a decade of experience working with professional athletes and as an NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach. Liburd has experience in designing, implementing and supervising strength and conditioning programs for various athletic populations. He also has experience working in designing and overseeing team nutrition and dietary programs, as well as working collaboratively with chefs, medical and performance staff to produce benefit for team and individual athlete performance. Dan Liburd is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who earned his Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Boston University. He received his Master of Science degree from Canisius College in Health and Human Performance and is currently working towards his Ph.D. Health and Human Performance at Concordia University Chicago. Liburd holds a variety of certifications in Health and Sport Nutrition, Olympic Weight Lifting, Manual Therapy Techniques and Movement Assessment. These certifications include Precision Nutrition Level I and Level II as well as USA Weightlifting, Active Release Techniques and Functional Movement Systems. Liburd is also working towards licensure in massage therapy to contribute to his experience in educating, coaching and promoting Health, Fitness and Sport Strength and Conditioning. Liburd currently works as a Tactical Strength and conditioning coach for EXOS. His experience includes stints with several professional teams such as the Buffalo Bills and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Liburd has also held various positions in Collegiate Strength and Conditioning programs. He has worked with the Boston University Terriers, Springfield College Pride, American College Yellow Jackets and held positions at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning as well as Peak Performance Physical Therapy.

5 Key Performance Tips and Strategies learned from Preparing for Ironman

22769632_10105524512284900_2559039511289659906_o      In the process of preparing for my sixth Ironman competition, I have increased my knowledge, refined my training techniques, and sharpened my perspectives on the training necessary to best prepare for an Ironman competition. Training for this super endurance race has enabled me to improve my understanding in various areas of sports science, methods of sports training and ultimately myself. As I approach Ironman Florida I am certain that the advancement in performance strategies, training techniques, and nutrition will allow me to best previous times in all three disciplines of the 140.6 mile endurance competition. More importantly, undertaking this monumental task has allowed me to adopt and reaffirm effective strategies that can potentially help improve the health and sports performance of my clients and athletes.

14199666_10104207690007300_8668785579854542734_n     Looking back, the most notable changes in this stint of Ironman training preparations has been a greater focus on training specificity, the adoption of new appraisal methods for performance and training compartmentalization to overcome the stressors common to a voluminous and technical event. Despite these changes, the most sizable part of this training preparation comes in the form of nutrition periodization, planning, and meal customization.  These three nutritional concepts have enabled me to accommodate greater levels of performance stress, reach higher levels of performance, and improved my body composition to elite level standards.

Strategies such as nutrition periodization combined with various exercise methods have led to training adaptations which have reaffirmed several key principles regarding nutrition and training. In this blog post, I will share these training principles and strategies and provide scientific evidence that supports its use. Adopting these key exercise, nutrition and training steps can significantly improve your performance potential and help you crush your next competition challenge.

22769662_10105524511576320_1765078582855897700_oAfter evaluating past Ironman performances one of the areas I focused on during this training preparation centered on training specificity. Past experience forced me to re-evaluate the specificity of my strategy and technique during my practice sessions. Experience has taught me that success for a given goal is incumbent on the specificity of training sessions for that particular goal. As such, I made sure to fine-tune training factors such as speed, intensity, and equipment to center closely on competition characteristics and demand. Researchers regard the principle of specificity approach as an important element of exercise physiology. This principle states that training responses/adaptations are tightly coupled to the mode, frequency and duration of exercise performed (Hawley, 2002). Furthermore, the principle of specificity predicts that the closer the training routine is to the requirements of the desired outcome (i.e. a specific exercise task or performance criteria), the better the outcome will be.

Tip 1: Train Specific to your Training Goal (Volume, Pace, Intensity)

Training specificity is integral to success within any sport competition, test or challenge. The more specific you are in preparing for the various challenges in a competition the greater the likelihood for success. While this strategy, may seem simple and obvious we can sometimes lose sight of or forget this basic premise during the training process.

Training specificity is demonstrated through your ability to:

  • Train at competition speeds and intensity.
  • Train for competition volume.
  • Train specifically for the particular stressors or unique characteristics of an environment.
  • Train specifically with the exact type of equipment for a given competition.

IMG_1027     If training specificity is part of your training program and performed correctly, competition days should be relatively routine and contain minimal surprises. Competition is nothing more than a reflection of your rehearsals produced during your practice. As you reach your competition resist the urge to deviate from the seemingly mundane tasks of practice.  One of the largest mistakes one can make during competition is to try something new. This can occur when individuals make changes to equipment, nutrition intake, or training strategy leading up to or during competition. Ultimately, training specificity is practicing your competition before your competition. It is the ultimate way to succeed before you succeed.

Training Specificity is the ultimate way to succeed before your succeed.


Examples of strategies and Practical Applications for the “Training Specificity” Tip (based from training experience).

  1. Train in your competition gear with your competition equipment – The focus here is to eliminate as many surprises as possible and to be specific to the environment for which you train at. This mean getting our the fresh new gear you plan to wear the day of your event and practicing with it.
  2. Train at competition pace and volume – While this statement may seem a bit hackneyed it’s one that many choose to dismiss during their days of preparation. The consequences of competing at an unfamiliar pace or volume can be disastrous to performance and lead to potential injury.
  3. Train specifically to the environment of your competition – Mimicking training environments can be a challenging and sometimes impossible endeavor but it is a strategy that is sure to improve your chances of success come day of competition.

Tip 2: Compartmentalization of Training


There are of course some limitations to training specifically for a lengthy, taxing and extensive competition like Ironman. Additionally, competition volume and intensities over a period of time can result in greater risk for injury and reduced performance. Compartmentalization or implementing multiple focused sessions with varied objectives and relatively shorter durations can help to alleviate the stress associated with competition training. They also provide the opportunity to break down various parts of competition training for appraisal.

 This strategy has a number of benefits.IMG_0778

  • It allows athletes to understand various areas of strengths and weaknesses.
  • Multiple sessions implemented throughout the day also means frequent rest and recovery periods which can enable an athlete to reach greater levels of intensity for meaningful competition training while lowering risk of injuries related to training volume.

In addition, varying the training stress and/or goals can enable athletes to focus on developing a specific discipline, or applying stress to a specific region while providing rest and recovery to another utilized from a previous training session. This can be achieved through changing training factors such as exercise modalities, training intensities, and training technique.  As you vary your objectives and focus on key factors or parts of competition during training it’s important to trust the process and meet the specific goals of a given training session.

Multiple, relatively short and varied sessions allow for improved efficiency, lower incidence of injury, and greater potential for improved performance.

Tip 3: Test, Assess, to Confirm and Trust the Process.

IMG_0832     As you compartmentalize training sessions and/or focus on the specifics of your competitive event it is always important to evaluate your overall progress. You shouldn’t “trust the process” without a reappraisal method. Thus, good training requires you to focus on establishing consistent, objective means of testing. Each phase, week or training cycle should focus on establishing a test day to determine if your process can indeed be trusted. This reappraisal method is important because it can also give you both insight for developing avenues or new objectives for various measures and a platform on how to create an effective measure for improvement.

Examples of Strategies and Practical Applications for the “Test & Assess” Tip (based from training experience)

  • Listed below are several assessments which helped me to to trust the training process. Consider adding the following assessments to your training routine
  1. Bi – weekly Body Composition Assessments
  2. Bi – weekly Speed/Pace Tests –
  3. Weekly Weigh – ins
  4. Weekly Nutrition dietary Assessments


Every week or two weeks I performed assessments on factors important to my performance potential such as body composition and speed. These assessments helped me to determine if needed changes were necessary in my training program. Each area of assessment evaluated a specific objective in mind; whether it was to focus on improving or maintaining a certain amount of lean mass or decreasing completion time for a certain activity. Ultimately, by consistently measuring these factors I was able to build performance potential and confidence towards my goal.

Tip 4: Understand that Nutrition & Exercise are inseparable when it comes to Training

The most influential strategy towards improved performance potential for me resulted from the combination of exercise and nutrition. Preparation for this event reminded me of the symbiotic relationship between exercise and nutrition. When designing and/or implementing training programs these two factors of training should not be viewed as separate from one another. On the contrary, exercise and nutrition must be equally acknowledged in order to maximize training adaptations and potential. Changes to performance potential and body composition require contributions from both nutrition and exercise equally. As evidence for this statement consider the fact that nutrition responses can dramatically change in the presence or response to exercise and exercise response can dramatically change in the presence or response to various nutrition interventions. Furthermore, changes in any of these factors can greatly impact training status. Thus, it’s necessary to consider both nutrition and exercise equally when discussing training. As evidence for this relationship consider the fact that when a particular energy system is used by an individual during exercise, factors such as type and duration of exercise in concert with the consumption of certain macronutrients results in a cascade of chemical processes that tells the body how to respond. The responses that result from exercise and nutrition can influence training, body composition and ultimately performance potential.

Take for instance the responses from exercise, protein and resistance training in muscle development. Protein metabolism and synthesis depend on the demands of muscle mass and muscular activity as well as one’s ability to digest and absorb protein (Beradi, 2012). Additionally, in a 2017 study, researchers at the University of Toronto demonstrated that whey protein supplementation enhances whole body anabolism or growth, and may improve acute recovery of exercise performance after a strenuous bout of resistance exercise. These researchers demonstrated that a form of nutrition intervention combined with exercise can support potentially greater training adaptations through an enhancement of whole body net protein balance. This combination of exercise and nutrition can result in greater training quality and volume due to a more rapid recovery of exercise performance (West, Sawan, Mazzulla, Williamson & Moore, 2017).

As part of my training preparation, I was particularly mindful of protein intake in efforts to maintain a positive balance of protein intake in order to “protect” lean mass and to ensure the process of muscle growth and repair.  This nutrition intervention in response to exercise is a prime example of how we must regard exercise and nutrition within the same scope. In order to achieve favorable training responses, these factors are both necessary and equally important components.

This effect can also be seen in the training responses when exercise is combined with carbohydrate manipulation.  Carbohydrate loading or muscle glycogen “super compensation” for improved performance is another example where the combination of exercise and nutrition results in a training adaptation designed to improve performance. This particular strategy was first discovered by Scandinavian researchers in the 1960’s (Hackney, 2017). Super compensation involves a loading process over the course of 6 days. The process begins with a glycogen or carbohydrate depleting exercise followed by 3 days of a low carbohydrate diet and then 3 days of a high carbohydrate diet. The result of performing this procedure has been shown to substantially increase muscle glycogen levels during competition followed by producing a positive ergogenic effect on exercise performance in sporting events lasting longer than 90 minutes in duration (Hackney, 2017).  This training strategy requires the interaction of nutrition and exercise in order to produce a positive performance outcome. Training is required to deplete glycogen levels and the manipulation of carbohydrates is needed to rebuild carbohydrate stores for greater use during competition.

Nutrition and exercise can elicit a positive training response even during conditions when nutrition intake is purposely limited or eliminated under certain exercise conditions. Consider the impact of fasted cardio to fat and carbohydrate utilization. Researchers have demonstrated that chronic training in a fasted state may improve the body’s ability to use fats as a fuel source while also helping to stabilize blood sugar levels. In addition, the action of performing exercise in a fasted state may help to improve muscle glycogen post training. Ultimately, the combination of exercise and nutritional interventions results in the ability to improve the performance potential through improved fuel needs and/or improving factors related to body composition (Watson, 2016)

In highlighting the three aforementioned exercise and nutrition scenarios utilizing three different macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) I hope to demonstrate the strong relationship between nutrition interventions, exercise and the potentially adaptive response on training for improved body composition and performance potential.

Examples of Strategies and Practical Applications for the “Nutrition + Exercise” Tip (based from training experience)

  1. Fasted Cardio – During the final month of training as my volume of exercise begins to decrease, I begin to incorporate fasted cardio sessions as well as low carbohydrate/ high fat meals to help improve body composition, improve fat utilization during moderate intense exercise and to set the stage for glycogen super compensation.
  2. Glycogen Super-compensation – A week prior to competition my days are filled with relatively short intense pace sessions with a relatively low Carb/high fat diet during the first three days and a steady incorporation of high carb meals 3 days priors to competition.
  3. Protein Recovery Shakes paired with Training Sessions – Each of my training sessions is followed by the consumption of a complete protein. This is perhaps the easiest training intervention to incorporate and can potentially be the most effective training strategy towards improving body composition, decreasing negative factors associated with stress and enhancing athletic potential.


 Tip 5: Nutrition Planning, Periodization and Customization

If one can except that nutrition and exercise are inseparable concepts then the idea of nutrition planning, periodization and customization become easier to grasp. Nutrition planning, periodization, and customization simply translate to having a training plan, training periodization, and training customization. As athletes approach competition dates various changes are made to both training and nutritional factors to help facilitate improvement in both body composition and performance potential. Nutrition periodization or simply “periodization” is a strategic construction of periods or phases with various objectives regarding both exercise and nutrition. These objectives can center on phases designed to improve strength, mass or focus on periods of relatively high-intensity sessions or low-intensity sessions. Planning, periodizing and customization requires athletes to both understand the demands of the exercise session and the appropriate macronutrients for a particular training response. Regardless, the success of these three factors all rest on the following nutrition factors.

  1. Athletes must have the energy to train optimally
  2. Athletes should focus on nutrient-rich foods  
  3. Provide a resource for recovery from stressful activity
  4. Help to reach or maintain body composition weight goals

For more on meal planning and nutrition periodization please visit the following website . 

or check out the video below:

The strategies provided in this post are the result of repeated attempts at improving performance. They are the avenues for which I have selected to improve in athletic potential, body composition and to reach the always fleeting platform of success. As I undertake this next task I am confident they will allow me to surpass previous levels of performance and will provide you with direction and tools to surpass your next challenge.


Berardi, J. M. (2012). Precision nutrition. Toronto: Precision Nutrition, Inc.

Hackney, AC. Human performance enhancement in sports and exercise: nutritional factors – carbohydrate and luids. Revista Universitaria de la Educación Física y el Deporte. 1(1): 27-31 (2008).

Hawley, J. A. (2008). Specificity of training adaptation: time for a rethink? The Journal of Physiology586(Pt 1), 1–2.

Watson, R. R., & Meester, F. D. (2016). Handbook of lipids in human function: fatty acids. Amsterdam: Elsevier/AOCS Press/Academic Press.

West, D., Sawan, S. A., Mazzulla, M., Williamson, E., & Moore, D. (2017). Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study. Nutrients, 9(7), 735. 

DLLDan Liburd is in his ninth season as a NFL Strength and Conditioning Coach. Liburd has experience in designing, implementing and supervising Strength and conditioning programs for various athletic populations. Liburd also has experience in designing and overseeing team nutrition and dietary programs. Liburd is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who earned a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Boston University, A Master’s of Science from Canisius College in Health and Human Performance and is currently working towards a Phd in Health and Human Performance at Concordia University Chicago. Liburd has worked with several professional teams such as the Buffalo Bills and held various positions in Collegiate Strength and Conditioning programs. He has worked with the Boston University Terriers, Springfield College Pride, American College Yellow Jackets and held positions at Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning as well as Peak Performance Physical Therapy. For more articles please checkout

100% Orange Juice (and some added sugar)

The next time you enter a grocery store I want you to participate in an observation exercise.  Take a look at the amount of macronutrient resources that are displayed to the average consumer and make note of the difference in availability among these macronutrients. In particular, pay attention to the convenient reach of carbohydrate resources compared to protein and/or fat resources.  Continue this observation exercise by making note of the availability of whole grain carbohydrates as compared to refine carbohydrates.  Try this observation exercise next time you visit a school cafeteria, convenience store, waiting room, or service area.  It would seem to any unassuming consumer or foreigner as if the world’s most abundant and readily available food resource of refined sugar is the most important resource to consume.

Consider the ubiquitous nature of sugar laden beverages which often layer the shelves and counter tops along grocery stores and restaurants.  We must also mention the energy bars, candy bars and sticks of gum that line the register aisles, tempting you once more before you leave.  It’s no wonder that we often stigmatize carbohydrates as the source of disease, obesity and even death. Today, we often view carbohydrates in low regard.  Despite our understanding of carbohydrates as an important resource for fuel, cognition and it’s measurable influence on hormones and overall body function, we often place blame on carbohydrates as the culprit for various maladies and body composition blunders. Instead, we should shift our scorn and/or attention to its ease in availability rather than its overall function.   Sugar additives are ubiquitous in our diet and largely available to many different populations, especially those that are already negatively impacted by a decline in total physical activity. To improve the health standard it is important that we diminish the availability of sugar additives to prevent against excess caloric intake, weight gain and disease that can often result from over-consumption.

It is startling to know that more than 95% sugars in the US diet are added to foods and beverages by manufacturers.  Consider, the physical work our ancestors went through to consume calories. Our health and longevity is built on a physiology that promotes physical work and modest consumption of whole, nutrient dense macronutrients in a fairly balance manner.  Dietary guidelines suggest a ratio of 45% to 60% of daily intake to be in the form of carbohydrate.  However, with the omnipresent nature of added sugar there should be no surprise that the percentage of carbohydrate consumption can often be higher than recommend for the average person.  By adding unnecessary sugars in beverages and foods we can limit the unnecessary results that come with it – namely death and disease.

Below is an example of a drink that members at work often consume despite the added sugar within it.  It took 15 packets of sugar for me to reach the number of grams listed on the nutrition label.  The nutrition facts are a bit deceptive as well. While the serving size is 8 fluid oz with an associated 22 grams of sugar per serving, the bottle is just below 16 oz which results in 42 grams of sugar per bottle.

100% Orange Juice

Stay Lean Breakfast Choice: Egg white chicken veggie omelet with extra veggies

2 weeks left as I attempt to lower my body fat levels to 5% by following the stay lean principles. Get rid of the pop tart because today’s stay lean breakfast choice calls for an egg white omelet inundated with chicken strips and assorted vegetables with a side of guacamole. Let me explain why this stay lean breakfast choice is a key choice for improving body composition while also delivering energy and important nutrients that you need to last through your day and recover from today’s workout.

Stay lean principle 2: Search for the lean protein first. It might be the key to long lasting energy.

Remember the foundation of your plate includes a lean source of protein. The boneless skin free chicken breast strips in this meal is packed with vitamins such as niacin and vitamin B6. These vitamins are important in helping to deliver important energy to support a healthy metabolism. Niacin is a key vitamin in the conversion of nutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and fats into usable energy. These key ingredients also make chicken one of the best sources to regulate blood sugar throughout the day. So when you find yourself head bobbing to the highs and lows of your glucose level at your 11:00 am staff meeting it’s probably time to reconsider your breakfast choice. Think about adding chicken next time.

Stay lean principle 3: Adorn your plate with fruits and vegetables. Just another way to strengthen your bones

Going green is the key to stay lean. If theres one thing you cant get enough when eating clean and staying lean it’s your veggies. The broccoli in this stay lean choice is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin C. Vitamin C helps the body to absorb calcium making this an excellent resource for a dynamic duo of nutrients that helps keep the lean mass high. Furthermore, the calories contained in a cup of broccoli is less than 50 calories making this vegetable a prime resource for mucho nutrients without the extra calories. Just another reason why including this vegetable in your meal can keep your fat mass at bay.

Stay lean principle 4: Add a healthy fat to add nutrient power.

The avocado in this meal is the perfect add on for both taste and function. Simply adding a healthy fat such as avocado to your salsa mix or veggie omelet can vastly increased your body’s absorption of nutrients from your colorful vegetable filled plate. Researchers at Ohio state university demonstrated that the healthy fats in an avocado can be an effective vehicle for the transportation of carotenoids or the antioxidants that are responsible for the color in your vegetables. Certain carotenoids such as beta carotene ( important for growth, vision and immune function) can be absorbed at a rate that is up to 15 times the normal rate of absorption when avocado is present as compared to an avocado free veggie plate. Takeaway: whenever possible add an avocado to give your plate and your body a boost

Simply executing these three simple principles every morning will help me keep the lean, shed the fat and help me reach my goal of 5% body fat by the end of August. Keep it simple, keep it lean and keep it green.

Stay lean Recipe: Egg White Veggie Chicken omelet with guacamole

8 oz egg whites
2 oz diced chicken
6 oz chopped broccoli spears
3 oz guacamole
2 oz chopped tomato

Calories: 422 kcal
Carbs: 25 g
Protein: 58 g
Fat: 17 g
Fiber: 12.70 g


30 minutes of stair climber work needed to burn this meal
Equal in calories to 1 mini banana cream blizzard with an eighth of the sugar intake

5 habits to help you control your calorie intake

5 simple ways to control your caloric intake 

I’m down here vacationing in Mississippi and the idea for this blog occurred to me as I jogged through the streets of Starkville filled with fast food eateries and the like. Sonic, Christy’s Hamburger, Bojangles are common sites along  Mississippi 12. For the average individual looking to make good decisions navigating through theses streets can be stressful.  Here’s a suggestion: find the nearest Piggly Wiggly grocery store, shop for the essentials and follow these next 5 habits.

Prepare less 

Yes. This means when cooking your delicious quinoa, spinach and ground turkey consider preparing a meal for just one person and just one day.  Despite the rich nutrients offered in this meal, too much of it can ruin your goals of improved body composition and fat loss.  Preparing less also eliminates the chance of second helpings which can quickly turn into third and fourth helpings when the meals are especially tasty.

Smaller plates

The most common setback I see in many of my athletes/clients is large infrequent meals throughout the day. It is perhaps one of the most destructive habits to your metabolic function.  And It also happens to be one of the most difficult habits to kick. Outside of activity and nutrients healthy function is reliant on frequent ( about 5 -7) consumption of meals of moderate sized (depending on your needs and goals).  An easy way of increasing your meal frequency and controlling your intake is plate size.  If your goals are fat loss consider scaling down on your plate size.  Simply prepare your meal and divide the portions to fit on two smaller plates or containers. A meal for now and the other meal for later ( about 2-3 hours later).

Buy less and keep it simple

Healthy practices generally start outside the home.  Poor choices made in the home are usually the result of inappropriate choices made at the grocery aisle.  When your goal is to control caloric intake then eating less (in addition to smarter choices) is generally considered to be the most appropriate behavior.  How do you eat less? Well the first step may be to eliminate the “excess” at home and keep your shopping relegated to the necessary food items. Having less options at home can result in less temptation to go overboard during meals.  Here are some quick tips to keep yourself to the necessities instead of the excess.

  • Consider shopping for the week instead of shopping for the month to help curb the excess.
  • Keep yourself on a budget. (example: I will not spend more than 75$ this week on my nutrient filled, calorie controlled groceries).
  •  When idling around in the grocery aisle ask yourself the following questions before you put it in your cart
  1. Is it a lean source of protein?
  2. Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable?
  3. Is it  considered to be high in omega 3 fat?
  4. Is it relatively high in fiber?
  5. Is it low in sugar content?
  6. Does it have less than three or four items in the ingredients list?
  7. Is it low in calories per serving size?

Drink water

Do me a favor open your refrigerator door and ask yourself how many of your beverage options would you consider to be calorie less, nutrient rich and additive free?   Hey and just because it has some fruit in the ingredients list doesn’t make it an acceptable or nutritious beverage.  When it comes to beverages your best bet is make it yourself. This way you get to control the sugar content of your meals.  Don’t be fooled by the hype. Beverage companies do a great job of researching trends and adding ingredients to suit your palette without much concern for your body composition goals or health.  Your best bet is to create your own beverages using one simple rule: add minimal to no sugar ( this includes additives such as aspartame and sucralose). Keep it simple.

Best Bet’s

  1. Water with Lemon
  2. Water with Green Tea
  3. Homemade Orange Juice

Eat slower and prepare your meals to go

Think nibble instead of gulp.  Consider the quality of food rather than the quantity.  It may be wise to engage in other activities that may provide an appropriate cadency of fork to plate to your mouth. Eating slower will enable hormones such as cholecystokinin (CCK) and leptin to effectively send signals to your brain to indicate you are full. Quick consumption of food items may result in a lag  in your body’s chemical messaging system allowing you to consume more calories than you need to feel full. However, in some cases this eating habit may not be enough to curb your hunger pangs.  In these situations it’s best to prepare your meals to go and get out of the kitchen! For those of you who are accustomed to second helpings this might be the best solution to controlling your caloric intake. Grab your meal and head out for a long walk away from the kitchen or cafeteria.