Establishing a schedule plan is one of the most important aspects in developing a strength and conditioning system. In many ways the schedule is reflective of the program’s objectives, style and potential. In particular, the training schedule denotes a plan for when, where and why certain stressors will be applied over the course of a fixed period. It also contains a key a factor for performance development – Consistency.
Consistency, or the application of a task for accuracy is arguably the most important component of a successful performance program outside of the obvious fundamentals such as “do no harm” and “apply a stress for adaptation also known as the GAS principle”. The repeated application of a given task such as performance training can be a challenging endeavor to implement when we must consider the wide variety of challenges, obstacles that come with a given setting or environment, a person or team and the various related tasks of life.
Nonetheless, having a plan or approach to schedule design is one of the first steps to designing a program – Especially a resistance and performance training program.
The Jade progression represents a framework for a training schedule or program design. Specifically, the Jade progression reflects a construct for implementing upper extremity and lower extremity stressors or training resources for performance improvement. This fundamental schedule design in performance training or programing is perhaps one of the most widely used methods for implementing stress to an athlete to create appropriate adaptive responses in a comprehensive manner. The center point of this schedule design is simple when we look at human function as an expression of upper body movements and lower body movements.
This vision gives precedence to the idea that the application of an adaptive stress which targets upper body movements and/or lower body movements will improve performance to those areas and ultimately to human function. Therefore, in order to improve human function and performance we must create a plan that targets the upper body and lower body.
Furthermore, if we acknowledge that recovery and efficiency are necessary factors for improving performance quickly and completely within a given period of time, then the most obvious step is to schedule a program which targets the upper body on one day and the lower body day on the following day (or vice-versa). This approach to training or program design is otherwise understood as the upper lower training split or the” Jade” progression.
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.
In 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). This 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. In 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’. During 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). 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).
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.
In 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.
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.
In 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.
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).
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.
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
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
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.
Body 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).
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.
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.
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.
Interestingly, 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.
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 ofp< 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 ofp< 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 ofP< 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
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 inthe 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).
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 andpath 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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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.
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
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.
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.
In sports,extraordinary behavior (or the action that separates oneself from the ordinary) is popularly displayed as an athlete’s ability to triumph through pain. The image of professional baseball pitcher Curt Schilling at the mound with a bloody sock, or thepicture of Olympic Gymnast Kerri Strung’s wincing in pain while striking a pose moments after a heroic leg breaking performance reflect our obsession with individuals overcoming challenges and succeeding in spite of physical pain.These monumental figures defy ordinary and embody an old simple societal saying – “No pain, No Gain”.The value we place on these images shows that we are not only proud supporters but attracted to the maxim “No pain, No gain”.No other sport reflects this widely touted cliche better than American Football.
Gold Medalist and Gymnast Kerri Strung definitely knows the motto “No Pain, No Gain”
Football after all is a physical sport characterized by individuals running with enough speed and producing enough force to inflict bone breaking consequences to one another. As fans interested in extraordinary individuals triumphing through pain we are heavily attracted to the sport of Football. In fact,according to the Harris poll Professional Football is widely considered America’s number one sport (Poll, 2016).However, the extraordinary displays of physically painful and triumphant episodes that imbues the sport we all love is also a large threat to it’s continued success. Every step one gains in the sport of football often leaves apainful and palpable reminder of its physicality. This pain is generally reflected in the form of injury. For the sport of football and the athleteswithin it, for which we cheer and support, this injurious environment is a serious problem with long term consequences. The rate of injury has continued to raise eyebrows especially in the year 2017 as it has claimed many of the NFL’s most notable Football stars (Gagnon, B., (2017).
It is difficult to ascertain the rate of injury in professional football. However, in a 2009 study,The NCAA reported an injury rate of 8.1 injuries per 1,000 athlete exposures (games and practices combined) in collegiate football. Researchers reported that just five years of football amassed over 40,000 injuries from 25 million athlete exposures.Theseinvestigators also demonstrated that the injury rate was likely to be the highest at the onset of football or during preseason activity (NCAA, 2009).
Giants star receiver suffers season ending injury during the In-season football phase. 2017 – 2018 has claimed many of the NFL’s most notable Football stars
In this study,the preseasonphase (period where football athletes begin to prepare for competitive play) reflected an injury rateof 9.7 episodes per 1,000 athlete exposures. In addition, theIn – seasonphase (football period where football athletes compete in competitive play) showed aninjury rate of 7.5 episodes per 1000 athlete exposures (NCAA,2009).So as football athletes prepare for the competitive season during the In – season and preseason periods there is a notable prevalence ofinjury and corresponding increase in pain that occurs.
One of the most important steps you can take in preventing, limiting or managing pain and injury is treating muscle and myofascial tissue by targeting myofascial trigger points.
While those who fandom sport, often champion athletes who gain and succeed in spite of pain and injury during competitive sport, movement specialists, trainers strength and conditioning coaches or thoseinterested in the preserving the health of athletes generally admonish against the occurrence of pain and injury for athletic success.Instead, these athletic caretakers are more interested in scenarios where athletes are able to display their full potential without injury or pain.
This focus reflects the objective of the movement specialists, trainers and performance coaches who recognize the pain and injury that take place during the preparatory and regular phase of competitive football.
Movement and Performance Specialists who work with athletes during competitive play understand the importance of training and treatment methods that can help prevent, limit or effectively manage the occurrence of pain /injury in sport.
In other words, those individuals who work with athletes during competitive play understand the importance of training and treatment methods that can help prevent, limit or effectively manage the occurrence of pain and injury in sport. This objective is not only an important measure for improving the potential for athletic success but also a necessary step in protecting the appeal and the integrity of sport – especially American Football.
Movement specialists who work with athletes during the competitive season acknowledge that one of the most important steps they can take in preventing, limiting or managing pain and injury is treating muscle and myofascial tissue by targeting myofascial trigger points.Through this approach, movement specialists and performance coaches can help to improve movement potential, limit pain while also boosting athletic gains.
Limitation to movement can result from pain and/or mobility restrictions that are associated with the occurrence of myofascial trigger points. Researchers Simons, Travell, and Simons’ defined the myofascialtrigger point (MFTrP) as “…a hyper-irritable spot in skeletal muscle that is associated with a hypersensitive palpable nodule in a taut band (Mcpartland, Simons, 2006). This trigger point can also be present in muscle fascia or the”connective tissue network” that interconnects throughout the entire body. The myofascial trigger point can be caused or activated by a number of methods including acute or chronic injury to a muscle, tendon, ligament, joint, disc or nerve. (Simons, 2002).However, of these methods the most commonis trauma to the muscle. This trauma maybe a direct injury to the muscle (such as a contusion or bruise) or as the result of an indirect injury such as muscle overload during prolonged poor posture (Resteghini, 2006).
The result of trauma to tissue can result in the formation of hyperirritable spots or adhesions that occur most frequently under the skin within the fascia layers. These spots can also occur within cell membranes, intracellularly, in and on muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, organs and elsewhere. In all cases, they involve a hardening, toughening or fibrosis of the body tissues. When viewed under a microscope, they appear as “relatively large, rounded, darkly staining muscle fibers (McPartland & Simmons, 2006) .
The manifestation of trigger points can result in structural changes of muscle tissue by significantly increasing the diameter of a muscle fiber. Trigger points may result in tightness and shortening of the involved muscle resulting in a restricted range of stretch as well as an increased sensitivity to stretch (Resteghini, 2006).In addition to structural changes, trigger points can disrupt tissue function. Authors note that a muscle with a trigger point may display weakness as well as pain (Resteghini, 2006).This characteristic is one of themany reasons why the presence of myofascial trigger points represents an impediment to mobility, flexibility, efficiency, muscle function or factors integral to athletic success. The threat of trigger points to an athlete’s movement and performance potential should be a concern as well as a method of approach for movement and performance specialists.To understand why it is important to revisit the three pillars for which athletic potential s built upon or movement quality, physical capacity and athletic skill.
Movement quality or the ability to move well is considered to be an important requisite for physical capacity and the ability to display athletic skill.understanding the relative differences between these three factors for athletic success can provide further insight to the relationship of myofasical trigger pointsto movement and athletic potential.
Movement quality or the ability to move well is considered to be an important requisite for physical capacity and the ability to display athletic skill.
Think of movement quality as the ability to get into a good low depth squat position.Understanding an individuals limitation in a squat movement can involve movement specialists asking questions like“Is the inability to produce alow squatdue to structural limitations, learned behavior or soft tissue restrictions?or “is a squat limiting mobility restriction of a particular jointcaused by past injuries/muscle length issues or tissue adhesions.
Physical capacity represents the amount one can squat and or the power generated. Quality of movement can impact physical capacity by diminishing the potential range for producing or absorbing force. Thus, physical capacity is said to rest on an individual’s movement potential.
Quality of movement can impact physical capacity by diminishing the potential range for producing or absorbing force
Skill training is recognized as the ability to display sport technique. It can be recognize in a variety of ways such as the quality of evasiveness during a game, the ability to run a route, block or get out of a particular stance. Skill can be influenced by an athletes ability to move well (movement quality) and produce force (physical capacity).
Leading movement experts note that when it comes to training athlete movement quality must be acknowledge in order to produce a measurable impact on physical capacity, skill and athletic potential (Cook 2010). In other words any limitation in movement capacity is a limitation to athletic potential. Hence, the deficiencies, dysfunctions or mobility issues that result or threaten the limitations of our athlete’s movement ability should be a chief priority in our training objective if we wish to improve our athlete’s sport performance abilities.
As movement and performance specialist our focus should aim to correct those factors ahead of or in conjunction with training thatcenters on our athlete’s physical capacity or skill. This understanding provides a framework for our approach to the football inseason, or a period marked with a relative increase injury/pain and as well as a corresponding presence of myofascial trigger points.This heightened focus on diminishing pain inducing and movement restricting factors such as trigger points during the in season can help provide or maintain clear perception and behavior and better motor control for our football athletes. This strategy can help both the athlete and the sport of football to make great gains with little to no pain – A motto that I can certainly support.
Dan 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 his Bachelor degree in Exercise Science from Boston University. He has a Master of Science degree from Canisius College in Health and Human Performance and is currently working towards his Ph.D. in Health and Human Performance at Concordia University Chicago. Liburd holds a variety of certifications in Health and Sport Nutrition, Olympic Weight Lifting and Movement Assessment. These certifications include Precision Nutrition Level I and Level II as well as USA Weightlifting and Functional Movement Systems. Liburd also has a great deal of experience in Health, Fitness and Sport Strength and Conditioning. Liburd has worked 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.
If you’re in the business ofcompetitive athletics, physique fitness, or movement related performance you’re often looking for that “extra ” edge in physical ability. “Extra” is the qualifier that athletes, trainers and those of us interested in improving athletic potential often use in front of the work or action we believe will get us to this fleeting destination.Inthe competitive environment of professional football “extra””is regularly dispelled as the best strategy for making neededperformance gains. Ubiquitous in its use and constantly and casually strung next tothe various paths for performance success,the word “extra” seems more like a requirement than an option at the professional level.
“ Hey Dan, I need some “extra’ footwork drills after practice today so i can be better at my position.or “Dan is there any extra nutrition advice you might have that can help me to recover.” “Dan, what’s some extra work i can do to be better.”
It seemsthat athletes recognize the value of “extra” as an essential piece for reaching excellence and the same can be said of coaches who oversee these athletes. Jimmy Johnson, popular and successful American football broadcaster, player, coach, and executive once said “the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary is the little extra.”
Hence, it’s no surprise that we want to spend more time performing a greater amount of the actions we believe to be integral to our goal or performance success (as an athlete) or that of our athletes (As a coach). For coaches and athletes who’s livelihoodand careers rest on the ability of one to run, jump, and change direction, “extra” work can seem like commission work for their career.
The approach to this workoften center’s on the“ more is better” ideology.It’sa sentiment that has been expressed since the 14th century and suggests that when people value something they believe more is better than less. Through these lens, one might believe that the majority of work in sports performance preparation should be spent on physical training. However the reality is that physical training can sometimes denote a smaller piece of the successful sport preparation pie when compared to the piece formed through our vision, thoughts and program expectations.
Envision a sports performance preparation pie that includes a variety of pieces that are intended to aid in sport performance success.How much of your pie is devoted to factors such as physical preparation, recovery, nutrition, study, rest. The size of pie devotedto improving physical capacity may be relatively lower than our expectations. Instead, success may require that we center a greater portion of our efforts and time onperformance determining factors such as film study, skill related actives, and recovery factors such as pain management and the reestablishment of lost mobility.
Extra work is the relative additions we make to those pieces of athletic success pie. More can be better but it usually comes at a cost. Our role as trainers is to be cost effective.If were adding to one piece we must acknowledge that were taking away from another. In today’s highly competitive and physical climate, extra work and cost effective strategies for athletic success might come through our efforts in mitigating the challenges that athletes often strugglewith through the course of a season. These obstacles include pain management, the degradation of tissue quality and reclaiming lost mobility. Strategies which attack these challenges in the form of extra work can be fundamental to improving physical capacity but also improving the efficiencyof the athlete. These simple strategies can be the extra work that turns ordinary athletes into extraordinary performers.
Today, the New England Patriots play the Oakland Raiders. This game is important for many reasons. First, this is a matchup between two American Football Conference Power houses. As such, there are playoff implications for both teams. A win for the Patriots (with a record of 7 win and 2 losses) provides them a greater edge toward a top seed in the playoffs. On the contrary, a win for the (4 and 5) Oakland Raiders is needed to improve their chances for a playoff berth this season.
This game is also important because of the setting. NFL athletes will be competing in Mexico City. There are monumental growth and financial implications for the NFL as it reaches for a greater market pull in the country of Mexico. As the NFL continues to take steps to grow the highly marketable and lucrative sport of American football to foreign audiences we will continue to see the exposure of NFL athletes to relatively new environments.
It is for this reason, however, that today’s game has a whole different meaning for Sports scientists, Coaches and NFL athletes or those interested in the boundaries of athletic performance. People from various parts of the the world will witness a matchup between elite football athletes in a high-altitude environment. Mexico City’s elevation sits at 7,382 feet above sea level. That’s about 1.3 miles higher elevation than Foxboro, Massachusetts ( The home and training facility of the New England Patriots) and about 1.4 miles higher than Alameda, California ( The home and training facility of the Oakland, Raiders). These changes in altitude environment have big league ramifications for the potential competition performance of big name teams in America’s biggest league.
Mexico City’s elevation sits at 7,382 feet above sea level. That’s about 1.3 miles higher elevation than Foxboro, Massachusetts and about 1.4 miles higher than Alameda, California.
Sport competitions in Mexico City is of great interest to many who study sport science. Mexico City is recorded to be 2240 meters above sea level. This elevation is recognized by the scientific community as moderate altitude and has many implications to competitive athletes. In fact, the scientific discovery of potential physiological adaptations due to variations in altitude environments and their influence to competition and training in elite athletes was popularized after the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Dr. McLean notes that results from the 1968 Mexico City Olympics suggested that competing at altitude made competition more difficult for certain athletes. In fact, the differences in performance at altitude led many researchers to investigate the cause of these changes, as well as strategies to overcome the limitations associated with this environment (McLean, 2014).
The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City would immediately lead to an explosion of research in the field of altitude training (also known as hypoxic training). In 1967, researchers first noted that Vo2 Max ( an indicator of endurance potential) reduced 1% for every 100 meter ascended above 1500 meters (Buskirk et al., 1967). In 1971, researchers from the University of California demonstrated that highly trained endurance athletes appear to be handicapped “ to an unusual extent” at altitude compared to lesser trained individuals (Dill & Adams, 1971). Years later scientist would discover various protocols that provide a boost to factors of performance as a result of the manipulation of altitude. So what does this mean for the Patriots and Raiders competing today in Mexico City? One notable implication centers on aerobic potential. Scientific research suggests that both the athletes for the Patriots and Raiders will see a 7% drop in their endurance potential as a result of exposure to the moderate altitude environment of Mexico City (Buskirk et al., 1967).
Many will argue that the endurance demands of the largely anaerobic centered sport of Football is dissimilar to that of elite endurance activities. And thus, the litany of research findings on endurance limitations associated with altitude elevations such as that of Mexico City may be limited in application to the sport of American Football. However these limitations, do not explain the potential impact of elevation to team and/or anaerobic sports and certainly do not limit the lengths at which teams and/or organizations will go to prepare for competitions that take place at elevation.
Consider, the fact that the New England Patriots have been practicing all week at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado (which has an altitude elevation of 1,840 meters) in preparation for their matchup in Mexico City. Interestingly, Mexico City is still four football fields higher in altitude or an elevation of 400 meters above Colorado Springs.
In a sport where, athletes only play for an average of 11 minutes a game for a maximum of 20 Games throughout the year, preparation is of the highest importance for ultimate success. Thus, it should come as no surprise that teams are largely taking the setting of this matchup seriously. In this blog post or Part 3 of “Living High and “Training Low” and implications for the NFL – A Proposal for Altitude Training Interventions in American Football” we will learn of the various factors that can potentially impact play between NFL teams in Mexico City and learn of various strategies that can help athletes prepare for these conditions. This game can potentially serve as foundation for various altitude intervention techniques which can help improve performance potential of athletes in the NFL. Our continued understanding of altitude training can provide the construct for a proposed resource that can enable athletes to benefit from elevation environments such as Mexico City. In the end, we may begin to view this Mexico city NFL matchup as much more than, a game with playoff repercussions or a marketing and financial opportunity for the NFL but also as evidence for a resource to improve performance potential and opportunities for team sport athletes such as those in the NFL.
As you sit down to watch this game between the Raiders and Patriots, it’s important to realize that this isn’t just any other NFL Football game. You could center on any of the normal NFL story lines, like Marshawn Lynch’s beastly performance after a return from retirement or Tom Brady’s incredible evasiveness from factors that would warrant retirement. Instead, you should consider the competition environment of these two dueling teams. Consider the fact that sprint athletes are estimated to be 1.7% faster at moderate elevation than they would otherwise have been if they ran at sea level (Ward-Smith, 1984). After the Mexico City Olympics researchers determined that sprinter times in the 100 meter, 200 meter and 400 meter events at the Mexico Olympics were approximately 1.7% lower than they would otherwise have been if the races had been run at sea level (Ward-Smith, 1984). This change in performance was attributed to the lower air resistance associated with higher elevation (Ward-Smith, 1984). This lowered air resistance occurs from the fact that air density reduces by about 10% for every 1000 meter increase in altitude.
The ascent in elevation to a location such as Mexico City produces relative changes in air density and resistance which results in various changes to both physical performance and player behavior such as sprint movement characteristics and velocity (Girard et al., 2013). It should be noted however, that this potential improvement in sprint performance potential can be offset by the increased metabolic challenges associated with arterial oxygen availability at altitude elevation. The ability for NFL players to repeat high sprint speeds, common to the sport, is likely to be diminished by the reduction in arterial oxygen saturation (oxygen consumption) associated with altitude elevation. This limitation in exercise performance can also rise as intensity increases (Clark et al., 2007). In other words, the thin air common to the elevation of Mexico City is likely to provide lower air resistance allowing players to potentially reach higher speeds. However the reduced oxygen consumption associated with the thin air will likely limit speed and performance potential as a result of the elevation-causing deficiencies to cardiorespiratory system and muscle function.
“The thin air common to the elevation of Mexico City is likely to provide lower air resistance allowing players to potentially reach higher speeds.”
Nonetheless, If we play close attention to the speed analysis of this NFL game measured by zebra sports speed data we may notice higher absolute speeds within this match up in Mexico city. Pay close attention to the reported speeds of New England players (Jonathan Jones, Brandon Cooks, Matthew Slater, and Phillip Dorsett) and Oakland Players (Jalen Richard, TJ Carrie, Amari Cooper, Cordarelle Patterson), who in addition to their roles on offense or defense also have high velocity roles on special teams such as punt and kick off where players are more likely to reach top speeds for a relatively longer duration in open space.
In addition to the speed of players, the altitude of Mexico City is likely to affect the flight time and characteristics of the football. Researchers note that the decrease in air density associated with increasing altitude also results in changes in the drag and lift forces acting on flying objects such as a football (Girard et al, 2013). In other words, the thin air associated with the altitude elevation of Mexico City is likely to result in increased flight time of the football. Assuming the footballs are properly inflated, pay close attention to it’s flight characteristics during punts, kickoffs and even deep downfield throws. These characteristics may even play into the potential strategical use of kickers. Elevation changes and the increased flight potential of the football may result in Oakland Raiders Kicker Giorgio Tavecchio or New England Patriots Kicker Stephen Gostkowski hitting far longer kicks than they are normally accustomed to. The same can be said for punters.
As such, we should keep an eye out for Patriots Punter Ryan Allen and/or Raiders Punter Marquette King who is on par to break an NFL Punting record. King is is currently averaging 52.6 yards per punt with a net average of 47.5 yards per punt. Should he maintain this pace for the rest of the season, it will be the greatest season both in gross punt average and net average in NFL history (Damiean, 2017).
With all these events taking place also keep in mind of the individual variations of responses to altitude elevation exposure in athletes. Athletes have reported a wide range of negative responses when acutely exposed to moderate altitude elevations. These responses include higher physiological stress as well as negative impacts to sport specific decision making and perception of well-being (Girard et al., 2013). In addition, athletes have also reported exacerbated fatigue levels as a result of moderate altitude exposure (Bartholomew et al, 1999).
These potential responses to altitude elevation begs the question. What is the best way to prepare for a NFL game in Mexico City? After all, there’s a lot at stake for just 11 minutes of football play – especially if your team is looking to improve or searching for a spot in the playoffs. Authors largely agree that suitable strategies to maximize physiological acclimatization should last 3–7 days for low altitude environments (500–2000 m), 1–2 weeks, for moderate altitude (2000–3000 m) and at least 2 weeks if possible for high altitude (>3000 m) (Girard et al., 2013). Thus, It seems that the New England Patriots are justified for spending 8 Days in elevation in preparation for their Mexico City Match up against the Oakland Raiders.
In fact, this approach to performance is not only a great way to improve preparation for competition at altitude but can result in a new and effective means of eliciting physiological benefits associated with aerobic performance before and/or during an NFL in season. This past training camp I investigated training camps across the NFL looking for teams that employed the use of altitude training as a method of preparation for their In season competition. In particular, I looked for sea level dwelling teams that used Training Camp locations situated at moderate altitude for the purposes of eliciting a physiological performance benefit for their athletes. I was surprised to find that there were no teams that used training camp as a means of manipulation of altitude for potential physiological benefit. This discovery did not stop me from wondering about the potential for such a resource in the NFL. Similar to the limited manner in which the Patriots used the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Teams from all over the NFL could provide their athletes a beneficial physiological adaptation that results from living at high altitude by spending up to four weeks at a location of moderate altitude. Researchers largely agree that three to four weeks is the minimum amount of time to elicit the red blood cell changes that occur in response to “living high” or at altitudes greater than 2000 meters above sea level. However as we learned in “Living High and “Training Low” and implications for the NFL – A Proposal for Altitude Training Interventions in American Football” – Part 2 duration at moderate altitude is just one part of the equation for athletes looking to gain an edge in performance. The ability to train low or at sea level is also of great importance.
Thus, a location within the US that enables a team to logistically live high or to hold various football operations such as meetings, study, dining along with room and board at moderate elevation (2000 to 3000 meters) with easy and relative quick transport to practice and training facilities at sea level (0 – 1000 meters) would produce the most favorable conditions for eliciting the hematological physiological adaptations that allows endurance athletes to gain a performance edge in endurance sports as well as the non – hematological adaptations that can help boost performances in repeat sprint sports.
The goal of providing both forms of altitude intervention however is no easy task. It would require transportation that could quickly transport a large group of athletes a distance of 1.4 miles in elevation relatively quickly, safely, daily and consistently throughout the course of a 4-week camp. The creation of such a resource represents the next step for team sports looking to gain an edge in performance in a natural manner. However, such an approach can also be attained through the formation of a normoxic normobaric practice chamber at moderate altitude.
Envision a training camp practice bubble outfitted with technology to provide the arterial oxygen level and barometric pressure of a sea level environment. Such a technological resource would enable teams living at altitude to gain the benefit of “Living High and Training Low” resulting in the physiological adaptation while living at high altitude and protecting their ability to reach their maximum potential levels of cardiovascular intensity in a sea level environment.
In preparation for this Mexico City competition the Patriots organization took a trip out to Boulder Colorado. This highly successful organization is often known for working to the ultimate the boundaries in effort to win. Evidently, they found it useful to take a trip out to an environment that is recognize as a higher level of altitude than Foxboro Massachusetts. While there is limited evidence that a week (at least three weeks are needed for physiological benefit) spent in higher altitude conditions can elicit the needed adaptations for high altitude play, there are other advantages to surrounding oneself to a competition environment prior to competition. As mentioned earlier, factors such as flight time on ball, speed changes the farther up you travel up altitude. Getting accustomed to these factors can provide a benefit to teams prior to being exposed to these conditions.
In addition, while I respect the monotonous routine that comes with the NFL In season schedule, I also have a respect for the power of Team travel trips. Team trips away from monotony can sometimes serve as a “needed break and if the conditions are right (cold weather teams traveling to warm locations) can provide both staff members and players a sense of relief from the daily doldrums of a season. More importantly, these trips can help to provide a sense of bond that individuals can sometime evade during a season. It is for these reasons, that I believe an altitude training camp can also be used for teams during the in season for an extensive period for the objective of improving both physical and mental performance.
Today’s game in Mexico City is one which provides a break from the common settings of American football. It also represents a departure from common methods of preparation for athlete performance. As you watch today’s game take interest in the challenges as well as the potential benefits that the settings of this matchup can elicit. Take interest in creating a beneficial resource for team sports athletes in the form of an Altitude Training Camp.
Dan Liburd is entering 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 his Bachelor degree in Exercise Science from Boston University. He has a Master of Science degree from Canisius College in Health and Human Performance and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Health and Human Performance at Concordia University Chicago. Liburd has worked 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. For more articles please check out http://www.doyou-live.com
Top 10 Notable Points from this Article:
There are potential training tools in the form of Altitude Training which can help to elicit positive adaptations for Team Sport Athletes.
The Big Idea:A normoxic normobaric practice chamber at moderate altitude can provide football athletes the training environment to train “low” or at sea level (during training or practice) while “living high” at a moderate altitude environment.
Mexico City’s elevation of2240 meters above sea level is considered to be Moderate Altitude:
Mexico City’s elevation sits at 7,382 feet above sea level. That’s about 1.3 miles higher elevation than Foxboro, Massachusetts and about 1.4 miles higher than Alameda, California.
Altitude Elevations results in a decrease in your VO2 max
Researchers note that VO2 Max ( an indicator of endurance potential) reduces 1% for every 100 meter ascended above 1500 meters(Buskirk et al., 1967)
Patriots and Raiders will see an estimated 7% drop in their endurance potential as a result of exposure to the 2000 meter above sea level or moderate altitude environment of Mexico City (Buskirk et al., 1967).
The greater aerobic shape you’re in the more altitude effects you.
highly trained endurance athletes appear to be handicapped “ to an unusual extent” at altitude compared to lesser trained individuals (Dill & Adams, 1971).
Notable steps were taken by Patriots in preparation – But is it enough to make a difference?
Interestingly, Mexico City is still four football fields higher in altitude or an elevation of 400 meters above Colorado Springs. Are adaptations formed below 2000 meter enough to produce a acclimatization for elevations above 2000 meters.
Athletes are absolutely faster at moderate elevation
Sprint athletes are estimated to be 1.7% faster at moderate elevation than they would otherwise have been if they ran at sea level (Ward-Smith, 1984).
Air Density Changes as we increase in Altitude
Change in Sprint performance is attributed to the lower air resistance associated with higher elevation(Ward-Smith, 1984). This lowered air resistance occurs from the fact that air density reduces by about 10% for every 1000 meter increase in altitude.
Thinner Air of Mexico will likely reduce sprint times
The reduced oxygen consumption associated with the thin air will likely limit speed and performance potential as a result of the elevation-causing deficiencies to cardiorespiratory system and muscle function(Girard et al, 2013).
Expect to see higher flight times
Altitude of Mexico City is likely to affect the flight time and characteristics of the football. Researchers note that the decrease in air density associated with increasing altitude also results in changes in the drag and lift forces acting on flying objects such as a football (Girard et al, 2013)
Moderate Altitude has been shown to negatively affect Athletes
Athletes have reported a wide range of negative responses when acutely exposed to moderate altitude elevations. These responses include higher physiological stress as well as negative impacts to sport specific decision making and perception of well-being (Girard et al, 2013).