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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Silvestre, R.,West, C., Maresh, C., Kraemer, W. (2006). Body Composition and Physical Performance in Men’s Soccer: A Study of a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Team. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 20. 177-183.
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., Ravanbakht, S.N., Skelton, J.A., Perrin, E.M., Armstrong, S.C. (2016). Prevalence of obesity and severe obesity in US children, 1999-2016. Pediatrics, 141(3), :e20173459
Steele, E. M., Baraldi, L. G., Louzada, M. L., Moubarac, J., Mozaffarian, D., & Monteiro, C. A. (2016). Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the US diet: Evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study. BMJ Open, 6(3).
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.
Ulijaszek, S. J. (2003). Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic. Report of a WHO Consultation. WHO Technical Report Series 894. Pp. 252. (World Health Organization, Geneva, 2000.) SFr 56.00, ISBN 92-4-120894-5, paperback. Journal of Biosocial Science, 35(4), 624-625.
Vardar, S. A., Tezel, S., Öztürk, L., & Kaya, O. (2007). The Relationship Between Body Composition and Anaerobic Performance of Elite Young Wrestlers. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, 6(CSSI-2), 34–38.
Sport’s organizations are constantly aiming to protect and develop their most valued assets – the athlete. These efforts are generally reflected through the adoption and/or investments in various testing tools as well as methods of evaluation. Consider the use of the force plate in today’s sports environment. These rectangular metal platforms outfitted with special devices called piezoelectric or strain gauge transducers can cost up to 30,000$. Despite the monumental costs, these devices are quietly creeping into training facilities all of the world. And for good reason, the force plate can be an effective resource and investment for developing performance in athletes and protecting them from potential injury.
Force plates have a wide range of applications in sports measurement and analysis. To understand the scope of its utility, one must first understand the function of the force plate. A force plate is a platform which measures force exerted by a subject. This force can be denoted through several movements such as a jump, a step, a shift in weight and even subtle movements during a single leg stance. The concept of force plate measurement is based on Newton’s third law of motion which states “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.
In other words the force plate measures the force acted on it by a subject and/or gives an indication of the force exerted by platform to the subject.The ability to measure these forces provides a litany of opportunities, methods and perspectives to understand force exertion by the athlete and its relationship to movement, athletic and injury potential.
With the increasing presence of force plates in athletic spaces, researchers and various sports authorities are beginning to accumulate meaningful data that may be important to the development and safety of athletes in sport. Additionally, we are beginning to see the rise of criterion -reference standards based on force plate data that are being used for the development of athletes to attenuate injury and improve performance.
Researchers from the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Calgary used a force plate to measure single-limb stance of 50 individuals aged 16 – 26. These subjects were instructed to stand as still as possible in the center of the force platform on one leg with their arms relaxed at their sides and to focus on a point in front of them. Measurement for this test are taken from the ground reaction forces garnered from a single-limb stance. Thus a simple step on a force plate produces quantifiable data which can be used for predicting injury risk and for comparison between injured and uninjured limbs (Baltich et al, 2015). Investigators in this particular study indicated that injured participants showed a greater medial/lateral excursion and greater 95% ellipse area of the center of pressure and demonstrated a longer entropic half-life in the medio-lateral direction(Baltich et al, 2015). In laymen terms, individuals with previous injury swayed more and showed less control of themselves in the presence of potential change. The conclusion reached from this study was that those individuals with a history of previous intra-articular knee injury demonstrated balance deficits up to 3–10 years following injury (Baltich et al, 2015).This information can be effective for sports organizations to use as part of their evaluation for athletes in regard to health, safety and as a foundation for program design or return to performance.
In a 2006, authors Chen, Shiang, Jan & Linused similar strategies to understand and develop criteria that can impact risk of injury in the ankle of high school basketball players. They studied forty-two adolescent players competing in first league of the High School Basketball Association without a history of injury in the lower extremities (Wang, Chen, Shiang, Jan & Lin, 2006). Researchers in this study similarly to the aforementioned study utilized the 1-leg standing postural sway assessment to identify risk of injury in the ankle. These investigators however, demonstrated that high variations of postural sway in 1-leg standing test could be used to understand the risk of ankle injury in basketball players. In particular these researchers identified a particular criterion which showed that high variation of postural sway in both anteroposterior and mediolateral directions corresponded to occurrences of ankle injuries (Wang, Chen, Shiang, Jan & Lin, 2006). In more simple terms, those individuals who showed a greater relative change in various planes of motion while attempting to perform a movement which requires stability are at greater risk for injury (in regards to the ankle). Researchers have also used the force plate as a neuromuscular screening tool for other tests such as a single leg counter movement jump, a vertical drop test, a single leg countermove the jump test and a hop test. Measurements like peak vertical ground reaction force and variances in asymmetry can be reliably assessed using aforementioned tools such as the hop and Single leg countermovement jump test. The wide array of applications to them force plate have resulted in a battery of movement tests that have produced useful screening tools for sports scientists (and coaches alike) wishing to understand more about their athletes.
It’s important to understand that these studies reflect just one of the many ways in which force plates are being used currently in the world of sports performancescreening and rehabilitation. The results of these studies are increasingly providing sports organizations with useful criterions to help predict, evaluate and treat athletes in regard to injury. Additionally, these devices are also useful in providing quantitative measures for predicting various measures of athletic performance. While these devices are increasingly demonstrating their value the manner in which they are used is equally important for the production of meaningful data and useful application the athlete. Some movements or tests are more valuable than others when using the force plate. The vertical jump for instance is a well-studied and commonly used assessment of lower-body neuromuscular performance in athletes. Authors have previously noted the existence of a relationship between vertical jump and performance factors such as increased playing time (Hoffman, 1996).It is commonly understood as a reflection of commonly expressed athletic qualities such as “explosive movement.”In addition, there is a strong relationship between vertical jump and various field measures such as straight-line sprinting (Cronin & Hansen, 2005; Marques, Gil, Ramos, Costa, & Marinho, 2011; Peterson, Alvar, & Rhea, 2006), and change of direction movements (Barnes et al., 2007; Brughelli, Cronin, Levin, & Chaouachi, 2008; Peterson et al., 2006).Thus, insights into the vertical jump of an athlete can provide insight to a myriad of components important to athletic performance.
As evidence for this fruitful relationship between movement and device, the force plate provides an indication of jump heieght through measures ofthe calculation of factors such as flight time, impulse and the work-energy (Linthorne, 2001).These factors are also able to provide intrinsic characteristics of a jump which can help performance specialists understand the biomechanical processes taking place during a jump. This insight is useful asit allows individuals to understand elements of a jump that can be monitored and/or manipulated through training.
Evidence for the value of this insight was most noticeably reflected in a recent study by authors at the University School of Physical Education, Wrocław, Poland.These researchers sought to understand the various biomechanical differences between basketball players performing a jump shot and a jump commonly used for expressing maximal vertical jump height.Specifically, these individuals sought to investigate the characteristics of lower limbs during the take-off and landing phases achieved when performing a jump shot and a maximum countermovement achieved without an arm swing (Struzik,Pietraszewski & Zawadzki, 2014).
The use of a force plate allows researchers to analyze the differences in ground reaction forces generated by basketball players during these fundamentally similar jumps. The differences in these jumps are manifested through various force changes concerning the phases of take-off and landing (Struzik, Pietraszewski, & Zawadzki, 2014). Investigators demonstrated that when basketball players performed the jump shot, they had improved take-off times and peak powers and an overall improved mean power in the take-off phase and relative mean power relative to counter movement jump. Despite these differences, statistical analysis of the jumps revealed no significant differences between the two types of jumps in regard to jump height (Struzik, Pietraszewski, & Zawadzki, 2014).
Thus, while a counter movement jump with an arm swing may be more effective at producing a maximal jump height, authors of this study conclude that a counter movement jump without an arm swing is a good indication of maximal jump height during a jump shot (Struzik, Pietraszewski, & Zawadzki, 2014).The ability to reach this conclusion is the result of an intrinsic understanding of jumping biomechanics garnered from a force plate.This information can help sports organizations make important decisions in the evaluation of athletes who expressed much of their talents through the action of a jump shot.The benefits of a force plate are multifaceted and highly resourceful for the sports organization interested in limiting injury, improving and evaluating athletic performance. They are also a valuable tool for monitoring important factors of athletic performance – neuromuscular fatigue. While we have identified the vertical jump performed on force plate as useful means of measuring lower body strength, power, and a manner to provide perspective to the integrity of the musculotendinous pre-stretch, or countermovement stretch shortening cycle, this combination of movement and device has alsoproven to be an effective tool for monitoring fatigue.In fact, authors recently published ameta – analysis in the journal of science & medicine in sport, where they concluded that an average of counter movement jump heights was an effective measure to evaluate for neuromuscular fatigue (Claudino, et al., 2017).It is believed that the relative changes which take place at the neuromuscular actions level during the eccentric and concentric phases of the counter movement jumpduring various periods in a season can reflect fatigue of the athlete (Gathercole, Sporer, Stellingwerff, Sleivert, 2015).Researchers at the School of Exercise and Health SciencesCentre for Exercise and Sports Science Researchat Edith Cowan University identified factors important to the expression of a force plate jump such as “flight time to contraction time“ as an important and highly sensitive measure for detecting neuromuscular fatigue in female basketball athletes (Spiteri, Nimphius, Wolski, Bird, 2013). These researchers demonstrated that there are more insightful cues to neuromuscular fatigue than simply measuring jump height.
This study is part of the growing value of force plates to sports performance facilities as a tool for providing athletes with various measures dedicated to limiting injury, improving athletic potential and facilitating decision making in the complex world of exercise and/or load management.The force plate provides a meaningful view to jumping performance as well as as neuromuscular aspects of this movement such as single leg stance and measures of sway. These tests are just some of the more valuable pieces that can allow athletes to reach greater levels of success in today’s highly competitive landscape. If the force plate is not a tool in which you currently use in your training facility, you should consider the multitude of applications and benefits garnered from understanding the force that lies within your athletes.
Baltich, J., Whittaker, J., Tscharner, V., Nettel-Aguirre, A.,Nigg, B., Emery, C.,(2015). The Impact of Previous Knee Injury on Force Plate and Field-Based Measures of Balance. Journal of Clinical Biomechanics. 30.
Cheah, P. Y., Cheong, J. P., Razman, R., & Abidin, N. E. (2017). Comparison of Vertical Jump Height Using the Force Platform and the Vertec. IFMBE Proceedings 3rd International Conference on Movement, Health and Exercise, 155-158.
Claudino, J. G., Cronin, J., Mezêncio, B., Mcmaster, D. T., Mcguigan, M., Tricoli, V., . . . Serrão, J. C. (2017). The countermovement jump to monitor neuromuscular status: A meta-analysis. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 20(4), 397-402.
Gathercole, R.; Sporer, B.; Stellingwerff, T.; Sleivert, G. Alternative countermovement-jump analysis to quantify acute neuromuscular fatigue. International Journal of Sports Physiology Perform. 2015, 10, 84–92.
Hoffman, J. R., Tenenbaum, G., Maresh, C. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (1996). Relationship Between Athletic Performance Tests and Playing Time in Elite College Basketball Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research,10(2), 67-71.
Read, P., Oliver, J. L., De Ste Croix, M.B., Myer, G. D., & Lloyd, R. S. (2016). Consistency of field based measures of neuromuscular control using force plate diagnostics inyouth soccer players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 30(12), 3304–3311
Spiteri, T.; Nimphius, S.; Wolski, A.; Bird, S. (2013). Monitoring neuromuscular fatigue in female basketball players across training and game performance. Australian Journal of Strength and Conditioning. 21, 73–74.
Wang, H., Chen, C., Shiang, T., Jan, M., & Lin, K. (2006). Risk-Factor Analysis of High School Basketball–Player Ankle Injuries: A Prospective Controlled Cohort Study Evaluating Postural Sway, Ankle Strength, and Flexibility. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 87(6), 821-825.
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.
Introduction to Weight Management in the NFL and a Potential solution for an Off-Season Detraining Dilemma – Part 1
All across the nation Professional Football teams of the National Football League are gearing up for training programs otherwise known as off season programs. These off – season programs are designed in effort to provide elite football athletes the opportunity to prepare for the performance demands of a rigorous and highly competitive NFL season. Many may wonder what methods are used to ready this exclusive population of genetic talent and skill for success. While different teams may reflect various unique features as key components for garnering success, there are fundamental and similar components shared across all teams that help to promote success in performance to both the individual and team. In an article titled “Common Factors of High Performance Teams” published in the Journal of contemporary issues in Business and Government, authors highlight that advancing team performance means teams must systematically develop and assess new training methods to support changes in team effectiveness (Jackson & Madsen, 2005).
Their conclusions reflects the importance of evaluation and the practice of seeking new training methodology to produce high performance. Thus, in any high achieving system, one must establish a method of assessment, a metric that comprehensively and conclusively denotes the result of the assessment as well as a methodology that continually advances training for the assessment. This particular insight into the common factors of high performance in teams gives perspective to one of the many shared activities that our highly successful NFL teams will be embarking through these next few weeks – Assessment.
Assessment can come in many forms and provide a number of important information regarding the state of an athlete. Likewise, the approach in which teams use to improve their athletes based on assessment varies as well. It all depends on the teams perspective of a meaningful metric and the methodology used for high performance.
What’s your favorite M&M? – Metric and Methodology for high performance?
“All fitness components depend on body composition to some extent. An increase in lean body mass contributes to strength and power development. Strength and power are related to muscle size. Thus, an increase in lean body mass enables the athlete to generate more force in a specific period of time. A sufficient level of lean body mass also contributes to speed, quickness, and agility performance (in the development of force applied to the ground for maximal acceleration and deceleration). Reduced nonessential body fat contributes to muscular and cardiorespiratory endurance, speed, and agility development. Additional weight (in the form of nonessential fat) provides greater resistance to athletic motion thereby forcing the athlete to increase the muscle force of contraction per given workload. The additional body fat can limit endurance, balance, coordination, and movement capacity. Joint range of motion can be negatively affected by excessive body mass and fat as well, and mass can form a physical barrier to joint movement in a complete range of motion. (Miller, 2012)”
In other words, a scale can be one the most effective assessment tool towards improving potential and performance. The value for which a scale presents to a performance coach when an steps on can be an important metric towards high performance. And it is likely that during this week, the 3000 athletes preparing for NFL training camps and a chance to compete this season are stepping on a scale and taking part in a corresponding evaluation of body composition. It is also likely that a few members of this group will be weighing in at a number that grossly surpasses the weight needed to perform their duties at an optimal level and/or compromises their physical performance factors such as speed, power, and their ability to stay healthy.
Before we scrutinize and denigrate the athlete it’s important to examine our role as performance coaches and the methodology we use to solve challenges in performance. We must remember (again) that high performing teams must systematically develop and assess methodology that supports team effectiveness. To solve the particular challenges associated with athletes returning from the off season above weight/body composition standards and to improve team effectiveness we must first evaluate and understand the current weight issues of today.
High performing teams must systematically develop and assess methodology that supports team effectiveness.
The next part of this three part article will allow readers to understand the relative difficulties athletes may face in preparation for off-season conditioning and offers a training resource aimed to improve speed, power while diminishing potential for injury. Through our understanding of the environmental and social hurdles and limitations we can identify a potential solution for the challenges associated with weight management in today’s performance landscape. This understanding establishes why weight/body composition should continue to be an important metric for high performance and lays the foundation for an effectively methodology to help deliver success to both the football athlete and the team of coaches responsible for the athlete.
Dan Liburd has over a decade of experience working with professional Athletes and 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.
“Little things make big things happen.” It seems that there is evidence for this quote in all walks of life, include athletic performance and nutrition. Recently, scientific investigators have reported that up to 60% of female athletes and 25% of male athletes are considered to be deficient in an important micronutrient involved in the process of oxygen consumption and aerobic exercise performance. Interestingly, even with proper monitoring and treatment regarding dietary intake, deficiencies of this particular trace mineral were still noted in athletes (Coates, Mountjoy& Burr, 2017). It’s hard to imagine that a deficiency in an element needed in just minute quantities, can play such a vital role in disrupting the integrity of various physiological and metabolic processes fundamental for athletic function and success. Furthermore, performance specialists tasked with the major responsibility of driving athletic potential can also miss this little detail in dietary needs. But alas, little things make big things happen, and safeguarding your athlete’s potential through routine dietary screening and supplementation can be the little change for a big difference. Evaluating the level of micronutrients such as iron and magnesium should be part of a comprehensive approach in your performance system, to help diminish the potential obstacles in your athlete’s ability. Adopting such an approach also adds a measure for safety by providing insight into potential excess of both essential and toxic elements. Take for instance the micronutrient iron.
Iron is widely recognized for its significant impact to health and performance in elite athletes and its deficiency can have a number of negative impacts on various physical capabilities such as aerobic performance. This relationship of iron to performance largely stems from its critical role in forming an important oxygen transporting protein known as hemogloblin. Thus, a deficiency in iron, and/or the presence of iron deficiency anemia is likely to diminish levels of hemoglobin, resulting in impaired performance due to the limited ability of oxygen to be transported to muscle tissue (Roland, 2011). Authors have also noted that factors involved in athletic performance such as increased fatigue levels and decreased energy drive are also resulting symptoms of low levels of iron (Eichner, 2012). Moreover, insufficient levels of iron can negatively impact immune system function and diminish bone strength.
This relationship between iron and various measures of physical function is testament to the powerful impact of such minute minerals, otherwise known as inorganic substances essential for metabolic and/or structural functions in the body. Many factors fundamental to athletic performance are manifested through the optimal function of processes within the body therefore we must consider optimizing micronutrient intake of our athletes. While macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins play a valuable role and are often touted for their powerful contributions to factors related to physical function and performance, micronutrients must also be largely recognized.
Similarly to iron, the micronutrient magnesium has also been demonstrated to have a monumental impact to athletic performance through the efforts of researchers. For instance, researchers at the University of São Paulo showed that supplementation with magnesium contributed to positive markers of athleticism such as decreases in lactate production and significant increases in jumping capabilities (Setaro et al., 2014). Investigators in this study concluded that supplementation with magnesium resulted in improvements in anaerobic function despite no evidence of magnesium deficiencies in the athletic subjects. This should come as little surprise as magnesium is involved in a number of critical roles necessary for human function. Minute amounts of the trace mineral magnesium is needed for its role in enzymatic reactions, cell growth, and energy metabolism, such as glycolysis and protein synthesis (Zhang, Xun, Wang, Mao & He, 2017. Magnesium is believed to positively impact athletic performance through its ability to regulate the concentration of glucose and lactate in the brain, muscle, and in circulation (Zhang, Xun, Wang, Mao & He, 2017). A number of animal and human studies have demonstrated improvements in various factors related to increased performance with magnesium supplementation such as, increased strength, enhanced glucose utilization, delayed muscle fatigue through the attenuation of muscle lactate, and improved muscle recovery through increased levels of glucose post exercise (Lee, 2017; Zhang, Xun, Wang, Mao & He, 2017). Conversely, authors note that when magnesium is depleted from the diet, there are notable adverse effects to metabolism, cardiovascular function and exercise performance (Lee, 2017). Despite the critical role of magnesium to human function and performance deficiencies have been noted in a number of athletic populations.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Magnesium research reported that existing data demonstrates that most athletes do not consume adequate amounts of magnesium in their diets (Alfredo, Diego, Juan, Jesús, & Alberto, 2017). Additionally, investigators of a 2009 study published in the Journal of Clinical nutrition, determined that international female and male collegiate soccer players, as well as male rugby players, fell below the proper required amount of magnesium in their diets (Noda et al., 2009). This finding was suggested by investigators to be a representation of dietary deficiencies characteristically found in collegiate athletes. In addition, previous studies have reflected an intake as low as 45% of the daily recommended amount in elite athletes suggesting that magnesium deficiencies are evident even at the highest level of athletics.
Similar to magnesium, iron has long been established as a mineral often deficient in athletic populations. Dr. Thomas Rowland notes in a review titled: Iron deficiency in athletes: An update that a high frequency of iron deficiency without anemia, has been consistently observed in trained athletes, particularly female runners. While not a common finding in male athletes, Rowland notes that in any group of training endurance athletes, 1 out of every 3 or 4 females can be expected to satisfy the criteria for nonanemic iron deficiency (Rowland, 2012).
Growing research supports iron and magnesium as not only essential minerals to both human function and athletic performance, but also as minerals likely to be reported deficient in athletes. These minerals are clear examples of dietary factors in which performance and/or dietary specialists must carefully monitor when attempting to mediate improvements in their athlete’s potential. Failure to acknowledge these factors during periods of competiton can result in diminished performance but can also negatively impact health and human function.
As performance specialists we should consistently encourage our athletes to be routinely screened for mineral deficiencies and to be mindful of the role in which their diet and nutritional requirements can help facilitate greater levels of potential and performance. Effective approaches for deficiencies can take place through both dietary means and supplementation but before those changes can take place we have to assess our athlete’s needs. Screening resources such as Blueprint for Athletes can play a powerful role in the evaluation and treatment of athletic performance. In addition to Blueprint for Athletes, there are a number of affordable and reliable nutrition screening services available online to help provide insight to iron indicators such as serum ferritin.
This iron indicator has been noted to be substantially different in highly trained athletes as compared to the normal population (Chapman et al., 2017). Serum ferritin values of 20 ng·mL−1 are commonly recognized as a low range for iron and an indication of deficiency in normal populations however new data suggests that such a value may be too low for athletes. New research suggests that a lower range for serum ferritin criterion value in athletes should be set at 35 ng·mL−1 . This range may demonstrate that a far greater amount of both male and female athletes are iron deficient (Chapman et al., 2017).
Additionally, magnesium is often measured by serum concentration. A reference range of 0.65–1.05 mmol/L for total magnesium concentrations in adult blood serum is considered to be healthy physiological range (Jahnen-Dechent, & Ketteler, 2012).
While there are a number of minerals that are essential to diet and function, research continues to support an important role of magnesium and iron. It’s important to note that while these minerals are important for function excess intake of these minerals can lead to adverse effects and should be avoided. For instance, iron excess may be pro-oxidative and has been linked to several chronic diseases.
As we continue to develop further in to the science of sports performance and in light of the growing measures of assessments available to athletes, we may find that it’s miniscule actions such as monitoring the level of little factors such as trace minerals that may be imperative to the big picture or great athletic success.
“No Pain, no gain” is the perhaps the most popular catch phrase of the sporting world.This verbal expression which gained popularity for its motivational intention within thefitness world is commonly used to explain a powerful ideology – Pain produces gains. In other words, painful ordiscomforting experiences incurred by an individual is necessary to yield positive results, which can also be described as gains. The sentiment behind this cliche is so popular, and reflective of the human experience that similar inferences be found in ancient literature dating back to the early ages. For the human being searching for growth and development, pain appears to be intrinsically valued for its ability to produce positive results in the future.
This mindset, however, is one we must carefully consider when it comes to making long term improvements in the health and performance of athletes. Identifying, understanding and treating pain (or injury) is an important and necessary step towards making gains towards improving athletic potential.Thus, a more appropriate catchphrase for the mentality of those attempting to boost performance within the sport’s training environment should be “Break the chain of pain for potential gain.” Once we understand this perspective, we may be able to shift our behavior toward performance producing strategies that focus on the appropriate treatment on the incidence of pain as well the occurrence of injury within our athletes.
One particular strategy that provides potential for improving factors related to athletic performance, is managing neuromusculoskeletal pain and injury through the treatment of myofascial trigger points.In part 2 of “The Extra Work you need for Athletic Success” we learned that myofascial trigger points are commonly understood as hyper-irritable spots in skeletal muscle that can produce specific regional pain or altered sensation in particular areas (Simons, 2002). In addition, trigger points are linked to motor, sensory and/or muscle dysfunction (McPartland, 2004). Despite an awareness of this affliction in the athletic arena, authors note that treatment of myofascial abnormalities are commonly overlooked (Simons, 2002).
Although the collective consciousness attributed to myofascial treatment continues to grow it is important to appreciate how remarkably common myofascial trigger points are within the athletic space and how often they are a major cause of a patient’s musculoskeletal pain complaint. In fact, some researchers note that this particular abnormality impacts more than just the population of sport athletes.It is understood that a significant number of adults have latent trigger points that elicit pain on direct compression (Sola, 1990).Thus, this widespread condition deserves attention and understanding not only for the benefit of athletic populations but adults in general.Gaining insight to the prevalence of myofascial trigger points and associated treatment, management and prevention strategies can help to translate movement limitations from pain into movement potential gain for all populations
The first step in treating myofascial trigger points is to acknowledge its etiology and the physiological consequences associated with it. Dr. David Simons, leading expert on myofascial trigger points describes them as hyper-contracted sarcomeres or excessively bundled units of muscle when viewed underneath microscope. These tightly collected units of tissue can create a cascade of effects to the muscle fiber in which they inhabit. The surrounding structural units of muscle or remaining sarcomeres of the involved muscle fiber are noticeably stretched to compensate for the missing length of the shortened sarcomeres or trigger point (Simons, 2002).Researchers attributed this bundling of muscle to the properties of sarcomeres such as titin ( a spring-like molecule that functions in holding the elements of sarcomeres in place (Simons, 2002). The “sticking” properties of titin can influence these maximally contracted sarcomeres, allowing them to become stuck and shortened (Simons, 2002). The effect of these shortenedand stuck sarcomeres can result in increased tension to the involved muscle fiber (Simons, 2002).This tension can manifest itself as muscle stiffness and/or pain resulting in muscle and movement dysfunction.
Clinicians have recognized for more than a century that effective treatment of painful, tense, tender muscles includes stretching the involved muscle fibers, either locally in the region of tenderness or by lengthening the muscle as a whole (Resteghini, 2016).Likewise, treatment of myofascial trigger points centers on disrupting, lengthening or releasing of certain structural musculoskeletal units. To treat trigger points it is important to understand the characteristics oftitin. Titin is a particularly important and frequent element within the musculoskeletal system. It is a protein which functions in providing architectural support and maintaining sarcomeric organization during muscle contraction (Gigli et al., 2016).More importantly, this protein is known for it’s role in the generation of stiffness within muscle tissue and functions in developing passive tension during muscle stretching (Gigli et al., 2016). Because of the particularly “unyielding” or stiff characteristics associated with titin, releasing accumulated sarcomeres or muscle can take time and effort.However, clinical experience shows that there are effective methods that can be used to release the structural units that lay the foundation and/or development of myofascial trigger points.
In fact, researchers confirm thatemploying a strategy which centers on producing slowly sustained stretches are an effective method for releasing myofascial trigger point tightness (Simons, 2002). It is believed that the action ofslow sustained stretches is effective at lengthening shortened sarcomeres. Again, the effectiveness of this mode of treatment may be due to the properties of titin.Several studies have uncovered the basic elements of how titin proteins respond to a stretching force and it has been found that titin changes structure in a time and force dependent manner (Rivas-Pardo et al., 2016).Understanding the influence of time and force to the disruption of muscle tissue units is critical for treating myofascial trigger points. Applying force over time to myofascial trigger points can result in the lengthening of potentially shortened sarcomas, diminish muscle fiber tension and reduce excessive energy consumption within the muscolskeletal system. Strategies which employ a measure of force over time can be useful in treating muscle tissue and improving factors related to athletic potential.
Leading experts have address several methods aimed at treating myofascial trigger points and/oroptimizing sarcolema length. The most common approach to myofascial treatment occurs through the action of compression. Over twenty years ago, researchers Dr. David Simons and Dr. Janet Travell first devised a method to treat myofascial trigger points by applying heavy thumb pressure on trigger points. This strategy employs the use of aforce (expressed through the thumb) over a certain time to produce ischemic compression over an afflicted area. Treating myofascial trigger points by compression is an approach most commonly seen in the athletic arena through the use of foam and stick rollers. Athletes will use these rollers in effort to compress adhesions within muscle fibers and return structural units to their appropriate length. Over the last few years, however, experts have devised new methods for treating myofascial tissue.
For instance,the “press and stretch” technique is believed to be a more effective strategy in restoring abnormally contracted muscle units to their normal resting length. Specifically, this technique is thought to disrupt trigger points by mechanically disunitingthe tethered muscle structural unit myosin from actin.This is a process that normally requires energy from the body, therefore the press and stretch technique helps to conserve energy by it’s ability to uncouple contracted pieces of muscle.Experts suggest that the press and stretch may also help release the “sticky” characteristics reflective of the titin connections in myofascial trigger points.(McPartland, 2004).This relatively new approach to myofascial treatment can be a valuable resource for movement specialist, performance coaches and athletes looking to rediscover lost potential.
The tools currently utilized within the athletic space provide a one dimensional approach to treating fascia.These application devices have been invented and marketed to roll and apply pressure to the muscles to disrupt adhesions in fascia. However no device has been able to both apply pressure to the skin and also pulls the skin to further disrupt fascia – Until now. It is for this reason that I have designed a new tool aimed at both applying compressive and stretching forces to tissue. The “Rattle Stick” roller is a tool which emphasizes compressive and traction forces in effort to better disrupt trigger points.
The Rattlestick is a one pieceroller device layered with suction cups which allows the application of force in a multiple dimensions. With the Rattlestick, a person conducting the myofascial treatment firmly presses cups and the body of the roller against the skin of the area to be treated. The application of firm pressure provides a disruptive force to collagen fibers and enables the suction cups to adhere to the skin of the area being treated. Gentle, but firm repeated rolling of the roller over the area to be treated first causes a row of suction cups to adhere to the patient’s skin and then continued rolling removes that row of suction cups. This repetitive action of compression and traction forces along muscle tissue over a periods of time can help to improve blood flow and mechanically disrupt the connection between “sticky” structural units that compose myofascial trigger points.
The Rattlestick represents one approach to myofascial care for our athletes. The stick roller can be part of the ethereal “Extra work” that we all search for in order to gain a competitive edge.Most of us should know the importance of tissue care by now. And a lot of us understand that myofascial treatment is a process that needs to be performed consistently over a long period of time to maximize gain in movement and performance. The number of devices attributed to myofascial care that are currently on the market reflect this common understanding. However, the “Rattlestick” roller is a step forward.It is simply better,because we now have the opportunity to apply compressive forces and traction forces on muscle fascia more efficiently and over a greater amount of tissue at relatively low energy costs. Simply put, The Rattlestick is the tool that will help to limit your pain in effort to produce gains.
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.