A few days ago my brother stopped in to a health food store to buy some supplements. The person working behind the counter was very helpful. In typical fashion, the cashier simply started to rattle off lots of information about a couple of products. He made a few specific comments about creatine that I’ve never heard before. While its possible that the info is accurate, it’s unlikely. The information is probably not backed up by science. If he had to come up with the source for his information, it would most likely have been “somebody told me”. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a health food store had a similar experience. Once I started to think about it I realized the real issue. The real issue is that many people are gullible and will take the information they get from a health food cashier as gospel. The issue doesn’t really affect those that work in the fitness industry. The problem affects those who are less informed. This includes a large portion of consumers. I know that this isn’t surprising to most of us. Unfortunately it does affect millions of people everyday. They mistake information from a cashier, an ad in a magazine, or somebody at the gym telling them something as 100% accurate info. So what can be done? Just keep trying to educate your clients. I know, at times it feels like we are Sisyphus rolling a rock up a hill endlessly. But it’s all that we can do. Just keep trying to educate your clients. With as many influences as there are nowadays (parents, coaches, teammates, salespeople, tv, the internet, etc), you might be the only source of reliable info that your athlete hear.
Sorry that it’s been a while since my last post. I’m finding out that having a new baby in the house tends to make things somewhat hectic. It also tends to alter any type of normal routines that you have.
Since we’re at the end of the year, I thought it would be a good idea to look back at some previous posts from Sports Upgrade. In case you missed any of them or want a second look, here are our most popular posts during 2012. Today we’ll give you # 10 – # 6. Check back tomorrow for # 5 – # 1.
9. Female Strength Training – Why is it important to get high school female athletes into the weightroom? Here is a list of reasons.
8.Why Junction Boys Syndrome Still Exists – The last thing that any of us want is for one of our athletes to die due to the training program that we have designed and overseen. But it still happens. Why?
Supplement Use By Youth For Sports Performance Improvement
I found a news article a few days ago about the usage of nutritional supplements by kids. The article discusses a study that was originally published earlier this year. It focused on the use of supplements by children and adolescents for the purpose of improving sports performance. So what do I think about all of this?
So what are my thoughts on the study? I decided to put my them on video. Here they are:
Help your young athletes to make good nutritional choices.
The British Medical Journal just published an interesting study about sports performance products. They looked at a variety of products that are marketed in the sports performance world. No matter if the product was a supplement, a shoe, a sports drink, or any other item, the scientists checked to see what claims the product made. They then tried to find research that validated the claims. Guess what? In many cases there wasn’t any published research that supported the product claims. Even if research did exist, many times it wasn’t enough to scientifically conclude that the advertised benefits were in fact true. Is this surprising? Probably not. While this study was conducted in Britain, I would guess that similar results would be found in the United States. Several notable American companies (Nike & Powerade) were included in the study because they market and sell in both countries.
In the U.S., the FDA thoroughly evaluates any new drug before it is approved for use. I’m sure that Britain has a similar process in place. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t try to regulate supplements. They only step in if there are numerous complaints and/or health risks (who remembers ephedra????).
Here are a few surprising facts from the study:
Over 50% of all product websites that made product claims did not provide any references for studies that would support these claims
When contacted, some companies were not willing to share their research (In reality, this may not be that surprising)
Once company believed that simply providing a video of their product being used was “sufficient”
So, what is the reality? Just like with many other products, companies tend to make impressive claims about the benefits of using their products. Unfortunately, these claims often aren’t supported by solid research. Regardless, due to marketing to a gullible public, many people don’t question the claims and just buy the products without further investigation. This tends to work out great for the companies who keep putting money in the bank. So what should consumers do? Remember the old P.T. Barnum quote “there’s a sucker born every minute”. Don’t be a sucker!!! Don’t believe everything that some company tells you about it’s newest diet pill, muscle growth powder, sports drink, shoe, shirt, or anything else. Be smart and do some research. While it is great to be able to just hop on the internet and Google something to get info about it, realize that not everything you read on the internet is true either. Make sure to get info from good sources. If you’re not sure where to start, Pubmed publishes abstracts from numerous scientific journals related to health, fitness, exercise, and medicine. Start there and see what you find.
As a coach, you have control over what your athlete does for a few hours a week. You can control what drills they do, how they do them, etc when you are coaching them. As for what happens the other 22 hours of their day, that is up to them (and their parents if they are young). Unfortunately, what they eat during that time away from you can drastically affect their recovery and their future performance. As we all know, the eating habits of the average person in the US are currently lousy. This includes both adults and kids. That means that we have an uphill battle to fight.
(As a side note, sometimes parents allow kids to make horrible choices. A prime example was an 11 year old that I used to train. He regularly showed up to training sessions with a huge energy drink. What??? How does an 11 year old do that??? Oh, that’s right. His mommy let him do it. When dealing with kids and teens, it is often vital to change the parents ideas on nutrition. If they don’t change, the kids won’t ever change either.)
So, what can we do? Here are 3 things:
Get the athlete professional help – First off, we have to leave the diet planning to the Registered Dietitians (RD). We wouldn’t want them writing our training programs and we shouldn’t try to do their job. We can however have one speak to athletes and parents. This could be done as an occasional seminar for all athletes/parents. It could also involve one-on-one help if needed. Regardless, it can be beneficial to develop a good working relationship with a local RD who has a background advising athletes.
Have plenty of handouts ready – Having handouts ready on nutrition is a good way to get info to parents and athletes. Parents are often willing to look through these while their kids train. There are all kinds of wacky diet plans and concepts that have been publicized. While someone may believe some of these, it never hurts to present them with good info from trusted sources. Who knows, it might change their thinking. Where can you find this info? Try your local RD or various nutritional sites on the web. The Gatorade Sports Science Institute also has a lot of valuable handouts on their website.
Become a thorn in the side – Make sure to constantly remind your athletes (and parents) about good nutrition. Ask them how they ate since their last workout. Remind them when they are leaving to eat well. Just mentioning it to them once probably won’t do the trick. Let them know that even though you aren’t there with them 24/7, what they do during that time still matters. For older athletes, if you know that they are going to a big cookout or some other event, you might send a text to remind them to keep things in check and not eat everything in sight.
How an athlete chooses to eat when they are away from you is ultimately up to them (or their parents). While I’m not one that thinks that a kid should never have a piece of cake or pie, I do believe that it is part of a coaches job to impress upon them the importance of good nutrition. As we’ve seen in the news, most of the teens and adults in the US are missing out on that message somewhere. Maybe we can help a few of them. Plus, if they are serious about their training, good nutrition is vital to recovery and performance.
Do you take your time when you shop for food? Do you look at food labels? You should. As we all know, proper nutrition is a key part of the sports performance training plan. Yes, we all know if we go to buy a frozen pizza that it’s probably going to be bad for us. But what about all of the other things we buy? Do you pay attention to those? Some of those might not be as good for you as you think. I know, when we go to the grocery store we’re usually in a hurry. We don’t want to spend any longer than we have to in there, especially if the place is packed with other people. That isn’t my favorite time to be there either. Unfortunately, to be a smart shopper, you need to find a way to spend some time there.
Why is it worth your time? Because you want to be the best. You can never be sure what might be holding you back (or pushing your competition further ahead). Nutrition can very well be the difference maker.
If you are going to improve your nutrition, it starts with some basic steps:
Knowing what you are taking into your body right now
Knowing what your nutritional needs really are
Deciding what adjustments that you need to make
Making wise nutritional choices so that you can make the adjustments
Since I’m not a trained nutritionist, I’ll limit the advice that I try to give in that area. The one thing that I can say is that you should look at food labels carefully. There are so many items that are available for us to eat. However, so many of them are flat out bad for us. As a general rule, you should know why you are eating everything that you put in your mouth (no, “Because I’m hungry” isn’t a good answer). You should never buy something if you don’t check the nutritional info first. Take a little time and look at the info on calories, fat, etc. Compare this info to that on similar products. You might find some surprises. As you can imagine, not all products are created equal.
Nutrition plays a huge role in our athletic success. While looking at the labels closely may not be the most fun thing to do, it can lead to some enlightening discoveries. You might find out that you weren’t doing as well in the nutrition department as you thought. Because of this, the extra time that you spend on your trip to the grocery store may pay huge dividends.
Don't let too much turkey put the brakes on your training
It seems to be an American tradition that on Thanksgiving, we all join our family for good times and food. Lots of food. Generally most of us load our plates too full and eat way too much. Unfortunately, one day of gluttony can throw off your diet and your training. Want a quick tip to help keep your diet and training on track? Exercise before you eat. Research has shown that exercising prior to eating can increase your metabolism, decrease your appetite, and lesson the amount of fat in your blood. Now I’m not suggesting that you disappear on Thanksgiving morning for a 3+ hour workout. Just come up with something that is short and to the point. Keep the intensity level high and get it done fast. That should be enough to gain the benefits without having to miss out on family time.
That’s the question. Does it matter? Does it really matter? About now you’re asking, “does what matter?” (That, and why is there a picture of machine gears on a sports performance blog). I have answers for both of these.
The question “does it matter” refers to the various parts of training an athlete. Things like flexibility, power, strength, rest & recovery, planning, nutrition, outside of training activities (use of tobacco, drugs, and alcohol), stress, quality of training, etc. I could probably list a lot more but I think that you’ve got the idea. So, do they matter? Do all of them matter? Are some more important than others? They all matter!!! Each one represents a major part in the process of developing an athlete. If you mess with one part, you mess with the whole athlete. Want an example? It’s a well know fact that stress caused by a job, school, a personal situation or anything else can affect you physically. In fact, too much stress can put you in the hospital. Stress, which is usually non-physical in nature, can affect you physically. See how things are all tied together. Your body works together as one. If one part is not functioning up to par, other parts try to help out. That is one of the amazing things about our body. Of course, if a part or system has to pick up the slack from some other system, then it can’t do it’s own job 100%. That decreases your ability to function fully. If you are an athlete, that’s not what you want. You want every part to be working together at 100%. That makes you able to train and perform better and will lead to better results.
The best way that I’ve ever heard this explained was by Mark Verstegen. He used the example of a bunch of gears or cogs working together. Each of the gears represented some of the things that I mentioned previously. (See, I told you that there was a reason for the pic of the gears). The basic idea was that each of these gears helps to keep the entire machine (your body) working smoothly.
I’ve had athletes finish a workout and then go light up a cigarette. First, it’s unhealthy in general (and disgusting, but that’s my opinion). Second, he was an athlete!!! Why would you go train hard and then go do something to sabatoge yourself immediately afterwards???? I know that we can’t control everything that our athletes do. I get that. However, we have to educate them as to why all of these things are important. I don’t think I’ve met too many athletes who just wanted to “make the team”. Most of them have a competive desire to excel, to be the best. Hopefully we as coaches can make them understand the importance of taking care of all of the “gears” in the system.