Body Mass and Performance

I was asked the other day by one of my athletes what the ideal body mass was for helping his performance.  Now, this could be answered a number of ways.

According to “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning” the text for the NSCA-CSCS, this individual should present with 11-13% body fat being a baseball player.  This will put him in the leaner than average category, but it doesn’t really define what position he plays.  This is based off normative data that a sample of baseball players who are considered to be a good representation of all baseball players present as.  I don’t think I would argue much.  However, you’re going to see a wide spectrum of body composition across the sport.

Some research looks to see how body fat% has an impact on performance.  Items like agility tests and sprint tests are the items in question.  In terms of performance markers for the sport, I think that they are a decent representation.  Assuming that the quality of the research was acceptable (few are), it almost seems like common sense that the more body fat I carry, the slower I will be.  Again, not really a good reflection of position.

Some other research was actually done to reflect positions in baseball.  That was cool to look at.  Finally something objective to the actual position with a large enough sample size to rule out error.  And…short stops are leaner than everyone (roughly 11%), pitchers are fatter (14.4%).  Now we’re getting somewhere with this.  Even if the research was exclusive to minor league baseball.

Another research article pointed to the direct relationship of body weight and velocity in pitchers.  So now we have a reason for pitchers to think big.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean to pack on the fat.

Anecdotally, if this baseball player is a pitcher and is working hard in his offseason training, he will be getting stronger which in turn will lay the foundation for him to also become more powerful.  Once January hits and he is in the cages pitching, he should see a nice improvement in his velocity.  At the end of the day that is what we are trying to accomplish with a pitcher.  Maybe his body fat% is hovering the 11-13% range, maybe it’s 20%, or maybe it’s 8% which has been reported by some as the standard.

Bottom line is, eat a diet centered around whole foods making sure to get enough food to stay in an anabolic range when recovering.  Get plenty of sleep keeping in mind that those hours of sleep before midnight are much more valuable and we should be aiming for 8 uninterrupted hours.  Put the time in the gym!  Don’t sign up for 4 days per week and make excuses as to why you make it 1-2 times.  The gym should be exciting and a grind all at the same time.

We are 3 weeks into our baseball offseason training program and it’s going great!  If you have any questions please feel free to reach out.

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Guest Post: Protein Consumption

In this guest post from one of my summer interns and current sport performance coaches, Jake Schofield, he talks about protein and it’s importance.  Jake has created a niche here with the obesity epidemic and has created some strategies to attack.  If you would like to know more I encourage you to follow his blog at: jakeschofieldblog.wordpress.com.

The most asked questions I’ve heard by many of the athletes that come through the door are about protein, but one of the most common questions is when to take it. This question is up to debate in the fitness industry, since we have not perfected the time and amount for the maximum muscle gain.Protein is a macronutrient just like the carbs and fats that provide energy to our bodies as they’re consumed and broken down. Protein is essential in the production and repair of muscles. Foods that are high in protein are fish, nuts, red meats, and more. Many people tend to use shakes or powders to get the protein they need throughout the day. However, protein from animal based foods have complete proteins which contain all 48 essential amino acids. Plant based proteins are considered incomplete by missing one or more of these essential amino acids.There is protein in almost everything we eat, yet most people do not get enough protein in their diet. In general, someone needs 1.7g of protein per kg of body weight. The conversion from kilogram to pounds is 1kg = about 2.2 lbs. So now that we have an idea about protein, what it is, where it’s from, and what it does. The question really is when is the best time to take it being an athlete.

Here’s my take on this interesting topic. Protein consumption needs to be spread out throughout the day. The body can only break down so much protein at once. So, having a meal with 50g of protein some of that would go to waste. The body needs a decent amount of protein so the best way is to spread it out in portions. As many of us know the best way to eat is smaller portions more often throughout the day. Unlike, the norm for American eating as just breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To better an athlete it should be breakfast, snack, lunch, post-workout, dinner. Now these snacks shouldn’t be chips and sweets, but such foods like nuts are high in protein and a very healthy option for athletes in and out of season. Your body repairs itself constantly throughout the day, but while you sleep is where a lot of the muscle gains come from. So, having protein available throughout the day allows the body to constantly have protein to use to build and repair muscle. Then having stored protein while sleeping from a protein filled dinner will only help build and repair muscles more because the body releases the most growth hormone while in REM sleep. So, protein is very good for consumption for athletes, so do the math and see how much protein you should be taking daily.

Protein: How Much, What Kind?

There are a number of different views on protein intake and everyone seems to be selling some, so which is going to fit your lifestyle?  Let’s take a closer look and hopefully make the protein choice a little easier.

First off, what even is protein?  Protein is a collection of amino acids strung together into a larger structure.  Amino acids are simply a carbon ring with a few differing features compared to carbohydrates or fatty acids.  They have an amino group (hence the amino acid name) and a “R” group (chemical structure nomenclature) that gives the amino acid its name.  So when you see things on the shelf like branch chain amino acids, don’t fret, it is simply a particular cluster of amino acids clumped together.

Branch chain amino acids are, as stated previously, a particular clump of amino acids strung together as they are thought to provide extra energy, and, perhaps more importantly to the performing athlete, are processed a little different than a simple protein supplement.  Branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s), use a different shuttle mechanism when being digested which allows them to be processed a little quicker in some instances.  Why is that important?  Well it is important to help that whole recovery thing take place a little quicker.  Especially when you have back-to-back games like in college sports or club/AAU sports.

Protein supplements are also important to recovery and diet.  There are even some diets out there that consist of nearly all your daily calories coming from protein supplements.  Sounds enticing I know, but it is also very challenging to swallow six shakes a day with all your caloric needs.

Protein supplements traditionally come in either whey or casein form, however, more recently have begun to show up in a number of other varieties.  To make it even more confusing, they have taken things like whey protein and created about 30 different versions like isolate, amplified whey, isomer, wheybolic, etc.  Don’t be confused.  Sometimes companies like to throw random names mashed together that don’t really mean anything, but sound cool.

Let’s start simple.  Whey is animal protein and casein is plant-based protein.  In most cases whey is considered complete and casein incomplete because of it’s source.  Complete proteins are considered complete because they contain all of the essential amino acids that the body can’t make on it’s own.  Also, whey has been shown in research to be a little quicker to act versus casein in terms of digestion/absorption.

In the process of turning whey, a gel that separates from milk, into a dry substance, there can be some minor changes.  To turn a gel into a dry mixture you must either add a lot of heat, a chemical, or some other more costly, stringent, tedious processes.  To save money, most companies elect to add heat or chemicals.  The problem is that this will also denature some of the protein structures.  Here you are in a store reading the label and it reads: “30g protein per serving”.  Although this is technically true, a good portion of that protein has been denatured–unable to be processed by the body–so who really knows how much you are really getting.  Some companies will elect to go the more costly route to have less denatured and these proteins tend to taste better, anecdotally.  There is also something known as isolate, which simply means that through some process that they have removed some of the sugars that would create havoc for lactose sensitive individuals.

This free-form type of protein is generally associated with the recovery process and what most people finishing a workout chug.  It is also speculated that free form protein can have a little “back-up” in terms of shuttling for absorption.  This is why considering BCAAs would be a good idea for the performing athlete.  It will enhance the recovery process just a little bit, but hey, every little bit helps.

So this is the basic knowledge you can use when determining what supplements to buy.  Don’t waste your resources on a supplement that will only deliver partially.  Another interesting topic is how the body will do whatever it needs to do in order to preserve energy stores.  Feel free to add comments.