Home Posts tagged "Sports Nutrition"

Cressey Sports Performance – FL Spring Nutrition Seminar: April 9, 2017

We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, April 9, we’ll be hosting the CSP-FL Spring Nutrition Seminar featuring a day of learning with Brian St. Pierre. This event will take place at our Jupiter, FL location. Brian was CSP’s first employee in Massachusetts and has since moved on to be the Director of Performance Nutrition at Precision Nutrition.

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Here’s a look at our agenda for the day:

8:30am: Registration

Morning Session – Laying the Foundation

9:00am: Human metabolism and the calorie conundrum
10:00am: Protein: the magical macro
10:30am: Carbs: the misunderstood macro
11:00am: Fats: the mystery macro
11:30am: Supplements: what works, what doesn’t, and what might
12:00pm: Q&A
12:30pm: Lunch

Afternoon Session – Practical Application

1:30pm: How to assess and where to begin
2:30pm: Controlling portions and making adjustments
3:00pm: Dietary adjustments for advanced muscle gain and fat loss
3:30pm: Problem solving and case studies
4:00pm: Why consistency is king
4:30pm: Q&A

Location:

Cressey Sports Performance
880 Jupiter Park Drive
Suite 7
Jupiter, FL 33458

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Cost:

Regular Rate – $149.99
Student Rate – $129.99

Date/Time

Sunday, April 9
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar: 9AM-5PM

Continuing Education

0.7 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs (seven contact hours)

Click Here to Sign Up (Regular)

or

Click Here to Sign Up (Student)

We’re really excited about this event, as Brian is a polished presenter and always on top of the latest and greatest research on optimal nutrition practices. Space is limited and we expect this event to fill up quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!

If you have additional questions, please direct them to cspflorida@gmail.com. Looking forward to seeing you there!

PS - If you're looking for hotel information, both the Comfort Inn and Fairfield Inn in Jupiter offer our clients a discounted nightly rate. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount.
 

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 16

With all our Major League Baseball affiliated athletes having left for spring training, things are a bit quieter at Cressey Sports Performance.

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At this time of year, I always like to look back and reflect on the offseason and some of the lessons we've learned. Invariably, it leads to a blog of random thoughts on sports performance training! Here are some things that are rattling around my head right now:

1. Just getting a baseball out of one's hand improves shoulder function - even if an athlete doesn't actually do any arm care or "corrective exercises."

If you look at the glenohumeral joint (ball-and-socket of the shoulder), stability in a given situation is essentially just a function of how well the ball stayed in good congruency with the socket. This congruency is governed by a number of factors, most notably the active function of the scapular stabilizers and rotator cuff. This is what good arm care work is all about.

However, what many folks overlook is that there are both passive (ligamentous) and active (muscular) structures that dramatically influence this congruency. In the throwing shoulder, we're talking predominantly about the inferior, middle, and superior glenohumeral ligaments and long head of the biceps tendon; collectively, the provide anterior (front) stability to the joint so that the ball doesn't fly forward too far in the socket in this position:

layback

These ligaments and biceps tendon are always working hard as superior (top) stabilizers of the joint at this point, especially in someone with a shoulder blade that doesn't upwardly rotate effectively. By the end of a long season, these ligaments are a bit looser and the biceps tendon is often cranky. Good arm care exercises shifts the stress to active restraints (cuff and scapular stabilizers) that can protect these structures.

What often gets overlooked is the fact that simply resting from throwing will improve shoulder function in overhead athletes. When you avoid a "provocative" position and eliminate any possibility of pain, joint function is going to improve. And, ligaments that need to stiffen up are going to be able to do so and offer more passive stability.

shoulder

This is a huge argument in favor of taking time off from throwing at the end of a season. It's effectively "free recovery" and "free functional improvements." Adding good arm care work on top of abstaining from throwing makes the results even better.

*Note: this isn't just a shoulder thing; the ulnar collateral ligament at the elbow can regain some passive stability with time away from throwing as well. 

2. Coaches need to find ways to be more efficient - and shut up more often.

Each year, we start up three intern classes at both the Florida and Massachusetts facilities. As such, we have an opportunity to interact with approximately 30 up-and-coming strength and conditioning coaches. Mentoring these folks is one of my favorite parts of my job - and it has taught me a lot about coaching over the years.

Most interns fall into one of two camps: they either coach too much (the "change the world" mentality) or too little (the "don't want overstep my bounds" mentality). This is an observation - not a criticism - as we have all "been there" ourselves. I, personally, was an over-coacher back in my early strength and conditioning years.

The secret to long-term coaching success is to find a sweet spot in the middle. You have to say enough to create the desired change, but know when to keep quiet so as to not disrupt the fun and continuity of the training process. My experience has been that it's easier to quickly improve the under-coacher, as most folks will develop a little spring in their step when it's pointed out that they're missing things. That adjustment usually puts them right where they need to be.

The over-coacher is a different story, though. It's hard to shut off that "Type A" personality that usually leads someone in this direction. My suggestion to these individuals is always the same, though:

Don't let the game speed up on you. Before you say anything, pause - even take a deep breath, if you need to - and then deliver a CLEAR, CONCISE, and FIRM cue. Try to deliver the important message in 25% as many words as you normally would.

The athletes don't get overwhelmed, but just as importantly, the coach learns what the most efficient cues are. You might talk less, but you actually deliver more.

3. Use the "hands and head together" cue with rollouts and fallouts.

One of the biggest mistakes we'll see with folks when they do stability ball rollouts is that the hands will move forward, but the hips will shoot back. This reduces the challenge to anterior (front) core stability, and can actually drive athletes into too much lumbar extension (lower back arching). By cueing "hand and hips move together," you make sure they're working in sync - and then you just have to coach the athlete to resist the impacts of gravity on the core.

Rollouts

You can apply this same coaching cue to TRX fallouts, too:

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4. Ages 28-30 seems to be a "tipping point" on the crappy nutrition front.

I should preface this point by saying that there is absolutely nothing scientific about this statement; it's just an observation I've made from several conversations with our pro guys over the winter. In other words, it's purely anecdotal, but I'd add that I consider myself one of the "study" subjects.

We all know that many young athletes seem to be able to get away with absolutely anything on the nutrition front. We hear stories about pro athletes who eat fast food twice a day and still succeed at the highest levels in spite of their nutritional practices.

One thing I've noticed is that I hear a lot more observations about "I just didn't feel good today," "my shoulder is cranky," or any of a host of other negative training reports in the days after a holiday. The pro baseball offseason includes Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve/Day, and Valentine's Day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these observations almost always come from guys who are further along in their career - and as I noted, it's something I've felt myself.

If you eat crap, you're going to feel like crap.

Why does it seem to be more prevalent in older athletes? Surely, there are many possible explanations. More experienced athletes are usually more in-tune with their bodies than younger ones. Recovery is a bigger issue as well, so they might not have as much wiggle room with which to work as their younger counterparts. Older athletes also generally have more competing demands - namely kids, and the stress of competing at the highest levels - that might magnify the impacts of poor nutrition.

McD

Above all, though, I think the issue is that many young athletes with poor nutritional practices have no idea what it's like to actually feel good. They might throw 95mph or run a 40 under 4.5 seconds, but they don't actually realize that their nutrition is so bad that they're actually competing at 90-95% of their actual capacity for displaying and sustaining athleticism. It's only later - once they've gotten on board with solid nutrition - that they have something against which they can compare the bad days. 

Again, this is purely a matter of anecdotal observations, but as I've written before, everyone is invincible until they're not. As coaches, it's our job to make athletes realize at a younger age the profound difference solid nutrition can make. We can't just sit around and insist that they'll come around when they're ready, as that "revelation" might be too late for many of them.

Speaking of nutrition, today is the last day to get the early-bird registration discount on Brian St. Pierre's nutrition seminar at Cressey Sports Performance - MA on April 10. Brian is the director of performance nutrition for Precision Nutrition, and is sure to deliver a fantastic learning experience. You can learn more HERE

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Cressey Sports Performance – MA Spring Nutrition Seminar: April 10, 2016

We're very excited to announce that on Sunday, April 10, we’ll be hosting the CSP Spring Nutrition Seminar featuring a day of learning with Brian St. Pierre. This event will take place at our Hudson, MA location. Brian was CSP’s first employee and has since moved on to be the Director of Performance Nutrition at Precision Nutrition.

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Here’s a look at our agenda for the day:

8:30am: Registration

Morning Session – Laying the Foundation

9:00am: Human metabolism and the calorie conundrum
10:00am: Protein: the magical macro
10:30am: Carbs: the misunderstood macro
11:00am: Fats: the mystery macro
11:30am: Supplements: what works, what doesn’t, and what might
12:00pm: Q&A
12:30pm: Lunch

Afternoon Session – Practical Application

1:30pm: How to assess and where to begin
2:30pm: Controlling portions and making adjustments
3:00pm: Dietary adjustments for advanced muscle gain and fat loss
3:30pm: Problem solving and case studies
4:00pm: Why consistency is king
4:30pm: Q&A

Location:

Cressey Sports Performance
577 Main Street, STE 310
Hudson, MA 01749

CP579609_10151227364655388_1116681132_n-300x200

Cost:

Regular Rate – $149.99
Student Rate – $129.00

*The early bird registration deadline is 3/10/16.

Date/Time

Sunday, April 10
Registration 8:30AM
Seminar: 9AM-5PM

Continuing Education

0.7 National Strength and Conditioning Association CEUs Pending (seven contact hours)

Click Here to Sign Up (Regular)

or

Click Here to Sign Up (Student)

We’re really excited about this event, as Brian is a polished presenter and always on top of the latest and greatest research on optimal nutrition practices. Space is limited and we expect this event to fill up quickly, so don’t delay on signing up!

If you have additional questions, please direct them to cspmass@gmail.com. Looking forward to seeing you there!

PS - If you're looking for hotel information, Extended Stay America in Marlborough, MA offers our clients a discounted nightly rate. Just mention "Cressey" during the booking process in order to secure the discount. Their booking phone number is 508-490-9911.
 

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 1/13/16

Here's a bit of recommended strength and conditioning reading to get you over "Hump Day:"

Is There a Recipe for a Great Gym Culture? - My business partner, Pete Dupuis, speaks to how the culture at CSP-Mass has evolved over the years, and how you can take the lessons we've learned and apply it to your unique training facility. 

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The Do and Don't of Coaching - This was an excellent post on a wide variety of important coaching points from Mike Robertson.

Weekly Meal Prep: Mastered - Dr. John Berardi presents a great infographic for those looking to plan their nutrition effectively. I love Precision Nutrition because they are all about specific, actionable items, as opposed to just handing out diet plans and simply telling people to follow them.

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Fat Loss Friday: 15 Lessons on Leaning Out

Usually, my "random thoughts" series focus on anything from corrective exercises to sports performance training. However, given the release of my buddy John Romaniello's great new fat loss resource, The Omega Body Blueprint, I figured I'd throw out 15 thoughts on the subject of leaning out. Here goes!

1. We often hear about how the average American consumes a certain amount of <insert unhealthy food or beverage here> each year. What I'd be curious to hear is how much of the excess consumption comes from "nibbles," "tastes," "bites," and "samples. In other words, I'd be willing to bet that people are getting a lot of extra calories with quick tastes throughout the day - whether it's a "preview" taste of whatever they're cooking, finishing a child's meal, or trying a sample of a product as they walk through the grocery store. I'd be willing to bet that just removing these tastes from one's diet would make a significant difference in portion control for the average person who struggles with his/her weight.

2. There's been some research on how sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, but I don't think it's gotten the attention it deserves. As such, I'll put it out there right here: poor sleep quality absolutely has a profound effect on body composition! Take it from a guy who has six month old twin daughters at home; the past six months have been "eye opening" from a training results standpoint, too!

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This obviously happens predominantly through endocrine mediums that modulate appetite and where we store calories; this has been well established in research on night shift workers in the past. However, we can't overlook the indirect impact it has on training quality in a more experienced athletic population. If you're chronically sleep deprived, it's going to impact your performance in the gym. I, personally, found that while my "peak" fitness levels didn't fall off, my ability to display them consistently did. In other words, as an example, I could still go out and deadlift 600+ pounds, but I couldn't do it as often or as predictably. Over time, those hills and valleys add up to a detraining effect.

Additionally, when you're dragging and crunched for time, there is a tendency to cut corners on everything from warm-ups to finding quick pick-me-ups like energy drinks. This is a very slippery slope.

3. I've never bothered to confirm that the numbers are right on the money, but over the years, I've heard that 80% of North Americans are chronically dehydrated, and that dehydration is the #1 cause of daytime fatigue. If these are, in fact, true, how come nobody ever highlights drinking more water as a means of improving fat loss efforts? It improves satiety and "displaces" calorie-containing beverages - and that's on top of helping to optimize exercise performance and "normal" health factors. I wish more folks would look to water as a "magic pill" over anything they can buy on the shelf of a supplement store.

4. Fat loss is pretty simple, until you're 90% of the way to your goal. After that, EVERYTHING matters: macros, hormones, programming, timing, and a host of other factors. This was a key point John Romaniello makes in his new e-book. You wouldn't take your Ferrari to a mechanic who specializes in working on Honda Civics, so you need to make sure you seek out expertise from people who have actually helped people to finish that final 10% on the way to the goal.

roman

5. Everyone has a few foods that they find irresistible - food that they always eat if they're in the house. If you're trying to drop body fat, before you take any other steps, you need to get these foods out of the house. The goal should be making "cheating" as difficult to accomplish as possible. For me, it's natural peanut butter.

6. A lot of people can only train three times per week - and that's totally fine. With that said, I'm still largely in agreement with Dr. John Berardi's observation that the most fit people you'll encounter get at least six hours of exercise in per week. In other words, if you've only got three hours to work out each week, your training definitely better be dense; you need a lot of volume and relatively short rest intervals. Don't expect to be in phenomenal shape doing a 3x5 program MoWeFr unless you have an awesome diet and are really busting your butt working hard during those three sessions.

7. When it comes to athletes, gradual reductions in body fat are the name of the game. You see, often, body weight – and not body composition – are what predicts their success. Pitchers are a perfect example; I’ve seen many who have just indiscriminately lost body weight, only to see their velocity drop considerably. This may come from the actual loss of body mass, the increased training volume that caused it, the type of training (extra aerobic activity?), or – most likely – a combination of all these factors. One thing is for sure, though: dramatic weight reductions rarely work out really well.

8. One of the biggest complaints of folks on "diets" (as much as I hate that term) is that healthy food gets too bland. Without even knowing it, a lot of them start adding sauces that are loading with extra calories, usually from sugar. Nobody ever seems to recognize that BBQ sauce and ketchup can be loaded with sugar, for instance.

Fortunately, a quick solution is to encourage them to gravitate toward using spices and herbs over sauces to add some flavor to meat and vegetables. I love turmeric, sea salt, and pepper on my eggs, as an example.

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9. Avoiding liquid calories is the still, in my opinion, the biggest dietary game-changer most folks in the general population can implement. I wish I could go back in time and eliminate every soda I drank as a kid.

10. There is an inverse relationship between strength preservation and conditioning intensity during a fat loss training phase. In other words, if maintaining strength is a high priority, you'd be wise to leave the aggressive interval training out - and instead opt for lower-intensity supplemental conditioning. Obviously, this means results will come a bit slower - but you'll hold on to your hard-earned strength gains more easily.

11. My business partner, Pete, told me a funny story the other day, and I thought I'd share it here as a good fat loss lesson.

Pete did his first "big" presentation - to an audience of about 150 fitness professionals - last month. As luck would have it, he wears a watch that also tracks his heart rate - and Pete happened to glance down at it right before he went on stage to present. His resting heart rate is normally in the 55-60bpm range - and it was up over 120bpm at that moment!

peted

Obviously, this is a specific challenging, unfamiliar incident that can get heart rate to spike. However, there are people out there who respond to most challenges like this; they are constantly "wired" throughout the day. This obviously has both short- and long-term health impacts, and you can bet that if you're always on edge, it's going to be a lot harder to lose body fat.

We don't have the option of just removing stressors from our lives, but we can change the way we respond to them. A few coping strategies to keep you mellow and unconditionally positive in the face of adversity might just help to get/keep you lean, too.

12. Speaking of stress, I'm a firm believer that sometimes, when it comes the war on excess body fat, we need to look at reducing stressors before we look to add stressors (via exercise and caloric restriction). Think about it: if you have a busy, overweight executive who is sleeping four hours a night and crushing terrible fast food, is the first priority to put him on a crazy high-volume exercise program? Shouldn't we try to add some quality sleep, better food, a little massage and/or meditation, and a moderate exercise program from which he can bounce back? In other words, isn't it a better bet - both for short-term health and long-term adherence - to "normalize" routines before getting on a crazy routine?

13. If you want to understand fat loss, you need to understand insulin management. For the real geeks out there, check out this paper I wrote for an exercise endocrinology course back in graduate school. There were enough references in there to last me an entire career...

14. It's very easy to fall off the bandwagon on the nutrition front when you're on vacation. If you're only going on 1-2 vacations per year, this probably isn't a big deal. However, if you're someone who travels extensively and does a lot of weekend trips, these dietary missteps can add up. Vacations are extra challenging because they often include all-you-can-eat buffets, plentiful dessert choices, and lots of alcohol. You'd be amazed at how easy it is to pack away 5,000 calories in a day if you're having two big ol' strawberry daiquiris while on the beach, and then enjoying a slice of cheesecake and two glasses of wine with dinner.

The last thing I would ever tell our clients to do is avoiding "indulging" while on vacation, so my strategy has always been to simply encourage them to get some exercise in first thing in the morning on half the days they're on vacation. In addition to the short-term metabolic benefits it yields, an exercise session has a way of keeping people accountable to their diets so that they avoid going overboard. If you work out early in the day, you're more likely to go grab a healthy breakfast - which will help to limit caloric intake later in the day. And, you're less likely to have that extra glass of wine at 11pm if you know you're going to be in the resort's health club at 8am.

Of course, this is coming from a guy who took a TRX to Costa Rica for his honeymoon, so take my recommendations with a grain of salt!

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15. I'm constantly amazed at how many calories I need to eat to maintain my body weight - and I don't consider myself an ectomorph, by any means. In fact, I'm probably more toward the endomorph ends of the spectrum. What separates me from the rest of the endomorph population in this regard? To me, it's two things:

a. I eat a very clean diet - which means I need a greater quantity of food.

b. My daily non-exercise activity level is pretty high, as I typically walk 4-5 miles per day while coaching on the floor. I'm also not very good at sitting still, whether it's tapping my foot while I'm working on the computer, or constantly bouncing around the house doing different things. I'm actually more stressed when I'm sitting still!

To this end, I think most folks who struggle with their weight need to find ways to add a bit more movement to their daily lives. Wearing a pedometer can be a great initiative in this regard.

In wrapping this article up, if you're looking from some direction from a guy who has put far more time and effort into learning about the rhyme and reason for optimal fat loss approaches, I'd encourage you to check out John Romaniello's new resource, The Omega Body Blueprint. It's on sale for 50% off through tomorrow (Saturday) at midnight, and I really enjoyed going through it.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better – Installment 61

This installment of quick tips comes from Cressey Sports Performance coach, Miguel Aragoncillo.

1. Use “discovery learning” as a way to improve retention for movement patterns.

Going to continuing education courses consistently allows me to adjust my perspective based on the “latest” information available in the industry. However, one of the biggest things that allows me to shift my perspective further is to listen in and converse with other professionals during lunch breaks to further understand the topic at hand in a more productive way.

This first point divulges how to implement a sense of discovery about movement patterns and gives some very straight forward tips for coaching anything that is new to your clients or athletes.

Keep these points in mind when using this new technique of teaching.

Use your athlete/client's words and language to help them learn a movement better.

Not every person will know where their glutes are, for example. Have the athlete just point to the part of their body where they feel it; you don’t need a PhD in Exercise Science to teach a basic movement pattern.

Remove body parts.

If a hip hinge is too difficult, reduce the neuromuscular challenge by having them start on two knees instead of two feet. Now the movement is largely a singular hinging pattern when they start on their knees, instead of stabilizing on their feet.

2. Consider reducing the number of “corrective exercises” you perform.

I’m a big fan of Dan John and his easily quotable phrase, “Keep the goal the goal.” Maintain your perspective of the goal at hand. If your goal is to improve strength, lose fat, or improve at your sport, how many corrective exercises are you performing? How much time are you utilizing doing foam rolling? Minimize your time spent analyzing your own problems by seeking out the best coaches, therapists, or nutrition coaches, and get to work on that goal. Sometimes, you'll find that exercises can even be combined to improve efficiency without sacrificing the benefit.

Corrective exercises are supposed to correct something. By omitting these movements, will the athlete miss any crucial movement patterns? Play “Devil’s Advocate” and make sure to incorporate all that is necessary, but no more. If you aren't careful, your "correctives" can wind up becoming a cumbersome majority of your training sessions.

3. Learn the difference between blocked and random practice - and apply each appropriately.

On the topic of training youth athletes, I recently attended a seminar in which blocked vs. random practice was presented. For the purposes of this article, blocked practice is specific training of a singular skill with no changes in environmental surroundings (like swinging a bat against a pitching machine over and over). Conversely, random practice involves having an individual adapt to the surroundings and incorporate different (but similar) skills (like swinging a bat for different scenarios - with a live pitcher).

The biggest question of the day was, "Which athlete excelled when it came time for performance?"

When tested in the short-term, blocked practice performed better than random practice. This makes sense, because if you practice a singular skill over and over, you will get better at that skill.

However, when enough time passed for participants to “forget,” retention of skills was the name of the game. So when retaining skills for a longer term, blocked practice did not do as well, and practicing “randomly” prevailed.

From a logical point of view, this is similar to memorizing sentences when you’re cramming for a final exam. Sure, you’ll do great if the teacher just has the same exact sentences or questions as the book - but what happens if the teacher forces you to critically think, and asks questions that are different than the material presented during class?

This leads quite appropriately into the context of a long term athletic development model. By increasing skills and techniques in a broad sense, athletes will more easily acquire specific sport skills. Conversely, with early sports specialization, athletes are practicing (almost always) one skill over and over, and struggle when diverse, more unpredictable movement is required for success.

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What are the actionable items you can take away from this?

If you coach youth athletes, or you yourself have a young son or daughter:

• Encourage them to try multiple sports.
• Allow them to “figure it out” when it comes to decision making skills, especially as it applies to sports.
• Provide feedback - but much, much later after the competition, game, or practice session.
• This will allow for them to come up with their own unique thoughts, and allow them to be uninhibited when it comes to creating a solution to whatever problems occur during a game.

While this is a “Quick and Easy Way to Move and Feel Better” series, I imagine that we can help everyone of all ages move and even feel better by taking this information and acting on it.

4. Try this quick oatmeal snack.

I’ve been preparing for a powerlifting meet for the past few months, and an easy go to snack in the morning and/or at night is a quick oatmeal snack.

It’s fast, needs little ingredients, is a flexible snack, or even as a snack if your goal is to gain mass.

PB2 Oatmeal

• 1/2 cup Oatmeal
• 2 tbsp Chocolate Peanut Butter or Powdered Peanut Butter
• 1 Scoop of Protein Powder
• Handful of [Frozen] Blueberries
• Honey for taste
• 1 cup of almond or whole milk

Macros
Fat: ~9g
Carbs: ~54g
Protein: ~42g

Prep time: Pour the oats in first, followed by milk, then heat to 90-120 seconds. Then, add everything in and mix it up. The easy clean-up makes this a go-to for the past few weeks/months with all the snow in Massachusetts!

5. Remember that band can increase resistance - or assist in cleaning up a movement pattern.

Whether your goal is maximal strength, increased hypertrophy, or even learning an exercise for the first time, bands are a useful tool.

Band placement is critical for learning how an exercise can increase resistance, or assist during a movement.

For example, you can improve strength by performing a band resisted push-up, or help the push-up by utilizing a band under the waist to elicit a “pop” out of the bottom of the push-up (where the exercise is most difficult).

Band Assisted Push-Up - Miguel

At the same time, bands can help to improve reactive core engagement, or in other words, your body will have to reflexively react in a favorable way.

About the Author

Miguel Aragoncillo (@MiggsyBogues) is a strength and conditioning coach at the Hudson, MA location of Cressey Sports Performance. More of his writing can be found on www.MiguelAragoncillo.com.

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5 Strategies for Winning the Minor League Nutrition Battle – Part 2

Today, we've got part 2 of a guest post from Andrew Ferreira on the topic of nutrition in the minor leagues. In case you missed it, be sure to check out Part 1. -EC

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Strategy #3: Back-load Your Carbs.

Carb back-loading simply means saving your carb intake until later on in the day. Personally, I've found it advantageous to eat most of my carbs at night, predominantly after the game. There are several reasons why I suggest you employ this strategy:

A) Maintain sympathetic dominance when it's time to work

Minor leaguers consume a LOT of energy drinks. They consume so many, in fact, that I wouldn't be surprised if our population could keep energy drink companies in business all by ourselves.

Because the majority of minor league games are played at night, we work when our bodies' natural circadian rhythm wants to unwind and relax with the setting of the sun. Sure, your biological clock can adjust, but there is a physiological ideal that your body operates most efficiently under. In a perfect world, cortisol levels are lowest during the evening, fueling relaxation and a smooth transition into restful sleep. Clearly, these are conditions that are not conducive to high performance. At a superficial level, moderate stimulant consumption is understandable.

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Unfortunately, two to three energy drinks a day doesn't quantify as moderation consumption. Stimulants are ingested at extreme levels and I think a big part of it stems from our half-haphazard approach to nutrition. Let me explain.

When we have to perform mechanical work, we want our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to be locked in. Our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) excites us and floods our blood stream with catecholamines, providing us not only with energy, but the ingredients to be locked in and focused.

When we wake up in the morning, this is our bodies' natural state. Cortisol levels are high and we're ready to take on the day. The problem is that our bodies' enthusiasm for getting stuff done all but goes out the window when you stop at Chick-Fil-A and eat a bunch of refined carbs.

Ingesting carbs causes a spike in blood glucose levels and, consequently, a rise in insulin. Glucose and insulin promote a shift from the SNS to the parasympathetic nervous system. You start to feel groggy, sluggish, and tired because your body is more concerned with digesting the food you just ate than whatever task you were focused on beforehand. So what do you do? You shotgun that Red Bull, prompting a shift back to the SNS, and consquently unneccesarily stressing the adrenals. If your pregame meal looks like anything like your first meal, then you'll again feel sluggish – prompting another energy drink.

We want to avoid this cycle.

If you back-load your carbs and focus on protein, healthy fats, and vegetables during the day, you will trigger a much smaller spike in insulin and in all likelihood stay locked in to sympathetic mode, allowing you the mental acuity to adequately handle the necessary mechanical work without disrupting the balance with the autonomic nervous system.

B) Stay Leaner.

In the minors, we're not fortunate enough to have post-game five star spreads similar to what is available to major leaguers. There's not ever going to be steak or a piece of wild caught fish waiting for us after the game. The economics of the situation simply make it impossible. What we're largely going to get is a staple of refined carbohydrates. The last team I was with had a steady rotation of pizza, fried chicken and fries, and lasagna as our three main post-game meals. Because we pay for the food out of clubhouse dues and the fact that our hunger after the game relegates any notions of health conscious behavior to the background of our minds, we're going to eat whatever we have in front of us.

pizzaboxes

Though the choices aren't going to be ideal, if we back-load our carbs, we can mitigate damage. Whatever glycogen debt we created from either training earlier that day, pre-game sprint work, or actually playing in the game will be refueled with the post-game carbs, preparing our body to be ready to go for the next day.

Further, back-loading our carbs is going to keep us leaner. I guarantee if you eat nothing but refined carbs all day, you're going to gain fat. Has not having a six-pack ever kept someone from being a major leaguer? Absolutely not. Over the short term, it's really not going to make a significant difference; yet, habits just don't go away. You'll fall into a habitual pattern of eating refined carbs and over time you're going to be a “bad body guy.” It's not a stigma you want attached to your name. I have seen a player (a top prospect, in fact) have to go to Instructional League and do nothing but work out all day because he finished the season in incredibly bad shape. It's a situation that can be easily avoided.

C) Sleep Better.

Sleep is the greatest recovery tool we have. If we want to survive the duration of the season and stay healthy, it's imperative that we sleep well. Sure, it's difficult to get quality sleep when you’re traveling on a crammed bus for eight hours overnight. That's why we must optimize sleep when we can.

sleepbaseball

Our energy drink consumption becomes most problematic in terms of sleep quality. You may be able to get to sleep after drinking that energy drink in the 4th inning, but the quality of your sleep is going to suffer. Caffeine shortens phases three and four (REM sleep and dreaming), which are the most restorative for the brain (Keenan 2014). Continually short-circuiting our bodies' ability to recover is like taking the pin out of a live grenade. Eventually, something is going to blow up.

Back-loading carb intake does a few things for our sleep quality.

First, as I mentioned earlier, glucose intake (carbs) and a rise in insulin promotes a shift to our parasympathetic nervous system. Inducing parasympathetic nervous system dominance at night is crucial to recovery and allowing for high quality digestion, absorption, and cellular uptake of nutrients.

Second, carbohydrate intake inudces a release of serotonin. Serotonin release, through a series of chemical interactions, promotes lasting, quality sleep.

By back-loading our carb intake, sympathetic dominance can be maintained while we have to train and play. When we have to turn our bodies off and relax and recover, ingesting ample amounts of carbs (healthy or not) prompts a shift to our parasympathetic nervous system, facilitating restorative sleep and optimal recovery.

Tip #4: Supplement Wisely.

In terms of in-season supplementation, inducing incredible gains in the weight room isn't priority #1. Sure, that latest pre-workout you got may be the equivalent to cocaine, but is getting a pick-me-up to power through your low volume, moderate intensity in-season lift all that necessary?

Rather than setting a new squat max in July, I want to be sure our physiology is optimized to facilitate proper recovery. I understand that I keep hammering home the importance of recovery, but it's incredibly important on a day-to-day basis.

Take a reliever, for example. Say my max velocity is 92 and another reliever's max velocity is 95. On the surface, the other guy is more valuable. Yet, overlooked is the fact that I am able to pitch at near 100% effectiveness every day while reliever B is only able to utilize his premium ability twice a week. Now who is more valuable? The answer is clear.

Enhancing one's ability to recover is our top priority in terms of in-season supplementation. There are five that I think are essential to facilitate adequate recovery.

1) Fish Oil – For reasons I mentioned above, supplementing with a high-quality fish oil is essential to fighting off inflammation.

2)
Athletic Greens (or some form of greens supplement) – Cooking vegetables is the bane of my existence. I just don't do it near as often as I should, partly because it's just not sexy or appealing to my brain's limbic system. Delayed positive effects on my testosterone levels are just not enough positive justification to cook up a batch of broccoli alongside my steak and 'taters. Athletic Greens is my nutritional insurance. It's loaded with about every health food known to man just in case your vegetable intake is as bad as mine. You'll never feel better, I promise.

athletic-greens-pack

3) Vitamin D – I know what you're thinking... the minor league season is played in the heart of summer, why the need for Vitamin D supplementation? Valid point, but for many AA and AAA leagues, you don't see the sun in April and May. You're miserably cold and I'm sure your vitamin D levels are not optimal. Additionally, once the season gets going, most guys wear sunscreen, so actual sun exposure is lower than you might think. Supplement with vitamin D until the seasons turn.

I know what you're thinking at this point - and, no, leaving the newest fad testosterone booster off my list wasn't a mistake. Stick to the basics during the season and put your focus on optimizing your body’s ability to recover when it comes to supplementation. It's bland and boring – but bland and boring works.

Tip #5: Include Super Shakes to Maintain Weight.

In order to get to “The Show,” it's all about continually producing favorable adaptations and taking steps forward. Most athletes’ off-seasons place a predominant focus on gaining quality weight: the more muscle, the better. Everything else held constant, more mass will equate to greater force production and, in all likelihood, a better athlete.

TimCollins250x_20110610

So all off-season we focus on eating BIG. Force-feeding oneself into near sickness at the dinner table and thousand calorie shakes a couple times a day become the norm. Compound these eating habits with a quality strength program and we gain 20 pounds by the time we leave for spring training. We look and feel strong as hell and because of the weight gain, our velocity experiences a nice jump.

Your body wants to continually maintain homeostasis. Keeping your bodyweight is an important metabolic homeostatic process. By eating BIG the entire off-season, you forced your body to adapt by disrupting homeostasis and gaining weight. The problem is that your body chooses the path of least resistance when it comes to maintaining homeostasis. Metabolically, it's a whole lot easier for your body to maintain 200lbs than it is to maintain a new 225-lb frame. So, eating big for just one off-season isn't going to cut it if you want to maintain your new frame, strength, and velocity. You have to keep pushing adaptation until your body establishes a new set point and you are better able to maintain your weight without having to consume 5,000 calories a day like you do in the off season.

All too often, I hear stories of guys gaining all this weight and strength in the off-season – but they struggle to hold on to any of it during the season. By the time the season ends, they are back to where they started the previous year. It's a perpetual cycle that keeps them playing catch up each off-season rather than using the time to build on the foundation and keep pushing favorable adaptations to take them to the next level.

Maintaining your off-season eating habits during the season is necessary if you want to maintain your weight. Unfortunately, with our schedule, it's easier said than done. It's nearly impossible to feel comfortable playing when your stomach is full from a gigantic breakfast and lunch.

Enter the super shake. It's a whole lot easier to drink 1,000 calories than it is to eat them. Implementing one or two a day may be what you need in order to keep pushing your body to establish a new set point and maintain your new frame.

CPShaker

A good place to start in constructing your super shake is using the formula EC wrote about in this article: low-carb protein powder, almond or whole milk, coconut oil, fruits, natural nut butters, greek yogurt, oats, ground flax, and veggies.

It's not rocket science, nor is it sexy. With the above ingredients, the combinations are literally endless, the calories dense, and the product healthy. Unless you literally have no other option, which I can't imagine, avoid the standard weight gainers you’ll see on the market. They are processed crap.

Wrap-Up

Ever since I started my professional career, I was in search of a new model to adequately handle in-season nutrition to give me the best shot of making it. The results of my search gave birth to the model constructed above.

It's not revolutionary, nor is it a model that's going to lend itself into a New York Times' Bestseller. However, it has allowed me to stay lean, maintain my strength, and most importantly feel good throughout a 142-game season. The minor league baseball season is a beast with so many less-than-ideal environmental variables. The ability to adapt is foundational in order to be successful. To adapt adequately, having a workable framework is a necessity. The model above is a start.

About the Author

Andrew Ferreira is a current Harvard student concentrating on human evolutionary biology. He currently writes for Show Me Strength - a site dedicated to improving all aspects of human performance - and was previously drafted by the Minnesota Twins. Follow him on Twitter.

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5 Strategies for Winning the Minor League Nutrition Battle – Part 1

Today, I have a guest post from professional baseball player, Harvard student, long-time CSP athlete, and all-around fitness and nutrition enthusiast, Andrew Ferreira. Enjoy! -EC

ferreiraimage

It's approaching midnight in a town whose name I can't pronounce in a state I've never been in. The game – our 19th in 20 days – was an extra inning affair. Typically, it's no big deal but today is a “getaway day,” meaning we have a nice 8-hour drive ahead of us on the way to the next series.

Having gotten to the field at 2pm that day for some fundamental and early work, noting that my teammates and I are tired would be an understatement. The caffeine spike from the midgame energy drink (the second on the day, for most of us) is starting to wear off and our tired minds are fixated on one thing: food. In a world where PB&Js and deli meat sandwiches are the norm, post-game spreads typically don't arouse too much excitement.

Today, we got “lucky.”

As we walked into the clubhouse, a half-dozen large pizzas were staring us right in the face. Let's call a spade a spade here and make it known that it's certainly no deep dish from Chicago or Nochs from Harvard Square – but at this point, it doesn't matter. Despite how health-conscious I try to be, I'm still going to eat it despite the fact that it could be the worst pizza in the world. In fact, on most nights, I'd venture to say I eat the most slices. Calories are calories and my fatigue-beaten mind simply has no willpower to exert against consuming loads of refined carbohydrates.

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The above scenario is all too common in my world. Minor league life is tough. Money is tight, travel is long, and the nutritional options are even worse. With frequent long travel, good sleep is rare – and subsequently, the “grind” (as some would call it) is only tolerable because stimulants and energy drinks are the minor league equivalent of water. It's certainly not favorable when high performance is needed day in and day out over a grueling 140+ game season that spans from March to September.

Now, it's a fair assumption that having a good, productive off-season is critical to having a good season while staying healthy. Certainly, there are outliers whose performance isn't indicative of the fact that they didn't touch a weight or pick up a ball until Spring Training. As frustrating as it may be to the hard-working non-elite, freaks do exist. And yet, while the off season is important, I'd argue how you handle the off-the-field in-season period variables plays a much larger role in facilitating high performance than most of us players think.

What I've garnered in my three years of professional experience is that it all starts and ends with nutrition, and quite frankly, most haven't a clue on how to manage it effectively. While a general plan or framework needs to be in place, for most, it is nonexistent.

A typical day average (in terms of nutrition, not ability) player looks like this:

Meal #1: Fast food on the way to the field. Whether that be Zaxby's (a staple where I was), Chick-Fil-A, or the gas station, something quick is the predominant option before the field. First energy drink or coffee of the day.

coffeesleep

Meal #2 Pre-game spread at the field. Most days it’s a whole lot of PB&Js and deli meat sandwiches. Possibly a protein shake mixed in at some point. Second energy drink or coffee of the day.

Meal #3 Post-game spread at the field. It varies, but carbs (usually refined) are a staple.

You don't need a PhD in nutritional sciences to realize in any profession, that set up won't lead to high performance. While most professions solely require a sharp mind to handle the mechanical work, in order to make it to “The Show,” we need both our bodies and minds to be operating at an elite level. Eating like that, while possibly sustainable over the short term, isn't going to produce favorable adaptations in our pursuit of high performance.

Minor league baseball players need a new model. It must be one that is both sustainable and feasible, given the environmental (money, travel, etc.) constraints under which we must work. Here is the framework I have used and would suggest others adopt to facilitate adequate nutrition for better levels of recovery and performance.

Strategy #1: Control the “Controllables”

Controlling damage is imperative to be successful nutritionally throughout the course of the season. Eating well on the road is tough. Sometimes you're stuck in a hotel where the only options are McDonald’s and Burger King, and the bus driver has no interest driving you 20 minutes out of the way so you can go to Chipotle. Over the course of a 140+ game season, situations like this are sometimes unavoidable, which mean that we have to do everything in our power to:

A) Eat “Better” At Home

The beauty of playing predominantly night games is that report time isn't until about 2-3pm. Despite the fact that we run on nocturnal schedules, often not getting to bed until one or two in the morning, that still leaves plenty of time to at the bare minimum cook yourself one good meal at your apartment or hotel room before heading to the field.

If you manage your time reasonably well (i.e., not sleeping until 1:30pm every day), picking up fast food on the way to the field should never be the go-to option.

In an ideal world, I would take it a step further. Have a pre-field meal at home and then food prep your second meal to bring to the field so you can avoid the standard pre-game spread that often offers nothing of nutritional value.

I'll get into the “why” a bit later on in the post, but during the season, I'm a big believer in backloading your carbohydrates. I'm a firm believer that the first meal(s) of the day should be largely devoid of carbohydrates. Protein, fats, and vegetables are my early day staples. If carbs are mixed in there, it'll be by necessity, not choice.

An example day for me would look like:

Meal #1: Bulletproof Coffee (grass-fed butter w/coconut oil) – copious amounts of saturated fat make this a meal and an advantageous way to get calorically dense healthy fats in your body if you're hurting for time

Meal #2: 6 egg (cage-free preferred) omelet with spinach

1024px-Omelette

Meal #3 (pre-game): Protein variation (chicken, beef, fish) with side of vegetables

Meal #4 (post-game): the post-game spread, on most days

It's by no means nutritionally perfect, but we don't live in a vacuum where everything goes according to plan every single day. There are going to be days when you just can't get out of bed and have no time to make yourself a couple meals. Having a framework or general routine will allow you to overcome and still win the days you don't feel like it.

B) Prep Meals in Advance

By about mid-June, you'll be sick of cooking. It's happened to me on numerous occasions. Making three meals a day isn't a chore in April when you're excited about the impact that handling your nutrition can have on the season. Then, the months drag on, cooking becomes monotonous, and that fast food ride with your buddies pre-game becomes all the more appealing.

When cooking becomes a “grind,” turn to meal prepping. It may take you an hour or two one day, but then you have food that lasts you a week and all you need from that point is a microwave. Saves you time and boredom. Brian St. Pierre's chili recipe is a good place to start; it's phenomenal.

Strategy #2: Eat More Real Food

Our bodies are going to get beat up. It's inevitable throughout the course of an incredibly long season.

Last season, I can vividly remember feeling great all the way through about mid-July. My body felt good, my arm felt even better, and I was enthusiastic about the possibility of playing winter ball once the season ended. Then, the first week of August hit and both my arm and body had seemingly hit a wall and with it went my enthusiasm for baseball, much less winter ball.

That bicep tendon (the one you thought felt surprisingly good considering how many innings you'd logged over the year) is starting to bark – and you know what that means: anti-inflammatory pills. Forget the negative consequences on our gut health, the only thing we're concerned about is that NSAIDs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is going to make that shoulder bark all but disappear – at least temporarily.

If we're going to make it through the season without regularly taking enough NSAIDs to kill a small animal, we must become masters at managing inflammation. It starts with nutrition. In terms of our ability to recover, you are what you eat.

Being able to manage inflammation all starts with optimizing our Omega 6:3 ratio. For our purposes here, going into the nitty gritty scientific and anthropological details isn't necessary. What's important to note is that a body overloaded with Omega 6s is in a pro-inflammatory state. A body with an optimized ratio is in an anti-inflammatory state. In order to survive the season without overdosing on Alleve, it behooves you to optimize your fatty acid intake. Here’s a quick plan:

Step 1: Reduce refined carb intake as much as possible. Refined carbs, because of vegetable oils, are loaded with Omega 6s. Don't cook with vegetable oils either.

Step 2: Optimize the quality of your animal protein. Grass fed beef, cage-free chicken, and wild caught fish are best – even if they are expensive on our budget. Start with pastured eggs. They're not much more expensive than regular eggs, with a much better fatty acid ratio.

Step 3: Take a high quality fish oil. If the rest of your diet is awful, this will serve as nothing more than a Band-Aid, but it's better than nothing.

There are other things we can try and tackle to construct the perfect anti-inflammtory diet, but it's overkill. Keep it simple, stupid. Eat more real food, optimize your Omega 6:3 ratio, and you'll put your body in a much better state to recover and handle the grind of the season.

In Part 2, Andrew will outline three more strategies for improving nutritional approaches in the minor leagues.

About the Author

Andrew Ferreira is a current Harvard student concentrating on human evolutionary biology. He currently writes for Show Me Strength - a site dedicated to improving all aspects of human performance - and was previously drafted by the Minnesota Twins. Follow him on Twitter.

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Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 59

It's time to rock and roll with a new installment of quick tips you can put into action with your nutrition and strength and conditioning programs:

1. Enjoy some cherries!

Cherries are in-season right now in the Northeast, and my wife and I have been enjoying them regularly. In addition to being really tasty and loaded with nutrients and some fiber, there is actually a bit of research to suggest that eating them may help us overcome muscular soreness. Granted, working around the cherry pits is a bit of a pain in the butt - especially if you want to use them in a shake - but it's still worth the effort. Enjoy!

cherry

2. Watch baggy shorts with kettlebell swings.

Rugby players and female athletes excluded, most athletes prefer longer shorts that are a bit baggier these days. I don't anticipate a return to the era of Rocky and Apollo anytime soon, so it's important to appreciate this fashion sense and coach accordingly.

The biggest issue with baggy shorts is that they can get in the way on exercises like kettlebell swings and pull-throughs where you want to keep the weighted implement (kettlebell or rope/cable) close to the family jewels. When the shorts are too baggy, they can actually get in the way.  With that in mind, when an athlete is wearing baggy shorts and performing these exercises, it's best to have him folder over the waistband a bit so that the material won't block the movement path.

3. Find your biggest windows of adaptation.

Dr. John Berardi gave a great presentation at the Perform Better Summit in Chicago last weekend, and while there were a lot of outstanding points, one stood out the most for me. While "JB" is an incredibly bright guy with seemingly infinite knowledge, he never overcomplicates things when counseling folks on the nutrition side of things.  In fact, he stressed fixing the most glaring problems for individuals before even considering anything more "sexy." On the nutrition side of things, it might be as simple as correcting vitamin/mineral deficiencies, getting omega-3 fatty acids in, improving hydration status, or eating protein at every meal.  When things like these are out of whack, it doesn't matter what your macronutrient ratios or, or whether you eat two or six times per day.

It got me to thinking about how we can best apply this to training. One thing that popped to mind: a lot of people jump to advanced training strategies when they simply haven't gotten strong in the first place. If you are a male and only bench press 135 pounds, you don't need wave loading, drop sets, German Volume training, or accommodating resistances; you just need to show up and keep adding weight to the bar each week with straight sets, as boring as they may seem. And, if you aren't training very hard or frequently enough, you need to increase your effort, not find a fancier program.

Likewise, there are a lot of people who look to add, add, and add to their training volume, but never pay attention to recovery. If you're sleeping three hours a night or eating a horrible diet, a lack of training volume probably isn't what is keeping you from reaching your goals.

The takeaway message is that everyone has different windows of adaptation where they can improve. And, what a novice lifter needs is usually much different than what an experienced trainee should incorporate.

4. If you're going to sprint, start on the grass.

It's an awesome time of year to get out and do your conditioning in the beautiful weather. For me, this means I get to get outside and do longer sprints than I can do the rest of the year when the weather is less than stellar and I'm limited to a 45-yard straightaway at the facility. A common mistake I see among folks at this time of year, though, is heading right out to the track or an even more unforgiving surface: pavement. If you want to start sprinting, grass is your best friend - and it's even better if you can find a slight hill up which you can sprint. For more tips on this front, check out my old article, So You Want to Start Sprinting?

5. Try some band-resisted broad jumps before deadlifting.

Whenever I'm not feeling so hot when I first go to deadlift, it's usually because I just haven't warmed up thoroughly enough. I've found that the bar speed almost always seems to "come around" when I add in a few sets of plyos before returning to try deadlifts again. Without a doubt, my favorite option on this front is band-resisted broad jumps:

These are a great option because they offer a little bit of resistance to push you more toward the strength-speed end of the continuum, but perhaps more importantly, the band reduces the stress you encounter on landing, as it effectively deloads you. Next time you're dragging and it's time to deadlift, try two sets of five jumps.

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8 Nutritional Strategies For Those Who Can’t Gain Weight

Throughout the off-season, my wife and I have professional baseball players staying with us quite a bit.  It's become very common for athletes to come to Boston for a few days, do a little "crash course" at Cressey Sports Performance on training and nutrition, and then head back home, where I'll program for them from afar.

In almost all these cases, one of the biggest eye-opening experiences for these athletes is eating with the Cresseys.  They learn new recipes and cooking practices, and many are a bit amazed at how much I eat in spite of the fact that I'm only about 185 pounds.  They come to Boston expecting to learn about arm care, pitching mechanics, and strength and conditioning, but the nutrition add-on is a nice bonus.

As an example, last year, one athlete put on over ten pounds in the month of January while staying with us before he headed to Big League Spring Training.  Sure, some of this is old weight that he had to "recoup," and some is likely just water weight.  However, being heavy enough going into spring training is profoundly important, particularly for position players who are out in the field almost every day between February and October.  Below are some nutritional strategies we've employed with not only Anthony, but a lot of our other skinny guys.

1. Get around big eaters, and make eating a social challenge.

With the skinny guys who complain about how they "eat all the time and still can't gain weight," it's not uncommon for them to get a big slice of humble pie when dining around bigger eaters.  In the Cressey household this month, Anthony had to keep up with me at every dinner - so if I got seconds, so did he.

I've also had athletes who always made a point of going out to eat with each other after training sessions.  It's instant accountability with respect to caloric instake.  Sushi is a great option in this regard.

sushiBasEqPaIgAEFDeV

  3 Big Leaguers, 3 100mph Arms, 2 Cresseys, an Absurd Amount of Sushi, & a Bus Boy Photobomb

2. Cook with more oil.

When an athlete's day is spent "uncomfortably full," finding convenient ways to add calories is incredibly important - especially if that individual has multiple training sessions per day and can't be worried about getting sick in the gym or on the field. Adding in some healthy oils - olive and coconut are my two "go-to" choices - can make it easier to get an extra 200+ calories at each meal.  The healthy fats the athletes get are nice perks of this approach, too.

3. Eat faster.

We always tell people who want to lose weight to eat slower, but many people fail to appreciate that eating faster is actually a great option for true "hard-gainers." You see, it takes time for the body to perceive fullness, so if you can get your calories in a bit faster, you can essentially trick yourself out of fullness. 

As an interesting aside to this, my business partner, Pete, is one of the slowest eaters on the planet.  No joke: it'll take him four hours to finish a protein bar.  And, not surprisingly, any time that Pete has put weight on in the past, he's had to be "uncomfortable full" for months on end.

Brian St. Pierre discussed this "speed of eating" phenomenon in The High Performance Handbook Nutrition Guide, if you're interested in learning more.

HPHNG_Cover

4. Have convenient calories wherever you can’t miss them.

One other strategy Anthony uses are homemade protein bars.  They're made with healthier ingredients, and without preservatives. This means they have to be refrigerated, but it also means that they're going to go bad if he doesn't get in 2-3 per day, so there is incentive to consume them faster.  It's an easy 1,000 calories on top of his normal meals, and also provides some convenience when he's away from the kitchen.  Most importantly, though, he has to see them every time he opens the refrigerator for anything, so they're ultra-convenient.

5. Use liquid nutrition.

With most of our clients, we heavily emphasize eating real food and not getting calories from drinks.  In those who struggle to gain weight, however, big shakes can really help.  Tim Collins was a good example, as he'd have a 1,000+ calorie shake after each training session for his first few years of training until he arrived at a good weight...45 pounds heavier.

TimCollins250x_20110610

With that said, stay away from those garbage high-calorie weight gainers.  They're usually loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats - not to mention low-quality protein. I would always much rather have guys make their own shakes with a decent low-carb protein powder, and then add almond or whole milk, coconut oil, fruits, natural nut butters, Greek yogurt, oats, ground flax, and even veggies.  If you're going to take in 1,000 calories in a shake, you might as well get some nutritional value from it.

6. Write it down.

One of the best ways to evaluate how much you're eating - whether you're trying to lose fat or gain muscle - is to simply write it down.  I'd estimate that in 95% of cases, having a "hard-gainer" do thise immediately eliminates the "but I eat all the time" argument.  Sometimes, just knowing that you aren't trying as hard as you think you are is the biggest key to subsequent progress.

7. Review medications.

Many medications can have a profound impact on appetite.  The most prominent effects I've seen are with ADD/ADHD medications, as most reduce appetite.  In one instance, we had an athlete struggle to gain weight for almost two years on Adderall, but then he put on over 40 pounds in a year after switching to Focalin for his ADHD.  It's completely outside of my scope of practice to make recommendations on this front, but if appetite suppression is a concern, it'd be good to talk with your doctor about other options that might be available.

8. Make time instead of finding time.

Having an insanely busy schedule usually leads people to eat unhealthy, convenient foods - and they get fatter.  Many folks who are underweight actually go in the opposite direction; they simply forget to eat when things get busy.  To that end, if you want to gain weight, you need to make eating a priority - and that starts with plugging a specific time you'll eat into your schedule.

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