Home Posts tagged "Weight Gain"

Sports Performance: Study the Majority, and Stop Cherrypicking Exceptions to the Rule

Last week, I Tweeted out the following statistic:  

As can pretty much be expected, this Tweet was met with a thumbs up from frustrated coaches and parents who know a skinny pitcher who could really benefit from weight gain, but still refused to crush calories. That was the 98% of interaction with these numbers.

The other 2% - as can also be expected, after years of social media "exposures" - was people who wanted to disagree. An example:

"Not true. My 6'0 180 pound son throws 93 and threw 90 when he was 5'10 165."

Another:

"So you're encouraging guys to just get fat and they'll throw harder? Why isn't Bartolo the hardest thrower in MLB then?"

In the research world, these exceptions to the rule are called outliers and are nixed from the data set. In the magical world of social media, they are liked, retweeted, celebrated, enshrined, put up on a pedestal - and ultimately almost become the rule. Unfortunately, those who try to replicate the exceptions wind up woefully inferior.

Remember the generation of kids who thought that they could a) abstain from lifting weights and b) go to really up-tempo, cross-body deliveries in hopes of becoming the next Tim Lincecum? With a few exceptions, they become the skinny guys who couldn't throw strikes - or convince anyone to be their catch partners because they were so erratic. And, they really didn't put themselves in great positions to throw hard, in most cases.

Lincecum himself faded as he approached 30 years old, due in part to hip surgery. After a short comeback attempt in 2016, he hasn't pitch in almost 1.5 years and currently sits at 1,682 career innings. Currently, 27 active pitchers have more career innings pitched than that - and only two weigh less than 195 pounds.

This isn't a vilification of Lincecum, either; he recognized he was an outlier and made it work for a successful career that included multiple Cy Youngs and world championships. That's a lot different than the 16-year-old with no track record of success insisting that he can throw 2,000 innings in the big leagues at 140 pounds. That's not backed by demonstrable results or even the slightest bit of logic. Need further proof that you're better off following the masses (pun intended)? 

1. The size of the average MLB player has increased from ~186 to ~210 now (really good analysis here). Not surprisingly, average fastball velocity in MLB has increased dramatically during that same period.

2. Go check out this list of active leaders in innings pitched. Take note of how few are under 200 pounds.

3. Go check out this list of active leaders in Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Take note of how few are under 200 pounds. This guy is eighth on that list (and rapidly climbing). He's 6-3 and 210-215 pounds, but not the "absurdly bulky" many naysayers insist will happen if a 16-year-old kid adds a few hundred calories per day. Max is just big enough to use gravity effectively while remaining athletic.

4. We have loads of studies demonstrating that heavier pitchers throw hard. If you want to pick just a few, use this one and this one. Hopefully, the N=1 Twitter researchers can appreciate that their studies don't have quite as much validity as the peer-reviewed research that is published in the Journal of Biomechanics and Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery.

5. This recent study reported that larger individuals signed professional contracts earlier and made it to the big leagues at a younger age. It also reaffirmed that bigger guys throw harder. Go figure.

6. Go to any powerlifting meet - or simply peruse some records online - and it won't take you long to realize that the heavier guys are the stronger guys. Strength is force. Power is work divided by time. Throwing a baseball is a sport-specific application of power.

Strength is also a foundation for stability: active control of joints. If you lack it, you'll rely more on passive restraints: ligaments, menisci, intervertebral discs, labrum, etc.

If you want to be successful in anything in life - sports, business, education, relationships, you name it - you are better off looking at what has worked for the majority of individuals who have previously been successful.

And, the research, anecdotal evidence, and logic is very much in support of gaining good weight being a wildly effective method for most pitchers to gain velocity, be more successful, and become more durable. You might be the exception to that rule, but chances are that you haven't actually tested the weight gain waters enough to know for sure. Eat up. 

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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 town 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, several years ago, 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 intake.  Sushi is a great option in this regard.

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.

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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