10:44 AM

Micronutrients for Athletes

In the last two articles we discussed the basics of energy balance, caloric intake, and ideal macronutrient ratios for different goals.  If you haven’t read them already you can check them out; The Calorie and Energy Balance Relationship, Demystifying Macronutrients.  Once calories and macros are set for your goals, you will want to take a look at micronutrient consumption.  Rather than break down every detail of where each vitamin and mineral is found and what they do in the body, let's focus on what athletes should know about micronutrients. 

Why do we need them?
They are Essential. Although they do not provide energy, vitamins and minerals are necessary for our survival.  They are compounds that our bodies cannot get without food.  They are active in nearly every physiological process and help keep us healthy. For example, vitamins are crucial for growth and immunity, while minerals help build our bones and teeth.  Without micronutrients our bodies would not be able to utilize the energy we consume through food. Too little or too much of one can inhibit fat loss, and leave you sick and rundown.

How much do we need?
Athletes Need More of Them. Many factors determine someone’s micronutrient needs, but one of the most important is their activity level and intensity.  Activity level and intensity not only dictates a person’s caloric needs, but their micronutrient needs as well.  Athletes who regularly engage in intense exercise (Team Training or Personal Training session) need more calories, and in turn micronutrients, than someone who is sedentary.  Without adequate nutrition to support their training, an athlete won’t be able to recover in between training sessions.   

Where do they come from?
They Are Best From a Variety of Whole Food Sources. With higher caloric needs it is easy to turn to bars, powders, and supplements to meet energy needs.  These may meet your calorie goals, but will leave you lacking in vitamins and minerals. Micronutrients are best absorbed and utilized when consumed through REAL food.  Whole food sources have been minimally processed and are as close as possible to their natural state.  The more refinement or processing a food has to go through, the more micronutrients it will lose. This is why a whole grain such as quinoa will provide much more nutrition than bread or pasta that has been processed and had a few nutrients added back in.  Instead, choose colorful fruits and veggies. These are some of the most nutrient-dense foods and provide a lot of vitamins and minerals for very few calories. Shoot to eat a variety of colors to ensure you are getting all the micronutrients you need. 

Are supplements necessary?
Sometimes Supplementation is Necessary. Whole food sources may provide the most bang for your buck, but sometimes supplementation is necessary.  A few examples of this are: an athlete with a poor diet, a pregnant woman, a person with an injury or illness, or someone with a specific vitamin or mineral deficiency.  All of these people could benefit from supplementation.  Many athletes fall into the first category and simply struggle to get all they need through their diet.  This is either because they eat too much of the same thing or simply don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables.  For these people a multivitamin can be a cheap and easy solution to a big problem.  Although it is not a magic bullet, it can help them feel better and eliminate any small deficiencies that may have been holding them back. 

At first glance, micronutrients can seem like a very complex topic. The good news is that a varied diet of whole foods will help you reach your body composition goals and meet your micronutrient needs.  If you want to take your nutrition to the next level or have questions about micronutrients, set up a nutrition consult at the front desk!

12:54 AM

The Deadlift – 3 Ways to Build More Strength

It’s no secret that the deadlift is my favorite exercise. It is one of the few movements that work the body head to toe.  It not only strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, but also taxes the upper body to a great extent.  The deadlift has some of the greatest carryover to everyday life as we are constantly picking things up and setting them down.  If done correctly, it can teach athletes how to properly brace and lift objects pain-free for a lifetime.  Since I always want to up my favorite lift, I have tried nearly everything to do so.  Here are the three exercises I consistently program for myself and my athletes:

1. Paused DeadLift

Regardless of the lift you want to improve, a pause can make you stronger in a hurry.  Although this sounds simple, it definitely won’t be easy.  Place that pause at the portion of the lift that you struggle with the most.  Do you struggle locking the bar out on a heavy deadlift? Well, let’s pause for 3 seconds right above your knees.  Can’t break the bar off the floor?  Let’s add that pause about 1” from the ground. 

A pause forces the athlete to swallow his pride, take some weight off the bar, and work on technique.  Another huge benefit of a pause is the increased time under tension.  You may be stuck on your deadlift because you have a underdeveloped muscle group.  A pause can help stimulate new muscle growth needed to help you smash through that next PR! After 4-6 weeks training with a paused variation, that bar should feel awfully light doing regular deadlifts.
2. Block Pull
Another great way to improve a lift is to shorten the range of motion and overload the movement.  The block pull accomplishes both of these goals.  Like a box squat, a block pull can help the athlete get the feel of heavier weight and overload their lagging muscle groups.  You will simply need to place the bar on 2-4” blocks (bumper plates work great too) and start pulling! This shortened range of motion will allow you to add more weight to the bar and really build confidence with the movement.  One word of caution though, this accessory exercise is made to assist your deadlift, not boost your ego.  Just like the paused deadlift, spend 4-6 weeks training the movement and then get back to deadlifting from the floor!

3. Hip Thrust
This last movement is definitely underrated in its ability to develop an athlete.  First and foremost, maybe you are reading this and can’t safely deadlift due to a nagging injury or chronic pain.  If this is the case, the hip thrust is the exercise for you! It effectively takes the lower back out of the equation and will allow most trainees to work their lower body pain-free.  Even if you don’t have any kind of injury, it would benefit you to take some stress of your lower back and train the hip thrust.  Rotating movements will help you stay healthy long-term and eliminate staleness in training.  Whether you will be using this exercise in lieu of the deadlift or simply adding it to your program, I guarantee it will benefit your deadlift in the long term.  
All in all, the deadlift is a fantastic exercise to develop total body strength.  If you’re a beginner, you probably just need to deadlift more and practice your technique.  If you’ve been at this for a while now and your strength has plateaued, give these exercises a try! As always, if you are looking to prioritize strength work with a full-body training program, sign up for Personal Training! Not only will you get to use many of these exercises, but you’ll also get some great coaching along the way.   

Joey Wolfe
2:16 PM

Demystifying Macronutrients

Energy Sources That Fuel Your Body

Written by Tanner Batten

In the previous nutrition blog we dove deep into the world of calories, the base of the nutritional pyramid, and why they ultimately dictate whether or not we move towards our goals. If calories aren’t in check then it won’t matter what cutting edge nutrition tips you’re applying or what supplements you take.  If you haven’t read this piece yet, you can check it out, The Calorie and Energy Balance Relationship.  The next most important nutritional principle is, macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) composition. This is a topic that many athletes are curious about.  Most people generally understand the breakdown of calories and the principle of energy balance, but there is much confusion surrounding macronutrients and optimal ratios of each one.  The 3 macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat.  Carbohydrates and protein each contain 4 calories per gram, while fat contains 9 calories per gram.  A balance of all 3 is essential for high-level health and performance. For the sake of this article I have made general recommendations for muscle gain, weight maintenance, and weight loss, but first, let's get a basic understanding of each macronutrient.
1 gram of fat = 9 calories
1 gram of protein or carbohydrates = 4 calories

Protein is the most talked about macronutrient in the health and fitness world. Simply put, protein helps you build muscle, recover from workouts, and keeps you feeling full.  This is why I believe it to be the most important macronutrient.  Every time you eat, you should be trying to include a protein source. Each meal, snack, or craving should be built around at least 10-15g of protein, with more coming at main meals.  This will ensure you've satisfied your hunger and have everything you need to rebuild and repair your body after training hard.  Those who center each meal around a protein source (think, chicken, ground turkey, lean ground beef, etc.) will generally consume fewer calories because it's hard to overeat a good, lean protein source.

Carbohydrates are by far the least understood macronutrient.  In today’s world they are often touted as the enemy of healthy eating.  As a result, athletes often limit or avoid them completely.  What many people don’t realize is that they provide your body with the best source of quick and efficient energy.  Athletes need carbs! With that being said, issues begin to arise when carbohydrate intake doesn’t match activity level.  Unfortunately many people eat like an endurance athlete and train like a coach potato.  An easy lesson I try to teach athletes is to “earn your carbs!”  Crushed a workout and went on a walk at lunch? Go ahead and have some brown rice or sweet potatoes for dinner.  Not able to make it into the gym?  Try and base most of your meals on protein, fats, and veggies.  Athletes should match their carb intake to their activity level.  So next time you reach for a carb source  ask yourself, “did I earn this today?”

The final macronutrient is fat.  Fats have received a bad rap over the years, but they are also an essential part of any athlete’s nutrition plan.  Fats provide insulation for your organs, maintain cell membrane health, and help your body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Like carbs, fats are not the enemy, rather poor fat choices are.  I encourage athletes to get more calories from unsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil) than saturated fats (butter, ice cream, sour cream). Like protein, fat also helps to provide you with energy for long periods of time.  One thing to note is that fat adds up quickly.  At 9 calories per gram, a handful of nuts or “splash” of olive oil can easily be hundreds of calories.  Be diligent about monitoring your serving sizes to ensure you aren’t getting too much.    

1 gram of fat = 9 calories
Now that you have a basic understanding of each macronutrient, let’s break down what a balanced nutrition plan looks like for a few different goals.  Regardless of your goal, protein should stay consistently high.  I generally recommend consuming,

1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight.

Example: For a 200lb man with 20% body fat, that would equate to (200 lbs total weight – 40 pounds body fat) 160g of protein or (160g protein x 4) 640 calories per day. 

If you don’t know your body composition, it's a good time to sign up for our next DEXA Scan (February 18th)! While protein intake is locked in, carbs and fat can be manipulated based on whether you are looking to lose weight, build muscle, or maintain your weight. 

Weight Loss: Total calories will be low for athletes looking to lose body fat.  Using our same 200lb man, let’s say he wants to create a small caloric deficit and eat around 2400 calories per day (Body weight X 12).  In order to preserve his muscle mass he will want to keep protein intake high. Fats will also remain relatively high to keep him full while he is eating fewer total calories.  As a result, the main adjustment in calories will be from carbohydrates.  He will want to make sure to eat enough carbs to fuel his workouts, while staying under his daily calorie goal.  The table below gives you an idea of what the macronutrient ratio may look like for Weight Loss. 

Muscle Gain: Let’s say you want to spend some time building some quality lean tissue.  This will help raise your resting metabolism and improve your strength levels.  Here our 200lb man may want to shoot for around 3000 calories  (Body Weight X 15) to lead to slow and steady weight gain.  Adjusting those ratios to include more protein, more carbs and less fat will help give him the energy he needs to train harder and recover better.  Again the table below shows what the breakdown of each macronutrient would look like. 

Maintenance: Maintenance is the easiest goal to shoot for because it’s somewhere in the middle of the two.  Caloric intake and macronutrient ratios will be moderate. Our 200lb man should shoot to eat around 2600 (Bodyweight X 13) calories and keep protein high.  Check the table below for ideal ratios to maintain weight. 

Example: For a 200lb man,
Calories 3,000 per day 2,600 per day 2,400 per day
Protein 225g   (30%) 162g   (25%) 160g   (25%)
Carbohydrate 375g   (50-60%) 325g   (50%) 260g   (45%)
Fat   83g   (20-25%)   72g   (25%)   80g   (30%)
Note: Percentages are relative to calories per day (i.e., 30% calories per day = 225g Protein for Muscle Gain).

Keep in mind that these are simply guidelines to help get you started towards your goals.  Our bodies aren’t perfect mathematical equations and we may need to adjust these guidelines based on age, gender, body type, and activity level. Some athletes love tracking their food intake and knowing the data and numbers, while others can get their desired results by simply improving food quality and eating a little more or a little less depending on the goal.  If in doubt, try to make better food choices and eat mindfully.  Remember, even the perfect macronutrient ratio won’t be effective if total calories are too high or too low. If you have questions or want specific guidelines for you and your goals, schedule a nutrition consult at the front desk!

Joey Wolfe
5:04 PM

The Pull Up

Written by Tanner Batten

With the New Year rolling around, people begin to look inward and ask themselves what they want to accomplish over the next 365 days.  Some of these goals are work related, some are family related, and others are training related.  One of the most common training goals I hear from athletes is the desire to improve their pull-up ability.  Whether they are working towards their first bodyweight pull-up or trying to hit 20 in a row, they will need a specific plan to get there! 

Although the Bench Press is often touted as the “king of upper body exercises” I would argue that, for an athlete, their ability to do a pull-up is even more important. This exercise provides the ultimate test of relative upper body strength. Sure, a big bench press is a great bragging point, but any athlete who has mastered the strict pull-up has far more functional and impressive upper body strength.  

The Pull-up should be a staple in any athlete’s training program. Aside from being a great upper back and arm builder, it doubles as an amazing core exercise. It also aids in strengthening muscles crucial for posture and shoulder health.  A pull-up will also motivate you to keep your body composition in check.  Those Holiday goodies will quickly inhibit your ability to do a pull-up if you gain 10lbs. 

Regardless of an athlete’s main goal (fat loss, muscle gain, improved sports performance) pull-ups should be a part of their training program.  That is why we have made them a central category in the Leaderboard Standards.  We believe high-level athletes should be able to crush pull-ups, and lots of them!

So what if you can’t yet do a pull-up? You can dedicate your next training year to doing just that! The Leaderboard Standard progressions are made to start with the basics and help you work your way to the top! I start all athletes with a TRX Suspension Trainer.  This equipment allows you to do both a TRX Row and TRX Pull-up. These exercises strengthen many of the muscles used in a pull-up and allow the athlete to easily progress or regress by adjusting body angle.  

This is why the Novice Level on the Leaderboard Testing Standards starts with 10 TRX Rows. Once an athlete has mastered this exercise and can do 10 with their body parallel to the ground, she will progress to a band-assisted pull-up.  The band will simply give the extra assistance needed to lift your chin all the way over the bar.  This has the greatest carryover to a pull-up and helps athletes perfect their form; working towards crushing that first unassisted pull-up. Once an athlete can execute 10 pull-ups with a band they have reached the Intermediate Level. From here we can work towards a higher number of unassisted pull-ups. What if you can already do 10 perfect Pull-ups? Then, let’s start adding some weight to help you reach the Elite level.   

All in all, the Pull-up is a fantastic movement that every athlete should be doing.  It can be very humbling at times, but there is place to start no matter where you are at today! Feel like you’ve been stuck on your pull-ups for a long time? Try one of our personal training sessions.  Each training day is Leaderboard focused (that means pull-ups!) and individualized to exactly the progression you need.  With great coaching and intelligent programming we can help you improve in the areas you need the most!