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The growth factor: gaining size and strength.

It never fails: Whether I am speaking to a group of middle school, high school, collegiate, or professional athletes, the red-hot question sizzling on everyone's tongue is, "How can I put on some good, solid muscle weight?"

The conversation will then turn to the top-ten list of nutritional supplements for younger athletes. Some of these supplements may provide a healthy, legitimate calorie boost; others will raise serious questions about efficacy and safety.

This is an important subject that must be addressed with great care and education in the proliferation and abuse of designer steroids, human growth hormone, and steroid precursors. Young people are especially vulnerable to a barrage of misinformation and mixed messages.


As coaches and educators, we have to collect ourselves, engage in some damage control, and get back into the fight with renewed enthusiasm.

On the steroid front, it's time to take off the gloves and bloody the unscrupulous chemists who abuse these substances and the sports they represent.

The burgeoning performance enhancement drug fix in Major League Baseball and the accusations in other sports continue to perplex their peers--the clean, hard-working, professional athletes with great role-model potential.

Here's a thought on getting big and strong by doing the right things in healthy eating, hard and smart training, and lifestyle habits conducive to physical growth and development.


It has been said that we are what we eat. One thing is certain: A sound nutritional plan is essential to the recovery from physical stress and the need for steady gains in muscular size.

Nutritional discussions among athletes invariably revolve around protein. Protein is inextricably linked to muscle maintenance and growth, especially after the stimulus and muscle protein catabolism resulting from strength training.

Along with protein intake is the necessity to refuel the body's depleted muscle glycogen levels. This, in turn, will spare much of the protein intake for muscle repair rather than energy replenishment.

Sound proven high performance nutritional checkpoints:

* Timing. Replenishing muscle glycogen in a timely fashion is crucial to recovery and growth immediately following intense exercise. Approximately .5-.7 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight should be consumed as soon after the practice/game as possible.

Example: A 200 lb. athlete should ingest at least 100 grams of carbohydrate within the first two hours after competition, and continue this regimen for up to six hours. The main focus should be on the higher glycemic index carbs, as they will more readily contribute glucose to the bloodstream. Foods or drinks that rank 50 or higher on the GI are better post-event choices.

Conversely, foods and drinks that rank 40 or lower on the GI are better pre-practice / game choices, as they introduce glucose to the blood at a steadier, more evenly paced rate.

Note: For a comprehensive GI breakdown and the ranking of various foods, go on-line to Recent research indicates that protein should also be introduced to the system in conjunction with the carbohydrates. A practical and workable recommendation for post-event protein consumption is approximately 20-30 grams of high-quality protein.

* Protein protocol. If you enjoy reading muscle magazines while walking down an aisle in the mall supplement store, you will begin to believe it's impossible to consume enough daily protein to live on this planet.

That is, of course, unless you are willing to go broke by bulking up on the endless assortment of "mega-this-and-ultra-that" elixirs.

As a young, aspiring athlete, I probably consumed enough of the then popular Bob Hoffman Protein Pills to kill an elephant 10 times over!

At that time (mid-60's), we weren't privy to texts on safe and sound nutritional practices. It was literally every man (and child) for himself, as we stumbled our way to weight gain, indigestion, and constipation.

The bottom line on protein: It should comprise approximately 15% of the daily caloric intake. Sure, it may be slightly higher for athletes during long, intense competitive periods, but even then, we are not talking about an impossible mission.

Protein embodies any number of what are called "amino acids." The body needs 21 of these acids to build tissue, though not all proteins contain the entire series. Nine of the 21 are termed "essential" because we must obtain them from food. The remaining 12 are coined "non-essential" not because we don't require them, but because our bodies can make them, if necessary.

Dairy products, fish, poultry, beef, and other animal sources are called complete proteins because they are infused with 8-9 of the essential amino acid complex. If your diet is relatively high in this assortment of quality proteins, you are most assuredly meeting, if not exceeding, your daily protein requirements.

The human body has difficulty assimilating more than 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day, and it really doesn't require more than that, even in the cases of highly active athletes. Most recommendations are in the .7-.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.

* Go low-fat. There are some caveats to the protein scene, especially concerning saturated fat content. While you cannot completely eliminate saturated fat from these sources, wiser choices can assist in controlling it.

Examples: When ordering beef, ask for loin or round. Poultry and fish (especially salmon, mackerel, and herring) are better choices than beef and pork, but they can all be used wisely in moderation.

Including fish in the occasional diet introduces the healthier, unsaturated fats in the form of the omega-3 and omega-6 families. Beware of heavily marbled red meats, as that is a visible indicator of high saturated fat content.

Dairy products should be of the low-fat, skim milk, or non-fat powdered milk varieties. Cheeses should also be picked from selections made with skim milk

* Eat your veggies, fruits, and whole wheat grains. You really can't get enough of them! They are high in fiber, vitamins (especially those "antioxidants" you've been hearing so much about), and minerals.

* Drink plenty of fluids. Water is nature's finest supplement. It's especially important for athletes, who must replace the enormous amounts of fluid they lose in workouts and games.

As little as 2% dehydration (that's 2 lbs. in a 200 lb. athlete) can impair performance and be the genesis of serious health problems if not addressed. Sports drinks like Gatorade also provide the body with needed carbohydrates and electrolytes.

So, the next time one of your players asks about protein supplements, tell him to make a triple-decker turkey breast sandwich on whole wheat bread with tomato, a slice of low-fat cheese, and low-fat mayo.

Add an apple and a glass of orange juice and the player has just consumed a very healthy snack. It will cost less, provide much more nutritional value, and taste a whole lot better than today's clone of Bob Hoffman's Protein Pills. It probably won't constipate him, either.

My good friend, Dan Riley, the Strength/Conditioning Coach of The Houston Texans, provides his players with a nutritional "self-test" to help both coaches and players troubleshoot any deficiencies that might exist in their diets. I would strongly suggest that all coaches use this test as a teaching aid and a source for dietary counseling.


No matter what your base approach to strength training involves, one of the indisputable tenets of size increases in muscle tissue indicates that tension must be created and maintained in the targeted area for the duration of the set.

In other words, there comes a time when your athletes must engage in strength-training techniques that require all-out, or near all-out efforts to complete the assigned rep range (e.g., 6-8 reps) or target number (e.g., 8 reps).

This is a very metabolically demanding method of strength training that provides a high level of stimulation to muscle tissue.

When is an athlete ready for this type of training?

From an age standpoint, an athlete in his freshman year of high school should be physically ready to partake in this type of training provided he has the adequate background.

We would wait until the athlete has been oriented in your current program and has been training with some degree of consistency and proficiency for several months.


Obviously, on certain movements, such as barbell squats, barbell/dumbbell bench press and incline press, and a short list of others, caution is the operative word when attempting those last few, most intense reps.

Taking these particular exercises to the point of complete muscular fatigue is neither recommended nor sensible.

With practice, excellent coaching, precise documentation, and a generous allotment of common sense, a workable weight can be married to a rep assignment that elicits a great muscular effort within safe boundaries. Some free-weight movements and most machine exercises can be performed in this manner

The beauty of the high-tension approach is that it doesn't need to be performed on every training day. Once a week or even bi-weekly bouts will extract noticeable gains. The coach's base methods can be executed on the other weekly training days.

Implementing a high tension workout:

* Choose primarily multi-joint exercises, those that permit more than one joint and recruit the larger, more size-receptive musculature (e.g., deadlift, leg press, lat pulldown, DB rows, chin-ups, dips, various machine pressing and pulling movements, etc.)

* Through trial and error or a percentage of an estimated maximum (approximately 75-85%) choose a weight that allows for 6-10 reps.

* Perform the reps in a fashion where the positive (raising) phase is executed with enough force to generate steady movement, but not so rapidly as to lose control. Execute a more controlled negative (lowering) phase to heighten the intensity and prolong the tension within the targeted musculature.

* If the weight selection is correct, the last few reps should be very difficult to perform without deterioration in technique. Excellent exercise techniques are crucial, regardless of the movement being performed.

* Fifteen to 20 total sets can be performed, in any arrangement you prefer. Multiple sets of the chosen movements can be executed, or more exercises with reduced set schemes can be incorporated. Over time, a mixture of multiple set and limited set routines can be rotated for variety.

* Recovery periods between sets can range from 2-3 minutes in the initial stages, and be gradually reduced to 1 minute as the athletes adjust and adapt to the metabolic intensity of the workouts.

Note: An in-depth look at some specific routines in future issues.


We live in a digital photo, high-speed Internet, fast car, fast food, "I needed that yesterday" world. Muscle growth doesn't work that way. It is an arduous, hard-earned process with its rate and level highly dependent upon genetic predisposition.

In the truest sense of athletic competition, however, it is something that can be achieved the right way--with determination, a rock-solid approach, and a never-quit attitude. It can and must be achieved without chemicals that may enhance external growth, but with the concurrent tragedy of internal death.

"The right way is a proven, safe, ethical game plan for long-term success and a long, healthy life when it's time to hang-up the cleats."

RELATED ARTICLE: Player Nutritional Self-Test

Courtesy of Dan Riley, Strength/Conditioning Coach, Houston Texans

Maintaining bodyweight can be a problem for some people, especially the active athlete who requires a significant number of calories. The key is to make sure you are eating enough calories to generate maximum gains in strength, and recover completely from exercise, practice, and games.

Some players have a difficult time gaining and/or maintaining weight, especially during the season. Others complain of fatigue and a lack of energy. These may be signs of inadequate caloric intake, and/or low carbohydrate consumption.

Before asking about "supplements", you must develop a disciplined approach to lifting, eating, and sleeping, which should allow you to reach your full physical potential.

How disciplined are you with your eating and lifestyle habits?

DO YOU ...

* Go to bed about the same time each night?

* Wake up at approximately the same time each morning?

* Avoid the habit of sleeping in?

* Eat breakfast seven days a week?

* Consume at least a third of your daily caloric requirements at breakfast?

* Eat at least three meals a day at approximately the same time?

* Consume a nutritious snack at mid-morning and mid afternoon?

* Eat three to five pieces of fruit a day?

* Eat at least 2-3 vegetables a day?

* Consume 65% of your calories from carbohydrates?

* Consume only 20% of your calories from fat?

* Eat from all five food groups with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, and whole wheat grains?

* Consume 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day?

* Consume your necessary daily caloric intake before the day is over on game day?

* Consume approximately 300 grams of complex carbohydrates immediately after a game or practice to expedite the recovery process?

* Eat a post-game or a post-practice meal high in carbohydrates and high quality, complete protein.

* Eat enough calories every day during the season or during heavy workout periods to maintain your bodyweight?

* Drink at least 8 (8 ounce) glasses of water / day?

If you answer no to any of these questions, you will make it more difficult to maintain or increase your bodyweight.

Be a calorie counter: Formula to gain approximately 1 pound/week: your bodyweight X 20 = your daily caloric needs. Example: 250 lbs. X 20 = 5,000 calories/day. And of those 5,000 calories/day, try to get 65% from carbohydrates, 20% from fats, and 15% from protein.


Get the home front involved.

Getting young people to eat nutritious, high energy, healthy, high performance foods can be an extremely difficult undertaking. As a coach, you're probably not going to slam-dunk this one--you'll need an assist from a parent or guardian. Coaches sometimes pass out nutritional information to the athletes, thinking that they will rush home, read it, and immediately implement the suggestions. You probably have a better chance of winning tonight's lotto than that happening.

Here's a better plan: Get that info to mom (or the guardian at home who does the cooking). She has a vested interest in this endeavor, and you can bet next month's paycheck that she wants to see her son/daughter excel on the field and live a healthy lifestyle. It is also vitally important to keep parents/guardians in the loop with regard to all anabolic steroid education and abuse prevention projects.

--Ken Mannie

By Ken Mannie, Strength/Conditioning Coach, Michigan State University
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Title Annotation:POWERLINE
Author:Mannie, Ken
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
Previous Article:Front and center ...
Next Article:Protecting your coaches.

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