after each day the club requires players to log in and record how much they have eaten and of what to better control what goes into the bodies of the players and control differing levels of proteins, fats, carbohydrates and sugars.
In the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles is getting a lot of attention for integrating sport science into their program. One comment I will say is sport science is a process, not a position. Having a guy, usually from another country or far away land, creates an illusion of change. While the effort to bring someone in and change things is noble, I think it’s good to start talking about fully leveraging sport science versus getting a sport science. Any time someone uses principles of sport science one is likely to be a scientist in a way. I am not saying one should not hire someone to direct the process as boots on the ground is vital, but separating science should not be done. What I do like about the Eagles is the efforts to get nutrition integrated in a controlled fashion with the team. This is not new, and we must be careful not to jump on any bandwagon with practices such as GPS systems and other methods from AIS.
Sport Science should not be viewed as internal affairs, but a part of the team and a way to communicate needs. Since much of the talk is about eating and nutrition I will focus on my thoughts of viewing the best practices I have seen internationally.
Body Composition, Weight, Anthropometry- Simple measurement of weight, bodyfat, and body size and shape is a great way to see growth or atrophy. Just doing two is not enough, and the frequency can’t take too much time. One team in soccer integrated a wifi scale for each athlete at the locker room so they can get hydration changes and frequent weighing. The problem with wifi scales is that the size is small for NBA feet or large NFL guys. Girth is a great way to see atrophy (nerve or recruitment issue) and how the program is affecting the body mass in general. With the new cameras, one can get this without adding
Biochemistry (blood, urine, saliva)- I reviewed options with blood analysis, but urine is another options that is valuable with small pilot studies. Frankly with urine it’s a near impossible way to do it in an American environment, especially pros. Good private clients is valuable to see nitrogen balance, a crude and very simple way to see possible breakdown but this is very interpretive and not always conclusive. Blood Analysis is a great way to see trending with meals and audits the self reports with the nutritional logs. Blood analysis can really help athletes be compliant beyond the subjective reporting stuff, because it measures the effectiveness of interventions. Blood does’t lie. Sometimes saliva is good for cortisol, but I find that it’s only good for a few pilot experiments and is a pain to administer. HRV seems to help with relationships of stress better.
Performance of Training and Testing- How is the athlete performing? Simple question right? Good HRV done at 8am is much different when an athlete has a bad weekend and skips breakfast before a hard conditioning day. I know intermittent fasting is gaining popularity, but I am not a fan of athletes tinkering with this when overtraining is real. Sprinters maybe as I have seen some medal while eating and living like Lions (don’t ask details!) but the team sport guys should eat normally if possible. If the athlete is lean and have good biomarkers, one still needs to look at the training to see if they meal patterns are driving performance. Sometimes without blood testing poor training can trigger a test, but then it’s usually too late. It’s good to share training and competition with a time line. One can see why certain factors are working and some are not. I am a fan of having a wide variety of data sets to screen out possible reasons why things are not working.
Intervention Credits or Units- Finally the interventions are measurable options to see what one is doing about the problems. Having a great dashboard is like having beautiful fonts and diagrams of a geometry problem. It’s nice to have but doesn’t solve the problem but you need to have the right questions. Intervention credits are simple, they can be doses of things that match problems we are facing, be it catered meals, vitamin d supplements, or measured post workout drinks. For example pumpkin seeds with a nice set of spices is a great way to get sodium in when athletes are not drinking sport drinks as well as helping with iron. Like dried apricots, they can be saved in a car for snacks when athletes are not getting meals in with classes and side jobs in college. When one collects a receipt from Whole Foods each week when shopping for themselves, once can get an estimate of foot content. In the future I hope paying through a smart phone will help collect and aggregate the data easier, along with GPS of eating locations. Units is a great way to know what is administered, but one should separate validated (observed) versus reported (what athletes say) to ensure compliance and accuracy.
Kudos to the Eagles for doing the right things, but the Denver Broncos in the 1990s were doing similar methods and didn’t need the GPS tools, like Chelsea last year winning the Champions League, to win the Superbowl.