Thursday, April 26, 2012

Yeah, But How Do I Do That?


I recently was told the following story by a parent of a young man who will be a junior in high school this fall.  The parent asked the varsity hockey coach what it would take for their son to make the team.  The first words out of the coach’s mouth:  “He needs to get quicker and lose 10-15 pounds.”

I am not going to attack the coach here but the above statement is potentially more harmful than helpful.  The young man was told of the coach’s comment but not by the coach himself.  If the coach felt this way he could have communicated that with the boy directly.  Most athletes will not admit this to the coach because they don’t want to challenge their authority but they all want to know where they stand in the coach’s eyes.  Teens have enough trouble juggling social, academic and athletic demands without the added burden of being forced to read a coach’s mind.  Give them something to work toward and more than likely they will rise to the challenge.  As proof of that this young man had already taken it upon himself to train off ice and improve his eating habits.  He thought he was doing a good thing but how should he feel now after essentially being cut down by the coach?

At best the young man blows it off and keeps plugging away.  At worst the young man takes a hit to his self-esteem and decides to give up on his program.   Being critical is part of being a coach.  However, it is also important for coaches to attach useful information along with the criticism.  If as a coach you are going to make the statement:  “you need to get quicker and lose 10-15 pounds,” you should also offer strategies to do so.

These aren’t pro athletes they are dealing with.   They are developing young men/women who are in need of reflective/insightful leadership.

The coach implying that by losing weight this young man will get quicker is purely speculative.  Losing 10-15 pounds?  Where did the coach get that number? 

It’s very important to be thoughtful and tactful when dealing with performance and dietary issues.  Young people want to please parents and coaches and will do almost anything to do so.  Lead them to it!  Don’t expect them to come up with the answers themselves because that’s when problems occur.

Imagine you are a young athlete who is told they need to get stronger and bigger but aren’t given guidance of how to do this.  Where do you go?  You will likely ask your friends who also lack the knowledge and experience to provide useful solutions.  I know what I would think if I were in such a situation.  At the local gym there are all of these “huge ripped” guys!  They will tell me how to get bigger and stronger.  Maybe these guys are doing it the right way but I’m not naive enough to believe they all do.  I have heard that scenario play out way to often.  I should also add that young athletes should never train like big slow muscle bound statues.  So even if they are clean they are not the models for sport performance.

Young people are impressionable and they want to excel on and off the field of play.  Criticism is an important part of coaching but only when it is accompanied with sound and tested advice for improvement.


I am often asked the following question: 

“How can my child gain muscle and lose body fat?”

I am going to provide you with 10 safe and effective tips to incorporate into you and your child’s dietary habits.   These tips take into account optimal body composition, health and performance.  There are strategies to improve each of these goals individually but that would not be in the long-term interest of you or your child.


1.     Feed every 2-3 hours.  Rather than “snacks” or “meals” think of feeding opportunities.  Stimulates metabolism, balances blood sugar that will have positive affects on health, body comp and energy levels.
2.     Eat lean-complete protein at each feeding.  Lean-complete protein is food that is an animal or came from an animal.
3.     Eat vegetables with each feeding.  Rich in micronutrients and phytochemicals.  Because both proteins and grains present acid loads to the body, it is important to balance the se loads with alkaline rich vegetables (and fruits).
4.     Eat veggies and fruits at any feeding and “other” carbs mostly after exercise.  Another way of saying this is eat:  non-fruit and vegetable carbohydrates (including simple sugars and sports drinks, as well as starchy carbohydrates such as rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.) during and within the few hours after exercise.  As carbohydrate tolerance is best during and after exercise, the majority of non-fruit and veggie carbohydrate energy should come during these times.
5.     Eat healthy fats daily.  Fats are essential to health, performance and body comp.  However, special care should be made to ensure that this intake is balanced between saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.  Fats should make up about 20-30% of daily calorie intake. (See chart below)
6.     Most calorie-containing drinks (aside from workout nutrition) should be eliminated.  Workout nutrition could include Gatorade or my favorite post training recovery drink, low-fat chocolate milk (but only after training!)
7.     Eat whole foods instead of supplements whenever possible.
8.     Plan to break the tips 10% of the time.  100% nutritional discipline is never required for optimal progress.  Just be clear what 10% of the time really means.  If you have 35 feedings a week-10% would be 3-4 feedings.
9.     Plan ahead and prepare meals in advance.  Sometimes good nutrition is not about the food as much as it is about making sure the food is available when it is time to eat.  As the old clich√©’ says, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”
10. Eat as wide a variety of good foods as possible.  Most of us eat in a very habitual manner, ingesting similar breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.  A great strategy is to eat produce seasonally.  By eating a wide variety of foods you avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies.  When it comes to fruit and vegetables eat a rainbow!  Similarly colored produce often contain like micronutrients.  Eating a variety of colors ensures diverse and complete nutrient intake.

Prominent Fat Sources
Saturated Fats (about 30% of intake)
Animal fats (dairy, eggs and meat)
Monounsaturated (about 30% of intake)
Olive oil, nuts, avocado
Polyunsaturated (about 30% of intake)
Vegetable fats, flax seeds/oil, fish oil
Trans Fats (strive for less than 10%)
Hydrogenated vegetable oils





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