Thursday, June 19, 2008

Protein Problem?

I was just reading an article about the misconceptions that high school athletes have about protein supplement use.

The article, scheduled to be published next month in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, asked high school football players about the importance of using protein supplements when training to improve athletic ability.

As they predicted these athletes had many inaccurate beliefs about using protein supplements, including:

"Protein supplements are necessary to gain weight through weight lifting" - FALSE - you can gain muscle mass while weight training from protein in a food or a supplement.

"Protein supplements are better than a high-protein food for gaining weight through weight training" - FALSE - There's no advantage of protein found in supplements over protein found in food.

"Protein supplements are a good source of energy during a workout" - FALSE - Carbohydrates (mostly) and fat (in some cases) are what keeps you going during a workout or game. Protein is a muscle building block, not a fuel.

"Taking protein supplements will stop me from gaining unwanted fat on my body" - FALSE - If you take in too many calories (either as carbohydrate, fat, or protein) you will store those extra calories as fat.

So how best to get the protein you need?

According to the authors of this article, strength athletes need between 1.6 and 1.7 grams of protein for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight. Most adolescent boys eat this much in an average day. If you want to take a protein shake after a workout, that's OK, but you're paying $$ for the convenience.

Are there any dangers in taking too much protein?

The jury is still out, but some of the potential bad effects of too much protein include:

  • excess fat gain

  • dehydration

  • gout

  • kidney damage

  • diarrhea

  • bloating

  • colon cancer

What should I eat?

Try to use high-protein, low-fat foods like:

  • cheese made with skim milk

  • skim milk

  • low-fat yogurt

  • chicken

  • turkey

  • fish

Who should I talk to if I want more information?

I'd go with an expert like a registered dietician who has special training in sports nutrition. Don't know where to find one? Look here.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Back in the Game

Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE /Getty Images

A recent article in the journal Practical Pain Management reported that 15% of basketball players have lost time from play due to low back pain.

While this is nowhere near the rates for ankle, finger, and knee injuries, it's still worth taking a closer look.

Basketball is a game of quick actions and reactions, and when your back "is out of whack" so is your game - it can adversely affect your shot, your defense, your ability to box out, you name it.

Here are some of the most common back injuries in basketball:

muscle sprain/strain - a pulled muscle or ligament (attaches bone to bone) in your back.

delayed-onset muscle pain - muscle soreness from overuse that is usually worst about 2 days after exercise.

contusions - bruises from getting elbowed or hitting something hard (the floor, another player)

disc herniations - more common in older (30+) players, these injuries can cause shooting electrical shock-like pain in the back and down the leg while also causing weakness and/or numbness in the legs.

piriformis syndrome - occurs when a tight muscle in your buttocks irritates a nerve that causes pain to shoot down your leg (similar to pain from a disc herniation).

sacroiliac joint pain- soreness in the low back where the tailbone and hip bones join together.

stress fractures - tiny breaks in the backbones caused by muscle weakness and overuse .

spondylolysis/spondylolisthesis - fractures of the backbones that lead to slippage of one backbone over the other .

So what can you do?

The best step is to do what you can to prevent a low back injury from ever happening. Work on maintaining and increasing your aerobic conditionining, flexibility and strength (not just in your back but in your hips, legs, shoulders, and abdomen). Make sure you wear proper shoes and play on safe surfaces.

If you sustain an injury, see a local health care provider who can perform a history and physical exam and additional tests (x-rays, ultrasound, bone scans, CT or MRI scans or other tests) to help make the correct diagnosis.

Treatment and rehabilitation will depend on the diagnosis, but generally, relative rest is an important part of any recovery program. Therapy from an athletic trainer or physical therapist may include ice packs early on and heating pads later in the process. Over the counter medicines like ibuprofen (or steroid injections in more severe cases) can help reduce some of the inflammation and pain, allowing you to tolerate soft tissue mobilization (therapeutic massage), stretching, and strengthening programs.

You can maintain your cardiovascular fitness by doing aquatic therapy (aqua jogging, for example) elliptical trainers, and/or recumbent bicycling.

Above all, make sure that you are fully recovered, in good cardiovascular shape, and strong and flexible as this will help you perform at your best and avoid further injury when you get back in the game.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"The Best" Sport

A recent poll of over 200 professional athletes from a variety of sports by ESPN Magazine showed I'm not alone in my belief that basketball is "the best" sport in the world.

Here are some of their results:

1. LeBron James (22)

2. Tiger Woods (19)

3. Kobe Bryant (7)

4. Dwight Howard (4)

5. LaDainian Tomlinson (2)

1. Michael Jordan (53)

2. Bo Jackson (17)

3. Deion Sanders (7)

4. Carl Lewis (4)

5. Muhammad Ali (2)

1. Basketball (78)

2. Football (42)

3. Baseball (12)

4. Hockey (8)

5. Gymnastics (6)

Monday, June 2, 2008

No Excuses

Welcome to June.

School's (almost) out, the gyms get hotter, and it's time to start your summer workout sessions.

For those times you think about doing something else, take a moment and (re)consider how important it is to improve your game.

Who are you doing this for?

Your parents? Your coach? Your brother/sister/aunt/uncle/grandparent/friend, etc.?

Nope, it's got to be for you. Something that you want to do.

Take a look at this video and know that I've heard all these excuses before.

So get out there, work hard, rest up, eat well, and then get out there again.

No excuses.