Success Stories

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vanity and Performance

I wanted to address an interesting phenomena in athletics today.  That is the tendency for athletes or anyone in this society to want to look like a bodybuilder.  Now I will acknowledge that a high strength to weight ratio is important for most athletes... but looking good naked is not a requirement and should not be the focus of a training program.
            Athletes competing at all different levels are sabotaging their performance because they have conflicting goals.  The problem presents itself when an athlete restricts himself to a diet and training program that is not aligned with their current goal (Gaining or losing Weight).  An example of this would be if an mma fighter trying to compete at a high level going on a low carb diet in a quest to get abs.  Or if a baseball player in search of attaining more home run power starts lifting five days a week.  Ask yourself have you ever restricted yourself from certain food groups in order to change your body?  Have you worried to much about vanity, when in reality you should be worrying about performance?
            For the recreational athlete looking to get a better body this may not be a problem. A recreational athlete does not need to train very hard in the first place and therefor does not require the caloric intake of those in serious training.
            Let me assure you that any serious athlete in training will need to eat to support their training and recovery.  Making changes to your body takes serious effort and a very specific approach that does NOT coincide with athletic performance.  The reality of the matter is that serious athletes must train a specific way.  Athletes need not develop large muscles or obtain a six-pack, they do not need a high bench press.  Athletes must instead train and eat in a way that develops athletic ability, power, and speed.  Unless a body composition problem is directly impacting your performance (ie: an overweight marathon runner) vanity should be the last thing you worry about.
            But why cant an athlete do both? Why would it be a bad idea for an athlete to lose weight while in training?  The answer lies in the physiology of our bodies.  When taking in less energy then your body needs to maintain your weight, the body turns to stored energy to survive.  The energy stored in your muscle, and fat all are “tapped,” into in order to sustain body functions.  Over time while training this energy is depleted.  Even with adequate food and rest your body may not be able to replenish it optimally.  Further more in heavy training your central nervous system becomes taxed, and needs time to recover.  Loosing weight while doing heavy training can leave you at a greater risk for muscle loss, a decreased immune system, and increase your chances of injury.  After a while of training on a low calorie diet you can seriously impact your bodies ability to recover and may experience negative mental side effects as well, such as a loss of motivation.
Fedor Understands Training shouldnt be about looking like the situation!

            Gaining weight can lead an athlete down a just as troublesome path if gaining muscle becomes the prime goal.  In order to gain weight the muscles need to be stressed consistently with a caloric surplus.  The energy you devote to gaining weight (lifting weights) may ultimately ruin your athletic performance.  Week after week an athlete is not going to be able to sustain heavy workouts, conditioning, and skill practices it will become simply to much.

In summary,
-Athletes often sabotage their performance when they focus on vanity instead of performance goals.
-Athletes must decide what their primary goal is when they train.  An athlete seeking to reach the upper levels of competition should focus more on skill and performance rather then vanity goals.
-Athletes should focus on gaining or losing weight in the off season, because the central nervous system is compromised during heavy training. 
-If you choose to try and change your body composition during the season there is a very specific way to diet and train in order to maximize both processes as will be discussed further.

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