Stay on the ball (Don’t take the off season off)
As the sun continues to shine and the World Cup sticks you to the sofa we caught up with Matt Lovell, currently sprinting round London Fields daily….
“Tiredness and fatigue often start compromising your chances of making fitness gains and overtraining is a real threat. There is a clear benefit in taking some full rest to allow the neuromuscular system to recover from the year’s match-schedule, training and diet. Overtraining also has many psychological effects, so some rest will help keep you mentally fresh.
However, too much absolute rest will encourage “de-training”. A famous study in the 60s actually saw 4 weeks bed-rest reduce aerobic capacity in recreational athletes by HALF! If anything, the likelihood of a trained athlete losing strength and power adaptations, considering you’re working at such a high level of fitness, is even higher. Detraining and poor diet will encourage muscle-loss as well as fat gain. We need to maintain a degree of activity to maintain a base of fitness ready for pre-season, as well as eating to support weight maintenance and regeneration.
Generally, it’s assumed that you need an excess of 7000Kcal to gain 1 Kg of fat, so you’ve got room to play with, as long as you don’t eat too much of the wrong things. However, eating really poor food may really counteract your fitness gains; for example fatty acids displace each other, so eating trans-fats will replace the “good fats” in the membranes of your cells and likely lead to impaired adaptations to training.
Fill up (rather than fill-out!)
Staying fuller for longer so that you can eat less will obviously help weight control. Lower GI carbohydrate has been is better for regulating blood-sugar and the corner-stone of most successful weight-loss strategies, being more likely to encourage fat oxidation in between meals. Adding protein to a meal will also increase fullness, as well as decreasing the GI of any accompanying carbohydrate. Eating small, frequent meals has been shown to be effective in decreasing appetite and stabilising blood sugar, but be doubly aware of portion-size if you’re eating more frequently.
The Power of protein
Not only will protein help you stay fuller for longer, but a continual intake will help prevent losses in strength and power. Dropping lean mass will also decrease your metabolic rate! Getting tired of taking shakes all the time is not uncommon, so get you protein from other sources. Rediscover your love for food and cooking! Aim for at least 2 palms at each main meal, and 1 palm for your snacks.
Three litres is a good daily target. Water will prevent fatigue and improve performance.
Calcium inhibits fat absorption and aids feeling full. “Cal-apatite” is a mineral complex that will also support bone health. If dairy-tolerant, skimmed milk will also promote fullness and prevent fat absorption at meal times (just beware of the hidden sugar in lactose).
Variety is the spice of life…
You’re not now looking to improve fitness, but maintain what you’ve gained over the season. You need to maintain your energy expenditure to burn off calories and maintain weight withour burning-out. This can be achieved at relatively low intensities of exercise, which are also more inclined to use fat rather than carbohydrate for fuel. If you’re not trying to gain sport-specific fitness gains, then a good method of weight-control is “cross training”. Try a variety of different sports and a wide range of varied activities (eg swimming, gym, squash). This will make it harder for your body to become more efficient at certain actions (which would end up using less calories) as well as reducing the stress on specific muscle-groups, meaning you can train frequently without overtraining. Cross-training strategies are frequently used in the “off season” to combat weight-gain while aiding recovery from a hard period of competition.
Don’t gain weight… lift it!
As your match schedule bottoms out, you’ll have heaps of additional stored carbohydrates – use them! Get strong and powerful as in the weights room. Focus on recovery around your training sessions. Sip a carbohydrate drink during your sessions and make sure adequate carbs and liquid protein are taken in immediately afterwards.
Routine and Ritual
Sometimes meal patterns can go to pot and infrequent larger meals become the order of the day – don’t let this happen as it’s more likely to lead to starving and then gorging. Starving leads to active fat storage enzymes and a huge appetite. Eat regularly, but only at predefined times. After meals, when you fancy that “little bit extra” I would recommend an activity such as making a cup of tea to give fullness-signals time to take effect, as well as providing a calming ritual to clear your mind.
Keep taking your micronutrients; micros are the nuts and bolts which hold the performance machine together. Not only will they help you body function optimally, but this routine around meal times is invaluable for avoiding over-eating.
The psychology of being a team-player
Think of your team mates and your responsibility to them. When you’ve finished eating, and you fancy seconds, ask yourself…
1 do I need this for recovery/fitness gains?
2 will I be happier or less happy in 10 minutes if I eat this?
3 How far am I from my target body-comp?”
Matt Lovell is a Brand Ambassador for Kinetica Sports and is an Elite Sports Nutritionist who numbers Man City, Spurs and the England Rugby Team amongst his current clients. Matt will be appearing on behalf of Kinetica at Guildford GNC on the 12th July between 112-3