Day 5: Surviving is Not Thriving

Surviving is Not Thriving

Podcast: Startalk Radio

Author(s): Gary O'Reilly, Chuck Nice, Neil deGrasse Tyson

Episode: NFL Fitness & Nutrition

The human body can endure intense physical torment and still make it out relatively unharmed. We are built to survive. Thriving takes effort and planning. 

O'Reilly, Nice, and Tyson sit down with nutritionists, athletes, and coaches to learn more about how NFL athletes find the extra edge in their games. Nutrition and overall wellness has progressed the most in the past 30 years of football. They found the progress comes down to 3 things: training, fuel, and recovery. 

Training: Performance over risk. Coaches Dave Puloka and Glen Tobias discuss cookie-cutter programs focus on minimizing injury, instead of looking to improve performance. If they identify an athlete is more injury prone with their hips, then the coaches develop a training routine to increase the mobility of their hips. This enables the athlete to get increased performance from their hips and that in turn minimizes their chance of injury. 

Fuel: Three things here: glycemic load, food composition, and timing. Glycemic load measures how your body's insulin levels react to a meal. (If you are curious to learn about glycemic load see our post here) How your collective meals affect your body is more important than any 1 individual food. This gives rise to flexible eating, allowing you to satisfy certain food cravings but not break your plan. This leads into the point of food composition. Balancing carbohydrates, fats, and protein can lead to desired results. They talk about how athletes require many more carbohydrates than the typical person because their goal is performance not aesthetics. Finally, timing is huge. The coaches say the most important meal of the day is not breakfast. It's the meal right after your training session. Post-training is a window where your body needs to be refueled properly. Refueling leads to proper recovery. 

Recovery: Recovery begins before you train. The number 1 point made was adequate sleep. Sleep is the cheapest & best form of recovery anyone can get. The conditioning coaches ensure the athletes are getting enough sleep prior to training sessions, so their bodies are capable of improving. Without sleep your body is frayed and injury prone, leading to reductions instead of improvements. They mentioned using massages, ice baths, and cryotherapy tactically as the season progresses. At the start of the season, they want the athletes' bodies to adapt to the pain. As they play more games and need to recover quickly, coaches will introduce these recovery methods. 

What does this mean for me?

NFL athletes are competing at the highest possible level, they are the top 0.1% of players. At that stage, everyone is amazing. So there is a much higher investment into technology and optimizing the routines of these athletes to gain an extra 1-2% on the field. For most people, we don't need to result to such extremes, broad-strokes here works wonders. If you can focus on getting enough rest, training throughout the week, and balancing your diet, you can see a major boost in your performance. 


Indy Bal