Welcome to Dan Riley's latest installment of Texans Fitness Corner. The response continues to be overwhelming. We will continue to post selected answers to your questions throughout the year. Join in by shooting over an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: Before engaging in any new physical activity, always consult your physician. **
I would like to know what is the route one makes to becoming a professional strength and conditioning coach. Do you start low and work your way up to the pros? **
-- Juan, Houston
As a professional strength coach I deal with more visible athletes, but it is the high school coach that should receive the most esteem. The high school coach is by far the more important job when compared to the college and professional strength coach. Colleges and professional teams have more resources and better-equipped facilities than the average high school.
The job of a high school coach is more difficult. The high school coach is the one who introduces young athletes and students to weight training. The high school coach must adapt to over crowded facilities, bus schedules, part-time jobs, and many other distractions. They have the opportunity to instill into our young people a life long interest in fitness.
I was fortunate to begin my career when only a few people had a college education and a background in strength training. If you could spell barbell you had a good shot at getting a job. Today there are thousands of eminently qualified candidates and only a few opportunities.
There are many candidates with hands on experience and a well-rounded education that will never have the opportunity to work as a professional or college strength coach. My advice to young people interested in pursuing a strength-coaching career is to also prepare for an alternate career.
Should you decide to pursue a career in strength and conditioning I would advise you to obtain an undergraduate and graduate degree in physical education, with an emphasis in Exercise Science, and also take as many nutrition classes as you can. Get as much hands on experience as soon as possible. Volunteer your services to the track coach, to the strength and conditioning coach, and to the exercise labs.
Join any professional organization you believe will provide you with sound and unbiased information. There are thousands of people that have already done this yet can't find a job. Make sure you are concurrently preparing for a possible change in careers.
As the Texans strength and conditioning coach, how much will you rely on vitamin supplementation with your players? In your NFL career has that been an important issue to deal with in the health of your players? **
-- Bruce, North Carolina
We will utilize the services of a nutrition specialist. Currently we do not have a specialist on our staff. If we did I would defer this question to that person. The only supplement I can recommend to our players is a multiple vitamin. It is the same advice given by the nutrition academic community.
I am not an advocate of random supplementation. The Food & Drug Administration does not regulate supplements. There's no guarantee about the contents within the product. My advice to our players is to visit with a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) before consuming any supplement.
Find out if there is a deficiency and if there is one, modify eating habits to eliminate the deficiency. If a supplement is needed, let an R.D. prescribe a reputable product and the right amount.
Remember, the word supplement means, in addition to. *It doesn't mean *instead of. Supplements attempt to duplicate the nutrients contained in normal food. It's my responsibility to encourage our players to exhibit the same discipline in the area of nutrition as they do in their physical preparation.
I've recently modified a questionnaire I give to our players. I ask them to answer each of these questions.
Eat something for breakfast seven days a week?
· Eat at least three meals a day?
· Consume a nutritious snack in the morning and afternoon?
· Monitor the number of calories you consume?
· Restrict your intake of fat calories to 25% of your total diet?
· Consume 60% of your calories in the form of carbohydrates?
· Eat from all food groups?
· Eat five servings of fruit/day?
· Eat at least one vegetable daily?
· Do you consume 20 to 30 grams of fiber/day?
· Read the labels?
· After a game do you consume 75 grams (300 calories) of complex carbohydrates?
· Drink at least 8 (8 ounce) glasses of water/day and avoid dehydration?
· Avoid dieting, fasting?
· Avoid losing more than one pound of fat/week?
· Find out how much food you can eat (not how little) and continue to lose weight.
· Avoid spot reducing/rubber sweat suits?
· Pay more attention to your body composition than to your bodyweight from a scale?
· Go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time each day?
· Avoid the habit of sleeping in?
· Consume a multiple vitamin daily?
· Avoid random supplementation and testimony?
· Rely upon the advice of a registered dietitian (RD), not your Houston Texans
· Laugh and walk away if something sounds too good to be true?
In your question Bruce you asked, "During my career has supplements been an important issue to deal with?" The answer is a resounding yes! It has become very important in recent years. Athletes look for any advantage they can get to enhance performance or prolong their career. Some are very vulnerable and gullible.
It is my responsibility to provide our players with scientifically sound and reliable information. It's unreasonable to expect the entire supplement industry to be the vehicle to provide unbiased information.
In August of 1999 the NFL has issued a statement on the use of supplements. The policy states:
"Over the past few years, we have made a special effort to educate and warn players about the risks involved in the use of "nutritional supplements. Despite these efforts, several players have been suspended even though their positive test result may have been due to the use of nutritional supplements. Under the Policy, you and you alone are responsible for what goes into your body." *
Last year the league suspended a player for four weeks. The suspension was for a failed steroid test. The New York Times reported that the player claimed the positive test was due to an over the counter supplement he had taken.
The league took swift action and stated that blaming positive tests on supplements will no longer be tolerated. The N.F.L. sent a memo to all teams and warned that any trainer or coach who knowingly or unknowingly distributes a supplement that contained a prohibitive substance is subject to a fine, as is the team.
The League Policy also states:
"As the Policy clearly warns, supplements are not regulated or monitored by the government. This means that, even if they are bought over-the counter from a known establishment, there is simply no way to be sure that they:
(a) Contain the ingredients listed on the packaging;
(b) Have not been tainted with prohibited substances;
(c) Have the properties or effects claimed by the manufacturer or salesperson.
Therefore, if you take these products, you do so AT YOUR OWN RISK! The risk is at least a 4-game suspension without pay if a prohibited substance is detected in your system. For your own health and success in the League, we strongly encourage you to avoid the use of supplements altogether, or at the very least to be extremely careful about what you choose to take." *
The American College of Sports Medicine, The American Dietetic Association, and The Dietitians of Canada, published a Joint Position Statement titled, "Nutrition and Athletic Performance." The report states, "The marketing of ergogenic aids (items claiming to increase work output or performance) is an international, multimillion dollar business that preys on the desires of athletes to be the best, and when one item does not work or is discredited by research, another comes along to take its place."
In the United States, the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 allows supplement manufacturers to make claims regarding the effect of products on the structure/function of the body, as long as they do not claim to "diagnose, mitigate, treat, cure, or prevent, a specific disease." As long as a special supplement label indicates the active ingredients and the entire ingredient list is provided, claims for enhanced performance - be they valid or not - can be made.
The Joint Position Statement "Nutrition and Athletic Performance" offers the following: "As the research and interest in sport nutrition has increased, so has the sale of ergogenic aids, supplements, herbal preparations, and diet aids, all aimed at improving sports performance. The manufacturers of these products frequently make unsubstantiated claims to entice the athlete to use their products."
In their abstract they state, "Athletes will not need vitamin and mineral supplements if adequate energy to maintain body weight is consumed from a variety of foods.
However, supplements may be required by athletes who restrict energy intake, use severe weight-loss practices, eliminate one or more food groups from their diet, or consume high-carbohydrate diets with low micronutrient density."
There are some people (and some athletes) that have nutritional deficiencies and need a supplement. In the area of supplementation my advice is …. and always has been …. seek the counsel of a Registered Dietitian to determine if there is a need. If there is a need have your R.D. prescribe a reputable product in the right amount.
For most people (and most athletes) our concern should be to meet our nutritional needs with normal foods, not random supplementation.
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Joint Position Statement by The American College of Sports Medicine, The American Dietetic Association, and The Dietitians of Canada, "Nutrition and Athletic Performance," 0195-9131/00/3212-2130/0, Copyright 2000.
Freeman, Mike, "Drug Policy Loophole Revealed in an Appeal," New York Times Sports Sunday, August 27, 2000.