Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Energy Balance Equation

As a Performance Enhancement Coach, I am frequently fielding questions from athletes who are trying to gain weight. What kind of workout should I do? What supplements should I buy? How much protein should I take? What kind of protein should I take? All of these questions can and should be addressed. But, there is one question that should be asked before all others…How many calories do I need?

The concept of weight management through Energy Balance is not a difficult one to convey. First, if an athlete’s goal is to maintain his weight, then the amount of energy (calories) that he expends through activity and exercise must equal the amount of energy he consumes (food). If his goal is to lose weight, then he must expend more energy than he consumes. And finally, if the athlete’s goal is to gain weight, then he must consume more energy than he burns. This is the most important issue in weight management – even before I begin discussing protein, carbohydrates, supplements, etc. Gater et al. (1992) demonstrated that athletes who participate in a strength training program and consume more calories than they expend show higher muscle mass gains than athletes with a neutral calorie balance.

(+) Energy Balance = Weight Gain
(-) Energy Balance = Weight Loss
(0) Energy Balance = Weight Maintenance

Even though this is not a difficult concept to convey, it definitely is not as easy to put into practice. For me, the first thing that I ask the player to do when dealing with weight management goals is to keep a weekly diary of what he is eating and drinking, so that I have an idea of how many calories that he is consuming. From there, we discuss the player’s daily calorie expense based on his daily practice, training, and performance activities. The biggest thing that I’ve found over the years is that most players do not have a good grasp on how many calories they need during the day or how many calories they actually take in.

23yo Male / 6ft Tall / 200lbs  3,114 Calories

The average professional baseball player requires 3,114 calories just to fuel his normal bodily functions at rest and maintain his current body weight. The need increases to between 3,600 and 4,100 calories per day to fuel the body for the addition of daily baseball activities. It is important to also understand that a player’s calorie needs will change based on the time of year (off-season, pre-season, or in-season), within a given week (5-day Starting Pitcher Rotation), or according to his role on the team (Starter vs. Reliever, or Everyday Player vs. Bench Player). Consuming up to 100-500 more calories per day than you are expending will provide you with the energy needed to gain strength and increase your lean muscle mass.

How do you gain weight? Above all else, make sure that you have a positive calorie balance.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS
Co-Founder, BaseballStrengthCoaching.com

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