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Be your sporting best
Be your sporting best
Each season on the Farm, Stanford athletes receive instruction on improving their athletic performance. BeWell spoke with Brandon Marcello, PhD, Director of Sports Performance, to discuss whether these lessons about peak performance can be applied to the rest of us.
What is sports performance?
Sports performance is what used to be called “strength & conditioning.” While still a ubiquitous term, strength
& conditioning only encompasses two aspects of performance: getting athletes stronger and in better condition. On the other hand, the term sports performance encompasses injury prevention, nutrition, recovery, flexibility, speed, and agility — as well as strength and conditioning.
We are often given conflicting advice on sports training and nutrition. How would you simplify the message?
If any diet or training program sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
What advice would you give the weekend warrior?
I advise being careful that you don’t overdo it. Activities and regimens should be based upon progressions rather than a “no-gression.” I see many people excited to train, lift, run, work out — and they just do too much too soon. There is nothing wrong with taking it easy; doing too much too soon will not get you “in shape” faster.
What about the parents of a child athlete?
Let kids be kids and let them play as they should. Many of the injuries we see when athletes arrive at college are the result of damage done over prior years, and often resulting from what we call “early specialization” (specializing children in a single sport at a very early age).
How do you advise athletes to eat while on the road?
Advising athletes about proper nutrition begins far sooner than when they hit the road for competition. Rather, nutrition is an educational journey. Just as we gradually develop exercise and training plans, so too do we progressively instill and execute plans for better nutrition. We arm them with tools that they can carry everywhere they go, such as a menu highlighting what to eat or a web-based application providing them with the healthy options at various eateries. In some instances, we help choose restaurants or coordinate with the hotel kitchen to provide meals. Additionally, we can put together snack-packs or provide healthy “bars” for them to have on hand for longer trips.
Eating out on the road can be challenging for athletes and non-athletes alike. What small change would you recommend for people who travel for work?
I advise not playing the elimination game; i.e., deciding “no protein,” “no fat” or “no carbs.” Eating healthier is not defined by removing an entire food category. Instead, consider incorporating a salad with your meal and opt for some veggies. In other words, add some better things rather than just deleting foods.
Are there any supplements you would recommend for peak performance?
Real food will go a long way if you eat a broad variety of healthy foods, such as different types of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. (A whole grain is one in which you can see the grain or parts of the grain.) In addition, I would recommend an omega-3 supplement from an animal source, i.e., fish oil or krill oil. While both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential, we typically consume too many omega-6 fatty acids, which can lead to an inflammatory state.
Interview conducted by Julie Croteau and edited by Lane McKenna Ryan.