Last week we discussed Internal and External Load, and how merely quantifying and tracking training volume (external load) is not enough. There are so many factors that go into an athlete’s complete experience (Internal Load) and today we’re going to delve into one of the biggest; nutrition. One of the great things about the Sparta Signature is that the forces measured are normalized by body weight, making it a much more holistic test. If the forces were not divided by body weight, a heavier athlete would always have greater magnitude forces than a lighter athlete. The other great thing is that athletes cannot improve their Signature simply by gaining weight. In fact, if an athlete gains weight that is not useful (like excess fat), even if their gross magnitude of forces increase, their Signature will not improve. To be clear, we have nothing against fat, but we do prefer to address the concept of body composition from the more positive approach of good nutrition.
In many female sports, the false idea still persists that if you train (lift) too much you’ll get bulky and/or slow. This prevents some female athletes from training, so this case study will look at one of our female collegiate volleyball players. During the past winter at our urging, she finally decided to get serious about her nutrition. We give all our athletes suggestions and tools to improve their Regen efforts (sleep, nutrition, soft tissue) but it is really up them to take ownership of their preparation outside of Sparta’s walls. The Sparta Signatures below were collected a month apart. During that month she became very dedicated to her nutrition. According to her she had always been “pretty good” with lean protein and veggies accounting for the majority of her calories, but she also admitted to being prone to sugar cravings and “calorie counting.” During the month displayed, she gave up all grains and other complex carbohydrates, sugary drinks, dairy and focused on getting all her calories from good protein and fat sources, as well as tons of veggies. She reported feeling “more alert” and “less stressed” as well as saying that she fatigued less quickly at tournaments with more than one match. If we look at her Signatures (below) we can see that the t scores for LOAD and DRIVE increased by one and that EXPLODE increased by 5 over the month. At this point she had been training with us for almost two years, so a t score increase of 5 is very significant. EXPLODE represents an athletes ability to maintain tension and transfer force well through their trunk. Athletes with strong upper bodies generally have high t scores in EXPLODE. As a volleyball player who spends matches repeating vertical and approach jumps, increasing EXPLODE is a very good transformation.
While her Signature improvement cannot be entirely attributed to her diet change, we can safely infer that it had a big impact. One large statistical correlation we have observed is large increases in LOAD with more pronounced weight gains, the most extreme example being offensive lineman who never possess a lower LOAD than other variables. As such, this LOAD has become our most reliable and valid (i.e. is your mass functional?) body weight composition assessment!
She had a strong training history with us (she was a very consistent athlete) and if you look at her weight (at the bottom of the scans), she lost over 5lbs (again, fairly significant for an already fit female collegiate athlete). Even if the magnitude of her forces had stayed the same over the month, her Sparta Signature would have shown an improvement simply from the weight loss. The fact that she reported feeling more alert and having more energy shows that she was not starving herself. The thing we love about the Signature is that we continually find it to be a great indicator of all types of changes an athlete may experience (Internal Load).