Written by Nate Winkler
‘2 A Days’ always elicit an intense flow of memories and nostalgia from those of us whom have already gone through them. Long days in the heat, sharing the struggle with your teammates, suicides, vomiting, and an array of physical and psychological tests administered by your hated coaching staff characterize this dreaded time of year. In the end however, a bond is created that is almost tangible among a group of people who were more or less strangers 10 days prior to the beginning of the terrible process. Yes, ‘2 A Days’ are an integral part of the American sport design, and weather you agree with their usage or effectiveness, they are here to stay. Shared struggle, physical and psychological testing, and sport preparation are crucial to the development of the individual and team. Vomiting, sitting out, or becoming the one that the strong dominate, should not be part of your ‘2 A Day’ experience, and all of these negative experiences are preventable.
Heading into 2 A Days? This One’s For You
The initial practice period is the time when coaches are evaluating their athletes more than ever, you better perform during ‘2 A Days’, or get used to sitting on the bench and cheering. Great performances start from the inside out, I’m not talking about heart, determination, and spirit, those words are about as useful as CrossFit for athletes. I’m talking about strength, sufficient nutrients at the cellular level, and proper nutrient timing strategies that lend themselves to athletic performance. Having all the heart in the world won’t help you if there’s no gas in the tank.
Logical Nutrition Considerations For Athletes
The first mistake many coaches and ‘sports nutritionists’ make is thinking the body is a simple vessel. Upon reviewing the hormonal interactions, blood pressure and blood sugar responses to food, nutrient exchange, and chemical responses to food and stress, you will realize that our bodies are more complex than anything around you. You can’t just dump a load of oatmeal, bread or pasta into your body before and after each practice and hope for the best. You put too much time into your training and there’s too much proven research out there to remain ignorant about performance nutrition. There are 5 areas you must consider when designing your nutrition strategy as you head into ‘2 A Days’. (You are designing a plan right?)
1. ‘2 A Days’ are not the time to lose weight, or diet for fat loss, focus needs to be on sport performance only. Don’t be concerned about counting calories or carbohydrates; your activity levels will keep you lean. Remember, if you don’t replace the nutrients that you lose during exercise, you WILL get injured or become fatigued. If you show up to training camp 15-20 lbs. overweight and need to lose weight, then my question is why are you playing your sport in the first place?
2. Stop eating a large carb serving before your morning practice! I can’t tell you how many athletes I’ve talked to that think they must have a huge ‘carb load’ at 7:30 am in order to practice well at 800 am. Nutritionists everywhere are just vomiting this misinformation out to athletes and it’s harming them and their performance. After your first practice of the day, your body will digest carbohydrates much more quickly and efficiently. Nutritionally speaking, proper nutrients are responsible for muscle contraction, and carbohydrates are a great source of fuel in this process. This, in part, means you must eat carbs in order to have glycogen in your muscle cells, but the time you eat these carbohydrates is most important. Because your practice schedule during this time is going to be demanding the upmost from your body both physically and mentally, you can’t have a practice or film session where you aren’t alert. Eat quick digesting carbs immediately after practice (more on this below), make the bulk of your day time carbs fruit based and blended oats, never eat bread, then have a large carbohydrate reefed during the evening. In the evenings after practice, I recommend women eating 200-300 grams of carbs over two meals and men eating 400-500 grams of carbs. This will replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles, increase water retention in the muscle cell (fewer cramps), and release serotonin, which will promote REM sleep.
Since we discussed film sessions and morning practices, I want to plug the effectiveness of caffeine use here. Among an entire host of beneficial attributes, caffeine increases mental alertness, information retention, and muscle contraction efficiency (increased motor unit recruitment). Serving suggestions depend on your preexisting experience with caffeine. For those of you who never drink coffee, or any caffeine products, I recommend 300-400 mg of green tea extract/day just to gauge how your body will react, and a small (8 oz.) iced coffee at some point in the early or late afternoon. For those with more experience in handling the effects of caffeine, morning and early afternoon coffee would be great for this time period, one 8 oz. serving in the morning and one 8-12 oz. serving in afternoon. Energy drinks have a number of artificial ingredients, I suggest keeping it simple here, go with the coffee or green tea products. Make sure that you are getting proper nutrient replacement if you use caffeine, with the increased muscle contraction strength you will require more nutrients to meet these demands, which creates a higher risk of muscle cramp. These nutrient types are discussed in Consideration #5. If you want to impress your coach, have a great morning practice compared to the other carb infused zombies and then come back focused during the film session.
3. With athletes, you often hear discussions about the Central Nervous System, and how these nerves innervate the skeletal muscle cells and control all movement. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) also works as a control center for the involuntary bodily processes, and it’s influence on athlete sport performance is often over looked. Two major aspects of the ANS are the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). The SNS is responsible for ‘fight or flight’ responses of the body. When the SNS is activated, this stimulates the release of noradrenaline into the blood stream; this potent nerurotransmitter causes increased heart rate, increased blood pressure and blood flow to the limbs, increased reaction time and mental alertness, dilated pupils, and digestion decreases. Noradrenaline also activates glycogenolysis, the conversion of liver glycogen into usable glucose and has been observed to stimulate the release of testosterone. So, making sure that your SNS is not inhibited as you begin practice is important, wouldn’t you agree? Then why are athletes everywhere voluntarily eating in a way that impairs their performance? You see my frustration with all the ‘sport nutritionists’ out there?
The PNS is responsible for all the opposite actions of the SNS (generalizing), and controls the processes termed, ‘rest and digest’. When you are recovering you need the PNS to take over, I don’t want to demonize a crucial pathway in performance, but knowing when, and how to control these nervous systems is a key component to playing your best. You can control your body’s involuntary responses by intelligently choosing the foods you eat. Many athletes go wrong when they have a large meal, or carb serving 30 minutes prior to practice. Their body recognizes the large, dense, meal in their stomach and increases blood flow to that area, which decreases blood flow to the limbs, and this causes a cascade of events to occur. Digestive hormones are activated, insulin is released, and blood sugar skyrockets. The body then body goes into a state of rest, digestion and storage. Reaction time decreases, and mental alertness decreases, perfect recipe for a great practice right? This is why a ‘heavy’, meal prior to practice is a bad idea, many preach the usefulness of carbohydrates in explosive movements, but don’t have any clue how much they’re harming their athletes by advising them to eat carbs right before practice.
4. Post training carbohydrates and calories are crucial. This advice must be taken in light of the discussion in #3 if you have another practice in the day. You also want to get nutrients to your body as fast as possible, this is the perfect time for a blended shake. You can pull this off if you plan ahead, every practice facility has an outlet to plug in your blender, and you can bring your ingredients with you. Planning is the first step to success here. For this situation I recommend making a ‘2 A Days Shake’ right after practice, with the recipe below:
- 30 oz water, 2.5 Scoops Juggernaut Muscle Growth Formula, 2 cups raw oats, 1 banana, 2 Tbsp. Peanut Butter, and 3-5 grams creatine (if you have something against creatine, then you can use our Juggernaut Fat Loss Formula and use the same recipe otherwise)
This shake should be made immediately after each practice in order to replace lost nutrients and put your body in an anabolic (tissue building and repair) state. A quick word about protein powders here, many of the big companies use low quality protein, from cows full of steroids/hormones, and are sourced out of China. This leads to poor digestion, incomplete muscle repair, and bloating; what ever protein powder you choose, just make sure you research the source of the whey powder first.
5. When your muscles contract, the event is preceded by a change inside and outside of the muscle cell (depolarization) that requires a few crucial ions, those are sodium, hydrogen, oxygen, potassium, and calcium (there are others, but these are the major players in ion exchange of muscle contraction). A shortage of these ions is what leads to dehydration and cramping. Drinking water is obvious, you should only be drinking water and protein shakes during this time. Gatorade and other sport drinks do a good job of replenishing lost ions, but the corn syrup and other sugars they include are terrible for the body. I suggest either heavily salting your food during this week, taking a pill form of the above ions I listed, or just drinking a class of 4-5 oz. water with a packet of salt mixed in 3-4 times a day. Without the proper hydration and ions that aid in muscle contraction, you will not be performing to your potential. I recommend keeping total ounces of liquid 30 min prior to practice below 15 oz., these ounces should be dense with salt and other ions, and sip these beverages if possible. Hydrate during, after, or between practices when you have enough time to properly digest what you have consumed.
Apply These Principles to YOUR Schedule
These very simple, and logical nutritional considerations should form the basis of the nutrition strategy you choose during your ‘2 A Days’. Every coach adheres to a different schedule, so adjust your meal schedule and training schedule so that your plan works for you. Apply these basic, logical, thoroughly documented principles and ‘2 A Days’ will be a time for you to stand out and dominate your competition.