Brandon Yates, MS, CSCS, is currently a second year Ph.D. student studying musculoskeletal health sciences in the Indiana Center for Musculoskeletal Health at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana. As a doctoral student, he leverages his previous training as a strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer to design exercise and nutritional interventions that improve physical and cognitive function in special populations such as those with spinal cord injuries, adolescent athletes, and older adults.
Freelap USA: Post-career weight gain is common in sports, but it seems to be a big problem for players in the NFL. Can you get into why wellness and health are so important to manage after playing? It seems that concussions have been a priority, while basic wellness is seen as a distant second.
Brandon Yates: Managing health and wellness after retiring from professional sport or even after finishing a high school/collegiate career is extremely important because life demands have likely changed. For instance, no more required 6:00 a.m. workouts, no more free treatments from athletic training staff and massage therapists, no more prepared pregame and postgame meals, no more organized skills training or Sunday football games. After retirement, all of those things become optional and may likely have a cost associated with them.Managing health and wellness after retiring from professional sport or even after finishing a high school/collegiate career is extremely important because life demands change, says @MrYatesB. Click To Tweet
Most importantly, sedentary time may increase relative to pre-retirement, but nutritional habits may remain the same. Collectively, this may result in visceral (belly) adipose accumulation and lean mass loss, which now that the athlete is considered part of the general population, we know likely leads to multiple health ailments. This is especially an issue for many offensive/defensive linemen who spent a good portion of their career consuming excess calories to gain weight. This type of unfavorable body composition creates a pro-inflammatory environment that, when coupled with various neurological or musculoskeletal insults over a playing career, commonly leads to accelerated aging in the population that presents as early physical/cognitive dysfunction.
Freelap USA: Alcohol use in sport is a complicated concept, as it’s social and biochemical. Can you share how teams can navigate better in this area? Perhaps looking at different sports outside of endurance?
Brandon Yates: Well, I think the biggest issue is that alcohol is not an ergogenic aid; therefore, athletes should restrain from alcohol consumption at least 48 hours before competition. Alcohol consumption alters kidney function, which subsequently alters whole body hydration, and it also has negative effects on body movements via influences on the brain. Therefore, it’s best to not overconsume alcohol and to limit consumption before competition.
Freelap USA: Supplementation may leave urine concentrated with artificial coloring. Can you explain how teams can manage hydration monitoring properly now? What are the implications and workarounds with urinalysis?
Brandon Yates: Dehydration has been shown to reduce sports performance, and the easiest way to assess hydration status is via urine color. However, several foods or nutritional supplements have been reported to alter urine color. For example, beets may produce a pink/reddish urine, and a multivitamin may produce a neon green urine.
Those changes in urine are the body’s normal response to excess metabolites in circulation, and they can happen rapidly. For this reason, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends the use of two or more hydration assessments to determine hydration status. The three most easily accessible for athletes and teams to utilize are:
- Body mass change.
- Urine color.
You can assess body mass change by weighing the athlete before and immediately after competition or practice. The goal is to not exceed a 2% body mass loss. So, if a 100-pound athlete is 98 pounds after practice, they have lost 2% (i.e., 2 pounds), which means they likely are dehydrated.You can assess body mass change by weighing the athlete before and immediately after competition or practice. The goal is to not exceed a 2% body mass loss, says @MrYatesB. Click To Tweet
Secondly, urine color and thirst are assessed as a binary yes/no. Is the urine dark or not, and are you thirsty? If the athlete checks “yes” for two out of the three measures, it’s very likely that they have become dehydrated and should rehydrate before the next practice/competition. With three measures, if urine color is altered by nutritional supplementation, the athlete can still get an accurate assessment because body mass and thirst are not affected.
Freelap USA: You have done some hydration studies and investigated some fresh areas in this space. Can you update us on why hydration still matters in sport? It seems that the pendulum keeps swinging without a real timeless set of principles.
Brandon Yates: Hydration matters for sport because our bodies are roughly 60% water, and many of the biological processes required to compete at a high level need water. Further, it also has important health implications for normal daily living across the lifespan.
In terms of sport, hydration becomes more important in sports of long durations or sports performed in hot and humid environments. Dehydration increases the onset of fatigue in these events, which may lead to increased risk of injury. Further, emerging evidence supports that hydration status affects mood and may influence cognition in elderly adults. This is likely due to the brain’s requirement for fluid homeostasis.
Indeed, radiologist have noted that a 2% body mass loss results in brain shrinkage, which negatively affects multiple domains of cognitive function. It’s unknown if this occurs during team sports such as football, but it would serve as a potential mechanism explaining the differences in severity of concussive symptoms. So, although we definitely need more data in this area, I believe maintenance of hydration during sport should remain a best practice.
Freelap USA: Cross-sectional thickness is a simple measure that can help with sarcopenia and even atrophy from injury. What are the pros and cons of using muscle thickness now that body scanning is improving with lasers?
Brandon Yates: Muscle thickness gives us a girth measurement, but it doesn’t provide insight into the composition of the muscle. For instance, two individuals can have the same thigh girth measurement, but one individual can have healthy muscle and bone, whereas the other individual has muscle and bone with enlarged fat deposits, which is lower quality and has negative health implications.Muscle thickness gives us a girth measurement, but it doesn’t provide insight into the composition of the muscle, says @MrYatesB. Click To Tweet
It’s similar to the issues with BMI and DEXA. Based off of BMI, most bodybuilders are morbidly obese, whereas a DEXA would give a different result. For most of the general population, girth measurement is fairly accurate and feasible, but it’s not the gold standard. Therefore, caution is needed when interpreting and extrapolating the results.
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