From the work I’ve been doing with basketball athletes over the last 10 years, one area of concern that many of them have is that they don’t want to be ‘too big’. The idea that putting on muscle mass immeadatley grants them entry into the next Mr Olympia competition.
It sounds pretty silly when you spill in out like that but sadly that’s the perception of many untrained athletes. Just because you have extra muscle, doesn’t mean it will weight you down. Sure, if you’re 100kg of lean muscle, you’re going to have certain limitations on the basketball court compared to an 85-90kg athlete. There are obvious limits that having more muscle have but for the most part, a few extra kilos of muscle means you have more contractile tissue that is useful for not only creating more contractile force (strength) but can help you produce more force (which lends itself to more speed).
Too many people think that adding muscle is like becoming a bodybuilder. That’s just simply not true and this ideaology needs to be extinguished. Having muscle is great. Truly! It’s the main goal of all my athletes (their muscle mass number varies from athlete to athlete) as more muscle means more potential strength output. If you know how important this is, then you can read on. If you’re scared of muscle and putting it on, you might want to just close your browser now and move on.
Before I go any further, I’m going to be using a couple of terms in this post that might not be familiar so I want to highlight them for you.
BMR - Basal Metabolic Rate - The amount of energy you burn at rest. eg, If you’re in a coma, this would be how much energy your body would be using simply to keep your metabolic functioning but nothing more.
TDEE - Total Daily Expenditure - How much energy you burn in combining your BMR and also your daily activities.
Two things we look at doing with new athletes to come into our facility looking to increase the size and strength is look at increasing the training load as well as increasing overall weekly calories. Very few times are these two variables trained at the same time. Most athletes will either increase their training load which will give them increase in strength but it won’t necessarily help them increase overall muscle mass.
Below is an example of what most athlete nutritional outlines look like. During the week is an under consumption of calories which puts the athlete in a position of those poor performance and recovery. That doesn’t however stop them from over consuming calories on the weekends. It’s safe to say that most of the energy consumed on the weekend is gonna be from fast food, takeaway and calorie dense food with poor to little nutritional value.
Figure 1: An example of what a poor nutrition plan looks like where calories are consumed in lower than required and over consumed on the weekends.
The aim of the game for newer athletes coming into the gym is to slowly building up the amount of calories consumed while both increasing the training volume to match those newer energy requirements.
What I focus on first with these new athletes is build them up to hit their TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). Most of the time these athletes have never really come close to hitting their TDEE Which is why we look at trying to hit not only is close to it but also just below. For example, is your total daily energy expenditure is 3000 cal, We would look to hit 2700 cal for a week before sliding up to 3000 cal. Depending on the athletes, every week or fortnight will be when we’s we taper down calories to bring them back up. Below is an example of what I mean.
Figure 2: An example of working towards your TDEE. If you start with slightly lower calories for a week or so then move up to your TDEE (maintenance). Phasing in and out for a period of time can help get you comfortable with hitting this TDEE target.
Note: To fast track the whole process, it’s probably easier to use an online resource to get your BMR and TDEE numbers. CLICK HERE TO USE THIS WEBSITE thats been super helpful for me. I have my own custom made software that allows me to calculate the numbers that I need but that’s because I use a few more cheeky calculations and modifications.
The second part of this long term equation is then building on this to be a point where they are consuming a surplus of calories. Flirting with their baseline calorie requirement (TDEE) and moving to a surplus for 1-3 weeks before moving back to the baseline TDEE is the goal. Again, below is the outline of what that would look like.
It’s important to realise that the only way this works is if both the athlete and the coach are on the same page and if their are both clear in their communication. Most of these images that I’ve used on this page are athletes that have spent the better part of many months gaining size and strength. The goal was to put on lean tissue and to make sure body fat levels were not creeping up. Hence what he surplus calorie about was nothing more than maybe 10-15% above their TDEE for any length of time before returning back to baseline. This doesn’t mean that they only phased in and out between surplus and baseline. Heck, depending on the athlete, there were some of them that stayed on a calories surplus for months at a time. It just depending on the athletes and their circumstances .
Figure 4: a good example of a phasing up program from the TDEE into a caloric surplus. This is a good way to start putting on muscle mass as long as the training load matches the increased calorie intake.
Look, it’s a slow and gradual process. It takes a lot of discipline and practice to be able to consume this much for as well as make sure that you’re not overdoing it. Nutritional programming is something that takes a fair while to get right but with support and guidance, it can be achieved.
If you have any questions, drop me a message in the tabs at the top of the page and I’d be more than welcome to help out.