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Body Composition: Building Muscle The physical demands of elite AFL football are high and players are required to be strong, fast, agile, and lean. For almost all AFL athletes, the goal is to increase muscle mass and strength; and minimise body fat. Body composition is usually assessed by looking at body weight and skinfold’s. Set realistic goals It’s important that athletes set realistic individual goals, as they all have different genetic potential to develop muscle mass. It is often difficult to build muscle during the competition season, because the demands of training and games leaves little time for the required resistance training and rest needed to grow muscles. The off-season or pre-season is therefore the best time to focus on building muscle. Increase energy intake To grow muscles athletes need to support regular strength training sessions with a high energy (calorie) diet. This calls for a general increase in food intake containing plenty of carbohydrate, moderate amounts of high-quality protein and limited fat. Carbohydrates are important to ‘fuel’ the muscles to do the training, which will stimulate muscles to grow. A carbohydrate rich meal or snack prior to resistance training has been show to increase the effectiveness of the workout (e.g. lift heavier weights or more repetitions). Pre workout meals (3-4 hours) • • • • • • • • Fruit toast with ricotta and banana Baked potato with corn and cheese Baked beans on toast Breakfast cereal with milk Sandwich with meat filling and salad Fruit salad or berries with yoghurt Pasta or rice with a low-fat sauce Pita bread wrap with tuna and salad Pre workout snack (1-2 hours) • • • • • • Fresh fruit Canned fruit Tub of yoghurt Cereal bar Flavoured milk Fruit bun or fruit scone Well timed protein There is a tendency for athletes wanting to build muscle to focus on protein quantity. Most male athletes easily consume the protein they need and consuming more won’t result in more muscle mass. The focus should be on timing protein intake around resistance training sessions. Consuming protein after a workout provides the amino acid building blocks needed to repair muscle fibres that get damaged during exercise and to promote the development of new muscle tissue. Although protein requirements vary between individuals, consuming 10 - 20 grams of protein within 30 minutes of training can help maximise the muscle rebuilding and repair process. Quality protein Proteins are made up of chains of smaller chemicals called amino acids. A protein’s nutritional value or quality is judged by how many of the essential amino acids it provides and in what quantity. When it comes to building new muscle tissue you need a high quality protein source that contains the essential amino acids. Protein from animal sources, such as eggs, meat, poultry, fish or dairy is high quality, because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids. One amino acid, leucine, in particular plays a key role in turning on the muscle building machinery after exercise. The highest concentrations of leucine are found in whey protein from dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Snacks that provide 10g high-quality protein • • • • • • • • • • • 2 small eggs 30 g (1.5 slices) reduced fat cheese 70 g cottage cheese 1 cup (250 ml) low-fat milk 35 g lean beef, lamb or pork (cooked weight) 40 g lean chicken (cooked weight) 50 g grilled fish 50 g canned tuna or salmon 200 g reduced fat yoghurt 150 g light fromage frais 250g vanilla custard What about supplements? Most teenage athletes are still in a development phase in terms of performance and body composition. When an athlete is still growing and developing, significant gains can be made through optimal training and good nutrition. Introducing a supplement at this stage may prevent good dietary and training habits being formed. There is also insufficient information available on the safety of supplement use in athletes under the age of 18 years. In addition to the concerns of safety, athletes are faced with the problem of contamination with prohibited substances, leading to a positive doping offence. The way in which the supplement industry is regulated may put athletes at risk of consuming a product that does not disclose all of the ingredients or that may include contaminants. In 2005, the AFL agreed to adopt the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) Code. WADA’s position on supplements is that in the end, taking a poorly labeled dietary supplement is not an adequate defense in a doping hearing. Athletes should be aware of the dangers of potential contamination of supplements. For some teenage athletes, who are well-trained and have been completing at an elite level for many years, a well-researched supplement may enhance the gains of heavy training. But consideration should be given to its safety and efficacy, and an athlete should consult a dietitian or GP for taking any supplement.