The diet and fitness regimes of elite athletes
Written by: Mike Ryan
Elite athletes know the value of a well-structured diet and fitness regime. Both are needed to enhance performance and accelerate recovery. As with the significant differences in the physical demands of various sports, the nutritional requirements will vary with each and every athlete.
As the Head Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist for the Jacksonville Jaguars and six-time Ironman triathlete, I appreciate the value of a solid diet and fitness regime as both a sports medicine specialist and as an athlete.
Merriam-Webster defines diet as “food and drink regularly provided or consumed.” Unfortunately when the term ‘diet’ is used in today’s society, most people think of some form of an altered nutritional plan and pills in an effort to lose weight, but a successful athlete knows that a diet can be their most valuable training partner.
The foods and drinks an athlete consumes are the energy sources that fuel their performance. As with the varying types of gasoline that race cars and aeroplanes use, mature athletes utilise specific diets that help them excel their respective sports.
Endurance athletes like runners, triathletes and swimmers tend to utilise a higher carbohydrate (carb) diet compared to the traditional balanced diet of carbs, proteins and fats. Because of the high caloric demands of their sport, they are allowed the luxury of consuming more carbs and fats with less concern with weight gain. Carbohydrates are a rapid source of energy and because of this; athletes who exercise for one or more hours commonly consume extra carbs before, during and after activity.
The professional football players that I work with in the National Football League (NFL) are constantly being educated about the value of the foods and drinks they consume. For example, playing in Florida where many of our practices and games can reach temperature close to 38 °C, our players understand that their consumption of the proper types of fluids and carbohydrate-enriched drinks will help them enhance their thermoregulatory system to cool their bodies. Meanwhile, players on our team can weigh as much as 165 kg, so their intake of carbs and fats is monitored closely to avoid increasing their body fat.
The non-professional athlete will benefit from a well-balanced diet of 50 percent carbs, 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat. More important than the percentages is the types of carbs, proteins and fats they are consuming. ‘Bad’ calories such as simple carbs (candy, sugar and syrup) and saturated fats (cheese, creams and lard) are best avoided.
This is the fun part. Athletes love to move and play their sports. Their structured fitness routine is often a combination of their sport and additional drills and activities that help enhance their ability to excel in their sport.
I witnessed a great example of this when I spent two weeks volunteering at the United States Olympic Training Centre three years ago. One of the sports that I worked with was the Greco Roman wrestlers. Besides spending extensive time in the wrestling room, these amazing athletes played soccer, climbed mountains and swam in the pool to help them increase their cardiovascular fitness and flexibility to improve their ability to wrestle.
The routine for elite athletes often includes two factors that separate them from the average athlete: volume and intensity.
Professional football players in the NFL spend approximately 11 hours during an average day practicing, rehabilitating injuries, lifting weights, watching film on their opponents and studying their playbooks with their position coach. World-class swimmers will easily swim three times a day for up to 10 miles in the pool.
Dedication and a defined purpose are the two main reasons why top athletes seek a solid diet and fitness regime.
I strongly recommend that weekend warriors practice some form of cross training for two reasons. First of all, having a structured fitness regime that includes multiple sports helps keep the ‘fun meter’ high and provides a variety of challenges. Secondly, cross training is a wonderful way to reduce the chance of an overuse injury.
Putting it All Together
Olympic champions, the last finishers in the local road race as well as grandparents trying to keep pace with their speedy grandchildren can all benefit from a healthy diet and fitness regime. It keeps our body and mind functioning at an optimal level at any age. More importantly, a personalised diet and fitness regime provides a simple blueprint for a long and healthy life.
Jacksonville Jaguar Linebacker Drills:
Mike Ryan’s take home diet tips
1. Stay Balanced – A balanced diet is a healthy diet. Avoid the crazy routines and diet pills that only alter your delicate body chemistry and waste your hard earned money.
2. Watch the Clock – The later you eat anything the less likely you are to burn those calories and the more likely you are to store those calories as fat. Try not to eat any carbs or fats after eight pm and get in the habit of taking an easy walk after each meal.
3. The Less Legs the Better – When it comes to protein, typically the more legs your meal has the more fat it contains. Chicken is better than beef and fish is better than chicken.
4. Know How it is Prepared –Fish is a wonderful source of protein and omega-3, but if that fish is fried and covered in a fatty cream sauce, you are better off eating a lean hamburger! Always know how your food is prepared and exactly what is being put on it.
5. Teeter-Totter Time – As with a teeter-totter, what you do on one end will inversely affect the other. Diet and fitness are the same. What you eat (caloric intake) compared to what you burn (caloric output) will determine if you gain weight or lose weight.
Mike Ryan’s take home fitness tips
1. Progression – A fitness plan is like a marathon; it takes time. Progression is the key and planning for a lifestyle change will significantly enhance the success of your fitness regime.
2. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone – It is human nature to do what we like to do but that is not always what we NEED to do. Challenging your body and mind with different types of workouts is the key to growth. Change at least 50% of your routine every 6 weeks.
3. It Starts and Ends at the Core – Your core abdominal muscles are active in almost every activity that you do. Training your abs from your pelvis to your ribs will help prevent injuries, improve posture and elevate your athleticism. Don’t forget to include rotational Abs exercises.
4. No Substitute For Strength – The strong will survive. Quad strength protects the knees, upper back strength improves the skills of the throwers and strong abs helps everyone. To improve the strength of any muscle group, the intensity needs to be high and fatigue of those muscles must be achieved.
5. Learn to Listen – The number one trait found in elite athletes is their ability to ‘listen’ to their bodies. They understand what normal soreness feels like and they can sense when they are need more strength work in a certain part of their body.
Mike Ryan, PT, ATC, PES, is a 6-time Ironman triathlete and sought after sports medicine speaker focusing on fitness and diet training for optimal performance. For over two decades, Mike has roamed the sidelines for the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars as the Head Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist, keeping elite athletes competing. Using his expert knowledge, Mike founded MikeRyanFitness.com, a sports medicine website for athletes young and old.
Medical device companies: how to prepare for Brexit
Over the last decade, medical device businesses have been no strangers to regulatory changes and new compliance requirements. Companies with devices in the EU market have been working hard to achieve conformity with the requirements of the EU Medical Device Regulation 2017/745 (MDR) and In Vitro Diagnostic Regulation 2017/746 (IVDR), but the UK’s exit from the EU, effective as of 1st January 2021, demands yet another change: to comply with the new UK regulatory regime.
The Medicines and Medical Devices Act passed into law on 11 February 2021 does just that; it enables the UK to build its own regulatory system, although when this new framework will be fully in place is not yet known.
The transition to the UK’s new regulatory regime officially began on the 1st of January 2021, and with it a series of deadlines and phases that medical device manufacturers exporting to GB and Northern Ireland would do well to take close notice of. During the transition period, the UK Medical Devices Regulations (UK MDR) 2002, not to be confused with the EU MDR, will continue to apply in England, Scotland and Wales, whilst CE marked medical devices will still be accepted up to 30th June 2023.
The conformity assessment processes defined in the UK MDR 2002 (as amended) will require that medical devices carry the UKCA mark for entry in the GB market or the UKNI mark for entry in Northern Ireland (where the devices are not CE marked for the EU). In Northern Ireland, where the rules for placing a device on the market differ, the EU MDR and IVDR will apply in 2021 and 2022 respectively, in line with the EU’s implementation timeline.
This easing-in period of transition is valuable time that should be used productively by manufacturers to ensure that they get up to speed, keep up with relevant updates and prepare strategies and product portfolio for the next phase. To do this, businesses should make sure they consider the following areas as they assess their strategy for UK market access:
Potential Overlap with EU MDR and IVDR
Medical device manufacturers have been working to implement measures to ensure they comply with EU MDR and IVDR for quite some time. The experience, processes and objective evidence that they have gathered in these efforts are certain to be of use when applying for UKCA marking.
Product portfolios and new product pipelines should be evaluated against both overall compliance risk and commercial and strategic value. By identifying the regulatory compliance status for each product for the UK market and the efforts required to maintain that compliance, manufacturers can plan to use the grace period up to June 2023 to complete their activities. These plans should also be evaluated in consideration of the commercial importance of the individual products to help prioritise the workload. This may well result in the decision to discontinue certain products in the UK or to introduce new products on the UK market ahead of other markets.
Engage with Approved Bodies
This activity cannot take place too soon; as of the 1st of January 2021, UK organisations that were acting as EU Notified Bodies have become Approved Bodies in the UK, while EU Notified Bodies are no longer able to provide conformity assessments under the UK regulations. As there are currently only three UK Approved Bodies offering this service, there is a very real risk that latecomers will struggle to find a UK Approved Body to carry out the conformity assessment required to attain their UKCA mark in time.
Just as EU Notified Bodies are no longer relevant to pursuing UK certifications, UK-based Authorised Representatives are no longer valid when CE marking against the MDR or IVDR. Manufacturers using UK-based EU Authorised Representatives must switch to an EU-based Authorised Representative.
For the UK market, the role of the EU Authorised Representative is also no longer applicable. Non-UK manufacturers must have a UK-based Responsible Person (UKRP), which is equivalent to the EU Authorised Representative in terms of roles and responsibilities. Only one UKRP may be appointed, unlike EU Authorised Representatives, and they must have a registered place of business in the UK in order to register with the MHRA. Approved Bodies may be able to provide details of organisations acting as UKRPs and once this role has been assigned it will be critical for manufacturers to determine exact procedures for managing documentation and that clear communication channels are established.
Labelling and Import/Export
New UK regulations require that medical devices bear a UKCA mark in addition to the name and address of the UKRP for non-UK based manufacturers. Manufacturers who use the same products/packs for the EU and UK markets will need to consider the impact of adding more content to their labels in terms of usability for the supply chain and end-users.
While CE marking and certificates will continue to be recognised by the UK until June 2023, import/export administration is likely to change and become more burdensome. Manufacturers using separate products for GB (UKCA) and the EU and Northern Ireland (CE marked) will need to plan for how to ensure that the CE marked product is not shipped to GB post June 2023. Ensuring that processes and resources are in place to deal with developing situations will help manufacturers hit the ground running.
Many businesses will find that clinical investigations are carried out across multiple sites, some of which are outside the UK. In these instances, manufacturers will do well to have a plan for implementation and management of investigations, in compliance with local requirements. It is likely that the MHRA will also continue to update their requirements for clinical trials in the UK.
Data Protection and Standards
New tensions are emerging between the EU and the UK concerning UK data protection rules and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), suggesting that maintaining ‘equivalency’ may involve a number of different phases.
Compliance with applicable standards also requires close attention; the list of designated standards for medical devices issued by the UK’s Department for Health and Social Care is based on the list of harmonised standards published in the Official Journal of the EU, which in turn are harmonised to the MDD, AIMDD and IVDD. More recently published standards, however, have not been harmonised to the latter European directives and are thus not in the UK’s designated list, despite being considered state of the art. It would be prudent for manufacturers to monitor the state-of-the-art standards and apply where applicable, rather than rely on superseded and outdated standards.
As the UK moves into a new regulatory regime, medical device manufacturers who have already invested time and resources to comply with EU MDR and IVDR can use this to attain their UKCA mark. However, a dynamic compliance environment combined with the new onus relating to export policies means that close attention needs to be paid on numerous fronts. Keeping pace with this changing environment will ensure that manufacturers face the future with confidence and do not lose important space on their markets.