Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Book Review: The Grappler's Guide to Sports Nutrition

by John Berardi and Michael Fry
Published 2005 by Advanced Sports Fitness LLC
93 pages (including author's bios)

The sports nutrition in the book has a state goal of not just high performance, but also sustainable and healthy eating. Nothing in it is meant as a crash diet, short-term solution, or performance-at-all-costs type of approach. The authors come right out and say you can't focus on only one aspect of your diet (performance vs. health, for example) and come out well in the end. Everything must fit together for your best performance overall.

The book is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. I got my copy as a gift, perhaps as a gesture to supporting my competitive goals in MMA. But it's much more expensive than other books on cutting weight or sports nutrition.
What makes it useful is its high-quality information.

The main core of the book are the 10 habits, which those familiar with Dr. Berardi will be familiar with.

There are also a couple meal plans - one for a 140-pound wrestler, one for a 200-pound wrestler. Each has both performance/weight gain and weight loss approaches written out, meal by meal. Not surprisingly, they're heavy on lean protein, lots of vegetables, fish oil supplementation, and frequent eating.

The book also contains a photocopyable checklist of "super foods" - the 20 foods you should be consuming regularly. Each comes with 5 check-off blocks. This is for the simple strategy of eating healthy foods. You just aim to check off 5 boxes of each food over the coarse of a week. Have a mug of green tea? Check one the boxes. Two servings of salmon today? Two boxes. And so on. This kind of simple approach makes for an excellent starting point - if you're eating 100 servings a week of these good foods, how much junk will you eat? A lot less - this is a substantial amount of food even over a 7-day span.

That, the sample meal plans, and the 10 habits are all you really get in the way of support for your diet planning. Don't expect to learn how many calories worth of food to consume, precise instructions on meal assembly, or macronutrient breakdowns.

This is certainly deliberate by the authors - they come right out and show that calories in/calories out isn't the whole answer, that macronutrients take a back seat to proper fueling, and that simple guidelines will get you pretty far.

That's also a problem though - you're shelling out $33 for 90 or so pages of content, and unless you're 140 or 200 you need to do all the work yourself. You don't have a very precise idea of where to go, either, just the habits and superfoods checklists. That's great stuff, but not for $33.

The book rounds out with a discussion of weight-cutting. It centers on two basic plans:
- the one-hour weigh-in
- the 24-hour weigh-in

The one hour weigh-in seems to fit school wrestling pretty well; I say "seems" because I was never a wrestler in school nor did I attend meets. But it's a weigh-in just prior to opening the warmups and competition. Their advice is pretty reasonable - you can't cut much, just a few pounds, without being unable to re-hydrate enough to get back to 100% performance.

The 24-hour weigh-in is more involved. It explains how to use mild laxatives (such as fiber, not OTC medicines!) to clear your bowels, how to drop water with the sodium/water manipulation method, and how to re-hydrate and re-fuel safetly and effectively.

The 24-hour weigh-in seems to also be meant to cover longer (but less than 24 hour) weigh-ins. But for the money this costs, I was hoping for a specific discussion of the middle ground - okay, what if I have 4-6 hours between weigh-in and competition? What if I don't know, but I have at least 3 hours (weigh-in at 8 am, starts at 11 am, you go on anywhere from 11 am to 6 pm?) and I need to cut weight and then re-fuel? How do I do that, and how should I eat? It's in there, sort of, but it's stuff you need to tease out.

Content: 4 out of 5. What is there is top-notch, but it feels like it's missing some critical information to let you customize it appropriately.
Presentation: 4 out of 5. Very readable, menus are well-laid out and easy to follow. But don't expect fancy type or pictures.

It's expensive, but worth reading if you're a grappler or other weight-class athlete. Don't expect much beyond "wrestler-sized" prescriptions of diet. The general rules and the cutting weight suggests are very solid, though. Had the book been much cheaper, it would be a must read. As it is, it's a bit expensive but if you're right in the target audience, it's worth looking in to.

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