Juice personal trainer JillAnn Gish: Too-rapid weight loss may be why U of L basketball players kept breaking down last season
Early last season, many predicted University of Louisville Coach Rick Pitino would have this team in the mix for a Big East title, but as the season unfolded Cardinal fans saw that chance look more and more bleak.
Less than impressive performances and watching players take the sidelines with injuries has become a sad reality with the Louisville Cardinals men’s basketball team. Though injuries are not foreign during Pitino’s tenure, it does seemingly appear to have become worse in the past 2 years.
Why all the injuries? That’s the million-dollar question.
Now if only they would pay me a million dollars for the answer.
Coach Pitino posted on his own blog that everyone on the team will be below 10 percent body fat by Sept 14, 2011. He has obsessed for years on that 10 percent body fat number. You can only begin to wonder what drastic measures some of these players have taken to achieve this quite realistic goal … only in an unrealistic time frame.
I am not going to pick on Wayne Blackshear as an individual here and due to pre-existing shoulder injuries he may not be the best representation. However, I am going to use his statistics as an example to support my theory.
Wayne signed in 2011 as a freshman at 225 pounds and 17 -percent body fat. He was injured in March of 2011 with a shoulder injury. In his defense, he did gain about 15 pounds following this injury. But in five months he transformed his body, dropping to 190 pounds and 8-percent body fat.
Initially, when you look at these numbers you might not think anything of it other than it is quite impressive and definitely reasonable. He averaged a weight loss of 1.16 pounds per week, which falls within recommended guidelines for sustainable weight loss of an average of 1-to-2 pounds per week.
Let’s look a little deeper into the issue.
The Break Down:
- 225 pounds and 17 perrcent body fat = 186.75 pounds of lean body mass and 38.25 pounds of fat mass.
- 190 pounds and 8 percent body fat = 174.8 pounds of lean body mass and 15.2 pounds of fat mass.
A total loss of 35 pounds, of which 23 pounds were fat and 12 pounds were muscle.
Big concern. Wait…Huge Concern. Twelve pounds of muscle in five months is a very big deal for a collegiate athlete, especially one who endures the grueling basketball schedule.
Wayne was not the only player this year plagued by an injury. Merra, Van Treese, Dieng, Siva, Buckles all saw the bench during the 2011/2012 season due to injury.
Losing body fat percentage is important only if it is done properly. During a press conference in November 2011, Pitino talked about Mark Jackson, Jr. and how coaches and managers were trying to help get him in the shape Pitino wanted. They were having a contest to see who could lose 20 pounds first.
This is NOT putting that athlete’s future first, nor is it putting the team first. You want your athletes to be healthy all year round, so encouraging them to lose weight quickly is the last thing you want to do.
Wayne is 6-feet, 5-inches tall. Losing 12 pounds of muscle that is needed to support his frame is putting him at risk and ultimately didn’t help to save him from a season-ending injury early in the season.
If he would have reduced his weight to his high school pre-injury weight of 210-pounds and then reduced his body fat percentage to 8 percent, he would have lost 21 pounds of fat mass and GAINED eight pounds of lean body mass. This added muscle mass would have given his frame extra support throughout the season.
Would it have been possible for Wayne to achieve 8 percent body fat in 5 months? YES, with proper diet that includes adequate calories and precise percentages of protein, carbohydrates and fat while making smart food choices to promote muscle building and fat loss.
Body fat percentage does not win games.
My advice, coach: If you want to eliminate injuries and enhance performance, focus on coaching and let the experts in nutrition focus on the weight loss the smart way.