How to make millions as a pro athlete

Hopefully that title grabbed your attention.  The truth is anything that sells the dream of making millions grabs everyone’s attention.  Now some sports are more lucrative than others- for example even at the elite level the very best footballers in the world earn significantly more than the very best rugby players.

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And in my sport of Tennis, it is well known that unless you are in the Top 100 you are at best breaking even (not including endorsements).  Only once you start getting into Grand Slams can you make a serious living out of the sport- and that’s assuming you can cement your place in the top 100.

Will they make it?

This week I was attending the 2nd Strength & Conditioning in Schools Conference hosted at Oakham School. In his presentation Director of Sport at the school, Iain Simpson asked the audience to give examples of athletes we currently work with that we think have a chance of ‘making it.’ By making it we are talking about earning a living from their chosen sport as a professional.  We concluded that no one can give more than a best guess because there are so many unknowns.  What we have to do as professionals is give the athlete the best chance of realising their potential without giving any guarantees.

This blog is going to be a quick overview of some key issues that will always keep coming up in conversation and are worth considering if you are faced with trying to answer this question, or are asking it as a parent etc.  Here are my Top 5 topics you need to look into:

1. The Birthday Effect:

The age effect is still apparent in certain sports such as football. Those born with ‘early’ birthdays between September and December tend to make up 75% of the footballers who initially get offered contracts with pro Academies.  Interesting, at the point of being offered professional contracts the split is 50:50% between the early birthdays and the rest.

Many of the initial standouts flatter to disceive and most are released.   But half of the initial late birthdays are offered contracts.

What does this mean?

It means that if you are not born in the first quarter (September-December) you are very unlikely to get selected. BUT….if you do get selected you have a 50:50 chance of making it all the way.

The Director said that this is because one of the ingredients that seems to develop talent is ADVERSITY.  The road has to be rocky in order to develop resilience and determination, which are key attributes of those that make it.

2. Environmental factors

There are many roads to Rome: Gold Mine Effect

We are constantly looking for the paths well trodden that have proven to produce talent time and time again.  These ‘hot beds’ can be found in different parts of the world.  Check out the ‘Gold Mine Effect’ which looks at the environmental impact on talent development.

Check out this cool explanation here

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But while as humans we like to feel a degree of security in the knowledge that there is a route to success well trodden there will always be someone that will prove that you can make it going against the conventional way.

Here is a great story of the next star of Ice Hockey who is tipped to be the NHL #1 Draft pick.  He grew up in Arizona and didn’t follow the traditional route.  Read it here.

3. Deliberate Practice:

Everyone has heard of the 10,000 hour rule.  According to Dr Anders Ericsson you need to forget talent: it’s practice that counts.

Read an article here on the subject.

4. Development first: Winning Second

The final piece for me is the role that winning takes in a young athlete’s journey.  This is closely linked to the issue of Specialisation.

Click here to read an article on the role of winning.

5.  Development first: Specialisation Second

This topic was also touched on in the presentations by Michael Johnston- Senior Strength Scientist for British Athletics, and Andreas Liefeith- Senior Lecturer in Biomechanics at York St John University and Wakefield Wildcats.

It’s a huge topic that deserves its own blog all to itself.

There are no doubt sports that you can say are early specialisation- gymnastics, swimming and I’d even throw in tennis into the mix. These sports require high levels of coordination and relative body strength which can be developed and acquired from a young age.

But with the exceptions of those sports it is generally advised to not specialise in a sport until your late teens.  This way you have sufficient time to develop a broad base of motor skills- acquired only by playing a range of sports.

The simple logic is this: is the only tool you have is a hammer, then the only problem you can solve is one that involves a nail

if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problme as a nail copy

So by learning how to develop more tools in your tool box (more motor patterns-running, jumping, kicking, catching, accelerating, decelerating, balancing, climbing, tumbling etc) you can solve more problems, making you more versatile in solving movement puzzles in the chaos of sport.

For a few interesting articles on the topi read Here and Here


If I lift weights in the gym it will slow me down- fact or fiction?

Last week I unpacked a few nutrition myths about calories- not all calories are created equal.  This week we are talking about football- and a myth about strength training.

during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group E qualifying match between England and Estonia at Wembley on October 9, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.

So many sprints but so few injuries

Football is a hot topic right now.  We recently witnessed a football miracle- Leicester City winning the Premier League title. One of the stars of that team was Jamie Vardy. To find out all about the science behind their premier league title click here.  I’d actually read this first.  There is some great insights in how they condition the hamstrings for repeated sprints using the ‘Nordbord,’ as well as some information on how they use cryotherapy and ice massage.


This week with the Euro Championships 2016 in full flow and ALL the home nations and Republic of Ireland qualifying for the knock out stage,  Jamie Vardy is making the headlines again, and this time it is about his ‘unique’ approach to fitness.  See the full article here

Apparently he is the third most popular searched football player on the world wide web right now (Gareth Bale #1 and Christiano Ronaldo #2) which means his latest comments will have some of us Strength & Conditioning coaches pulling our hair out:

If I go to the gym it will slow me down

Vardy, whose body fat percentage is measured at just under six per cent, is credited as one of the quickest players in top flight football.  The Daily Mail have previously commented on Jamie Vardy’s supreme athleticism (see the full article here) and you can’t disagree with his stats- a 70cm vertical jump and a top speed on the pitch of 9.6m/s- making him the fastest in the league! He will do up to 500m of sprints in a game and scores more of his goals in the last 30 minutes of a match so he’s conditioned too!

‘The squad at Leicester don’t focus on Olympic lifting, instead on pushing heavy loads on the club’s customised leg press. Matt Reeves, Head of Fitness and Conditioning, explains: ‘Jamie pushes in excess of 400kg for three reps. Having said this, he has always possessed electric pace and so he does not tend to focus on improving strength or building muscle quite as much as others.’

‘Much of Vardy’s work in training is done to build a robustness that will last throughout the season. Reeves adds: ‘We construct a tailored programme for all players and key to Jamie’s is a prolonged recovery time because of the explosive power he expends in matches.’

But while I agree that more explosive players will need more recovery time I’d like to ask Matt about his comment that because Vardy has electric pace he does not tend to focus on improving strength. Are fast players excused from getting stronger because they have already achieved high speed levels?

Education, education, education

Furthermore, I think we need to make sure that future generations of aspiring pro athletes and sports coaches (who sometimes have mixed views on the importance of strength training) get the right education.  There is no published data that I am aware of that shows that strength training slows you down.

Obviously the strength training needs to reflect the needs of the sport- athletes don’t train like bodybuilders (or at least they shouldn’t) and the prescription should allow for a progressive peak towards explosive training in the gym. Furthermore, it will be part of a balanced approach while will include high quality speed work on the pitch so that the strength gains always transfer to the sport.

Yes there will be a point of diminished returns where further strength gains don’t justify the extra fatigue and muscle soreness required- you can be strong enough.  But how strong that is, is a debate for another blog!

Wimbledon success with APA athletes….and they all lift weights!


I should also say I’m really privileged to work with some fantastic professionals that really ‘get it.’  With my work at Gosling Tennis Academy I’ve been fortunate to have worked with several of the athletes at this years Wimbledon qualifying, including Katy Dunne (No 335), Daniel Cox (No 554), Ed Corrie (No 358), Marcus Willis (No 708), Joe Salisbury (No 710) and Harriet Dart (No 448).

Wimbledon Qualies

They all buy in to strength training, and all work hard to combine strength & conditioning with a daily tennis practice schedule.  It will be great to see if some of them can make it to this year’s Wimbledon Main Draw.  But as I said earlier, we need to make sure that future generations of aspiring pro athletes and sports coaches (who sometimes have mixed views on the importance of strength training) get the right education.

Benefits of Strength training on Sports Performance

Here are three articles you need to put in the hands of coaches and athletes (or give them the headline data)

  1. EliteFTS- benefits of a strength and conditioning programme.  It’s a quick read and highlights that Injury Prevention is the most important reason by preventing or eliminate muscle imbalances as well as strengthen tendons and ligaments, which will lead to fewer injuries.  Stronger athletes: Every sport involves the application of force. This includes just about every skill involved in sports such as hitting harder, throwing, blocking, and spiking. Most people don’t realize that getting an athlete’s legs stronger through exercises such as squats and lunges is the quickest way to make an athlete faster. There are many athletes who can cycle their legs as fast as a top level sprinter, but they’re not applying as much force to the ground as some of the fastest athletes in the world.
  2. Br J Sports Med. 2014. The effectiveness of exercise interventions to prevent sports injuries: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials
  3. Sports Med. 2016. The Importance of Muscular Strength in Athletic Performance




A Calorie is not a Calorie

I wrote a blog recently about my fat loss exploits as I got ready for my Charity boxing match.  As regular readers of my blog will know, I’m not afraid to experiment on myself and will often try training and nutrition plans on myself.

Recently I have decided to invest in researching some of the best plans out there for those of you interested in serious physique transformation and sports performance gains.  Last week was No Nonsense Muscle Building by Vince Del Monte.  This week I’m reviewing Jason Ferruggia’s ‘The Renegade Diet.’

Since this review is all about a nutrition plan I thought it would be important to set the scene with a blog on some of the key topics.  At the bottom of the blog you can see my review of The Renegade Diet.

I should say that as far as nutrition goes, I am not a dietitian or nutritionist- I consider myself to have an advanced understanding of the basics.  This is what I wish for all my athletes to have too.  Nutrition- just like fitness- shouldn’t be complicated if people follow the basics but it can get confusing.

Perhaps the biggest thing that can be confusing is the debate about the best way to lose fat.  I was always told that if you want to lose fat you just need to create a calorie deficit- eat less calories than you normally do and you will lose fat.  It doesn’t matter what foods you eat or when you eat.  But more recent thinking challenges this.  And if you understand this basic principle you will be ahead of most people in the fat loss queue.

Nutrition Basics: A Calorie is Not a Calorie

What is a Calorie

Calories are simply a unit of energy, but they are a great mystery to many. They are not the enemy dieters often think they are. We need calories from food and drink to run our bodies the same way a car needs energy from gasoline and your refrigerator needs electric energy to keep your food cold.

A kilocalorie (kcal, often pronounced kay-cal) is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1000 ml of water by 1˚C. A kilocalorie is 1000 calories.

1 gram of Carbohydrate = 4 kilocalories

1 gram of Protein = 4 kilocalories

1 gram of Fat = 9 kilocalories

The argument for A Calorie is a Calorie

Your body weight reflects your energy balance. If you consume more calories than your body uses, you will gain weight. Likewise, you will lose weight if you consume fewer calories. Body weight is not, however, an indicator of nutrient adequacy or the nutritional quality of the diet.

Weight management is a simple game of maths, these folks argue. To maintain your current weight, you need to consume the same number of calories your body burns each day.

To lose a pound, you need to create a caloric deficit of approximately 3,500 calories.

Whether you create that deficit by eating less fat, less carbohydrate, less protein or a little less of everything is immaterial.

Now for a new way of thinking

For those of us who are willing to think beyond the calorie, a greater understanding of the effect of food on the body can enable us to lose weight without putting ourselves through grueling calorie-controlled diets.

As far as my ‘principles’ go, they are based on the work of Charles Poliquin, John Beradi and Mike Rousell.  They all recommend sound principles that take into account nutrient timing and nutrient type– rather than just focusing on calorie amount per se.

The Type of food is important- nutrient type

In reality, the way that different types of food influence the chemical reactions within our body has a huge impact on how many of the calories your consume will ultimately be converted into fat.


Let’s start with protein. Its primary function is to make your body fit and strong. Protein is not a good source of energy — it has to go through a process of synthesis to be turned into glucose, while the rest is lost in the urine. Furthermore, a higher percentage of calories are lost during the digestion of protein when compared to fat and carbohydrates. On a theoretical level, this effectively means that eating 100 grams of protein will make you no fatter than eating 80 grams of carbohydrates.

Proteins (and fats for that matter) have a greater effect on your satiety meaning they make you feel fuller for longer.


The trouble will carbs especially the processed forms is that they are easily ingested and they spike your blood glucose levels- which has the opposite effect to protein. It makes you feel hungry again.  But what’s worse is that in the presence of high glucose levels the body will use insulin to convert the excess glucose into fat.

For a great review of the topic on how to improve your insulin sensitivity read Nine Things that Improve Insulin Sensitivity.

But before I sound like I am joining the army of people who say you need to eliminate all carbs except vegetables it is important to know your target audience- if you are an athlete training hard and often they will have greater energy needs ahead of high intensity sessions and starchy carbs are the best form of energy for this- and they may be having in excess of 300g carbs per day on hard training days, and half that on easier training days.

But for your general fat loss client who has more than 15% body fat will need to have only 50-100g per day most days and a maximum of 100g per day.

Scientific Evidence Against Calories In, Calories Out

Here’s a question for you- would someone eating the exact same amount of calories as another person but with a far greater consumption of carbohydrates experience the same amount of weight loss?

Answer: probably not- it seems the key to weight loss is a diet low in carbs.

A number of recent studies have concluded that a diet low in carbohydrates can result in greater fat loss when compared to alternative (yet calorically comparable) diets.

In 2003, a study conducted by Green et al. at Harvard University observed participants over twelve weeks as they followed one of three diet regimes:

  1. A low fat diet
  2. A low carbohydrate diet with the same amount of calories
  3. A low carbohydrate diet with 300 more calories per day

The first group lost 17lbs on average, the second group lost 23lbs and the third group lost 20lbs. Greene concluded that, “There does indeed seem to be something about a low-carb diet that says you can eat more calories and lose a similar amount of weight”.

In fact, the study proved the calories in, calories out argument wrong in two separate ways. Firstly, diets with identical calorie amounts resulted in drastically different outcomes. Secondly, the third diet’s total excess of 25,200 calories compared to the other two diets should have resulted in a net weight gain of 7.2lbs, as opposed to a loss of 3lbs (compared to the first diet) or a gain of just 3lbs (compared to the second diet).

In 2004, a study conducted by Yancy et al. for the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded as follows:

Compared with a low-fat diet, a low-carbohydrate diet program had better participant retention and greater weight loss.

So what you eat (rather than simply how much you eat) can not only affect your weight, it can also affect the likelihood of you sticking to a particular eating regime.


When you eat is important- nutrient timing

The Rules:

I have known the rules for years but chosen to break them.  But for many people who are training recreationally for general fitness and health these rules are not widely known or applied correctly.

The basic rule is eat complex carbohydrates when your body is more sensitive to insulin.

  1. Breakfast
  2. After a workout (can be a post workout snack and 1-2 post workout meals)

At this time you can have a portion of complex starchy carbohydrate (such as oats, potatoes, cereals, pasta etc) and/or a simple sugar.  Usually any sugar would come in the post workout snack (such as a shake, sports drink or piece of fruit etc).  The starches would usually come in the meal after the workout.  Where athletes are looking to maintain lean mass they will usually have a single meal containing starches.  Where they are looking to increase lean mass they will have the two post workout meals containing starches.

The rest of the time your carbohydrate intake should come from green leafy vegetables primarily and fruit in moderation.

Training day: 300g carbohydrate

So on a training day you would probably expect your meals with starches to be around 60-80g carbohydrates per meal and a total amount of carbohydrates to be around 250-300g per day.

Non training day: 180g carbohydrate

Because you would only have 60-80g at breakfast you can expect to eat less starches on this day


Renegade Diet Review: Intermittent Fasting

The Renegade Diet takes the concept of nutrition timing to a whole new level- and introduces a concept know as ‘Intermittent fasting.’ So rather than having carbohydrates at breakfast (Rule 1) it seeks to extend the fat burning process for as long as possible by only having carbs in the evening (Rule 2 above).  Rather than allowing you breakfast, you skip it completely!

Perhaps surprisingly it is encouraging you to eat your starchy carbs in the evening (when your insulin sensitivity is lowest!!!) But the caveat is that this method of eating works best if you have a workout immediately before the feasting period!

In my opinion this will not work as effectively for professional athletes training multiple times per day with several high intensity sessions planned in the day/week.  But for the hard gainer who is typically training once per day in the weight room to bulk up, or the average Joe looking to lose fat this is well worth a look at.

Check out the new REVIEW video I have recorded below of the Number 1 On-line Fat Loss and Muscle Gaining diet plan- The Renegade Diet.

Click ‘PLAY’ Below to Watch My Full Renegade Diet Review!

In summary, I DO RECOMMEND IT.  It is a good product that is worth the investment and is actually something that will work.  So much so that if you would like to go ahead and purchase a copy then I would like to put together a bonus package, give you a bunch of bonuses and FREE Training that you can download if you purchase using my link on this page.


Purchase your copy of The Renegade Diet and get these FREE BONUSES


Everything in the video below is FREE TODAY if you purchase No Nonsense Muscle Building via the link on this page!


Follow the Steps Below to Claim Your FREE Bonus Pack!

  1. Close down the Renegade Diet Website if you have it open in your browser and then clear the cookies in your browser.

Daz Clear Browser settings info

This is important, if you don’t then I won’t be credited for the sale.

     2. Then click on the link below to re-open the Renegade Diet website and make your purchase.

Click HERE to Purchase The Renegade Diet!

  3. Send me a copy of your order number or receipt that will be sent to your email address you entered when purchasing to so I can verify your purchase.

  4.  I’ll respond to your email asap, and instantly send you the download link to your FREE bonus package.  I normally reply extremely quickly but please do allow me a few days to reply in case I’m extra busy.  Also check your junk folder for my reply, as sometimes my emails can get lost in there!