As football progresses, physical abilities, strength and conditioning, are becoming more important than simple skills and talent. Few years before, it was enough to be skillful with the ball and be able to understand tactics in order to stand out at the pitch.
These days, in order to play football at the highest standard of your abilities you need to first an athlete and then a footballer. Football players are running non-stop during the games, expressing their weakness and strength according their position.
These characteristics are what the head physical coach is trying to improve during the pre-season training and in some cases, when the opportunity arises, during the season through the games or through short training sessions.
Traditional physiological tests are now used just to see if the footballers have the minimum standards in order to start the pre-season training and to monitor the rehabilitation of specific injuries. Having said that, it is important to use daily physiological monitoring equipment (e.g. GPS systems and heart rate monitoring) in order to observe the physiological changes of each of the players i.e. every day, every training session and every minute in the game, must be used in order to understand the physiological adaptations of every single player.
Achieving these physiological adaptations while maintaining athletes health, is what a physical coach should be looking for. This combination is what will help the athlete to improve. However in order to improve we need to keep our athletes on their limits of overtraining. If the athlete is not tired enough, research suggest that the adaptations to the new standards are slower. This was explained with the reduced production of free radicals. Having said that, overtraining (or over-reaching), may also slow down the process of adaptations, due to the fact that the body will shut down neuron to muscle pathway in order to activate the mechanism of over-training protection.
Therefore the role of a sport biochemist is to identify these limits and to keep the player within these fine lines, in order to determine these fine lines. Overtraining could be explained in several levels i.e. pathological, psychological, biochemical or hormonal, while hormonal being the most important.
Hormonal balance is the A to Z of kipping the body into anabolism, something very important to every athlete. Furthermore, specific hormones, like cortisol, may interfere with the good health of our intestines, which in term with cause malabsorption of the nutrients that we take through our diet or through supplementation. Cortisol balance is very important since cortisol is an anti-inflammatory, catabolic hormone.
So in order to keep a healthy athlete, we need to keep in balance the following hormones: testosterone : free testosterone : SHBG : albumin : estrogens : cortisol : prolactin.
If we manage to keep these hormones in balance, then our body becomes an anabolic machine, which means faster recovery, faster muscle gains or fat loss and increase in bone density. Having said that, maintain this balance, we reduce the chances of muscle injury dramatically.
In addition to this, when we need to increase performance, it is important, to have raised levels of testosterone, free testosterone, low levels of cortisol and and low inflammation markers (i.e. like IL-6). So the physical coach and the biochemist of the team should work closely in order to achieve the adaptations needed, but maintain the athletes in good shape in terms of hormones and inflammation markers.