Why Ex-Sports Players Gain Weight

Whenever I watch any sports game on TV, I’ve noticed something. Usually, the commentators are a mix of well-known sports analysts, ex-coaches, and ex-players. And something that always seems to be common is that the old ex-players are significantly more… uhh… round.

charles barkley
More round. More mound. Less rebound. (sbnation.com)

Why is this? It seems pretty natural and expected to become more out of shape as you stop playing sports and using all that muscle, but why don’t these players just lose their muscle and become smaller instead? Why do they go the other way?

It’s all about the calorie equation.

Take Charles Barkley (the rotund man in the above photo) for example. He is a former basketball player. Basketball is a sport with a LOT of cardio. It’s not like American football or baseball – which involves short bursts of sprinting. Rather, it’s more like soccer, with LONG stretches of jogging and hustling.

If he’s playing for 30 minutes a game, and he’s jogging pretty much the entirety of that 30 minutes, he’s burning about 600 calories, give or take a hundred. (We would burn less, because we probably weigh less than him.)

And let’s say he also practices everyday for 2 hours, which is at an intensity that is a little bit lower than jogging. Let’s say he burns 350 calories per 30 minutes in practice, which multiples out to 1400 calories per 2 hours.

So every game day, Charles Barkley is burning at least (600+1400) 2000 calories through cardio. And that’s on top of his daily maintenance calories (needed for everyday activity such as walking, sleeping, and digesting his food).

If his daily maintenance calories is 3000 calories, and he’s staying around the same weight, that means he’s eating around (2000 + 3000) = 5000 calories a day.

(Honestly, that’s probably an underestimate, too. I mean, the guy was playing in the NBA. And he’s huge.)

Now what happened when he retired? He stopped playing 30 minutes in games, and he stopped practicing 2 hours a day.

But he probably continued to eat the same way.

So he’s still eating around 5000 calories a day, but he’s no longer burning that 2000 calories from cardio. That means that he’s now at +2000 calories over his required daily maintenance calories. Over a week, that’s +14,000 calories per week.

Where do you think those extra calories are going to go?

Exactly.

  • Same principle applies most other former sports players.
  • Same principle applies to that ex-football player from your high school.
  • Same principle applies to that Waffle House waitress that was on her feet all day, but now works a desk job.
  • Same principle applies to your former self when you had your most active lifestyle.

It boils down to this – your lifestyle and your diet go hand-in-hand. If you start training for a marathon, of course you’ll need to eat more. But on the other hand, if you used to do marathons but have settled down, you’re going to have to eat less. A lot less.

Or you’ll end up as the next version of Charles Barkley.

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