Jeff Pearlman had a rather interesting post, implying that Josh Hamilton’s reported 20-pound weight loss this off-season, following his supposed juicing regime (shame on you if you’re unfamiliar with this new diet fad, which is all the rage among 35 year-old Zumba enthusiasts), is, in fact, a cover for Hamilton dropping his PED cycle.
And yet … in the modern era of baseball, with all we know and all we’ve seen and all the recent news concerning Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Braun and numerous others, well … I’m just not so sure we can continue to take reports like this at face value. I remember, back in the day, covering spring training and watching with silent confusion as Seattle second baseman Bret Boone arrived at camp packing 30 pounds of extra muscle; as Detroit catcher Pudge Rodriguez arrived minus 20. They always gave these “interesting” explanations—I spent so much time in the weight room; I needed more flexibility. One of my great regrets is never openly questioning it; never saying, “Wait a second. You were tiny, now you have no neck. That doesn’t seem possible, sir.”
Again, I don’t know if Hamilton’s using. I really don’t. But one must be skeptical.
Here’s what I do know: Asking the hard questions can be difficult and awkward and cumbersome. The men and women assigned to cover the Angels have 162-plus games to spend with Hamilton and Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson and the rest of the gang. You need stars to talk to you; need access; need help. Beginning a relationship with, “Thirty pounds … really?” isn’t a winner.
But it is fair.
Color me skeptical. In spite of our past history, I really don’t mean to pick on Pearlman here; he’s certainly not the first writer to make such claims. But such accusations are only ’fair’ if one is absolutely delusional and an utter ignoramus regarding body composition.
So Hamilton started the off-season weighing about 250 pounds. I’ll take a rough estimate and say he was approximately 15% bodyfat (partly based on those lovely Deadspin pictures of him from a couple years ago). That means he was carrying about 38 pounds of fat, and 212 lbs. of lean body mass.
Assuming he really dropped 20 pounds of pure adipose tissue, he’d be at about 8% body fat right now. Of course, keep in mind, those 20 pounds could easily be exaggerated. When anyone initially goes on a diet, they see a significant drop in water — particularly a guy like Hamilton, who was 250 pounds (at his size, he can easily shift about 10 pounds of water, purely based upon the amount of food in his stomach, sodium intake, etc.). He could simply be comparing his ‘normal’ weight to a day he woke up completely depleted. Maybe, as part of his juicing regime, he also dropped creatine — that’s another five pounds right there. And of course, we know people are never prone to exaggerate weight loss/gain. Point being, the actual fat loss might very well amount to less than ten pounds.
But I’ll be generous and say Hamilton really did lose 20 pounds of pure fat. Going from 15-8% body fat is a perfectly reasonable improvement for any gym rat (in fact, that is a pretty standard winter-summer weight shift, for those who do a traditional bulk and cut). Me and plenty of young guys do it from our college dorm rooms every year. As another commenter pointed out, he also reportedly dropped the sugary caffeinated drinks last season, which might also have contributed to his weight loss. Heck, many players routinely drop 10-20 pounds unintentionally just through the grind of the summer.
Hamilton, meanwhile, is one of the genetic elite. He’s predisposed to being lean, and has plenty of money to burn on the best nutritionists/trainers.
Of course, this isn’t to say athletes have never used — or still aren’t- using PEDs to improve their body composition and augment performance. But writers like Pearlman need to start making simple, crucial distinctions.
About the Author
Matt is a high school student in New Jersey and avid Mets fan. He occasionally updates his blog at: matthimelfarb.wordpress.com