4 Alternative New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year again! 

I’ve actually found that most people I talk to these days have given up on the idea of making New Year’s Resolutions, opting to make fun of those who do, by making fun of the #NewYearNewMe phenomenon, which is probably fair, since you are (hopefully) constantly becoming a new version of yourself, with every new lesson you learn, and every improvement you make, so it is not something relegated to a single day of the year. 

However, I feel that sometimes we need milestones to make us sit down and take stock. These can come in the form of a birthday, the birth of a baby, a funeral or indeed the beginning of a new calendar year.

Personally, I think the most common reason people don’t make new year’s resolutions is something to do with the fact that we know we need a clear, defined goal or rule, and we don’t want to take the time to sit down and go through the process of self-assessment, brainstorming, goal-setting, planning and summarising this all into a clearly defined rule or set of rules that we resolve to stick to for an entire year. In short: We are too lazy.

I also find that people are sick of hearing about the same clichés, which, although valuable, aren’t very actionable, and the fact that they’ve been repeated so many times means that when we read them, we tend to skip over them and not give them much thought.

So, with that said, the aim of this post is to supply some clearly defined resolutions, that are different enough to hopefully make people think, and that just about anyone can stick to and reap the benefits.

1. Tidy Your Room

The discovery of Professor Jordan Peterson (a Canadian professor of psychology and clinical psychologist) and his youtube lectures are something that I can definitely say has changed my life over this past year. 

One of his core messages is “tidy our room”, which not only contains the literal message of making your immediate surrounding better and tidier, but also the metaphorical meaning of focussing on fixing yourself before trying to change the world.

In the literal sense, Peterson talks about how the process of tidying your room can have huge psychological benefits. He says that the stuff that we own is a symbol of what we think is important in the world, and that as we begin to sort through our stuff, we encounter things that we need to deal with in our life, and thus begins the process of “sorting ourselves out”. Amongst our ‘stuff’ might be unpaid bills (that we should pay), clothes that no longer fit us (maybe we’re holding onto them because there’s always a possibility of us getting fat again), half-read books (because we didn’t have the staying power to see it through), socks with holes in them (You deserve better!) and many other things that we need to deal with. We might also find our gym shoes (reminding us we should go to the gym more), pictures of people we should probably reach out to more often, a musical instrument we used to love playing (but don’t make time for any more). The tidying, or sorting out, of our immediate surroundings will bring up a vast array of things we should deal with and improve our life if we do so.

Damn, I wish I listened to my own advice sometimes…

From a metaphorical point of view, we can also take this to mean, “tidy your room” before trying to change the world. We often think things outside of our control are to blame: other people’s attitudes, beliefs and actions, the government, the rich people, sugar companies, sexism, racism, our parents. What if we asked ourselves, “Have I sorted myself out and made myself as good as I can? Have I done everything that I can do to make this problem better?” I would argue that before we’ve at least tried to do this, we shouldn’t spend time trying to change those things that are further outside of our control.

2. Make a Not-To-Do List

I’m not sure where I heard this first, but I think it was probably mentioned on a Tim Ferriss Podcast at some stage, although not specifically in relation to New Year’s resolutions.

New Year’s resolutions are usually consisting of a list of things that you are going to do, and that’s all well and good. But what if we also made a short list of the things we aren’t going to do? Some may say this creates a negative association with our goals, which is fair enough, but I feel that nowadays, we are afraid to look at what we’re going to have to give up or miss out on in order to fulfil our goals.

We might make a goal of “getting into shape” or better yet, “losing 5kg of fat”, so we decide that in order to do that, we need to start going to the gym and eating better, for example. But if we don’t address the fact that we might have to give up part of our social life, or cut out some of the foods we love, it goes unaddressed and we are left to make the decision in the moment, when you have to decide between a night out on the booze, versus a night in the gym and a salad afterwards. If, when setting our goals, we decide from the start that we’re willing to do this, the decision is already made. However, if we’re allowing ourselves to decide in the moment, then who knows what we’ll decide? 

This isn’t to say we can’t have a few beers and still improve body composition, but rather that we will have to make some sacrifices, and defining those sacrifices from the start can help assess if our goal is realistic from the start. 

3. Say “…Just Like Me”, After Criticising Someone.

I downloaded an audiobook last year for £1.99 as part of a promotion Audible was running. I hadn’t heard of it before, but the blurb sounded quite cool and I thought if I only got one thing from it, it would be worth the £1.99. 

It went on to become my favourite audiobook I’ve listened to, and I feel like I’ve gotten something new out of it every time I’ve listened to it (probably on my 6th listen now). It’s called “Insanely Gifted” by Jamie Catto (who interestingly was also a founding member of the band ‘Faithless’!)

One thing I did get out of it, which really hit me, was the idea that what we don’t like about others, is usually a reflection of ourselves.

For example, something that really triggers me is when people complain about stuff. To me, when I hear someone complaining, I just think they’re ungrateful, whiney and short-sighted. But what if I add “Just like me” to the end of that list? Could it possibly be that I, too, possess the capacity to be exactly those things that I most dislike, at times? Of course the answer is yes. 

So with all the information, am I best to get annoyed, or try to change the other person? Or am I better using this as an indication that I need to work on something within myself? Well, someone else’s mindset isn’t really in our control, whereas at least we have some control over our own.

Again, I wish I remembered to do this all the time. 

4. Don’t Tell Anyone About Your Goals

When we’re embarking on a journey towards a new goal, it can be very tempting to tell everyone who’ll listen. It’s the equivalent of writing “big things coming!” on Instagram, or even posting a picture of your first time back at the gym. 

It can feel nice to hear people re-assure you with a, “Good on you! Can’t wait to see what you do!”, or give you a like on the gram, and therefore we receive a certain amount of gratification from it. 

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with gratification. In fact, it’s a method of working out how we should be and how we should interact with others. For example, you do something nice, someone says, “thank you”, you get a feeling of gratification, so you know this is a good thing to do, and you’ll probably do it again. 

However, for this reason, it is important that we are careful about what we are getting gratification for. Do we want to be getting gratification for telling people that we have made a plan and are going to go after a goal? Or would it be better to delay the gratification, and receive it a couple of months down the line, when a friend compliments you on all the weight you’ve lost? Or better yet, perhaps the gratification comes from yourself, when you’re looking in the mirror, and see a flat stomach for the first time in years, and think about all the hard work you’ve put in to get there, and smile.

If we receive gratification for “starting”, or in this case, for telling people about our goals, that doesn’t create any incentive to keep going, but if we receive gratification a while down the line, from others or ourselves, when we’ve actually done something to make progress, then this can reinforce the positive habits we’ve created and can really help in sticking to our goals.

Conor

Ps. Want a free GAA Nutrition E-book (As well as free updates, exclusive content, and exclusive offers)? CLICK HERE, and enter your details!

//knowyourselfnutrition.com//

//KYN Podcast // Facebook // Instagram // 

Meal Plans: The Good, the Bad, and the "Same Plan for Everyone"

What Are Meal Plans?

Meal plans are essentially a weekly or daily plan of what foods, and in what quantities, someone is to consume, usually in order to elicit a body composition change, or improve sporting performance.

 
1-odqFcKD_ZmXE1r1jQ6g1qg.jpeg
 

Who Can Make Them?

Contrary to what some coaches might think, it is not within the scope of practice of anyone who isn’t a Registered Dietician to prescribe a diet plan. 

However, as a nutritionist, it is within the scope of practice to advise on methods of hitting a recommended intake of calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients, for example, and providing an example meal plan may be an appropriate method of doing so. It is not, however, legal for them to simply provide a diet plan and tell someone to follow it blindly.

You can see that the lines are blurry and we often see nutritionists, coaches and personal trainers taking advantage of these blurry lines. 

Just yesterday, I saw a nutrition plan that had been handed out to bootcamp participants. The meal plan itself was disputable. The 6 small meals recommended, were coupled with with 4 protein shakes per day without any statement made towards why this might be required. That, along with the 8 other supplements they recommended for the participants daily, led me to conclude that they were getting commission of the supplement company they kept referring to.

However, what struck me more was the fact that everyone got the same document, which only contained one example meal plan, and therefore everyone who was doing the bootcamp got the same meal plan. This meant that a 100kg man was recommended to eat the same as a 60kg woman. The same diet that might put the 60kg female in a nice 500 kcal deficit could put the 100kg male in a 2000 kcal deficit. Yes, both would lose weight, but I would suggest that someone eating in a 2000 kcal deficit shouldn’t be part-taking in a high-intensity bootcamp. Not only is it unnecessary, but it’s potentially dangerous.

Anyway, the point is that whilst meal plans can be useful, they should only ever be prescribed by a dietician. Anyone else who provides a meal plan is obliged to make it suggestive rather than prescriptive, with evidence-based advice around why they suggest this might be a good choice for the client.

How are they made?

In the best case scenario they would be made by creating an estimate of someones nutritional requirements in terms of calories, macronutrients and micronutrients based on a detailed questionnaire, finding an eating schedule that works for the individual, and working with the client to create an example daily plan of how they would go about achieving this intake. This would be followed up by educating the client on why this would be a good option, and how to adjust it in various situations that may come up.

At worst, they can be a version of a diet that a trainer found “worked” for them, which they then presume will work for everyone, so they prescribe it without any education process or evidence-based information around how the plan has been set up.

 
1-xNxVeqfLreW7yVuGtrgA_Q.png
 

Pros and Cons of Meal Plans

In spite of my previous ranting, I’m not completely against the idea of a meal plan, if it is utilised in the right way, and I have done so with a few of my clients. (I’m not a dietician, by the way, so this would never be done in a prescriptive way, but would always include an educational element, where the meal plan was an example of one way of doing things.)

So with that said, I will go into some pros and cons.

Pros

1. They’re easy to understand.

One of the biggest advantages of meal plans is that they’re easily understood. We all know that nutrition can be a complicated topic. Education can take a good amount of time, especially for beginners, whereas a simple plan of what to eat and when is much more simple, regardless of experience level. 

2. They usually work, if followed.

If the meal plan has been constructed properly, and the client follows it, they will likely see the results they’re chasing. 

Even a poorly constructed meal plan can lead to results. The only requirement is that it is better than what someone is currently doing. So, if someone currently has a terrible diet, and are given a slightly better meal plan, even if it isn’t great, the fact that they have a clear plan, which is slightly better than there current one, and they follow it, can lead to improvements in body composition.

It is also worth noting that meal plans are usually given in conjunction with a new exercise plan, and so, the exercise plan may be enough to produce results, regardless of the meal plan quality.

3. They can produce immediate progress.

Another advantage is that meal plans can be implemented immediately, whereas a more habit-based approach, which may be better for long-term adherence, is implemented over the course of weeks and months.

The advantage here is that the client can begin to see a good deal of progress straight away, perhaps in the first few weeks of implementing it, which is motivating, and can lead to better adherence.

It also gives the person some immediate steps towards improvement. If we have an hour to work with someone, it is really up for debate whether that time is best spent educating them around something like muscle protein synthesis or carbohydrate metabolism, or whether it is better to show them how to eat on a day-to-day basis. Again, this will be based on the individual and how much they value progress in the short term vs. the long-term.

Cons

1. They usually don’t involve an education element.

As I’ve spoken about throughout this article, the biggest element that is often missing with meal plans is education. 

If there is no education process, the potential is there for the client to create false mental models of why they are getting results, which can be detrimental in the long-term.

For example, as someone creating the meal plan, we know (or should know) that if the client wants to lose weight, the meal plan should be constructed with the aim to create a caloric deficit. If the client is not made aware of this, they may presume that the reason they are losing weight is due to the time of day they are eating, or the amount of meals they are eating, or the types of food. If we don’t provide this education, the client can take those made-up rules into their future nutritional protocols and perhaps without the fundamentals in place, could feel as if they’re are doing everything right, but still not seeing any results.

2. They can be unnecessarily restrictive/inflexible.

Another problem with meal plans is that they can be specific to the point of being restrictive and inflexible. If someone thinks that they are restricted to eat a certain choice of foods at certain times, what happens when they miss a meal or don’t have the food that is prescribed? One thing that can happen is that they believe they have now failed for the day or week, are “off-the wagon” and will therefore wait until tomorrow or the next week to start again, whilst in the mean time eating as they please (and feeling guilty about it) and potentially moving backwards in terms of progress.

The sceptical part of me thinks that sometimes coaches will make these diets so difficult to follow, simply so that if the person doesn’t see results, it will be easy to conclude that it was because they didn’t follow the diet plan to a tee.

3. They are often not individualised.

A big problem with meal plans is that they often aren’t individualised. Usually this is down to laziness of or lack of education on the coaches part.

Let’s say there’s a coach who believes that there are certain foods that are ‘fat-burning’ in nature, and that eating 7 times per day will lead to more fat loss. Well if that was the case, then the same eating plan would work for everyone!

However, this is not the case, but instead each individual needs to eat the amount of food that is in accordance with their energy expenditure, and other individual factors, which is different for each individual.

 
1-4WY-DO9PgbXxqrycYsyFOw.png
 

Who Should Use Them?

Beginners

As mentioned before one of the scenarios where a meal plan could be implemented would be with a complete beginner. This will be useful in giving the person an idea of what an appropriate day of eating would look like, which is often very useful, since it allows the client to see how any information being given to them can be applied in a real-world context. It will also potentially lead to immediate progress, providing the motivation to continue. 

As I mentioned throughout the article, there would need to be an element of education as to why this would be an appropriate way of hitting their recommended intake, and therefore give reasons as to why they’re making progress.

Experienced people

For someone who has gotten themselves to a high level of nutritional knowledge, built up good eating habits, and has perhaps even been tracking their specific macronutrient intake for a prolonged period of time, it may be useful to create a meal plan for themselves, in order to free up some of the mind-space of having to track everyday. 

People who have been tracking their macronutrient intake for a long time often become disillusioned with it, and feel it unnecessary, since they seem to be eating roughly the same things each day anyway. Yet, they don’t want to stop, due to the fear that they’ll lose the ability to hit their required intake. However, if they were to create a meal plan for themselves, that they knew would get them to their required intake each day, this would be a good way of easing their mind.

Since they’ve already built up a good set of habits and knowledge, they would be well equipped to adjust their meal plan, as and when it was necessary to do so.

Conclusion

For coaches, the conclusion is to be careful with your scope of practice, recognising what you are and aren’t allowed to do and say. I would also advise educating yourself on the topic of nutrition, so that they advice you are giving out is in-line with the current evidence.

And to people who are taking advice from coaches, I would recommend that you are careful who you take advice from. If you find out that someone is giving out the same meal plan to everyone, with a lack of education around it, you should probably disregard the information. Also, if they can’t tell you why they are advising a certain method, this should ring alarm bells.

And finally, I would recommend that you educate yourself on the fundamentals of nutrition: Energy balance, macronutrients and micronutrition. If you know the fundamental principles, it is much easier to identify the B.S. (Bad Science).

Conor

Ps. Want a free GAA Nutrition E-book (As well as free updates, exclusive content, and exclusive offers)? CLICK HERE, and enter your details!

//knowyourselfnutrition.com//

//KYN Podcast // Facebook // Instagram // 

Macros: To Track or Not to Track?

So let’s strip it back to the basics.

We eat food.

That food provides energy.

The energy in food is measured in calories (kcal)

Those calories come from 3 main sources: Protein (which has 4 kcal per gram), Fat (which has 9 kcal per gram) and Carbohydrate (which has 4 kcal per gram).

Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates are the three main macronutrients. Alcohol is a fourth macronutrient, but is usually left out for nutrition content like this for simplification. Alcohol contains 7 kcal/g.

1-WBRDgE_8hMW-hg3oRn0RoQ.jpeg

What do the Macronutrients Do?

Each macronutrient has various functions in the body. For a start, they all can be used as energy sources in the body, but the amount of each used will depend on various factors, including activity type and duration, and general nutritional intake. However, the energy is mainly provided by carbohydrates and fats, rather than protein.

Protein, or rather the amino acids that protein is made up of, is used in the synthesis (a.k.a. building) of muscle and other tissues in the body. This is of particular importance to athletes because exercise is generally a catabolic activity, meaning it breaks down muscle and other tissues. Therefore, in order to gain, or even just maintain, muscle mass, as well as to recover properly for subsequent sessions, it is important to consume enough protein.

Fat is a crucial part of any nutritional plan, and completely removing fat from the diet would lead to many negative health consequences. Fat is used in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, K. It is also involved in the regulation of hormones and cell health.

Carbohydrate is the main fuel source in high-intensity activity. This is obviously important to athletes who are involved in a lot of high-intensity training and competition. Carbohydrates are also important because most fruit and vegetables contain carbohydrates. For these reasons, it is not advisable for athletes to follow a low-carbohydrate diet.

Why is it Important to Hit the Right Amounts?

Again, back to the basics. In order to lose weight one must be in a caloric deficit, meaning they are eating fewer calories than they are expending. In order to gain weight, one must be eating in a caloric surplus, meaning they are eating more calories than they are expending.

Since the macronutrients make up the caloric intake of our diet, by altering the macronutrients we eat, we are altering our caloric intake. That is simply to say that e.g. if we reduce our carbohydrate intake and don’t change our intake of the other macronutrients, our overall caloric intake has been reduced. (Note: This is a common reason that people see weight-loss results on a low-carb or low-fat diets. Jumping to the conclusion that carbs make you fat, or fat makes you fat, is due to a failure to recognise that the overall calories were the main factor at play.)

Furthermore, hitting the correct amount of each macronutrient within our caloric recommendation will likely lead to improvements in body composition, recovery and performance.

1-zGPce_22X0gcIFI7YXz44w.jpeg

How Much of Each Should Be Consumed?

To read my full article on how to calculate your own recommended macronutrient breakdown, go to this link [LINK]

The optimal range for protein intake for athletes is about 1.7–2.2 g/kg B.W. (grams per kilogram of bodyweight).

With fat, we have to at least meet the minimum requirements in order to maintain health, and allow for a sufficiently enjoyable diet. Usually, this means a range of about 20–30% of the diet being made up of dietary fat.

Carbohydrates will then make up the rest of the calories in the diet. It is important to remember that when optimal performance is required, it is crucial that the intake of carbohydrates is sufficiently high. This may mean that you have to lower fat or protein intake slightly, in order to allow more carbohydrate intake. Otherwise, you may have to increase your overall caloric intake to allow for more carbohydrates, which may lead to a slight gain in bodyfat, but may be deemed worth it, for the performance benefit. It should also be noted that increasing the overall caloric intake may not lead to this expected gain in bodyfat, due to the fact that some people can end up compensating for the increase by moving more, and therefore expending more calories, balancing out the energy equation by default.

How Does One Track Macronutrient Intake?

The easiest way to track is by using a food tracking app, such as the MyFitnessPal app. This app allows you to search for foods within their food database, and add them to your daily diary within the app. This will give you a running total of your intake of calories for the day, along with the macronutrient breakdown. Doing this consistently allows you to adjust your intake to meet your requirements.

Advantages of tracking

1. Precision

If you really want to make sure you are hitting your targets, there really is no more accurate, practical way than tracking every piece of food you eat. Yes, you may be able to get pretty close using a number of tactics that I will get into in the next podcast episode (which will be on alternatives to tracking), but there will be some margin of error in each of these alternatives.

2. Flexibility of food choices

Another advantage of tracking is that it gets away from the usual idea of having a few specific foods to stick to. For example, Let’s say you really want a mars bar. Usually, you may think you couldn’t have that and still make optimal progress. However, if you’ve been tracking your total intake for the day, you’ll be able to see that maybe you can fit the mars bar in, if you simply reduced specific macronutrient intake somewhere else during the day.

3. Teaching correct amounts

Another advantage to tracking is that after a while of doing it, you are eventually able to make very accurate estimates of the calorie and macronutrient intake of foods, without the need for inputting each individual item into MyFitnessPal. This is advantageous because it means you can eventually meet close to your required intake, without the need to track.

4. Game-ification

The tracking process almost turns nutrition into a game, where you can see if you’ve hit your targets each day, and if someone finds this motivating, then it is worthwhile.

Disadvantages of tracking

1. Time

It takes time to not only learn how to use the app, or whatever other tracking process you use, but also takes time throughout the day to actually go through the tracking process. For most of us, who are already busy with work, training, family life and social life, any perceived time cost is something that can be deemed a negative.

2. It doesn’t account for micronutrients or timing of food.

1-23_6HjXR2zyoSTeZpudTJg.jpeg

When we focus on the total intake of macronutrients only, whilst we are probably covering off most of our nutritional requirements, there is always the potential to forget about the quality of our food. It is important to remember that without getting enough vitamins and minerals in our diet, we put ourselves at risk of developing deficiencies, which can lead to any number of health issues.

Also, by only focussing on total intake for the day, we may miss out on optimising the timing of food. This is especially important when performance is a goal. For example, we may want to place more of our daily carbohydrate amount around the workout period. If we only focus on tracking our daily carb intake, this timing isn’t taken into account. Then again, in order to create this timing protocol, a element of tracking will be required in order to do it correctly.

3. It can become obsessive

In tracking your food by the numbers, there is always a risk that we can get too caught up in hitting the exact numbers every day. However, there really is no need to be getting wound up about hitting the numbers perfectly. In fact, the reality is the all the numbers you have been tracking already have some errors. This could be a rounding error by the food company, a measuring error by you, or even an error in the food database. With this in mind, being a few grams of carbs over your recommended is no big deal, since you actually may have eaten 10 or 15 grams either side of what the app is telling you, due to the aforementioned errors.

So, Do You Need to Track Your Macros?

Well I guess the main things we need to consider when answering this question is what level of nutritional knowledge the individual already has, and also what their goals are.

Firstly, I feel that before someone begins to track their food intake by the numbers, there are a few things that should already be in place. For example, are they eating a diet containing mostly whole foods? Are they able to cook 3–5 good meals from scratch? Do they have a basic knowledge of the macronutrients and their use in the body? Do they have a regular eating schedule? Unless the answer is “yes” to those questions, it’s probably not a good idea to get someone to strictly track their intake of macronutrients daily.

The second aspect is the extent of the individual’s goals. Usually, the more goals the person has, the more accurate they need to be. For example, if they simply want to lose weight, then they may simply need to develop a few key habits that will allow them to eat fewer calories and be more active. However, if they want to lose weight, and maintain muscle, and maintain their sport performance, then that will require more accuracy, and tracking may be the only way of providing that accuracy.

So, technically, the answer to the question “Do you need to track your macros?” is “No.” However, in certain circumstances, where the person has already developed good nutritional habits and knowledge, and has goals that require accuracy, then tracking would be a productive option.

Conor

Ps. Want a free GAA Nutrition E-book (As well as free updates, exclusive content, and exclusive offers)? CLICK HERE, and enter your details!

//knowyourselfnutrition.com//

//KYN Podcast // Facebook // Instagram // 

Nutrition for the Student GAA Athlete

This article is a result of a recent talk a did to a group of 16–18 year old lads who were part of their secondary school’s gaelic football team.

1-Yi-7RW37M_z8W4P-UdzEEQ.jpeg

When talking to students about nutrition, I’m always conscious of the fact that I’m probably talking to someone who has consumed 3 sausage rolls and at least 2 bars of chocolate or other confectionery that day, and so, telling them to completely cut out pizza, or start eating celery and carrots instead of muffins and mars bars is going to go in one ear and out the other.

Often, it’s not even clear why they would want to change their nutritional habits. These guys fly around the field, train 7–8 times per week, and are often fitter than their senior team-mates when they go back to club training! For this reason, it’s crucial to emphasise the importance of nutrition, and how it can actually put them in an even better position than they’re currently in! Not to mention, bad habits may not be affecting the student athlete right now, but you can be sure that if they keep the bad habits going into their 20s and 30s, they will feel the repercussions.

So if you’re a student who is involved in a GAA sport, I encourage you to read on. Take from it what rings a bell with you, and disregard the rest.

The Importance of Nutrition for a Student Athlete

There are 4 main ways in which you, as a student athlete (or any athlete really) can benefit from addressing nutrition:

1. Performance

We’ve all probably heard of the analogy of the body being like a car, in that, the quality of fuel determines how well the car drives, and the quantity of fuel determines how far the car can go. The more you optimise the type and amount of fuel you are giving the body, the better you can perform, and the longer you can perform for.

2. Recovery

Providing adequate recovery nutrition to the body means that you are likely to have better adaptations to training, fewer injuries and you will be able to train harder in subsequent training sessions.

3. Avoiding Sickness

Let’s be honest, living a long, healthy life isn’t necessarily your biggest focus right now. However, if we have a healthier body, that means less time being sick, which means more time playing matches and training, which means more time to stake your claim for a place on the team, more time working on your skills and getting fitter, and less time standing on the sidelines watching on.

4. Body Composition

All else equal, more muscle and less fat is better. Someone at 70kg with 13% bodyfat is going to likely be faster, fitter and relatively stronger than someone who is 70kg with 25% bodyfat. Plus, who doesn’t like being able to see their abs?

The 4 Building Blocks of Nutrition for Student Athletes

Nutrition can be complicated, so I find that if we can break it down to the few important factors and explore each of them further, we can have a clearer picture in mind of where we need to start.

I like to break nutrition down into 4 blocks, in order of importance. Those 4 blocks are:

Food Quantity

Food Quality

Food Timing

Supplements

Let’s look at each separately and get clear on what that means for you.

1-WBRDgE_8hMW-hg3oRn0RoQ.jpeg

1. Food Quantity

The energy balance equation dictates that if someone is consuming less energy (fewer calories) than they are expending, the body will use it’s own energy stores to get the required energy. This usually results in weight-loss. However, it can also result in tiredness and fatigue, particularly in someone who is very active. I like to think of this as the body forcing you to stop outputting so much energy, since you aren’t giving it enough energy supplies to keep up with the demands you are putting on it.

I think it’s part of the reason student athletes often feel sluggish and sleepy during the day (lack of sleep is obviously also a big factor here).

The calories that we consume can be broken down into the 3 main macronutrients: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrates.

Protein is used in the recovery and building of muscle tissue as well as other tissues in the body. Obviously then, getting enough protein in daily is going to lead to better recovery as well as helping in your muscle-building pursuits. Generally, for student athletes, rather than recommending a certain amount of protein in grams, I recommend you aim for about 4 fist-sized portions of protein-rich food per day. Examples of good protein sources are chicken, beef, pork, eggs, greek yoghurt and other dairy.

Fat is used in the absorption of vitamins, hormonal regulation and to a smaller extent, it is used as an energy source. You probably don’t need a huge amount of fat in your diet, but you do need enough to facilitate the above processes, as well as making your food enjoyable, and allowing you to have some of your favourite foods. Think about having a small amount of fat with each meal. With this in mind, the sources of this fat should be things like nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, egg yolks, fish and the fat that may already be on your protein source.

Carbohydrates are the main energy source for the body in high-intensity activity, such as the usual gaelic football or hurling training sessions you’re likely to go through, as well as matches. Gaelic athletes often under-eat carbohydrates compared to the amount of high-intensity training they undertake. As a rough guide, I recommend about 2 fist-sized portions of carbohydrate-rich food per meal. Increasing that in times where training load is increased will likely be advantageous. Example sources would be things like rice, potato, sweet potato, pasta, bread, oats, fruit, dried fruit.

If you are gaining unwanted weight, or are losing weight and when you don’t want to, you will need to decrease or increase your total intake accordingly.

1-23_6HjXR2zyoSTeZpudTJg.jpeg

2. Food Quality

The likelihood is that if you are following the recommendations in the food quantity section, you’ll probably be covering a lot food quality-related aspects of nutrition.

However, in order to make sure you are avoiding any deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, aim for an intake of a wide range of fruits and vegetables. As a rough recommendation, aim for 3 of each per day.

Also, from a food quality standpoint, start to reduce or avoid foods that make you feel lethargic, bloated or cause other reactions such as gas or skin rashes.

I’ll also include hydration in here. Getting in 2–3 litres of water can be a good place to aim for. Also, aiming for 5 clear urinations per day can be a good target to aim for.

1-GP7osMou-ZQsOKIDsVcQKw.jpeg

3. Food timing

The importance of how many times you should eat per day is often over-stated. The main focus when deciding how many times to eat per day is this: “What frequency of eating would make it easy for me to meet me nutritional targets?” With that in mind, 3–4 meals will usually be ideal for you as a student athlete, with snacks where required.

Eating before training and matches

The aim with your pre-match/pre-training meal should be to aid in fuelling that session, whilst avoiding the feeling of fullness during the session. With that in mind, this meal should usually contain a source of carbohydrates to help fuel the session, and a source of protein to help avoid the breakdown of muscle and to help with the recovery process afterwards. Keeping fat and fibre relatively low in this meal will allow quicker digestion of the meal, and will also help avoid the feeling of discomfort of having a full stomach during the session.

Eating after training and matches

The post-training/post-match meal should be pretty similar to the meal before the session. Carbohydrate will help replenish the glycogen (carbohydrate) stores that you’ve just used. Protein will facilitate the recovery of the tired muscles, and the low-fat and low fibre aspect will again allow for quicker digestion and absorption.

1-RHkcHcsxbWJtuy2GvVlA3Q.jpeg

4. Supplements

Being the fourth block, supplements are probably the least important aspect of your nutrition plan, and possibly won’t even be very relevant to you as a student athlete.

You may benefit from some health supplements like a multivitamin, vitamin D3 and Omega 3 fish oils, simply because most people tend to have deficiencies that can be addressed by these.

There likely won’t be a need for performance supplements, such as creatine or caffeine, since you will get a lot more of a benefit from getting your food intake on point! Plus I’d rather you saved your money to spend on better food. However, if you do have all other aspects of nutrition on point, it may be worth looking into whether thesemight be suitable for you.

When it comes to protein shakes, whilst there is nothing wrong with whey protein shakes and they are a convenient source of protein, you can probably get enough protein from your food alone.

So What Does This Mean Practically?

Eat roughly 3–4 bigger meals per day.

Each of these meals should contain a fist-sized portion of protein-rich food, with about 2 fist-sized portions of carbohydrate-rich food, with a small bit of a fat source. The meal should also contain plenty of vegetables. (eg. Chicken, rice, cashews, spinach, peppers and tomatoes)

Drink 2–3 litres of water per day.

Eat snacks like fruit and nuts where needed. (Not chocolate bars and sausage rolls)

Increase carbohydrate intake in weeks where training load is increased.

The 30-day challenge

Take a sheet of paper and divide it into 5 cloumns, and put these as the headers to the columns:

Number of fist-sized portions of protein eaten? (aim for 4)
Litres of water drank (aim for 2–3)
Portions of fruit and veg eaten (aim for 5–6)
Did you eat breakfast?
Did you sleep 7–9 hours last night?

For 30 days, each day enter your answer for each of these headings.

For the first few days, you might only hit your target for 1 of these, and maybe halfway through, your hitting 3 of the targets, but hopefully by the end of the 30 days, you’ll have created a set of habits that will take your performance, recovery, health and body composition to a higher level!

Conor

Ps. Want a free GAA Nutrition E-book (As well as free updates, exclusive content, and exclusive offers)? CLICK HERE, and enter your details!

//knowyourselfnutrition.com//

//KYN Podcast // Facebook // Instagram // 

GAA Nutrition Q&A — Creatine, The best diet for GAA and Intermittent fasting.

In this article, I address a couple of questions that I've gotten on my Instagram [LINK]

Q: What is the best diet for GAA Players? Paleo? “If it fits your macros”? Vegetarian? Intermittent fasting? Carb-backloading?

A: Firstly, when considering any nutritional change or approach, the first thing we need to consider your individual goals. This means defining what you want to happen as a result of this change in nutrition;

Do you want to lose bodyfat?

Do you want to fuel your perforamance?

Do you want to gain muscle?

Do you want to feel more energetic?

When you have established your goals, the next thing to do is consider what the principles to achieving that goal are. For example, the overarching principle of weight-loss is to eat in a caloric deficit (Eat fewer calories than your expend). Further to that, we know that adjusting our macronutrient intake will be important if fuelling performance and maintaining muscle are also part of the goal. With this in mind, we can start to look at various approaches, and ask if they will suit our goals.

For example, if we look at a vegetarian diet. The likelihood is that switching to eating a vegetarian diet will mean you have a smaller amount of foods to choose from. Because of this, you may end up eating less in general, and therefore losing weight. However, you may struggle to get enough protein in to meet your goals, so whilst you may lose weight, you may not be optimising your muscle maintenance or growth.

If we look at an “If it fits your macros” approach, which basically means you follow a set macronutrient intake, and as long as you hit those macro targets, where they come from is pretty much irrelevant, again, assuming the macro recommendations are suitable to your needs, following this approach will likely lead to weight-loss. However, some people find this method quite hard to stick to, since they have to track their food everyday. Not to mention, if taken to the extreme, and the macros are met without any though for micronutrients, it may not be optimal for general health.

So is there really a perfect diet then? Well, in my opinion, the perfect diet is one that makes it easy for you to stick to the principles associated with your goals.

So in summary, outline your goals, identify the principles associated with those goals, and find the easiest dietary set-up that will allow you to follow those principles.

Q: Should I take creatine as a GAA Player?

A: To give some context to this answer, before considering any supplement, it is important to remember that unless you have the other 3 building blocks of nutrition (Find out more here) in place, you will get more benefit from focussing on them before looking at supplements.

However, if you have your nutrition in place otherwise, creatine is definitely worth considering.

Creatine is the most researched sports supplements, and contrary to what has been said in the media, creatine has not been associated with negative side effects, in people with healthy kidneys.

However, it has been shown to have a range of benefits to sporting performance, that make sense for GAA athletes.

Creatine is naturally found in the body, and is also contained within foods, such as meat and fish. Within the body, it is involved with energy production (or more specifically, ATP production) in short (usually less than 10 seconds), intense movements, such as sprinting, weight lifting, jumping, pushing a man back in the tackle etc.

We have stores of creatine within the body, that are there to be used as needed in these high-intensity activities. In order to reach optimal amount of these creatine stores in the body, most people need to supplement, as it can be difficult to get enough from food.

The general recommendation is about 5g of creatine monohydrate per day. No loading period is required, however, an initial loading period may help to reach the optimal level of creatine stores more quickly than the standard recommendation.

Q: Should GAA players do intermittent fasting?

A: As a bit of background, intermittent fasting is a nutrition protocol where the eating period is restricted to a shorter period, compared to the usual eating period of wake-time to bed-time. This generally translates to skipping breakfast, and only eating 2–3 meals, between afternoon and night-time.

Proponents of this protocol usually talk about it’s ability to increase fat-burning, due to the increased fasting period. i.e. “When your body isn’t supplied with food, it turns to the fat stores.”

Whilst this make sense logically, when calories are equated for, intermittent fasting has not been shown to decrease bodyfat any more than a regular eating schedule.

However, in some cases, when the eating period is restricted, people tend to eat fewer calories overall, and this will lead to a decrease in bodyfat.

It goes back to the first question in the article. If your goals are fat-loss, calories are key, and if intermittent fasting allows you to maintain a caloric deficit, in a way that’s suitable to your lifestyle, then it could be a good option.

On the other hand, as GAA players, the likelihood is that this won’t conform with the training schedule, and for some people, it actually may be hard to get enough calories in in that short eating period, especially with a high training load.

Another smaller thing to consider is the contribution of eating protein on muscle protein synthesis (MPS). MPS is essentially the body building muscle in response to a protein feeding. The optimal amount of times to create this response is about 3–5 times per day. This doesn’t contribute massively to overall muscle building, but if you concerned with optimisation, it is a factor worth considering.

Conor

Ps. Want a free GAA Nutrition E-book (As well as free updates, exclusive content, and exclusive offers)? CLICK HERE, and enter your details!

//knowyourselfnutrition.com//

//KYN Podcast // Facebook // Instagram // 

A Practical Guide to Holiday Nutrition

You’ve finally gotten your nutrition on point after months, or even years, of jumping from plan to plan, keeping what worked and throwing out what didn’t. You’ve been in a good groove for the past 6 months, and making steady progress, but you know there’s a bump-in-the-road coming: that two-week holiday to sunnier lands.

1-3il6ug3k6-m4hDI6SmSOYw.jpeg

Of course, you’re looking forward to it, and all the hard work you’ve been putting in means that for the first time, you may even be confident to take off you’re top on the beach. But you know that, inevitably, the different setting will mean you probably won’t have access to the same food that you had at home. Plus, you may even be looking forward to tasting the local cuisine an d having a few drinks. But you may also be concerned about how this will affect your progress.

The question is, “How do you stay on track with nutrition without it effecting the enjoyability of your holiday?”

1. Make the Decision

The first thing you need to do is to have a conversation with yourself and realise that being on holiday doesn’t have to mean you abandon your nutrition completely and go off the rails. If you want to do that, obviously that’s cool. You just have to realise that making this decision will effect your performance and body composition and you’ll probably finish the holiday in poorer condition than you started.

Making a decision about how lenient or strict you want to be will be crucial to making sure you’re happy with the outcome.

Obviously there’s not much point reading on if you have decided on going all out on a 14-day pizza and beer fest. So go ahead and click the 'x' and enjoy your holiday!

For everyone else…

1-I8l6FFxPgIP-rrhb6BTD-g.jpeg

2. Plan Ahead

Now that you’ve decided that you’re going to take at least some responsibility for your nutrition whilst on holiday, the next step is to plan ahead.

Starting with the first couple of days; relying on airport food will most likely leave you paying over-the-top for below average food (below average here means not only in terms of nutrition, but also in terms of enjoyability!). Taking an hour the day before your flight and preparing some easy options for your hand-luggage is a must if you want to avoid paying £12 for a disappointing fry-up, or regretfully eating one of those egg-mcmuffin things. Depending on your flight time, getting up an hour early and having yourself a decent breakfast can also see you saving a few quid and actually having a tasty breakfast. To me, this step isn’t just about keeping nutrition on track, but will also make the whole airport experience that bit more bearable.

Here are some options that you can throw into your hand luggage:

-Various whole or packaged fruit

-Various nuts and seeds

-Oat bars or protein bars

-Salad in tupperware

-Protein powder

-A sandwich with vegetables and a good protein source

- I actually took a burrito bowl to the airport once, and was delighted I did!

-Oats. (Just add hot water, mix, and top with above options. You should be able to get hot water from a coffee shop if you buy a tea or coffee there)

-Yoghurt. (Again, topped with above options.)

The peace of mind of knowing that you have some good options available to you in the airport, on the plane, and even when you arrive in your destination make for a much better start to your holiday.

Another aspect of planning ahead is to actually think about what sort of food that will be available to you around where you’re staying. Will there be a supermarket close to you? Will you have access to a breakfast buffet? Is the local food good quality? Do you have to travel far from where you’re staying to get food? Are you going to be drinking a lot? Do you have access to a cooker?

It is important to have an idea of these things, so that you can plan in advance. If you’re going to be eating in restaurants, then having a few picked out beforehand, and even having a look at the menu to assess their suitability to your goals can not only help you stay on track, but also helps you avoid frantically searching TripAdvisor for them when the hunger has already hit! (side note: The TripAdvisor app is your best friend when choosing restaurants out of your usual space.)

3. Adapt Your Meals

3.1. Focus on Protein

In general, protein intake will probably be decreased on holidays due to lack of availability and/or cost.

Having adequate protein intake is crucial if we want to build or maintain muscle mass. It is also important because of how filling protein sources usually are compared to the amount of calories in them. This will help you avoid the over-consumption usually associated with being on holiday.

Practically speaking, aiming to have 30–50g of protein per meal is a good idea. Some examples of where to get this: chicken breast, eggs, steak, fish, pork, greek yoghurt etc.

3.2. Add Carbs or Alcohol

As well as the general ‘holiday-diet’ being low in protein, it is usually high in fat. (Think pizza, burgers, fry-ups etc.) So there really is no reason for us to add further fat to a meal, and perhaps reducing the fat intake where possible, would be a good idea in order to keep calories under control. Doing so will also allow us to add carbohydrates to our meal, without blowing our caloric budget. Furthermore, if caloric overconsumption is an issue, and you are planning on consuming a lot of alcohol, perhaps keeping fats and carbs relatively low will be your chosen method of keeping calories in check.

An example of this might be where you are planning to have steak as an evening meal. The steak itself will cover your protein for the meal, but will also have a decent amount of tag-long fat, so you may want to forgo your usual side of onion rings or chips (which are deep-fried and therefore contain a lot of fat, and therefore calories), and instead opt for a baked potato for a carb source. Alternatively, you may even want to drop the potato and just have your steak with a big salad, allowing room for your alcohol calories later in the evening.

Again, as with all this advice, this very much depends on your individual goals. For someone who usually can’t get enough food in to keep their weight up, go ahead and get your calories in here.

3.3. Add Micros

With the above, you’ll want to keep your fruit and vegetable intake up. Being in a different climate and environment, being in contact with a lot of people, perhaps partying a lot; these things can all take a toll on our immune system, and can lead to us getting sick or not feeling so good. Keeping micronutrient levels up can help to prevent these issues, so you can continue to enjoy your holiday.

Also, if you are keeping your fat and/or carbs relatively low, you’ll need something to go alongside your protein source. So as mentioned above, adding a big salad to your steak can be a good option to keep the meal enjoyable, as well as providing fibre, vitamins and minerals, without going over the top calorie wise.

4. Win When You Can. Accept it When You Can’t.

There will be certain times where you can be more on track than others. This will be very much down to the individual and the type of holiday.

I tend to find that while the rest of the day might get out of your grasp with all the holiday activities, breakfast is usually one place where you can win.

1-Ze8b-FICkN1qSwulEi3LLA.jpeg

4.1 Winning at the breakfast buffet

When staying in hotels, the breakfast buffet can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to nutrition. Here are a few things I’ve found useful:

4.1.1. Protein first

The breakfast buffet will often have some decent protein-rich options that will allow you to get a good amount of protein in first thing, and as mentioned previously, this is going to help you maintain muscle mass goals. 
Protein sources are also generally quite filling, so by having them first, you’re less likely to reach for 3 pain au chocolat.
Some good options here are eggs, meats, and Greek yoghurt.

4.1.2. Add Micros

Again, micronutrient intake can often slip by the wayside during holidays. Making the most of the ample supplies of salad and fruit that are usually in your breakfast buffet will help keep that level up!

4.1.3. Adds Carbs

Your protein sources, as well as the fibre from your fruit and veg, will likely be enough to fill you, but everyone enjoys carbs, and depending on how active your holiday is, adding some carbs to your breakfast probably won’t be a bad thing at all! If you’re going to be sitting about all day, probably going easy here is a good option. Adding some toast to your eggs or granola to your fruit and yoghurt is what we’re thinking here. Obviously if you’re someone who tends to lose weight very easily and don’t want to, loading on more carbs (and food in general) at the breakfast buffet is a good idea.

4.1.4. Add Tasty Stuff (if you want)

Now, after you’ve eaten a filling, tasty breakfast, you can decide if you want something a bit more indulgent. Remember, no one is forcing you to eat the croissants just because they’re there, so at this stage, be mindful and decide if you want to. If so, you’re in a better position to control yourself, now that your filled up and feeling good about yourself for making healthy choices.

Bonus: Grab a couple of pieces of fruit or yoghurt or other options that make sense to have later in the day if you get peckish.

1-gqfKjXTrZ_ugLw8d6HsLyA.jpeg

5. Be Active

Depending on the type of holiday you’re on, there will probably be potential for you to be pretty active. Whether that is walking around exploring the city, or getting a few lengths in every morning at the pool. If the type of holiday doesn’t allow for this general activity increase (rarely the case), obviously trying to get a workout or some cardio work in where possible would be advantageous.

The point here is, the more active you can be, the more you increase your caloric output, and therefore the more food you can eat without getting fat. Sweet!

Plus if muscle preservation is a goal, getting some resistance training in will be important. Even some bodyweight sessions in the hotel room would likely be effective.

6. Relax and Do Your Best

With all of the above in mind, it’s still worth remembering the real reason for your holiday.

Maybe for you that is to relax, in which case, you should probably only focus on nutrition up until the point where it stresses you out. At that stage, it’s just defeating the purpose of your holiday.

Maybe the reason for your holiday is to see cool parts of the world, and experience their culture. Again, you don’t want nutrition to get in the way of this, so you shouldn’t feel guilty about having an authentic pizza in Napoli or eating the odd chocolate-covered waffle in Belgium.

Realistically, there is only a limited amount of damage you can do to yourself in the space of a week or two.

The aim here is to find your own balance between enjoying your holiday and making sure you don’t come back feeling like you’ve completely outdone your hard work over the previous months.

Conor

Ps. Want a free GAA Nutrition E-book (As well as free updates, exclusive content, and exclusive offers)? CLICK HERE, and enter your details!

//knowyourselfnutrition.com//

//KYN Podcast // Facebook // Instagram // 

The 4 Building Blocks of GAA Nutrition

You’ve probably heard of this phrase “The Simple Things Done Well” when it comes to tactics and game-play. It basically means focussing on the basic things that are going to win you the game. We know what they are; Things like good passing, accurate shooting, effective tackling, and simple tactics. These are the simple things, that if done right, will cause everything else to fall into place.

However, when it comes to nutrition, it can be difficult to figure out what the simple things are. In other words, if you’re going to focus your efforts on nutrition, what are the simple things that will cause everything else to fall into place?

Is it your pre-match meal? Is it which protein supplements you’re using? Is it how many grams of carbohydrates you’re eating each day?

I hope that this article will outline the 4 most important aspects of your nutrition.

So the 4 keys of your nutrition plan, in the order of importance are:

Food Quantity
Food Quality
Food Timing
Supplements

1. Food Quantity

Are you eating enough calories to fuel your performance, whilst also eating few enough to elicit fat-loss, or enough to facilitate muscle growth? Are you eating enough protein for muscle repair and growth, enough fats to keep you healthy, and enough carbohydrates to fuel your performance, all within your calorie allowance?

When considering the goal of weight-loss/gain, you must realise that there are a lot of factors involved. However, when it boils down to it, the main factor which will affect the outcome is eating fewer/more calories than you are expending.

There are a couple of problems with this theory though. One of them is that people tend to extend this logic to mean, “The less I eat, and the more exercise I do, the more weight I will lose.” It’s not that this logic is false, however this can lead to poor energy levels, poor quality of training, poor quality of life, and ultimately, low adherence (people don’t stick to it for an extended period of time).

Another thing that needs addressed with the initial point is that although we can track our intake of energy (or calories), it is almost impossible to track our expenditure. There are so many ways in which we expend energy, and it would be impossible to track all of them. We don’t just burn energy by exercise. We also burn it through our body’s everyday processes, our organs, digesting our food, walking, fidgeting, and a huge array of other outputs. So what are we to do?

Well all we can do is try to make the best estimate possible, and adjust from there by trial and error. There are a couple of ways to do this:

Method 1 — The “Track and Adjust” Method

This method involves tracking your caloric intake for a period of 2 weeks, during which you will track your morning weight each day.

When you’ve done this, you will take the average bodyweight of week 1 and the average bodyweight of week 2, as well as the average caloric intake for each week, and compare them.

If you’ve gained bodyweight, you know that your caloric intake is above maintenance (the amount of calories you need to stay at the same weight), and needs reduced if fat-loss is your goal. If you’ve stayed the same weight, you are eating at around maintenance calories. If you’ve lost weight, you are eating in a caloric deficit, and therefore are on track for fat-loss. However, you may still need to adjust, in order to find your sweet-spot.

Method 2 — The Calculation Method

This method involves using a formula to first calculate your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), and using a multiplier based on activity/training to calculate your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure, which is essentially your maintenance calorie level).

There are a few different formulae you can use, including the Harris-Benedict formula and the Katch-McArdle formula, among others, such as simply multiplying your bodyweight in kg by 22 to get your BMR, followed by using an activity multiplier to get your TDEE. All the various formulae have different accuracy levels and different applicability in different scenarios.

When you’ve calculated your TDEE, and subtracted or added a suitable amount of calories to produce a fat-loss of muscle gain response, you must then break that down into the three macronutrients: Protein, Fat and Carbohydrate. This breakdown will vary greatly for each individual.

I show you exactly how to calculate your own estimated calorie recommendations in this article [LINK]

As a rough recommendation, protein intake can be calculated by multiplying bodyweight in kg by 1.8–2.4. When maintaining muscle in a fat-loss phase is a big focus, edging towards the upper end is more important.

The remainder of your calories for the day will be made up of carbohydrates and fats. For straight up weight loss/gain, the breakdown of fats vs carbohydrates isn’t a big factor, as long as calories are in check.

However, when it comes to performance, especially in GAA sports, edging towards higher carbohydrates rather than fats would be recommended, whilst still including some fat (at least 20% of total calories) in the diet in order to maintain health and enjoyability. This is especially important in fat-loss cases. The individual preference for food that contain fats vs carbohydrates should also be taken into consideration.

I show you how to calculate your own recommended macronutrient breakdown in this article [LINK]

2. Food Quality

Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables to provide you with the vitamins and minerals, and fibre you need to function optimally? Are you drinking enough fluids?

You may think it strange that I’m putting food quality as less important than quantity. However, one of the reasons for this is that if you are satisfying the food quantity step, and are getting your intake from mostly whole foods, you have probably covered most basis when it comes to food quality.

For example, in order to stay within your caloric goals, whilst losing fat, you’ve probably discovered that you need to eat foods that keep you full. These food tend to contain a lot of fibre and water, with the best sources generally being vegetables and fruits!

However, we do still want to place importance on getting in plenty of micronutrition.

It seems that the main benefit of addressing micronutrients comes from simply eliminating deficiencies sot hat we remain healthy, as well as supplying enough fibre to maintain digestive health.

With that said, there are a few common deficiencies for athletes, such as vit. D, Calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron.

Some of these may be best addressed with supplements, however, in order to help make sure we are doing our best to eliminate deficiencies, we should aim to spend some time in the sun, in order to make sure our body is producing vitamin D, consume dairy, as long as lactose intolerance isn’t an issue, and eat good quality, preferably grass-fed, red meat a few times per week.

As a recommendation for vegetables and fruit, about 3 portions of each per day should be enough, but I wouldn’t advise someone to not eat more than that if they want to, as long as it allows them to stay within your calorie and macronutrient goals.

All liquids except alcohol will contribute to your daily fluid intake. Alcohol is the only fluid that makes you excrete more fluid than it provides.

There are two ways that I’ve found useful for recommending fluid intake.

  1. Consume 1 litre per 23 kg of bodyweight.

That means that a 70kg athlete should consume roughly 3 litres of water per day. This recommendation is based on Eric Helms’ previously mentioned “Muscle and Strength Pyramid”.

2. Urinate 5 times per day, with 2 begin around training

The advantage of this method over the first one is that is takes into account your activity levels, sweat levels, and heat of their environment. The around training part insinuates that you should consume more fluids around training. This is based on the recommendations in Lyle MacDonald’s “Performance Nutrition for Mixed Sports.”

With both methods, you should also monitor urine colour, making sure it isn’t excessively dark or light in colour.

3. Food Timing

Are you eating the right foods in the right quantities, at the right times?

How Many Meals to Eat Per Day?

You can read my full article on meal timing here. [LINK]

The optimal amount of meals per day is very much based on individual preference. Although there have been claims that eating as many times per day as possible “stokes the metabolism” and therefore burns more body-fat, this is not true. There is also another side to the coin which says that fasting in the morning and only eating one or two larger meals per day is the key to losing fat and maintaining muscle, and this has pretty much been shown to be not true either. People who do this often end up seeing results, but that is more to do with the fact that they end up eating in a caloric deficit as a result.

So, as a recommendation, eating anywhere from 3–6 times per day would be ideal. Problems seem to only occur when we go below or above that.

For example, someone eating only twice per day may end up developing a relationship with food where they’re training themselves to only eat massive meals, and are hungry all day. They are also potentially missing out on the small benefit of activating muscle protein synthesis, when muscle growth is somewhat stimulated as a results of eating protein.

Someone who eats 7 times per day may end up feeling like they have to schedule their life around eating, and ends up having to take tupperware everywhere they go, and develop a relationship where they feel like if they miss a meal, they’ve messed up.

However, some people are quite happy doing an intermittent fasting protocol, where they don’t eat until the afternoon, and get all of their calories and macros in in two meals. They may simply not be hungry in the morning, and therefore take advantage of this, and are able to have 2 large meals.

Some people find that they can’t get enough food in in 6 meals, and need to have 7, but this is almost exclusively people who have a high energy output, and maybe need to consume 4000–5000 kcal per day.

Again, the amount of meals per day is dependant on what eating habit ensure that you meet the requirements from the 3 lower tiers of the pyramid. Remember, all of this is trumped by total caloric intake, macronutrient intake, and food quality.

Obviously eating in and around training/matches is very important also, but I’ve covered some of that in previous articles and will be also addressing these things in more detail in further articles!

There are other aspects of food timing that can be optimised, including carb-loading protocols, eating around training and matches, protein distribution, but in order to keep this article short enough, I'll go into these in seperate artciles.

4. Supplements

Are you making use of the few supplements that work, in order to get that last few percent of progress?

Finally, onto the last, and therefore least important (regardless of what the supplement companies will tell you) aspect of nutrition.

You can read my full article on supplements for GAA athlete by clicking here. [LINK]

Does this mean that supplements are useless? Of course not. However, it means that if you aren’t eating enough (or are eating too much), you aren’t eating the correct ratio of protein/fat/carbohydrate, you aren’t getting enough veggies, or aren’t eating at the correct times, then you may be focussing on the wrong thing by looking towards supplements.

Some supplements are inter-linked with some of these areas, for example, whey protein may help you to hit your correct macronutrient targets, or a multivitamin may help with your micronutrient intake etc, but overall, getting the big things in check first is going to serve you best.

So let’s say you’ve gotten all of the other stuff in place, and you feel you’re ready to pursue the last 5% of progress (after all, who wants to be leaving any progress of the table?).

I’ve covered my views on supplements along with recommendations in this article, so go read it if you’re interested!

Finally

Not only does this give us a great framework for setting up our nutrition, but also allows us to ask ourselves, “How important is this?” when considering and nutritional concept. For example, when we’re trying to decide what the best protein shake is, if we look at the four key aspects, we can see that, being in the supplement section, it is unlikely to be very important. If we are trying to decide what is the best pre-match meal, that is a ‘food timing’ issue, and therefore won’t be a priority to address, unless we’ve already addressed the levels below it.

Conor

Ps. Want a free GAA Nutrition E-book (As well as free updates, exclusive content, and exclusive offers)? CLICK HERE, and enter your details!

//knowyourselfnutrition.com//

//KYN Podcast // Facebook // Instagram //