Nutritional guidelines for training

Nutritional guidelines for training

As the demands on your body change as you progress through the training phases of our programmes so will your body’s nutritional requirements. To ensure that you always get the best out of your training, we suggest you closely follow these guidelines which will tell you on what nutrients and food groups to put your emphasis.

Why bother?

Simply put: a good diet is ergogenic. The diet we prescribe has the following effects compared to a standard Western diet:

  • Rapid reversal of muscular breakdown and stimulation of muscle growth
  • Reduces your body’s acidity preventing muscle protein breakdown and a large section of auto-immune, fungal and bacterial conditions
  • Ensures optimal immune-system functioning reducing frequency of colds, flu and other diseases
  • Maintains high muscle glycogen stores
  • Promotes optimal performance weight and lean body mass percentage
  • Stabler energy levels throughout the day and less fatigue
  • Reduces risk of overtraining and injury

How we know what to recommend?

So much dietary advice exists and so much of it is contrasting information that it seems impossible to provide one set of guidelines for athletic nutrition. One day eggs are bad, the next day they are good. But the answer lies in our hunter-gathering past: we are genetically well-adapted to the foods and the food types, we encountered in our original natural ecological niche. A few individual differences exist (more Europeans are tolerant to lactose than Africans, for example) but by and large, our species is still genetically adapted to the so-called “Paleo Diet”:

The fundamental dietary principle of the Paleo Diet for Athletes is simplicity itself: unrestricted consumption of lean meats, poultry, seafood, fruits and vegetables. Food that are not part of the modern-day Paleolithic fare include cereal grains, dairy products, high-glycemic food and vegetables, legumes, alcohol, salty foods, high-fat meats, refined sugar and nearly all processed foods. – The Paleo Diet for Athletes

The above seems strict and we will not lie to you and tell you it is an easy adaptation. It takes effort, desire and a fair bit of planning to change your diet from the typical modern one to one approximating the Paleo diet. To help you we will run our nutrition series of articles to give you as much advice as possible. In addition, we urge you to use the 95/5, 6/1 or 5/2 principles to make the task seem more manageable.

The 95/5, 6/1 and 5/2 principles

There are three principles you can follow to get started with the Paleo diet, pick the one that suits you best:

  • The Paleo diet cannot be 100% observed in practice in modern society so the book’s authors suggest you make it your goal to follow it 95% of the time allowing 5% of your food intake to be modern food.
  • Tim Ferris, author of “The 4-Hour Body”, advocates picking one “cheat day” per week when you eat whatever you want and satisfy your cravings so you don’t want to see junk again for a week.
  • Hagen Stroh, myoreflex therapist from Greystones, recommends the “5/2” rule: follow the guidelines strictly for the five work days and then “cheat” during the weekends whenever you have to (e.g. to satisfy a craving, to be social at dinner).

Whichever you choose ensure that you get the right nutrients post-workouts. Even on days when you eat what you want, your body needs the proper materials to repair itself in the minutes and hours after hard work has been completed.

Modern versus natural diet

Should you still have doubts, consider the different ratios of macro-nutrients (proteins, carbs, fat) in the average modern US diet and a natural hunter-gatherer diet (adapted from “The Paleo Diet for Athletes”):

Typical diet pie chartNatural Diet pie chart

Where do supplements fit in?

Supplements come in two types:

  • energy and sports drinks
  • performance, recovery and health supplements

A supplement can be both (for instance, Vitamin C aids recovery but is also a nutritional supplement) but non-athletes should avoid energy and sports drinks. Only the nutritional needs of athletes justify this additional energy intake and then only immediately before, during or after workouts and races – never at other times.

When our grandfathers ate a carrot or an apple, it had a higher nutritional content than it has today. While some nations, such as Ireland, have farmed less extensively, this development forms a global trend so it is harder than ever to get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet. Today’s American needs to eat five apples to get the nutrients provided by one fifty years ago! Even worse much of our food is exported from far away and spends days in transit. As the food ages, the nutrients decrease further. Prefer local foods that has been grown organically without the use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers. Properly preserved “super-foods”, that is, foods with extremely high nutritional content such as spirulina and chia seeds, are another great alternative to pills and tablets.

Be warned, however, that many supplements contain vitamins and minerals of such poor quality that studies suggest our bodies can simply not recognise them. So deficiencies are best sought addressed from natural sources.

As if all that was not enough, pollution, stress and other modern-day contaminants puts greater strain on our body’s defenses than in our natural habitat. We therefore recommend athletes supplement with vitamins and minerals. Ensure you buy high-quality vitamins as many cheaper products are buffered in a way that does not allow them to be digested before they are flushed out (the classical tale of “expensive urine”). If you dislike the idea of pills, consider juicing vegetables at least twice daily. This way you can feed your body more nutrients than you could practically eat your way to (unless you are one of those who can polish off a bag of carrots).

We will look at all supplements in detail on these pages over the coming months and years.

Eat and train: parallel phases of Lydiard training and nutrition

It is easy to reach your optimal racing weight during the early stages of training when volume is high, only to find you gain back weight that you don’t need for the competitive season because you failed to adapt your eating habits. Similarly, you may find yourself ill or injured because you did not provide the body with enough of the vital nutrients it needs for repair and recovery as you moved into very intensive training after an easier period. The below table shows how to modify your baseline diet as you progress through the different phases of your training programme.

Nutrition and training phase table


Food choice: sample days

We are working on providing individualised diet plans with our training programmes so athletes training with us can focus solely on their workouts. In the meantime, we are providing a few sample days showcasing food choices that will propel you towards optimal performance.

Aerobic workout days

  • Morning workout (male runner)
  • Noon workout (male runner)
  • Afternoon workout (male runner)
  • Double workout (male runner)
  • Morning workout (female runner)
  • Noon workout (female runner)
  • Afternoon workout (female runner)
  • Double workout (female runner)

Anaerobic workout days

  • Morning workout (male runner)
  • Noon workout (male runner)
  • Afternoon workout (male runner)
  • Double workout (male runner)
  • Morning workout (female runner)
  • Noon workout (female runner)
  • Afternoon workout (female runner)
  • Double workout (female runner)
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