» Train to Win: LiveGaelic Nutrition Road to Recovery

18 Jul

Train to Win: LiveGaelic Nutrition Road to Recovery

Posted by Keith Nulty in Train to Win | Jul 2014

Functional Training Ireland’s Alan Kenny completed his honours degree in exercise & health studies in 2010. Alan then pursued an MSc in Exercise Nutrition Science from the University of Chester which he completed in 2012. Alan is also a certified strength & conditioning specialist (NSCA). He is also the current Kildare and Longford GAA nutritionist.

Alan has experience working with both sedentary and athletic populations. He most recently worked for Athletes Performance in the USA with high profile athletes in the NFL and MLB. Alan has previous experience working with numerous GAA teams and individual athletes. He has previously provided nutrition support for the 2013 Ireland international rules team.

Alan believes in promoting lifelong health by implementing simple nutritional changes. Alan has a special interest in performance nutrition and recovery.


Click here for the earlier editions of the lads’ journey back to full fitness under the watchful eye of the team at FTI.

I am delighted to be involved on the journey to recovery and better health with Sean Brady and Donal O’Connor. I have been tasked with handling the nutrition side of things. I am going to outline some of my methods and thoughts on this below.

I first met with Sean and Donal in mid-June in Functional Training Ireland. The standard procedure for any new clients coming in to see me involves collecting our baseline data, including a check on any dietary illnesses and restrictions, along with a few tests needed to paint a full starting day picture. Weight will only tell you total mass, so we need to check for muscle/fat levels etc.

Data Collection

At the start of a journey like that the lads have undertaken it is key to collect the right data to track progress. The key metrics to hit here are:

– Weight: Starting weight in kg.

– Pictures: Front, side and back pictures. These are a great inexpensive tool for anybody to track changes in body composition. Highly recommended to everyone.

– Waist/Chest Circumference: A chest and waist circumference check.

– Body Fat: A 7 site skin-fold test which enables me to determine exact body fat % and total fat mass.

The Common Pitfalls

A quick rundown of the guy’s current diets showed to me that were falling into the usual traps that many people fall into. Not eating enough food or protein in particular, no real plan as such and way too many carbs. Sean and Donal are perfect examples too of people still eating the very same as they were when playing football to a high level, despite not training to that level at the moment. The energy intake was still the same but their energy output was drastically lower.

This is why so many injured and retired athletes pile on the pounds. Our major focus over this period of time is to increase lean mass and reduce fat mass. We also want to make sure our nutrition plan is positively helping the injury recovery process too. It is essentially what I want to do with everyone I see, improve general and inside health along with a better outside body composition.


[tweet “Why do so many injured/retired athletes pile on pounds? Failure to change habits to match activity”]

My major focus with anyone is to educate them first. Nutrition is a very individual thing. Sean may like chicken but Donal might prefer turkey. I don’t force any foods on anybody. Our aim is to develop a plan and a set of principles that enable the guys to get optimal results by making a few simple smart choices.

I am always met with initial negativity regarding nutrition. The classic bodybuilder approach of lunch boxes full of chicken, broccoli and rice has been very damaging to the perceptions of the general population. People think that good health and optimal nutrition are too hard to reach and unattainable. In reality, good nutrition can be more tasty and more varied than any bad way of eating.

[tweet “In reality, good nutrition can be more tasty and more varied than any bad way of eating”]

Education is Key!

I needed to educate the guys on each macro nutrient first being carbohydrates, proteins and fats. I like to operate a plug and play system essentially. Each macro has it’s better and worse sources so we want to stay with the better sources all the time but there is still some room to choose too. Once we figured out the current energy demands of Sean and Donal along with training days/non-training days, we were able to start to piece together a plan of attack.

Exercise and energy output should always dictate nutrition. This is a huge mistake that most people make, especially Gaelic footballers. There are some other factors to take into account but essentially your nutrition should not be the exact same on a Wednesday and a Sunday when a Wednesday is a rest day and a Sunday is a match day.

[tweet “Exercise and energy output should always dictate nutrition”]

Getting our nutrition right 24/7 is key and something that I always preach to my players. How you eat Monday to Friday will have more of an impact on your weekend game than your pre-match meal.

Over the next few weeks I will break it down further into specific recommendations for nutrition and go through supplementation too, so stay tuned.

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