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Nutritional Guidelines

Nutritional guidelines are a confusing topic for most people. There is so much contradictory information available online and from coaches and other professionals. Some of the information on nutrition is outright absurd. At the same time, there is a lot of solid, reliable information. But even with the reliable and quality information, there is so much of it. There are a significant number of nutritional methods out there that actually do work, even though they all differ.

Welcome to the Sprint Ninja Nutrition Hub. Here you will find a nutrition hub that is designed to provide you with the basic nutritional tools and knowledge and how to apply them. From there you’ll be able to make an informed decision about your own eating habits. There are a number of nutritional methods that work. Some work better for certain individuals than others. The key to performance nutrition and eating for health, is finding a set of nutritional guidelines that work for you as an individual. This takes into account your personal preferences, lifestyle, age, gender, body type and your specific physical goals.


In this section you will find content and nutritional guidelines relating to muscle gain, fat loss, performance nutrition and general health. Given the volume of content, you may need to skip sections that don’t apply to you. Use “control + F” to search for relevant keywords.


What we aim to do here is provide effective nutritional guidelines and methods of eating. This page serves as a nutrition hub, where you will find the “meat and potatoes” of overall nutrition information on the page itself, and some links to other pieces of nutritional information. For specific links and articles, look to the far right column of this page.

Lifestyle Considerations

The number one biggest obstacles for optimal nutrition is adherence. Many of us know how to eat well and what we should be eating. Information is not the primary obstacle here. The major obstacle is adherence, aka sticking to the plan. The most common obstacles are a) being too busy to plan ahead, resulting in many trips to the drive-thru, b) feeling restricted and deprived. For me this is a big one. I absolutely love food. Nothing beats a grossly oversized steak with creamy mushroom sauce or a family size bucket of KFC to myself. And lastly…. c) a lack of perceived options. There are so many options available, but most people don’t see them. For most people there are only two options, a restricted, boring diet, or overeating or undereating the wrong foods and just accepting the fact that you’ll be either overweight with too much fat, or underweight and malnourished.


There are other ways. And this is you crash course…

Being too Busy: Plan ahead. Make and pack foods that are either ready to eat as they are, or are very fast and simple to make and prepare. Also, understand how to choose menu items at fast food outlets and restaurants. Later you’ll see what the eating plan options are. It’s on you to dissect that information and match things up when eating out and finding supermarket foods that are fast and simple to pack and prepare. I won’t hold your hand by spelling it out, or else you’ll take it too literally and fail to learn how to do it yourself.

Feeling Restricted and Deprived: What’s the number one best and simplest thing you can do to either lose weight or gain weight? Contrary to popular belief and fancy methods, it’s calorie control. If you’re eating in a calorie surplus you’ll lose weight. If you eat in a calorie deficit you’ll lose weight. Simple as that. Although I do understand that there is more to it than that if you are to ensure adequate nutrition and good health. Simply monitoring calories means that you can control them up or down to suit your goal. As long as the foods fit within your calorie goals, then you will gain or lose weight. This means you can have your McDonald’s or donuts, as long as you don’t stray outside your calorie or macro-nutrient targets.

Lack of Compelling Options: If you’ve followed fad diets or celebrity eating advice, you probably think there are limited options available. To some people the only way to lose weight is eating grapefruit and rice cakes along with boiled chicken and broccoli for dinner. This is simply not the case. There are many options available. There are many ways to control calorie and macro-nutrient consumption, from intermittent fasting to filling up on certain key foods before indulging in your guilty pleasures.

Nutritional Guidelines

After adherence, one of the biggest obstacles to better nutritional habits is not having clear-cut guidelines. Most often you’ll be provided with either something too broad and vague, or something too strict, precise and restrictive.

Here I will outline a few key universal nutritional guidelines that will serve as eating principles to live by, regardless of your main goal or the specific nutritional method you use.

Learn to count calories: Yes I know, you’ve been told that calorie counting is ineffective. And the people that told you that are wrong. You can’t gain weight if you’re not eating more calories than you’re expending. You can’t lose weight if you are consuming more calories than you are expending. Start with a calorie goal in mind. Based on your lifestyle, activity level, body weight, age and gender, there are online resources that can teach you what to do. In the beginning you will need to research the calories in just about everything you eat. Easy for packaged foods with a nutritional panel, not so easy for natural foods without a nutritional panel. Over time you will become proficient in eyeballing the calories and innately knowing the approximate number within 5% either side.

Learn to count macros: Macro-nutrients are the main key nutrients in all foods. There are three macros; carbohydrates, protein and fat. Again, there are online resources that can teach you how to calculate your target macros. And, as with understanding calories, you’ll first need to do your research with everything you eat and eventually learn to know it innately.

Plan ahead: If you have no plan then you’re flying blind. Without a plan, you run the risk of eating either too much or too little without realizing. That’s because we only make a small percentage of our food choices consciously. Plan ahead, but be flexible. Planning can include having a basic idea of what you might order if you go to a restaurant, preparing meals at home for work or even having a pre-written nutrition plan on paper and sticking to that religiously. If you don’t plan, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll unconsciously eat too much or too little.

Stick to a method: Fad diets DO NOT WORK. Let me explain…. By fad diets I mean diets that are overly specific, such as the no carb diet/Atkins diet, paleo diet, the grapefruit diet and anything else that is overly narrow and restrictive. Pick a plan that suits your lifestyle and stick to that specific plan. You can’t bounce between methods from day to day, you WILL fall off the wagon, I guarantee you. Pick something you know will suit you and stick with it. This also falls into planning ahead.;

Be consistent: Consistency is the key to success in everything from training for muscle gain to learning the violin. If you only do something 50% of the time it’s almost the same as simply not doing it at all. Pick a nutrition plan, plan ahead, make it sustainable and enjoyable and live by it 85% of the time. The other 15% is your flexi space, where you can binge eat your kebabs and potato chips (my personal weakness is family sized white chocolate).

Enjoy your food, but within reason: If your diet makes you miserable it’s probably not going to be something you will stick to or revisit. Food is often a social bonding experience among other things. Don’t be that person that’s so restrictive they can’t socialize where food is involved. But at the same time, you can’t use “enjoying your food” as an excuse to not stick to the plan. You can indulge and eat within a basic plan while still enjoying food with friends and family.

Nutritional Methods

As I have mentioned, there are many different ways of eating, or “diets” as it were. Some are more suitable to certain people than others. Here we will outline a few effective nutritional methods/diets to provide you with an option that best suits your personality, preferences and lifestyle. What we are doing here is giving you an introduction from which you can get started. It’s up to you to research the method further so that you are well prepared.

Intermittent Fasting

You know that fasting means not eating. Well at least I would think you would know that. Anyway, intermittent fasting has been proven by a hell of a lot of research to be very effective in both fat loss and in health. Some sources indicate that intermittent fasting can increase insulin sensitivity, reduce systemic inflammation and helps to regulate the digestive process.


Since the 1970s, fitness and nutrition gurus have told you that going too long without eating will cause you to enter “starvation mode” and begin to store more fat. You’ve been told that you should eat 5-6 small meals per day and fasting is not the best thing for health and fat loss. The current scientific literature indicates that this old-school approach is incorrect. Don’t take my word for it, just on google and search “intermittent fasting research” and then click on the scholarly articles.


How?: There are a number of methods of intermittent fasting. These are defined by the amount of time you fast, how frequently you fast and the window of time you allow yourself to eat. I utilize intermittent fasting by not eating from about 11pm until about 6-7pm the following day. My fasts are 18-20 hours daily. Other methods include daily fasting for anywhere from 14-18 hours, or fasting a full 24-48 hours for just one block per week.


Caveat: Intermittent fasting is designed to limit overeating by reducing the window of time you permit yourself to eat. A major benefit is that if you enjoy stuffing your face with large meals, you can do that to a certain extent. However there are two things to keep in mind at all times… Firstly, ensure that you don’t fall short of your daily calorie goal. You may be eating less often, but you still need to meet your calorie goal. And secondly, ensure that the food you eat is at least 85% quality, nutrition dense food. It’s easy to want to break a fast with KFC, but doing that daily will eventually lead to nutritional deficiencies.


Keep in mind there will be an adjustment period. I train in the evenings before I eat. I don’t find that my blood sugar feels particularly low. I don’t get faint or light-headed etc. That’s because my body is used to it after over a decade. My body has trained itself to utilize fat stores for energy until I am able to replace the energy afterwards with a major meal. Don’t jump in the deep end here, start gradually with shorter fasting periods and increase it from there. Play around with it until you find what suits you best.

If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM)

Technically, all nutrition plans should be IIFYM. Everyone should learn the amount of carbs, protein and fat is best for your given goal. IIFYM is a method that utilises eating within your target macro-nutrient numbers and calories without any other specific eating pattern changes.

Use online resources to calculate your daily number of carbs protein and fat in grams, specific to your weight, age, gender, goal, activity levels etc. Also calculate the raw number of calories as a back-up resources. There are only two rules, and only the first one is a rule, the second is simply a recommendation…

1.       Eat whatever you like as long as it fits within your macro-nutrient numbers. This means you can indulge in your favourite junk food, as long as it doesn’t push you outside you macro and calorie numbers.

2.       The let-down is that you should aim to get enough daily quality nutrition. This includes vitamins, minerals, antioxidants etc. Technically, you can lose fat eating nothing but chocolate biscuits and bowls of mayonnaise. But in terms of health, this is not best practice and is not sustainable in the long term.


Strict Dieting

Under most circumstances, ultra-strict dieting is not ideal. In theory, it’s the most effective form of nutrition plan one can follow. However adherence is a major obstacle.

Strict dieting is much like IIFYM, however emphasis is also placed on how “clean” foods are. A good example of strict dieting is a bodybuilder preparing for a competition. These athletes spend, on average, 12-16 weeks preparing for competition. In that time they will aim to get down as low as 3% body fat.

Why do we include strict dieting as a possible method you can use? It’s all about individual preference. Some people find self-control to be difficult. In these people, an all or nothing approach is necessary.

How? Start by working out your daily macros and your daily calorie requirement/restriction. Then devise a strict plan of only purely clean and healthy foods. With strict dieting, there is no indulging. You’ll be eating a lot of vegetables, lean meats such as steam chicken breast, brown rice etc.

Duration: Strict dieting is not designed to be a lifelong plan. The idea of this form of dieting is to diet down in similar fashion to a bodybuilder. The duration can be anywhere from 6-12 weeks, but I wouldn’t recommend any longer than 12 weeks. After a dieting block, you will go back to normal eating. But normal I don’t mean completely falling off the wagon and stuffing your face. You will simply allow indulgent foods back into your diet, while still maintaining some level of macro and calorie control. You should spend between 2-4 weeks NOT on the diet before doing another 12-16 week block. The number of dieting blocks you will do, of course depends on how much fat you have to lose.

A word on weight gain…. Strict dieting is something generally used by those wanting to reduce their body fat. However it can be applied to those wanting to gain weight, while remaining lean.

Fluctuating Calorie Restriction

Calorie restriction (as well as intermittent fasting) has been shown in many studies to increase longevity. In other words, long term calorie restriction is associated with longer lifespans.

Calorie restriction is exactly as it sounds, it means significantly reducing the number of calories one consumes to well below baseline maintenance levels. This is not a sustainable practice, as deprivation is not a pleasant thing to endure for long periods of time. Therefore, calorie restriction should be applied in an undulating, fluctuating pattern.

How? Significantly reduce the calories you consume to approximately 50% of what you would normally eat for baseline maintenance. Calories should be restricted for only short periods of time, such as 3-5 days at a time. After a period of calorie restriction, spend an equal amount of time eating normally. By normally, I mean eating baseline maintenance calories, not excessive binging.

The Truth on Common Nutrition Myths

Eating carbs before bed will make you fat: Weight gain and weight loss is a result of the number of calories you eat on average per day. The time of day you consume your calories has no bearing on whether it will be used or stored.

If you go more than a few hours without eating, your body enters “starvation mode”, meaning you’ll store more fat. This also applies to calorie restriction over a prolonged period: This is somewhat true, but only loosely. Your basal metabolic rate will start to slow down after a period of approximately 60 hours of fasting. That’s 60 hours with zero calories, which I would not recommend. Similarly, you will have the same effect if you significantly restrict calories over several weeks or months. But this effect is quite extreme, and as such requires extreme circumstances. Not eating for several hours or moderate calorie restriction will NOT impact your basal metabolic rate.

There is a metabolic window after training. You won’t gain muscle mass, and may even lose muscle mass, if you don’t consume a protein-rich meal within 30 minutes of training: It’s true that you need sufficient calories, and sufficient protein in order to gain muscle mass. However it’s not as time-sensitive as this “anabolic window” theory would suggest. It takes significant calorie restriction before muscle is used as an energy source. After you lift weights, your muscles don’t go into an immediate building phase. There is some signaling involved, but the recovery and building process is fairly slow. Muscles begin to repair, grow and get stronger mostly as you sleep. This is a time for muscles to adapt to the stresses and demands that have been placed on them. As long as you are consuming adequate calories and protein some time before you sleep, your muscles will adapt and grow.


A Word On Macro-Nutrients

Carbohydrates: Carbs, put simply are energy. Carbs include sugar as well as starches. They are necessary for normal function and they are not the enemy. Carbs, as a general rule, do not magically convert into fat cells. For the most part, only fat becomes fat, contrary to popular belief. Excess carbs, as in gross excess, provided they contribute to a calorie surplus, will inhibit your ability to utilize dietary energy and will therefore lead to fat gain. But carbs in themselves, provided there is no calorie surplus, will not lead to fat gain.

Fat: Dietary fat is the substance that will lead to fat storage for the most part. Fat will only be stored, again, if there is a calorie surplus. There are some mistaken beliefs on fat. We have the ultra low fat diets of the 80s and 90s, where fat is an enemy. Then we have the modern diet such as Atkins, paleo, bulletproof etc. These two approaches are excessively one-sided and are not backed by sufficient evidence. Fat is necessary, and that includes all types of natural fats, except trans fats. The poly and monounsaturated fats serve to balance out the omega 3, 6 and 9 ratio. Saturated fats, such as that found in animal products, are also essential, but in moderation. Fats, especially those high in cholesterol, are essential for hormone production. Without cholesterol you can’t produce sex hormones such as testosterone. Other fats are building blocks for nerve cells, connective tissue and in keeping your triglycerides within the correct ratios.

On the other hand, excessive fat has a detrimental effect. Fat is quite dense in calories by weight, in comparison to the other two macros. Therefore excessive fat consumption can easily lead to a calorie surplus. Saturated fat, particularly the kind derived from animal products, can lead to inflammation and blockage of arteries. Fat is essential, but not in the way that paleo or bulletproof would have you believe.


Protein: Protein is the only nutrient that contributes to the growth of tissues other than fat tissue. You can’t grow muscle mass or even maintain it without protein. Vegetable proteins contribute to this effect, however it’s incomplete, in that it does not contain the full range of amino acids. Animal proteins are generally complete proteins, they contain all essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids.


Nutritional Guidelines For Weight Gain

Most nutritional guidelines pertain to fat loss. In this section we will look at some basic guidelines for weight gain, namely muscle hypertrophy.


The following are a set of simple nutritional guidelines for muscle hypertrophy….

1.       Set a goal weight and eat for your target, not your current body: From that goal weight, work out your calories and macro-nutrient numbers and eat for your goal weight, not your current weight. There are plenty of online tools for this.

2.       Eat more frequently: One of the main obstacles to weight gain is not eating enough. The fewer meals you have the harder it is to eat enough calories. Get in the habit of eating more frequently in order to fit in more calories. This is not essential, but it helps. If you’re someone that can easily eat enough calories and adequate macros in fewer meals, then do so. But for those that struggle to get the food in, eating more frequently is a way to do it.

3.       Eat faster: An obstacle for many people in gaining weight is that they are unable to eat enough food. Every single under-eater I have ever met eats slowly. This is great for fat loss and preventing fat gain. However it’s not conducive to appreciable muscle gain. Spend some time force feeding yourself to eat faster. It takes time for your body to register that you’re full. Eating faster allows you to fit in more calories before registering that you’re full.

4.       Get enough of each macro-nutrient, but particularly protein: We have spoken about macros a number of times on this page. Although protein is essential for everyone, it deserves specific attention for muscle gain. Muscles are, themselves, protein. When you train, recover and gain muscle mass, it’s the protein you consume that is synthesized into new muscle tissue.


Nutritional Guidelines for Performance

Performance nutrition is not all that different than nutrition for the average person. What you eat plays a big role in how you function. An athlete needs to maintain a certain level of muscle mass as well as maintaining certain weight requirements. You can’t be a good high jumper if you’re too heavy. You can’t be a good shot putter or rugby front rower if you’re not heavy enough or strong enough. Also, an athlete, at any level, is placing greater stress on their body than the average person due to greater training demands. For this reason, there are some guidelines that relate specifically to athletes more than to the average person.

For endurance athletes, such as road cyclists, long-distance runners etc: Endurance athletes put their bodies under a high level of physical stress. This means an extremely high caloric expenditure during training and events as well as a lot of physiological stress on bones, muscles and connective tissue. Endurance athletes must remain quite light, and therefore are unable to eat a caloric surplus. It can be a thin line between surplus and deficit, and endurance athletes can’t afford either. Therefore there is a requirement to be quite precise to maintain body weight without losing or gaining too far either side.

As well as caloric intake needs, endurance athletes can cause extreme stress on just about every system. It’s therefore imperative to avoid any deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, which is quite common in endurance athletes. Electrolytes are often depleted due to extreme training volume, and therefore must be monitored and balanced. Oftentimes, endurance athletes will be iron-deficient, which is due to the stress on the digestive system from high-volume training. Therefore iron consumption, blood monitoring and supplementation may be necessary. Endurance athletes often require higher than average micro-nutrient consumption to combat the depletion resulting from high-volume training.

For strength and power athletes such as sprinters, shot putters, powerlifters, jumping events etc: Power athletes put their bodies under a decent level of stress, however the volume is nowhere near that of an endurance athlete. Therefore the need to monitor micro-nutrients and nutritional deficiencies is not quite as important. Having said that, there is still physiological stress that still needs to be monitored.

There are three things to consider with strength and power athletes…

a)       Weight requirements such as maintenance of muscle mass. In most strength and power based athletes, muscle mass is important. Losing muscle could be detrimental to performance. So macros need to be sufficient, but particularly protein requirements. When in doubt, err on the side of excess when it comes to protein.

b)      Energy requirements. Strength and power and anaerobic metabolism in general, requires the right types of energy. There are two things important to high-intensity activity; the first is simple, fast-acting carbohydrates. Things that raise insulin rapidly, such as sugar, are important for performance. The strength and power athlete can’t rely purely on slow-burning energy from fats. Simple carbs such as sugars are best consumed immediately before and immediately after training and competing. The other is creatine. Creatine supplementation is perhaps the most important breakthrough in performance nutrition possibly forever. You’ll produce your own creatine and you’ll consume it through animal products. However I recommend supplementation with creatine monohydrate combined with simple carbs such as sugary cordial (but not fruit juice, as fructose does not raise insulin).

c)       Hormonal requirements. Strength and power athletes need adequate muscle mass and the ability to utilize that muscle in an explosive, high force manner. Deficiencies in key hormones such as human growth hormone and testosterone will severely impair your ability to act explosively and to produce force. Therefore the strength and power athlete needs to consume adequate fats, even a little more than the average person. This must be balanced between equal amounts of saturated fats, cholesterol and each of the unsaturated fat types.


In a Nutshell

There are no magic nutritional methods that apply to all people. Nutrition is a highly individual thing. There are so many factors involved, such as your goal, your lifestyle, your current body type, what you can afford etc.

Quality of nutrients and the composition of your diet is important. You need to get enough micro-nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. You need to ensure you get a good balance of all types of fats. However when it comes to weight loss or weight gain, the calorie is king. A deficit means you will lose weight, a surplus will ensure you gain weight. It’s really that simple.

For most people, adherence is the obstacle. For this reason, the nutritional plan you follow must be something you know you can stick to. For some people that means being allowed indulgences along the way. Whereas others need periods of all-or-nothing strict dieting or they fall completely off the wagon. Whether you’re losing weight, gaining weight, eating for health etc, you need to choose a method that you know you will adhere to and then be consistent.

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Nutritional guidelines, nutritional recommendations, intermittent fasting, caloric restriction, increased longevity, Nutritional guidelines, nutritional recommendations, intermittent fasting, caloric restriction, increased longevity, Nutritional guidelines, nutritional recommendations, intermittent fasting, caloric restriction, increased longevity, Nutritional guidelines, nutritional recommendations, intermittent fasting, caloric restriction, increased longevity