The Countdown Begins....

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So you set the date! For what? It doesn’t matter, it could be a wedding, a holiday, any special event the point is you have put it in the diary, its circled and you have now made a commitment. There is NO getting out of it anymore.

Setting a date is one of the most powerful weapons and motivators to get people to start their health and fitness journey and actually take it seriously, but why? The answer is simple, the clock is now ticking. You now feel the hands of time moving and NOT in your favour, because every day, hour, minute and second now brings you closer to your event.

However, this is not a bad thing, because this means you have a clear focus on your goal! Let me tell you from experience there are few things more driven than a bride hell bent on looking perfect and fitting into her dress on her special day!

When a date is set, a person tends to do things that perhaps they normally wouldn’t, they start to look more closely at their nutrition they take their training more seriously, all because they want to look good and feel great for whatever it was they have planned! Walking on the beach shirtless or in a bikini is a great example and one that I can personally relate to (shirtless, not the bikini)

We have an increased sense of determination, when it comes to what we eat, and may ask ourselves “do I really want this donut” or “do I really want that extra slice of pizza” when normally we may not have even thought twice about it. To be honest we start doing things, that perhaps we should ALWAYS have been doing, and this is why setting the date is so useful its often the kick up the backside most of us need.

Setting the date is so powerful, and it’s something many of us in the body building world do, except we call it “prep”. Prep is the process by which we have spent an “off season” building up our bodies mass, and there are many ways of doing this, some being better and more effective than others, but we do this up until we select our first competition of the season. As SOON as this is done, the clock begins ticking for us again. In this part of the process we change our diets towards the goal and focus our efforts on burning of the fat, perhaps by changing elements of our training but definitely by changing how we diet, and in some cases we will put our bodies through hell to ensure that come show day, we will look at our physical peak (even if we may not feel it) all to win that trophy. Interestingly, the process for a body builder (whatever category) and they laymen is very similar, the major difference is the level of intensity or extremeness that you are going to push yourself. Remember that when a body builder competes they are going against other people doing the same things, so they will push their bodies to the limit and beyond to achieve their goal, but does Simon from accounting want to do the same thing, if he is just wanting to look and feel better on the beach, hell no! he is only “competing” with himself, so he may do a lot of the same processes as the body builder but not to the same degree! What I mean is the rules of burning fat will be the same, calorie deficit and being more active, incorporating the structures to achieve a physique we are happy with.

The “date” is another way of creating a focus or motivation to inspire us to make a change to our lifestyle, to achieve something that will ultimately make us feel good about ourselves.

Often one of the first questions I ask my clients after they tell me their goal, is if there is a time frame. I do this because firstly it tells me if there is an underlying motivation behind their goal, but also helps me workout if their goal is even realistic. If a client’s goal is to lose 2 stone in say 12 weeks? Well yes that is achievable its hard but it can be done! If however their goal is to say lose 7 stone in 8 weeks, well that is unrealistic and the client needs to be made aware of the reality of what they are asking, (you would be amazed at how much some people underestimate the work needed).  Here setting the date takes on another useful albeit sometimes a cruel tool, it can highlight the reality of what the individual is wanting to achieve. Any goal in health and fitness (to an extent) is fairly achievable given an adequate time frame, but if your goal is unrealistic it can be a double edged sword, it can make you realise the reality of what you want to achieve, and understand the true level of commitment it will take to achieving your goal. A good example is that in weight loss aiming for 1-2lbs a week is about the maximum you should aim for consistently so 4-8 lbs over a month is health going. The problem is that when confronted with the scale of the task at hand some people are put off by the amount of hard work and rather than get started, will either give up, or continue to look for a quick and easy solution (which doesn’t exist or at least isn’t permanent). In truth setting the date actually reveals the kind of person you are deep down and this realisation can often be an uncomfortable truth to realise for some, and others a challenge that they relish.

I love setting the date as to me it creates a challenge and my own nature is very competitive and I found personally there is no better opponent than myself, however there is one serious problem with the “date” approach, and that is when it arrives, whether or not you meet your goal is almost irrelevant at this point. If you started and were consistent in your approach you may not have achieved the goal but you will sure as hell be a lot better than when you started! And people WILL have noticed! The problem now comes AFTER, the big “what now” with out that date, that focus and motivation can easily disappear if you let it. You can easily find reasons to go back to your old ways and slip back into your old self, and therein lies the problem.

The “date” should only be a means of getting started and personally I use them a lot but when you achieve your goal, you need to ask yourself a hard question “do I want to go back?”, if the answer is yes... then why did you begin in the first place…truly? You wouldn’t have started if you were honestly happy back then and if the answer is no, well guess what you have just laid an EXCELLENT foundation to work from! From this point on your life has changed you have proven you can get it done! Or make serious progress to a goal when you put your mind to it! and now you continue on this route of self-improvement.

Setting the date is a great start! But it is not the end of the journey, at least not on ROUTE 1

Enjoy Yourself! but not TOO much ;)

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So your going on holiday and you you’re beginning to stress about putting on weight and undoing the months of hard work you have put in before you get there.

What do you do?

Well first things first! DON’T stress! At the end of the day it’s a holiday! Relax and enjoy yourself! If you’re going to stress out what is the point of you even having one.

In truth at most you are only going to put on a couple of lbs if that, after all it takes 3500 calories above your maintenance to put on 1lb of fat. Think about it, that means if your maintenance calories is 2500 for example, that means to put on 1lb, you must eat 6000 calories! in one day! And it is unlikely you are going consume that much every single day of your holiday so don’t sweat it.

Whilst we are on the topic of sweat, I’m a lot of the extra lbs your going to gain is going to simply be water weight, remember alcohol is basically carbs and cause water retention, for every gram of carb you consume your body can hold an extra 2.7g to 4g of water! So on 300g a day of carbs that means you could potentially hold onto 1.2kg of water, and this will quickly vanish once you get home and return back to your old routine and diet habits. So in the grand scheme of things if you go away for a week, then the damage you are realistically going to do is minimal.

Also stress, is NOT great for weight gain, the raising of a stress hormone called cortisol can further increase water retention and fat storage on the mid-section, so if you need any more reason to chill out on holiday then that is it!

 

Ok so we have tackled the stress aspect and put into perspective the reality of how much “damage” your going to do on holiday, now let’s discuss the steps you can take to mitigate them whilst your away.

Firstly, stay active! If you can get to a gym great! But even if we have the best of intentions to go, whether it be a local gym or the hotel gym, the likelihood is we probably wont, maybe once or twice but not regularly. So what can we do instead, we the simple thing is to walk, and this is something you will probably be doing a lot of anyway! Steps add up and these will burn calories, you will probably find in reality you will be doing more walking on holiday than you do when you home anyway! So that is a great first step in minimising the effects of the “holiday diet”.

The next is to “try” and track your food, don’t fall out of this habit, at the end of the day a “best guess” will give you’re a rough idea, and is better than having no idea at all. I’m not saying to not enjoy your food, what I am saying is simply just keep an idea of what you’re eating, you will probably realise that is isn’t even as bad as you think!

Another good one is to get involved! A lot of holiday have great active events you can take part in, whether it be hikes, water sports, dancing, whatever take part! All these things will help burn those calories!

Try to get a workout in when you can! This is simply to keep up the habit, whether it be a hotel room workout, beach workout, early morning run. Doing something will be better than nothing, and keeping up the habit will make it so much easier to go back to the gym when you get home. One of the hardest things about a holiday isn’t the holiday but the effects after, breaking a routine for more than 3 days can make it very difficult to get straight back into it when your home. So doing your best to keep it up whilst away means you don’t skip a beat when you get home, and can get back on track quicker and keep chasing your progress.

But remember the most important thing about your holiday…. ENJOY it, have fun! That’s what its therefore, live, make memories and don’t stress! After all you have the rest of the year to stress out ;)

Target Aquired! - spot targeting the body

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So we all have those specific areas of the body that we want to improve, to target that belly fat, maybe we have our sights set on increasing the size of our arms, bum or legs, maybe there is a specific area you just want to tone up?

These areas can suddenly add pressure and stress to us, especially if we have an event or holiday coming up which is going to put them on show.

So you begin to focus on these specific areas, but can it be done? Can you focus on one area? And SHOULD you?

Target fat loss

For many of us, we simply want to lose fat in one or a couple of areas, some may LIKE where some fat is on the body and not others. So the question many want the answer to is “can you spot target fat loss?” Well unfortunately the simple answer here is no.

When you think about it logically, every physical action with your body uses energy and your body will burn calories to provide you with energy. Your body isn’t even picky where it gets this energy from, fat or sugar, (though sugar is easier to use for the body, and it will try to use that first). So your body will use energy and burn fat from wherever it can.

There is SOME evidence that the body will burn fat in a certain order, and this seems to be related to areas of high blood flow. Areas with a greater amount of blood flow will burn fat first as an area of the body where it has easy access to the energy. So think arms, legs, neck, basically your extremities, but this means that areas of lower blood flow will find it harder to burn fat as the body has a harder time accessing those areas for resources.

I’m sure many have noticed that when they start to lose weight, the first place they tend to lose weight around the face/neck, arm and legs first, and it takes longer to lose it from the belly and the back. For women it is slightly different due to their bodies increased need for hormonal stasis, and it will naturally store around 8-12% more fat compared to men and the addition of breast tissue as well.

You can see examples of this in professional sport, where one part of the body has a more dominant part compared to another, for instance a tennis players forehand arm, or a cricket bowlers/ baseball pitchers throwing arm, you expect these areas to have a lower body fat percentage compared to their “weaker arm” however, though the muscular development may be different the body fat % remains virtually the same.

This study by Yale university does a great Job of explaining this: http://www.yalescientific.org/2011/04/targeted-fat-loss-myth-or-reality/

 

Target the muscle

So we can’t target fat loss, but can we target a muscle? HELL YES YOU CAN! Often when we start out in the gym we quickly find areas in which we excel and areas in which we lag behind, and this is perfectly natural. Depending on what we do for hobbies, jobs etc. our bodies may have developed to have certain areas that dominate others. This often means that we MUST train out weaker areas to get a much more well rounded body and also to address a muscular imbalance.

After all when the whole body is operating at max efficiency you will be able to burn the most calories in the shortest time and in turn burn fat faster.

Targeting muscles is very much doable and this is often a key staple of the body building industry where athletes will try to address areas of weakness to develop and achieved that “perfect” physique. The trick here is to not sacrifice other areas in the pursuit of a singular focus.

You need to treat the body as a whole project and not get too hopped up on a single area.

If you want to get great abs, it’s not all about hundreds of crunches, doing squats and deadlifts will also help develop that area, as heavier weights need a stronger core. Having said that those exercises will also help develop other muscle groups as well.

In the gym though there are many machines that will allow you to isolate a particular muscle to ensure that it is getting the most possible development.

An interesting illusion that can be seen especially in the body building industry is that through developing muscle you can actually create the appearance of less body fat, as your body shape begins to change. Obviously fat will reduce naturally if you are a caloric deficit but if your developing muscle mass, the fat has to “stretch” to cover more mass making it appear less.

 

So should you target a specific muscle?

If you are addressing a specific muscular imbalance or weakness then yes, it goes without saying that that particular area will require more focus, BUT this doesn’t mean you should ignore any other area of the body, what this means is you will simply have a greater workload added to your current workload. Don’t sacrifice or ignore certain areas of your body, just because you want to focus on one area.

I actually have had experience with young men in the gym who just train chest and arms, I enjoy calling them “chimps” as their bodies begun to hunch and they take on a chimp like stature, these guys rarely train back and NEVER train legs. This is to their detriment, because they want that wide looking chest and to make the chest look wide you MUST train back to pull you into a good posture and prevent you from hunching forward looking narrow.

Ignoring legs is foolish as these lads think they aren’t important as “people won’t see them unless I’m on the beach”. Aside from the fact your stopping yourself being able to wear shorts without looking ridiculous, your ignoring nearly half your bodies muscle mass. This means that by ignoring this your reducing your bodies need to produce testosterone, the main muscle growth hormone in adults, in turn reducing your ability to build the arms and chest you want.

So YES feel free to add a specific focus to a desired body part, but don’t do so at the cost of the rest of the body.

How to Gain size and Build Muscle

How to grow some muscle!

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 So you have a clear goal for your body! you want to build some size, most probably looking to increase some muscle mass! Good having a clear goal is essential! The difficult thing now is going to be sticking to it!

Ok so we have our goal, what next what do we do from now? Well firstly your port of call should be assessing your diet! Ultimately that will determine whether or not you gain or lose weight!

If you’re a male I would encourage looking at making sure 40% of your diet is protein and between 30-40% is carb and the rest good fats, you will also NEED to make sure you are in a calorie surplus! I’d recommend looking at around 5-10% surplus to get started and see how you get on! With a good structure in your diet, and a complimenting workout you should maximise muscle gain while keeping fat gain to a minimum.

THAT being said, there will be SOME fat gain, this is inevitable, you can’t avoid it, you must accept it, it’s a part of the process, and is often the single biggest thing stopping people from gaining.

Try to think of it like this, it’s a curtain at intermission in a stage show, a lot of work is going on behind that curtain, and then when you switch gears to fat burning later to reveal to muscle gain, that is the curtain raise!

This is what all body builders do, athletes do, what most intelligent amateurs do, and it’s what I do.

 

Understanding Energy

 

So now that we have a goal in mind we need to establish, how do we get there?

Well firstly there is a little bit of body science we should become familiar with, as these play a pretty big role in what results you achieve in the gym? What would you say if I told you that the same exercise can achieve vastly different results when done at different intensities and different periods of time? Shocking right! This is due to how we use our bodies energy systems of which there are 3, but they fall into 2 different categories:

·       Anabolic – The category which is more focused on muscle growth

·       Catabolic – the category that is more focused on muscle consumption

The first two energy systems we are going to discuss are primarily focused within the anabolic category, and are focused towards developing muscle mass, and improving conditioning, whereas the latter is focused a lot more towards exercises that are catabolic in nature, these tend to be exercises geared towards more cardiovascular fitness.

Energy systems

So let’s go over these energy systems, what they do and how they work.

1.      ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) system – This is your bodies first port of call, when it comes to energy. Before your body uses sugar stored in the muscles it will use ATP and creatine phosphate (CP) which the breaks into ATP. This is an energy source that requires no oxygen and is responsible to your initial bang when you train. Your body can only store a very limited supply of this within your muscles at any one time and when you start training it will only take between 8-10 seconds to run out. If you watch Olympic 100m sprinters they are using purely this system alone, and often don’t even look to be out of breath at the end, this is because their bodies have used little to no oxygen during that event. Their training is usually gear more towards leg POWER rather than endurance, so they train primarily for anabolic results as they don’t need to last a long period of time. It is also why their legs in particular their quads look so impressive as that is the area they focus on to be the best at their sport. They need to be fast for a short space of time, so train mostly in a way to enhance their power which in maths and science terms is force x speed = power.  For your body to recover around 90% of its CP stories it will take around 3 minutes.

 

2.      Lactic system – the second primary energy system, after your body has used up the ATP+CP stored in the muscles it will start to break down the sugar (known as glycogen) stored there to produce more, this process requires oxygen to do so. This process is extremely efficient up until around 45 seconds when your body can’t get enough oxygen in, to produce the ATP. At this stage the body can still use the glycogen to produce energy but it will also start producing a product known as lactic acid, at this stage you will begin to feel the “burn” in your muscles, this is the first stage of fatigue.

 

3.      Aerobic system- the final energy system, at this point the body will now begin to break down muscle tissue and fatty acids to provide the body with the energy it requires. It is heavily reliant on an efficient cardio- vascular system so that you can provide enough oxygen to the body in order for it to. This latter energy system tends to be engaged more with longer periods of exercise, that focus on cardio efficiency, such as distance running etc. it is also inherently catabolic in nature (consumes muscle mass). A great example of these differences is comparing a sprinter and a marathon runner, one is focused on short burst speed and power, and the other more on endurance, one needs to reduce their weight as much as possible to improve cardio efficiency over time and the other is about delivering as much power as quickly as possible.

 

The only 2 systems we are bothered at all about right now, will be the first two as they are the ones concerned with muscle growth! The third system is concerned more with endurance development! Think difference between sprinter and marathon runner.

 

How to structure the workout

 

So now we have an understanding of the bodies energy systems, and we understand what our specific goals are, as well as how to structure our nutrition, the question now is how do we apply these to you?

Ok well ideally, there is no getting around this regardless of what your sex is, the best way to develop muscle mass and burn fat, will be in a gym. Now I know that this can cause a lot of anxiety as perhaps you have been to the gym before and failed because you didn’t know what you were doing, but remember this book is all about allowing you to walk into one with confidence, and although there are some fantastic home workouts available, they usually have a limited level of effectiveness as your body adapts to the workout, and progression stalls, unless you have equipment at home, a gym allows for consistent progression as the equipment provided will allow you to push past plateaus, with increased weights etc.

If your goal is specifically burn fat, and or build muscle, the best method of training will be to make use of your bodies Anabolic systems. So ideally weight and resistance training, with some limited cardio.

Now that may make many women apprehensive, as there is often a fear that weights will make women bulky and masculine, allow me to take this opportunity to say that this is extremely unlikely to happen. This is due to a number of fundamental reason, the first and most prominent one, is women have a significantly reduced amount of the male hormone testosterone which is hormone, largely responsible to men’s ability to significantly increase their muscle mass, compared to women. Due to this for a woman to achieve the same amount of muscle mass relative to a male, she would need to eat a significant amount of food, to fuel growth, whilst increasing her bodies testosterone amounts.

Also if the goal is to burn fat, we will be eating in a deficit, so your body will be unable to truly grow significant muscle, as your body will be more concerned with trying to keep what it has, as there isn’t enough fuel to grow, as muscle can only grow in a calorie surplus.

So ladies, do not fear the weights and resistance machines, because they will make you look masculine, they won’t, they will merely allow you to sculpt the figure you desire! Worrying about looking like a bodybuilder, is the same as thinking that running on a treadmill will turn you into an Olympic sprinter! In truth many of the super models, such as Victoria secret angels, and social media models incorporate weight and resistance programmes to look the way they do!

The training for fat loss, and muscle gain are actually very similar, the biggest difference between them, is nutrition! A structured calorie surplus will fuel muscle growth, and a deficit, fat loss. The appropriate training programme will basically determine if you maximise muscle gain and minimise fat gain, or maximise fat loss and minimise muscle loss.

 

How many Reps?

Right now I’m going to provide a simple chart, that represents the best rep ranges to operate in whilst working out to achieve specific effects.


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So what does this chart mean when we look at it? Well the areas in Yellow represent the most prominent effect within those specific rep ranges. So as you can see muscle strength and power are most effective up 6 reps, what this means is that you will be able to lift you biggest weights but only be able to do them over a short period. Continuous training, within these ranges will see your body improve in the maximum weight it can lift, thus increasing your strength and power. When you consider the amount of time it will take for you be able to perform these reps you can reasonably assume that on average you won’t take much longer that 10 seconds to complete them, which is firmly within the ATP system.

From 6 reps up to 12 we see that hypertrophy becomes most effective in this range. Hypertrophy is what we call muscle gain, at this level you will still be able to lift between 80-70% of your maximum ability but you will be able to do it for a little bit longer comparted to strength and power which would be 100-80% of your maximum capacity but for a shorter period. As you can see though in this chart power and strength training can still be achieved in this range, just to a lesser extent. Now if you can imagine the time it takes to perform 12 reps it isn’t much over 30 seconds which again keeps us within the anabolic ranges, but we have now moved into the lactic energy system, and this is where you will begin to feel a burn creep into your muscles and fatigue begins to set in.

The funny thing is here that within the hypertrophic range, this tends to be the best for both fat burn and muscle gain goals. This is because whilst in surplus you are giving your body the fuel to build muscle, whilst in deficit you are trying to make your body build muscle without providing the fuel, so all it will do in essence is maintain the muscle it can as best as it can, and the calories your using will end up coming from the fat as your body is using protein to preserve the muscle.

Muscular endurance comes from around 12 reps onwards, and is usually performed at a lighter weight, often done to eke out the final bits of energy remaining to “finish off” a particular muscle group, or at the beginning of a workout as a warm up and to pump blood into a muscle group. Most fitness classes will work the muscular endurance/ aerobic zone. This isn’t to say you won’t develop muscle and tone, but it is a more catabolic way of training. Classes, if you’re in a calorie deficit will burn fat, there is no doubt, but they aren’t a focused approach to your specific goal.

So you should consult this chart to help you work out how many reps you should be doing per exercise, to achieve the results that you want.

Often when I’m providing a programme for an individual I consult them on their goals and then work on this basis to get them to where they want to be, and it has been without a doubt my most successful approach so far!

So if a client wants to improve the muscle mass, I tend to develop their strength, so they can maximise the weight they can lift, and then move into hypertrophic range so they are getting the very most out of their muscles for development, and cycle between these two to prevent the body adapting, and providing continuous results, with this style to I tend to have them do more sets (a group of reps) with longer rest periods to allow to for as maximum output as possible.

For fat loss, I tend to cycle the client around the 10-12 rep range of hypertrophy, however I will minimise their rest periods (which I will explain shortly) to enhance their fat burning potential, and cause fatigue quicker.

 

Intensity and rest periods

 

Ok so now you know how many reps you should be doing in the gym, the question now is how intense should those reps be? And how long should you rest once you have completed a set of reps.

So with intensity, most personal trainer will work with something known as the RPE or rate of perceived exertion, this is often on a scale of 1-10, 1 being very easy and 10 being most difficult.

When writing a programme for a client I haven’t been in the gym with, I use this scale as it is much safer than telling you a specific weight to lift, as without knowing your capacity this could be extremely dangerous and lead to an injury.

So if your goal is to train for strength and power ideally you should be training between 10-8 on the RPE scale, (remember its maximal output over a short period) and for hypertrophy ideal between 8-7, fat loss I usually would suggest between 7.5-6.5 on the scale.

 

 

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Again this is a very simple breakdown, like everything so far just to allow you to go into the gym feeling confident in knowing what you should be doing. The goal remember is to keep things as simple as possible.

The next thing to consider is our rest periods, and the key to remember here, is that a longer rest will allow for a more maximal output during the reps. So power and strength training require more rest to allow the body to keep training at RPE 10-9 while lower RPE will require less rest, and also keep the heart rate up!

The more we keep the heart rate up, the faster our metabolism is working and therefore the more calories we are burning. This is why in my fat loss programme I would encourage much shorter rest times, than my muscle building/strength and power programmes respectively.

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So you can see here, roughly how long it takes for your body to recover after a set, and why to get the most out of each rep range, we should allow ourselves a specific amount of rest time.

·       Fat loss training – 30 seconds

·       Muscle building (hypertrophy) – between 1-2 minutes

·       Power and strength – 2 minutes +

So now we have the basics down on how to create a structured workout, so for an example if I was wanting to train for fat loss in the gym, firstly I am ensuring I’m eating in a calorie deficit. Then I would make sure that my workouts were ideally between 10-12 reps a set and that I wasn’t having much more than 30 seconds rest between them.

How many exercises per muscle group?

This part I am going to keep very short, as there are many different thoughts on this, and many different style of training, but for the sake of keeping things simple. Try not to go over 3 different exercises per muscle group.

An example being when training the chest:

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 So if your goal is muscle building i would consult the charts above and strucutre your workout accordingly! as well as making sure your in a diet surplus and you should beging to see consitent weight gain! and in particular the development of great muscle tissue!

IF you need any help with regards! to your training goals! helping to put size on or even strip fat! whatever your goal is contact me today! or check out what packages we have available at:

www.route1healthandfitness.com/packages

Planning A Head

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So its Friday! First day of the weekend, we take our work heads off and prepare to relax unwind and have a good time with our friends and family, as we should!

Honestly, I have no issue with anyone who wants to go out and have a good time, after all life is to be lived and it shouldn’t all be about lifting weights and counting calories all the time.

The truth is that the vast majority of people reading this, have zero interest of stepping onto a body building stage in the near future, so there is NO NEED for your diet to 100% perfect 100% of the time. If you eat well consistently, with a clear structure, hit your calorie targets regularly and train regularly you will see results as the goal he is about consistency!

This being said, if we are consistently going out at the weekends and not keeping one eye on what we are doing it is VERY easy to slip up!

I know we hate maths but, but doing sum will help make the point!

Let’s say you are trying to lose weight/fat and your diet is good and your consistently in a calorie deficit by 300 calories! awesome! This means that from Monday to Friday you will be 1500 calories to the good! 5x300=1500 ;) . That’s around about 1/3rd of a lb of fat which is fairly reasonable, but Friday comes around and we go out with our friends and we have 5 pints of larger (around 180 calories) or 5 glasses of red win (around 220) those QUICKLY add up! So let’s go in the middle of the two and say a drink is 200. 5 of them = 1000 calories! we have quickly eaten into the 1500 calories we earned during the week, but we go out on Saturday as well, and repeat the process and boom another 1000 calories! we are now worse off than where we started at the beginning of the week! All that hard work GONE!

This is the same story for SO many of us out there, and the choice for many is to either give up the journey, or take it to the extreme and give up their social life. Some will take up a drastic diet to try and make up the difference, but yo-yo dieting doesn’t solve the issue in the long term.

So what would I recommend? Simple… PLAN A HEAD, most nights we go out we are well aware of if days if not weeks in advance, this gives us plenty of time to prepare for it, so we can either stay on track, or at least limit the damage done.

·       My favourite strategy is to use a food tracker app, such as myfitnesspal, and preload the types of food and drinks I’m likely to have on that night out (just to get a best guess, it’s not going to be perfect). I then add this to my usual food intake for that day, and then I get a picture of the damage I am doing, it may be 500 calories over it could be 1500 calories over, maybe more! The main thing is, I now have an idea!

 

My next step is to try and create a buffer zone, to offset this big increase, so a couple days before I may start to give up a few snacks here and there, maybe that chocolate bar I usually have for a treat, that will save me 200 calories, maybe I don’t have my fried egg sand which for lunch that day and save another 400 calories there. You can see the though process here, by creating a slightly bigger increase in my weekly deficit before the weekend, I am creating a buffer that will allow me to go out and enjoy my weekend guilt free!

 

·       Do a little extra workout the day off or during a couple days before! Increasing your time on the cross trainer or working out for an extra half hour could easily increase your deficit a significant amount to help prepare for the night out! One of my favourite tactics is just to add 20 mins onto the x trainer, the day off and that usually gives me around another 300 calories! give or take.

 

·       Another great piece of advice is to pick 1 night of the weekend as your night out, a weekend bender is all well and good every once in a while but not every weekend. If you’re having a bender, make sure it’s for a rare special occasion! A stag do or something, otherwise just pick ONE night out. This way you can still go out have a great time and be social, but you’re also making yourself a priority and taking care of your body. This actually has a double benefit, by limiting the nights out to one a week, your limiting the damage to your overall goals, but also it means you have another day of feeling fresh to relax and do something different, like hiking with family, or going to the zoo with your children. You could use that other day to focus on mental pursuits instead of physical. So try to plan your weekends accordingly! Make sure you have a reason to NOT go out twice at the weekend, and make that reason a fun and social one! Heck just going to the park for a picnic, or the beach could be a great alternative.

 

This list could be endless if you sit down and really think about it, but the key here is just a little bit of planning. As the saying goes “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”

Here is a real life example, I recently went out for a meal and drinks and I was fully aware of where I was going, and had looked at their online menu. This allowed me to basically pre-pick my food and factor that into my daily allowance. I knew that there would be wine, and I myself am a fan of whiskey, so I was adding that into my nutrition as well, I could see that I was going to over my regular allowance by a good 1000 calories, so I removed my usual lunch from that day, as well as a couple of my protein bars and during my work out that day increased my cardio a little, by the end I had easily “earned” that extra 1000 calories back. This meant when I was out, I ate and drank guilt free knowing that yes, this food and drink may not be the best for me, but one meal isn’t going to do me much harm, and because I was still in deficit my body was going to burn through the alcohol and not increase my body fat, meaning I stay on track.

 

I hope this helps, ladies and gentleman!

So from here on I just want you to do a little planning so you can go out and enjoy your weekends more with zero guilt and keep on track to your goals!

I'm Intolerrant to your "gluten intolerance"!

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So, how many of you can put your hands up and said you're going gluten free? Really? Why though? Is it because you were told that gluten is bad for you? If so i'm very sorry to inform you that you have been misinformed! Gluten isn’t bad for you, or at least MOST of you and today, we are going to delve into the truth about gluten.

You see the truth is this, gluten is just a storage protein found in grains like wheat. It's there to help with germination (when a seed begins sprout), and gets extracted when we mill the grain into flour. It's vital when baking as it allows the wheat/flour to become doughy, pizza anyone!

Now, gluten does cause problems for those who have Celiac Disease,as they have a strong allergic type reaction to foods that contain it, symptoms of this include, diarrhea, bloating, weight loss, depression and anemia among others, and it makes them very ill after eating it. Essentially their body is fighting against the gluten and causing violent reactions internally, but fortunately it's estimated that true gluten intolerance only affects around 0.5-1% of the population.

There are other conditions such as NCGS (non celiac gluten sensitivity) which are effected by gluten but again the population of this is incredibly small at around 1% and again the symtoms here are usually far more severe than mild bloating and lethargy.

However JUST because you feel bloated after eating bread, or another baked good that makes use of yeast doesn't mean you are a celiac, yeast upon contact with moisture, expands and releases gas. This is what happens when it enters your stomach etc and how many people convince themselves they are “gluten intolerant”

But I felt awful after eating large pizza!?

Of course, you just ate a high calorie, high salt, high fat food. Nothing to do with the fact it has gluten in it.

“Yeah but BUT! eating gluten is making me fat!”

 

Well this is funny, because those who are celiac often have a symptom of losing weight! Whats making you fat is eating too many high calorie food that are putting you into a surplus, in other words you're eating too much and not moving enough!

A study from Harvard School of Public Health in March 2017 found that eating gluten was not significantly associated with weight gain, meaning that gluten is not causing you to gain fat it's also not preventing you from losing it.

“But when i stopped eating gluten i lost weight!”

Of course you did, by eliminating gluten foods you have cut out that pizza, cake at the tea rooms, that subway for lunch, basically you likely ate less calories leading to fat loss, without realising.

Sugar Isn't The Villain Here

So recently ive been on a bit of a roll blogging about carbohydrates, and this post is no different. Today we are dicsussing wether sugar deserves the bad reputation it has received in recent years through the media, and since sugar is a form of carbohydrate it is certainly worth discussing.

So is sugar really the villian that the media has portrayed to us in recent years? Is really that extra doughnut? Or slice of cake that is making you fat? Does all that sugar in a can of coke really make a difference?


Well here is the seriously interesting thing, and it’s that when you look at the data on sugar consumption and not the sensationalist media headlines, it has actually dropped since the 2000's, yet obesity has continued to rise unabated.

source: USDA Economic Research Service, image courtesy of Layne Norton Phd

source: USDA Economic Research Service, image courtesy of Layne Norton Phd

So why is this? Well, each year the US economic research centre releases a summary of food consumption patterns and it summarised:

"According to the loss-adjusted food availability data, Americans are consuming more calories per day than they did 40 years ago. In 1970, Americans consumed an estimated 2,039 calories per person per day; whereas in 2010, they consumed an estimated 2,536 calories (after adjusting for plate waste, spoilage, and other food losses).

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Of this 497-calorie increase, grains (mainly refined grains) accounted for 171 calories; added fats & oils, 225 calories; added sugar & sweeteners, 34 calories; fruit and vegetables, 10 calories; dairy, 27 calories; and meats, eggs, and nuts, 19 calories".

So we're eating about 500 more calories per day than the 1970's - that's equivalent to about a pound of fat per week, given that 1lb of fat is = to 3500 kcal, and 500 kcal x 7 days = 3500 kcal.

We're eating more refined grains (like cakes, buns and things containing flour etc) - easy to overeat as they have a very low satiety.

We're eating more fats and oils - the biggest increase in calorie intake, which are very calorie dense (fats containing 9 kcal per gram) and not very satiating (sorry keto fans).

So what about added sugar intake? A tiny 34 calorie increase in the last 40 years. THIRTY FOUR CALORIES!

Basically the issue here, is simply the calories, obesity is primarily linked to calorie excess, Fat containing 9 kcal per gram and Carbs (including sugar) 4 kcal per gram & Protein 4 kcal per gram. ANY of these eaten in excess, will lead to weight gain and all the associated health problems with it. The graphs above highlight this that its the increase in calories that have continued the trend of increased obesity, and that is what we need to focus on.

But, "Added sugar consumption is unhealthy" i hear you say, “that’s what the media tells me! That’s what Jamie Oliver and Davina Mccall tell me”.

Well, science also disagrees with that claim. A summary of the the clinical research to date on added sugar consumption and health found:

"We conclude that added sugars consumed in the normal forms in which humans consume them, at amounts typical of the human diet and for the time period studied in randomized controlled trials, do not result in adverse health consequences".

Which is basically a fancy way of saying: unless your  diet consists solely of coke, and haribo you should be ok.

Well… fair enough your dentist won’t love you, but you should be ok otherwise.




Water weight vs Fat loss

Firstly, this is NOT a post telling you to stop eating carbs, but i think some people need to understand something about them. for every gram of carbs you eat, your body will store 3 grams of water...

so 100g carb, = 300g water (net 400g weight increase)

so here's some perspective, if i eat 300g of carbs in a day, my body will then hold 900g of water which means a net gain of 1.2kg or over 2lbs

This is NOT fat, this is short term, and can partly explain the wild fluctuation we experience, daily and even hourly in our weight.

This is short term, and if handled correctly can be reduced fairly quickly. often its this water loss that is responsible for many diets, and shake plans causing you to lose "weight" and feeling less bloated.

so can we stop saying carbs are making us fat? they aren't... they may cause an increase in water retention, but overeating is what makes us fat!

so lets go over all of this in more detail!

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If you search “best diet for weight loss” on the internet recently, you will have probably found something called “the ketogenic diet,”which is essentially a rebranded Atkins diet. After a little bit of digging, your questions start to stack up:

  • How does keto work?

  • Will keto work for me?

  • Is it dangerous?

  • Does it burn fat?

  • Will i keep the results?

To answer these questions, we must first understand our body’s relationship with carbs and in particular glycogen.

Ok, what is glycogen?

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Is glycogen a carbohydrate? Well, sort of. Glucose (a type of sugar) is a carbohydrate that your body uses for fuel and glycogen is stored glucose. essentially when the body gets excess fuel, the glucose (sugar) molecules are linked together in a chain, producing longer units, called glycogen.

When we exercise and perform activity our bodies draw upon the glycogen tucked away in our muscles (i.e. glycogen stores) for fuel, which is why you hear about athletes “carb loading” in the days before a big race or match. They are fueling their bodies for extended periods of activity.

So where is glycogen stored?

Like we said above, some glycogen is stored in the muscles but there are also some glycogen stores in the liver (this is important for the water retention aspect, because as we absorb glucose our body will also retain sodium, which leads into the body holding more water. The glycogen stored in the liver is what keeps the body functions running (i.e., brain, digestive, and cardiovascular function).

Am I losing fat or water weight: Carbs and water retention

It’s common for those new to a low-carb lifestyle to lose a significant amount of weight at the very beginning of their carb restriction. That could mean four, 10 or even 12 pounds in the first two weeks depending on a person’s starting weight. You will often see these dramatic results as part of advertising for various fad diets, weight loss/shake plans. You might ask,”is this rate of weight loss sustainable” and the answer is simply, NO.

It’s all about the glycogen stores and the association between carbs and water retention.  Each gram of glycogen is associated with 3-4 grams of water, which i talked about at the very beginning. So, as your body burns its way through the reduced dietary carbs and into the glycogen stores, the water attached to the glycogen is lost as well resulting in the phenomenon commonly known as “losing water weight.” There’s no fat loss here yet, it’s like the glycogen and accompanying water are squeezed out of your muscles and liver, (any fat loss will come from a negative calorie intake, and will be much slower than water loss).

This also explains why plenty of folks experience an alarming weight loss, in a relative short space of time on diets like keto, or protein shake meal replacement diets, and also the vice versa, why people experience shocking weight gain the day following a “cheat meal.” Even if the ingested carbs are at a moderate level (i.e. consumption of a grilled cheese sandwich, not an entire deep-fried birthday cake), your liver and muscles snatch up as much glucose as they can take, including up to four grams of water to accompany each gram of glycogen. I myself experience a weight gain of over 10lbs in 2 days after consuming carbs after my final physique competition of the year, a result of being extremely carb depleted for and extended period of time. Psychologically for me it was important to remember this was water weight i had gain, and not fat.

Will i keep my results?

Well as i stated in the previous section, any fat loss will be the result of a calorie deficit/negative calorie diet. If you maintain the diet structure and activity level that allowed you to achieve this then YES, you will keep your  results. However, any ‘weight loss’ that is a results of simply a reduction in carbs and not calories, will NOT be fat loss, and as soon as you return to eating carbs, your body will hoover up the glucose and lead to the immediate return of water weight.

It is therefore important to understand the difference between ‘water weight’ and ‘fat loss’ and not to wrongly villianise carbs as evil food source that will make you fat.

Conclusion

  • Glycogen is a way the body stores glucose as energy for later

  • Consuming less than 100 grams of carbs per day will begin to deplete glycogen stores

  • Glycogen binds with water molecules; when the body uses glycogen, it results in a loss of “water weight”

  • Depleted glycogen stores will ultimately lead to a reduction in water weight

  • Water weight and fat are separate

  • Fat loss is a result of calorie deficit, but water loss is results or carb reduction

THE LIE ABOUT CARBS

lie about carbs.png

If you were unlucky enough to watch the abomination ‘THE TRUTH ABOUT CARBS’ on the BBC or on it's Iplayer, then it's time to set the record straight.

Dr Maassarani is a GP who thinks "Beige carbs" are somehow uniquely fattening. As has been covered elsewhere recently, GP's get next to no nutritional training, unfortunately. Not to be discouraged by a lack of training in the field of nutrition our Doc goes on to claim that: Most of the starch and sugar in these beige and white carbs are broken down into glucose for energy, and if you eat too much, the glucose is stored as fat.

Firstly, glucose is rarely, if ever, stored directly as body fat. Sorry Doc, that's just basic physiology. Suffice to say if you eat too much of anything- a calorie surplus -then you gain fat. Be that carbs, fat or protein. Carbs are not unique in this effect; yes Mr. Wicks, even those "healthy fats" can make you fat. But what's worse for our intrepid Doc is that he even lumps potatoes and rice into the beige claim!

Secondly, whilst there are studies that show that one person may have a differing sensitivity to carbs compared to the next person, which may alter the effectiveness and efficiency of their desired results, the overlying rule remains, calories in vs calories out; weight loss and weight gain goals are dictated by this principle. Further understanding how your body reacts to certain macro nutrients will certainly enhance the speed and effectiveness of your diet to you're desired results, but potatoes aren't why you put on weight, eating too much and not moving enough was.

So here are a few things to consider about carbohydrates, that refute a lot of what was said in the documentary:

1. White potatoes have one of the highest satiety scores of all foods -this means they keep you feeling full- good if your goal is weight loss, as this means less snacking, less likely to go over you're calories limits.

2. 127m Japanese and 1.3 BILLION Indian citizens may dispute his claim that "beige" rice (a staple of their national diets) is somehow the cause of all our weight gain woes, those nations having some of the lowest obesity rates on the planet! So why were his patients successful by eating more "green carbs" and omitting their usual beige fare? They ate fewer calories, plain and simple. Green vegetables are considered “free food” as they have very few calories and are often a negative calorie food when we consider the energy needed to digest them is more than they often provide us with.

Research also shows that low carb diets result in a spontaneous reduction in calorie intake, even if you're not monitoring your diet intake, this basically means that:


1. You're limiting one whole food group, so you have less choice. Less food variety a lower
calorie intake.
2. You eat more protein, upping protein intake reduces hunger = lower calorie intake.
3. By opting for "green carbs" over those supposedly nasty "beige carbs" you eat more vegetables, which are fibre rich and also contribute to feelings of fullness a lower calorie intake.
Clue: It's not carbs it's too much food (calories), period.

BUSTING BOOTEAS AND KILLING KETO COFFEE

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Ok so if your reasing this post then, either you are someone who is considering purchasing a specialist fat burning coffee/tea, in the hope that this will aid you in your quest to shed a few extra pounds, or you’re like me and have a borderline chronic addicition to that miraculous dark nectar of the gods, and want to see if there is any benefit to these “fat loss” coffee/teas

Perhaps you have seen an insta model promoting it as a secret to their slim and toned figure, or a friend on your facebook feed has been promoting the fantastic results that someone they know has had from using the particular brand they represent, and they have peaked your interest, and are now asking are these products worth it?

My answer… is a resounding NO!

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Before we even get into the tenuous links to science these products claim to have, by using “specialist” ingredients, lets factor in something that will probably speak to you more. The price, after a quick google search for various brands i have found some of these products costing over £27 for just 50g of coffee… lets put this into perspective for a second, i personally drink lavazza coffee (shameful plug), which is a known brand and considered a quality coffee by most, and i pay £3.50 for 250g. Think about that for a second for JUST £3.50 i can buy 5 times more coffee than what you get for the price of a “skinny coffee”, so the next question to ask… is it worth it?

So why are you paying upto and around 45x the price of a regular coffee? is it for the specialist ingredients that they add? If so lets look at the common ones.

Caffeine - this is the most obvious one, as caffeine has always been an active part of both coffee and tea, and yes it is known to help increase metabolic rates by upto 4% in the short term. This is one of the reasons that many Pre-workouts include it, as well as stimulating you in the gym it enhances you metabolism allowing you to burn more calories. The problem here, is that REGULAR coffee will do the exact same job as a skinny coffee/tea.

Caffeine also has a diuretic effect, what this means is that it aids in shedding water weight, it is important here note that water weight is NOT fat loss, and learning this distinction is crucial to your goals. You may feel less bloated due to the shedding of water weight, and loss “weight” in the short term, but again this is only temporary. Also its important to note that both coffee and tea both have mild laxative effects, now its unclear as to if this is linked to the caffeine, but regardless, some immediate weightloss maybe due to the fact you are going to the toilet more regular and therefore removing the weight from digested food in your gut, which is again only a short term loss.

So based on this ingredient, you would be better off sticking with regular coffee instead.

Tumeric - This on its own is a fantastic ingredient, and i have seen this banded around with many of these teas/coffees. Tumeric is extremely high in anti-oxidants which are known to prevent free radical damage. Which in turn helps reduce inflamation and swelling that is common in those who are overweight, the caveat here is that coffee and green tea are all ready extremely high in anti oxidants, so you are merely topping up what is already being provided by the coffee/tea on its own.

cinnamon - ok this is an ingredient that has SOME credibile benefit, cinnamon like most spices has a naturally thermogenic component to it, meaning that this will raise raise your bodies heat through an increased metabolism.

Green tea/coffee extracts - often seen as another ingredient in these specialist coffees, primary function here is again, to increase anti oxidants and boost caffeine levels.

Ginseng - another anti oxidant booster.

I can keep adding to this list, but we can already see that the added benefits of these common ingredients, serve only to top up, what the original coffee/tea provides us with, which brings us back to the first point? are they worth the 45x inflated price? Well given that a quick google/amazon search for each of these ingredients provided me with vast options of these ingredients with significantly more than 50g for LESS than £5, the answer is a firm NO.

What it tells me, is that if you REALLY want to go down this route and try these specialist coffee/teas, your best and cheapest option, would be to buy yourself a good reasonably priced coffee, and purchase these ingredients seperately and make them yourself. At the VERY least you will save yourself a significant amount of money, whilst still reaping the benefits (if any) from them.