fat loss

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.

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.

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

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.

The Metabolism Myth


Hey - it's James here.Founder of Route 1 health and fitness and today I have an important question I'd like to ask you.


Are you actually contributing to your own setbacks?

It's no secret that many of us are in a continual battle with the potential pitfalls that are regularly knocking, hounding us and trying to trip us up, and it's vital that the actions we make aren't adding to this list.

How many of you due to your past experiences with failure, would rather not try, because potentially stumbling again (even if it is a tiny remote chance) is too psychologically painful. .

One of the most important steps you can take toward achieving success is to address misinformation ( everyone has an opinion, but do you know what is actually accurate or who is just after your money?),



Another is to understand or recognise what are your usual pitfalls, and steer yourself toward habits/behaviours that contribute to weight loss (and keeping it off long-term) and any other health and fitness goal you may have.

It is a commonly known fact that on a basic level to achieve weight loss we must be in a calorie deficit, which we do by restricting calories and following an exercise program, simply put ( eating less and moving more as my sister would tell me). Both are crucial parts of a weight loss plan, but when taken to extremes these can leave you miserable and cause more harm than good, physiologically and emotionally, and lead you to fall off the wagon, binge and feel guilty for doing so. Something “extreme” might by going straight into a 7 day workout plan with weights nearly everyday, and ridiculous amounts of cardio, this is insane if you're just starting, it’s unsustainable and reckless.

If anyone tells you to train like this, they either don't know what they are talking about, or are being irresponsible after all are you training for the olympics?, (even i don't do such huge amounts of cardio everyday).

It’s Not JUST a Calorie Deficit

Yes it is true that weight loss is achieved through caloric deficit (calories consumed < calories used = weight loss), the journey though is rarely as easy this equation makes it out to be.

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Above is my own weight loss over the last year and ass you can see it trends down, but it is not a linear straight line. The was a consistent calorie deficit in this period, but many factors lead to minor raises and spikes here and there. Hormones, stress and water retention are all factors to consider, fat loss was consistent, but weight loss as you can see isn't linear.

When we consider how hard it is to actually achieve weight loss, and then throw in all the misinformation and promises of a quick and easy fix, what we have is the perfect storm for failure.

It has been my experience that many trainers offer nothing outside of the ‘numbers’ giving them just the calories and maybe some more nutritional advice but nothing after that. A coach doesn't just simply give you a plan and send you on you're way, a coach should give you this info and then teach you about it, help you to learn to motivate yourself and arm you with adequate info so that you can go forward and achieve long term results

 

A Bad fat loss plan won’t offer any support outside of nutrition.

It is important NOT to be drastic in caloric restriction, because we don't want to create a toxic relationship with food, there’s a sweet spot that can encourage weight loss, but still avoid possible physiological and emotional damage to the you. Studies show that while exercise is important, weight loss from exercise alone is modest and must be combined with a sensible and structured diet that leaves the client in a deficit, it is true what they say, “it is extremely difficult to out train a bad diet.”

In other words, you need to understand two important things:

  1. You need high levels of physical activity.

  2. But your high levels of activity do not have to be vigorous.

That means you do not need to do hours and hours of slogging away on the treadmill each day. Instead, you would benefit more from moderately intense cardio activity for 30 minutes three times per week, with increased walking throughout the day ( i personally do 30 mins of high incline walking on a treadmill several times a week - and burn around 300 calories!).

Is It Possible to Harm Someone’s Metabolism?

This brings us onto the Big Question, the one that many people use as a convenient excuse for their failure due to all the misinformation out there regarding weight loss programmes. can you damage your metabolism through a calorie deficit?

Maybe you've heard horror stories of people whose metabolism was completely wrecked from following low-calorie diets and programs that involved insane levels of activity.

The simple answer is not exactly, this is because as you're body changes so does it's requirements, if you don't make account for these adjustments then it is only logical that results may stagnate as you're body settles and fully adjusts to its’ new composition

The equation for changes in body composition is:

Changes in body stores = energy in – energy out

Think of it this way, if you're in a calorie deficit, and you're losing weight, your body requires a certain amount of calories just to maintain itself, eventually, you're weightloss will match the calorie deficit, and you're weight loss will slow and stop, as you're body composition now matches the required maintenance calories, so to continue weight loss, you must adjust for you new stores and work out what your new calorie deficit must be and vice versa to gain weight. Remember heavier bodies require more energy to move around, therefore require far more calories than a lighter body, so the lighter you are the less you will need.

The above equation holds true for everyone, but there are a lot of other factors that must be considered as well, such as:

  • Sex hormone levels

  • Macronutrient intake

  • Exercise style

  • Age

  • Medication

  • Genetic predisposition

These things should also be considered as variable as they can affect the above equation making it a bit harder to hone in on goals.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with the calorie-in-calorie-out equation.

The aim then of this post, really then was to address that a ‘damaged metabolism’ is really just a myth and created through misinformation or spread by lazy trainers and coaches who aren't doing their job properly. (i'm keeping separate those who have medical issues related to their thyroids etc)

To reach your goals, you should learn to recognise what is happening to your body. As you're body settles into its new composition it is important to adjust the required calories for your goals accordingly, the amount of calories your body will need to alter its composition will alter as you do, to match the new requirements.

Tracking your diet accurately is challenging, but the point I’m really trying to highlight is that attributing a lack of weight loss progress to “metabolic damage” is merely convenient and misleading. The truth is, creating a negative energy balance is the only way an individual will lose weight and vice versa.

So now that we have addressed that myth what we need to look at for you is how to prevent pitfalls in the future so you can continue on safely in the knowledge that you are moving on productively to your goals.

  • If your progress begins to slow, remember it is likely you need to adjust for your current body composition as it will have changed significantly from what it was previously.

  • Avoid going on extreme fitness plans, they are unsustainable to the uninitiated and can be harmful to you psychologically as well as physically

  • Train appropriately - moderately intense cardio (30 mins) and weights 3 times a week is more than enough to  start.

  • Make sure you're caloric deficit is enough to nudge you into weight loss, extreme deficits can be damaging mentally and are more likely to leading to you “falling off the wagon”, and going on a binge.

  • If you are making use of a trainer, make sure they offer more than just the ‘basic number’ when it comes to you're nutrition, you want to learn how to structure your diet, as well as understand why you are doing what you're doing.

I see myself not just as a trainer/coach but also a teacher, my ambition is to ensure you understand why you are doing what you're doing and why it is appropriate for your goals. I do this because if you understand why you're doing it, i find that most people are more likely to proceed and achieve success.

One of the keys to your success is understanding how to adapt to your body, when it has adapted its current situation, when you crack this you will be well on the way to achieving your body goals as long as you are consistent



Do You NEED To Take A Protein Shake?

Are you a high performance athlete, with extremely high nutritional demands? If not then the answer is probably not.

Protein and meal replacement shakes originally were designed to help athletes reach their nutritional goals when standard nutrition would prove to extremely difficult to achieve.

For instance some athlete have demands in excess of 5000 calories a day and the sheer volume of food that would need to be consumed is not only expensive, but also an extremely unpleasant experience as well.

All good nutritionists and dieticians would recommend Food in favour of shakes, and that shakes came about for those extreme cases when, it was either impractical or near impossible to meet certain goals effectively.

This was due to whey protein shakes, providing a fast and quickly digestible source of protein, to help athletes get the protein in when they need them to help enhance muscle repair and recovery times.

The average person doesn't need protein / meal replacement shakes and in fact they can to a certain degree be detrimental to your actual goals.

Yes a shake can seem highly convenient, they are quick and easy to make and in theory allow us to meet certain nutrition goals with relative ease, but there is a significant flaw in this approach.

YOUR  STOMACH IS A MUSCLE!


your stomach is a muscle! give it a workout!

your stomach is a muscle! give it a workout!

In fact all our organs are a type of muscle known as “smooth” muscle and digesting food burns calories, and helps maintain a healthy metabolic rate (the speed at which your body burns calories).

Eating solid food will take around 2 hours to pass through your stomach, whereas a shake which is liquid based will pass through in around 30 minutes. So ask yourself the question, which one is burning more calories in digestion and keeping your metabolism where is should be? The solid food of course!

The liquid one though it may have the same equivalent calories, will have used LESS energy in digestion, which in turn can affect your metabolic rate, slowing it down, meaning you should need fewer calories, and causing your body to become catabolic consuming muscle instead of fat to access energy reserves.

People often notice rapid weight loss on shakes, but this is a “false achievement” because as liquid has lubricated your intestines, the food stored in there (upto 4lbs at a time) will move through it much easier and be evacuated faster, allowing you to drop several lbs extremely quickly. This is usually accompanied by a low carb diet, which enhances this by tricking the body into losing water weight as well, (not fat).


“So i shouldn't take protein/ meal replacement shakes?”


Unless you're a high end athlete you should probably steer clear of meal replacement shakes, in general it is unlikely you're calorie requirement would be high enough to warrant one. Protein shakes maybe but only AFTER a workout and this is only because you're body is primed at that point to receive the protein.

The one caveat to all this however is if you find yourself desperately short of protein in your diet, you can use the protein powder that is used to make the shake, to add it to other foods that maybe used in baking as an additive or even to you're porridge oats or “PROATS” as the are popularly called once you add protein powder to porridge.

This can ensure that you are getting the protein that you need, whilst also making sure you are continuing to eat solid food! Achieving the best of both worlds.

Remember protein shakes were designed only to be a SUPPLEMENT to a healthy diet, never a replacement, and the “replacement” should only be really for athletes with extreme nutrient requirements.