In May 2019 I attended a fantastic coaching workship with my dog, Gem, to learn how to deliver CaniCross coaching sessions with DogFit. CaniCross is cross country trail running with your dog. DogFit are the only REPS accredited company for CaniCross in UK and they only partner with one person in each geographic area. I have now completed my training and will be providing CaniCross DogFit classes in Liverpool parks and greenspaces.
To learn more, click... HERE
At the end of October, I attended an awesome two-day seminar with the internationally renowned and conditioning coach, Charles Poliquin. For those who haven't heard of him, Coach Poliquin is one of the most successful strength and conditioning coaches ever. He's been responsible for the training of innumerable Olympic and Winter Olympic medalists and gold medalists, NHL, NFL and NBA athletes to name just a few. Suffice it to say that this is THE MAN when it comes to strength. It was truly an honour to attend his seminar for two days in October. The information and knowledge I gained was phenomenal.
With the knowledge I gained, I have now put together what I feel is my best ever programme. Why is it so good? Well, it's truly individual for one. It's not the same approach for any two people. Achieving gret body composition changes, lowering body fat levels and increasing muscle tone depends of a great many factors. Knowing how to programme both diet and exercise for all types of people makesthis my most efficient programme yet.
Be warned though, this programme isn't for everyone. You have to be truly in the right place in terms of motivation. Nutritionally, there will be some tough choices to make, at least at first. You have to be prepared to give up alcohol, sugar, and grains for at least a fortnight. In terms of exercise you'd need to be prepared to do at least four sessions of exercise per week, bare minimum. Of course these wouldn't necessarily all be with me - some could be undertaken on your own.
This programme won't be for everyone. Some people might be more suited to the Improve: your health programmes, or the Improve: pre and post natal fitness. But for a select few this could be the best body transformation you ever undertake.
Look out for more news in the New Year. To get on the maling list, just email here and say
"I want to improve my body composition"
Launching soon is Improve: Team FIT - An exclusive Group Personal Training Programme for busy women. It's the Complete Nutrition and Exercise Programme that we're really excited about... click here to read more!
Please note the Earlybird Offer of one full 4 week block starting w/c 29th April for £80 ends soon. This still includes all the features mentioned in the link (above) but for a saving of £40, but must be paid by 21st April. Get in touch for details.
Recently, since Andrew Marr's high profile stroke, there has been much in the press about the alleged dangers of rowing machines and high intensity interval training. As a Level 2 British Rowing coach and Level 3 Personal Trainer I obviously have a good interest and some knowledge & opinions about this.
The first thing to point out, as I always point out with every new client I screen, is that there are always risks associated with any new exercise programme. That risk might be the risk of twisting an ankle whilst out running, or something as extreme as happened to people like Andrew Marr or Fabice Muaba. The thing that's important in the role of the exercise professional is accurately assessing the risks.
There is a huge difference between the new client who comes to you with diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and a family history of heart disease and the 65 year old who has a good history of exercise and fitness. There are a spectrum of issues to be aware of and risks to assess. That is one of the reasons clients come to personal trainers. We are trained to assess risks and know what training systems to use with which clients and which not to. There are some systems that might be extremely effective in the average client but which would be contraindicated in others. For example one of the questions I always ask is "have you ever broken a bone?" If a client has recently recovered from an ankle break, I'm not going to ask them to do lots of running, jumping and plyometrics. Similarly, if a client has recently had a heart attack, doing more gentle, steady state exercise would be preferable to high intensity intervals.
Now all of this is very useful and informative, but what happens if some of it is neglected. I've recently heard that some large gym chains have ceased doing blood pressure checks as a regular part of their pre-exercise checks or PAR-Q questionnaire because they'd sooner have their lawyers fight a negligence claim that risk sending a client away to a doctor and possibly not come back to them. I just couldn't do that. Whether I had a huge legal team or not, I couldn't feel I'd taken that kind of risk with someone's health for the sake of a pay cheque. That's not why I started training people and that's one reason why I work for myself, not within a gym chain. I have sent clients away to see their doctor before starting to train with me and I would do it again tomorrow.
More difficult is the client who's circumstances have changed. We do regular retests and re-measures of weight, body fats, blood pressures, etc but will clients always tell you about how stressed they are at work, or whether they've had a health issue that came up since their PAR-Q? To me, the simple thing is to talk with your client. My standard first question is "How are you? How are you feeling?" That's normally enough. If anything further is required, simply asking "Do you feel fit for training" will do it. The bigger issue though, is the 'little knowledge being a dangerous thing' element.
There have been lots of tv programmes and magazine articles about the 'best' way to get fit or burn body fat. Who can say what the 'best' way is without knowing about the client. These articles are actually talking about the average client who has no pre-existing medical conditions. Again that is why you are better going to someone who knows how to screen clients than 'go it alone'.
Now in terms of rowing, there was a statement issued by Dr David Zideman, of the British Rowing Medical Advisory Panel stating...
"'Any fitness exercising should be carefully modulated and tailored to an individual’s athleticism. Rowing machines are a great way of taking exercise and should anyone have any concerns about their own medical fitness or whether to use the machine, they should ask their Medical Practitioner for advice.
"Over-exercise, especially in short infrequent bursts, can lead to unusual medical symptoms – so, in Andrew Marr's own words, "...had a strange feeling afterwards - blinding headache, and flashes of light" should have triggered a warning that he needed to seek medical help.'
In other words, if it feels wrong, stop and seek expert advice. On the gym floor that means a PT and in the rowing club that means your coach. But who is it on the ergo at home?
Generally rowing is no more risky than running, cycling, swimming, or any other cardio exercise if performed correctly. High Intensity intervals, as described above, could be risky if performed on any of these machines. If anything rowing is more safe in some respoects than, say running, because of the reduced impact on joints and the fact that the weight is borne by the seat rather than the legs.
But what about rowing on water? Well the action in the boat is very similar to that on the rowing machine, or ergo as rowers call them. In fact the physiological effects are practically the same. However, we are now on the cusp of a change in rowing season, moving from the long distance time trial dominated 'Head Season', into the shorter, more sprinty 'Regatta Season'. The predominant training session will now involve progressively more and more interval pieces and 'lactate tolerance' pieces. The large increase in numbers rowing in the UK's many local rowing clubs that came about as a result of Team GB's success at the 2012 London Games does of course leave clubs with the issue that they have many more people who may have health conditions in their clubs. The onus is on those club's safety officers, coaches and committees to ensure that training plans are well thought through and only carried out by members who are fit to do so. If in doubt, they should leave them out, to do some less intense training.
The conclusion though is to emphasise that not only is rowing safe, but so is High Intensity Interval Training, but only under the careful scrutiny of a fitness professional and after full health and medical screening of the participants.
Keep calm and row on!
Launching soon is Improve: Team FIT - An exclusive Group Personal Training Programme for busy women. It's the Complete Nutrition and Exercise Programme that we're really excited about... click here to read more!
As a few clients already know (because they've already been subjected to a few new interesting training techniques) I was at the International Fitness Showcase in Blackpool this weekend just gone. The first thing I'd say is it was great. The creme de la creme of the Fitness Industry were all there - anyone who's anyone went and it didn't disappoint. The showcase was on all weekend and I chose to attend on Saturday. I wish I'd been there all weekend and certainly will be next year.
The sessions I attended were presented by international presenters from such places as the United States, the Netherlands, Italy as well as the UK. I chose to attend a mixture of both physical and educational sessions. I'm glad I mixed it up because after just five hour long intense training sessions, my legs are in pieces (I'm writing this two days later and have chosen to skip my usual Monday legs day in favour of a chest session because of the on-going DOMS - clients I do feel your pain!!) I hate to think how I'd feel if I'd done physical sessions all day...
One of the educational sessions I took during the day involved personal training older clients, which raised a few interesting points... Did you know the WHO classified us as "old aged" at just 50! With the population getting older and living longer there are going to be more and more people living longer and exercising longer - it's an area I'm particiularly interested in personally. I note with interest that when British Rowing reviewed their competition categories recently, they had to add a new category of Veteran competitor (not member, but competitor!) for those aged over 75 who were still racing.
If there's anyone in their late fourties reading this and unsuare about whether to take up exercise, then perhaps this will persuade you. They presented a quote from the WHO that said "50 marks the point at which regualar physical activity can prevent many hazards associated with increasing age". Meaning that due to the changes that happen to use when we age - reduction in strength, increase in blood pressure, reduction in cellproduction causing repair to take longer, decrease in bone density, stiffer joints, lesspliable tendons, etc, etc, etc - if you're going to start exercising, you would be best starting before 50 for maximum benefit. You will find it so much easier to build up before you're fifty and maintain what you've got than to try to build up after fifty.
After that session the hard work began... total fit body conditioning, gladiator maximus training, and high intensity interval training were particularly taxing. FUNdamentals of conditioning at the end of the day was quite... fun - crawling around on the ground pretending to be lions, crabs, locust, inchworms, etc and I can see myself having a bit of fun with some clients doing a few of these.
The sessions were broken up by other educational sessions. A business development one was interesting from a commercial point of view, but the one I can see coming into what I do with clients of a day-to-day basis was the session on Hormones.
The presenter from the United States explained how important hormones are to human health as well as physical and mental wellbeing. I must admit I've read a bit about this subject but its really piqued my interest. I've started further studies already and plan to make this the subject on a later blog, but here's just a few of the things I took from the session...
I feel a lot more research is needed personally on this subject, but it appears it has enormous potential to help improve the quality of people's lives so I really plan to looking into this more... look out for a future blog on hormones.
Next year I plan to attend IFS for the full weekend. I got so much out of it and I can't wait to implement it all. Here's looking forward to IFS 2014 already.
How time flies when you're having fun! This month marks the first anniversary of Improve Personal Training. Despite having been active in the sports coaching/ fitness industry for many years, it's now a year since I started Improve PT and I must admit it's been everything I hoped and more. Since starting, I've had some really loyal clients. I'm especially grateful to two ladies in particular who have been with me since day one and continue to train hard and achieve goal after goal. I'm very grateful to the continued support of the guys and girls from Mersey Rowing Club, who have all made great in roads into improving their fitness, strength and endurance, as well as blasting their erg time PBs. Last year we also ran a really successful boot camp-style training session involving some of the MRC guys and friends of theirs, all who trained for and competed in the Tough Mudder event in Cheshire at the end of last year. It was great to see everyone working so hard towards a group target and to see those who competed really enjoy the event. I've worked with several private rowing clients this year, all who have improved their sculling massively and havealso started coaching the Liverpool University Boat Club Women's Squad which has been great fun, especially their strength and conditioning sessions.
Since January things have been really busy, with both the Personal Training and rowing sides of the business doing well. I've received new interest from new clients almost every week this year and have started several new clients on their road to their own personal improvement. It's really great to have them on board.
There are several new things in the pipeline for 2013... I'm planning on bringing boot camp training back on line again once the clocks change, possibly with an interesting new twist and/or with some new fitness toys. There's something in the plan in terms of Group PT which I'm really excited about. There is a plan to introduce TRX suspension training and possibly other new protocols to our repertoir of training sessions and I'm off to the International Fitness Showcase in Blackpool next week (oh, the glamour!) and am hoping to bring back some of the latest health and fitness ideas from that. 2013 is looking really good for Improve PT so a massive thank you to everyone who has supported us through this first year.
Best wishes, Andy
Today, the first Monday in January, is a day dubbed as 'Blue Monday'. UK academic Cliff Arnold developed a mathematical formula back in 2005 which said that the combined effect of the failure of resolutions, poor motivation, dark short days, poor weather, post-Christmas debt and the fact that most people haven't been paid yet, all come together to make today the most depressing day of the year.
Well, that's as maybe but here's Improve PT's suggestions of how to change today from Blue Monday to Happy Monday...
1. Give up resolutions to give things up!
The moment you tell yourself you can't eat anything but "health food", or you can't drink anything but filtered water is the moment you start to massively crave what you've given up. Why make life unpleasant? You're so much less likely to succeed if you're unhappy and have tried to make massive changes all at once. Aim to remove unhealthy foods from your diet one or two at a time. Once you've managed to successfully wean yourself off bacon butties every morning, address something else. Small steps are the way to make big changes.
2. Resolve to take something up or do something new.
A far better way to approach resolutions is to resolve to do something new, or do something you know is good for you more regularly. For example we all know by now that eating a minimum of five portions of fruits and vegetables per day is essential for our health. Why not resolve to do this everyday for the next month. By the time you get to the end of the month you'll find the new habit has taken hold and not eating that level of fruit and veg will seem weird. A few other ideas of things to resolve to DO are...
- take a brisk walk for 30 minutes at least four days a week.
- take the stairs instead of the lift at the office.
- park your car five minutes away from the office door and walk.
- get off the bus a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way.
3. Enter an event and post on Facebook/ twitter telling everyone you're doing it. Recruit friends to do it with you.
Concerned you'll give up on doing the new thing? Tell everyone why you're doing it. Enter something like a charity walk, 10K run, Liverpool to Chester Bike Ride, etc. Then post of Facebook and tell all your friends you're going out walking/ running/ riding to train for it. You'll feel so much more motivation to get out there and train knowing people will ask you how you're getting on. This motivation is even greater if you ask these people for a donation to a charity for you pushing yourself beyond your normal limits. You'll not want to give up then. This motivation will be even greater if you're going out with a friend. That person knocking on your door on Saturday morning saying, "come on let's go!" will help motivation no end. And the feeling of success you will get at the end of completing that event will be enormously gratifying.
Again, by this time you will have formed new habits and not going out to do this new thing will feel weird. It's important with developing new habits that you get beyond the feeling that you're having to push yourself to do something, to the point where it feels wrong not to do it. Ultimately this is about turning motivation to start something new into the habit of doing it all the time.
What are you waiting for? Get started now! If you want to start
this off by posting here what you're going to do please feel free to post a comment. And if you need any help with training, nutrition or motivation please feel free to contact me...
If you want to Get Lean in 2013 this could be the approach for you!
Interesting article in the Inde recently about hot trends in
fitness industry... It just so happens that number 6 is something Improve PT is looking to promote this year. Have a read...
Group PT is a system where you bring together a group of friends, family or colleagues who all want to get fit and train but can't necessarily commit to full 1-2-1 PT. it's tough times - we're not blind to the economy - but this gives you a great way to enjoy the benefits of Personal Training whilst limiting the financial cost.
Please get in touch if you think this is something you'd like to explore. I've had one group session running since last summer (indoors and outdoors) and those who are training in this way love it.
So what are you waiting for? Whether you want to lose weight, tone up, build strength or fitness,
Click here to read about Improve PT Group PT sessions.
Someone asked me the other day about what was the best way to target fat loss from a particular part of their body. Unfortunately I had to tell them it wasn't possible. What???
That's right. Forget about trying to strip fat from your abs by doing a hundred crunches a day, or trying to tone your bum and hips... Fat loss is simply not localised. It's a general process that happens all over the body when we create a calorie deficit between the energy we take in and the energy we use up. The body will produce fat mobilising hormones to mobilise the stored fat from all over the body.
So think about your body as a whole and aim to focus on lowering your total body fat percentage. Don't think about arm fat, or hip fat or abdominal fat... It's all body fat that needs to be reduced. After all when you burn away that body fat it'll be seen in your face. And who does exercise for their cheeks?!!
No, six pack abs, or toned hips and bums are all made in the kitchen. It's about the food we eat that has the biggest effect on the way we look. You all have six pack abs already. It's just a case of needing to burn away the body fat and reveal them. Marry that up with some strength training (which would increase your lean muscle mass and help you burn fat faster) and the muscles you're working hard to exercise will start to show through.
If you want to make
a difference to the way you look, start focusing on diet and exercises that mobilise lots of body fat rather than performing hundreds of sit ups.
Everyone seems to be getting on the detox your body diet at the moment. It seems we in GBR spend our time overindulging, then getting upset with ourselves about it and decide that detoxing the body is somehow going to undo all the damage done. This is by no means healthy or sustainable.
Typically detox diets will tell you to do all sorts of wacky things... eat nothing but fruit; drink lemon juice and cayenne pepper; drink cabbage soup all week; the list goes on, but will they work? Well in the short term you may experience weight loss, but generally this comes from water loss and reduction in muscle mass. When you finish your detox, the water goes back on and you're left with less muscle which reduces your metabolism. Remember more muscle = greater metabolism (girls as well!)
So what should we do instead? DETOX NATURALLY.
1. Drink lots of water. Water helps the kidneys and liver to remove waste from the body more efficiently. Drink around 8-10 glasses per day, more in hot climates or when exercising.
2. Eat lots of fruit and veg, especially those high in antioxidants. Include a variety of colours to get the best variety of vitamins. Five a day? Make it more like Eight a Day!
3. Eat more fibre. This will come naturally through all those fruits and veggies but add oats too. Fibre binds to toxins and waste in the intestine and works like a flush out for the body and intestinal tracks.
4. Exercise. Get out and sweat it out. Increase bloody flow and oxygen to the body parts which in turn leaves you feeling healthy and helps the body function optimally.
Notice a pattern here? Its all about eating good quality REAL food, drinking lots of water and exercising as often as you can. That's the way to feel naturally detoxed.
Exciting news... Improve Personal Training has now opened up to all new and present clients use of a well equiped private fitness studio.
It's been in the planning for a while but it's great to announce that from immediate effect our private PT sudio is open to all current and prospective clients. The studio is designed to maximise your personal training, with running machine, Schwinn indoor cycling bike, York cross trainer and Concept 2 rowing machine, your cardio needs are well catered for. Add to that a selection of weights, medicine balls and resistance bands for resistance training, and bosu & swiss ball for balance training and you have access to a well stocked private personal training studio.
Whilst it's still perfectly acceptable to train with clients in the local parks and green spaces, or in their own homes the addition of this Personal Training Studio in South Liverpool means we have a great variety of ways to get you into the best shape possible. So when the weather turns poor and the wind or rain set in, you can still get fit in private with great personal training as well.
Get in touch now to find out more. Click here to contact us.
A very sensible article I reccomend you read... echoes many of my own views, although I would take issue with what it implies about human activity levels. I still argue human beings in the Western world are much less active today than, say, 50 years ago due to the decline in manual based jobs and increase in office based jobs. The rest however I definitely concur with...
As we approach the weekend when my brother in law and I will be cycling 100km round central London in support of Parkinson's UK - an event called Night Rider - I'm cutting my caffine intake significantly to increase hydration.
A 2-3% reduction in hydration has been shown to significantly reduce performance and caffine has the the negative effect of being diuretic. So, I still want a hot drink on these rainy summer days... what am I drinking? I'm not keen on fruit teas. To me they offer so much with their promising scent and deliver so little, but here are a few I do enjoy...
1. Green tea with jasmine. A refreshing drink with the benefit of plentifulantioxidants. I like green tea but sometimes the taste is a little bitter. I liketo drink the blends. There are some nice lemon blends as well.
2. Bush tea - also known as roobios. A South African drink I first cameacross when reading Ladies number one detective agency by AlexanderMcCall Smith, which is also packed with antioxidants. Can be drunk blackor with milk and has a natural sweetness.
3. Peppermint. A lovely drink, I think in the evening especially. Has adigestive property to it as well.
These all count towards your eight glasses of water per day, so try replacing some of your daily coffee and tea with these, to increase hydration, antioxidant uptake and reduce feelings of stress and water retention. Enjoy!
I got to thinking about the last entry and the fact that when I first started going to the gym I found it hard to actually get anywhere with fat loss. I now know that I was doing the wrong things in the gym. I'd just sit on the cross trainer or bike for half an hour, slog it out and would be surprised at the end of the week when my weight hadn't changed. I've already talked about the effects of cortisol on fat loss, so won't go into that again, but here are some example workouts you could try...
Remember to cool down well and stretch after each of these. If you fit one of these into your gym workout, towards the end of the workout, so after your weights, you'll see great fat loss results within a few weeks.
Recently I've been doing a lot of cycling over long distances to get ready for the London Night Rider 100 kilo bike ride in a few weeks time. Whilst out on a ride in North Wales last weekend I started thinking about how cardio training can be used as a weight loss tool. Lots of us do cardio, but are we doing it right? Are we doing it as efficiently as we could? My guess is we're not.
The simple fact is that if you undertake cardio over a long period of time, in a steady state technique, whether it be running, cycling, rowing or anything cardiovascular for that matter, you are not going to burn fat as efficiently as you could. Unfortunately, long distance cardio causes a build up of a chemical called cortisol in your body. This is actually a stress related hormone which builds up because your body thinks you're trying to get away from something that just doesn't stop coming after you. You get more and more stressed through production of cortisol and that cortisol has a negative affect on your body's ability to utilise fat as an energy source. What happens then is your body turns to protein (i.e. your muscules) to fuel your exercise. Anyone looking to bulk up or improve their muscle tone will find they're not getting the results they're after. And they're not losing the fat either. As a final nail in the fat burning coffin, your metabolism will decrease as you'll be moving around less lean muscle, meaning you'll burn less fat during those sessions that do tap into fat reserves.
So what can we do instead? Well, here are my top tips for ensuring you continue to metabolise fat in your cardio training sessions.
1. INTERVAL TRAINING: Studies have shown that interval training, especially High Intensity Interval Training, burns more fat than steady state cardio, even when the calorie expenditure is lower. As a simple example, if you're going for a twenty minute run, try one minute faster running and one minute lighter and keep that interval up for the full twenty minutes. Ensure you push yourself through the harder bits to keep the pace up and take it light during the light bits.
2. HILL TRAINING: This works a bit like interval training but the harder bit would be running up the hill, with the lighter bit being the jog down the hill. You could find a series of hills, just the same one that you run up and down or even a series of steps.
3. CHANGE RESISTANCE: Changing the resistance can be difficult to achieve and should only be undertaken if you're fit to do so (any injuries should be checked out by a qualified person before you take this on) but it can have serious impact on your training. When running you could add a parachute to your runs, or wear a weighted belt. When rowing or kayaking you could add a bungee to your boat. Alternating between these increased resistance sets and lighter sets without this resistance will allow your cortisol levels to come down, thus keeping up your fat burning.
4. PLYOMETRICS: Another one that's only for advanced athletes, but when out training try running for a minute, then dropping into a set of 20-30 burpees, followed by another minute run and a set of another plyometric exercise such as high-knees. These are better undertaken on soft surfaces like turf, to minimise the impact on your joints and shouldn't be undertaken by anyone with joint problems.
So, by now we should all be aware that drinking enough water is absolutely vital to health, weight loss and athletic performance. However, there are other drinks out there that taste good and have added health benefits. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites...
1. Coffee - Some people cannot get by without their cup of java in the morning, but the news is that coffee does have several health benefits. Coffee drinkers are known to have a lower instance of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It's not just good for health, but can even improve athletic performance. A shot of espresso before training has been shown to increase endurance.
2. Tea - This beverage, especially the green variant, is rich in catechin antioxidants that act to seek out and destroy free radicals in your body which have been linked to instances of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Research has suggested that drinking tea can cause a reduction in instances of these ailments.
3. Chocolate Milk - There was a study carried out in US College athletes testing a variety of different post-workout recovery drinks and the one that came out best was basic chocolate milk. Since cocoa has more antioxidants than wine or tea, it's health benefits are clear, but athletic performance can also be improved through this tasty beverage.
4. Flavoured water - Although not the high sugar, added stuff variety. Think about plain or sparkling water with a slice of lemon, lime, orange, etc. It's going to hydrate you just as well as standard water but has improved flavour.
5. Wine - Again, full of antioxidants and linked to lowers instances of several types of cancer and many other causes of mortality. Just keep within your calorie limits and keep to moderate levels. For women that's 2-3 units per day and for men its 3-4 units per day, with a couple of days of no drinking per week.
With all of these drinks, moderation is the key. They can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle by drinking them at the right times and not in excess.
So many times, I have seen people - athletes and people trying to lose weight alike - working so hard at achieving something that they forget to do enough of the thing that can make a big difference - rest and recovery.
In any programme, whether it be designed for athletic performance or weight loss, the person must ensure they take adequate rest. After you attempt to do something, whether that be run a little faster, lift a little more or endure something a little longer, your body will need time to recover from that new workload. This is called adaptation. Our bodies have an amazing ability to adapt to new things we ask them to do. If we are asking our bodies to go that little bit further, we must plan in the correct rest.
By and large I recommend that everyone has at least one day of rest per week and once people become more athletic they programme training so that months and even years have periods of harder work and rest. It is in the rest that our bodies repair and get ready to achieve more the next time. This is one of the advantages of training with a personal trainer. We can explain how much rest you should be getting, as it is a fine balance.
The answer to this is quite simple... water. I've talked about why you should drink plenty of water before. Here's a short video explaining it as well.
Our supermarket shelves are packed full of products claiming to be “low in fat” or “reduced fat” or “half the fat”, and so on, but we as a nation are still getting fatter. There seems to be a thought that to eat healthily we must reduce the amount of fat we eat. Low fat diets have been said to be the best way to lose weight, but we’re all still getting fatter. Fat really isn’t the enemy. In fact since the 1970s there has been a reduction in the amount of fat we eat in the UK (Stephen and Sieber, 1994), yet the levels of obesity are still on the increase. Just recently it was reported that the number of people admitted to hospital with obesity related problems has risen by 30% (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12566504). The link between fat consumption and obesity doesn’t really add up.
There is no real restriction on food companies labelling something as “low fat” and marketing it as healthy food. The problem is that these “healthy foods” replace the fat they’ve taken out with sugar, to make them taste nice. You eat a “low fat” cereal bar thinking you’re being good, only to find that that you’re hungry again an hour later and end up raiding the chocolate machine... why? Because the fast release carbs (sugar) in the cereal bar get used up quickly.
In fact there is a very real danger that in avoiding foods with fat in them, you might be putting yourself at risk. Fats are used by your body for numerous essential functions, including vitamin storage, insulation, electrical impulse transmitting, and such. Limit the amount of fat you eat too much and you’ll be at risk of these processes not working correctly.
The real cause of the rise in obesity is the over consumption of calories, mainly through eating too many processed carbohydrates – white bread, pasta, chocolate, etc. and the reduction in daily activity. We are much less active than we used to be. We don’t walk anywhere, we take the car. We don’t do manual jobs, we sit behind a desk. The singles greatest thing you can do to lose weight is be more active and eat less processed carbs. Know your enemy. It isn’t fat... its inactivity and overindulgence. Next time: what’s your tipple?
Interesting article about the benefits of exercising by water. One of the many reasons I encourage clients to train by the river...
So, this rule is fairly simple, but not so easy to follow. The simple rule is that you should avoid carbohydrates – both complex and simple – before bed. Now, I don’t doubt you’ve heard this before, as I had when I was reminded of it recently, but if you’re anything like me you’ll want to know the science behind it before agreeing to do it. Why would carbs before bedtime be a bad idea? After all, we all have a certain amount of energy we need to take in so that we can fuel our bodies for the day (known as the Basal Metabolic Rate). Eat that amount or less than that and you’ll maintain/ lose weight yes? Not quite...
Think of it this way, by first thinking about the role of different types of food. The role of carbohydrate, whether simple or complex, is to provide energy. At the most simple level, we need energy when we’re moving around and doing stuff. We don’t need nearly as much energy when we’re lying down asleep or even when we’re sat on the sofa watching television. So in having a carb heavy meal just before bed, you’re putting large amounts of fuel into your body that it’s not going to burn. Where does this have to go instead? Stored fat of course. The other option would be for your body to want to burn that energy off, by keeping you awake – something you want to avoid at bedtime.
The other problem is this. Your route to weight loss and great body tone is through reducing the percentage of body fat and increasing your percentage of lean muscle. This doesn’t necessarily mean building huge muscles (unless that’s your goal)! It might be as simple as wanting to develop a nice muscle tone. In fact the more muscle you have, the more fat you’ll burn whilst exercising (bonus huh?), but developing this muscle requires production of a natural hormone called Human Growth Hormone (HGH). Unfortunately, eating foods that cause spikes in blood sugar also cause spikes in insulin (as your body tries to bring down that high blood sugar). This in turn actually inhibits production of HGH, reduces development of lean muscle and hinders fat burning and weight loss.
So, try to reduce carbs in the evening. Still try to take in five or six portions of complex carbs through the day (portion examples being a low GI breakfast cereal, a handful of rice, one slice of bread, a few new potatoes), especially at breakfast, lunch and mid afternoon, but try to limit carbs in the last meal of the day and definitely two to three hours before bed. Next time: know your enemy.
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Those who know me well will know I have a young son. I’ve recently been watching the way he moves around and I have to say, his posture is amazing! I’d like to take the credit for this but I simply can’t. That’s because the way he moves is natural. It’s the way we should move, but have inadvertently got wrong. We’ve learnt bad habits through watching other people doing it wrong.
The best example of this is the deadlift. The deadlift is one of what are known as our “primal movements”. There are about six different moves that are thought to make up all the movements humans need to make in their lives. Through combining these moves we can do anything physical that we want to do. Examples include standing on one leg (crucial in walking), rotating and the deadlift. The theory goes that if we want to be strong at physical movement, we need to be strong in every area of these primal movements. So what makes for a strong deadlift?
Before going in to that, let me just make one thing clear. Deadlift is not just an exercise about picking up heavy weights and developing a strong back and legs. It’s the way we should pick up anything from the floor. Even high performing athletes have been known to throw their backs out when picking up a remote control in the wrong way, so make sure you’re always lifting with this bend from the legs.
First, if you’re picking something up make sure your feet are as close to the weight as possible. If this were a barbell your toes would be under the bar, so your arms could hang down, directly in front of you. Make sure you’re bending at your hips and flex your knees. Also, ensure your head is looking up and chest is pushed out. Whilst bracing your abdominal core and holding a neutral spine, lift the weight from the floor. If it’s a heavy weight, you’ll do well to push your hips forwards to stand up straight, once the weight has passed your knees.
Now, if I see anyone using their backs to when picking anything up there’ll be trouble! Next time: Things you shouldn’t be doing before bed.
In the course of this short series of notes, I’d like to share with you my "rules for life", which I believe will lead to a healthier, happier and possibly longer life. This first one is entitled “Pick up the pace”.
We all have jobs we don’t like doing and things we’d rather do instead. Modern man has designed little ways around us having to do these jobs, such as dishwashers that save us standing at the sink, elevators that save our legs, hearts and lungs the bother of walking up stairs, hand blenders that save us mixing ingredients ourselves; the list goes on. However, there is one small problem. We’ve gone too far and have come to a point where we’re actually doing very little for ourselves. I might return to this next point a few times through this series because it’s rather important, but Modern Man evolved millions of years ago and evolved to live in a world that was very different from the one we live in today. There were no dishwashers, elevators or hand blenders for prehistoric man. He had to do everything for himself and his body adapted to that life. The modern world has evolved over just a few decades. In those few years since labour saving devices came into being, our bodies have simply not had time to evolve at the same pace as the world.
Fifty to a hundred years ago, people would have had to spend ten to twenty minutes each day stood at the sink, washing dishes themselves (and burning calories in the process). In those days most people would have climbed to their fifth floor office using their legs rather than a lift (burning calories in the process). Cooks would have mixed together their ingredients by hand (and would have burnt calories in the process). See the pattern here? So if we’re burning fewer calories today than our parents and grand-parents would have burned we must be eating less than they did... oh! Herein lies the problem. A study at the University of North Carolina has shown that average calorie consumption in the US rose by around 30% between 1977 and 2011. That was an increase of around 500 Kcals in thirty years. Where has all the extra energy gone (remembering Newton’s Law of Thermodynamics saying energy is neither created nor destroyed, simply changing form)... it’s had to be stored on the body as fat. Hence we have rising levels of obesity.
So, it seems that one of the main reasons for rising levels of obesity in the Western world is the massive decrease in activity levels experienced over the last few decades.
In that case, what can we do to turn this around? This is the (relatively) simple part. Just do more stuff. And when you do more stuff, pick up the pace – do it faster. You will burn calories. For example, if you need to go somewhere, make an effort to walk there. If it’s too far to walk, take the bus but get off one or two stops earlier and walk the rest of the way. Do the same with driving. Park further away and walk a bit. Next time you do, get off the bus another stop or two sooner or park your car even further away. Whilst you’re walking, try to get there quicker by trying to walk faster than the people ahead of you. At the office, try walking to your floor. If it’s too far for you to walk at the moment, walk as far as you can and get the lift from there. Each week try to walk to a higher floor before catching the lift. You will burn more calories and be more active. When you’re doing the cleaning round the house, try to do it faster each week. Try to beat your last time each week. You’ll get chores out of the way so much faster too!
In summary, try to think a little more about how you can increase greater activity into your daily life. It is possible. Just one last thing though. Just because you’ve avoided the lift doesn’t mean you’re allowed a chocolate bar when you get to your desk! Next time: Bend from the legs.
So, there’s been quite a bit of talk this week about the amount of water you need to drink each day, some suggesting that eight glasses of water per day is a false myth and that you should also count coffee, tea, etc. I thought I’d pass on what I’ve learned about water consumption. It was recently described to me, by a 40 years served healthcare professional, like this. Imaging your body’s cells as a nightclub. At this club you need to be one of three types of members – A glucose member, an oxygen member or a water member. When you want to come in, you show your card and the bouncers (the cell’s epidermis) let you in. However, if you turn up one night with one of your rowdy mates – the kind that the bouncers know will be trouble when they get in such as those dodgy characters Caffeine and Alcohol – you’re going to get sent packing, even if you have a water membership card. You’ll end up taking the quickest exit out of the area – think Tube (if you get my meaning...!)
But I know a lot of people who never drink water and they’re all still alive, so how come you have to drink pure water. It breaks down like this. You excrete (through sweat, breathing and urination) about 2.5 litres of water per day. If you were crazy and didn’t drink for a whole day, you’d lose 2.5 kgs of weight, simply because 1 litre of water weighs 1 kg. DON’T TRY THIS BY THE WAY! This means that 2.5 litres of water needs replacing. This will vary person to person but its a good guide. You will get water from the food you eat – about 500ml, which leaves 2L needed which when divided by 250ml glasses gives you eight glasses per day. You will still take in some water from these other drinks you’re having, especially if you have lots of coffee – you get used to the caffeine levels – it’s like that club and the more the Caffeine sorts try to get in, the more the bouncers get complacent – but drinking large quantities of caffeine has been linked to heightened health risks, raises blood pressure and encourages stress – so not great.
So, you will probably carry on living without drinking pure water, but you may well be healthier if you do. Finally, consider this... the only difference between a grape and a raisin is that the grape is well hydrated and the raisin is dried out. In forty/fifty years time what do you want to look like? The grape or the raisin?
Interesting article on chocolate milk as a recovery drink... something I swear by (I has some after training with the lads at the rowing club tonight!)...
Here's an interesting one... Ever thought about these low fat diets that we keep being encouraged to try, or all these low fat foods in the supermarkets? Consider this... A group of people were studied by the University of London. They were given different diets over different weeks - first they ate only fats for a week, then they ate only carbs for a week, next they ate only protein for a week and finally they ate a mixed diet based on a 40:30:30 ratio. Which diet led to the most weight loss?
Well strangely it was the week they ate mostly fats that they lost the most weight. Possibly more surprisingly when they ate mostly carbs they actually put on a small amount of weight... that's on eating only 1000 Kcals per day, well under what most people would need for their daily calorific needs.
So fat's not the big enemy once thought... maybe the enemy is carbohydrate.
To fully understand why this happened you need to know a little about what happens internally when you eat carbs, especially those that are high GI. First of all your blood sugar goes up. Your body wants to maintain the same level of blood sugar all the time so releases insulin to bring your blood sugar down. Because your body has only limitted ability to story glucose (which your carbs get broken down into), this can only go to one other place once the glucose stores are full - fat storage - and this happens easier than you'd think. This effect is going to be even more pronounced in the evening. You're more than likely not going to be moving around as much and are going to be going to bed having eaten carbs that are only destined for one place - your belly.
So, keep carbs for what the body intends them for - fuel - don't fuel the tank just before going to bed... do it in the morning and at lunchtime when you need to use up the energy its going to produce.
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