Five Cool Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Nutrition!

1>  The nutritional value of a food is not only determined by the quantity of nutrients within the food you eat, but also by how well your body is able to break down and digest that food.

The amount of times you chew, acid levels in your stomach, the mind state you are in whilst eating and the health of your digestive tract all influence the nutrition you are able to extract from food. You could theoretically be deficient in certain nutrients, despite eating loads of fresh, healthy produce.   You are what you digest and not what you eat.  Some research shows that you can actually double your nutritional intake of vital nutrients to health just by doubling the amount of times you chew.

Fancy inhaling another sandwich at lunchtime, whilst staring at your computer? Think again!!

 

2>  Certain foods, such as Garlic and high SPF Manuka honey, have greater anti-microbial properties than any current medication.  Garlic in particular is probably one of the best anti-fungal compounds in the world. What is amazing is that bacteria don’t build a resistance to these products, but they do when exposed to some anti-biotics?  (That’s not to say that they will cure you, but they could be a useful addition to your healthy diet)

 

3>  When exposed to high temperatures, certain cooking fats oxidise, which turns their potentially therapeutic properties into particularly damaging ones.  Surpassing a fat’s “smoke point” creates the formation of free radicals, which induce oxidative stress in the body and can actually damage your DNA at cellular level.

Want to age quicker? Then eat lots of fats cooked in hot saucepans, woks and deep fat fryers.  Ghee (clarified butter) has one of the highest “smoke points” and is therefore the fat most suited to high temperature cooking. It is also high in butyric acid (a compound renowned for improving gut health). Certain oils extracted from nuts have the lowest smoke point and should therefore be consumed raw or prepared at low temperatures.

 

4>  Certain cells, such as cancer cells, grow at an incredibly slow rate when insulin is kept at an incredibly low level, such as those seen in a ketogenic diet. Certain cells thrive off glucose, so when you deprive them of their primary fuel source, growth can be limited, halted and some science actually suggests even regressed! Some clinics around the world actually use fasting and ketogenic diets to cure some conditions, such as epilepsy, to great effect and some physicians even claim to manage cancer in patients who are in a well enough state to cut calories or change their diet via the use of such diets.  The research surrounding this is still in its infancy and there is much to learn, but eating a higher fat based diet, moderate in protein whilst maintaining a low intake of carbohydrates, particularly high glycaemic load foods such as sugars, white starches, fat free dairy etc. is a good place to start.  Certain foods and exercise massively improve your insulin sensitivity (one of the primary reasons why exercise lowers your risk of just about every major disease known to man).  Carbohydrate should therefore be used sparingly and levels of your consumption should reflect your activity and exercise levels as well as your current levels of body fat.  Don’t exercise? Then you can’t really justify that second helping of chips!

 

5>  The colour least associated with hunger is blue. Research has shown that eating off blue plates or being exposed to the colour blue is associated with people generally eating less and having less appetite. Interestingly however, reds, oranges and yellows are associated with greater feelings of hunger and are associated with greater total calorie consumption. Incidentally all fast food chains use these colours in all of their packaging, merchandise and marketing!

A few nutritional considerations you probably never thought about

1)  If you eat the same food item everyday, try to opt for a higher quality product and look to go organic (true organic that is) wherever possible.  Pesticides, fungicides and sprayed chemicals are generally harmless in small quantities but they do build up in the body over time thus increasing the likelihood of them becoming toxic, which could eventually lead to health problems. Some studies seem inconclusive regarding this but I would rather be safe than sorry. Besides, most studies are conducted over several years and not decades so there is much unknown effect. If you are eating something everyday be it coffee, strawberries, spinach etc. then this could be a very important consideration.

 

2)  Rotate your foods often.  Certain foods deplete enzymes in your gut. The more often you eat a food, the more likely you are to deplete the enzyme responsible for its digestion. Lack of digestive enzymes (likely if your diet is highly processed) can often lead to malabsorption, poor digestion and mild to severe food intolerances.  Eggs, dairy and breaded products can often be the culprit. No need to eliminate them entirely, just rotate and vary your food options. This will also increase the likelihood that you obtain a full array of nutrients from your diet.

 

3)  Decaf coffee is absolutely riddled with chemical solvents. Always opt for the slightly more pricey water filtered decaf. It tastes so much better and much more like full caffeinated coffee.

 

4)  If you are male, daily consumption of flaxseed and carrots is recommended for optimal long-term prostate health.

 

 

5)  Take a break from cows’ dairy. Even if you are not intolerant, try goat, sheep or buffalo milk/yoghurt for small periods of time to rotate your foods.

 

6)  If you are a man above the age of 50 and have not been advised by a medical practitioner to take calcium supplements then it may be worth considering removal from your supplement regime.  Elevated calcium levels in the bloodstream without balanced potassium and magnesium can actually increase your risk of a heart attack.  Calcium is abundant in many foods so unless you have been advised to or have malabsorption issues, dietary sources should be adequate.

Top 20 Things I Wish I Knew When I First Started Training (Part 3)

Volume 11 – 15

 

11) Stop chasing the rainbow!

“I’ll be happy when…

…I have a six-pack

…I can bench more than my mates

…I am a size 10

…I am skinny.”  The list goes on.

 

Trust me when I say most people will never be truly happy when it comes to their physique, regardless of the level of their success. The same is often true in business and personal finance.  We always want more, it is in our nature as human beings

 

Take some of the best physique competitors, athletes or models in the world and ask them to criticise an area of their body and you will always find an answer.  Be the best that you can be, and always regard your health and happiness as your number one priority. Getting strong, feeling great and being happy should always be the goal!  If your goal is to impress others by how you look, then you are doing it for the wrong reasons.  Do it for you and nobody else!

 

12) Most fitness classes are poorly structured

Unfortunately many instructors design or structure group workouts and classes with theatrics in mind – “what is going to appeal to prospective clients?”.  Chuck a drill sergeant-type instructor into a fitness studio with thumping music and flashing lights with loads of wacky dance moves and explosive jumping and you’ll draw the crowd, but often classes such as body combat, Zumba and circuits are put together with no regard for structural balance, mechanics or to a person’s individual needs and injury limitations.

 

Although there are certainly good instructors out there, they are few and far between. Forcing immobile office workers with poor posture, mobility and movement quality to jump up and down and perform loads of push ups, box jumps and burpees is excellent for getting them sweaty and out of breath, but not for training longevity.

 

A smart workout should always address your limitations and weak points whilst addressing your goals and 90% of all exercise classes fail to achieve this.

 

13) If you follow the: “I will start over on a Monday crowd”, you will almost definitely fail.

In my many years working in the fitness industry I have lost count of the amount of people who have almost broken down in tears, telling me how unhappy they are with their body and their health. They seem at their wits’ end and promise me that they would be willing to travel to the ends of the earth just to achieve their goals. I completely sympathise, as I totally appreciate how hard it is to stay lean and healthy in today’s world of fast food, long working hours and never-ending stress.

 

It does however completely baffle me that people will have a complete blow-out at the weekend after making such promises, promising themselves that they will start on the Monday; following some misguided misbelief that Monday is a mysteriously magical day.  If it is important and it matters to you, START RIGHT NOW!  You cannot claim to want something really badly and then not be willing to change right now!

 

If right now does not work for you, start on a Saturday. Having a couple of days off work allows you to train, shop for food and plan. Scrambling about on a Monday morning when you are late for work, searching for your gym gear and having no time to prep for food is just a recipe for failure.

 

14) Prowler and sled workouts are the absolute granddaddy of fat loss!

Fancy plodding along on a treadmill for an hour everyday? Cross trainer for 90 minutes?  No thank you I would rather bathe in raw sewage!

 

The solution: Try loading up a prowler or sled with 100kg+ and pushing hard for bouts of around 40-60 seconds. This builds strength whilst putting the least amount of strain on your joints compared to traditional cardio. There is no eccentric loading so you can’t really get sore, and we’ve had individuals with severe hip, back and knee problems get a good workout in whilst working hard with no aggravation.  The prowler in particular builds real world mental toughness, works the often-neglected glutes hard and works your lungs to the point of exhaustion whilst heavily taxing your metabolic systems, which are so crucial for blood glucose management. The minimal time investment of sled/prowler sprints over long-term aerobic exercise is another big win!

 

15) The deadlift has the greatest total impact on your recovery.

Nothing stalls your strength training progress quicker than absolute maximal deadlifting.   If you train the deadlift more than once per week and then aim for a PB every time, you will stall very quickly in nearly all of your lifts. Due to the huge demands on your central nervous system you will quickly burn out and you risk serious injury. It is best to max out on a 1RM no more than 2-3 times per year as an advanced athlete and never train to failure.  Always leave at least one rep in the tank unless you are performing the odd, infrequent test. Training in the 80-90% 1RM category works well!

 

On the flip side I don’t like deadlifting for more than 10 reps with any appreciable loads. These Crossfit workouts involving 50 deadlifts in quick succession are a sure-fire way of wearing your intervertebral discs down as fatigue alters your technique.  1-6 reps is the sweet spot!

 

In my experience, deadlifts can be the very best and very worst exercise for you, so it is important to implement them intelligently. This is where a good coach with a high level of experience is warranted!

 

If you would like any assistance from us in getting stronger, fitter and leaner then please contact us on [email protected].  We have two gyms in Chichester, West Sussex.  We currently help everyone from professional athletes to individuals in their 70s and above and those with disabilities.

 

Our clients’ goals range from simple weight loss to ultra-distance marathon training.  Our membership gym is in Oaklands Park and our private personal training gym can be found in the City Business Centre, Basin Road.

 

 

 

Top 20 Things I Wish I Knew When I First Started Training (Part 2)

Volume 6 – 10

 

6) Don’t aim for a PB each time you train.

Looking to set a new 1RM every workout is a very quick way to burnout. Central nervous system fatigue from a maximal lift (particularly for an advanced trainee) can have some very profound effects. I personally found that after a true 1RM deadlift (particularly once I was lifting significantly above 200kg) would leave me feeling slow, depressed and lethargic for days. I used to scoff at articles suggesting such issues but I certainly learnt the hard way.    You’re strength will diminish after training above 95% for several consecutive sessions anyway so at the very least it is a waste of time.

 

7) All cheap supermarket supplements are complete crap

Dodgy labelling, poorly absorbed ingredients and questionable contents and dosages make these a complete waste of time. Your money would be better spent sending it to that African prince you hear from who needs £10,000 to release £1 million in bonds and investments to you.

 

8) Stop taking calcium for your bone health

Unless you have been recommended by a medically trained professional, taking calcium is at best a waste of time. Worst case scenario (particularly so for older men) is an increased risk of heart attack. People are very rarely deficient in calcium unless they have absorption issues. Magnesium, vitamin k2 and vitamin D are far more important for bone health!

 

9) Carbohydrates should be earnt

Justifying eating an entire pizza and an entire tub of ice cream just because you burnt 600kal in your morning spin class is a joke. 600kcal would equate to around 150g of carbs. Half a bowl of rice would equate to that in itself so stop overestimating your requirements.

 

10) Stop kidding yourself that women are impressed with your bench press and deadlift PB

We live in a Justin Bieber/ One Direction-loving world so most women couldn’t give a flying monkeys as to how much you lift.  Be it 50kg or 500kg. I’ve lost count of the number of women have seen a topless Eddie Hall or Phil heath and have remarked their disgust.  Stop acting like a numpty in the free weights section with your tank top and low cut muscle vest and just accept the fact that you are lifting to impress the “Bros”. Get strong for yourself and nobody else!

 

If you would like any assistance from us in getting stronger, fitter and leaner then please contact us on [email protected].  We have two gyms in Chichester, West Sussex.  We currently help everyone from professional athletes to individuals in their 70s and above and those with disabilities.  Our membership gym is in Oaklands Park and our private personal training gym can be found in the City Business Centre, Basin Road (both are walking distance from Chichester city centre).

Top 20 Things I Wish I Knew When I First Started Training (Part 1)

Volume 1 – 5

 

1)     To gain muscle you need some extra calories but not as much as you think.  A surplus of 250-500kcal is about as much as you will require to optimise muscle gain whilst preventing fat gain. These 8,000kcal a day diets you see in Men’s fitness magazines are for extreme athletes with crazy training volume, genetic super-freaks and/or those taking performance enhancing drugs. Eating endless calories in a bid to get big and strong whilst regarding any increase in scale weight as a good thing is a quick shortcut to getting fat, unfit and sick!

 

2)     All the best supplements for muscle gain and fat loss are generally not the ones heavily marketed to us.    Vitamin D, Zinc, Magnesium and Omega 3 fall by the way side and instead we hear about “Ripped Freak”, “Grenade”, “Extreme Mass” or any other of the latest and greatest.  The aforementioned staple nutrients are far more beneficial for your long-term goals than 90% of the trash supplements which are sold today and they are solidly backed by science.

 

3)     Don’t lift to failure on every set.  This is just a sure fire way to injure yourself and impede recovery from every session. Despite what the magazines say, training to muscular failure is not an essential for hypertrophy, particularly for entry-level athletes.

 

4)     There is no such thing as a fattening food or fat burning food. These are marketing terms used to lure unsuspecting consumers. What matters is your energy balance – caloric surplus or deficit. Yes, certain foods can promote more fat gain but usually it is because you eat too much of those foods for your calorie requirements and/or disregard other food groups as you are filling up on the wrong ones.

 

5)     Stop worrying about endless isolation exercises at the end of your workouts. Performing a tonne of curls, Pec flyes and triceps pushdowns whilst disregarding the big compound movements are a big mistake. Yes, multiple sets of varying incline curls, Crucifix curls and preacher curls seem sexy and exciting but nothing yields big time results like pull ups, dips, deadlifts and squats.    Stop posing in the mirror and start pushing yourself with the big, hard lifts.

 

If you would like any assistance from us in getting stronger, fitter and leaner then please contact us on [email protected].  We have two gyms in Chichester, West Sussex.  We currently help everyone from professional athletes to individuals in their 70s and above and those with disabilities.  Our membership gym is in Oaklands Park and our private personal training gym can be found in the City Business Centre, Basin Road.

Eating Breakfast Cereal is One of the Worst Nutrition Mistakes

Breakfast cereals have been a main staple breakfast choice since the 1940s and have formed a seemingly integral part of the British diet.  Commercial marketing, social trends and widespread availabity of cheap and affordable cereals have formed a culture in which breakfast consists of a cereal such as Special K or a sugar-based children’s cereal such as Rice Crispies or Cornflakes.  Most supermarkets seem to offer a wealth of endless boxes of cereals, boasting enriched vitamin content, calcium for bones, iron for increased energy, and a tasty convenient way to start the day.  Affordability and competitive pricing, a long shelf life, cartoon characters and heavy celebrity endorsement make cereals seem like the ideal choice to the average consumer, but are they really a good choice for breakfast?

 

When reviewing the facts, we must use a good understanding of how the human body works and how our body responds to the foods we eat.  As you will find, your choice of breakfast could really be increasing your risk of ill health.

 

[box_header]So why are cereal grains such a poor choice of breakfast?[/box_header]

1.  Despite being calorie-dense, cereal grains are nutrient-poor. Cereals are in fact so nutritionally deplete that the World Health Organisation has forced manufacturers to fortify their foods with their own synthetic forms of vitamins and minerals, such as niacin and folic acid.  Figures during the rise of cereal grains back in the early 1900s show an increase in the diseases we associate with malnourishment, such as rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults, despite an over-abundant access to food. It was therefore deemed necessary to enrich manufactured foods with nutrients to improve these statistics. Unfortunately the vitamins and minerals, which are removed and then restocked during the processing of grains, are of poor bioavailability to the body due to the use of cheap oxides and other poor quality ingredients.

 

The fortified nutrients are usually of such poor quality there is an estimated 10-20% absorption rate. For example a standard generic cereal fortified with 200mg of Magnesium Oxide would provide your body with an available 20-40mg, an almost insignificant amount when we consider the levels of nutrients required for optimal health.

So why do the government not impose sanctions on grain products and instead recommend more natural, nutrient-dense foods if they are so nutritionally void?  One possible answer we must consider is that various grains such as wheat, barley and rye form a significant portion of our country’s GDP. Therefore changing our consumption and swaying public belief would have a great bearing on our economy. This is further compounded by the majority of positive research surrounding the supposed health benefits of cereal being funded by the cereal manufacturers.

Wheat

2.  Cereals have an exceptionally high glycaemic index.  This means that the glucose broken down from that delicious bowl of Cornflakes is entering your bloodstream at an incredibly fast rate and in large volume. As your body is inundated with what in effect is sugar (yes even that wholemeal muesli is broken down into sugar), your pancreas is churning out insulin to direct that sugar into fat stores or glycogen stores within your liver or muscles. If you don’t have much in the way of muscle glycogen stores, are inactive or consume too many calories, most of that sugar is going to be directed into fat cells. As your cells are exposed to high levels of insulin they become desensitised to its action, particularly if they are exposed to sugar on a long term or sustained basis.  Poor insulin sensitivity and a poor ability to handle glucose results in poor cell signalling, inflammation and cellular damage.

 

What is very alarming to note is that malignant or tumorous cancer cells will multiply at an increased rate when exposed to an insulin rich environment which is why new research shows a positive response to ketogenic (high fat, moderate/high protein, and sub-50g daily carbs) diets. This is not to say these alternative diets are the best choice, it’s just that our current way of eating is causing some very serious health conditions.

 

Cornflakes for example have a glycaemic index of 80. When you consider that pure glucose has a value of 100 you start to realise how bad these cereals can actually be.  Sprinkle some sugar on to those Cornflakes and pour a load of low fat, processed milk over the top and you now have an insulin storm in a bowl.

 

3.  Cereals have a poor macronutrient profile.  From experience it is clear that an optimal breakfast should be centred around proteins and fats.  Unfortunately most cereals just do not provide either of these macronutrients in the format or quantities required for optimal health.

 

Numerous studies show that the best way to optimise lean body mass and health is to consume around 0.8g of protein per lb. of bodyweight. For the average male weighing 85kg they would require 149g of Protein per day to optimise body composition. When you consider the average bowl of cereal (including the milk!) will contain less than 8g of protein you realise that they are not the best choice when it comes to structuring your diet.

 

4.  Cereal is not the only problem here but also its accompaniment with milk. Most people choose to drench their cereal in skimmed or semi-skimmed milk for fear of consuming too much fat. This is again a big mistake as when fat is removed from milk you remove all of the fat soluble vitamins, such as Vitamin A, D, E and K, as well as CLA (a trans-fatty acid with good health benefits).  You also raise the glycaemic index of the milk, which has negative implications on your blood sugar levels.

 

One of the biggest problems I personally have with non-organic dairy is in its production and not necessarily in the milk itself. Traditional dairy is pumped with antibiotics, growth hormones, growth factors such as IGF-1 and high levels of omega 6 fatty acids (high levels of omega 6 fat intake compared to omega 3 has been shown to be pro-inflammatory).

 

Fifty percent of the world’s anitbiotics are given to cattle, which contaminate the milk and is something we are exposed to every time we open a milk carton.   More recent research has shown huge advances in how antibiotic cultures influence our microbiome (the bacteria which colonises our gut and bowels). This research demonstrates that extensive antibiotic use can kill off a large percentage of our good bacteria as well as the bad. This good bacteria has now been proven to influence our thoughts, 70%+ of our immune system and our susceptibility to everything from depression through to cancer. In fact just a few months ago they were able to reverse the symptoms of Coeliac disease (previously thought to be incurable) just by re -introducing bacteria to the gut.  (Find the link to the study here).

 

Another issue I have with processed non-organic dairy is that cows are given oestrogen-based hormones to ensure year-round lactation to provide enough milk for the population. This aromatisation of our food chain could possibly be contributing to some serious health concerns which we link with oestrogen, ranging from gynecomastia in men through to breast cancer.

 

The best option is to purchase 100% organic, hormone-free milk, preferably from grass fed cows if you can source it. I personally like the produce from the Goodwood estate for this reason.

Environmental Toxicity (Part 2)

In my last post I talked a lot about the harmful effects of manmade chemicals within our environment and identified just how little we know about how these chemicals interact with our bodies and how they are almost a definite contribution to widespread ill health.  In the next series of posts I hope to give you some specific advice to reduce the impact these chemicals have.

 

Why should you read these posts?

It is a registered  fact within the health and fitness industry  that it is harder for people to lose body fat today than it was 50 years ago, and many experts in toxicology and our environment theorise it has much to do with our huge exposure to manmade chemicals.

 

Some everyday chemicals have such an impact on natural hormones that aquatic life surrounding chemical factories change sex and develop the opposite gender’s sexual organs. This is documented in humans with a rise in gynecomastia (actual male breast tissue) and rapidly declining testosterone contributing to everything from infertility through to depression. The use of chemicals is so widespread that the average human body takes almost 3 times longer to decompose than 100 years ago because of additives and preservatives, no surprise when you consider we are exposed to over 60,000 different types of chemicals each year.

 

Although there are short term studies to show relative safety in some cosmetics and cleaning products etc. there are no long term studies. What could be seemingly safe for 5 years could in fact be killing us 50 years later? I don’t know about you but I’d rather not wait to find out.

 

Although I have no medical qualifications (and am no medical expert) I have read and personally spoken with a European Doctor who has theorised from both clinical and anecdotal evidence that the use of deodorants (particularly the ones containing heavy metals such as aluminium) are possibly a leading cause in breast cancer. People obviously spray chemicals into the armpit which are located next to the major lymph nodes. It is these which are commonly affected by cancer patients and subsequently removed via surgery and mastectomy.  Combine this with inadequately balanced sex hormones, no exercise, stress, poor diet and you’ve potentially got a ticking time bomb.

 

My top tip to reduce these risks: remove as much of it as possible from your life!

  • Feel you need to use deodorant? Bad body odour is usually indicative of inadequate nutrition, and/or an imbalance of bacteria on your skin which is further worsened by cheap cosmetics which change the pH of the skin. Ditch it and work on your diet first!
  • Do you really need 4 different types of face wash? What’s wrong with natural soap and water?
  • Opt for natural skin pH friendly natural shower gels and shampoos. I like the Sanex and Simple ranges.
  • Want to smell nice? Try spraying fragrances on inconspicuous areas of clothing or save for special occasions. All over your neck and wrists? Guess what? That’s where your skin is thinnest and the absorption is greatest.
  • Want to spray hair spray? Don’t. Not only is it adding greater chemical load but that stuff’s airborne and making its way into your lungs and respiratory tract. This not too different from the harmful effect of smoking if you are doing this regularly.
  • Want to clean the house? Always wear gloves and aim to use natural cleaning products. If you can smell it, you can absorb it. Always use well ventilated areas and spray close to the surface to stop adding airborne chemicals.

 

Part 2 coming soon!

 

Environmental Toxicity (Part 1)

People massively underestimate the harmful effects modern chemicals have on our bodies and just how many we are exposed to in a standard day. A brand new car for during the first year can release over 6,000 chemicals into the cabin and a carpet can release hundreds over a 3 year period. Every time you spray a cosmetic, smell diesel, use a hand sanitizer , clean your house, open a new phone, smell air freshener, eat food, drink tap water etc. your body is exposed to tens of thousands of potential and well known harmful toxins and hormone disruptors.

 

It is an acknowledged fact that workers operating in new office buildings often complain of headaches and increased sickness and some people almost collapse when exposed to the faint smell of certain sprays. Maybe these chemicals explain why one in two people alive today will get cancer in their lifetime, a few 1000% more likely than 50 years ago? Maybe this explains the epidemic of childhood asthma and serious skin conditions? Maybe this is a contributor?

 

Lots of people will argue that there are insufficient studies to support these possible threats but it doesn`t take a genius to work out that everyday chemicals with skull and crossbones on the label, guys wearing full biohazard suits spraying our crops and the use of chemicals which are used to chemically castrate/sterilize rodents found in everyday cosmetics could possibly have no effect on us whatsoever.

 

We once laughed that arsenic was used in women’s beauty products many years ago, and I expect that years from now we will look back and ask “what the hell were we doing?”

 

It is therefore imperative that you give your body a fighting chance in handling this immense obstacle in reaching optimal health, so please strongly consider the quality of the foods you eat.  It bugs me when people complain about the cost of healthy food or organic fruit and veg but don’t blink an eyelid when buying a £30,000 sports car or brand new Iphone 6. I personally never skimp on food quality and neither should you!

 

Check back soon for specific nutritional strategies to help.

The diet conundrum (part 2)

In the part 1 we addressed the issue of metabolic down-regulation in response to prolonged low calorie diets.  We identified that these diets cause the hormones which burn fat, maintain our health, and regulate systems such as our appetite, lower in response to the stress imposed by eating in this way.

 

In the previous article we used a hypothetical example of a lady who had been dieting consistently for a 7 month period.  After dieting for the 7 months, she ended up with an increased bodyweight with extra fat mass.  Her body also required her to consume fewer calories in order to maintain this heavier bodyweight.

 

I feel that it is important to note that this type of hormonal/metabolic dysfunction is documented in all body types and is commonplace in society. It is normal to find bodybuilders, figure competitors, athletes, models etc. dieting excessively hard prior to a competition or photo-shoot only to find themselves gorging on junk foods after the event. Going from virtually no carbs, low calories, low fat etc. to drastically increasing calorie intake can see these people go from extremely low body fat measurements (less than 5% body fat in some cases) to actual obesity in just weeks and months. This is the reason you see some people get in incredible shape once and then never seem to achieve the same level of conditioning ever again.  This scenario may not apply to the vast majority of us, but the metabolic dysfunction experienced by the lady in our example certainly does.

 

Here are 3 positive steps you can take to reverse the ill effects of prolonged exposure to a low calorie diet. Ladies in particular take note:

 

1>    Train with resistance.

Muscle mass is metabolically active tissue. Active tissue requires energy in order to sustain its function and it is well documented that an increase in just one pound of muscle mass results in an extra 30-50kcal burnt per day with no extra activity or exercise. Add 10lbs of muscle mass to your frame and you will burn up to 500kcal per day extra from doing nothing.

 

Add onto this figure the calories burnt during the exercise required to build that muscle and you can start to see how somebody’s body composition can dramatically improve with less time investment and less restraint when it comes to eating food

 

Many women may be concerned about looking bulky or muscular and this is a regularly posed question but this is rarely ever the case. In fact, many women find themselves sporting smaller waists and much smaller figures despite actually gaining bodyweight from increased muscle. Not only that but muscle will add shape in all the right areas such as curving and shaping the buttocks, adding shape to the thighs, narrowing the waist and slim lining the upper limbs. If you are a weak-framed, obese individual and you lose weight without improving muscle mass then you will become a shapeless smaller version of your fatter self, only weaker.  That is all that will come of dieting if you are not intelligent with your training. It is important to note that your body fat should determine your categorisation as obese, not your total bodyweight like some are led to believe. In the view of many medical/fitness professionals you can be categorized as obese despite being underweight.  These kinds of people may look okay to you or I when fully dressed but strip off the clothes and underneath is a flabby, shapeless figure. Aside from mere aesthetics this presents some very real health issues and an all-round increased likelihood of suffering from everything from cancer to heart disease.

 

Gaining muscle or maintaining muscle whilst dieting is an absolute priority. Fail to do this and you will never look or feel great.   Squatting, deadlifting, split squats, pressing, rows, pull ups etc. will help you look and feel great. Your aim should be to train 3 times per week. Never be afraid to go heavy if your form and mobility are on point. If in doubt hire a coach to show you how to structure and perform these exercises and you will be far more likely to achieve the results you are after.

 

 

2>    Slowly increase your calorie intake

 

If you have found yourself eating very few calories and still struggling to lose any bodyweight you will need to get yourself back up to a good starting point for fat loss. Failure to do this will pin you into a corner and you will rebound as nobody can continue to deprive themselves of food for any significant period of time. If you have been restricting calories for a long stretch of time, even if you are in great shape and very lean it is important that you push your calories upwards at a slow rate. For most this should be no more than 50kcal extra per week. If your weight starts to creep up then it is time to slow the increase.  If it remains constant or even drops then you can be a little bit more aggressive and incorporate a little more in the way of total calories. Individuals who have undergone liquid-only diets or very extreme calorie-restriction diets (such as -500kcal per day) can be so metabolically “damaged” that it could take an increase of just 10kcal per week for as long as 2 years to get back on track without their health or body composition suffering. This is a very real and unfortunate issue. I find it incredibly irresponsible of people to market and promote such diets and even worse for it to be recommended by a doctor, yet this is something I see nearly every week and it is incredibly frustrating. Despite literally thousands of hours of experience, consults and sessions I am yet to see an individual experience long term success from this sort of diet.

Go slow and track your body composition, failure to do so is just guess work. Once you get your calories back to a higher point then you can start to then reverse this to start losing body fat.

 

 

3>    Do not go low fat

 

When dieting to extreme levels or omitting carbohydrates from your diet the biggest mistake people make is to remove or drastically reduce dietary fat. This is the worst thing you can do because eating fats will spare muscle protein.  When body fat levels drop, certain sex hormones (such as testosterone and oestrogen) can drop off.  This can lead to a decrease in vitality, low sex drive, sluggishness, mood swings, depression, infertility etc. When this happens and your motivation drops, you are going to reach for comfort foods and back away from your training and that is when the weight piles back on. Not only this but a drop in these sex hormones will lead to poor performance in your training, your sleep will worsen, your metabolic systems will slow, you may feel constantly unwell and depressed.

 

Interestingly enough your entire brain is made of fat, as is your CNS.  Most of your major hormones are fat soluble and every cell in your body is coated in a fat membrane. Nature supplies fats in many whole foods such as meats, nuts, milk, fish, seeds, avocado etc. yet we as a nation seem hell bent on removing it from our diets. We have been eating these foods for centuries and have never had an obesity issue as we have now.  When lowering calories or carbohydrates fat intake should actually increase. Aim for 3 servings per day from coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, oily fish, grass fed meats, avocado, full fat dairy , ghee etc. Fat is satiating, nutritious and vital for health. The only fats you should be avoiding are peanut oils, vegetable oils, margarine and hydrogenated fats found in biscuits, cakes, breads, breakfast bars, ready meals etc.

 

Eat the right fats and watch the body fat drop!

 

The diet conundrum (part 1)

 

This New Year, millions of individuals will set out determined to finally shed the fat and improve their health. Most people feel like they need something radical, or very different to what they are currently doing in order to see sufficient progress. The harder the effort and the greater the struggle the greater the outcome, right? Not quite!

 

Unfortunately most of us will look to dropping the weight by undertaking diets whose main component is to reduce and slash our total daily calorie intake to a very low level. For many individuals their total diet resembles that of an anorexic, prisoner of war during a famine, born without tastebuds. Every calorie is meticulously counted and any slight deviation is akin to murder.  This is doomed to fail from the start and here I hope to explain why.

 

The real key to fat loss is to position yourself so that you are eating as many calories as possible whilst simultaneously losing body fat and building/maintaining lean tissue. If you can afford to eat plenty of carbohydrates and plenty of total calories on top of a diet rich in protein, fibre and healthy fats, changing your body composition will be an easier and less challenging process.  There is much greater room for manoeuvre and capacity to make changes based on how you wish to look, feel and perform.

 

Our metabolic rate is governed by many factors, most notably from hormones secreted by the thyroid gland, leptin levels and muscle/tissue metabolism. If you were to half your current total calories say from 3,000kcal to 1,500kcal, it is dead certain that you would see a significant drop in bodyweight.  This weight loss would come from a loss of intracellular water, body fat and muscle tissue.

 

Calories in, calories out. That’s all that matters surely? If I eat less then I will lose body fat. Here is an example of how this is not correct.

 

Let’s take a middle aged woman (subject A) as an example.  Subject A is a 47 year old mother of two with an office job and a moderately active lifestyle.

 

Subject A: First day of the diet

 

Height: 5ft 4in

Weight: 14st

Body fat: 40%

Total daily calories required to maintain bodyweight: 2,349kcal

 

Currently daily caloric intake: 2,500kcal (an excess of 151kcal per day)

 

Let’s say that this lady started a typical western diet programme such as lighter life or weightwatchers.

Theoretically, if this lady were to drop her calories from 2,500kcal to 1,500kcal per day consistently for 2 months she would lose a considerable amount of weight and rightly so, as this is a major reduction in caloric intake. Let’s assume that this lady has at the same time decided to take up some moderate exercise consisting of three 1 hour dog walks and one aerobics class per week.  After 2 months her stats may look a little like this.

 

Subject A: 2 months into diet (moderate exercise) eating 1500kcal a day

 

Height: 5ft 4in

Weight: 13st  (a drop of one stone)

Body fat: 36%  (a drop of 4%)

Total calories required to maintain bodyweight:  1,800kcal   (549kcal per day less than day 1)

 

Weight lost: 5lbs of water, 5lbs of body fat, 4lbs of muscle

 

During these two months she was in an 849kcal deficit from her dietary changes and also burnt an additional 1,200kcal per week from her new activities (an extra 171kcal burned per day).

Her total daily caloric deficit was therefore 1,020kcal.

 

 

As you can see, this lady has made some good progress and she is likely to be very pleased with her results. However there are a few issues:

 

1)      Total caloric intake has dropped by 849kcal per day.  This is a big difference and will have been difficult and unpleasant to maintain.

2)      After just 2 months this lady now has to eat 549kcal less than she originally was every single day just to maintain her bodyweight. This is approximately 22% less food than what she was eating before the diet just to stay the same.

3)      The large reduction in bodyweight in such a short period of time will inevitably lead to lean muscle mass wastage.  This will result in her burning approximately 40-50kcal less every single day for every lb of muscle mass lost (i.e. in this instance 200kcal). The loss in muscle mass may also lead to a loss of stability and strength around the joints which could lead to joint pains, back issues etc.

4)      This lady still has much body fat to lose yet calories have already dropped considerably. She now has less manoeuvring space and it is inevitable that she will eat more on some days due to the significant increase in food cravings as the body attempts to rebalance the weight lost.

5)      Hunger levels will drastically rise as the hormone ghrelin increases. Constant hunger will trigger low level stress hormone release, which will increase systemic inflammatory markers and could typically increase body fat around the midsection due to glucocorticoid receptor density in the area and cortisol’s effect on the fat-storing lipoprotein lipase.  Muscle loss is also accelerated as a result

6)      The lady may begin to feel the cold more and feel more tired than usual as a result of a drop in thyroid levels

 

Despite a few issues and hardship, let’s assume that this lady has greater willpower and drive than most and continues to diet for another 2 months. Let’s take a look to see what happens:

Subject A: 4 months into diet (decided to drop calories from 1,500kcal to 1,000kcal and exercise everyday – 3 attending aerobics classes, 3 dog walks and a 1 hour jog at the weekend)

 

Height: 5ft 4in

Weight: 12st 4lbs (another 10lbs lost)

Body fat: 34% (another 2% down)

Total calories required to maintain bodyweight:  1,500kcal (another 300kcal less)

 

Weight loss: 3lbs of body fat, 7lbs of muscle

 

During these two months she was in an 800kcal deficit from her dietary changes and also burnt an additional 1,995kcal per week from her exercise activities (an extra 285kcal burned per day).

Her total daily caloric deficit was therefore 1,085kcal.

 

 

This lady has now lost a further 10lbs in the last 2 months but 7lbs of that has come from muscle tissue. This lady is now burning another 350kcal less per day because of this muscle loss. She is eating 1,000kcal a day (1,500kcal less than day 1!) and is hungry, tired and run down.

 

A few things now start to take place:

 

1)      Survival mechanisms up-regulate to preserve fat stores, whilst preferentially burning vital lean muscle tissue for energy. Stubborn fat depositions won’t budge!

2)      This lady is tired and run down and on some days resorts to binging on junk foods to rebalance peaks and troughs in blood sugar and appetite.

3)      Serotonin levels in the brain drop and she is likely to experience depression, low mood and poor motivation.

4)      Thyroid output halves and this lady feels incredibly tired, cold and lethargic. Various tissues which interact with thyroid function are also compromised. This can literally influence everything because every cell in your body can be bound to T3 and T4.

5)      The lack of total calories may lead to nutrient deficiencies so hair begins to dry out, nails crack and skin noticeably worsens. Concentration levels drop and general work productivity and drive plummets. Work becomes hard, days become long and drawn out and mood swings may occur.

6)      Insomnia may kick in so despite feeling tired all the time, sleep becomes erratic and of poor quality. Due to depleted glycogen stores this person is losing water and is regularly dehydrated, leading to headaches and fatigue.

7)      Exercise quality rapidly diminishes and the lady has started to develop inflamed joints, sore knees and a painful back. As a consequence of having little energy and less muscle she is now burning far fewer calories during her workouts

8)       She now has less sex drive than a 90 year old nun.

9)      The thought of continuing this way of living is becoming very hard. Many social occasions involving food become awkward and the idea of leading a balanced life seems impossible for fear of gaining weight.

10)  This lady notices that even small influxes in calories lead to weight gain. Her body is a skinnier, yet fat version or her former self as she has not only failed to gain muscle but actively lost it.

 

This lady is now in trouble and cannot drop calories any lower. She has cornered herself and has nowhere to go but up with her daily caloric intake. She still has much body fat to lose but cannot go lower without endangering her health. If she creeps her calories up she only has to go up a couple hundred calories (not very much at all!) and the weight inevitably starts piling on.

 

 

After another 3 months the lady’s stats may now look like this:

Subject A: 7 months after starting the diet she has inevitably increased her calories back up to an average of 2,000kcal per day. She can no longer exercise as she has picked up various injuries.

 

Height:5ft 4in

Weight: 14st 5lbs

Body fat: 44%

Total calories required to maintain bodyweight:  1,900kcal

 

She is now 5lbs heavier than day one and her body fat is up by 4%.  Her body also now requires 349kcal less to maintain her bodyweight.

 

This is now a worse position than when she started.  She is heavier and carries more bodyfat as well as less muscle mass. If she were to diet again this situation could get worse still and is likely to resemble that of the person who only has to look at a doughnut and piles weight on.  As you can see, the more crash diets you undertake, the harder it will become to achieve the body you want.

Any of this sound familiar?

How do we solve this situation? How can we fix somebody in this position? The good news is that there are ways in which to reverse this damage and there are many healthier alternatives which will lead to long term, sustainable progress.  You have to be smart!

 

Watch out for the part 2 or email [email protected] to arrange a consultation or session to discuss our nutrition and weight loss strategies and programming.