Strength Training – A Powerful Medicine

When most people think of strength training, they think about the visual impact: building more muscle, losing body fat, changing body shape, etc.  What they don’t realise is that the physical changes that we see are just the tip of the iceberg. The real benefits (which scientific research has now demonstrated) are far greater than most people could possibly conceive.


The real issue embedding most people’s misguided view for strength training is that the media typically exposes us to the extremes.  If you were to ask most people on the street how they would picture a weightlifter or somebody who regularly lifts weights, you may get recollections of men with blood pouring out their nose from lifting 1000lbs and steroid abusing male and female bodybuilders who are just as unhealthy as many obese individuals.  When most people inform their doctor or family that they are weight training they typically get the same response: “But you’ll get too big!” or “you only need to do aerobics for heart health”. Unfortunately these misconceptions have emulated from years of stigma, myths and stereotypes.


How about the 40-year-old mum or the 50-year-old office worker who just wants to get in better shape and improve their health?  Lifting weights won’t just make you stronger and more muscular.  Used and programmed correctly it has the potential to literally transform your life and your health.


Here are just a few examples of the positive impacts of strength training:

  • Metabolic functions are boosted. Your ability to handle insulin and elevated blood glucose is significantly increased. Your risk of diabetes and all the secondary diseases that come with it are drastically reduced due to this greater handling capacity. . The impact for those who build even just a few pounds of muscle are actually far greater than those who just participate in aerobic sports. In fact, because of the increased carbohydrate consumption typically associated with prolonged aerobic training, metabolic resistance can actually be more likely, particularly in later years. This is truer for those with high training volume (e.g. marathon runners, triathletes etc.) who pile on the pasta, rice, carb gels and glucose drinks. Aerobic training certainly has a place but I would argue that the correct resistance training programme has far greater potency when it comes to metabolic health improvements.  It also causes less oxidative stress to the body.


  •  Your bone density greatly increases. Osteoporosis and bone disease is rife within Western society. The average person loses 1% of their bone mass every year from the age of 30 and quality of life is massively reduced in those who find moving painful because of bone demineralisation. Want to avoid fractures and severe bone degeneration? Get lifting and strengthening those bones alongside your muscles!


  •  Your immune system is dramatically improved. Strength training has been shown to have more of an immune boosting effect than traditional aerobic exercise.  The cortisol release from strength training is much lower than that of somebody hammering away on the treadmill every day. When people think about improving their immune function they think it’ll expose them to less frequent colds and tummy bugs. This is true, but the real value in regulating and managing your immune system is reducing your risk of the big time auto immune diseases, such as MS, ALS and even cancerous conditions in which the immune system is dramatically impaired or has become dysregulated. Many modern day health issues such as thyroid conditions, and arthritis are now considered to have an autoimmune/inflammatory component, so anything to improve your immune function puts you in a much healthier position.    Poor immune function even in earlier years is potentially a precursor to more serious issues later in life. Lymphatic tissue which carries a great deal of our immune cells has to rely on movement which acts as a pump.  Good nutrition and exercise in general are therefor not just a positive but an absolute essential if you want to live a healthy life.


  • Your neuromuscular health is improved.  Increased neural and nervous system adaptations come about as a result of training specific movement patterns with resistance, and greater neuromuscular health is associated with greater wellbeing, longevity and overall quality of life.  Improving the strength of your neuromuscular system not only improves your coordination but also has been shown to dramatically reduce the incidence of trips and falls in all populations (most significantly the elderly).  This increased neuromuscular activity has also been shown to upregulate certain genes which optimise oxygen uptake, brain health and the rebuilding of damaged or irregular tissue. Optimising your CNS is another underappreciated component of health!


There are many more points I could add to this list but just these few key ones should be enough to convince even the most stubborn of people that strength training is an absolute essential. Strength training is so much more than just improving body composition and it is an unfortunate fact that most people cannot see the true value and this is further compounded by the myriad of myths and misconceptions.  Many people are guilty of this misguided view, even many doctors!


Once you look past all the social media fitness models, bodybuilders and strongmen (the extremes), you can see that strength training, aside from nutrition, could actually prove to be mankind’s best, most powerful yet most underutilised medicine. It is for this very reason that I actively encourage everybody I love and care for to participate in some form of resistance training, irrespective of their age, gender or abilities and I would implore you to make a start as well!




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.

Four Simple and Effective Fat Loss Tricks

Several weeks ago I made a few deliberate alterations to my daily routine in an effort to reduce my body fat percentage while still eating for muscle gains.  The body is an extremely complex thing.  There are many more factors at play than just calories in and calories out when it comes to fat loss.  We also store fat in response to chronic stress, hormone imbalances, exposure to environmental toxins and anything else that contributes to systemic inflammation.  These are all things that we can minimise and avoid with small adjustments to the way we do things.  Here are four quick and easy changes I made which worked very quickly.

1.        Taking filtered water into work in glass bottles

I have a reverse osmosis water filter at home and have got into the habit of taking 2 litres into work with me each day.  Taking a known volume of water in allows me to keep track of my water intake and remain hydrated, which is important in order to maintain a high metabolic rate, among other things.  Additionally, tap water contains many toxins that are harmful to our health which the filter helps to eliminate.  I bought two large glass bottles in order to avoid storing it in plastic, which is known to contain a number of toxic chemicals (such as BPA, which mimics oestrogen).

2.        Wash all berries and vegetables prior to eating

My second change was to start washing all the fruit and vegetables I consume to remove any chemicals (toxic pesticides and herbicides etc.) still on their surface.  These chemicals are also often sources of xenoestrogens.  They can cause increases in fat storage through many methods, such as reducing insulin sensitivity and negatively effecting thyroid metabolism.

3.        Drink water with breakfast instead of fruit juice

I have been a strong advocate of a low carbohydrate, high protein, high fat breakfast for some time (favouring meat, eggs, nuts etc. over cereal and toast).  However I have only recently stopped having my glass of fruit juice.  A glass of fruit juice typically contains around 20 grams of sugar, making the low carb breakfast no longer low carb!  Eliminating this fruit juice will therefore promote stable blood sugar and fat oxidation throughout the morning.

4.        Keep a notebook by your bed

I identified that when I cannot get to sleep, I tend to be thinking a lot.  Writing down my ideas allows me to forget about them and relax, which in turn helps me fall asleep.  Acute sleep deprivation decreases the body’s insulin sensitivity, leading to elevated blood sugar.  This puts us in a state in which we are more likely to store fat than burn fat.