New Years resolution make or break

We are two weeks into January. How are the resolutions going?
I’ve seen a steady influx of new people joining the club over the last couple of weeks and this year I have noticed something new. The people that are coming in to join my health club seem to have more of a clue than previous years.
In the past I have had people coming in to join in January with ideas that they will be buff and beautiful in weeks (just like the magazine promised). They believe that a few weeks in the gym will make up for all the overeating, drinking and general bad food choices that they have enjoyed over the last however many years. Not even considering that they didn’t get to the shape they were in that fast.

This year the people I am meeting seem to have a firmer grasp of the journey that is fat loss. They understand that they will not reach their goals in a matter of weeks or even months. I have even had a few tell me they know it could take years for them to get where they want to be but they are ready to start the process. I have had conversations with people about how they are combining healthy eating programmes with exercise and how they can make the most of their gym time, and my favourite conversation has to be with a lady (in her fifties) who has never used a gym before asking if someone can show her how to use the free weights because she has read that resistance training is better for fat loss than cardio. I was so pleased to book her in with one of my gym staff for a consultation.

I was aware of the shift in focus towards the importance of nutrition when exercising within the fitness world but what I was not aware of was that some of that research and new found knowledge has leaked its way over to main stream media. People are starting to realise that the health myths of old are just that… myths! It is becoming more widely accepted that fat does not make you fat, that fruit juice is not all that good for you and that diets don’t mean starving yourself. That final statement however may not be catching on quite so well…

I say that because there has been a distinct pattern over the last couple of weeks, and it goes a little something like this:

Monday- Bonkers from the moment we open, all classes packed gym busy pool busy everyone on it.

Tuesday- Bonkers

Wednesday- Busy

Thursday- not so much

Friday – even less

Saturday- Morning bonkers, afternoon dead, evening no interest

Sunday- Morning no change from the rest of the year.

I have a theory and it’s pretty much general consensus, DIET’S START ON MONDAY! Everyone is keen and energised and full of good intentions, they hit the gym, they cut the calories they drink less coffee and more water and they feel awesome. Tuesday they are still feeling great, full of motivation cracking out the gym time or classes or whatever, the diet is still on point all is going well. Wednesday they are starting to flag. The hard work and strict eating are starting to take their toll on the energy reserves and tiredness is kicking in, but the dedicated push on because it’s doing them good. Thursday, they really should have taken Wednesday off! It’s been hard staying focused at work, even harder resisting the treats at work. The diet has gone from enjoyable and interesting to part of the reason you are failing to find the motivation to get to the gym. By Friday it’s all gone wrong, the gym is out the window, and they are trying to justify the take away because cooking another low calorie high veggie dinner is just not going to happen. Then it’s the weekend, Friday nights treat meal has either given them the energy needed to get up and back to the gym, out for a run or whatever. Or it has caused the worst case of lethargy they’ve ever experienced and getting out of bed is a struggle. Either way joints and muscles ache, they are stiff sore and hungry and no matter how much they try they can’t ignore the cravings. It all goes out the window because by God they have earned a rest, but then it’s Monday again and they are feeling guilty so begin the cycle again.

As I said, it’s a theory. But it does make sense, and I’ll explain why.

You see although combining a calorie deficient diet with exercise will help you achieve your goals, you are burning more calories than you are consuming. So you are going to be tired, you are going to start craving sugary and salty foods, you will start to lose motivation and you will power is going to weaken, because you aren’t eating enough!! It’s the catch twenty-two of fat loss, you need to eat less than you burn but you need fuel to get through your day. The problem with a lot of new gym goers is that they cut calories too quickly causing this negative cycle. The reason it all goes wrong at the weekend is because they do so well at the beginning of the week, they do well at the beginning because they overeat on the weekend. The solution is to take a rest day mid-week and ease up on the diet a touch that day, allow yourself a few extra carbs, let the body replenish the fuel reserves, that way you will have the motivation to plough through to the weekend with will power intact and hopefully survive the temptation on the weekend.

This time of year is tricky for those new to exercise or dieting (or the combination of both) and as with everything we do as individuals the formula changes from person to person so finding that balance is purely trial and error but if you don’t rush to reach your goals and you give yourself a little, and I mean little, slack every couple of days, you will find the journey far less daunting.

As always good luck and take care.


Surviving the holiday binge

The holiday season is upon us and the indulgence has begun. Millions of people around the world are gently relaxing their diet and exercise regimes. More and more of us are slowly slipping into the “one more won’t hurt” mentality.
Let me take this opportunity to point out that one more honestly won’t hurt.

But how often is it actually just one more? How often does it really become I’ll let it go today and get back to normal tomorrow? And how often does tomorrow turn into next week or the next Monday, because diets always start on Monday. This time of year is hard on dieters; there are so many temptations, so many social events and so many excuses to let the will power take a back seat for a while as you allow yourself “one more”. We all have our vices and whether its chocolate, booze, pastries, this time of year has it all, in abundance. I am not one to say you shouldn’t. I certainly have been getting amongst the frivolities of the season especially as I have just celebrated my birthday. But I am one to say it doesn’t have to ruin your hard work.

In my last post I mentioned there are a few ways to tackle the overeating/drinking either by fasting, carb cycling or just training big before or after a binge. But what about when the damage control isn’t enough? When just one more has been going on for weeks, and you are starting to feel a little less comfortable in you jeans? When you have got into the habit of drinking alcohol every day (even if it is only one) or you reach for the chocolate an hour after dinner? These little habits that only take a few days to form, take weeks to get out of and it takes months to work off the extra calories you are consuming each day.

The answer here is goal setting. Or maybe reverse goal setting is the right term to use. Pick a date, maybe it’s the day you go back to work after Christmas, or January 1st it doesn’t matter when it is but set yourself up that whichever date you pick is the day you get back to your old habits. Try and clear your house of all the treats you’ve been enjoying over the last few weeks and start planning your meals and workouts. By not having the treats around you cannot be tempted. You will feel a bit hungrier but it’s purely because you have gotten used to the simple sugars from sweets and booze over the previous week or so. A good way to counter this is to prepare meals that are high in protein and healthy fats, these foods fill you up and keep you satiated a lot longer than carb based meals will. If you have gotten into the habit of enjoying a drink or two in the evenings try and find a way to substitute not just the drink but also the ritual of fixing it. You see half of the relaxing effect of a drink is in the preparation. Let’s face it there is nothing better than cracking open a cold beer after a stressful day, the whole process of getting in, opening the fridge, grabbing a bottle and hearing the fizz and pop of that cap coming off… but don’t you get the same effect from a cup of tea? Particularly for us Brits, there is little in the world that a cup of tea can’t fix.

The idea is that you let yourself enjoy the next few days, have a lovely guilt free time but don’t let it hang over you. A little rest and a few extra calories for a week or so will do you good, you’ll recover from your workouts faster, or if you decide to rest completely then you will recover from all the work you’ve been putting in, you will sleep well, and feel pretty good. And if you are anything like me, after four or five days you will be looking forward to eating better and getting back to the gym. Be prepared for the extra weight you may gain, don’t feel the need to justify every meal or drink you have, but when you hit that cut-off date… its back to work.
Have a good one.

The other reasons we do what we do.

A while ago I wrote about why we gym types do what we do. Why we spend long hours in discomfort in the pursuit of a better us. But there is another reason… its practical.There is no denying strength is useful. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I get asked to just help move this or give a hand lifting that. I do it happily because I can, because I am capable of lifting heavy objects with less effort than a non-lifter because lifting stuff is fun for me. I enjoy testing myself, I like knowing that I can move or lift things that a lot of people can’t on their own, and I wouldn’t say I’m one of the strongest people I know either. I would say that my friends and I were pretty handy when it came to helping my folks move house last year.

There is a slight issue in my house though, where my wife also lifts I am not as essential as my ego would like. She doesn’t need me to help move furniture or whatever because she is fully capable of doing it herself. It makes us a pretty good team though and we can get an awful lot done together if we need to.

My point is life is easier when you strength train, unless you count the constant soreness and stiffness. You can carry more bags from the car after shopping, throwing my nieces and nephews around is way more fun as I don’t wear out quickly, and I’d be handy to have around in a zombie apocalypse (although my issues with running could be an issue).

Joking aside strength is important, especially as we age. Strength training, if done properly and safely, can help keep your body young. Research has shown that exercise, particularly resistance training, helps brain function and keeps you mobile which in turn will increase your longevity. Couple that with a good diet and you are on the path to a pretty interesting retirement. The problem is that oftentimes people like myself who have been training a long time forget that we are getting older, we still lift the way we did in our 20’s and end up injured and unable to train leaving us broken and frustrated. However if we pay attention to our bodies, adjust our training and increase the amount of mobility, flexibility and injury prevention work that we do as we age, there is no reason we can’t be the most useful people in the nursing home.

It’s certainly my goal.

It’s still the season…

I saw that title being used as an advertising slogan outside GNC today. I thought it was brilliant because let’s face it, a lot of people are going to fall off the health wagon over the next few weeks.

The Christmas period is chock full of excuses to eat, drink and be merry. And why the hell not? We work our socks off all year round and deserve to kick back, and hey the weather is crappy so who’s really go into notice the extra inch of body fat we gain in fact relaxing the diet might help us recover from all the hard work we put in. It might even help us fight of the viruses flying around, if our immune system isn’t too compromised from being way more hungover than usual.

Except when do we start to reign it in? I mean think about it. We have the Work do, drinks with mates, family engagements,I have my birthday next week, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, then there is the whole new year thing. The gym is on restricted opening times, maybe we should just take the time off recover enjoy it. 

Or not!

The solution is simple, damage control, there is no way I am going to even consider watching what I eat, I’m off to Germany for a few days to celebrate my birthday and intend to fully immerse myself in the beery goodness that wonderful country has to  offer. I will enjoy every opportunity to socialise with my friends and family over the next few weeks, eat, drink and be a merry as a sailor in a brothel. But I will take a little time to plan my meals and push my workouts in the days leading up to those events.

For example having a few low carb days at the beginning of the week to make up for over indulging on the weekends, basing meals around meat and veggies instead of comforting pasta and potato meals that this time of year screams for, avoiding alcohol and treats during the week and generally making smarter food choices.

You see we are only a meal away from getting back on track so if we come off the rails,spending a few minutes to plan the rest of the weeks meals and practicing a little restraint when we aren’t socialising can keep you from undoing all your hard work.

You may choose to cut down your gym time, especially if it closing earlier than usual but that doesn’t mean you should stop exercising completely, wrap up and get out for a walk. In fact if it’s possible why not walk to your next function? It gets you moving, burns a few calories and saves on taxi fare.

All I’m saying is don’t let yourself get too carried away and you be one of those people in January, punishing themselves for the daily chocolate injections because “it was Christmas”. This a time  of year to relax and be sociable but there is no need to  make life difficult for  yourself once the festivities are over. Have a plan, in fact have 2 plans. If plan A goes awry you’ve got plan B to help you recover. And if you are hungover, try eggs before you hit macdonalds, I read that something to do with the protein and vitamins in eggs is supposed help the body deal with the toxins from drinking, coconut water helps too.

So enjoy the next few weeks, but always keep your goals in mind and remember you are only a meal away from getting back on track.

Take care

Buff and Beautiful

Comic books and superheroes are quite fashionable these days. There are so many movies and t.v shows based on comic books and as a fanboy myself I think it’s awesome!

But there is something about these programmes that bothers me. The actresses that play the female superheroes just aren’t buff enough. “Hollywood” for want of a villain (pun intended) is still afraid to show allow its actors to look the part. They are happy as hell to let the male actors get as big and ripped as they possibly can, and although they will deny it they have no issues with what these guys take to get that big because they want them to look the part. But they won’t let their female leads dominate the way they should. Sure they will teach them to fight, allow them to punch people twice there size or whatever but they won’t let them look like they should.

Next year we will be seeing Gal Gadot enter the comic book world as the most iconic female character ever created… Wonder Woman. She was designed as a symbol of equality to help kids see that women can kick arse just as well as  ANY man including Superman. In the comic book she is a tall, strong, muscular, intelligent, passionate and feminine all at the same time. She also takes crap from no one and frequently knocks Superman through buildings. In the movie I can almost guarantee that she will still be bad ass. She will be strong minded, tough and look great in her costume but will she look like you’d think twice before cutting in front of her at the bar? Because she should.

You know those movies when the quiet guy in the baggy shirt offers to fight the bad guy in place of the kid that’s getting bullied and takes off said baggy shirt to reveal rippling muscles and crazy fighting skills? That’s how Wonder Woman should look. Unassuming under her jacket but as soon as you see her in her costume her legs, back, arms and shoulders should be a little scary. Not Madonna’s veiny corded arms scary but sculpted and strong looking.

Gadot should look like she lifts heavy and eats loads her costume should emphasise the beauty of her musculature not how sexy she looks in a corset. But unfortunately sex sells and Gal Gadot is hot so Hollywood will no doubt soften her appearance make her train to accentuate her long limbs and “dancers physique” and she’ll look great, but she won’t look like she could make Superman think twice about anything (apart from his breath or if he has something in his teeth).

Anyone that has read my blog before will know how I feel about the way women’s fitness is portrayed in the media. How the lack of research and false information out there has warped the way women approach fitness, how most women are afraid to lift weights because they don’t want to get bulky. How women under eat or don’t eat enough of the right foods because they are afraid of getting fat.

This comic book mania could be the start of a revolution of women’s fitness, more role model women seen lifting weights, eating well and still looking amazing in their everyday clothes. Looking amazing in their designer dresses and awesome in their underwear. Because starving yourself thin might look good in clothes but lifting and eating will make you look good out of them too.

The Mediterranean Dream

I seem to be on one about “expert” advice at the moment. I think it’s because a lot of it is so false. My most recent peeve is that the biggest buzz words in health at the moment are “Mediterranean Diet”.I’m sure you’ve heard of this magical combination of foods that when eaten as part of a daily life will leave you fitter, healthier, more attractive with great hair, skin, and a general radiance about you. The diet, on paper, consists of lots of colourful vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, courgettes aubergines, you get the gist. It also recommends lots of fish and olive oil but warns against too much red meat.

Now I know what you are thinking; why is he having a pop at this diet it sounds great… It is great it is exactly how we should be eating (although from my point of view it would frown on the amount of meat I consume) it is bursting with nutrients, good fats lean protein sources.

 My problem is it’s a load of crap!!

I’ve been to the Mediterranean, I’ve seen the way people eat out there and it is nothing like what I’ve just told you. Breakfast usually consist of strong coffee and cigarettes, if they eat anything at all it is usually bread based, possibly with tomatoes and olive oil but most of the time it’s with Nutella! Lunch tends to be some kind of sandwich, maybe a pizza or pasta, most likely with more coffee and cigarettes. Dinner will be meat or fish yes but mostly with chips or pasta, possibly a very sad looking salad and always with wine and cigarettes.

What I’m getting at is that this so called Mediterranean diet only exists in diet circles. Like every other country in the world people are more likely to eat what is cheap and accessible and usually to the detriment of what is best for their body. Being as interested in food as I am, one of my favourite things to do when I go away is visit food markets. The markets I have visited in the Mediterranean have an abundance of tomatoes, several different types of onion and a load of oranges. There is a smattering of other vegetables but they tend to be seasonal and in much smaller quantities to the aforementioned tomatoes and onions.

Believe me when I say I wholeheartedly agree with the concept of the Mediterranean diet. I just think it should be called something else like maybe the ideal diet or the whiz bang wonderful diet or some other name that points to the fact it is healthy and good not make it sound like you will get a tan just by eating the foods it recommends.

Rant over.

Autumn & Winter, Sickness and Health

They days are getting shorter, long cold wet evenings are closing in, shops have been slowing introducing Christmas themes for at least 2 months already! It can mean but one thing… Wait for it Game of Thrones geeks… WINTER IS COMING! 

Right now we’ve got that out of the way we can get on point. 

This time of year is generally the time we think of with a little melancholy, the change in temperature and general dampness inevitably leads to colds and flu, leaving and returning to work both in darkness sucks. So how does it feel to hear that according to principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) this time of year could do wonders for your body and mind.

It turns out that the foods we eat during the summer can actually be bad for our internal health. Cold food and drinks according to TCM put additional stress on your body me specifically your Qi (pronounced chee) your bodies life force. You Qi requires balance for your body to function and high levels of stress, too many cold foods and drinks, excessive alcohol basically all the stuff that comes with daily life and general fun and frivolities of summer effect your Qi which is directly linked to your wellness come Autumn when your core temperature is reduced as well due to the weather and the cooling of the blood.

The way to counter this coolness of the blood and eventual balancing of your Qi can be found in the kitchen. This time of year s wonderful for a cook. The vegetables are vibrantly colourful, full of flavour and plentiful. But most importantly it’s more palatable than it had been over the summe, we crave warm comforting meals and herein lies the secret.

Our bodies need slow cooked root vegetables and bone broths to help balance. In other words soups and stews. The longer they are cooked for the better. Now in Chinese cooking you would add various herbs and spices to increase the medicinal value of these soups but the essence of the meal is the same. The slower the soup is cooked draws the nutrients out of both the vegetable and the bones. The soup gains a gentle sweetness which can be balanced with salt. It’s warming, hydrating and packed with goodness. TCM recommends at least one of these soups a week but slowly cooked vegetable as frequently as possible especially in the winter months.

Most super markets sell stew packs which contain carrots, parsnip, swede and onions. I will always add leeks and ideally fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary, parsley also works. Meat wise I would recommend using the carcass of a roast chicken or the bone from whichever neat you had for your Sunday roast. I’ve even used the bones from pork chops that I’ve saved and frozen until needed in the past. Basically any bones will do and they don’t necessarily have to be cooked prior to making your soup. 

Now if you want to add anything else you are of course welcome, you could even just make a stock and use that as a base for a different soup or casserole or whatever, the point is that you slow cook it to get all the medicinal value from it. The only problem is they do not recommend grains with it so that’s your dumplings or your bread and butter ft the table (so to speak) but hey if a bread roll makes the meal for you it’s better than not having the soups at all. 

Play around with it, especially if you are feeling a little under the weather.