Blog

Product Comparison-Sardines vs Mackerel

sardines and mackeral
sardines and mackerel-the diet of a personal trainer

Most of my day is spent on the road so while I’m trying to get into shape I need a good solution to the conundrum “how do I get enough protein in throughout the day?”.

My current diet should look like this:

Breakfast: 25 grams of protein + 25 grams of carbohydrates

Mid morning snack: 25 grams of protein

Lunch: 50 grams of protein + 25 grams of carbs

Mid afternoon snack: 25 grams of protein

Dinner: 50 grams of protein plus 25 grams of carbs & lots of veg

Post-gym snack: 25 grams of protein + 25 grams carbs (gym days only-obviously)

Most days I’m on the road all day with 30 minutes travel time in between sessions. Starting my first session at 6am and getting home at 10pm means that any fresh foods I carry with me would be spending a long time in the box on the back of my scooter. Consequently I’m not keen to pre-prepare chicken fillets and carry them around with me all day. I find it helps to carry a bunch of tinned goods with me at all times so I can stop by at the side of the road and “pop a can of fish” to get the protein fix. The question is “Sardines or Mackerel?”.

Let’s compare the two.

Workbook4

 

Obviously, the cheaper the better, so sardines win on cost. Taste-wise, neither are particularly tasty. However, the sardines do have bones and scales to contend with. They’re not so bad, but not having them is an improvement which is where the strength of the mackerel fillets lie. Obviously the Sardines hit my 25grams of protein mark which is way better than the mackerel, having just under 16grams per tin. I try to keep the sugar levels down so sardines wins on that front and finally, the more omega 3 the merrier, so sardines win again.

The sardines take it 4-5. See ya later, Mackerel Fillets.

The Secret to Successful Dieting

In my most recent quest for weight loss I tested out a low fat diet in order to achieve fat loss without sacrificing muscle, despite all of the current guidelines which suggest low carb diets are the way forward. It’s based on simple science…

Our body uses 3 fuel systems:

Aerobic System – uses oxygen, fat and carbohydrate to produce energy. Preferred for lower intensity activities from sleeping all the way to jogging or other sustainable activities which we can do for long periods. This is the one that we use most, if not all of the time.

Lactate System – uses carbohydrates to produce energy. This system kicks in when we up the intensity to a level where the body can’t supply enough oxygen to use the aerobic system, at which point a different chemical reaction occurs using only carbohydrates. It’s better for high intensity actives which are only sustainable for a few minutes or less. This is usually reserved for people who carry out physical activity.

Creatine Phosphate System – uses the chemical creatine phosphate to produce fast energy. This system is the most superior in terms of intensity however the output at this high level can only be sustained for around 10 seconds before the intensity is forced to drop and the lactate system takes over. This is almost certainly reserved for people who carry out intense physical activity or explosive movements.

The important bit here is that the aerobic system is the only one which burns fat. BUT…and it’s a big but, this system only burns all 3 fuels together, fat, oxygen and carbohydrates. If any of those are not present, the chemical reaction won’t take place.

What does this mean? It means that if we don’t have carbs in our system we can’t burn fat. So what happens if we remove carbs from our diet? Well, we need to get the carbs from somewhere because fat on it’s own is useless. So the body becomes “catabolic”. This is a state where the body breaks itself down, more specifically, the muscle tissues, in order to convert the proteins which make up the muscle, into carbs so that they can be used to produce energy. This loss of muscle mass can help to explain why the weight loss results from low carb diets are so dramatic as muscle is more dense than fat.

fatvmuscle

Here’s an image to break up the monotony.

But what if we don’t want to lose muscle? Then we need to ensure that our diet contains sufficient carbohydrates and protein. To reiterate what I’ve said in previous articles, there are 3 sources of energy; fat, carbs and protein, where fat and carbs are used for energy and protein is primarily used for growth and repair. Only when we run out of carbs do we use the protein for energy by converting it into carbs. We can’t use protein itself as a source of energy, as highlighted in my description of the three energy systems above.

But what happens if we remove fat from our diet? Well technically, without fat, we can’t use the aerobic system. That basically rules out life. We simply can’t survive without it. We’re lucky though, because even if I was to completely remove fat from my diet for an entire week or more, I’d still have plenty of fat in my body to provide sufficient fuel. If we have any fat under our skin whatsoever, it’s fair to say that we’re not in trouble of running out any time soon. We also have fat stored in our bloodstream, our muscles and our liver. Anytime we eat more fuel than we use, it gets converted into fat and stored in one of the aforementioned places.

So logically, if we maintain a high protein and carb intake but limit the fat intake, we’ll need to take fat from our reserves i.e. our body fat. This SHOULD result in fat loss but not muscle loss. Does it work? Yes, as many bodybuilders will tell you, but it’s not that simple. I’ll throw some figures into the equation to make this easier to explain.

Using me as an example, to maintain weight I require around 2400 calories per day (removing any exercise sessions from the equation). According to myfitnesspal, my breakdown should be around 50% carbs, 20% fat and 30% protein. So that’s 1200 calories form carbs, 480 from protein and 720 from protein. To remove the fat intake completely from my diet I’d need to consume the remaining 1920 (1200 + 720) calories from carbs and protein. This would then leave me with a daily deficit of 480 calories which my body should extract from its fat stores.

Given that there are 9 calories in every gram of fat, this suggests I’d lose around 53 grams of fat each day (480/9) or 371grams per week, which incidentally is less than 1lb.

So why did I lose so much weight when I did the low fat diet? It’s because eating 1920 calories of low fat food is damn near impossible. My diet consisted the following:

5am: rice crispies and skimmed milk
9am: Low fat meat such as tuna, turkey or chicken
12pm: Sushi and more low fat meat
3pm: more low fat meat
6pm: even more low fat meat
9pm: 1 sweet potato, some low fat meat and steamed vegetables

This totalled to around 1400 calories per day but I couldn’t manage to eat any more than this without going for sweet treats such as entire packets of wine gums or sugar based treats. Remember-I was allowing myself no fat so things like chocolate, pastry, bread etc. are all ruled out!

When factoring in 5 hours of exercise per week on top of this I was creating a weekly deficit of over 10,000 calories per week, which in terms of fat, is more than a kilo per week, but as I’ve been trying to explain, my sub-optimal carb and protein intake meant that I lost muscle too, not just fat.

There’s a theme!
On the above diet I constantly felt full. Even eating that much was a challenge, hence the 1000 calorie deficit per day. Here lies the theme among most successful weight-loss diets. They make you unable to eat enough calories to gain weight. As soon as we start stipulating rules around what we eat, assuming they are sensible rules, the likelihood of overeating deteriorates. There are no magic foods which make you lose weight or which slow down digestion so that you don’t gain weight. The most successful diets in one way or another reduce the likelihood of you consuming more than your necessary calories, and as a result you lose weight.

Let’s observe a few diets and see how they may reduce our calorie intake.

Low Carb Diets
Vast amounts of our calories come from energy heavy carbohydrate sources such as pasta, potato, bread and rice. Take these out of the equation and the total amount of calories you consume drops drastically.

Low Fat Diets
Gram for gram, fat contains over twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates so when we reduce the fat intake, we drastically reduce the total amount of calories consumed. Also, carbs on their own tend to be a bit gross. A jacket potato without butter or cheese can get outta here, as can most other carby foods if we take away the fat.

The Dinner Diet (only having one meal per day)
Surprise, surprise, if we remove breakfast and lunch from the equation and only have one large meal per day, we don’t consume as many calories as we would if we had three meals per day. Trying to consume enough food to gain weight in one meal is damn near impossible.

The Hay Diet (separating carbs, fats and proteins into separate meals)
If we avoid mixing food groups within a meal it makes it extremely difficult to consume vast amounts of calories. Just protein on it’s own isn’t very appealing so we’re unlikely to binge on it. Carbs without fat tend not to be very tasty, consequently we won’t eat lots of them on their own. Fats without carbs tend not to be very nice either so we tend not to eat large volumes of food on this diet.

So What’s the Secret to Success?
I can go on and list all of the various diets but it’s not the diets that are important. It’s the effect they have on your total calorie consumption that makes the difference. The one thing that all of these diets have in common is the fact that if you adhere to the rules, you won’t consume very many calories, which will over time result in weight loss. I often hear people talking about diets, discussing which ones work and which ones fail. The truth is, diets don’t fail…PEOPLE fail. All diets are based on simple logic and if you have the mental strength to stick to the rules you’ll lose weight. Blaming the diet is an easy excuse for people who don’t have the staying power to stick to the diet. I’ve said it many times, but once your health becomes a priority, you’ll make your diet work. Until then you should just accept that you have other priorities and focus on them instead. So, in a word, the secret is to change the way you think about food. Understand that food is a means of survival, and that you don’t need to constantly feel full, in order to stay alive.

There are other factors which help to explain our desire for good tasting foods and why many of us find it difficult to control what we eat and I discuss these in more detail in my book so if you’re “hungry” for more info (excuse the pun) you should download it now!

I Eat A Healthy Diet But I’m Still Overweight

Have you ever met one of those people, or are you one of those people who eats a reasonably healthy diet, but remains overweight? Well, unfortunately for overweight people the fat’s not going anywhere unless something is done about it.

What I’m trying to highlight is the fact that there are many people out there who do actually eat a sensible diet, and probably do a reasonable amount of exercise, however they’re still over weight. The reason? The damage is already done.

Sometimes I like to compare fatness to finance because it’s a simple analogy which most people can relate to. The only difference is that more money is generally a positive thing whereas more fat is generally a negative thing. But in principle, the amount you have works the same way for both examples.

Let’s say my income is £2000 per month. However I only spend £1000 per month. Over a 12 month period I will have accumulated £12000 in excess cash. This is good, and if I was to resume to a “normal” amount of spend relative to my income and spend £2000 per month, I’ll always have that extra £12000 sitting in my bank.

chaching

However if we use the body fat analogy and I eat 2000 calories per day and I only expend 1000 calories per day, after a year I’ll have 365,000 excess calories. Unfortunately this excess gets stored as fat and 365,000 calories equates to 40.5kg or 89lbs of fat. That’s a lot of excess weight. Even if I start to eat a “healthy” diet or up my exercise in line with that of a healthy* person I’m not going to lose weight, because that weight remains in my bank unless I spend it.

Many people, through no fault of their own, consumed excess at a young age and piled on the lbs to find that despite eating a normal** amount they remain overweight.

To reverse this situation requires sustained dedication because using my above example, I’d need to either expend 3000 calories per day and eat my normal 2000 calories for a year or the alternative, continue at the same level of activity and eat nothing for a year. Literally nothing. Obviously there is a balanced approach whereby I consume slightly less, for example 1500 calories per day and do slightly more, burning, say 2500 calories per day creating a 1000 calorie deficit. After a year I’d be where I started. But that’s an entire year of doing that consistently, with no days off or days of rest etc.

Now, I know some of you are reading this and saying “but I just can’t eat as much as other people otherwise I gain weight” which might be true. The answer…..don’t eat as much as other people.  If you can’t eat as much as other people, you are not meant to eat as much as other people. Don’t judge yourself by the same standards as them. Maybe they DO have a higher metabolism. In which case they need more fuel. NEED more fuel. You don’t need it.

Let’s go back to our bank account. If we earn exactly what we need to earn and nothing more we will always end up with a zero bank balance at the end of the month. If we earn more than we need, we will accumulate money in the form of savings. If we earn less than we need we will lose money over time. But not everybody needs the same amount of money. Some of us have huge mortgages, several children, nice cars or large credit card bills. Those people NEED a lot of money. Some people have small houses and no other significant spend, and those people don’t NEED much money.

The same goes for food and drink. If you eat more than you need, you accumulate fat. I can’t stress this enough. Body fat is unused fuel, therefore people with high levels of body fat have consumed more than they need. There is no way around this. Yes, it maybe the case that they eat the right amount now, but at some point in the past they have eaten excess and this has been stored as energy in the form of body fat.

Body-fat-xray
An example of someone who ate more than they needed compared to someone who ate what they needed. The white stuff is the energy which was never used.

So why do some people need more food than others? Metabolism is the simple answer, but what makes a metabolism which uses more fuel? Muscle mass is one. Height is another factor. Activity levels is a third. These are the three big ones. If the muscle within the body is our engine, then it stands to reason that bigger muscles burn more fuel. And for a normal shaped body, muscle mass is proportional to height. The taller you are and the longer your limbs the more muscle mass you will have. And then as we know, the more active you are the more fuel you burn, but the type of activity you do also affects how much fuel you burn. Activities which require more recovery, growth and development of the tissues leave the body in a heightened state of fuel burning.

So maybe you do eat the right amount or maybe your friends can eat more than you, but the fact remains, excess body fat is unused fuel and if you have it, you’ve eaten more than you need. The only way it’s going to go is if you up your activity, increase your metabolism and lower your calorie intake-for as long as it takes.

Next month I’ll discuss my other analogies: The Gain Train and The Pain Train where we find out why the process of losing weight can be a challenge.

*healthy can mean many things but for this example let’s say an average healthy person performs vigorous exercise 3 x per week

**there is no such thing as a normal amount of food. The government has messed things up by telling us that women should eat 2000 calories per day and men should eat 2500. This is incorrect and you should eat however much you need, based on your size, activity levels, and body composition and whether you are trying to lose, maintain or gain weight.

Do You Trust The Body Mass Index? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t

What’s Wrong With The BMI And Why Your Doctors Shouldn’t Be Using It

Most of us have heard of the BMI. Many of us have been told at some point that we’re overweight or underweight, maybe even “OBESE” according to the BMI scale. And many of us have questioned this as the results can often seem unfair. Well, the theory behind the BMI is fairly logical and based on mathematical principles of proportion. The only problem with it is the fact that when they came up with the equation (BMI = Weight/Height²) they made a mathematical error.

So let me outline what the BMI is and the principles behind it. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it stands for BODY MASS INDEX and is a system used to provide weight guidelines for humans. It’s based on the simple principle that if someone is taller than you, they should weigh* more than you. More specifically, if someone of a similar shape to you is taller than you, they must be wider than you. I’ve put a couple of diagrams below to show you what I mean by this.

Stick man 1 and 2

Here are Dave and Pete, two men of exact size and proportion. Assuming they are both made of the same material, they both have the same BMI (because their proportions are identical) and both weigh exactly the same (because they are the same height and width).

Stick man big  small

Now let’s assume Pete has doubled in size. He still has the same proportions as Dave as he has doubled in width as well. Proportionally they are still the same shape and due to this their BMIs will remain the same.

Stick man 1 and thinny

In this diagram Pete is the same height but half the width of Dave. He is now a skinny version of Dave and his BMI will have lowered accordingly. This principle can be explained using simple mathematics. If we simplify our diagram and use squares instead of stick men we can manipulate the equation and see the results.

squares 1 and 2

Square 1 and square 2 are the same shape. They are both of the same proportions which means they should have the same BMI. To check this we can give them some metrics. If each square is 1 metre tall and weighs 1kg we get the following:

BMI = 1kg/1m²

BMI = 1/1 x 1

BMI = 1

 

squares 1 and 2 half size

Here, square 1 is half the height of square 2 and half the width. So assuming that the BMIs are the same because they are proportionally the same size we should be able to use the BMI to find the weight of cube 1.

Remember BMI = Weight/Height² and we know the squares have a BMI of 1

So….

1 = Weight/0.5²

If we manipulate the equation we get the following:

Weight = BMI x Height²

Or…

Weight = 1 x 0.5²

Or…

Weight = 0.25kg

So although square 1 is now half the height of square 2 it weighs just a quarter of the amount. This makes sense because square 2 is essentially 4 times the size of square 1. See diagram:

squares 1 and 2 half size fitted

So based on the principles of the BMI, if I have the perfect BMI and my friend who is 10% taller than me also has the perfect BMI he will be 10% wider than me as well, but not necessarily 10% heavier.

Here lies the problem

This is all very well but humans are not two dimensional. In reality if one were to double in height, they should also double in width AND breadth (or depth). The equation BMI = Weight/Height² works for two dimensional objects, but not for 3 dimensional objects. To incorporate 3 dimensions we must use cubes instead of squares and the equation must use a “cubed” sign instead of a “squared” sign. If we replace the ² with a ³ we get a completely different result. Height² literally means Height X Height. Height³ means Height X Height X Height, which is a very different number. I can explain this using the cubes below.

cubes

These cubes should all have the same BMI as they are all proportionally the same as each other. They are just bigger versions of each other. None of them are skinny, none of them are fat, they are simply bigger or smaller than their counterparts. But their weights are different. If we assume the smallest cube weighs 1kg then it looks like the second should weigh 8kg (because it is made up of 8 smaller cubes), not 2kg (because it is twice the height) or 4kg which is what the BMI  would suggest. Using the same logic the third will be 27kg and the fourth 64kg. They should have the same BMI but they don’t because the BMI equation is wrong. Try working it out yourself. But if we use this equation instead: BMI = Weight/Height³ you will find that they do all have the same BMI.

Let’s try it. Assume each little cube is 1metre high and weighs 1kg

Cube 1

BMI = 1kg/1m³

BMI = 1

Cube 2

BMI = 8kg/2m³

BMI = 1

Cube 3

BMI = 27kg/3³

BMI = 1

Cube 4

BMI = 64kg/4³

BMI = 1

So why has nobody noticed this before? Well they have, and they’ve called it the “Ponderal Index”, ponderal meaning “estimated or ascertained by weight”. The question is, why hasn’t the medical profession changed its system to use the Ponderal Index? It’s a fairly simple principle. I worked it out on my own in a single evening! (before I googled it to discover that many others had already done the work before me)

What are the consequences of the flaw in the BMI?

The use of the wrong formula means inaccuracies in readings the further we deviate from the average, the average being those heights used when the studies were first carried out. By memory I think it is 5’8″ (1.77m) for guys and 5’4″ (1.63m) for girls. People taller than the average will find that their BMI readings are very unforgiving and very tall people will almost always be overweight according to the BMI. For short people the opposite occurs and you’re able to be fairly overweight whilst being perfectly fine according to the BMI.

Is The Ponderal Index The Perfect Solution?

No, but it’s a far better solution than the BMI. There is still the fact that both of these scales don’t differentiate between fat and muscle, and there could be a pretty heavy muscular guy with virtually no body fat, who has the same PI or BMI as an unfit slightly chubby guy of a similar height.

What Is A Good Ponderal Index?

Using the BMI as a reference, below are the equivalent ranges** on the Ponderal Index:

PI Chart

Now if we use me as an example, at 1.85m tall I have a “healthy” PI range from around 70-95kg. My weight usually fluctuates between 83-90kg so as someone who considers himself “healthy” I would say that the estimates on the PI are fairly accurate. However, if I were to use the BMI it would suggest my “healthy” range is from 64-85kg. As a “not overly muscular” guy with a six pack at 89kg I’d say this is a good case to suggest that the BMI is fairly rubbish. On the BMI scale I’m 26 which would put me in the “overweight” category. Really? Don’t make me post any more photos of me with my shirt off.

Have a go yourself. If you’ve used BMI before and you’re short, you’ll get a nasty shock. If you’re tall you may be pleasantly surprised.

 

*I’ve used the terms “weigh” and “weight” instead of the scientifically correct term “mass” for the benefit of the reader as these are the terms which the general public tend to use on a day to day basis.

**I couldn’t find these records online so I used the BMI Study’s average height of 1.7m to retrospectively convert the BMI scale into PI by factoring the two equations to come up with the following equation:

BMI = PI x Height

There’s Nothing Quite Like a Roundhouse Kick to the Head

This month’s thing that made me proud:

A 40 year old mum of two whom I’ve spent the last 6 months training had a visit from her “sporty” friend from Brussels this weekend. She told her friend that she has a “Coach” (this is what she refers to me as) and has been learning to fight. In response her friend belittled her quoting something about nail varnish and makeup so she proceeded to do a roundhouse kick to her friend’s face (non-contact of course).

chuck norris
Chuck Norris Performs a Roundhouse Kick

 

Her friend from Brussels, who also trains in martial arts (Not Jeane Claude Van Damme, before you ask) looked surprised and returned the favour with a front kick to my client’s face. But it didn’t get her in the face because much to her, and her friend’s surprise, she instinctively blocked the kick and back-fisted her friend in the face (non-contact of course).

She was so pleased that this reflex action had been ingrained in her mind and the look on her face when she was telling me the story was sheer excitement.

I’m a proud “coach” today.

Fit in 4 Weeks (Flabtastic to Abtastic)

Well hello,

So, it’s February and dry January is over. I’m pleased to say I made it all the way through without an alcoholic beverage. I also managed to stick to a reasonably healthy diet, bar a few slip ups – but more on that later.

How was it for you? I know most of my clients managed an equally successful January which is great to see.

So I decided to treat my dry January as a science experiment and have documented it in “old school science experiment” fashion below. You can be the judge of the results.

Aim

The aim of this experiment is to see what results I can achieve by cutting out alcohol, sweets and starchy carbohydrates whilst sticking to a diet of mainly meat and veg. I will be performing a full body muscular workout out 3 x per week and playing basketball and football each for an hour every week. I’m aiming to maintain an average daily calorie deficit of around 1000 calories per day.

Theory

The theory is that by creating a significant calorie deficit whilst continuing with a well programmed full body muscular workout my body will choose to retain muscle and make up for the daily calorie deficit by burning excess body fat.  Based on the fact that there are 9000 calories in a KG of fat and I’m losing 1000 calories for 28 days I plan to lose around 3kg (28 x 1000/9000=3.1).

Hypothesis

This is based on the theory that the human body is intelligent enough to understand where to take its fuel from depending on the situation. If the muscles are being used regularly, they are worth holding onto, and the excess fat is the best choice to fuel the deficit, whereas a 1000 calorie per day deficit used without a muscular workout is likely to result in muscle loss rather than fat loss. The body assumes that in a state of starvation, when muscle isn’t used, it is wasted mass which requires fuel to sustain, therefore breaking down muscle to use it as a fuel source seems sensible. The fat however is worth holding onto as it is a good source of energy and also an insulator. So typically diets without muscular workouts result in a loss of muscle and retention of fat, in turn the body doesn’t tone up, it simply gets lighter and arguably softer. Obviously the former is the preferred method, which is why we should all be doing full body muscular workouts on a regular basis.

Method

To carry this out I will be cutting out all alcohol completely during the month of January. I will be cutting out all sugary foods including fizzy drinks. I will not snack between meals and will stick to a 3 meal per day format. Time of day of these particular meals is irrelevant but due to my lifestyle I tend to eat breakfast at 6am and eat my dinner after a workout which usually takes place in the evening at 8 or 9pm. I then go straight to bed. Lunch time comes at some point between the two depending on when a gap in my diary allows it. The plan is to avoid snacking in between meals.

Due to a hectic work schedule during January (a PTs busiest period) and the January rush in the gym, I’ll be working out at home using a chin up bar and performing body weight exercises only.

The Diet

Breakfast

Protein based breakfasts such as a roasted chicken fillet, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, a 3 egg omelette with ham, cheese and tomato or a no carb fry up (sausage, egg, bacon, tomato and mushrooms).

Lunch/Dinner

There is no particular rule to this. Basically, 1 or 2 pieces of meat and lots of veg in various formats for either meal. Examples below.

  • stir fry
  • steak and asparagus
  • stuffed chicken fillets with green veg
  • pan fried duck breast with red wine jus, broccoli and caramelized chicory
  • a packet of chopped chicken breasts and sugar snap peas (if I’m on the road)
  • chicken salads
  •  various fish and veg combos

Most of these combinations will range from 300 to 600 calories per meal.

Drinks

I don’t really drink water so I will be drinking mainly coffee with milk and one sugar and tea with milk and one sugar. Probably about 5-10 cups per day.

The Workout (performed in full 3 x per week)

Upper Body

10 underarm grip chin ups

As many press ups as possible

10 wide grip overhand chins ups

As many close grip press ups as possible

10 Close grip overhand chin ups

As many wide grip press ups as possible

 

Repeat the above 3 times

 

(I’m not sure about you, but I certainly can’t do 90 chin ups in one workout so I’ll use a chair under my tip-toes to assist with the completion of the chin ups)

 

Lower Body

 

3 sets of 10 single leg squats (full depth) on either leg

3 sets of 10 full squat jumps (as high as possible)

 

Core

 

20 leg raises

20 dorsal raises

Repeat 3 times

 

2 sets of 50 Rocky Sit ups (elbow to opposite knee)

 

Results

The Diet

For the most part I kept to the diet although I quickly realized that I couldn’t perform at sports without upping my calorie/carb intake somewhat, therefore the diet wasn’t as strict as I would have liked it to be.  On sport days I carb loaded somewhat which was the best way I could manage to sustain energy throughout the matches. I successfully managed a full month with no alcohol. I also decided that to eat meat or protein for breakfast was putting me slightly over my food budget so I opted for a full sized bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes instead. I would suggest that this would have had a detrimental effect on the physical results however from a sports performance perspective I expect it helped me somewhat.

 

The workout

I carried out the workout 3 times per week with the exception of the 3rd week when I only managed it twice.

 

The Body

Below are the photos taken before and after the 4 week period. What I’d like you to appreciate is that I haven’t used any of the usual tricks. No fake tan, no shaved chest (I don’t have much chest hair anyway), no relaxed poses or belly bulging in the before shots and no fancy new hair cuts in the after shots. I’ve tried to keep the images as consistent as possible (including patchy facial hair) to show the actual difference rather than cheating to enhance the results (which is what most people do in before and after photos).

 

Starting weight 86kg

Finishing weight 83kg

 

Fit in 4 Weeks
The transformation over a 4 week period in January.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, I am far leaner in the after shots. However I do look a lot happier in the before shots so maybe a bit if body fat is good for the mental wellbeing? Who knows?

The quick weight loss seemed to have an effect on my ability to increase strength and endurance. I did improve slightly in these areas but not as quickly as I have done previously when eating a more fulfilling diet.

The low carb diet meant that I was unable to perform effectively when playing sport. In the first week on two occasions I ended up running out of fuel completely during my football matches-the equivalent of a marathon runner hitting “The Wall”. As a result I chose to carb load before and during the days when I played sport (for the benefit of my teammates). To be safe I overloaded on carbs which meant I was likely to have excess fuel in the body at the end of the games. In turn this is likely to have had a detrimental effect on my “rippedness” in the after shots.

However, on a day to day basis I felt fine and had plenty of energy. It was only when I asked my body to perform at significantly higher intensities that I struggled.

If I wasn’t playing performance sports I would have stuck to the diet and dealt with the lack of energy during my regular workouts.

My body composition changed and I lost a significant amount of fat, particularly around the waist area. It’s difficult to say how much muscle mass was lost as I don’t have access to equipment advanced enough to measure this. I would suggest that I did lose some muscle mass although looking at the images I would say that it was minimal. I certainly didn’t lose any strength which would be a good indicator of a reduction in muscle mass.

Conclusion

To conclude I would say that in this experience, a low carb, high protein diet complimented by regular full body muscular workouts was indeed a good way to reduce fat, tone up and maintain muscle mass.

One thing I would like to highlight is the difference between training for sport and training for improvements in your body composition and shape. Athletes train hard and consume a great amount of fuel. They are not trying to lose weight therefore they rarely have a diet which results in a calorie deficit. For them it is important to keep fueled up in order to maximize their fitness gains, hence the need for energy drinks during exercise and recovery drinks after exercise. If you are training for weight loss, then eating these high energy diets is counterproductive.  And with regards to muscle gains, particularly for the females out there who are afraid of becoming too muscular, by pushing weights whilst eating a calorie controlled diet your muscle gains will be minimal and your fat will be used to make up for any deficit. However, diet without working your muscles and you will lose them and retain the fat. The former should give you a healthier body and a firmer figure.

So to summarise, I’m pleased with the results I achieved in just 4 weeks. I think that with more discipline I could have done better as I ended dry January and had some boozy, carby nights before the after shots were taken. But I certainly feel like I have rectified the damage done throughout dastardly December with his copious amounts of alcohol, sweets and food.

 

 

 

Horizon: Sugar v Fat

A summary for those who missed it and the missing facts for those who saw it

Sugar v Fat
Dr Xand and Dr Chris Van Tulleken

Some of you may have tuned into see BBC’s Horizon: Sugar v Fat which looked at the difference between a high sugar diet and a high fat diet. It was based on a contrast between the US philosophy which treats sugar as a toxic substance and the UK philosophy which still sees fat as the culprit behind obesity.

Cunningly they set about by conducting an experiment where two handsome doctors (this was irrelevant and I don’t think they were GPs, rather PHDs of some kind) who were identical twins (this is the more relevant part) restricted their diet to adhere to two basic rules. Twin 1 (we’ll call him Dr Sugar) was to survive on a diet solely of carbohydrates which contain no fat. This encapsulates sweets, pastas, oats, potatoes and basically anything which we would call carbs or sugary treats. Twin 2 (let’s call him Dr Fat) was to live for a month on a diet of only fatty foods which contain virtually no carbohydrates. This encapsulated meats, cheeses, dairy products but no vegetables or carbohydrates. They were both allowed to eat as much as they desired as long as they stuck to the above rules. The twins were closely monitored to follow changes in their body composition, alertness, fitness performance, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and appearance.

This experiment was backed up with interviews from various other researchers who had conducted similar experiments using rats as subjects.

What did they find?

The following is a summary of the findings with specific reference to the twins:

  • In one sitting Dr fat was likely to consume fewer calories than Dr Sugar who was able to polish off almost 50% more calories than Dr Fat.
  • Dr Fat became fuller more quickly and was full for longer periods of time between meals.
  • Dr Sugar was more alert, able to think more quickly and concentrate better.
  • When asked to do a physical task Dr Sugar outperformed Dr Fat when fueled by their respective energy sources. The task was a cycle at maximum speed up Box Hill.
  • Dr Fat lost approximately 3.5kg of body mass, 2kg of which was muscle and 1.5kg of which was fat.
  • Dr Sugar lost 1kg of with a 50/50 split between fat and muscle.
  • From this it appeared as though they were saying that a high fat diet resulted in a disproportionate amount of muscle loss, which they concluded is unhealthy.
  • Dr Fat developed a reduced ability to deal with high sugar levels due to a lack of insulin production (a symptom associated with type 2 diabetes)
  • Neither of them particularly enjoyed eating the food they were allowed to eat.

Other nuggets of info provided by the other researchers:

  • When eating a diet of mainly fats, rats consumed a reasonable quantity of food and gained no weight.
  • When eating mainly sugars, rats consumed a reasonable quantity of food and gained no weight.
  • When eating foods that were a balanced combination of fat and sugar the rats grazed constantly and gained a significant amount of weight.
  • They summarized that foods which were a 50/50 mix of fat and sugar were the most moreish and resulted in the most weight gain as we tend not to stop eating them once we’d had enough.

What they didn’t tell you:

  • How much exercise they were doing whilst conducting this experiment (I got the impression it was none)
  • That the body uses muscle as a fuel in situations where calorie intake is reduced to less than is needed to survive (starvation) and the muscles aren’t being regularly used. This is to make the body more efficient. If muscle, which uses up fuel to survive, isn’t being used, it is logical to shed the muscle by using it as a fuel source. This means that going forward the body will burn less fuel and can survive for longer where calories are in short supply.
  • That carrying out muscular workouts limits muscle loss in starvation situations as the body assumes that the muscles need to be retained as much as possible. In this situation fat would be the main source of fuel for survival, resulting in fat loss and muscle retention.
  • Who was the fitter person at the start of the experiment (this would have had an effect on finding out who was the fastest cyclist up the hill).
  • The fact that different energy sources fuel us for different intensity activities.  Dr Sugar was quicker up the hill on the bike because when performing physical activity at a moderate intensity, carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source. Fat cannot be converted into usable energy quickly enough to supply a sufficient amount of fuel for those activity types. However, should the Drs have attempted a 100km walk, it may well have been Dr Fat who came out on top as fat is a preferable fuel source at lower intensity activities. For more info on this see my previous post: The Truth About Fat Burning
  • How much they each weighed when cycling up the hill-this would have had an effect on the ability to climb the hill-although based on the above statement it is always likely that Dr Sugar would have won irrespective of body weight.
  • How much, if any, alcohol was consumed during the challenge. Presumably Dr Sugar would have been allowed alcohol but Dr Fat would not?

My Summary:

  • Sticking to pure foods rather than processed foods will make you feel fuller more quickly, for longer and result in a controlled calorie intake.
  • Always work all of your muscles to avoid losing muscle mass instead of fat when dieting for weight loss. Failure to do so will result in a lighter reading on the scales but no increase in muscle tone or improvement of body shape and firmness. You’ll be “skinny-fat”.
  • If exercising for performance (not weight loss) you should consume carbohydrates before, during and after exercise and a balanced diet of both food types on a day to day basis.
  • A high fat diet is likely to result in more weight loss than a high sugar diet.
  • A combination mix of 50% fat 50% sugar is the nicest but deadliest combination and is likely to result in weight gain if consumed regularly.
  • Sugary diets seemingly aid concentration (if we go by what the TV show found when comparing the TV doctors in an intelligence test)
  • Carbohydrates aid physical performance at higher intensity levels.

If you have the time I would recommend watching the TV show on the BBC iPlayer by following this link: Horizon: Sugar v Fat

Why Am I So Fat?

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Why am I so fat?

 

Why am I so fat?

Ever wondered why you struggle to control your weight? Here are a few pointers about weight gain/loss that you may not know.

The myths:

 

  • You’re fat because you have a slow metabolism
  • You’re fat because you’re old
  • You’re fat because you put on baby weight
  • You’re naturally that shape
  • You’re just big boned

 

The truths:

 

  • You don’t have a slow metabolism. If you burn fewer calories than others it’s because you’re either short, or you have less muscle mass. If that’s the case you should not be eating as much as people who are taller than you or more muscular. Does a Chiwawa eat as much as a Labrador? No, but if it did it would be very fat indeed. Your calorie consumption should be proportional to the cube of your height. If a 6 foot person and a 5 foot person both eat 2000cal per day, the 5 foot person will have a significant amount more body fat. That explains why your friend who’s “really tall and thin” but “eats loads of food” is the shape they are.
  • You’re not fat because you’re old. We don’t suddenly start putting on weight when we get to the age of 30 like many people believe. You suddenly put on weight when you start coming home in the evening and having half a bottle of wine every night. You start putting on weight when you work in an office where they frequently offer snacks and cakes around to boost team morale. You start putting on weight because your job requires you to work more hours so you end up buying takeway for its convenience factor. You start putting on weight because you think that 3 hours of exercise per week is sufficient ,though when you were younger you were probably doing 3 hours of exercise per day.
  • You’re not fat because you put on baby weight. If this was the case you would have lost the weight when you bore the child. Having a living creature growing inside you does require more fuel which comes from the food you eat. Approximately an extra 300 calories per day. However if this extra fuel was being used to aid the growth of the baby, it wouldn’t be building up in the form of body fat underneath your skin. If you put on a significant amount of body fat during pregnancy it’s because you ate more than you and your baby required.
  • You’re not naturally that shape. Have you ever looked at cows in a field and thought “Crikey, that cow is naturally fat”. Probably not because cows only eat what they need to survive. As do lions, tigers, fish and most other things in the wild. They don’t eat cookies and cake because it tastes nice, and they can’t simply order food online whenever they feel hungry. As a result, they are all more or less the same shape. They certainly don’t store excess body fat, unless they’re an animal which hibernates, in which case they are purposefully putting on weight in order to survive for several months without eating a single thing.
  • You’re not big boned. Bone density has nothing to do with the amount of body fat which surrounds your muscles. If you are storing fat around your body, it’s because you’re eating more than you need. If you’ve always been fat, it means you ate too much when you were young. Whether or not you eat too much now is a different matter. If you eat the right amount, your bodyweight doesn’t change so maybe you did the damage when you were young and now you’re maintaining a state of “overweightness” by eating an amount which appears to be “normal”. Remember, to lose weight you need to eat “less than enough” for a period of time.

 

Pointers:

 

  • Inactive people should eat less than active people
  • Short people should eat less than tall people
  • If you want little indulgences you should be prepared to gain weight or work out more
  • Snacking represents a disproportionately large amount of our daily calorie intake

 

An afterthought:

I’m not “Naturally Skinny”. My weight fluctuates like anybody else’s. Over Christmas I regularly gain half a stone/3-4kg. In January I lose it again through hard work. I train my muscles to remain strong and functional which also means I burn more fuel on a daily basis. This allows me to eat more than someone who simply does cardio or doesn’t train at all. I also do cardiovascular exercise in order to keep my heart, lungs and circulatory system in good shape.

At the age of 16 I was more or less fully developed at 83kg. Ever since then my weight has fluctuated between 83kg and 85kg with the exception of certain periods during which weight has gone as high as 90kg. This extra 7kg can be gained in a couple of months. If I didn’t change my habits at that point I would simply continue gaining weight and within two years I’d be at least 20kg (3 stone) heavier but I always nip it in the bud before it gets beyond my control. Last year, at the age of 30 I dropped to 76kg whilst training for an event. I had not been that light since the age of 13. The fact that I am now 31 hasn’t had any effect on my ability to control my weight because I try to maintain a lifestyle which doesn’t encourage weight gain. I do drink lots and eat lots at the weekend but I also spend the weekend playing sport. I do enjoy a beer or glass of wine at home in the evening but I don’t let it become habitual.

I’m a normal person whose body functions the same way as yours.

The Full Time Worker’s Guide to a Good Physique

Dom Thorpe

Dom Thorpe
Managing Director and Principal Trainer

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

What a summer! Yes, it rained but not much and the long sunny periods have meant that I’ve spent many an evening sitting in my garden with a bottle of wine when perhaps I should have been training. So now’s the time to make up for it. Get back on track before we reach the Christmas season, when let’s face it, nobody trains effectively, if at all. If it’s not “I can’t train tonight because I’ve got a work Christmas do” it’s “I can’t train in the morning because I’ll be hung over”. Either way, you’re only making it harder for yourselves. With that in mind I find it best to make sure I’m in great shape leading up to the Christmas season which makes the New Year’s fitness regime a much less daunting task. So we need to think about our regime now, as the evenings draw in and the temperature drops. Realistically, the social side of your life will start picking up mid-November so you’ll want to set that as your target date for greatness.

Incidentally, my birthday is the 13th November which means I’ll probably be having some kind of fancy dress party which involves me getting half naked as part of my costume:

Cupid at my 28th Birthday



How about you get in shape and join me?

So that gives us just shy of 10 weeks in which to become Greek Gods/Goddesses. The method? Put simply, train a bit, stop drinking so much and eat more healthily for a while.

Decide which areas of your body need the most work and create an exercise programme accordingly. Forget the treats where possible, cut out mid week drinking and if you can switch your glasses of wine or pints of beer for lower calorie options such as Vodka & Diet Coke or Gin & Slimline Tonic you’ll be on your way to Hotsville.

Regarding your diet, here’s something to think about. Collette Pryer, a former colleague and current friend of mine writes about the benefit of cutting out all forms of sugar out of your diet, from sweet treats to starchy carbohydrates; and the results speak for themselves. I post this because I agree wholeheartedly with what she’s saying, and that’s based on me seeing results on other people, and seeing it on myself too. Visual proof to follow.http://fit2ublogs.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/crumpets-are-not-a-good-breakfast-or-lunch/

So, to follow on from that I want to let you into a secret which I’ve learnt over the years. In June I went on a trip to Crete and this time I actually made a bit of effort to get in shape beforehand. In order to improve my physique I ate a diet which adheres to the rules suggested by Collette above and trained fairly hard around 2-3 times per week. Weights mainly with a bit of Sunday 5-aside football to get the ol’ ticker beating.

Below is a before and after of me in Dec 2011 (Gran Canaria) and June 2013 (pre-Crete).

Left: Gran Canaria at 31. Right: Pre-Crete at 32.

That’s a year and a half between the two images which isn’t particularly impressive in terms of rapid results but that’s not the message here. There are two messages, the first being that a “naturally skinny” person like myself can get fat if their lifestyle dictates it. I’m not actually naturally skinny but many people would suggest that because it appears that I don’t put on weight (as you can see from the early photo, I do put on weight). The second being that at 32 years old I’m was in the best shape of my life which highlights the fact that age doesn’t make you fat, but your lifestyle does.

Now some of you might be thinking “but you’re not that fat in the early picture”. And you’d be right. But’s that’s me after a couple of months of eating badly and not training particularly hard. The real overweight people in this world have been behaving like that for YEARS which is why they are overweight.

To summarise:Nobody is naturally fat.
Being old doesn’t make you fat.

I’m still 32 but after a few months of letting things slide I’m somewhere between the two images at present. But as I mentioned earlier, it’s time to reign it in and get back on the wagon before I over-indulge throughout December. So I’ll be eating mainly meat and veg for the next month at least, and cutting out the fun stuff like pastries and my biggest vice, DR Pepper. That alone will save me around 800 calories each day which is like doing a 10k every day in terms of weight loss.