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Food For Fitness by Scott Baptie - 2M ago

Seriously, we have been accused of being sponsored by Coca Cola before by someone who didn’t like it when we said that it’s not that bad for you. There’s the cat out of the bag already.

Why something so insignificant as a can of juice can command such hatred and why it’s the cause of many a hot debate is….well, quite frankly, bizarre.

Anyway, let’s get into it – is diet coke bad for you?

Listen to some and they’ll have you running to the hills with fear. You may have heard:

  • Diet coke causes cancer
  • It tricks your body and turns on fat-storing-mode
  • All diet drinks deplete nutrients and make you hungry
  • It’s filled with chemicals therefore it’s pretty much poison
  • Diet coke is the cause of all things evil, should be banned and how dare you, a nutritionist, say that it shouldn’t be outlawed

Now, before anyone gets even more worked-up and accuses us of saying it’s ‘healthy’ let’s get a few things straight.

There are a lot of myths surrounding the drink that are simply just a load of nonsense. This article is going to clear the confusion. What does the evidence say about diet drinks?

Also, just to clarify, before anyone drops the usual “this is sponsored by Diet Coke” no it isn’t. Pepsi Max or Diet Irn Bru are much better anyway…..

Is Diet Coke Bad For Your Health?

Probably not that bad at all.

There are no studies that indicate any long-term health risks from drinking diet soda. Diet Soda….is not harmful to health, well-being, or body composition ~ Examine.com

So far, so good for the coke zero and diet coke fans.

There are no studies that indicate any long-term health risks from drinking diet soda.
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What about the cancer risk?

Back in the 60’s, there was a study that linked aspartame (the sweetener in diet coke) with brain tumours but more recent evidence has proven that this isn’t the case and that there is no link between diet drinks and cancer.

A review paper in the Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology Journal concluded that:

…the studies provide no evidence to support an association between aspartame and cancer in any tissue…..the weight of scientific evidence confirms that, even in amounts many times what people typically consume, aspartame is safe for its intended uses as a sweetener and flavor enhancer…..

What About The Chemicals?

A post shared by Scott Baptie (@scottbaptie) on Aug 14, 2017 at 3:57am PDT

My buddy said aspartame ingestion produces methanol and formaldehyde.”

Yes, that’s formaldehyde as in the stuff used to preserve dead bodies.

Whist it is true that aspartame is broken down into methanol (which is then converted into formaldehyde), as well as two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid – it is extremely unlikely to be detrimental to health.

Why? Well, the key is in the dosage.

Just because something has chemicals in it does not mean that it is harmful. Whether a chemical is natural or man-made doesn’t tell you anything about how toxic it is.

There are many naturally occurring chemicals in plants that are extremely toxic to humans in small amounts. On the other hand, there are many man-made chemicals that are totally harmless to us, even when consumed in large quantities.

Toxic fruit?

There are fruits and vegetables that everyone agrees would be classed as ‘natural foods’. However, many contain compounds that have been shown to be toxic to humans. The good news is that the dose is so small that you would never be able to eat enough of them for it to be harmful.

Just because something 'contains chemicals' doesn't mean it's automatically unhealthy.
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Semi-skimmed milk, for example, contains 6-9x more phenylalanine and 13x more aspartic acid than a diet coke. Tomato juice also has 4-6x more methanol than a diet coke too.

The air you breathe has chemicals in it, then you use that oxygen and that forms chemicals within you. The water you drink is a chemical and then you use it to form more chemicals; all of the carbs, protein and fat you eat are products of chemical reactions and then you use them in chemical reactions in your body.

Finally, formaldehyde is produced by our bodies every day in amounts thousands of times greater than you would ever get from aspartame. It is actually needed to make essential compounds, including your DNA. Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Here’s another example of why dosage is key and just because something “contains chemicals” doesn’t mean it’s automatically unhealthy. Apples, cherries and apricots all contain the poison cyanine!

[RelatedToxins, Diet Cokes, Pseudoscience & Fighting The March Of Unreason]

Do you avoid them for this reason? No, because the dosage is insignificant. Ever heard of apple eaters dropping like flies with cyanide poising, no, of course you haven’t.

Anyway, back to diet coke…

Does it get the thumbs up? No so fast, your dentist won`t be a fan.

One thing to mention is that diet drinks, although sugar free, may not be great for your pearly whites.

Studies have shown that carbonated drinks aren’t great for tooth enamel, which is one reason why you may not want to go overboard with the coke zeros.

So far, according to the science, diet cokes aren’t bad for your health. But…

Is Diet Coke Bad If You’re Trying To Lose Fat?

Let’s get something straight, weight gain and weight loss is determined by calorie balance (calories in vs calories out):

A fundamental principle of nutrition and metabolism is that body weight change is associated with an imbalance between the energy content of food eaten and energy expended by the body to maintain life and to perform physical work” ~ Am J Clin Nutr

A drink that contains zero calories cannot cause you to gain weight. It’s physiologically impossible. There is no evidence that shows drinking diet drinks will result in fat gain.

A drink that contains zero calories cannot cause you to gain weight. It’s physiologically impossible.
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Some studies have actually shown that sweeteners may even improve weight loss and long-term control of body weight.

How can this be? Ever had a sweet tooth? Of course you have. Sometimes artificially sweetened foods, although unlikely to serve any nutritional benefit can eliminate sugar cravings.

If a zero calorie diet coke is the “go to” instead of a 300 calorie chocolate bar, it doesn’t require an expert to explain why this is going to make a difference to the waist line.

[Related: 11 Ridiculous Myths About Fat Loss]

Overweight Folks And Diet Drinks

Now some studies have shown that people who are overweight or obese drink more sugar-free drinks than people who are a healthy weight.

But is the diet coke to blame? Unlikely.

These studies have also shown that the overweight people – who were drinking the diet drinks – had a much higher calorie intake than those who didn’t.

What’s more, people who generally have poor diets may also be more likely to drink diet drinks to offset the high amount of calories consumed by making poor food choices.

Although overweight people may drink more diet drinks, the diet cokes are unlikely to be the cause of the problem. This is a classic example of why correlation does not equal causation. Here’s another example:

In America, in summer, people eat more ice cream. More people also get eaten by sharks in America, in summer..

One does not cause the other, ice cream does not cause shark attacks, just like Diet Coke doesn’t cause obesity.

Ice cream does not cause shark attacks, just like Diet Coke doesn’t cause obesity.
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Does Diet Coke Increase Heart Attack And Stroke Risk?

An observational study published in February 2019 reported that people who drank diet drinks were more likely to suffer from heart attacks or a stroke.

However, because the study was observational it just looks at associations or links between the participants, rather than directly showing that diet drinks increase heart attacks or strokes. It also doesn’t actually explain why diet drinks might be linked to an increased risk. Follow?

Just like in the section above about overweight people drinking more diet coke, the folks more at risk of heart attack or stroke, due to other lifestyle factors, could be drinking more diet drinks in a bid to be healthier or manage their weight.

Lastly, the British Heart Foundation are still are happy with the safety of sweeteners and recommend them over a full sugar drinks every time.

Wait, Does Coke Trick Your Brain?

You’ve heard this one before too, haven’t you? That diet coke tricks your brain that it’s actually sugar.

The argument often centres around insulin (a hormone which plays a key role in the regulation of blood glucose levels). You’ll get folks that say that diet coke causes an insulin spike which results in weight gain.

Again, if you look at the evidence, this doesn’t happen in healthy humans or even in diabetic patients.

Diet Coke Can Clean Coins, So It Can`t Be Good!

The logic applied by some, is that if diet coke can clean coins, it can`t be good for your insides, which seems reasonable.

Other cleaning-related uses for diet coke are that it is good to clean rusted battery terminals, clean toilets and polish cars. The old favourite is that traffic police apparently carry two gallons of coke in their car boots to remove blood from the road after a car accident.

Here’s the deal.

Fizzy drinks contain carbonic acid which make them good stain removers.

Guess what? Plain old fizzy water or soda water does exactly the same thing. It isn’t anything mythical or chemical about the diet coke that makes it a good cleaner. It’s simply the carbonic acid.

Folks have been drinking fizzy water for years with no side effects and again. There is zero evidence that shows moderate consumption is detrimental.

Finally, the gastric acid in your stomach is far stronger than any acids found in fizzy juice anyway.

The Round-Up: Is Diet Coke…or Any Diet Drinks Bad For You?

Diet drinks aren’t ‘healthy’ but there isn’t really anything particularly ‘unhealthy’ about moderate consumption of them either.

If weight loss is the goal then swapping from a regular fizzy drink to a diet drink is probably going to be beneficial. If you’re a fizzy juice fiend then switching from three normal cokes to three diet cokes would cut sugar intake by around 90g. This will reduce calories by almost 400, which will likely help your waist line and you can do so knowing that the evidence shows that it’s safe to do so.

Similarly, if you’re often dehydrated and you find you can’t keep your fluids topped-up because you find water a tad dull then a slash of no-added sugar squash may make drinks more palatable and as a result, improve your hydration levels.

On the other hand, if you currently don’t drink diet coke and you’re perfectly happy with water, teas and coffees and so on then there certainly aren’t any health benefits to be had from diet drinks, you’re not missing anything.

It`s up to you what you drink but plain old water is still our favourite!

What do you think? Do you drink diet coke or do you avoid it? Let us know in the comments section below.

The post Is Diet Coke Bad For You? appeared first on Food For Fitness.

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I know first-hand what it’s like to be the skinny guy.

No muscle, no strength, no confidence in your body’s ability to open a tight jar of jam, let alone lift a heavy weight.

I’ve got good news for you though.

If you’re in the position I once was, then know that it didn’t stay that way for me and it doesn’t have to for you either.

I first started going to the gym 10 years ago (yikes!) when I turned 16 and, in those years, I’ve learnt a lot about what works for building muscle and what is best to be avoided.

Even with all the information available today and with better scientific research than ever before, there are still some myths that just won’t seem to disappear.

Thankfully, through a lot of trial and error, testing and learning, I have the muscle building myths that can finally be put to bed so that you can focus on what works and what will actually get you the results you want.

Myth #1: You need to shock your muscles into growth

This myth comes from the idea that if you go in to the gym and always perform the same exercises, your body will become smart to what you are about to put them through. It will stop responding and growing and you’ll need to try and shock them with something new and unexpected to spark them back into action.

What a load of old trap.

“Shocking your muscles” usually comes with a period of unstructured training where you hop from one programme to the next and switch up your exercises each and every workout, in the hope that your muscles won’t anticipate your next cunning move.

But here’s the thing:

Your muscles don’t know what exercise they are doing, all they know is that they are being put under stress. And if that stress is adequate enough then they will adapt by growing so they can deal with it better next time round.

So, in order to continuously build muscle, we don’t need put our bodies through every exercise under the sun. Instead, we need to focus on the main compound lifts and ensure we’re progressing with them in each workout.

This is what is known as ‘Progressive Overload’ and it is the cornerstone of muscle growth. It can be achieved in a number of different ways:

  • Increase the weight lifted from previous sessions
  • Beat the number of reps from previous session with same weight
  • Increase the number of sets performed for each muscle group
  • Minimise rest periods between sets from previous session

You don’t need to incorporate all of these techniques into a single workout but, as long as you do one of them, you’ll be giving your muscles a reason to grow.

Do that and you can go out and shock people with how much muscle you’ve built.

Myth #2: DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is a sure sign of muscle growth

To some, having the feeling of DOMS the day after a workout is the holy grail of muscle building and, I’ll be honest with you, for years I thought along the same lines.

If I woke up the day after a big leg session and I wasn’t struggling to walk down the stairs, I was disappointed. I thought It meant I hadn’t put enough effort in at the gym, that I had left reps & sets on the table, maybe I hadn’t contracted my muscles hard enough or used heavy enough weights.

What I came to realise though, thankfully, was that DOMS is simply the by-product of inflammation in the muscle due to micro-tears that are caused during training.

One study shows that there was no difference in muscle hypertrophy or strength between two groups, one of which suffered from DOMs and one of which did not.

DOMS can affect people differently.

It can start to take effect as soon as 6-8 hours post exercise and usually lasts for up to 48 hours, for natural trainees. However, it’s more likely to affect people new to training or people returning to the gym after an extended period of time away and will have less of an effect on seasoned gym-goers.

The last thing to consider is that DOMS can also negatively affect your muscle building potential. After all, if you’re struggling to lift your protein shake up to your mouth, how to you expect to go and smash out some bicep curls.

Myth #3: Training a body part once a week is optimal for muscle growth

Nope.

The method of training just one body part, once per week, was used and popularised by Bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Louis Ferrigno and then, later on, by the likes of Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler.

If you’re not familiar with these guys, just know that they are muscle-bound gods in the bodybuilding world and what they say about building muscle, most people take for gospel.

Now, training each muscle group once per week did work for them, but let’s just say they had a little bit of assistance to help them along.

You see, when you break down your muscle fibre through training, your body then has to repair itself and this is done through a process called ‘protein synthesis’. This process lasts for around 48 hours in natural trainees before the body stops the process.

Assisted lifters however, are able to prolong this process and make it last up to three times as long, and this is why they can get away with training a muscle group just once a week at a higher volume.

For most of guys and gals though, for maximum muscle growth potential, we want to be hitting each muscle group twice a week.

The best way to do this?

Split your training sessions up into upper body/lower body or full body workouts and spread the volume of training upon the muscle over multiple workouts.

Use this handy table as a guide:

2 SESSIONS

3 SESSIONS

4 SESSIONS

5 SESSIONS

MONDAY

UPPER BODY

UPPER BODY

TUESDAY

FULL BODY

UPPER BODY

LOWER BODY

WEDNESDAY

LOWER BODY

THURSDAY

LOWER BODY

ACCESSORY WORK

FRIDAY

FULL BODY

UPPER BODY

SATURDAY

FULL BODY

LOWER BODY

UPPER BODY

SUNDAY

LOWER BODY

Myth #4: The heavier the better

When it comes to building muscle, the amount of weight you lift only plays a small part in the muscle building puzzle.

It would seem logical that the more weight you lift, the bigger your muscles will get. And then the bigger your muscles are, the more weight you’d be able to lift – but this isn’t always the case.

A great example of this is when former world record holder for the squat, Fred Hatfield, managed to squat over 90kg more than Tom Platz in a competitive “squat off” despite having noticeably smaller legs.

Platz has what are arguably the best and biggest legs in bodybuilding history.

So, when we step into the gym with the goal to build muscle, our aim isn’t to lift the heaviest weights possible, but to make sure the muscle is contracting and engaging fully whilst being put under adequate stress to make it need to grow.

You want to choose a weight that allows you to control the movement, maintain good technique and form and allows you train through full range of motion for the duration of a set.

And for extra muscle gains, you want to make sure you’re able to lower the weight through the eccentric portion for at least a three count, as this is when most muscle damage will occur leading to greater growth.

Remember your body doesn’t know what weight it is lifting, it only knows to respond to the stress that is placed upon it.

Myth #5: The anabolic window

Walk into any gym changing room and you’re guaranteed to see a few things:

There will be the person standing in front of the mirror looking for the perfect selfie lighting.

There will be someone walking around commando for an oddly long time.

You’ll also see guy after guy running to their gym bags so they can gulp down a protein shake within minutes of finishing their last set of bicep curls.

I won’t lie, I used to be sitting alongside them downing my shake as well, thinking that I had to get fast acting protein into my muscles before the magical 30-minute window of muscle growth had passed and my workout was wasted.

I was wrong.

Unfortunately, it took me a few good years to realise that I needn’t have worried (or wasted so much money in post workout shakes) as the research indicates that consuming protein immediately after your workout has no extra benefit than if you had it within a few hours afterwards.

Now you can chill out and relax after your workout, safe in the knowledge that your muscles won’t waste away into oblivion.

Just a quick point before we move on:

There does seem to be evidence that a post workout shake consumed immediately can be beneficial under the circumstance that you have trained in a fasted state.

Focus on the basics

Building muscle ‘aint easy, but it is simple.

Unfortunately, over the years – especially with the rise of social media – the information that is being put out isn’t always the most beneficial or accurate and the fundamentals have been muddled and over complicated.

So, what should we zone our focus in on when the goal is muscle growth? Here are a few bonus pointers:

Be consistent.

Consistency within your training is the thing that comes before all else.

After all, how can you build muscle if you don’t even show up for your workouts?

As the saying goes building muscle is a marathon, not a sprint.

Cliched? Yes, but that’s because it’s true.

Having the physique of your dreams unfortunately takes longer than what magazines may have led you to believe. It may take weeks, if not months, before you start seeing noticeable results and your body changing in the mirror.

But the best thing to do is fall in love with the process and not the end result because you’re going to be in this for the long haul.

So, buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Create a calorie surplus

Very few things in this life are guaranteed, but there is one thing at least – you will NOT build muscle if you are not eating enough calories.

You might have heard the term “hard gainer” before or you may have even labelled yourself as one, I know I did. In reality, it’s just a case that you won’t be eating enough calories to allow your body to grow, not that you are destined to be small for the rest of your days.

What you’ll have to do is calculate your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) via an online calorie calculator and then it’s just a case of making sure you eat more calories than the number you expend (by roughly 100-200 calories) each and every day, even on non-training days.

As you progress and gain weight, you’ll need to eat a higher number of calories to ensure you continue to build muscle and progress, so a reassessment of your TDEE every 4-6 weeks is advised.

Have a progressive training plan

Your workouts don’t need to be over complicated or last several hours to be effective.

They just need to incorporate what was mentioned above – progressive overload.

A programme that has you lifting more weight, doing more sets or hitting new rep PB’s week on week is going to do more for your physique and muscle growth than any of the latest gimmicks or tricks.

But, unless you have the mental powers of Rain Man then you aren’t going to know if you are achieving this. So, grab yourself a pen and pad or download an app and track your workouts and then compare them from the previous weeks/months/years.

You don’t need to track every exercise you do, but I’d suggest you keep a record of all your big compound lifts and make sure you progress with these each session.

Of course, you could just pay a trusted PT or coach and get them to do it all for you.

The 3 P’s

If you can master locking down those three fundamentals, then congratulations, you are already most of the way there…then it’s all just about persistence, patience and pumping iron.

The post 5 Muscle-Building Myths You Need To Ignore Immediately appeared first on Food For Fitness.

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Food For Fitness by Declan Mclaughlan - 7M ago

Ok, so here’s the thing. I’m sure we’ve all heard of carb cycling, maybe even done carb cycling ourselves, but what does it actually entail?

Well let’s not dive straight in the deep end. Nutrition, as I’m sure you’re aware (perhaps frustrated by even), is a complex discussion even for the most experienced or perhaps studious of us all.

When it comes to fat loss, gaining some size or even just being happy with where you’re currently at, calories will always be king. Sure, we can play around with the approach, but similar to training or cycling potentially, making it your own is a good way to go.

When we start out with something new, like a different hobby or sport, we’ve all been faced with the inevitable jargon, seemingly ridiculous amounts of detail as well as, let’s face it, being often overwhelmed.

Take cycling, for example:

It’s a great exercise for many and, if you’re still relatively new to the discipline, any chat about RPM, cadence or PSI is sure to grind even the toughest of gears.

Nutrition’s no different and the more we add on minute details and ‘toppings’, the more we’re likely to sack off our goals, hit our local and return to our usual routine or lack of for that matter.

But, hey, building up momentum and getting the wheels turning is and will forever be the best approach, at least for myself and my clients.

Grinding your own gears

I’m always one to take a perhaps different approach to many of these debates or topics and let’s imagine things as if they were set out with a clear starting point and destination.

As with many routes, roads or paths, there will always be more than one way to reach our desired end point.

Sure, we can hit the ground running, cut out our favourite foods, fast for 16 hours each day and reduce our intake to a selection of chicken breasts, green vegetables and brown rice, but similar to only half filling up our petrol tank, we sure as hell are going to run out of gas pretty damn quickly.

When it comes to carb cycling specifically, many of us like to think that it’s a miracle approach, designed to maximise our training, perfect our fat loss potentials and be absolutely necessary.

But here’s the thing:

The body isn’t so simple and, often, when we add on these small adjustments, it doesn’t really give us the extra boost we think it will.

Imagine the scene, you’ve got a few options or approaches when it comes to your journey.

You could splash the cash and go big on your dream supercar, fragile at the best of times and the quicker the better right? Or, you could sit down for days on end planning the perfect approach, timing to perfection and including even the exact route to the minute.

Genuinely, the result of both of these often and almost always is never really leaving your starting point.

Paralysis by analysis will be sure to keep you right where perhaps you don’t want to be, fretting for weeks on end on the perfect supplements, number of meals per day and how to nail your carb intake to the exact gram every single day.

As a science student myself, I often enjoy details and sure, planning is important.

But if you’ve ever been faced with the lofty task of an upcoming deadline, thesis or any project for that matter, how many times have we (and I include my own experiences in this) procrastinated, ‘started tomorrow’ or just not got the result we wanted?

As with most things fitness related, there’s often method in the madness and here’s a few (science backed of course) reasons why managing your carbs day-to-day actually doesn’t really matter.

Rocket science or rocket fuel?

As a recent study has concluded, even our intake or ‘perfect’ carb/fat ratio maybe isn’t so perfect after all.

See, the body’s an efficient engine (at least when we fuel it the correct way). When it comes to our intake, genuinely, the most important thing will always be your total calorie intake, not even day-to-day but for the whole week too.

You’ve no doubt been told or even heard the whole ‘fat burning’ basics.

Carbs this, carbs that and why you need to nail your eating to make damn well sure that your workouts are record-breaking every single time.

We’re all busy in many ways and having to think, plan and adjust our carbs every single day seems slightly overkill if you ask me.

When it comes to planning your nutrition, think big and think weekly.

Sure, we can use a classic low/medium/high approach to carbs, perhaps even a low-medium, medium-high and extra high potentially? It’s already starting to sound more like me trying to order a sirloin at my local grill.

As I often say, making nutrition work for you is the way to go.

A phrase I love and still stand by myself is to fit your fitness around your lifestyle and not the other way round.

Sure, there’s no real logic in tweaking your carbs when it comes to making sure your body’s always in its ideal ‘fat burning’ state, whatever the hell that means. But, such is life, there’s always two sides to the coin or cogs in the wheel and being sociable is always important.

‘Eat’-ch to their own

Since we are social creatures after all (on the most part I suppose), no-one wants to be the one ordering a side salad as their mains of a weekend or an evening meal out.

Not me, not you, not ever.

This is where the fun side to nutrition can really flourish and why I’ll always have an open-minded approach to my own eating habits too.

So, perhaps there’s no physical or workout related benefit to nailing a high or low carb day, but as with most things in the fitness realm, enjoyment will always be a crucial factor.

You may consider that going ‘high carb’ or ‘high calorie’ on the weekend works for you. Naturally sticking within your rough calorie range of course!

For myself, I do love a good meal out (who doesn’t after all) and the freedom or even flexibility to choose as you desire from the main menu is always a luxury we all need from time to time. Sure, you could order just a side portion, a salad or even delve into the kids menu, but let’s be realistic.

An approach I often use and recommend to my clients is to think of your calories or even carbs as a weekly budget. Similar to money or your wages, you could stick to the exact same spend every single day, but things would get boring pretty quickly indeed.

Instead, perhaps it’s worth having a small set of savings or even a wee bit set aside to best enjoy your end of week meal and actually stick to your plan unlike the usual ups, downs and falling off track.

Ups and downs

Like with anything in life, highs and lows are inevitable and you’ll never be perfect.

But, we can get that tiny bit closer by allowing ourselves to have the room to be flexible. Genuinely, the less rules, restriction and ‘need to dos’ we can have with our eating, the better we can last longer term.

Ever try cutting out sugar, ‘bad fats’ or god knows what else? Lasted long?

I doubt it.

I can testify to a few miserable weekends of avoiding anything with a red food label on its packaging myself.

What I love about the science behind what we eat is that, genuinely, it’s actually quite simple.

We enjoy complexity and making things harder. It makes us feel that bit better when we convince ourselves that we can’t do something or that we’re simply too busy.

But, hey, once you take a step back, choose the right gear and finally find your rhythm, the path to your ideal goal is often easier than you think. As I often preach, filling up your tank with the right foods and getting properly fuelled is definitely key.

So, perhaps there’s no real backing for changing up your days into high, medium or low but when it comes to training, running out of juice isn’t particularly fun to say the least.

A different train of thought

As with any debate or topic, context is key.

Sure, switching things up is often an unnecessary addition, but the devil really is in the details after all.

When it comes to training, having a decent supply of glycogen in our muscles is an important aspect when it comes to maximising our performance or getting the best from our routine. It may be beneficial to eat well around your training and if this means switching up to a high or low day approach, then who can possibly argue?

Something I often find is that simply tailoring your intake for that day to refuel before your gym session can and often is more than enough to get the desired gains or return on your efforts.

Studies are great and what I love most is the ability to genuinely back up the theory and why we do certain things with our eating especially. A recent article covers this in great detail (don’t worry, I’ll summarise without the science-y babble).

When it comes to workouts especially, it’s not black and white per se, but it’s genuinely good practice to stock up on carbs ideally. Sure, fats are tasty and I often prefer them myself, but the body’s an engine in many ways and you wouldn’t fill up a petrol car with diesel (at least I would hope not anyway).

A fork in the road

So, there you have it, the same destination, the same starting point but a tangly mess of different routes in between.

As I often say, picking the one that suits you best will always serve you well.

You could emulate your favourite Instagram personality, athlete or Jim from work, but if they’re spending hours calculating their precise macronutrient timings and ratios to the gram or second, then it’s perhaps worth taking a different route.

We all like to follow a ‘no pain no gain’ mentality and, sure, nothing good ever comes easy, but honestly making things as simple as possible will often be the long-lasting approach you’re missing.

Perhaps my favourite article of all time (I have more than I’m willing to admit) genuinely does conclude that, when it comes to fat loss and getting in shape, picking a plan you can actually stick or adhere to is the most important factor of all.

Instead of a low-carb diet, it might worth taking a low-information diet instead…

The post Carb Cycling: Is It Worth It? appeared first on Food For Fitness.

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So you’ve bought your gym membership.

You’ve heard how great lifting weights is for your health, longevity and to get you toned.

You’ve got all the kit, you’ve booked the time in your diary.  Off you head to the gym after work at 7pm.  It’s a Monday – prime time.

You venture into the weights room and you’re confronted with a sea of mostly muscle-clad men, grunting away, throwing weights around.  They all seem to know each other; talking loudly about how much they bench or listening to their headphones whilst intensely staring into space.

There doesn’t seem to be any space for you anywhere.

The machines suddenly look three feet taller and you feel a foot smaller. Like a scene from a western, everyone stops their conversations, turns around and looks you up and down.  You can hear their thoughts:

“What are you doing in here?”

“You don’t belong here.”

“This place isn’t for you.”

“Stop taking up space, you don’t know what you’re doing anyway.”

You imagine worst-case scenarios –you’ll drop a weight on your head and end up in hospital whilst everyone points and laughs at you. After visualising this, at best, you might trundle up to the cardio section and watch TV whilst on the cross-trainer for 20 minutes.

At worst, you’ll just head back home and vow never to frequent a gym ever again.

Lift or shift?

This is an all too familiar scenario. When I speak to people about why they wouldn’t venture into the weights room in the first place, their reasons fall into the following categories:

“I feel like I’d stick out like a sore thumb and people would laugh at me.”

“I don’t know how to use the machines.”

“I don’t know where to start – what weights to lift, or what things to do.”

Fear of judgement. Fear of the unknown. Fear of starting.

These are powerful emotions that send us into our fight or flight mode, and most people would fly in this situation.

So how can we get over these fears?

Firstly, lets reframe our mindset, and then we’ll go through some practical strategies for getting over these fears.

Imposter syndrome

Many people feel like they don’t belong in the gym, like they’re not the right kind of personality or the right kind of look – an imposter.

Although, last time I checked, there weren’t any pre-requisites for being part of a gym.  You pay a gym membership like everyone else.  This means you’re allowed access to the WHOLE gym, like everyone else. Not just part of it.

You are 100% entitled to take up that space.

You are 100% allowed to make mistakes and do things that look a little crap. You’re a beginner. That’s okay. When did you ever start doing something new and nail it perfectly first time? Thought not. Same goes for weight training.

Remember; those toned, muscly, strong people you see in the gym, who might intimidate you, weren’t born that way. They were all beginners once too.

Once you shift your focus to learning, not performing, you’ll reap the rewards.  But what’s the best way to start the learning process?

Building gym confidence

The 4 stages of competencemay be something you’ve heard of before:

Stage 1 – Unconscious Incompetence (you don’t know you’re doing things wrong)

Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence (you know you’re probably doing things wrong)

Stage 3 – Conscious Competence (you are aware you are probably doing things correctly)

Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence (you don’t even have to think about doing things correctly)

If you head into the gym full of confidence but having never done any research or had any professional direction you will probably fall into stage one (which is still a lot of people in the gym!)

However, if you struggle with gym confidence you’re probably more at stage 2 – all too aware that you’re doing things wrong.

It may take a while to get to stage 4, but with a little help and research stage 3 is within easy reach with enough preparation.

Free PT sessions

Most gyms should provide you with an induction anyway, but these can be very brief and not useful for what you want to achieve.  If you can, ask for a complimentary PT session and have a think about your goals clearly before you go.

Have a list of things you specifically want to learn how to do and make those a priority.

If you want to get into weight training, make it clear you want to specifically be shown how to use the resistance machines, cable pulleys, and squat rack (if the gym has one) and just get familiar with where everything is.

Bearing in mind the PT may only have half an hour or an hour to do this, here are some questions to focus on:

How to use a squat rack:

NB: You may not have the skill or strength to squat the bar just yet if you are a complete beginner

  1. How do I adjust the height of the bar?
  2. What height is right for me?
  3. How do I move the safety pins?
  4. How do you secure the weights onto the bar?
  5. How much does the bar weigh? Is there a lighter bar I could use?
  6. Where are the clips, weights and barbells stored (if it’s not obvious)?
  7. How do I unrack and rerack the bar?
  8. Other than squats, what else could I use the squat rack for?
  9. If the rack is in use, is there another way I could perform a squat or work my legs and glutes?
How to use a cable machine:

NB: These machines have so many uses so your PT may not be able to show you all of them

  1. Can you show me an upper body push, upper body pull, and a core exercise I can do with these?
  2. How can I work the same muscles if all the pulley machines are in use?
  3. How do I change the weight?
How to use gym resistance machines:

NB: Most of these are easier to use and have guided instructions written on them

  1. How do I adjust the seat so I am in the correct position? (the pins with which to do this are often very stiff!)
  2. How do I change the weight?
  3. How do I safely get off this machine? (NB this particularly applies to the incline leg press and the assisted pull up machine)

Once the PT shows you each thing, insist that you have a go setting up all this equipment whilst the PT watches you to check.

I can guarantee you, you won’t remember or feel comfortable doing it if you’re on your own otherwise.If you still feel unsure I would recommend investing in a few PT sessions to get you on your way until you feel comfortable that you could do this on your own.

Take a mate

If hiring a PT is not for you, then ask a friend who already weight trains to take you along.

You’ll feel more relaxed and have fun in the process. If neither of you know how to do something, YouTube probably has the answer.

Weight training does require a certain amount of resting between sets. This is a great opportunity to catch-up with your friend. If you make it a social occasion and enjoy it then you’ll be more likely to stick to it.

Having your friend there to motivate you and bring out your competitive side is only a good thing.  Plus, if you ever get to the stage where you need a spot for your bench they’ll come in handy!

Let’s get started

With so many machines, weights and equipment it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So where do you start?

It can look complicated, but the key is to keep it simple. Focus on what you want to work on that day:legs? Back? Upper-body? Core? All of them?

Once you’ve had your induction and you’re familiar with where everything is, make sure you have:

– A written plan of what you want to do that day and ideally for the week
– A back-up plan for reach exercise if the equipment you want is in use
– Internet connection or downloaded ‘how to’ videos on each exercise if you need a reminder

As a side note, there’s nothing wrong with rocking up into the weights area swinging around weights, just having a go, whether you’re doing it ‘right’ or not. The reality is, even if you do something with terrible form, you’ll probably see some progress no matter what you do.

Don’t stress about performing everything perfectly all the time every time. All you have to do is start.

Assuming you want to get toned and strong, below is a guide to get you started which targets the whole body.

This list is in no way exhaustive, and there are plenty of other alternatives you can perform and hit the same muscles, and many ways you could structure your program.

For example, if you plan on training two days a week then you should probably aim to make each of those a whole body workout. But, if it’s three to five days a week, you can split the program up and maybe focus on one or two body sections at a time.

In terms of sets and reps, aim for three sets and mix up the days you perform lighter weights at 8-15 reps, and higher weights at lower reps of 4-7.

As a beginner, you’ll see improvements, strength and muscle gain no matter what you do, but once you’ve been training consistently for a year or so, you may benefit from a more detailed and structured program.

Unless you feel quite knowledgeable on the subject, this is where a coach or PT would be useful.

Now go you.

A beginner’s guide to weight training

To get started as a beginner, pick one exercise from each section:

Lower Body –quads, hamstrings, glutes & quads

Barbell back squat
Leg press
Dumbbell goblet squat
Barbell deadlift
Kettlebell deadlift
Barbell hip thrust

+

Barbell reverse lunges
Dumbbell reverse lunges
Dumbbell step ups
Bulgarian split squat
Single leg hip thrust on the bench
Hamstring curl machine
Leg extension machine
Abductor machine
Adductor machine

Upper body –push (chest, shoulders, triceps)

Bench press
Incline press
Decline press
Dumbbell chest press
Barbell strict press
Dumbbell shoulder press

+

Cable triceps push downs
Dumbbell triceps kick backs

Upper body – pull (lats, lower and upper back, biceps) 

Lat pull down
Assisted pull up machine
Seated cable row

+

Single arm dumbbell rows
Cable pulley face pulls
Dumbbell bicep curls

Core (abs)

Cable chop
Pallof press
Renegade rows
Dumbbell Pull overs

Dealing with jerks

All of the above should help you feel more comfortable and knowledgeable in the gym.

Be prepared for the first session to feel awkward, but it only gets easier after that.  The general experience in gyms is a friendly one, and most people are happy to share equipment, and help you use machines.

However, like all walks of life, the gym is not exempt from idiots, giving out unsolicited advice.

When you are new to exercise and weight training you’re particularly vulnerable because you assume everyone else in the gym is already doing everything perfectly. As a personal trainer, I see so many poorly executed, potentially dangerous exercises going on – all performed with utter confidence.

So, when someone comes up to you and tells you not to do “X” like that – how are you to know if what they’re telling you you’re doing wrong is good advice? Why have you assumed they know more than you? Indeed, why have they assumed they know more than you?

To illustrate this, I’ve been told on occasion by random strangers in commercial gyms that I shouldn’t bench with an arch in my back.

Arching whilst benching is a powerlifting technique that is safe if you do it correctly; but they didn’t know what they didn’t know, (stage 1 of the competence hierarchy) and so felt obliged to give me some advice.

I’m sure it was meant with good intent, but this is just an example of how you shouldn’t always take on board someone’s advice.

If in doubt seek out a personal trainer’s opinion. If you’re sure you’re doing something correct, then just politely inform them that this is how a professional PT showed you how to do it.

Don’t take the BS

No matter who you are, and what your exercise history; gyms should be an inclusive and friendly space that make it easy for you achieve your goals.

If for any reason you still feel this isn’t the case, don’t forget you have the power to affect change in the industry.

If someone is hassling or intimidating you out of your space, make them aware of it and if needed give this feedback to the gym.

If you’re open and willing to learn but your gym environment is so hostile that it doesn’t make this possible because you feel so uncomfortable, that is not your failing – it’s the gyms.

A lot of women struggle to get into weight training for these reasons.

It doesn’t help that all the equipment is large and heavy, and if you’re a smaller woman, or cannot lift heavy yet, then the equipment is often a struggle to use. But the more you get in there, the more the industry should adapt to supply the demand.

Bonus: A few tips for gym etiquette

Follow these rules and won’t go far wrong:

  • Always strip your bar of weights and put them back after use.
  • Try not to hog too many machines at the same time – allow others to use machines whilst you’re resting.
  • Most people should share equipment – so ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing if it’s an easy piece of kit to use and change the weights on quickly (for the squat rack and bench press it may be worth waiting).
  • Wipe down any sweaty machines after use.
  • Don’t try and talk to someone whilst they’re in the middle of performing their set.
  • Don’t talk loudly on your phone the whole time.
  • Be aware of those around you.

The post A Beginners Guide To Lifting Weights In Scary Gyms appeared first on Food For Fitness.

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So you’ve bought your gym membership.

You’ve heard how great lifting weights is for your health, longevity and to get you toned.

You’ve got all the kit, you’ve booked the time in your diary.  Off you head to the gym after work at 7pm.  It’s a Monday – prime time.

You ventureinto the weights room and you’re confronted with a sea of mostly muscle-clad men, grunting away, throwing weights around.  They all seem to know each other; talking loudly about how much they bench or listening to their headphones whilst intensely staring into space.

There doesn’t seem to be any space for you anywhere.

The machines suddenly look three feet taller and you feel a foot smaller. Like a scene from a western, everyone stops their conversations, turns around and looks you up and down.  You can hear their thoughts:

“What are you doing in here?”

“You don’t belong here.”

“This place isn’t for you.”

“Stop taking up space, you don’t know what you’re doing anyway.”

You imagine worst-case scenarios –you’ll drop a weight on your head and end up in hospital whilst everyone points and laughs at you. After visualising this, at best, you might trundle up to the cardio section and watch TV whilst on the cross-trainer for 20 minutes.

At worst, you’ll just head back home and vow never to frequent a gym ever again.

This is an all too familiar scenario. When I speak to people about why they wouldn’t venture into the weights room in the first place, theirreasons fall into the following categories:

“I feel like I’d stick out like a sore thumb and people would laugh at me.”

“I don’t know how to use the machines.”

“I don’t know where to start – what weights to lift, or what things to do.”

Fear of judgement. Fear of the unknown. Fear of starting.

These are powerful emotions that send us into our fight or flight mode, and most people would fly in this situation.

So how can we get over these fears?

Firstly, lets reframe our mindset, and then we’ll go through some practical strategies for getting over these fears.

Many people feel like they don’t belong in the gym, like they’re not the right kind of personality or the right kind of look – an imposter.

Although, last time I checked, there weren’t any pre-requisites for being part of a gym.  You pay a gym membership like everyone else.  This means you’re allowed access to the WHOLE gym, like everyone else. Not just part of it.

You are 100% entitled to take up that space.

You are 100% allowed to make mistakes and do things that look a little crap. You’re a beginner. That’s okay. When did you ever start doing something new and nail it perfectly first time? Thought not. Same goes for weight training.

Remember; those toned, muscly, strong people you see in the gym, who might intimidate you, weren’t born that way. They were all beginners once too.

Once you shift your focus to learning, not performing, you’ll reap the rewards.  But what’s the best way to start the learning process?

The 4 stages of competencemay be something you’ve heard of before:

Stage 1 – Unconscious Incompetence (you don’t know you’re doing things wrong)

Stage 2 – Conscious Incompetence (you know you’re probably doing things wrong)

Stage 3 – Conscious Competence (you are aware you are probably doing things correctly)

Stage 4 – Unconscious Competence (you don’t even have to think about doing things correctly)

If you head into the gym full of confidence but having never done any research or had any professional direction you will probably fall into stage one (which is still a lot of people in the gym!)

However, if you struggle with gym confidence you’re probably more at stage 2 – all too aware that you’re doing things wrong.

It may take a while to get to stage 4, but with a little help and research stage 3 is within easy reach with enough preparation.

Most gyms should provide you with an induction anyway, but these can be very brief and not useful for what you want to achieve.  If you can, ask for a complimentary PT session and have a think about your goals clearly before you go.

Have a list of things you specifically want to learn how to do and make those a priority.

If you want to get into weight training, make it clear you want to specifically be shown how to use the resistance machines, cable pulleys, and squat rack (if the gym has one) and just get familiar with where everything is.

Bearing in mind the PT may only have half an hour or an hour to do this, here are some questions to focus on:

How to use a squat rack:
NB: You may not have the skill or strength to squat the bar just yet if you are a complete beginner

  1. How do I adjust the height of the bar?
  2. What height is right for me?
  3. How do I move the safety pins?
  4. How do you secure the weights onto the bar?
  5. How much does the bar weigh? Is there a lighter bar I could use?
  6. Where are the clips, weights and barbells stored (if it’s not obvious)?
  7. How do I unrack and rerack the bar?
  8. Other than squats, what else could I use the squat rack for?
  9. If the rack is in use, is there another way I could perform a squat or work my legs and glutes?

How to use a cable machine:
NB: These machines have so many uses so your PT may not be able to show you all of them

  1. Can you show me an upper body push, upper body pull, and a core exercise I can do with these?
  2. How can I work the same muscles if all the pulley machines are in use?
  3. How do I change the weight?

How to use gym resistance machines:
NB: Most of these are easier to use and have guided instructions written on them

  1. How do I adjust the seat so I am in the correct position? (the pins with which to do this are often very stiff!)
  2. How do I change the weight?
  3. How do I safely get off this machine? (NB this particularly applies to the incline leg press and the assisted pull up machine)

Once the PT shows you each thing, insist that you have a go setting up all this equipment whilst the PT watches you to check.

I can guarantee you, you won’t remember or feel comfortable doing it if you’re on your own otherwise.If you still feel unsure I would recommend investing in a few PT sessions to get you on your way until you feel comfortable that you could do this on your own.

If hiring a PT is not for you, thenask a friend who already weight trains to take you along.

You’ll feel more relaxed and have fun in the process. If neither of you know how to do something, YouTube probably has the answer.

Weight training does require a certain amount of resting between sets. This is a great opportunity to catch-up with your friend. If you make it a social occasion and enjoy it then you’ll be more likely to stick to it.

Having your friend there to motivate you and bring out your competitive side is only a good thing.  Plus, if you ever get to the stage where you need a spot for your bench they’ll come in handy!

With so many machines, weights and equipment it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. So where do you start?

It can look complicated, but the key is to keep it simple. Focus on what you want to work on that day:legs? Back? Upper-body? Core? All of them?

Once you’ve had your induction and you’re familiar with where everything is, make sure you have:

– A written plan of what you want to do that dayand ideally for the week
– A back-up plan for reach exercise if the equipment you want is in use
– Internet connection or downloaded ‘how to’ videos on each exercise if you need a reminder

As a side note, there’s nothing wrong with rocking up into the weights area swinging around weights, just having a go, whether you’re doing it ‘right’ or not. The reality is, even if you do something with terrible form, you’ll probably see some progress no matter what you do.

Don’t stress about performing everything perfectly all the time every time. All you have to do is start.

Assuming you want to get toned and strong, below is a guide to get you started which targets the whole body.

This list is in no way exhaustive, and there are plenty of other alternatives you can perform and hit the same muscles, and many ways you could structure your program.

For example, if you plan on training two days a week then you should probably aim to make each of those a whole body workout. But, if it’s three to five days a week, you can split the program up and maybe focus on one or two body sections ata time.

In terms of sets and reps, aim for three sets and mix up the days you perform lighter weights at 8-15 reps, and higher weights at lower reps of 4-7.

As a beginner, you’ll see improvements, strength and muscle gain no matter what you do, but once you’ve been training consistently for a year or so, you may benefit from a more detailed and structured program.

Unless you feel quite knowledgeable on the subject, this is where a coach or PT would be useful.

Now go you.

To get started as a beginner, pick one exercise from each section:

Lower Body –quads, hamstrings, glutes & quads 

Barbell back squat

Leg press

Dumbbell goblet squat

Barbell deadlift

Kettlebell deadlift

Barbell hip thrust

+

Barbell reverse lunges

Dumbbell reverse lunges

Dumbbell step ups

Bulgarian split squat

Single leg hip thrust on the bench

Hamstring curl machine

Leg extension machine

Abductor machine

Adductor machine

Upper body –push (chest, shoulders, triceps)

Bench press

Incline press

Decline press

Dumbbell chest press

Barbell strict press

Dumbbell shoulder press

+

Cable triceps push downs

Dumbbell triceps kick backs

Upper body – pull (lats, lower and upper back, biceps) 

Lat pull down

Assisted pull up machine

Seated cable row

+

Single arm dumbbell rows

Cable pulley face pulls

Dumbbell bicep curls

Core (abs)

Cable chop
Pallof press
Renegade rows
Dumbbell Pull overs

All of the above should help you feel more comfortable and knowledgeable in the gym.

Be prepared for the first session to feel awkward, but it only gets easier after that.  The general experience in gyms is a friendly one, and most people are happy to share equipment, and help you use machines.

However, like all walks of life, the gym is not exempt fromidiots, giving out unsolicited advice.

When you are new to exercise and weight training you’re particularly vulnerable because you assume everyone else in the gym is already doing everything perfectly. As a personal trainer, I see so many poorly executed, potentially dangerous exercises going on – all performed with utter confidence.

So, when someone comes up to you and tells you not to do “X” like that – how are you to know if what they’re telling you you’re doing wrong is good advice? Why have you assumed they know more than you? Indeed, why have they assumed they know more than you?

To illustrate this, I’ve been told on occasion by random strangers in commercial gyms that I shouldn’t bench with an arch in my back.

Arching whilst benching is a powerlifting technique that is safe if you do it correctly; but they didn’t know what they didn’t know, (stage 1 of the competence hierarchy) and so felt obliged to give me some advice.

I’m sure it was meant with good intent, but this is just an example of how you shouldn’t always take on board someone’s advice.

If in doubt seek out a personal trainer’s opinion. If you’re sure you’re doing something correct, then just politely inform them that this is how a professional PT showed you how to do it.

No matter who you are, and what your exercise history; gyms should be an inclusive and friendly space that make it easy for you achieve your goals.

If for any reason you still feel this isn’t the case, don’t forget you have the power to affect change in the industry.

If someone is hassling or intimidating you out of your space, make them aware of it and if needed give this feedback to the gym.

If you’re open and willing to learn but your gym environment is so hostile that it doesn’t make this possible because you feel so uncomfortable, that is not your failing – it’s the gyms.

A lot of women struggle to get into weight training for these reasons.

It doesn’t help that all the equipment is large and heavy, and if you’re a smaller woman, or cannot lift heavy yet, then the equipment is often a struggle to use. But the more you get in there, the more the industry should adapt to supply the demand.

Follow these rules and won’t go far wrong:

  • Always strip your bar of weights and put them back after use.
  • Try not to hog too many machines at the same time – allow others to use machines whilst you’re resting.
  • Most people should share equipment – so ask if they wouldn’t mind sharing if it’s an easy piece of kit to use and change the weights on quickly (for the squat rack and bench press it may be worth waiting).
  • Wipe down any sweaty machines after use.
  • Don’t try and talk to someone whilst they’re in the middle of performing their set.
  • Don’t talk loudly on your phone the whole time.
  • Be aware of those around you.

The post No more gym fears: The beginner’s guide to hitting the weights room appeared first on Food For Fitness.

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1. Cheesy One Pan Mexican Beef

High Protein Recipes: How To Make One-pan Mexican Beef - YouTube

From The High Protein Handbook 3

This recipe is probably the most popular in book 3. But let’s be honest, what’s not to like? It’s very easy to make, its cheesy, its meaty and it’s full of Mexican flavour. A winner on all fronts.

2. Nasi Goreng – Indonesian Fried Rice

High Protein Recipes: How To Make Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice) - YouTube

From our website: Nasi Goreng

Nasi Goreng is the national dish of Indonesia cooked by street vendors in food carts across the country. It’s extremely easy to make and it tastes delicious!

3. St Mary’s Chicken

High Protein Recipes: How To Make St Mary’s Chicken - YouTube

From The High Protein Handbook 1

St Mary’s Chicken is a super rich winner from The High Protein Handbook. It’s less than 300 calories and it’s a mid-week winner. If you’re wondering why it’s called “St Mary’s Chicken” it’s because I came up with it while I was doing a food prep course as part of my Masters at St Mary’s. So now you know.

4. Mexican Lasagne

High Protein Recipes: How To Make A Mexican Lasagne - YouTube

From The High Protein Handbook 2

What happens when you cross a lasagne with a plate of fajitas and some enchiladas? A ridiculous recipe called Mexican Lasagne which is one of the most popular of all time!

5. Cajun Chicken Jambalaya

High Protein Recipes: How To Cook Cajun Chicken Jambalaya - YouTube

From our website: Cajun Chicken Jambalaya

This is an absolute winner of a recipe that is one of the most downloaded recipes from our website! Cajun Chicken Jambalaya is a spicy, high protein, gluten free dish that you will love. Jambalaya originates from Louisiana and the name means ‘mixed up’ in French. That’s the beauty of this recipe, you can throw anything into it; different vegetables, you can swap the chicken for other meats and change the spices around too.

6. Peanut Chicken [Slow Cooker]

High Protein Recipes: How To Make Slow Cooker Peanut Chicken - YouTube

From The High Protein Handbook 4

This recipe for Peanut Chicken from The High Protein Handbook 4 (Slow Cooker Special) is really easy to make, tastes epic and is just over 300 calories per portion. If you’re looking for some healthy dinner ideas to cook this week, then this is a winner!

7. Chicken Biryani

High Protein Recipes: How To Cook A Healthy Chicken Biryani - YouTube

From The High Protein Handbook 1

This Chicken Biryani is without a doubt one of my favourite recipes to cook. Once you make it, you’ll see why.

The post The 7 Most Popular Recipes Of 2018 appeared first on Food For Fitness.

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In part one (5 Supplements That Actually Work), we established that, even though supplements aren’t necessary to reach your fitness goals, there are some that’ll certainly help you along the way and make getting results a little easier.

However, this isn’t the case for all supplements.

There are supplement companies and people selling products that have no scientific backing to show their effectiveness. They’re counting on people’s naivety and desperation for results to sell their products, along with all the marketing tricks known to man.

Avoid.

I’m sure many of you reading will have taken some kind of supplement, whether it be a shake, pill or magic potion, that has guaranteed to make all your hopes and dreams come true.

At the very least give you the body of your dreams in no more than a few weeks. I know I certainly have and on more than one occasion.

Unfortunately, this will never be the case.

Getting results is the combination of hard work and consistency. Think of it like this, if you’ve had a poor diet and exercise history for the past 5, 10, 15, even 20 years then it’s going to take more than a few weeks of taking a drink or pill to fix your problems.

Thankfully though, there’s no need to waste any more time or money on supplements that don’t work.

Below are my top five worst supplements you’d be best avoiding at all costs.

1. Fat burners

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is – and that’s certainly the case with fat burners.

Promising to melt fat off your body like a Mr. Whippy on a hot summers day, fat burners are one of the most popular but worst supplements on the market.

Looking at the ingredients, however, you’ll see that most fat burners ‘work’ by using high levels of caffeine, which gives two side effects:

Boosted energy levels and a suppressed appetite.

Essentially, fat burners are likely to make you move more and eat a little less, increasing your chances of creating a calorific deficit.

To be fair, this sounds great in theory, but here’s the thing:

You can get the same effects by drinking a coffee or two to boost energy levels, eating a high protein diet to help with feelings of satiety and maintaining a calorie-controlled diet to help create a calorie deficit.

This way not only works out a lot cheaper but comes with a whole load of health benefits you won’t get from a pill.

Don’t believe the hype.

2. Diet/bulk powders

You may be wondering why diet and bulk protein powder shakes are here when they are essentially the same as normal protein shakes.

Well, that is exactly why – there is no real difference between them other than how they are marketed.

Yes, really! A load of marketing BS…

If you look at the ingredients on diet/gainer shakes and the ingredients on protein shakes, they are more or less the same. Maybe there is a slight difference in their carbohydrate content, but that’s about it.

The big difference you’ll notice, however, is the serving suggestion.

I was once on the hunt for a new protein powder in the pursuit of building some extra muscle and I came across two tubs from the same company.

One was a regular tub of protein, the other was an “extreme mass gainer”.

Taking a closer look at the labels, I found that they both had the same 22 grams of protein per scoop and they both contained near enough the same calories per scoop.

However, the extreme mass gainer suggested taking three heaped scoops compared to the one level scoop of the standard protein. I mean, seriously, really guys?

The same applies to diet shakes. The reason they claim to guarantee weight loss results is because they simply give you a smaller scoop in the tub and probably recommend you live off nothing else but their shakes. Thanks, but no thanks.

If you want to use shakes to help boost your protein intake then opt for a standard whey protein or dairy-free option. Use servings that are in line with your goals and let you hit your daily protein and calorie targets.

3. BCAA

Branched-chain amino acids are fast becoming a must-have supplement in many gym bags around the world – however, there’s little to no evidence yet that actually shows the supplement has any benefits.

BCAA is made up of three proteins: Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine – all of which can be found in high protein foods.

The chances are, if you’re supplementing with BCAA to help build muscle, it’s likely you’ll already be eating a high-protein diet, rendering the a BCAA supplement pretty pointless.

Not only can you obtain BCAAs easily through food but study after study has shown using the supplement has no beneficial effects on muscle performance, muscle mass, anaerobic performance or reducing muscle soreness.

Related: 9 Reasons Why You DON’T Need To Take BCAAs

4. Glutamine

This is one of those supplements that everyone down at the gym takes just because everyone else down at the gym is taking it, with no-one ever really knowing if it’s actually having any benefit on their strength or muscle growth.

However, a quick look at some studies on glutamine would quickly give them an answer – no.

One study showed that, over a period of six weeks, a group of men supplementing with glutamine had no greater increases in strength or size compared to the group who were given a placebo.

Whilst another study concluded that having glutamine with your pre-workout drink had no positive impact on strength, tested using the leg press and bench press, and again showed equal results with the group who were only given a placebo.

If you do want a supplement to help with the above, then creatine would be your best bet. Other than that, it’s just about getting the basics in place; a calorific surplus, a high-protein diet and a structured training programme.

Related: What Is Glutamine & What Does It Do?

5. Pre-workout

Now, I’m not gonna lie, I like to take a scoop or three of pre-workout as much as the next guy or gal.

Having that tingling feeling as you enter the gym just does something for getting you in the zone and ready to lift big.

But is there anything more to pre-workouts than a simple placebo effect?

Not really.

Most pre-workouts are made up from a blend of ingredients, knows as ‘proprietary blends’. However, most of what’s included in these blends either isn’t backed by science to show any benefits to training or is included in too small a dose to be beneficial.

BCAAs, glutamine, arginine, citrulline malate and beta-alanine (which causes that tingling sensation) are all common ingredients in pre-workout drinks. Yet there is little evidence to show any of these will have a positive impact of your training.

We’ve already talked about BCAAs and glutamine but what about the other three?

Well, arginine has poor bioavailability, meaning little of it is actually absorbed. Whilst citrulline malate and beta-alanine are often included in dosages too small to be effective.

My advice? Just take a coffee before hitting the weights room for a caffeine hit. You’ll miss out of the pre-workout sensation but your gym performance won’t suffer for it.

Related: The Truth About Pre-Workout Supplements

Take supplements to complement

Every year, more and more supplements are coming onto the market, each with more elaborate promises than the last and selling the fantasy that if we just buy their products, we’ll all have the bodies of our dreams.

The truth, though, is there is no magic pill, potion or shake that will get us the results we desire.

That is always going to come down to hard work, a good diet, consistency and having a plan.

Once you’ve got all these in place, then we can start looking to supplements to help complement the above and give you that extra little push

Just make sure to take the ones of that have been proven effective and won’t simply burn a hole in your pocket.

The post The 5 Most Useless Supplements You’re Wasting Money On (Part II) appeared first on Food For Fitness.

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People who go to the gym but have never taken or researched the best supplements are like unicorns – they don’t exist.

But is it any wonder?

Walk into any commercial (and even most non-commercial gyms) nowadays and you’ll find posters on the walls promoting diet shakes or pre-workouts. They’re usually strategically placed beside vending machines brimmed with the latest protein and fat-burning goodies.

Pick up one of the latest lifestyle or fitness magazines and it’ll tell you which supplements you MUST take to melt away your belly fat whilst simultaneously crafting rock-hard abs.

Then there’s the worst of all: Instagram. Full of celebrities, fitness pros and wannabe influencers showing you the best supplements to have in your gym locker. Obviously, the fact they’ve been paid to promote these products has completely zero bearing on their opinion, right?

On a daily basis we are bombarded with promises and guarantees about supplements, so it’s understandable that people use them in their diets to help them reach their goals.

But, before we come onto which ones are actually the best supplements to take outside of all the marketing guff, it’s important that we understand how we should be using them.

Imagine your diet as your monthly income

Let’s say, each month you earn £2,000. This is the foundation of your income and what lets you pay bills and go about your day-to-day life.

That £2,000 is your overall food intake.

But let’s say you want to add a little extra onto this each month. So you get a small part-time job or start a side hustle and you’re able to supplement your income with an extra £200.

Now that you’re earning £200, you wouldn’t reduce your £2,000 down to £1,800. No, you would just add it on so you have a total of £2,200.

Yet so many people take supplements to replace their existing diet or lifestyle habits rather than seeing it as an additional benefit.

Supplements should be used to give you that little bit of an advantage or boost on top of an already nutritious diet. It shouldn’t be used as an alternative or replacement to these.

Put simply: They supplement a good diet.

Whatever your goal, your first point of call should be making sure your diet and lifestyle choices are in line with the desired outcome.

If weight loss is your goal, are you sticking to a consistent calorific deficit?

Wanting to feel healthier? Then eating a minimum of five pieces of fruit and veg a day is your go to before anything else.

Want to gain muscle? Then you best be training regularly and incorporating progressive overload.

In order for supplements to be effective, you first must have the foundations in place that will get you 90% of your results.

In this two-part article, we’re going to start by looking at the top five best supplements that’ll give you the best ROI for your health, nutrition and gym performance. Then we’ll continue with the top five worst supplements that are a waste of time and money – and not as great as you may have been led to believe.

Let’s go.

The five best supplements out there today 1. Protein shakes and bars

Long gone are the days that protein shakes were only for beefed-up bodybuilders.

Nope, nowadays protein shakes are a much more common sight, hardly surprising considering how convenient and cost-effective they are.

Protein bars and shakes are an incredibly useful supplement to have at your disposal – and here’s why.

Protein is an essential nutrient we need in our diets and it’s recommended we consume around 1.5-2g per kg of bodyweight. It helps us to preserve muscle when dieting and to build and repair muscle mass when growing.

Getting this amount of protein through food alone, however, can be challenging. Would you fancy eating a kilo of chicken breasts after a workout?! Having the odd shake or bar is a simple and easy way to help reach your daily target.

The handy thing about protein supplements is that they take no prep and can be consumed anytime and anywhere, making them the perfect go to snack.

Aim to get as much protein through whole food as possible, so you don’t miss out on important micronutrients, and then use shakes/bars to fill in the gaps.

2. Creatine

Creatine is one of the most researched supplements on the market.

Not only has it been proven time and time again to have strength and muscle building benefits, but it’s also cheap, safe and simple to consume.

Creatine is absorbed and stored within muscle cells, which helps your body respond better to nutrients, helps prevent cramps and makes your muscles look ‘fuller’, because creatine carries water molecules.

Arguably the biggest benefit, creatine helps fuel your workouts because it’s a form of energy itself for your muscles.

When supplementing with creatine, there’s no need to go through a loading or cycle phase as the manufacturer will lead you to believe.

Just take a 5-gram scoop – mixed with water or juice – every day, at a time that suits you.

When it comes to creatine, consistency is the key to reaping the rewards.

There a few different creatine products available on the market, but your best bet is to go for a simple creatine monohydrate.

3. Caffeine

I have purposely titled this supplement as ‘caffeine’ and not pre-workout for a reason (and we’ll get to pre-workouts in part two).

Caffeine is a thoroughly researched supplement, which has been found to increase power output, delay the feeling of fatigue and increase both focus and alertness. All of which together makes a recipe for success when it comes to training.

Not only does caffeine boost your performance in the gym, it also comes loaded with nutrients and can aid fat loss because of its slightly thermogenic effects.

The recommended dose is 3-9 mg per kg of bodyweight. Start off with a lower dosage and experiment with what amount works best for you and your training sessions. The idea is to take the smallest effective dose.

Most coffees from Starbucks/Costa have a caffeine content ranging from 150-300mg, so grab one on the way to your next gym session…just remember to leave the whipped cream off the order…

4. Magnesium

Magnesium is a pretty important mineral when it comes to our health.

Playing a role in protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, testosterone regulation, sleep improvement, depression prevention and recovery from training…like I said, it’s pretty important.

Found in a whole variety of foods, from vegetables to yoghurt to dark chocolate, it’s a mineral that’s easy to come by. However, magnesium is depleted during bouts of intense exercise, so people who train need higher quantitates than those who have more sedentary lifestyles.

Therefore, taking a supplement is a great way to help replenish your stores and cover yourself.

5. Vitamin D

Ahhhh, the ‘sunshine vitamin’. How we love a little bit of Vitamin D.

Unfortunately, if – like me – you’re Scottish born and bred (or from anywhere in the U.K) then sunshine isn’t something we get to see all too often outside the months of June to August.

Vitamin D has a number of benefits including bone health, hormone production, disease fighting properties, improved mood, increased strength gains and better body composition.

Unless you live in more of a Mediterranean climate, the chances are you’ll struggle to get an adequate amount of Vitamin D, especially during the darker months or if you work indoors.

Take around 2,000-3,000iu per day with food to help boost your intake and feel the benefits of above.

And the five worst supplements…

So, there we have the five best supplements that can actually help improve your health and performance in the gym.

Next up are the five worst – the dark side of the supplement industry – as we look at what’s on the market today you’d be best steering clear of. Come back here next week to find out.

The post 5 Supplements That Actually Work (Part I) appeared first on Food For Fitness.

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In fitness, female weight loss can be frustrating and confusing.  It’s really not as simple as social media – and cookie cutter personal trainers – advise.

You may be following calories and macros to the ’T’ or find making small dietary changes simple. The measurements are going down while your training is going great. Energy is high and you’re enjoying every day that comes.

Then, you wake up one day and head to the gym.  The weights feel double the amount.  You get frustrated. The guy across from you in the office irritates you with every word that comes out of his mouth. You head home and feel the lure to the kitchen for… anything.

The next morning you wake up and weigh yourself – 3kg gained! WTF!

“What the hell is wrong with me? I’m following everything. Maybe I need to do more cardio and cut carbs.”

Following that, cardio is increased. Carbs are reduced. But cravings get worse and you cave into them. More frustration and guilt follows.

And so down the rabbit hole you go for the next two weeks until it mysteriously falls into place once again.

What on earth is going on?

The thing is, there was nothing wrong with what you were doing. Your issue wasn’t lack of self-control. It wasn’t lack of preparation. It wasn’t lack of effort. It wasn’t even that you didn’t know you were having a period.

It was simply not knowing how to out-manoeuvre your menstrual cycle. Knowing the different changes that occur throughout each phase so you can progress your training and diet goals smoothly.

But I’m going to help.

What we’re going to look at in this article are the three things that might cause your frustration. Then, help you solve them. They are:

  • The three phases of the menstrual cycle;
  • Why it can be difficult to make near-consistent progress in your weight loss goals;
  • Understanding how to make adjustments throughout to make progression easier.
Why might women find it harder to lose weight?

Too often there are templates that claim, to lose a decent amount of weight and fat, you should be dieting at around 1000 – 1200 calories per day. This isn’t entirely wrong, but it’s far from right. You see, for women to diet at around those levels it would require a number of variables:

  • Be below 60kg
  • Have low activity levels
  • Be short in height

On top of that, there’s the idea that women can just diet the same way as men and the same progress and result will occur. Unfortunately not. And what follows are self-sabotaging thoughts and comments that won’t do anything for your progress.

What is sadly too often handed out by the internet and poor trainers are plans that involve some – or all – of the following:

These can often result in missed periods, high lethargy, lack of focus, poor sleep, high stress.  But…you’re getting lean, so that matters, right?

I’m no expert in this area – there can be an immense amount of variables with each person and each cycle.  But I have had to learn on my feet whilst testing out different methods to assess feedback for my female clients.  It’s not perfect, but our bodies never are.

First, let us look at the mindset aspect of it all.

Confusing easy weight loss claims

We’ve all heard of low-carb dieting, right?  Well, this is even more common when it comes to female dieting with the usual claims that carbs are bad, sugar is the devil and protein makes you bulky.  None of these are true – but, when Instagram and Facebook constantly churn this information out, it can be hard to help change this way of thinking.

Social Pressure To Look A Certain Way

There is also immense social pressure online and in daily life. Even if there is no expectation, there is always the psychological pressure to look a certain way, eat certain foods, train certain exercises. And what happens when all of these don’t work?  Yup, you guessed it.

Binge > Guilt > Starve > Reset. We’ve all been there.

The weight either gains or never shifts.

Motivation Fatigue

Motivation is a funny thing.

We expect it to be our driver and to never fail us, but we find ourselves constantly hunting for it. The thing is, it’s not something that can be found and owned. It’s something that fluctuates from repeated feedback, from repeated actions.

When those actions become less consistent, the feedback is the same – and it chops away at motivation in the process. This is more common in women because calories must be much lower to offer some form of consistency in weight loss goals. When it becomes too difficult then, again, there’s negative self-talk that it’s your fault and that becomes ‘the fault’.

That’s quite a lot right there, but I’m not finished yet.  Let’s look at the physical side of the fence.

Dieting on lower calories for weight loss

The thing is, females DO actually diet on lower calories than guys.  In some cases, a LOT lower.  This is for a number of reasons:

  • Weighing less
  • Lower RMR (resting metabolic rate)
  • Lower energy expenditure
  • Body composition (fat and muscle mass)
  • Lower NEAT
  • Lower VO2 max

As I mentioned, women need to eat less food than guys.  It’s not a rule, but more down to how our bodies are made up. You see, unless a guy is a man trapped in a child’s body, they tend to be taller, carry more muscle, and generally weigh more. This means there is far more natural energy being burned on a daily basis. 10,000 steps and a 60-minute workout may result in burning 300 – 400 calories LESS for women than it would a guy.  Sorry, I guess.

Female weight loss and the menstrual cycle

I mean this one is kind of obvious seeing as it’s in the title, right? That aside, with the cycle comes a number of frustrating factors in just day-to-day living, such as high stress (mental and physical), hunger cravings, and high fatigue. Oh and that’s without the dieting and training aspect.

Let’s not try and blanket every method or calorie set to every female out there.  No two people are the same, regardless of gender, which means dietary setup, methods and adjustments will be completely different per person. Not only per person but also per cycle, as it can be common for these to completely change from month to month.

With that, let’s look at what actually happens throughout the menstrual cycle and what changes can be made to accommodate it as much as possible.

The follicular phase (days 1-14)

Throughout this phase, oestrogen levels start off low while increasing over the course of the 14 days. It’s also the phase where the follicle which is holding your egg is being developed. Because of this, you’ll find you’re far more tolerant to pain along with improved power and endurance.  With this, it very much gives you the green light to train harder and aim for progress.

Nice.

Not only that but your body will utilise glycogen far better due to your insulin sensitivity being at its highest. What does this mean? Well, if you’re trying to progress on a low-carb diet, you’re only tripping yourself up – this is the exact point at which you’ll benefit from carbs the most.  However, you should still be mindful of your fat and protein intake too, with fats being slightly lower and your protein intake being at a moderate amount.

Ovulation (around day 14)

Once we hit this phase the follicle bursts and the egg is let go. It’s also the time at which your oestrogen levels begin to peak, which is awesome news for you as you will physically be at your strongest. Pow.

However, it also makes you more prone to injury, so it’s best to be very careful with your training and apply high amounts of common sense when it comes to technique and how much you’re pushing yourself.

Despite the increase in strength, there is a downside to this on the nutrition front, I’m afraid. You see, this is where the cravings for sugar and carbs kick in. This is because your metabolic rate is increased. Because of this, it’s key to work in satiety in your food choices to limit the cravings as much as possible. This can be done by increasing your protein and veg intake while keeping carb and fat levels to moderate.

What I tend to do with clients if the cravings become too much is to simply drop the protein levels and replace them with carbs. At least this way it can help keep calorie intake in check while reducing the chances of overeating.

Luteal phase (days 15-28)

Out of the three phases, this one is the toughest on a woman. Sugar and carb cravings can be even more extreme, all the while tiredness and the overall feeling ‘a bit sh*t’ physically and mentally set in.

This is the phase where the follicle becomes the hormone-producing element – the corpus letup – which in turn produces progesterone. During this phase, your body temperature can rise to make you feel very uncomfortable, especially in the evenings in bed.

Around this time I tend to recommend sleeping with the windows open or to use a thinner cover on your bed. This might not affect you if you live and train in a hot climate already, but be far more aware of it in cooler climates.

On the plus, it can help with burning some extra calories if your goal is fat loss, anywhere between 90 – 280 calories daily. At the end of the phase, if the egg hasn’t been fertilised, the corpus letup dissolves which results in a drop in oestrogen and progesterone levels. Cue the start of a new cycle.

Because all of this is going on physically, it’s important to avoid higher intensity style training as it can be more detrimental than beneficial. It’s best to focus your training around lighter weights and higher rep work.

It’s also a great idea to work on active recovery work such as walking, stretching, foam rolling or anything similar that’ll also be psychologically beneficial too.

On the flip side of the follicular phase, this is where you’re more primed for fat loss. So, by working on active recovery and controlling your diet as much as possible, you could make great progress in your fat loss goals here.

How to deal with cravings

Remember in the ovulation stage I touched on cravings?  Well, they only get worse in this phase I’m afraid, all the while your insulin sensitivity is at it’s lowest, hence the training recommendations above.

Because of this, I prefer to do two things, if needed. First, make a slight reduction in carbs to prevent any fat gain. However, this can sometimes be more detrimental than anything if it just makes cravings even stronger.

If this is the case, then I will follow the action from the previous phase and increase carbs slightly. This may place you in more maintenance calories but it’s better to maintain and blunt the cravings as opposed to creating a restriction that could result in blowing apart your diet.

Cravings can be far more intense if you suffer from depression, anxiety or PMS, so it’s always worth aiming to have a snack or small meal on hand to prevent any binging which could really blow up your calorie intake.

It’s worth noting that it’s around this time that water retention is at its peak. This can be tough physiologically, but it’s always worth remembering as opposed to making any drastic decisions.

Supplement Recommendations To Support The Menstrual Cycle

Due to the sugar and carb cravings, it’s might be helpful to supplement with magnesium before bed. This can help decrease these cravings during the day which can be a huge relief.

You see, magnesium levels alone are the second most deficient globally, so throw in the menstrual cycle and you’ve got an uphill battle going on here.

Although supplementing with this is recommended, it’s not always needed as you can get these sources through foods like spinach, tofu, nuts, seeds, avocado, some fatty fish, bananas, dark chocolate and whole grains.

Along with magnesium, it’s worth supplementing with Vitamin D too, especially if you work indoors and don’t get much sun (poor you!).  If you’re like me and living in Scotland and you missed that one day of summer then it’s likely you’re going to need some of this. It can be really useful for anyone who suffers from mood swings and dips in motivation.

How to adjust training and diet for fat loss

This is going to sound a bit odd but I still tend to use weight loss to measure progress, though I don’t rely heavily on it.

You see, far too many women are chained to the scales and it can dictate their actions and emotions far too easily. Now weight measurements can and do indicate fat loss, but not in a linear sense as is expected. This is where it’s super important to look at other measurements too, such as around the hips, waist, and thighs. Oh and don’t forget photos, even if you’re too anxious about it I can assure you it’s definitely worth it in the long run.

Following that, there are various factors as to why weight fluctuation can – and does – happen. I’ve seen this happen as high as 5kg overnight due to a mixture of the following:

Your daily food choices

This gets ignored very commonly.  What we tend to forget is that we rarely eat the same foods or the same amounts on a daily basis. There will always be some form of variability. Because of this, you might get bloated if you eat more veg and protein on certain days, but less so on others because travelling or a busy day at work forces you to eat on the go.

Glycogen stores

What is often forgotten, or not known, is that for every gram of glycogen there can be a shortage of up to 3 grams of water. This means that if you aren’t training that day and happen to consume more carbs then you are likely to store extra water.  The opposite can be said if you do train as you are using the glycogen.

Water intake

Not drinking enough water can be an issue for anyone doing anything, well, fitness related. So, when you start to work on increasing your water intake, this could also lead to some form of solid bloating. Especially if you throw in a cocktail of glycogen and sodium if you’re eating lots of salty foods (to which you’re gently placing the bag of nachos you’re eating down).

Obviously, the menstrual cycle

Of course, your weight will fluctuate during your cycle. So how do you measure your progress? I mentioned previously that the scales can become a ball and chain and, if this is the case, then I quickly remove weight tracking as a measurement. It can become too much of a stress that makes everything else seem irrelevant.  No Bueno.

Alternatively, if possible, I like to look at progression in various “anchors” over the course of the month.  As I’ve mentioned, there can be big changes throughout a cycle, so aiming for some form of linear progress on a week to week basis is like pissing into the wind and hoping it doesn’t come back on you.

Oh, right, I forgot. That doesn’t exactly apply here, so we’ll go with ‘spitting in the wind,’ unless you have some really mad pelvic skills.

Anyway, by creating anchors throughout the phases (or creating a main anchor), it allows for you to measure your progress from cycle to cycle instead. Here’s an example:

January
  • Week 1 average – 143lbs (65kg)
  • Week 2 average – 142lbs (64.2kg)*
  • Week 3 average – 145lbs (65.7kg)
  • Week 4 average – 143lbs (65kg)
February
  • Week 1 average – 142lbs (64.2kg)
  • Week 2 average – 141lbs (63.9kg)*
  • Week 3 average – 143lbs (65kg)
  • Week 4 average – 142lbs (64.2kg)
March
  • Week 1 average – 140lbs (63.5kg)
  • Week 2 average – 139lbs (63kg)*
  • Week 3 average – 141lbs (63.9kg)
  • Week 4 average – 140lbs (63.5kg)

* Main Anchor

What you see here is that, although there are clear fluctuations – which can cause someone to really freak the hell out, there is actually progression when you line it up across the main anchor per month as opposed to comparing progress on a linear week-to-week basis.

When weight fluctuates at around the 14 – 15 day mark there really is no need to make any drastic dietary changes. Just be aware that it’s the phase which is causing this fluctuation and that you should make the needed adjustments to get by the best way you can.

At the end of the day, you should do what works best for you.

If you like to see feedback from the data and are perfectly ok with changes in bodyweight throughout the month, then weigh yourself every day or every few days to get an average weight. It’s a great form of feedback and can teach you a hell of a lot about how lifestyle, training and dietary choices can manipulate the scale.

However, if the thought of the scale freaks you out and triggers negative reactive actions, then just drop it, put it out of sight, smash the sh*t out of it.  Remove it from being a stress in your day. Stick with feedback from measurements, photos, sleep, energy and stress instead.

Setting your diet and training up around the menstrual cycle

As you will have noticed throughout, there are quite a number of changes that go on over the course of the cycle so you might need to make adjustments along the way when it comes to calories and macros, and of course, your training.

First off, let’s look at two simple ways to set up your diet.

Perform a diet audit

This is straightforward and one that I like to use for new clients or when a client is moving from a more intuitive eating diet method to tracking calories and/or macros.

All you need to do here is use a tracking tool – like MyFitnessPal – and track everything you eat over the course of 3 – 4 days. Ideally, you want these days to include a working day, a day off from work and 1 – 2 days over the weekend.  This is because our diets tend to differ on each of these days and it allows us to see a real average of our calorie intake.

Once you have that number, skip to the macro calculating part.  If you hate it and are thinking nothing but awful thoughts about me even suggesting you use four days of your life to do this, then check out the next method.

BONUS: Download our Macros Calculator Tool that will instantly show your macro targets, without the need for any complicated calculations.

Manually calculate your calories and macros

Okay, so this is going to take some work too, but just a little calculation.

Neither of these are going to give you a solid number, so please don’t expect anything to be 100% correct. There are a number of calculators online that can do this too but think of this as being within 5 – 10% of a calorie range.

Calculator time. To create a calorie number that might place you in a calorific deficit, take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 10 – 12.

An example of this would be 140lbs x 11 = 1540 calories.

Now to set your macronutrients.

Protein

Take your weight in pounds and calculate it between 0.7 – 1 to get this.

An example of this is 140lbs x 1 = 140g

You can get the calorie amount by multiplying this number by 4 if you’re interested – 140g x 4 = 560 calories.

Need some high protein meal ideas? See here: high protein recipes.

Fat & Carbs

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Summertime is finally here, which means you’re about to cash in on all the hard work you put in at the gym during spring. Finally.

You’ve dieted, spent endless hours working out and you look and feel better than ever before. Your weight loss results are sweet.

You’re ready to jet off and spend a week or two in all-inclusive heaven, relaxing by the pool, soaking up the sun and enjoying the fruits of your labour.

The trouble is, holidays usually involve stodgy meals, desserts, beers and cocktails – not fruit. And this can mean coming home with a few unwanted pounds if you’re not too careful.

Fitness and health, however, should always be looked at as a lifestyle and not just an 8-week period before a holiday.

So, even with a little over indulgence, following these 8 easy and simple tips should have you arriving home looking and feeling just as good as when you left. Let’s get into it.

Part 1: What to eat on holiday

Of course, food and drink is a major factor of an unforgettable holiday experience and it can be a big reason for visiting certain countries. After all, nobody does pizza and ice cream like the Italians or beer like the Germans or beef burgers and apple pie like the Americans.

Nom, nom, nom, nom.

But we want to be able to enjoy these foods without returning home with a waistline twice the size. Surely there’s a way to maintain your weight loss AND enjoy new foods on holiday?!

Yes, there is.

With that in mind, here are my four tips (of eight in this article) for enjoying all the food and drink you desire, without having to worry about needing two seats on the plane home.

1. Be aware of “may as well” foods

These are foods you would never really consider having at home but, because you are on holiday and they are there for the taking, you’ll happily load them onto your plate – “may as well.”

These usually include (but are not limited to):

  • Olives
  • Nuts
  • Foreign sweets/chocolates/crisps
  • Weird cheeses
  • Something unrecognisable – but you take it anyway. May as well.

Adding these foods to your plate for no other reason than because you can is a sure-fire way of unnecessarily bumping up your overall calorie intake.

Now, I do believe you should try and sample the local cuisine but remember you have a full week, at least, to try and sample all the foods you fancy. So there’s no need to pile them sky high onto your plate on day one.

Before putting any food on your plate walk around the buffet and see what really takes your fancy, choose 3-5 of them and stick with these for your meal. This will help avoid the infamous ‘buffet mountain’ and will help leave some calories spare for dessert.

2. Limit the booze

All-inclusive drinks are a god-send to bank accounts around the world – but sadly not for waistlines.

It can be easy to get carried away when you have beer, wine and cocktails literally on tap and, whilst drinking can be a fun and relaxing part of your holiday, it’s a good idea to control your intake, helping to maintain your awesome weight loss results.

Think about using one of the guidelines below:

1. Limit yourself to one drink per hour. This might not seem like much but, by the end of the day, this could easily add up to around 10 or so drinks. Enough to make anyone more than a little tipsy.

2. Stay off the booze until 3pm (or later). As a general rule, the longer you wait until your first drink, the less you’re likely to drink overall in the day.

3. Set yourself a (sensible) drink limit. Giving yourself a maximum number of drinks to have will help keep your alcohol intake in check whilst freeing up when and how often you can drink.

Doing one of the above will still mean you can enjoy a bit of booze in the sun without being overly restrictive.

On top of this, to help save calories even further, opt for the lower calorie option drinks. Choosing drinks like spirits and sugar-free mixers, over wines and beers, can end up saving you hundreds of calories by the end of the day.

3. Stay hydrated (this one’s crucial)

Your body likes to be at a certain temperature – 37 degrees Celsius – all of the time.

And your body is going to do its best to keep you at this temperature, which means you’re going sweat a lot more than usual in hot countries, even more so if you are out on a walk and being active.

Obviously, all this sweating means greater water loss than usual, so you need to make sure you replace this throughout the day by drinking lots of fluid.

It doesn’t just have to be water. Teas, coffees, juices, even fruits like watermelons and peaches can all help you stay hydrated in the sun. Carrying a bottle of water with you though, that can be refilled and sipped on throughout the day, is always going to be a smart idea.

Also, remember alcohol will increase your chance of dehydration because it’s a diuretic, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day if you’re on the beers.

Neglecting your body’s need for water can lead to tiredness, lack of energy, muscle cramps and an upset tummy – not want you want on a relaxing holiday.

4. Intermittent (holiday) fasting

Intermittent fasting is a diet that requires you not to eat for set periods of time, to help aid weight loss.

This can be easily and effectively adopted into your holiday just by skipping out on breakfast or lunch. It’s a simple way to keep your daily calories in check for the day, without having to be overly restrictive.

If you don’t think you can go without either meal, then choose a light breakfast or lunch, like fresh fruit and yogurt or a cold meat salad.

This will also help save you calories, meaning you can eat and enjoy more food and drink for dinner, which is handy as it tends to be the biggest and most social meal of the day.

Part 2: Training on holiday

We all know the feeling before a training session: the buzz of your pre-workout is starting to kick in, your go to gym playlist is ready to fire you up, you’re feeling motivated and ready to smash out your workout.

Until you walk through the hotel gym doors that is and realise it’s nothing more than a large cupboard with little more than a few small dumbbells.

Then there’s the multi-gym machine with missing handles and a rusty chain, whilst a dusty old treadmill lurks in the corner. Eurgh.

Okay, so maybe hotel gyms aren’t that bad but, let’s be honest, they are notorious for being sub-optimal when it comes to getting in a decent workout. They make it near on impossible to stick to a programme, so when you train on holiday it’s really all about making the best out of a bad situation.

Of course, you can always ditch the standard gym workout altogether and find other ways to keep your activity and calorie burning levels up.

Bodyweight circuits in your room or on the beach (or use a resistance band if you can take one with you) can make for a great fat burning workout in as little as 20 minutes.

Ultimately, what you’re looking to achieve whilst on holiday is being able to keep on top of your training and activity levels whilst away so that you don’t lose all the progress you made leading up to going away, whether that’s in the gym or not.

So here are my top four tips (the second lot) for how to do just that:

1. Walk as much as possible, and then walk some more

Although lounging by the pool all day is great, one of the best and simplest ways to keep your weight under control on holiday is to keep your step count high.

Getting out and exploring local towns and villages or going on evening walks across the beach to watch the sunset are both great ways to increase your calorie burn.

Doing these things will get your steps in without feeling like you’re having to exercise on holiday. Result.

If you’re feeling particularly active whilst away, then swimming and running are also great cardio options. Try swimming lengths in the hotel pool or go for a dip in the sea for extra resistance against the waves. If running is your thing, hit the beaches for an extra calorie boost – it’s more challenging than running on the road thanks to the uneven and moving surface of the sand.

2. Train to maintain

When training on holiday it’s important to realise that you’re unlikely to be breaking any PB’s – and you shouldn’t be trying to either. The goal and purpose of your workouts should only be to keep things in check and ticking over whilst you’re away.

Hotel gyms are never the best equipped neither do they have the heaviest weights, so training for “the pump” is actually going to be your best bet – get blood pumping into the muscles and work up a sweat.

Choose a varied selection of 5-6 exercises and perform 2-3 sets for each, hitting the 10-15 rep ranges.

3. Full body workouts for the win

I don’t care how much you enjoy working out, when you’re on holiday you don’t want to be stuck indoors for hours on end whilst the sun is beaming down.

This is where full body workouts come into their own as they allow you to hit all the major muscle groups in a short space of time, especially if you use techniques like supersets or Tabata’s to your advantage.

Not only will you spend less time in the gym but using full body workouts will help boost your calorie expenditure to the max, compared to training a single muscle group.

Here’s a superset (ss) workout example to get you started:

A) Dumbbell (DB) front squats ss w/ jump squats: 3 sets x 10 reps x 12 reps

B) DB shoulder press ss w/ DB row: 3 sets x 12 reps x 12 reps

C) Press-ups ss w/ leg extensions: 4 sets x 15 reps x 15 reps

D) Sit-ups ss w/ DB bicep curls: 2 sets x 15 reps x 15 reps

Enjoy your training

Being fully motivated to go and train will be hard enough when you know there’s a creamy Pina Colada waiting for you poolside. So, to ensure you actually turn up to your workout, you need to plan one that excites you.

This could simply be lifting weights in the gym, a HIIT/LISS cardio session or a mixture of the two with a Metcon.

Whatever it may be, make sure it’s something that you want to go and do, even when you have the tempting thought of sipping on that delicious cocktail. You can do it, you proved that when you smashed your weight loss transformation, remember?

To summer(ise)

Now, when you go on holiday it would be unrealistic to expect yourself to work out every day and count your calories – after all holidays are meant to be a time for relaxing and taking a break from your usual day-to-day routine. One or two weeks of overindulgence isn’t going to be the end of the world in the grand scheme of things, if you lead a healthy and active lifestyle.

But this shouldn’t mean we just forego all common sense and eat anything and everything in sight, doing our best sunbathing sloth impersonation each and every day.

The trick is finding the right balance and even just one or two of the suggestions above will help you to strike the sweet spot between relaxation and indulgence, whilst keeping things under control.

And if things don’t go to plan and you do end up putting on a few pounds more than expected?
Don’t stress.

It probably means you had a great time and made lasting memories. Remember, there will always be plenty of time to get back on track and find your abs again when you’re back home and not surrounded by endless temptation.

Now go have a great time.

The post 8 Ways To Maintain Your Awesome Weight Loss On Summer Holiday appeared first on Food For Fitness.

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