Mid-Week Musings: Water Retention and Scale Weight in Females, Chasing Exercise For Fat Loss and Why Going Meat Free Isn’t That Great.

Here are the pressing questions of the week from the gym- you ask I answer!

Water Retention and Scale Weight In Females.

In conversation with our female clients this week there were questions about why weight fluctuates through a calendar month. The conversation follows the line of “I have eaten perfectly for the last week- exercised, tracked everything on myfitnesspal and done everything right but I have not lost weight.” Scale weight loss is not a linear thing all of the time because we have to account for fluctuations in body water through the month. Any women who has a menstrual cycle has 4 phases, in these phases water retention is affected as following:

Early follicular (first 7 days after menstruation): Low water retention.

Late follicular (days 7 to 14 after menstruation): Estrogen release causes water retention due to a change in sodium handling.

Early luteal phase (first 7 days after ovulation): Low water retention.

Late luteal phase (7 to 14 days after ovulation): Drop in progesterone causing a rebound water weight gain due to a change in sodium handling.

So there you have it, in the late follicular and late luteal phase there is a predisposition to retain water hence weight fluctuations on the scales.

Chasing Exercise and Fat Loss.

Simply, if you are chasing large volumes of activity to make up for your high calorie diet your habits and behaviours will not be shaped to deal with periods of inactivity. As diet is largely habit based disruption to your activity levels means it is incredibly hard to then change your habitual eating habits to match your activity. An hour of exercise may burn anywhere between 200-600 calories but if this how you are creating your deficit to diet then this may prove an issue if you lower your activity levels. Tracking your food intake can help understand your current behaviours and reviewing your intake is sometimes useful when looking to make changes. Daily exercisers may be commended for their efforts but if your goal is weight loss and you are exercising daily and not losing weight your nutritional intake is the issue, not your exercise programme. See it as more exercise is like buying an extra bucket for your leaky roof rather than fixing the hole in it. Exercise is obviously a positive thing but the aim should be to improve aspects of your fitness improving your quality of life not just to nullify poor nutritional behaviours.

Why Going Meat Free Isn’t Great.

Vegan and vegetarian diets are gaining popularity at the moment for no other reason than “trend.” On a quick poll at the gym today most peoples opinion where they are “healthier.” It’s simply not the case. I’m not going to discuss the reasons that people don’t consume meat and/or animal products on ethical grounds, that is people’s own business. The general perception of their “healthier” status is fundamentally wrong. Any exclusion based diet can leave you deficient in certain nutrients. Primarily these deficiencies can be seen in vitamin B12 (anemia, nerve damage and cognitive impairment), iron (oxygen transfer and depression) and zinc (growth impairments in the young and mood). If removing dairy products then there can be a deficiency in calcium (when deficient inline with Vitamin D rickets may be prevalent). Supplementation can be used to fill these gaps but it is worth noting some of the symptoms above if you are deciding to change your lifestyle. From a macronutrient perspective you are able to consume a suitable amount of protein from a variety of sources. What you are inclined to see though is that protein based foods may have take along carbohydrates which if you are looking to control calorie or carbohydrate intake it may be a issue. Any diet has a positive and negative aspect but if you are removing quality unprocessed lean protein animal products from your diet it may prove sub-optimal for health if you don’t fill the gaps nutritionally.

 

Mid-Week Musings: Habit Stacking, Jump Variations, Exercise Order and Active Filler.

img_1622As the start of a new series of blog posts I am going to clear up questions I have been asked while coaching the previous week. By the nature of personal training people for a variety of goals from fat loss to athletic performance it highlights the wide range of questions that we get week to week. Sooooo, of we go….

Habit Stacking.

The concept of habit stacking has been proposed in the book Atomic Habits By James Clear. This concept involves layering new habits on top of old habits to help build new behaviours by providing minimal disruption. Undertaking new habits can be really challenging as habitual behaviour is fundamentally hard to change. This sits alongside our concept at Results FAST of focussing upon positive change by not denigrating behaviours that you consider as unideal but instead focussing upon adding new behaviours in a positive sense to foster change. A good example of this is increasing your vegetable intake by always having a green salad with your dinner. Dinner is the habitual behaviour and the green salad can sit alongside dinner easily to achieve positive change. When it comes to exercise adherence and exercising regularly this could be achieved by getting changed in to your exercise clothes before leaving work. When you consider all the things you do daily how could you layer positive behaviours on top of your current behaviours making positive habit change easier. A good example of this is that when people keep a food diary their food intake starts to tidy up. How often also does a healthy eating plan seem to follow regular exercise? Habit change can be about creating a bit of momentum and therefore layering new behaviours on top of others may help you achieve more.

Box Jump Variations For Strength and Conditioning.

Box jumps basically in my mind among the most poorly programmed exercise alongside burpees. Jumps by nature need to be quick as they are primarily a power exercise therefore if they are going to be maximal they need a lot of recovery to be performed well. Simply if jumping on a box is used with minimal rest or supersetted with other demanding exercises it’s a great way to train poor jumping mechanics. There are a whole host of better and safer ways to train lower body endurance if power isn’t the target. Jumping on a box often looks cool and is often part of Crossfit style repetition style workouts- what often looks impressive isn’t always so when there are better ways of working when a good coach can understand exercise choice and ordering.

Exercise Order and Session Pacing.

Programme design and getting exercises in the right order to me are the whole reason you hire a personal trainer. What matters is that after your warm up/ preparation the first exercise or block of exercises you perform should be the most neuromuscularly demanding part of your session. Read that as the most powerful/ heaviest/ explosive. It doesn’t make sense to pace a session and go lighter at the start of training as you will be leaving results on the table (maybe if you are easing yourself back in to a routine but not if you have been training regularly). If the hardest part of your training is near the end of your workout you haven’t worked hard enough at the start of the session.

Active Filler.

Active filler is how we get our training clients to recover between exercises keeping them fresh enough to perform their primary exercise while not feeling as if they are doing nothing in sessions if they need the rest. Good examples of active filler may be mobility work such as three point rotations or calf stretches and low level core drills which may be tough but not ultimately fatiguing such as planks, side planks and deadbugs. In some exercisers who may be chronically tight or have a weaker core they may provide a level of cardiovascular work but after about 6 weeks of regular training it allows you to concentrate more on the primary exercise. Good examples may be pairing a deadlift with a calf stretch, Bench Press with some hip mobility work and single leg work such as lunges with a side plank.

 

 

What is Fatigue? How To Resist It?

The typical UK winter brings along the standard seasonal ailments of colds and flu’s but one thing I encounter is the fact that people say they are “fatigued.” There is generally no need to feel tired, after all most people have a seasonal break over Christmas and should return to work/ life refreshed but as the nights feel long and the days short it’s hard to remind yourself that we are on the upward spiral heading towards spring.

The actually definition of fatigue in an exercise sense has been dominated by the thought that lactic acid production limits movement. That burning now is known to be the creeping of acidity in the muscles which limits movement rather than the phantom of lactic acid which the body can actually use as an energy source. Whilst physiologist consider technical mechanisms of fatigue the overarching feeling for the layman is that one way or another you hit a wall and your performance is limited en-route to hitting a limit.

Another theory though considers a link between effort and motivation. Motivation factors such as rewards affect performance without changing physiology or a muscles capacity to produce effort. Perception is everything when it comes to effort and motivation and therefore fatigue is also a partial product of motivation. As things get harder your physiology encourages you to slow down and your perception of this is very important. It’s understandable therefore why pushing the body to new lengths or breaking through plateaus is hard as our physiology is working against us.

This resonates perhaps with endurance athletes but for the normal person what does this mean? If you are in a situation where you feel fatigued is it your physiology or is it your head? Answer these questions to see what your answers are:

  1. Do you sleep for 7+ hours?
  2. Do you eat a well balanced diet with a good share of protein, carbohydrates and fats?
  3. Do you perform over 3 hours a week of scheduled exercise or pulse raising activity?
  4. Do you remain active e.g. 10,000 steps a day?
  5. Do you drink 2 litres of fluids daily?
  6. Do you eat over 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily?
  7. Do you eat enough fibre daily?
  8. Are you part of an active community/ family that can help you?

Each of these factors are associated with improved health and therefore will help buffer against fatigue. Activity and exercise build fatigue resistance and a healthy lifestyle and diet will help you feel better.

Answer the following questions:

  1. Do you smoke?
  2. Do you drink alcohol regularly (2-3 times a week)?
  3. Do you sleep less than 7 hours a day?
  4. Is your diet made up mainly of high glycemic carbohydrates/ sugar?
  5. Is your job sedentary or do you perform little daily activity?
  6. Are you part of a sedentary community that hinders you?

If you answer yes to the above they can potentially increase your fatigue levels and they can potentially chip away at your health.

But where to start, consider this- if you have a behaviour on the lower list perhaps consider switching it with one on the top of the list. The top list could be considered foundational behaviours to not only resist fatigue but also to maintain a healthy body. Perception is important as we stated before and encouraging yourself to perform things to make you feel better will help build your self efficacy and confidence going forward. This is not just for people who are struggling for fitness- these positive behaviours will resonate with any athlete who has been successful and the negative behaviours pretty much would shut down anyone’s sporting career a lot quicker than it needs to be. When it comes to motivation or resisting fatigue the evidence is clear- if you give your physiology the best chance to resist fatigue your head stands a greater chance of helping you.

 

Why Your New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work… and Here’ What to do About It!

danielle-macinnes-222441-unsplashOnly 6% of New Year’s resolutions are a success. In simple terms New Year’s resolutions don’t work because we underestimate how long it takes to kick a bad habit. Popular wisdom suggests 21 days but habit research suggests that the reality is that it takes up to 66 days for a new habit to become automatic.

Most resolutions focus on a big change- these big shifts require multiple small habits or processes to occur consistently for success to be found. Typically this is a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees as the overall goal dwarves the small important processes that are needed for change and you stop focussing upon the small things that will help you achieve your goals. Ultimately this leads to being demotivated as the overall goal is too vast to achieve as success is to slow to come by. In the age of instant gratification the thought of waiting for anything for a period of time makes people feel uncomfortable. Even though we know that deep down that a 6 minute abs programme won’t give you a six pack the first time you do it we don’t even consider that if performed 66 days in a row you will be quite a bit closer to your overall goal.

Now lets get one thing straight. Your overall goal is important. They key to tearing your 200kg deadlift off the floor or to fit in to your new jeans are genuine goals. Focussing upon them without a plan though makes them more like haphazard dreams. These goals provide the strong reason or your “why” for starting. Success is the sum of your whole efforts. Intention is great to get you started as it aids your initial motivation but to achieve your goals you will need to focus upon the concept of consistently performing multiple habits that lead to your overall target. These multiple habits could be termed processes or process goals.

When it comes to setting your process goals they need to be achievable, practical and they need to repeatable. Being able to measure success is also important. For instance- you can measure gym attendance or the number of training sessions you perform every month. You can set a target to prepare a packed lunch daily or eat a sensible breakfast of your choice that is congruent with your goals. What is key is that these processes are repeatable and their achievement is inline with your overall goal achievement.

What if you don’t perform these processes? Simply, you will fail in achieving your overall goal if your other behaviours are not aligned with your overall target. At this point you have to consider that are your overall goals important enough to you or are the processes you need to perform to achieve your goal actually achievable or repeatable. The easiest way to avoid this is to break your target down in to the key areas that need to be initially performed.

 

For example goals for weight loss may look like this:

Exercise- Goal: Do some.

Nutrition- Goal: Eat healthier meals.

 

If we make these goals more specific and process orientated we can start start to quantify these processes:

Exercise- Goal: Exercise 3 x a week.

Nutrition- Goal: Eat a calorie controlled breakfast and lunch.

 

From here we might start to build more depth to these processes:

Exercise- Goal: Resistance train 2-3 times a week, get 10,000 steps a day, aim to increase the weight used during squats.

Nutrition- Goal: Eat a protein source at every meal, eat a fistful of carbohydrates at every meal to control portion size, drink 2 litres of water a day to manage hunger.

 

As you can see in the third example we have depth to our goals and they will form the backbone for your overall plan of success. This is the same regardless of your goal. By adding more detail we are also applying a more thought out approach to goal achievement. Understanding that each of these behaviours is important helps you to avoid being overwhelmed by your initial target and it also provides a more constructive set of targets by breaking down the overall goal in to smaller constituents. Starting towards a target is important but quantifying the steps towards your target helps maintain motivation, helps you achieve process goals throughout the process and allows you to celebrate small wins as you progress.

The Simple Approach to Weight Loss

Eat less, do more.

That’s the flippant comment that most people make. If it was that easy then we all would be sporting a six pack. When you remove the nuances of the psychology of weight loss such as habit formation and habitual behaviour then what is the stark reality around how to lose weight.

The Laws of Weight Loss 1

There are 3 main components that make up the amount of calories you burn. BMR or basal metabolic rate- this is how many calories you need to sustain yourself and basically not die. Activity- how much you move or your energy expenditure beyond just existing. Digestion- yes, you heard me right. Digestion actually is responsible for around 10% of your calorie turnover.

Simply said when you eat as much as you burn your weight stays the same.

The Laws of Weight Loss 2.jpg

When you eat more than you need this makes you gain weight. Pretty simply concept really. This is usually as body fat unless your aim is to build muscle in which case you do need extra calories to build up.

The Laws of Weight Loss 3.jpgWhen you eat less calories then you need you will lose weight. Simple.

If this is the case then why can it be hard work? If you have a sedentary job you may not turnover many calories from activity. As you get older your BMR decreases as you lose muscle mass (something you should aim to preserve).

The Laws of Weight Loss 4.jpgAs you can see the differences between a sedentary person is quite big. It means the active person needs more calories to maintain their weight.The Laws of Weight Loss 5.jpg

So when it comes down to your diet it has to be individual. An active exerciser has a greater calorific burn then someone who doesn’t exercise. Activity is important in general as it aids calorie turnover.

If you are dieting without exercise or activity you will actually create a smaller window to create a deficit meaning that your diet may have to be more precise and limited in food volume as simply you just have less wiggle room.

What are the take home points here:

  1. Diets that create deficits but without exercise create a smaller window for success.
  2. Exercise creates a better chance of being successful as it allows you more calorific leeway- basically if you match a deficit with an inactive person you can eat more.
  3. Activity in every way matters and can help you with your results.
  4. Maintaining a high BMR is important by maintaining muscle.
  5. Training that encourages muscle maintenance and calorie burn such as our group conditioning sessions are important in maintaining and encouraging weight loss.

 

Why You Aren’t Achieving Your Weight Loss Goals and What You Need To Do About It

When it comes to losing weight from my experience people have good and honourable intentions. Intentions and grandiose plans aren’t always enough though for success. From short term detoxes to crash dieting there is a wealth of schemes to help you, but like most get quick rich schemes they are on the whole statistically more likely to fail than to be successful. Not all of us have a cast iron will 24/7 and most people will suffer from adherence issues. The key is though if you are going to take a measured approach then how do we maintain successful behaviours for our long term goals.

Adherance1.jpg

Now I joke a lot of the time that when it comes to losing weight that fat loss diets always start on a Monday.

Why?

Perhaps the grind of the “work” week (whatever that means now) breaks down your adherence. Simply stuff is getting in the way of your success, be it fatigue, stress or the fact that that you are focussing on other things. Maybe you are rewarding yourself for a busy week by smashing a whole bar of milk chocolate, 2 bottles of red wine and half a block of cheese over the weekend. Either way you have decided that the diet starts on Monday. What we have here is typically not an issue with creating a calorie deficit, we have an issue with creating a consistent deficit. In essence we can’t maintain our adherence through 7 days consistently.

Adherance2.jpg

Now if we look deeper at people when they are motivated to change when are you likely to fail?

A study has recently looked at this. When are people most likely to lapse and how are they lapsing. At this point it might be a good idea to compare this with your behaviours.

Adherance3.jpg

In essence a lapse was a period of over eating or consumption of an undesirable food. Science and research sometimes gets a lot of criticism with people questioning it’s real world application. This study is the real world- we all screw up and what you might see here is a way to access your adherence to give you a greater chance of success.

 

Adherance4.jpg

What you can see is that your lapses effect your maintenance of weight loss- which makes perfect sense. People on average lapsed 4 times a week mainly on the weekend evenings at home. That glass of wine on Friday, Saturday and Sunday might be catching up with you now hey!

Adherance5.jpg

What’s the reality of this though when it comes to your plan?

Individualised strategies are important as one size does not fit all here. It highlights that willpower is not enough and is variable from person to person. What though can you do to be more successful at adhering to your diet?

  • Limit highly desirable foods at home. Perhaps keep your treats for when you aren’t at home?
  • Organise and plan your evening schedule to avoid eating calorific food. That may involve changing eating time or incorporating more balanced snacks at different points through the day (especially in the evening).
  • If you have balanced your intake throughout the day you earn yourself more flexibility later on in the day. If you had a fry up for breakfast and lasagna for lunch you may be coming up a bit short of calories later in the day which may leave you hungry.
  • Success is only achieved if you can stick to something. If your diet is extreme you will fail at some point as failure occurs when you don’t want to suffer.
  • Your lifestyle, who you eat with and where you are when you eat matters as you will have to fit your diet to your lifestyle. That could mean 3 square meals that could mean 5 small meals- either way try to experiment to see what works best for you.

 

Adherance6.jpg

As a disclaimer the smarter stuff around carbs, fats and proteins does matter. At an initial level though adherence to a plan which has lower calories than you need is the most important factor. What you also have to consider is that with a few lapses it is tough to maintain a progressive calorie deficit and therefore fat loss.

How to we help with your adherence to balanced nutrition and exercise. At Results FAST it’s key that we keep you organised (by booking your training in), offering you flexibility (so it’s easier for you to fit your training in), provide you with positive messages and education (through our social media) and hopefully keeping it fun!

 

What Does 1500 Calories Look Like?

Practical usable advice is the name of the game. We are told to eat healthy and we know that calories make up food. We even know that certain foods have different calorie make ups. Where most people struggle is putting it all together in to a daily plan.

What we have here is a base 1500 calorie day focussing on lean proteins and sensible amounts of carbohydrate and fats. For some people this may be enough food- for others it may be a good base before snacks depending on your size and your goals.

Feel free to share your snaps of your creations with us and if you decide to tweak any of the recipes with your own spin!

 

Breakfast

Low Carb Egg Breakfast Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 red pepper
  • 3 spring onions
  • little cherry tomatoes
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 50g of cheddar or your choice of cheese.
  • ½-1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chilli powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 390°F.
  2. Wash and dice the pepper, onions and tomatoes. and put them in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Wash the spinach, lightly chop it and add it to the bowl as well.
  4. Add the eggs and salt. Mix well. 
  5. Add the chilli- add depending on your preference for heat!
  6. Grease the muffin tin with oil and kitchen paper/baking brush and pour the egg mixture evenly into the muffin slots. (If you think they might still stick to the pan use some muffin cups or cut out some baking paper and to use as cups.
  7. Add the cheese, grated or layered.
  8. Pop the tray into the oven for 15-18 minutes or until the tops are firm to the touch.
  9. Bon Appetit!!

This is about 250 calories a serving so 2 will do the job to start of the day (original source http://www.hurrythefoodup.com).

 

Lunch

Spicy Chicken and Avocado Wraps

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken breast (approx 180g), thinly sliced at an angle
  • generous squeeze juice ½ lime
  • ½ tsp mild chilli powder
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 seeded wraps
  • 1 avocado, halved and stoned
  • 1 roasted red pepper from a jar, sliced
  • a few sprigs coriander, chopped

Method

  1. Mix the chicken with the lime juice, chilli powder and garlic.

  2. Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan then fry the chicken for a couple of mins – it will cook very quickly so keep an eye on it. Meanwhile, warm the wraps following the pack instructions or, if you have a gas hob, heat them over the flame to slightly char them. Do not let them dry out or they are difficult to roll.

  3. Squash half an avocado onto each wrap, add the peppers to the pan to warm them through then pile onto the wraps with the chicken, and sprinkle over the coriander. Roll up, cut in half and eat with your fingers.

This is about 400-500 calories so perfect as a sensible lunch (original source www.bbcgoodfood.com).

Dinner

Healthy Steak and Chips

Ingredients

  • 150g baking potatoes
  • 5ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 175g lean beef rump steak
  • 1 tomato
  • 50g button mushrooms
  • 80g mixed leaf salad

Method

Preheat oven to 220°C / Gas Mark 7 / 425°F

  1. Peel and cut potato into 8 wedges.

  2. Place on a baking tray and brush with 1 tsp olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika.

  3. Bake for about 35 minutes or until cooked through and crispy.

  4. While the potato is cooking, grill or griddle the steak, 1 tomato and a few sliced mushrooms.

(Original recipe courtesy of www.weightlossresources.co.uk).

And for those of you who want to pimp that steak up a bit check out Jamie Oliver’s how to guide… https://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-features/features/how-to-cook-the-perfect-steak/