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.

 

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.

 

How To Get The Results You Want: Part 2

What happens once you start?

Starting is the hardest part of the process but what is happening to your body in this time?

This is one of the most common questions we get asked about our free trial. Usually we will ask you “What’s your why?”

It’s not always a case from going from A to B though- it’s often a case of getting as far away from A as you can. I

In the first two weeks we listen to what you want to do and will help get you started on your exercise programme and we look to highlight what you need to do to hit your targets.

We give you a free two weeks, so you can see what times and days are going to suit you the best. We believe that fitness should be personalized to you so from the get go we start looking at how you move and where you are strong so that we can pick the right exercises performed in the right way for you.

Adherence and finding routine is your first target– this is an example of a process driven goal. Setting yourself a session target for the month will help you build routine and be successful in the long run.

Understanding your starting position to get a baseline of where you are fitness wise and nutritionally by completing a food diary is your second target. From here it’s down to us to worry about your training and it’s up to you to worry about maintaining positive habits like session attendance.

What will you achieve in the first 2 weeks?

You are probably going to ache in muscles that you haven’t felt for a long time….

We can’t disguise that fact. You are going to start to pick up the exercises that we will be coaching you and start to become confident that these exercises are being done properly.

You are going to perform exercise sessions that have exactly the right exercises for you and you will get more in to an hour than you would training on your own. In the first 14 days you are going to perform between 4-8 training sessions that will be the start that you are looking for.

When it comes to the results….

Well, results can vary on your fitness levels and starting position as well as other factors. If you come in with an open mind hopefully we will see you a little bit stronger and a little bit leaner and from here you are in a great position to achieve fantastic results. We have members who have lost 6 stone in weight and members who have dropped a stone in body fat in 4 weeks.We have clients who have been recognised internationally in their sports and we have clients whose main focus is to keep to their 3 sessions a week maintaining their fitness levels. Your goal is yours alone but we are there to help guide you.

What’s a normal result? That depends on you. Any training programme can be flexible in nature. Some people may train 2 times a week some people 6. Some people eat in a calorie surplus, some don’t. Understanding where you are, what you are doing and how you are going to progress is key.

But why a personal approach? There is not a one size fits all result as our programmes are customised to your needs. A cookie cutter programme is general and not personal and this is where we differ as we can tweak our approach to serve your needs making our service smarter and more reactive to what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it by.

How to Get The Results You Want: Part One.

When you are at the start of your fitness journey and you type in to google “personal trainer Ware” or “gym in Ware” did you realize the path that you where undertaking. We often get asked by our clients at Results FAST simply….

“How do I get the results I want?”

It could have been a case of Christmas or New Year excess motivating you to make a change or it could be the fact that you want to challenge yourself in a different training environment. The big question is what is going to help you make that initial positive intention turn in to a well-oiled habit that fits regularly in to your lifestyle and helps you achieve your goals?

gym-23Goals are in effect of are a product of repetitive behaviors or habits. Habits in themselves are processes that become well practiced to the point that these behaviors become easy to perform. By their nature habits usually are developed because there is some form of reward which is deemed to be positive. This highlights why the sugary sweetness of chocolate can create a habitual behavior just as that early morning cup of caffeinated coffee can help you start the day just right.

No one wanted to be more successful at eating more sugar- it appears that this would be an easy habit to maintain.

Certain behaviors have a chemical reward and it makes their adherence easier. Over time the reward although still “rewarding” may not have the same effect but the behavior is well grooved and provides comfort as it becomes what you to daily. How does this relate to maintaining exercise and what is the positive reward?

There are a number of benefits from exercise which are well researched from enhanced mood, improved health, increased self-confidence being among them. Most people may have an outcome orientated goal such as losing weight.

However, this may be the first mistake… focusing on the result may not be the best way to work.

At Results FAST we often focus on process goals initially as opposed to say an outcome goal such as losing a specific amount of weight. For almost all our clients initially this is a target of between 8 and 12 sessions a month. Why is this effective? Well adherence is a process task orientated goal- it is focused on the present as opposed to a result which may happen over time. Task based goals are gratifying in the short term and build a consistent behavior in the long term which will help you achieve an outcome orientated goal.

In simple terms it’s about working on the process as opposed to the result.

gym-37Initially starting an exercise regime can be hard as initially there may be a period of adaptation which can leave you sore. Working through this point is vital to allow you to develop this behavior and often it is off putting for new exercisers and using a process or task related goal is more effective- science also proves this as it has been shown that outcome goals may weaken motivation where constant process goals which can be regularly achieved can help maintain consistent behavior.

When considering your goals, it’s important to define what they mean to you. Your perception of the overall target is important, but you have to make sure that you feel it is realistic. That is why process goals are a lot more self-motivating than outcome goals. A goal based around the repetition of simple, easy repeatable tasks will build your confidence, your self-belief and overall build your consistency of habit. It is also to highlight that at this point that success is important- each exercise session or logging of your food diary is important as it contributes to the overall goal.

When things go wrong this is usually a surrendering or weakening of self-confidence and you resort to prior behavior. This could be emotional eating, this could be eating when fatigued or just disorganization all it means is that belief or confidence in the overall goal has been surrendered and a behavior or habit that you perform usually is in competition with your new “positive” habit. Writing down your goal and making it is visible daily can be a powerful motivator as it reminds you of the positive path you are looking to pursue.

Individuals who write their goals down are 42% more likely to achieve them.

The simple task of recording your targets is good enough to improve your chance of success. This can also be a good motivator for times that you feel your self falling away from the habits that you know will make you successful.

What goes in to a fantastic plan though? How can you guarantee success?

If we are looking at things from an exercise point of view what do our personal training and gym clients say? Most importantly what is the difference between achievement of your goals and maybe not getting your approach right this time?

The things that seems to have a resonance with our membership (in a bit of a straw pole of our client trainees) are these factors in order.

  • Accountability

When I asked our clients what they thought helped them achieve their goals we got the following feedback.

“It’s the fact that you keep me organized and remind me to book my sessions in.”

“You make me feel a little guilty…. In a good way.”

“I know if my name is not in the diary you will call me…. So I got in there first.”

All these statements highlight that adherence can be built if there is an element of expectation. This expectation needs to be met and it’s a motivating factor for individual’s who care about achieving their target number of sessions for the week. This doesn’t highlight a fear of failure, but it instead indicates that being accountable to someone else can help maintain motivation. Show me someone who is not training regularly, and I will show you an individual who doesn’t have a strong goal as a motivating factor. That is fine, but it shows how the habit of exercise can be easily dropped if the individuals experience of it is negative or they feel hopeless in achieving their goals. As all of our clients work with a trainer it means the majority of them have goals which they share with their coach and in turn encourages adherence as they are accountable to the coaching team at Results FAST.

  • Flexibility

When asked about how someone has maintained their “diet” we have got the following comments:

“I just found a new normal- it was easier to be consistent once I knew what to do.”

“I worked on a few things and the rest just fell in to place.”

“I got organized.”

None of these points address food in itself. There was no magic bullet, no secret powder, macro ratio or “plan.” Each of these people found a flexible approach that bought them success. When it comes to nutrition we can achieve dietary success in a range of ways as human metabolism is very adaptable. It means that diets can vary greatly in foods but may be very similar in the results they bring. Having a flexible approach to nutrition and exercise and letting it become part of your lifestyle is important in long term success. Traditional dieting is closeting, short term in approach and often hard to maintain in social situations. In extreme cases they can result in poor relationships with food as well as socially. Having a good relationship with exercise and nutrition doesn’t mean leading an extreme lifestyle. It means knowing what works for you and having flexibility day to day so that it doesn’t dominate your life. Modern life is only getting busier and having flexible options around your exercise is important.

  • Expertise

“It’s all about eat less and do more isn’t it.” This is the leading statement that has been said by many a person. If this was the case we would all be walking round with six packs. Exercise and nutrition are more nuanced. As indicated before if we are all leading busier lives we want smarter more efficient solutions to exercise and nutrition therefore it helps if you work with an expert. Our clients highlight:

“You give me the best possible result for the spend of my time.”

“I only have 3 hours of training a week so I want to make the most of it.”

“All I have to do is turn up.”

We all have a lot of decisions to make in a day- if you have more decisions about how you should be exercising or eating for a specific goal it is another decision you have to make. It’s also a decision that you may make from perhaps a position of experience but not necessarily expertise. We aim to cut through the dogma for our clients. In simple terms:

“We work on the result, you work on the execution.”

This points back to my earlier references to goal adherence. When you as an exerciser are task orientated it allows your coach to be results orientated. To take that further as a personal trainer it allows us to adapt and change your programme as necessary. As we train people in small groups as well it can help your motivation seeing others who are working hard towards the same goal as you.

Creating the right environment for success is therefore important with the right blend of expertise, adherence and flexibility. What brings it all together though is personalisation. We all need expertise, adherence checks and flexibility but the cherry on the top is personalisation for where you are now. An individual who works 50 hours a week with an hour commute either way has different needs to a new mum who is only released from child care when her husband returns from home. What differs in these individuals from an Olympian. Well nothing really as they all have jobs and things they must do daily as well as various life pressures.

In summary, getting what you want is not just about a programme card or celebrity endorsed plan, it’s not about coconut oil or heavy squats. It’s about consistency, adherence, flexibility and creating an environment for success being led by the right expertise which is personalised to your needs. It’s what our small gym in Ware strives to create in our approaches and it’s these nuances that have helped us create a personal training centre with a difference.

How to Lose Weight Off Your Thighs.

As part of trying to write occasionally I have thrown the content out to Results FAST gym and personal training members this week to answer their questions:

The first question to come back is “How do I lose weight on my thighs.” I’ll explain the “why it’s there” before the “this is what to do.”

In general, this question most of the time is only asked by women. Why? Well females have different fat deposition patterns to men. Simply women store fat preferentially on their chest and thighs while men generally are more predisposed to storing body fat on their belly. These is thought to be hormonal in nature though there are also some slight subtle differences in sites called adrenoreceptors which are found around their hips and deal specifically with fat mobilization. We are all slightly different from person to person and this is also seen in our fat deposition patterns.

The issue with the adrenoreceptor balance highlights that people may preferentially store fat in a certain area. It also means that it becomes hard for fat to be burnt in the lower body- primarily because the catecholamines (which adrenaline is the one most people will recognize) can’t act on the specific cells they need to and rivalling adrenoreceptors also play a role in decreasing blood flow meaning if this balance is one way rather than the other you will have a preference to store body fat in this area and it will be harder to mobilize fat from this area due to lower blood flow. Which pretty much sucks if you are one of these people…. But what do you do and how do you preferentially burn fat from the thighs though?

While you can cannot directly target an area for fat burning you can work the muscles in that area to build muscle and lean tissue which has a greater effect on elevating your metabolism and turning over more calories at rest. This doesn’t necessarily lose weight of our thighs but will help tone that area. Typically, if you are a beginner body weight exercise could work but resistance training may provide a better variation of training load and stimulus to help you progress quicker.

Reducing your calorie intake to a level where you are in deficit will mean that fat will be more likely to be mobilized though these areas tend to be stubborn and take time to reduce in size. There are no magic foods or plans which apologize whole heartedly for.

Activity as a whole will help. Low levels of activity will increase calorific burn, and this is a good thing. That said it can take a long time if you are primarily using low level intensity exercise for your weight loss (it’s effective but patience is a must).

Modifying your training programme may also be effective. Interval training or training at a higher intensity is a useful strategy and could be considered the most adrenaline stimulating activity. It’s not the complete answer but may help if you incorporate it as part of your programme. Organized weight training may have the same effect as interval training if programmed properly. Low level activity such as walking can be really useful if you have a low threshold for exercise and poor fitness levels but it can be incorporated in to your programme at any point.

There is no magic bullet but in turn knowing what hand you are holding is always important before you play cards. It therefore makes sense that you utilize the right type of programme if shifting lower body fat is your target.