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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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!

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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.

 

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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!

 

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.

Is the hex/ trap bar better for developing athletes?

The title of this article in itself is a little bit contentious as in most cases the answer will always depend upon the situation.

That said understanding where and when to use the trap/ hex bar should be a priority of most forward thinking coaches looking for best practice. The trap bar in itself is often favoured as the loading and hand position makes it pretty easy for those new to the weight training arena to adapt and adopt without finding that technique may be compromised.

Straight bar deadlifting form can often be compromised by poor hip and lower limb mobility as well as weak spinal erectors meaning it is harder to get into the right positions to develop the movement in a safe and effective way.

A recent study by Camara et al. (2016) used individuals who could deadlift 1.5 times their bodyweight. This is interesting as most studies don’t used trained populations- in this case it means that there was a level of mastery for the individuals involved in testing.

Maximal amounts lifted didn’t vary but the peak force and peak velocity were different. This highlights that from a force production point of view that the trap bar may be superior.

From a muscle activation point of view the vastus lateralis (part of your quads down the front of your leg) was more active compared to the erector spinae and biceps femoris (part of the hamstrings down the back of your legs). It brings home the point that the hex/trap bar is not as posterior dominant as the deadlift is when looking at things from a muscle activation point of view.

So is there a reason to remove deadlifts from programming? Not necessarily, the use of any exercise depends upon the context of the athlete. This study highlights that force production may be developed more favourably for a while with the use of hex bar. The role of the quads is obviously enhanced here as it is somewhere between a squat and deadlift. As there is less erector spinae activation (back) it means that there is less stress placed upon the musculature of this area which may be a limiting factor in developing the deadlift e.g. poor hip mobility and weak erector spinae make full deadlifting a bit of an issue.

The trap bar in my opinion tends to be easier to coach than a full deadlift and it makes it an easier catch-all lower body drill. It is a good compromise to help develop physicality especially if mobility issues limit the performance of an effective deadlift. In turn deadlifting may be considered a progression from hex/ trap bar lifts as it challenges the posterior chain and therefore may be a good advancement.

Does tempo matter when lifting weights?

If you are interested in weight training this is a good study to take some interest in. While teaching on personal training programme at my local college we got into a bit of a debate. If a repetition is based on tempo e.g. 3 seconds up/ 3 seconds down and for instance you do 10 repetitions (60 seconds time under tension) for a hypertrophy goal is it the same as performing 5 repetitions for 6 seconds up and 6 seconds (still 60 seconds time under tension) down if weight is controlled?

In fairness there are coaches who base their whole model of training on this concept so it is a good question to ask. I dug in to the research and found this study which pretty much performed the above but for slightly different repetitions and time under tension.

The paper suggests that training protocols conducted with the same time under tension, but with different configurations, produce distinct neuromuscular and metabolic responses so that performing higher repetition numbers with shorter repetition durations might be a more appropriate strategy to increase muscle activation and blood lactate concentration. Traditionally higher repetitions (plus 6) have always been favoured for muscular endurance and hypertrophy work but it does suggests that there may more favourable repetition ranges (higher) to work with submaximal weight if the goals are not predominantly strength orientated.