If you want to lose weight, then you’ll need to be in a caloric deficit, period.
In other words, you’ll need to be burning off more calories than you’re taking in on a daily basis, over an extended period of time.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? And if you have all day to weigh and measure your food, as well as hit the gym, it probably is. Problem is, the majority of us don’t have the luxury of time.
Luckily there are numerous tactics you can use to lower your daily calorie intake without measuring every gram of protein carbs and fat (although that’s not to say that’s not a legitimate tactic).
One example might be to increase the amount of protein you eat on a daily basis, this may work because it has been shown to increase satiety (the feeling of fullness) – check out the study here http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7498104
Another perhaps less well known strategy is to use caloric density to increase the likelihood of you eating less calories throughout the day.
Caloric density refers to the amount of calories in a given weight of any food. For example, Peanut Butter is very calorie dense because it contains a lot of fat, whereas Broccoli is relatively calorie sparse. 100g of Broccoli contains just 34 calories, whereas 100g of peanut butter contains around 600 calories (depending on the brand and the ingredients), that’s almost 20 times the amount!
The point here is that the weight of food is the same, but the amount of calories are vastly different. This is so significant, because if your calorie target for the day is 2000, you’ll hit that with less than 400g of peanut butter. If you’re a huge Peanut Butter fan like me, you’ll know that it’s pretty easy to make your way through an entire jar in a day (Whole Earth Peanut Butter comes in 454g jars, so if you ate a whole one you’d exceed 2000 calories). The same amount of Broccoli would total less than 160 calories, i.e. less than 10% of your daily calorie requirements, so to eat 2000 calories purely from Broccoli would be virtually impossible (not that you’d want to anyway).
Very few people that know what they’re doing would eat 2000 calories-worth of Peanut Butter in a day (or 2000 calories-worth of Broccoli for that matter), but this example just demonstrates the huge differences in calories between the same weight of two different foods.
But here’s the interesting bit; the actual volume of food you eat can have an effect on your satiety (how full you feel), here’s an interesting study that explores the idea further http://ajcn.nutrition.orgcontent/72/2/361.long
This means that an easy way to make yourself feel full, and therefore subconsciously eat less calories would be to swap out some calorie-dense foods in your diet for less calorie-dense foods. Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting that you swap your sacred tablespoon of Peanut Butter for Broccoli, but there might be a few swaps you can make that won’t impact the enjoyment of your diet, but might decrease your calories enough to kick start the fat loss process.
Let’s take a a look at all the macro nutrients individually and see where we can make savings in specific areas;
Generally speaking, most people looking to lose weight would do well to increase the amount amount of protein in their diet, so I usually wouldn’t recommend lowering the amount of protein you eat.
What you can do to save calories while eating the same volume of food however, is to trade fattier cuts of meat for leaner options. The study quoted above states that protein has a bigger effect of satiety than fat, so you may be able to get the same feeling of fullness for less calories.
For example, say you’re eating beef once a day, you could reduce this to 1-2 times per week, and swap it for chicken on the other 5-6 days.
100g of Chicken Breast contains 110 calories while 100g of Rump Steak contains 175. Say you traded 200g of Rump Steak for 200g of Chicken Breast five days of the week, straight away you’ve saved 650 calories over the course of the week. This would equate to one pound of fat over the course of eight weeks, in theory (all else being equal).
This certainly isn’t to say that you should eliminate fatty meats from your diet completely, variety is important so you get a full profile of micronutrients which is vital for overall health.
As a general rule with carbs, ‘white’ varieties are more calories dense than ‘brown’ or wholewheat versions.
Let’s look at a few examples;
- 100g white rice contains 130 calories, 100g brown rice contains 110 calories
- 100g white bread contains 266 calories, 100g brown bread contains 259 calories (granted, not a huge difference)
- 100g cooked white pasta contains 130 calories, 100g cooked wholewheat pasta contains 124 calories (again, not much in it)
While the differences between wholewheat/brown and white carbohydrate sources is arguably negligible, another factor to consider is G.I or Glycemic Index, this is a measurement how quickly blood glucose rises after consuming a given food, generally foods with a LOWER G.I release glucose into the blood stream more slowly, which means more satiety, which in turns means you’re less likely to overeat.
This is a list of the G.I ratings of 100 different foods http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods
Anyway, that’s a subject for another post, back to caloric density. One of the most interesting things about caloric density and carbs in my opinion revolves around potatoes.
Sweet Potatoes have become really popular recently, I wouldn’t be surprised if McDonald’s start serving Sweet Potato Fries soon, they’re generally considered as ‘healthier’ than their unfashionable white cousins (that sounds a bit racist). While Sweet Potatoes may contain lots of beneficial micronutrients (as do white potatoes), they’re actually much more calorie dense.
This means that, if you’re swapping white potatoes for sweet potatoes thinking you’re going to be eating less calories, you’re in for a surprise.
One other thing to mention about carbs and caloric density is that fruit and vegetables are excellent foods to eat more of – if you’re trying to lose weight and don’t want to calorie count – (in place of other items) because they’re so calorie sparse.
Their calorie sparsity, in relation to other foods is largely due to the fact that they contain lots of water, the fact that fruit and vegetables contain lots of fiber means that they pass through the gut slowly and could therefore increase the feeling of satiety.
As a general rule, if you’re trying to lose weight through manipulation of the caloric density of your diet, then cutting down (not cutting OUT) fat should be high on the agenda.
A gram of fat already contains over half the amount of calories compared to the equivalent amount of protein or carbs, add this to the fact that fatty foods are incredibly easily to over-consume as well as not particularly satiating compared to protein and you can see the issue.
One table spoon of Olive Oil contains about 125 calories, just think how easy it is to add a couple of teaspoons (250 calories) to your otherwise calorie sparse salad. Do this twice a day and you’ve added 3,500 to your diet over the course of a week – the equivalent of a pound of fat.
By far the most calorie dense fat containing foods are oils and nut butters so severe limitation is advised if you want to decrease the overall calorie density of your diet.
Of course essential fatty acids are essential (duh) for overall health, as well as testosterone production http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6538617 so eliminating them totally probably isn’t wise. Salmon and Avocados are two relatively less calorie-dense sources of fat that you may want to include limited amounts of.
You’ve listened to me ramble on for a while now, so let’s take a look at a real world example of caloric density manipulation in action.
I’ve thrown together two sample breakfasts with the calories matched, the thing to look at is the overall weight of the food.
Although you’re getting virtually the same amount of calories in each meal, the second example contains almost 100g of extra volume, which is going to be more satiating.
Yes, I realize the macros are very different, if I had more time I could probably get them more closely matched, but this is simply to demonstrate the variability in caloric density between two popular breakfast options.
N.B. I’m not saying one is better than the other.
If you don’t want to calorie count, which most people don’t, then eating less calorie-dense foods is an excellent way to subconsciously eat less and feel more satisfied, purely because you’re eating a larger overall volume (or weight) of food.
Fat is extremely calorie dense by its very nature, so limiting your intake of fat should be your first port of call.
Increasing the amount of fruit and veg you eat is a no brainer, the amount of water contained in most fruit and veg means they are calorie sparse and can go a long way to making you feel more satiated.
There isn’t a huge amount to chose between when it comes to the caloric density of starchy carbohydrates, but if you are really trying to optimise and fine tune then get in touch with me and I can help you out.
Protein should be kept high due to it’s satiating properties, opting for leaner meats e.g. chicken, turkey, white fish will help keep fat (and therefore caloric density down).
One last point to make is that if you’re trying to add weight, calorie dense foods can be your friends. If you have high calorie targets for each day then it can be difficult to consume everything you need without some calorically dense foods in there.
How many times have you people saying that they’re eating ‘clean’?
‘Clean Food’ is a buzzword that’s rife in fitness circles at the moment, and while you could just dismiss it as another vacuous hashtag, it’s ubiquity can be confusing for those that don’t know any better.
So what is clean food? Well, it isn’t anything.
That’s right, ‘clean food’ is NOT a thing. Sorry.
What is ‘Clean Food’?
But what do people THINK clean food is? Let’s consult Twitter;
What are the key themes here?
Fruits and Vegetables – If we’re saying fruits and vegetables are ‘clean foods’ we need to define why. Is it because of their nutrient density? Many fruits and vegetables contain key micro nutrients for general health, but so do lots of different meats, and nuts, and oils, and plenty of other non-plant based foods.
‘Whole Grains’ – The general consensus seems to be that ‘whole grain’ carbohydrates are ‘cleaner’ than their non-whole grain counter parts, but why? It might be true that they’re more nutrient dense, and have a lower G.I rating, meaning they’re potentially more satiating, but does this make them ‘cleaner’?. Not necessarily.
Protein – Most protein rich foods also contain fat, and therefore fat, even saturated fat which is commonly demonized by the media, is also ‘clean’ by association. So is protein and fat are clean, as well as ‘whole grain’ carbs, then the majority of all foodstuffs on the planet are ‘clean’
Of course six Tweets aren’t representative of what most people view ‘clean food’ as, In my opinion, most people think ‘clean food’ is;
‘Clean Food is anything that’s Unprocessed’
The problem with this line of thinking is that any food you buy in a supermarket is processed in one way or another.
Granted, your washed and bagged salad may not be as processed as your sugar coated cereal of choice, but it would be a fallacy to say that it’s sold purely in its natural form.
The other thing is that processing can take a few different forms, most notably chemical processing and mechanical processing – chemical processing is obviously much more damaging to the nutrient content of a given food, while mechanical processing simply refers to chopping or shredding – but the fact remains that it is still processing.
The other problem with this approach is that many ‘unprocessed’ advocates will use whey protein – which is heavily processed.
‘Clean Food is Low in Calories’
I think this is an approach many people take when looking to lose weight, and while eating food low in calories (so long as you create a negative energy balance) will help achieve weight loss, if this means prioritising foods that are low in nutrients, then this approach won’t be sustainable.
Also consider that some foods considered to be ‘clean’, e.g. fruit (particularly high sugar fruit) may not be as satiating as other options (e.g. protein rich foods) and therefore not optimal for a weight loss diet.
‘Clean Food is Anything other than Carbs’
Of course this is ridiculous. Many people forget that vegetables are predominantly carbohydrate based, and that many carb-rich foods (e.g. sweet/white potatoes) boast favourable micro nutrient profiles.
Carbs can also be useful if you’re trying to lose weight or build muscle because they’re the body’s preferred fuel source (in most cases) for intense exercise.
‘Clean Food is whatever’s Fashionable at the time’
Just like everything else in life, foods go in and out of fashion. Butter decreased in popularity because people thought it made you fat, but now people are singing the praises of Almond Milk, Coconut Oil, Quinoa and Kale. Don’t get me wrong these are all great foods to include in your diet, but they don’t necessarily offer anything ‘magical’ that other, similar alternatives don’t.
A few years back it was Acai Berries – the problem is people think these foods are miracle cures for general health or weight loss and invest heavily in them, while neglecting the rest of their diet. Kale, Acai Berries and Almond Milk won’t do you any favours if the rest of your diet sucks.
But if you don’t trust my opinion, what about Google? Google’s always right.
Let’s address each of these points individually;
1. Like I said, virtually all foods you buy at the supermarket are processed in some way. ‘Single ingredient’ foods is probably a better term, but again, many would say whey protein is clean, and that’s processed, and has more than one ingredient
2. Refined/processed – same thing
3. So basically ‘eat a balanced diet’, this is good advice for both performance, aesthetics and overall health, and always has been. Just because you eat a balanced diet however doesn’t mean it’s clean – you could eat a highly processed diet that was perfectly balanced.
4. What does ‘watch out’ even mean? If it means ‘avoid’ or even ‘limit’ it’s potentially crap advice – depending on your goal. There are many unprocessed (clean?) foods that contain fat (nuts) or sugar (fruit) so should we ‘watch’ those??
5. Meal frequency has NOTHING to do with the quality or ‘clean-ness’ of your food, completely separate issue
The other two principles were;
6. ‘Don’t Drink Your Calories’ – potentially good advice if you’re talking about high-calorie juices and coke, but what about fruit or veg smoothies? They’re a convenient way to get a huge variety of micro nutrients in one hit
7. ‘Get Moving’ – Good general advice but NOTHING to do with ‘eating clean’
WHY Are You Eating ‘Clean’?
The problem is, people seem to love telling everyone that they’re ‘eating clean’, and that ‘everyone needs to eat clean’ and that ‘eating clean will solve the world’s ills and defeat ISIL’, but perhaps worse than the ‘eating clean’ platitude lacking any concrete meaning, it can be quite misleading and most people don’t actually know why they’re doing it.
Are you ‘eating clean’ to lose weight/fat, or improve health? Because, depending on your interpretation of ‘clean’, you could be sabotaging your own end goal.
Let’s say you want to lose weight, so you start replacing some the refined carbohydrates in your diet with nuts (because refined carbohydrates aren’t clean and nuts are unprocessed, so they are clean, right?). Using our basic knowledge of nutrition, we know that gram for gram, fat is much more calorific than carbohydrate, in fact it’s over twice as calorific.
Let’s say that you were eating 300g of refined carbohydrate per day, that equals 1200 calories.
You replace this with 300g of unprocessed ‘clean’ nuts. Bad news, because that equals 2700 calories.
If you add 1500 calories to your daily intake over a significant period of time, you’re highly likely to put on weight.
Let’s say you don’t care about losing weight and you just want to optimise your overall health, so you eat foods with a high nutrient density. While this might include lots of green veg, you’ll probably also want to increase your consumption of foods that are calorie-dense; i.e. fatty fish, nuts and even dark chocolate.
The issue here, is unless you closely monitor your calorie intake, it’s very easy to over-consume and put yourself into a calorie surplus. If you do this over a long period of time, you’ll put on weight, and aside from the fact that 99.9% of people don’t want to get fatter, additional fat can be bad for your health.
Again, you’ve undermined your original goal.
Still think ‘eating clean’ is the way forward?
Clean Eating VS IIFYM
IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) is diet trend which has taken off the last few years. The philosophy is that you can pretty much eat anything you want, as long it meets your calorie and macro targets for the day/week.
Of course this goes against the ‘clean eating’ mantra of prioritizing unprocessed, natural food, because, well, you can pretty much eat anything you want, and yes that does mean if you want to get your carbohydrates from Fruit Pastilles, and your Protein from cheap sausages, and your fat from glugging down processed Vegetable Oil, you can.
There are two main problems with IIFYM
1. You need to be ultra pedantic about counting calories because it’s VERY easy to over eat these kind of calorie-dense foods
2. If you take IIFYM to the extreme (basically eating crap all the time) you probably won’t fee; great, and your overall health could suffer.
‘Clean Eating’ is generally a better choice for weight loss if you don’t want to calorie count, because it’s quite difficult to over eat vegetables, protein and unprocessed carbohydrates, however there are still pitfalls, as per the example above.
Clean Eating/IIFYM Hybrids
Clean eating and IIFYM are generally opposing philosophies, but I have noticed a trend recently, mainly on Instagram, where people are coming up with concoctions that they they brand ‘clean’ but actually have characteristics of IIFYM.
An example of this might be protein brownies.
This could be a regular brownie recipe, but with added protein powder, or a ‘healthier’ recipe that substitutes certain ingredients for others, for example, wheat flour might be swapped for coconut flour.
But is a protein brownie really ‘clean’? If we’re saying that clean food is unprocessed, then the answer is no, because protein powder is processed. And if they’re made with Coconut flour rather than wheat flour, does that make them cleaner? Health-wise, it might have a slightly more favourable micronutrient profile but it doesn’t mean it’s any less calorific.
Another popular substitute in ‘clean treat’ recipes is Agave Syrup in place of honey, again, the perception is that it’s somehow ‘healthier’ or ‘cleaner’, but this assumption isn’t grounded in reality.
Let’s consult Instagram and the annoying ‘clean treats’ hashtag.
That bowl of sludge, delicious as it looks can’t be classed as ‘clean’ can it? It might fit into the posters Macros but does that make it clean? C’mon, it has a fucking Kit Kat in it, are Kit Kats unprocessed?
In this sense, ‘clean’ is just a byword for ‘fashionable’, so the question is, do you want to look cool in front of your Instagram followers, or do you actually want results?
‘Clean eating’ or ‘eating clean’ are totally arbitrary terms that don’t actually mean anything.
Establish your goal first, then build your diet to achieve that goal, rather than mindlessly jumping on the latest nutritional bandwagon.
Know anyone who’s on a diet at the moment? Let me have a guess what was the first thing they decided to ‘cut out’…
Of course, after all, carbs make you fat, don’t they? Well, no.
If you want to lose weight, and are thinking about going on a diet, chances are you’re looking for scapegoat, something to blame on you not being in the shape you want to be. After all, it can’t be your fault for lacking self control and overeating can it? It must be something in your diet. The Daily Mail told you it was carbs, and you want to believe them. It’s carb’s fault, not yours.
The reality is, you don’t need to cut any one food out your diet to lose weight, particularly not carbs.
I’m not going to massage my own ego and delve into the science of carbs, I’m sure you all know what foods contain carbs, typically;
- Cous Cous
Other foods that contain carbs which you may not have realised include;
- Nuts/Nut Butters
If you cut all that out of your diet you’re probably going to get pretty sick, and also have a shit life.
Carbs are not your enemy. I’d imagine you’re still not convinced, and you want to believe that just by cutting out carbs, you’ll get the body you’ve always wanted.
I’ll try and address that below by dealing with some of the most popular misconceptions surrounding carbs.
‘Carbs are Not an Essential Nutrient’
This is true to a degree, but hold on a second.
Protein and Fat containing foods contain essential amino acids and essential fatty acids respectively. These are termed ‘essential’ because unlike other fatty acids or amino acids, they cannot be synthesized (made) by the body. They HAVE to come from food. You won’t die immediately if you don’t eat them, but you won’t be setting yourself up for optimal health either.
There are no such thing as essential carbohydrates. But does this mean you shouldn’t eat them? No.
Look at the list of foods above that contain carbs.
Most vegetables are 100% carbohydrates, but do you think cutting out dark green leafy veg is going to help you in any way? Of course it’s not you fool, regardless of whether you’re trying to lose fat or improve your overall health.
It’s also worth noting that it’s not as simple as just separating foods into ‘protein’, ‘carb’, or ‘fat’ categories – most foods don’t just contain one macronutrient, but rather, varying ratios of two or three.
To illustrate my point, I’m going to refer back to the list above – nuts may contain carbs, but they also contain essential fatty acids (and protein) – so if you you don’t eat nuts because they contain carbs, then you’d be missing out on other essential nutrients.
‘Don’t Eat Carbs Before the Gym’ (Or Before Marbs)
There’s a school of thought that says, if you want to burn fat in the gym, don’t eat carbs before you workout, because then your body will use fat as a fuel source in the absence of carbs. This is wrong for several reasons;
- Fat loss occurs when you’re consistently in a calorie deficit (regardless of the amount of carbs you eat) for an appreciable time period – not just because you’re ‘zero carb’ before the gym
- The body isn’t this simplistic – say you train at the gym at 3pm, just because you haven’t eaten any carbs since you woke up doesn’t mean you body won’t use carbs as a fuel source – what about the carbs you ate last night stored as muscle glycogen?
- If you are looking to lose fat, then high-intensity training is going to be the best method to achieve that, and the most efficient way to fuel that is with carbs, you might think you can train just as hard on fat and protein alone, but it’s very unlikely that that’s the case. With this in mind, you’re better off eating a good amount of carbs if fat loss is your goal
‘Don’t Eat Carbs After the Gym (or After 6pm)’
The ‘don’t eat carbs after 6pm (or some other arbitrary made-up time)’ “rule” has been doing the rounds for years now.
This is probably based on the assumption that, after 6pm, most people will sit on their arses all evening and gorge themselves on Dorritos while watching Eastenders. The problem is, most people sit on their arses all day too, at their desks, at work, very possibly also eating Dorritos. If this is your life, then your requirement for carbohydrates is going to be very low, but I doubt many of you reading this blog lead that sort of lifestyle.
So should you eat carbs after the gym? That depends on a lot of things;
What’s your goal? Are you trying to build muscle or lose fat? If so are you training tomorrow? How many days have you trained previously? Do you LIKE eating carbs after the gym??
Unfortunately this is so individual it’s impossible to give a clear answer, but the bottom line is nutrient timing – i.e. WHEN you eat your carbs is a lot less important than getting the right amount of carbs overall, whatever that amount is.
It’s All About the Type of Carbs’
What’s all about the type of carbs? Whether or not you lose fat? Bollocks.
As mentioned, the key determining factor in whether you lose fat is your energy balance over time.
It probably shouldn’t, and maybe I should seek therapy, but I find it infuriating when people make recommendations to switch to ‘Sweet Potatoes instead of White Potatoes’ or ‘Brown Rice over White’ to help with the weight loss process.
This is utter garbage, I’m not saying don’t eat Sweet Potatoes, they have some benefits over white potatoes (different vitamin and mineral profiles), but white potatoes are fine too (despite their seemingly impeccable reputation, Sweet Potatoes actually have more sugar than White potatoes – not that this is a bad thing).
Some quote that the Glycemic Index (how quickly a food is converted into Glucose) of Sweet Potatoes is favourable to that of White Potatoes (i.e. the GI is lower, so they keep blood sugar and therefore appetite stable for longer), but this is distorted by many other factors, such as how the potatoes are cooked, and what other foods they’re eaten with.
As you can see, this issue is incredibly complex, and it’s not just as simple as saying ‘one carb source is better than another’
See the chart below so you can compare the GI ratings of a few different foods
‘Cavemen Didn’t Eat Carbs, So We Don’t Need to’
This is people taking the whole Paleo debate out of context.
I have a lot of time for Paleo Diet advocates, I don’t think the diet is perfect for everyone, but it’s a good template for improving health, which a lot of people need to do.
Anyway, the Paleo Diet isn’t about NOT eating carbs – this is just a simplistic view of it.
Many Paleo books recognise that some ancient societies (e.g. in South America) survived on a diet predominantly made up of carbs, because this was all that was available to them, so saying that ‘Cavemen didn’t eat carbs’ is a complete non-argument.
Also, remember that list above – it contains vegetables, i.e. plant foods which would have been the most readily available food source for people that had to catch and kill animals using bits of flint.
Even if cavemen didn’t eat carbs, that wouldn’t be argument alone as to why we shouldn’t eat them now. Society has moved on – should we not use life-saving drugs simply because the ‘cavemen’ didn’t?
If you operate just fine on a diet free of starchy carbs (NOT vegetables, I’m not telling you it’s ok not to eat vegetables) then by all means go ahead, but you’ll probably be missing out on a lot of things – intense training sessions that’ll actually help you reach your goals, chips with peri peri salt in Nandos, and a few frosty ones with your pals on a Friday. Enjoy.
Paralysis by analysis by a condition that many people suffer from, in various different aspects of their life, not just in their pursuit of an ideal physique.
But we’re not here to talk about your dead-end job or why you didn’t pull last weekend, we’re here to talk about losing fat and gaining some fucking muscle.
So what is paralysis by analysis when it comes to choosing a resistance training program?
The amount of information available on this topic is overwhelming, even if you know what you’re doing, and I’m not just talking about the internet, I’m talking about that dusty copy of Flex magazine from 1998, the overly-friendly guy at the gym who dishes out advice whether you ask for it or not, or the guy who sites opposite you at work who seems to know everything there is to know about training despite looking like he’s never set foot in a gym.
So who do you listen to? Do you just make it up? Rock up at the gym and freestyle it? Well no, you should listen to me. I’m joking, of course, I’m just offering my humble opinion, but since you’re already reading this, you may as well carry on.
So What’s the Best Program?
There is no best program. Sorry.
If there were one training protocol that trumped everything else, we’d all know about it, and we’d all be doing it, and we’d all be 300lbs and ripped to shreds year round.
But we’re obviously not.
The best program is the one that you’ll stick to, because there is one aspect of training that DOES trump everything else, and that’s consistency. if you’re not consistent, no matter what program you’re on, you won’t achieve the best results – you may not even achieve ANY results, depending on how inconsistent you are.
So be mindful that, when chsoing a program, it needs to be one that you’re confident you can fullfill. If you’re a business owner who commutes 4 hours a day and has a wife and 17 kids then your time is probably going to be quite limited, so don’t pick a program where you’re training 7 days a week, twice a day. Simples.
With that in mind, here are some training programs to pick from, some of which I’ve done, some I haven’t;
Body part Split
This has to be the most famous and most popular split, mainly because it’s what most bodybuilders do, and therefore what they recommend in their Muscle & Fitness interviews. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best program for you, even if you want to look vaguely like a body builder.
This program essentially involves training one large body part and possibly one smaller body part per day over a seven-day cycle, for example;
Monday: Chest and Triceps
Friday: Back and Biceps
Example Day: Back and Biceps
Pullups – 8 sets
Bent Over Rows – 3 sets
Single Arm Rows – 3 sets
Lat Pulldown – 3 sets
EZ Bar Bar Bicep Curls – 4 sets
Spider Curls – 3 sets
Of course there are several different variations of this program, but the above is pretty typical.
You could of course train chest and back on their own separate days, and have a day where you combine biceps and triceps.
Another popular variation is training chest with shoulders – there are pros and cons of every variation.
Pros: The good thing about this program is that it’s easy to understand and plan, it also allows you to cram in a lot of volume for an individual body part. Because of the scope for large amounts of volume, it opens up opportunities for a wide variety of exercises and rep schemes.
Cons: The main disadvantage of this program is that people stick to it for so long, rather than mixing it up with other variations, of course this is true of any program, it’s just that it occurs much more commonly with the body part split than anything else.
The real main con of this program is that it doesn’t allow for a lot of frequency, you’re only training every body part once a week, and therefore, 4 times a month, and 52 times per year
Of course, if you have enough time in the day (and energy) you can get in a lot of volume. Because this is body part specific – it’s very much geared towards aesthetics, since it allows plenty of room for of isolation moves – hence why it’s popular with bodybuilders
Upper/Lower Body Spilt
From one extreme to the other – while the previous program divides the body into it’s constituent parts, this simply divides the body in half, so you’re only ever working your upper or lower body
Monday: Upper Body
Tuesday: Lower Body
Thursday: Upper Body
Friday: Lower Body
Sunday: Upper Body
N.B. – this would work on a rolling cycle, so on the following Monday you’d hit lower body, then upper, then rest, etc, etc.
Example Day: Lower Body
Back Squats – 4 sets
Front Squats – 4 sets
Deadlifts – 4 sets
Dumbbell lunges – 3 sets
In complete contrast to the body part split, this is a great program for specific training – because the body is split into two parts there’s not much room for specialisation (or isolation moves), so it’ll force you focus on compound moves.
Of course, you don’t HAVE to focus on compounds – but it’d certainly be the best use of your time if you chose this program.
You could keep all your lower and upper days the same (e.g. upper could be flat bench, standing military press, dips, pull ups) or you could alternate compound days like the one just mentioned with isolation days, for upper body this might be flys, lateral raises, tricep pulldowns, lat pulldowns).
Pros: Frequency. Aside from a whole body workout – this will allow you get plenty of frequency in, since you’ll be training every body part every third day. If you play your cards right, this should allow you to quickly improve the big lifts.
For this reason, this is a great, simple program for beginners – who will most benefit from building a solid foundation
Cons: This is a program which could quickly get stale, since there’s not a huge amount of scope for variety
It’s probably not also a great for advanced trainers or people looking to bring up lagging body parts
This is the program that I’m currently on, and is definitely becoming more popular.
If you’ve been using a body part split for a while now, this is a good transition into a program that allows for more frequency.
This splits the upper body into movement patterns (push and pull), and keeps legs on for a separate day, much like the upper/lower split.
This is a great program for aesthetics, since it allows for more volume AND more frequency per body part.
Not only are you training every body part twice a week, could actually achieve more overall volume in a week than a body part split, if you do enough sets. For example, on a body part split you might do 20 sets in total for chest (e.g. 5 sets each of 4 different exercises), an push/pull/legs split might allow you to do 10 sets on Monday for chest, and 11 on Thursday, meaning that, over the course of a week you’ve done more volume. Phew.
Here’s an example;
Monday: Push (Chest/Shoulders Triceps)
Wednesday: Pull (Back/Biceps)
Example Day: Push
Flat Bench Press – 5 sets
Incline Dumbbell Flys – 5 sets
Barbell Military press – 5 sets
Lateral Raise – 3 sets
Skull Crushers – 4 sets
Rope Tricep Extensions – 3 sets
This is a great program if you’ve been training for a while, and you really want to take it to the next level, but be warned – you only get one rest day per week!
Despite the fact that the thought of having just one rest day a week is quite daunting, this is actually quite a ‘fun’ program, since you’re only doing a few sets (over maybe 2 exercises per body part) per session.
Now I know what you’re thinking ‘I DON’T WANT TO SQUAT TWICE A WEEK, ONCE IS BAD ENOUGH’. Well you don’t necessarily have to, what I do is a Quad dominant leg day (where I’ll do front squats) and a hamstring dominant leg day (where I’ll do back squats). Similarly, I’ll only deadlift on one of the back days per week.
Pros: Allows you to increase volume and frequency over a body part split. This is pretty big.
Cons: Training 6 days per week – you need to be prepared to dedicate quite a lot of time to the gym.
Does what it says on the tin – you train your whole body, every session.
Much like the upper lower split, this is great for sports specific training. Frequency will also be quite high, but the volume will be low, since you’re only going to have time to do a couple of sets per body part, unless of course you want to spend hours in the gym.
Scope for isolation exercises will also be limited if you want to get the best bang for your buck.
Monday: Full body (Heavy)
Wednesday: Full body (Light)
Friday: Full body (Moderate)
Squats – 4 sets
Deadlifts – 4 sets
Military press – 3 sets
Flat Barbell Bench Press – 3 sets
Pull ups – 3 sets
The best way to approach this would be to have a heavy, moderate and low day, since training squats or deadlifts repeatedly in any one of those rep ranges is going to be counter productive and unsustainable
Pros: Perfect for those that are short on time, and need the most bang for their buck, OR people that want to combine resistance training with cardio or another sport. It’s also good for complete beginners since it’ll help them learn the important movements quickly and build a base level of strength
Cons: Probably not the best for those looking for pure aesthetics, due to the lack of emphasis on isolation exercise exercises. Of course that’s not to say you won’t be able to achieve a great physique using this program
German Volume Training
I’ve no idea why this is German, maybe it’ something to do with the ruthless efficiency of this program, and it is pretty efficient.
No fancy exercises, not complicated set and rep schemes, just pure unadulterated volume.
The widely accepted way to perform this program is to do 10 sets of 10 for a compound exercise, then a few sets of an assistance exercise.
There’s no widely accepted scheme for GVT, but here’s how I’d set it up;
Example Day: Shoulders
Standing Barbell Military Press – 10 sets (10 reps)
Standing Dumbbell raises – 4 sets
I’ve only scheduled four training days per week in this program due to the amount of volume.
One thing you’ll need to carefully consider if you’re doing this is the weight you’re using, you want to use something you’ll be able to get 10 reps out of for 10 sets – so even if the few sets feel easy, the last few definitely won’t. I’d go for 60% of your 1RM – so if you can bench 100kg, use 60Kg.
Pros: Easy to program, since there are only a maximum of 2 exercises per body part
Cons: Can we mentally taxing due to the lack of variety. Also probably not a great program for beginners who don’t need this level of volume to spark adaptations.
Crossfit has been loosely termed the ‘sport of fitness’ and the people that ‘compete’ in it bestow it with a cult like status; they pretty much have their own language (boxes, paleo, kipping pullups anyone?). Although Crossfitters exist in their own little Under Amour-wearing, Rich Froning-worshiping world, Crossfit workouts can genuinely be good for muscle gain and fat loss.
N.B. Crossfit involves a lot of Olympic lifting so if you’ve never tried Clean and Jerks or Snatches before, learn the technique or you’ll probably end up snapping your spine.
Crossfit basically works on the premise that everyone does a given workout on a specific date (the WOD, or Workout of the Day), and the entire Crossfit community competes to complete this workout in the quickest time.
The workouts are given innocent-sounding women’s names, but many of the routines are anything but, with punishing compound exercises back-to-back with sprints or box jumps.
Example Workout: Linda
There are tons of other established, popular programs out there, some you might want to check out include – FST7, YT3, 5/3/1, DC and Mountain Dog (Google them), though these are probably more appropriate for advanced trainers.
As I said at the start, you can make progress with ANY of these programs, so your choice should be based on how often you can/want to train, and whether you prefer longer, infrequent workouts, or training more often with slightly less volume.
Whichever one you do choose, I certainly wouldn’t stick with it for the rest of your days, it’ll probably take you a good few weeks to really get stuck into a program, so I’d recommend doing a program for a minimum of four months before moving on to a different one.
When it comes down to it, the decisive factor in whether or not your workouts are successful will be consistency, I can’t stress how important that is. You need to stick it it out – if the program looks like too much of a commitment for you, choose another one. sure, you can take the odd unscheduled day off or move your workouts around, but 90% of the time you need to be hitting the gym on your scheduled days. No excuses.
If you need help picking the right program for you, or want to design one tailored for your exact needs/goals/lifestyle, get in contact with me.
Easy answer for you here, if you’re in a calorie deficit (consistently burning more calories than you eat on a daily basis) then any diet, regardless of whether it’s the ‘Mediterranean Diet’, or the Krispy Kreme diet will make you lose weight.
So no. the best way to lose weight is not necessarily the Mediterranean Diet.
The BBC however recently ran an article making claims to the contrary. The article is actually based on research by Doctors, but I’m going to poke fun at the BBC anyway, just for shits and giggles.
First of all, the whole concept of the ‘Mediterranean Diet’ is flawed. What even is it? There’s no clear definition – because there is no such thing. There are 25 Mediterranean countries. Do you really think think they all eat the same diet?
Do people in Spain really eat the same diet as people in Albania? Or Syria? (yes these are both also Mediterranean countries). Of course not.
Even if the Mediterranean diet referred to the eating habits a single country, it would still be a flawed concept, there are still people in France, Spain and Italy that are sick and obese because they eat too much poor quality food (ok maybe not so many as other countries, but hey).
So what is the Mediterranean Diet perceived to be?
According to the BBC;
“Typically, it consists of an abundance of vegetables, fresh fruit, wholegrain cereals, olive oil and nuts, as well as poultry and fish, rather than lots of red meat and butter or animal fats.”
Whether or not this is what our Mediterranean cousins eat day-n day-out, the concept of it being THE ‘healthiest’ diet or the diet that’s ‘best for weight loss is highly debatable.
All the items listed are nutrient dense foods (with the exception of ‘wholegrain’ cereals) that should really be present in pretty much any diet. The problem is the vilification of animal fat.
We know that eating a low fat diet isn’t optimal for health – fats can help with the production of testosterone, which you kind of want unless bitch tits are your thing, but the next biggest crime in nutrition is not eating enough different types of fat.
For years we’ve had the ‘good fats’ mantra rammed down our throats – ‘you ONLY want to eat good fats like salmon, Avocado, Olive Oil and nuts’, granted these are all ‘good’ fats’, but that infers that all other types of fat are ‘bad’, that simply isn’t the case.
You probably don’t want to be chugging down too much trans fat, but animal fats should be a big part of a balanced diet, not so recent studies have discredited any association of heart disease with saturated fat intake. Foods high in saturated fat contain vitamins and minerals that are essential for optimal health, e.g. Butter is one of the very few foods that contains Vitamin K2. A massive slab of steak drenched in garlic butter also tastes fucking good.
So let’s have a quick recap of the different types of fat;
- Monounsaturates – found in Olive Oil, Avocado, Nuts and Seeds
- Polyunsaturates – found in Fatty Fish, Eggs, Nuts and Seeds
- Saturates – Red meat, Coconut Oil, Butter
You should eat them all.
Should you be ‘on’ The Mediterranean Diet
I have a problem with what media are painting the Mediterranean diet out to be for the reasons mentioned above, however, the majority of people would benefit from having more vegetables, olive oil, nuts and fatty fish in their diet, and if you need to rationalise that by saying you’re on the ‘Mediterranean Diet’, then go for it – but make sure you include saturated fat too.
I also have a problem with the BBC promoting this as weight loss diet. This means that most people will read this article and think that eating a ‘good’ diet is something that should be done temporarily to lose weight. If it helps with weight loss (it may not) then great, but if people see it as a temporary diet then they might think that a ‘normal’ nutrition plan consisting of shit loads of stuff like cereal, bread, pasta and sugary junk is ok for their health when it’s not.
Eating a diet comprising of lots vegetables, fish, meat nuts and oils ALL the time is optimal for health, and should therefore be your ‘normal’ nutrition plan rather than a transitory diet. If you want to lose weight then you simply need to be eating less calories than you burn everyday – regardless of what you eat (eating for optimal health and weight loss CAN be two very different things).
Although I said the Mediterranean Diet (plus saturated fat) is good for most people, whether or not you should practise it really depends on your goals.
- Do you want to improve your overall health? – It’s probably perfect for you, but maybe consider swapping out the wholegrains for some saturated fat
- Do you want to lose weight and be healthy? – It’s fine, as long as you’re in a calorie deficit.
- Do you just want to lose weight? – It may not be optimal due to the high fat content – of you’re not eating a lot of nuts or oils and you suddenly add them to your diet they can skyrocket your calorie intake. If you want to lose weight without calorie counting then the higher fat content could pose a problem
- Do you want to build muscle? – So long as you’re getting enough protein, and have enough energy to train intensely, it should be fine.
- Do you want to perform at your very best in an endurance event? – You may need to add extra carbs into the diet. Does this make it NOT the Mediterranean Diet anymore? Who knows?
As you can see, simply blanket prescribing a specific diet to EVERYONE can be pretty dumb.
I hate the Great British Bake Off and everything it stands for. Berry and Hollywood can shove their creme patissiere up their respective arses.
Why waste your time slaving away mixing flour and other shit ingredients thta contain little to no nutrients when you could make a steak in 3 minutes that tastes infinitely better than anything that raises in a fucking tray?
Well, don’t get me wrong, I still hate baking, but it does have its uses. Steak is great, but you can’t really gnaw at a nice bit of topisde dripping with blood as a quick afternoon snack while you sit at your desk can you?
I usually have 2 meals at the office, but since I’ve started 6 day-a-week training, that’s simply not enough. I need to eat at least 3 times at work, in the past I’ve found my self stumbling to the canteen in a low blood sugar-induced daze to spend extortinate amounts of money (totted up over a month) on flapjacks or brownies. Not really optimal I’m sure you’ll agree.
With this in mind I decided to make my own flapjacks.
But these are no normal flapjacks, if the flapjacks you get in Costa Coffee et. al are Gok Wan, then my flapjacks are The Rock (coincidentally they also had the texture of a particularly hard rock, but I’ll try and address that in this post).
Yes, these are protein-fuelled muscle-building flapjacks that would make Mary Berry have a stroke. Want the recipe?
NOTE: They were pretty dry when I made them, but I’ll adjust the amounts in this recipe so yours hopefully won’t be!
Here’s what you’ll need;
- Greek Yoghurt
- Protein Powder
- Sunflower Seeds
- Almond Flour
- Coconut Oil
- Dark Chocolate
Sounds like a lot but trust me, there are other recipes out there that use a lot more than that.
Here’s what to do;
1. Pour about 400g of oats into a big tray. Throw some sunflower seeds in as well, as many as you want really.
2. Put the oats and sunflower seeds under a medium heat grill for about 10-15 mins, shuffle them around regularly to ensure they all get even heat exposure. Grilling them means they won’t expand when you add the other ingredients.
3. Once they’re browned a bit, take them out and put them to the side
4. Get a mixing bowl, the biggest one you have in the house. Add your whey protein. How much you use is totally up to you, it depends how much protein (roughly) you want each flapjack to have. I think I used about 120g grams – which works out as a total of 90g of protein, so if you divide your mix up into 6 flapjacks, that’s 15g of protein each. Be mindful that the more protein you use, the more of the other ingredients you’ll have to use to stop the final product being overly dry.
5. Add three eggs. Stir.
6. Add a heaped teaspoon of butter. Stir.
7. Add a heaped teaspoon of coconut oil. Stir.
6. Add about 3 table spoons of Greek Yoghurt. Stir.
8. Add two heaped tablespoons of Almond flour
9. Add a bunch of honey. Stir.
10. When it’s all mixed, pour it into the oats and stir it some more. If the mixture ends up really thick and stirring it is more strenuous than leg day, you need to add some more stuff. I would recommend adding another egg and maybe some more Greek Yoghurt. Keep doing that until it’s relatively easy to mix. Generally, the tougher it is to mix, the dryer the flapjacks will end up.
11. Stick it in the oven on about 180 degrees. Mine took about 25 minutes but you’ll have to keep checking it. You want it to be brownish but not burned. Turned it every 5 minutes to make sure they cook evenly.
12. Once they’re done take them out and divide them up. If you want, melt some dark chocolate and slap on top of them.
I’ll be honest, making these is quite a lot of effort, but if you’re one of those people that ends up spending tonnes of cash on protein-based snacks, then you’ll probably save quite a bit by making these yourselves. Especially when you consider that the average protein bar/flapjack costs £3-£4.
Granted, you could probably just get some ground oats and mix it with protein and use that as a snack, but these are more convenient and have a bunch of good fat in them to boot.
As for the macros, they’re really going to vary depending on the ratio of ingredients you use, but I’ll try and estimate;
If you make some, let me know how they turned out. Don’t be shy, they can’t be much worse than mine.
If you’re serious about optimsing your body composition, i.e. gaining muscle and losing fat, being better at sport, or just being ‘healtheir’ then you pretty much have no choice but to closely scrutinise your nutrition. The problem is, knowing what to eat, how much of it to eat, and when to eat it to get the results you want can seem like rocket science.
There’s tonnes of infomation on nutrition available but a lot of it can be contradictory, confusing and frankly complicated. Because new research is constantly being produced, books can become outdated very quickly, news articles on nutrition are often sensationalist (publishers are more concerned with selling papers/driving traffic than providing facts), and any information you get from personal blogs (like this one) or social media sites needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Social media has amplified the amount of bullshit doing the rounds out there, the problem is, the people who shout the loudest aren’t always necessarily right. It’s easy to read a 140 character tweet and take the content as gospel truth, just because your favourite fitness model posted it, but more often than not, this tiny snippet of information is just the tip of the iceberg. Or just totally incorrect.
Because the world of nutrition is so fraught with dogma, myths and misinformation, I decided to go and sit in a room and listen to the views of a highly qualified Clinical Performance Nutritionist and his team for two days. Martin MacDonald is , in my opinion one of the world thought-leaders on nutrition, so I was honoured to be given the opportunity to attend the Mac Nutrition Mentorship in Loughborough.
Here are my key takeaways;
Disclaimer: This is purely my interpretation of the material that was taught on the mentorship, and not necessarily the views of Martin MacDonald or Mac Nutrition.
It Kind of Is All About Calories
We all know that calories matter, regardless of your goal, but there are so many ‘counter’ arguments to the calories in vs calories out model that it’s easy to get drawn into the debate that, for weight loss (or gain) it’s much more about what you eat than how much you eat. For example, the misguided belief that ‘carbs make you fat’ is pretty widespread now, and while it might be true that reducing your intake of sugary carbs (which most people eat a lot of) will be beneficial for your overall health, it will have no effect at all on fat loss if you’re not in a negative energy balance. When it comes down to it, energy balance has the final say in weight loss or gain.
Eat less calories than you burn and you’ll lose weight, eat more than you’ll burn and you’ll gain weight (regardless of the macronutrient composition). Of course this is massively oversimplifying things, for example, adding more protein can help muscle retention and also increase satiety (the feeling of fullness) and therefore help people stick to a lower calorie diet, additionally taking in sufficient carbohydrates may efficiently fuel an efficient training session which will help burn calories.
You might hear someone say that they simply started ‘eating clean’ rather than counting calories which helped them lose weight. They probably aren’t lying, but the reason they lost weight probably isn’t because they were eating ‘clean’, the likelihood is that they cut down/out a certain food or foods that they eat of lot of, which in turn reduced their overall daily calorie intake.
In the end though, these tactics simply help serve the negative energy balance goal, which is the ultimate deciding factor in weight management. Want to lose weight? Try eating less calories.
N.B. Reverse dieting (temporarily upping calories to reset metabolism) might be necessary for those eating very low calorie levels and not losing weight.
Post Workout Nutrition – Everyone Calm Down
What do you do after your workout? Sprint to the changing room and neck 2 scoops of whey with 100g of powdered Dextrose, or Maltodextrin, or some other carbohydrate formula that has a name like a Latvian pornstar? You could well be wasting your time.
Reliable studies indicate that simply taking whey on it’s own -or even just waiting an hour and having a whole food meal – is as beneficial for muscle growth as a saccarine-sweet cocktail of sugar and protein. Just for the record – I’m not being all high and mighty here – I used to eat handfuls of Jelly babies after my workout. We’ve all been led to believe that we NEED protein and carbs as quickly as possible, and that there’s some sort of magical ‘anabolic window’.
So what should you do? Just have some whey after your workout, if you want. If not just make sure you have a whole food meal within a couple of hours. Regardless of how quickly you eat after your workout, you still need an adequate amount of protein and overall calories to gain muscle, so concentrate on that. Oh and make sure you’re actually training hard. And getting adequate sleep.
Are Any Supplements Actually Worth Taking?
If nutrition as a whole is confusing and contradictory then supplements are probably responsible for a lot of that, and that’s no surprise – they’re big business. If a nutrition brand can pull the wool over your eyes to sell your more pills and powders, they will. And more often than not it works. People are lazy. You’re lazy – and you want the quickest, easiest way to reach your goal.
The more the sports nutrition brands use clever marketing to tell you you need supplements, the more you’re likely to take. But the point of supplements is that they should be an addition to your diet, not a replacement.
Do we need synthetic vitamin C tablets? Not really, especially when we can get it from a wide variety of foods that should already feature heavily in our diet (e.g. vegetables). The supplements that will help us the most are the ones that contain stuff we can’t get from our diet. That’s why Vitamin D is rapidly gaining plaudits in the nutrition world – it can only be obtained from sunlight, and unless you’re an out-of-work Californian surfing enthusiast, you’re probably not getting anywhere near enough.
200 IU is the recommended daily intake but I personally take 20 times that amount. Fish Oil is the second ‘essential’ supplement. Of course we can get this from our diet, but how much Salmon, Mackerel and Sardines do you eat each week? if the answer is several, then your Omega 3 fatty acid intake should be optimal.
Problem is most people don’t get anywhere near that, hell, most people don’t even eat any fish, which is why this supplement is essential for a large proportion of people. Creatine is the third genuinely effective supplement – if you’re training in a way that utilises ATP stores – i.e. intense, heavy lifting. Creatine is without doubt one of the most studied supplements, and the evidence shows that it works. I take it intra-workout.
Don’t Worry About Muscle Loss
Contrary to popular belief, muscle tissue is in fact pretty difficult to get rid of. I don’t know about you but when i haven’t eaten for a while I feel like I’m slipping into a state of atrophy, and if I don’t find a protein source quickly I’ll wither away into an anorexic shadow of my former self.
The main factor that affects muscle fullness (and therefore, their perceived size), is glycogen stores. Glycogen is energy stored within the muscle themselves – most people can store from 400g-800g of carbohydrates as muscle glycogen.
These stores are depleted during intense exercise, and then restored with carbohydrate intake. When glycogen stores become depleted, muscles have a flat look and feel, giving the impression of actual muscle tissue loss, when all that’s happened is they’ve ‘deflated’ a bit. So don’t worry, if you miss a meal or forget to take your shake to the gym, you won’t get home and look in the mirror to find a beanpole staring back at you.
Psychology is as Important as Physiology When it comes to Dieting
Can you get shredded eating Pop Tarts? Yes. As mentioned, losing fat is simply a case of being in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time. Are you likely to get shredded eating Pop Tarts? Probably not. This isn’t necessarily down to physiology and biochemistry, but rather, psychology.
There’s something in the combination of sugar and fat that sends reward signals to the brain, telling it to keep sending hunger signals, prompting you to eat more calories before hunger is ‘switched off’ the kind you don’t experience when you eat more satiating food.
Therefore, it’s not that there’s something inherently ‘evil’ about sugar that will make you gain more fat quickly than say, protein, it’s just that you’re far more likely to overeat sugar – or rather – a combination of sugar and fat – than you are protein. Of course that’s an easy claim to make, and many people will just dismiss that statement, overestimating the amount of willpower they have. Let’s have a look an example. This is the nutrition information for an ‘Original Glazed’, Krispy Kreme glazed donut;
How many could you get through in a sitting? Three? Four? Let’s call it three. That’s 651 calories. What’s the equivalent of that in chicken breast? The average skinless chicken breast is probably about 150g. That weighs in at around 160 kcals. So to get the same amount of calories as three Krispy Kremes, you’d need to plough through more than FOUR chicken breasts. I eat a lot of chicken and I probably wouldn’t (couldn’t?!) do that.
Especially not as a snack (which is how most people treat doughnuts). What’s my point? Sugar and fat don’t make you fat, eating too much makes you fat. Eating too much sugar and fat is much easier to do than eating too much protein, therefore reducing foods that have a combination of sugar and fat can help you cut calories and lose fat.
N.B. Even if you can effectively drop fat on a diet of Krispy Kremes, it’s probably still not a great idea, since your overall health may suffer.
It’s ALL About context – What’s your Goal?
Whenever you make a decision nutrition-wise, the only way you can determine if it’s an intelligent one or not, is by asking yourself, what’s my goal? Should you eat more cheese sandwiches? Well, if your goal is to eat more cheese sandwiches, then yes, but let’s take a more mainstream example.
Many people want to know if they should cut down carbs. Well, if your diet currently contains are high percentage of carbs, and you want to lose fat, then reducing carbs might be an easy segway into reducing your overall calorie intake, so yes, it could work out well.
If you’re looking to increase your overall health, and your diet is made up of a large proportion of processed carbohydrates, then reducing your intake could make way for more nutrient-rich protein and fats, in this case, it could also be beneficial.
But what if you compete in an endurance sport, or indeed any sport or activity where you need/want to perform at your best? We know that carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source for exercise at high intensities, so in this case, reducing carbohydrates would be a bad idea since it could impact optimal performance.
This was probably the most pertinent point I took from the mentorship – whenever a ‘new’ diet gets some media coverage, people jump on it regardless of whether or not it’s likely to help them.
Case Study: Me I’m happy to admit I made this mistake very recently. My goal is build muscle, it has been for a while. Based on my previous reading about post-workout nutrition it seemed like a good idea – if having some carbs after is training is good, then having ALL your carbs after training must be even better right?
Problem was, I was kidding myself I could get my daily carb quota in in one meal. I definitely couldn’t. It was convenient, don’t get me wrong, it was one less thing to do in my daily food prep, but my training suffered too.
I was trying to do regular, relatively intense, high volume resistance sessions on zero carbs. I could get by ok most, but it wasn’t optimal. I was getting through my workouts IN SPITE of the carb backloading, not BECAUSE of it.
I need to say a huge thank you to Martin and his team for a fantastic weekend, and mention that I’d highly recommend the Mac Nutrition Mentorship to any existing health, fitness and nutrition professional, or anyone looking to break into the industry.
Something a bit different for you lot this week, you’re probably bored with me rambling on about chicken and deadlifts so I thought I’d do an interview with UKBFF North East fitness competitor, Adam Hayley.
Some of you might know Adam if you’ve trained regularly at Nuffield Health or K2 in Crawley, or you may well have read one of his incredibly detailed and useful blog posts.
Adam works at Ultimate Performance in central London which is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the premier training facilities in the UK (they also have gyms in Marbella, Hong Kong and Singapore).
He’s much more knowledgeable than me, so if you want some genuinely useful training and nutrition advice, read on.
1. Hi Adam, first of all, congratulations on your placing at the UKBFF in Leeds.When did you start prepping for the show, and how much overall weight did you drop?
On paper, it really doesn’t look too bad – but bear in mind prior to dieting I was on 500g+ carbs + 120g+ fats.
2 Scoops Dyamtize ISO-100 Whey
200g Chicken Breast
200g Beef Mince (5% fat)
150g Sweet Potato
Small Handful Chopped Peppers & Onions
TRAIN + 12g BCAA (Scivation Xtend)
200g Chicken Breast
150g Sweet Potato
Small Handful Chopped Peppers & Onions
2 x 30min SSCV sessions fitted in wherever (typically PWO)
I did introduce some fasted powerwalking at 4 weeks out, but dropped 4lbs that week so ditched it!
I cut all cardio at two weeks out as I was ahead of target and didn’t want to risk losing any more muscle tissue then needed.
Jade & I for instance would typically eat out at least once per week, or buy small ‘treats’ mid-week with DVD’s etc. All that has to go on hold toward the final stages. At the end of a 16 hour work day having trained and feeling depleted you don’t want to talk, which of course others take personally!
I think my biggest tip actually would be a bit of advice I got given; Remember this is YOUR choice, no one is holding a gun to your head.
On those days where you do feel low, try not to take it out on others by being snappy. Don’t expect others to change their eating habits just to make you feel better either – as said – it’s YOUR choice to do this.
I think training body parts as a split once per week is limiting the amount of times you can stimulate that body part for growth. I
Every time you train a body part you’re kickstarting MPS (Muscle Protein Synthesis) locally in that area.
So, if you train chest every Monday… It’s likely recovered and ready to go again by Wednesday/Thursday… But, you’re giving it a full 7 days for the sake of it. This means that – assuming you take no weeks off of training – throughout the course of a year you’re sending a signal to your chest to grow 52 times.
If you managed to train each bodypart (or even just weaker/lagging bodyparts) say, twice per week.. That’s now 104 ‘opportunities’ for growth.
Of course, if frequency of training goes up then you should likely reduce volume slightly per session (though you can periodise this up/down and go through phases of ‘over-reaching’)
Take the weekend off and then repeat. This way you’re hitting all major muscle groups twice per week, and you’ve varied rep ranges so the stimulus is always changing.
Aside from that, I think most forget about the principle of progressive overload too. Too many times you see guys just walk in and do the same weights week-after-week. You have to question, why would you continue to progress if you’re not challenging your body EVERY week?
For the average person: Following whatever crap they see on TV/Government recommendations. As a general rule 90% of people consume FAR too little protein (when you think about it, dinner is the only meal they MAY eat protein in).. And over-consuming on carbohydrate.
The food pyramid recommends approx. 60% of your diet coming from starchy carbs from what I remember. Now, does the typical office worker that carries little muscle, excess bodyfat, doesn’t train and sits down (commuting, at work, at home in front of the TV) most of the day – really need 60% of his/her diet coming from a direct energy source? No! And we wonder why we have an obesity problem?
The next most common mistake I see is a real simple ones.. For lifters trying to gain size, t
hey simply don’t eat enough calories consistently. They may do a few days here and there where they follow a pro’s meal plan.. But they get sick & bored and slack off.
This is where I find using a calorie tracking app like MyFitnessPal can actually help. Get them to track consistently for a week or two. Work out what they’re average intake is over that time period and make a few easy changes to bump the total calories up.
That said, I don’t believe you NEED to squat or deadlift. For example, no matter what type of deadlift or position I get myself into – I’m always cripped with low back pain the following two days after them. So, I work around it using banded hyperextensions.
It also has quite an affect on fat loss too:
There was a study I saw a while ago that reported those that slept ~4hours per night had;
Unfortunately though, I’m the worst person to ask in terms of how many hours do I average per night! I’d guess approximately 5-6hours MAX.
What would I suggest? 7-9 hours seems to be the sweet spot for most.
In the off-season for the ‘average’ person that gains muscle at an OK rate I don’t recommend them to help with muscle growth directly. It’s more a case for mental sanity! I tend to let them have 1-2 ‘free’ meals a week where they can relax but try not to go OTT.
It’s VERY rare, but if I have a client that has a super fast metabolism then I’ll get them to use v calorie dense cheat meals to try and increase caloric intake easily. I’ve probably only had 1 client like this in the last 2 years though. If ‘good’ food intake is high enough – 99% of people should grow well.
With fat loss, it really depends on client psychology.
What I prefer and think is most beneficial is to lower protein & fat intake and increase carbohydrate rich foods; rice, potatoes, cereal, cereal bars etc.
This is due to the effects on leptin (hormone mentioned above).
In some cases though, this ‘triggers’ some clients into bingeing as they’re still craving fatty foods.
If this is the case then I’ll go back to the ‘free meal’ scenario – whereby for 1 evening they can go out for a meal with their partner or whatever and forget about the diet. Food choices here tend to always be fatty; pizza, curry, fish & chips etc. Out of the two I consider this less optimal in terms of what a refeed is meant to do… But, if it increases client compliancy on the diet in genereal – I’m really not too fussed!
One thing I will mention though… Is I believe most people start cheat meals / refeeds too early and way before they ‘deserve’ them. The whole point of a refeed is to stimulate leptin/T3. If you’ve barely dieted a week or two, these hormones won’t have been affected yet so is pretty pointless! You need to earn those cheat meals / refeeds!
Eat Out = Indian (Chicken tikka masala, pilau rice, peshwari naan and onion bahji’s)
The brand is still only 5-6 years old but easily has one of the best reputations in the industry due to Nick’s no nonsense approach and results he got back when he was training clients himself. The most notable being Glenn Parker, Joe Warner and Oliver Proudlock.
I believe the reason we’re one of the most popular places to come for transformations is simply because we get results. I’d been in the industry for 8 years before coming to UP and never have I worked anywhere that has such a big drive on education.
All of the trainers help each other (unlike some commercial gyms where trainers can be bitchy toward each other).. At UP we all want EVERY client to get a great result. It’s a great atmosphere to work in.
One last thing that sets us apart is the fact all of us trainers actually train! This may sound stupid, but at my old gym there were 10-12 PT’s and I’d guess maybe 3 of us actually trained regularly without fail to set routines. The others would be just like a typical gym member going through phases of being motivated and phases where they wouldn’t train in weeks.
How can you motivate and expect your clients to nail everything their end if they can’t do it yourself?!
Take measurements of progress for clients! Whether it’s skinfold testing, circumference measurements, bodyweight, photo’s etc.
It’s a huge motivational tool but seems to be massively underestimated – myself included until Phil’s seminar!
Cheers Adam! Some incredibly detailed, free information there.
I used to eat Pop Tarts for breakfast (and sometimes lunch) when I was uni, so I never thought I’d go all Martha Stuart and advise people how to cook, but here I am.
Owing to that last statement I understand if you want to completely disregard my advise. I’d never make it on Masterchef, but I know how to make some fucking tasty chicken, and if you eat a lot of chicken, that’s pretty important. Here goes…
Rightly or wrong, chicken is the staple food of most gym rats.
It might not be the cheapest meat around, or have the optimal macro-nutrient profile (if such a thing exists), but it’s incredibly versatile, portable (ever tried eating steak out of a tuppaware container?), and tastes great – IF you cook it well.
Chicken, Rice and Broccoli is widely perceived as the go-to meal for muscle building, and the sight of such a concoction is often met with questions of ‘how can you eat that, it must be so dry‘, often from people who enjoy their chicken covered in breadcrumbs, or accompanied by bacon and cheese, and slathered in BBQ sauce.
Well it doesn’t need to be like that, sure chicken can be bland and laborious to eat if you nuke it in the microwave or lob in the oven and leave it for hours, but as anyone that’s been to Nando’s before knows, if you get chicken right, it tastes like the nectar of the gods.
So here’s my step-by-step guide to cooking chicken that you’ll never get bored of eating;
1. Buy Chicken Thighs, Not Chicken Breast
If you think about it, ONLY eating chicken breasts makes no sense, yes, they are the leanest part of the bird, but as we all know there’s NOTHING wrong with fat.
Let’s take a look at the comparison between breasts and thighs;
Ok, thighs have slightly less protein, but if you’re having 200g a day, we’re talking 10g here – a negligible amount (about half a scoop of protein powder).
Thighs also have more fat, and this means more calories.
Thighs are also considerably cheaper than breasts, meaning you’re getting a much better bang for your buck calorie-wise.
Finally, thighs taste MUCH better, and are easier to cook well.
2. Start with the grill
Get a grill pan like the one in this picture. You could use a Wok or frying pan but you don’t really get the same result.
Put the grill pan on the hob on FULL heat – allow it to sit there for a good 15 minutes (from turning it on) to ensure the pan is a hot as possible.
3. Lube up
Chuck a teaspoon of Coconut Oil in the pan, if you don’t like the taste of Coconut, stop being a pussy.
Also don’t worry because it won’t make your chicken taste like a fun-size Bounty.
Tilt the pan around a bit so the oil covers all of it.
4. Smash the Chicken in There
I can fit about 1Kgs worth of chicken thigh in the pan I’ve got, but slap in as much as you can, don’t worry about butterflying the thighs or anything, all of each piece will end up getting equal heat distribution.
This will make or break your chicken, so don’t miss this step out. You can use whatever seasoning you want, but I highly recommend Schwarz’ Season All’. God knows what’s in it, but it kind of tastes like Steak McCoys. Sprinkle liberally all over the exposed side of the thighs, and do the same to the other side when you turn them over.
It’s the high heat burning the seasoning into the flesh that gives it the flavour, so as I said, make sure the pan is as hot as possible, and you use lots of seasoning.
6. Grill Them for a bit
I don’t really time how long they’re in the grill pan for, but you want a dark brown glaze on each side, so leave them in there ’til you get that. You’ll probably need to turn them a couple of times, and move them around a bit in the pan – the ones in the middle will get the most heat, so try and make sure they all get an equal amount. No biggie if they don’t. Usually around 15 minutes does the job.
7. Shove Them in the Oven
The reason I finish these bad boys off in the oven is because if you continue to grill on high heat until they’re cooked through, they’ll be dryer than the Gobi Desert.
Have the oven somewhere between 170 and 200 degrees, doesn’t really matter, put the thighs on a tray, and leave them in the oven for another 15-20 minutes. As long as they’re not pink in the middle, they’re done.
Marvel at the wondrous creation you’ve just brought into the world. I don’t think even God was this proud on the seventh day.
Basic mathematics tells you that 1Kg will last you the working week if you’re having 200g a day, so not only is this method tasty, it also saves you a bunch of time. No cooking work food during the week.
In total this will probably only take 45 minutes.
Hope you found this useful, I don’t think Jaime Oliver’s going to be looking over his shoulder any time soon, but at least now you’ve got no excuses for laboriously chewing through through anemic, parched chicken breasts.