How about we consider Health for a moment when we think about Fitness…
Fitness is MORE than just your looks and appearance. Instagrammers, take note: fitness is not just about how you look!
I see the people I work with make awesome transformations, but these are NOT solely physical changes to their appearance. I see them make positive changes to their health and their wellbeing. They change mentally and psychologically, as well as often physically.
Yes, clients’ physiques change. They lose body fat, they tone up, they gain muscle, and they gain strength. But so often many more changes than this take place, that you just CANNOT capture on camera.
My point here, is NOT to put too much emphasis on the way you look when it comes to gauging your fitness progress. And of course, usually the worst thing you can do is compare yourself to others. Prioritise your overall health and set your goals to become a better version of YOU!
Because my “diet” isn’t a diet at all. A “diet” is a temporary short term way of eating to force temporary unsustainable weight loss. My protocol implements an enjoyable way of eating for sustainable maintainable permanent results.
Online Coaching is essentially, the same as working with a personal trainer in-person, but it all takes place online. It is a more cost-effective, flexible, and convenient option for people wanting to achieve their weight loss / fitness goals.
We don’t do crash diets!
We don’t like crash diets. They don’t work. Well actually they CAN work. Except you end up putting any weight you lose back on, and often gain even more weight than before! That is why through working with me, we will get you losing fat at a healthy and sustainable pace. We want your weight loss to be permanent!
Additionally, we don’t like cutting out food groups either. Unless you have some kind of allergy or medical condition, we see no need to deprive your body of essential nutrients! Flexibility and the option to personalise your diet is a big component in getting you to stick to your diet! This is why by working with me, we will get you losing weight while still eating the foods you like!
This might sound strange, but I don’t diet anymore. I don’t get any of my clients to diet either. You might be ready to call me out on this one: “if you don’t diet, then how are you always lean?” You’ve seen my pics and videos – I always have visible abs. And my clients achieve strong, lean physiques. So, how is this possible without dieting?
The Don’t-“Diet” Diet Protocol
My approach to nutrition and fat loss is through using what I’ve coined as The Don’t-“Diet” Diet Protocol. I call it this, because my “diet” isn’t a diet at all.
A “diet” is a temporary short term way of eating to force temporary unsustainable weight loss.
However, my protocol implements an enjoyable way of eating for sustainable maintainable permanent results.
Diets don’t work!
I don’t like fad diets or crash diets. They don’t work. Well actually they CAN work. Except you end up putting any weight you lose back on, and often gain even more weight than before! That is why, for results that stick, you need to be eating in a way that you can actually stick to!
It sounds obvious, but for sustainable results, you need to be eating foods that you actually like! For example, you can only stick to eating fish everyday for so long if you don’t like fish!
And you need to be eating enough food too! You can try and crash diet by starving yourself. But again, for how long do you expect to stick to this before the hunger becomes overbearing?!
Then there are things to consider like eating patterns, meal frequency, flexibility, and having a balanced healthy diet. You probably wouldn’t stick to a diet for long if it meant not having breakfast, yet you know that you are ravenously hungry every morning.
Don’t cut out food groups
Additionally, I don’t like cutting out food groups either. Unless you have some kind of allergy or medical condition, I see no need to deprive your body of essential nutrients!
Flexibility and variety are key. And that means allowing yourself some junk food, too! I’m not saying to eat nothing but sweets and treats! But I do believe that you should leave a little room in your food intake for small indulgences. For many people, cutting out junk food completely can be depressing, and it often leads to cravings. By allowing yourself a little junk food in moderation, you will be less likely to end up binge eating it later!
I wore a waist trainer for a month. Here’s what happened
I’m not particularly proud of it, but it’s true: I wore a waist trainer. For a whole month.
I’m always learning, so I’m often experimenting, trying and testing out different things that are fitness related. The whole concept of waist trainers had me curious, so I figured “hey, what have I got to lose?”
What is a waist trainer?
For those who don’t know, when I say “waist trainer”, I am referring to what can only be described as a modern-day less-extreme version of a corset! (Yes, I know I am only damaging my reputation even more here by telling you that I was basically wearing a corset!)
Essentially a waist trainer is a tightly worn belt that compresses your midsection, and it is to be worn for long durations of time daily, over periods of months or longer. I wore a waist trainer for most of the day for one month. Albeit a shorter time period, I figured it was enough time to notice any changes that might occur. Note, that I did not wear it whilst working out.
I am NOT referring to one of those compression belts made from neoprene. Those are in my opinion a complete waste of time. All they do is make you sweat from your abdominal area. They do not make you burn fat from your belly. The only way to burn fat is by creating a calorie deficit, through diet and exercise. And even then, you can’t pick and choose the areas you lose fat from!
However, I must say that waist trainers (and corsets too), also do not make you lose belly fat. You’ll need to be eating in a calorie deficit and exercising consistently to lose fat!
What are waist trainers meant to do?
Waist trainers are theoretically meant to make your waist “narrower”. Obviously, they are unlikely to make your waist narrower from a front view. You cannot change the size of your pelvis – this is determined by bone structure. Though there is the possibility of waist trainers “atrophying” (making smaller) your oblique muscles (the core muscles that run down the outer sides of your midsection). If this were to occur, then yes, to a degree, it could make your waist appear narrower from a front view.
More likely though, waist trainers are meant to force you to keep your stomach “sucked in”. Thus, making your waist appear smaller from a side view, overcoming any stomach distention. Basically, this means they are meant to encourage you to tense the Transversus Abdominis muscles – the abs muscles used to perform a stomach vacuum – read more about that in my posts HERE:
What did I do?
As mentioned, I wore a waist trainer every day for a month, wearing it for the most part of each day. I made sure to wear it tightly too, to ensure effectiveness (if it were to actually do anything, of course!)
I didn’t wear it while working out, because I found it restrictive to move in or to breath as deeply as necessary to perform hard exercise. Also, when performing exercise, I need my core muscles to be fully engaged. I was wary that the waist trainer might make it more difficult to fully engage my core muscles. This is because it would act similarly to a tight lifting belt, and take away the need for my core muscles to tense as hard as they normally would whilst exercising.
Nothing happened, to be honest! I got fed up of wearing it, because it wasn’t very comfortable. Though out of stubbornness, I did continue to wear it each day for a month.
But no, my waist size remained the same. I didn’t see any changes in how far I could perform a stomach vacuum either (i.e. how far I could suck my gut in). In fact, if anything, I think my core muscles (including my Transversus Abdominis muscles) got weaker, so making it harder to do stomach vacuums to suck my gut in. This is probably because those core muscles got “lazy”. I guess that after a while, they got used to being supported by the waist trainer. I’ve seen the same thing happen with people who unnecessarily wear a lifting belt all the time whilst exercising.
The take home message
Save your time and money. Don’t bother with waist trainers. No, they don’t encourage you to burn body fat anyway. The only way to burn fat is by creating a calorie deficit through diet and exercise. And even then, you can’t pick and choose the areas you lose fat from!
Extra sweating from your midsection isn’t very helpful either. This also doesn’t encourage fat loss!
You may possibly (though I think unlikely) be able to make your waist “smaller”. But I think for that, you’d have to wear an actual corset. It would have to be VERY tight fitting, which would be VERY uncomfortable. And I imagine that you’d have to wear it for the most part of each day, probably over a period of years! In my opinion, this is definitely NOT worth it!
If you want to make your waist “smaller”, then continue to diet and exercise to bring your body fat down. And, also perform resistance training to make your shoulders and lats “bigger”, giving you a nice “V-taper” and creating the illusion of a smaller waist!
I talk more about training for bigger shoulders in my post HERE:
I got lean. Quickly. But I would not recommend this diet for the majority of people!
I am always learning, and I love trying and testing new things when it comes to training and nutrition. Which is why I was all too happy to try this dieting approach on myself. I had seen my body fat levels creeping up lately. So, I was quite keen to diet down anyway. Which is why I figured why not test out a different dieting approach.
“Protein Sparing Modified Fast” (PSMF)
The dieting method I used was based on a “Protein Sparing Modified Fast” (PSMF). Basically, this involved eating a fairly high protein diet, but minimalizing carbohydrates and dietary fats by as much as possible. And of course, my overall calorie intake was in a deficit.
So, the theory is that the high protein intake will help spare muscle mass. While the calorie deficit, combined with the fact that the body would only have body fat stores (plus a little excess dietary protein) for energy, would theoretically result in rapid fat loss.
Also, there would be the benefit of protein having a high TEF rate (thermic effect of food), meaning a fair number of calories from protein are used up through digestion. And protein tends to be more satiating, which theoretically would make it easier to eat less food.
What I ate
I followed this diet for 6 weeks. My calories were approximately 1,500 calories a day.
My daily macros fluctuated a bit but were roughly:
250g of protein
30-40g of carbs
30-40g of fats
I didn’t directly eat carbs or fats, but these accumulated from the lean protein sources and cruciferous vegetables I ate. These included a lot of whey protein powder, chicken breast, cottage cheese, egg whites, broccoli, and cabbage.
At the start of the diet I weighed 80kg.
At the end of the 6 weeks I weighed 73.5kg.
So, I lost 6.5kg (about 14lbs) in 6 weeks.
But, I’m sure that I lost muscle too.
Not to mention losing all of my energy along with it!
Everything became a struggle. I felt tired all of the time.
I wore a Fitbit and I ensured that I continued to get 15,000 steps a day. But just walking felt like a workout!
My gym sessions got shorter and shorter and less and less frequent. Any cardio besides walking felt impossible. And my weight training strength dropped embarrassingly low.
But yeah, I did get ripped pretty quickly. And to be fair, I didn’t really feel hungry much, considering that I filled up on lean protein and green vegetables.
When your body doesn’t have carbs OR dietary fats to use for fuel, it sucks! I felt weak, had poor energy levels, and lost some muscle.
Unless you are significantly overweight / obese, you should probably only use a PSMF type diet for very short durations of time (e.g. 2 weeks).
Expect energy levels and physical performance to go down the toilet on a diet like this.
Get used to eating the same foods over and over since your food choices are so limited. Though to be fair, hunger was rarely an issue.
Why I do NOT recommend this diet!
OK, to cut to the chase, this diet is simply NOT sustainable! It’s too hard! And when adherence is the main factor in the success of any fat loss diet, I just don’t see many people being able to stick to this!
I mentioned above that unless you are significantly overweight, I don’t think you should be doing this diet for more than 2 weeks maximum. And that’s because it is simply too difficult to follow long term. It is very restrictive and limited in food choices. It saps your energy, plus I feel I lost too much muscle on this diet.
Also, I’m sure that there would be a high risk of nutrient deficiencies if you were to diet this way for the longer term, due to such limited food sources.
You could maybe use a PSMF diet like this for the first 2 weeks of a fat loss phase. After the 2 weeks, you would transition into a more balanced and less restrictive fat loss diet. BUT…I don’t see this working well for most people! I can imagine most people would rebound coming off such a restrictive diet like this – i.e. they would diet for 2 weeks and then binge and pile the weight back on!
I recommend that people diet in a way that isn’t so restrictive, so that you can continue to follow it for the long term.
I’d say to go with a realistic healthy, full and balanced diet, that doesn’t involve cutting out ANY food groups – and that includes junk food too! This is the real key to sustainable, maintainable, permanent fat loss.
And it just so happens, that I will be running a FREE 7 day challenge, in which I will teach you the flexible dieting system that I use to achieve a lean muscular physique, while still getting to eat your favourite junk food!
When you cannot eat or drink for 16 hours or so each day, what do you do?!
Training during Ramadan? A question I get asked regularly each year, is how to best eat and train during the month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims around the world, for it is within this month that the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed. A special requirement for this month is that all Muslims who are able to, are required to fast every day from sunrise to sunset, abstaining from all eating or drinking, and not even water is allowed.
Harder than Intermittent Fasting
Clearly this is very different from the Intermittent Fasting (IF) protocols that are popular at the moment. At least with IF you still drink fluids whilst fasting. But for Ramadan, this is not the case!
To make matters even more difficult, the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar calendar. So the timing of the Islamic months continues to change each year. Unfortunately, Ramadan this year begins in May, meaning that in the UK sunrise is actually around 5.00am and sunset isn’t until around 9.00pm. So yes, for those that are able to do it, the requirement is nil-to-mouth, so no food or water during this time. This equates to about 16 hours! So that means that Muslims are left with a very small window to eat and drink each day, and that’s it!
Reduce your exercise – but don’t stop it completely!
Considering how difficult this task will make carrying out simple everyday routine activities, like going to work or school, it seems that sensible advice would be to put to temporarily significantly reduce the amount of any hard exercise you do. Your body will be under a lot of stress and be severely depleted and dehydrated, so trying to train hard frequently and for long workouts would only stress the body even more, and potentially exhaust yourself and make yourself unwell.
The bad news is that you have to accept that your body will quite possibly lose SOME muscle, lose SOME strength, and gain SOME fat. The good news is that it most likely will only be YOU that notices it! And don’t worry, after Ramadan your body will very quickly return to the level of conditioning it was in before Ramadan.
That is not to say that you should do absolutely nothing during Ramadan, no!
In order to maintain as much strength and muscle as possible, it is recommended to perform very short but hard resistance training workouts. I’d suggest limiting hard training sessions to 2 or 3 a week, and to only train for 40 minutes at the most. In fact, quick 30-minute workouts would be even better.
Save your energy and training time for compound exercises that involve using multiple muscle groups at once. I’d suggest performing 3 hard working sets of 5 – 8 reps per exercise, with 2 minutes or so rest between sets. Warm up with a couple of easy sets before each exercise. And pick 3 to 5 exercises per workout.
Free weight exercises would be best for this, like barbell squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, bent over rows, and bench press. BUT, if you are feeling tired, weak, or groggy, then safety must take priority! So if you aren’t feeling up to it, then take caution and use the smith machine, or opt to use resistance machines instead. Safety first!
On maybe 2 or 3 of the other days that you don’t train hard, you can perform “easy” mobility and flexibility exercises and drills. These should not exert you too much, and can consist of bodyweight exercises like push ups, sit ups, chin ups, dips, body weight squats and lunges. You could also do some light weights exercises too if you wanted. However, all of these exercises should be with an easy weight and again, should not exert you too much. These are only to provide your muscles with SOME stimulation, and to practice the movements to prevent you feeling rusty upon returning to regular training after Ramadan.
As for cardio, it is really not recommended to do much more than walking. Besides perhaps 5 easy minutes of say the cross trainer or rowing machine to warm up. However, if you really did feel obliged to do cardio, then HIIT on a stationary bike could be the way to go. 6 – 10 intervals of 20 second sprints, with 1 minute easy pedalling in between should do the job.
Just walking, on the other hand is fine and I recommend it. Still get your 10,000 steps a day!
When to train
As for what time to train, I’d say, if possible, to train in the morning when you are fresher and hydrated from eating and drinking the night before.
The downside however, of training earlier in the day, is that if you overdo it and train too hard, there is a chance that you will struggle to make it through the rest of the day until sunset! So be mindful of this, and don’t overexert yourself!
Otherwise, you could train before sunset as late in the evening time as possible, so that as soon as you finish you can immediately go home and eat and drink. Of course, you will be weaker and more depleted at this time, so you will have to pay extra attention to safety in your choice of exercises.
It might be tempting to try and train during the night after eating, but I really advise against it. The window for eating and drinking is so small, that you need to be using this time as best as possible just for that – eating and drinking! Don’t waste sunset hours training!
Sample Routine for Training during Ramadan
Monday – Strength Training
Barbell Squat (or Leg Press) 3 sets of 6 reps
Overhead Dumbbell Press (or Smith Machine Shoulder Press) 3 sets of 8 reps
Barbell Bent Over Row (or Seated Cable Row) 3 sets of 6 reps
Dumbbell Bench Press (or Smith Machine Bench Press) 3 sets of 8 reps
10,000 steps walking throughout the day
Tuesday – Mobility / Flexibility
Push ups 3 sets of 10 reps
Bodyweight Lunges 3 sets of 10 reps / side
Crunches 3 sets of 20 reps
10,000 steps walking throughout the day
Wednesday – Mobility / Flexibility
Bench Dips 3 sets of 10 reps
Bodyweight Squats 3 sets of 10 reps
Lying Leg raises 3 sets of 20 reps
10,000 steps walking throughout the day
Thursday – Strength Training
Barbell Deadlift (or Weighted Hyperextensions) 3 sets of 6 reps
That covers training during Ramadan. As for what to eat during Ramadan, there are two approaches: on the one hand you could say “forget it!” and just eat whatever, and worry about following a good diet again after. Or the second approach, which is to take a more thought out strategy.
If you were going to go with the second approach, I would actually recommend following as close to a ketogenic diet as possible, so that means focussing on eating protein and healthy fats, but eating as few (preferably no) carbs as possible. The reason for this, is that if you eat carbs your body will no doubt burn through this energy source part way through the next day, causing you to “bonk” so to borrow a word from cycling.
When you “bonk” your body runs out of carbs as an energy source, causing your body to go through a difficult transitional period of adapting to use fats and/ or protein for energy. This transitional period can be accompanied by brain fog, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, headache, moodiness, amongst other unwelcome symptoms. So rather than experiencing these symptoms on a daily basis through Ramadan, simply abstain from eating carbs, put your body into a fat burning state, and remain that way until the end of Ramadan.
This means avoiding carbs, which includes obvious things like sugary drinks (diet drinks are OK) and fruit juice, but also avoiding bread, rice, pasta, milk, fruit, and things that include “hidden carbs” like ketchup and sauces. This may sound difficult, especially the part about avoiding fruit since dates are traditionally consumed to break the fast, but if you HAVE to have a date then limit it to just one! For the first few days of this diet you may struggle and crave carbs and sugary things once it comes time to eat, but don’t do it! It’s for your own good! These cravings will subside after the first few days and this diet will make the rest of Ramadan A LOT easier for you.
You should carry on training during Ramadan, and we’ve discussed nutrition. But it is up to you whether you choose to track calories during Ramadan. Though to be honest, I’d recommend that you DO track calories for the first week of fasting at least. It will give you an idea of how many calories you are taking in, and make you more mindful about your food choices. I suggest you use a calorie counting app like MyFitnessPal (www.myfitnesspal.com).
Even if you carry on training during Ramadan, just remember that your activity levels will no doubt decrease. So you will not be moving as much and will be burning less calories. Additionally, your metabolism will no doubt slow down as your body will try to preserve its resources during the fast.
So, all of this means that your body will need less calories than it normally would on a daily basis. Therefore, I wouldn’t worry about force feeding yourself after sunset to eat as many calories as possible, as this is NOT necessary! Your body won’t need it! If anything, you should focus more on rehydrating your body anyway.
We’ve covered training during Ramadan and eating. Lastly, an often forgotten topic of Ramadan is sleep. Your eating schedule will be turned upside down during this month. Many of you will be up until the early hours of the morning eating, yet you still have to go to work or school early the next day. Really there is no solid remedy for this, besides if possible, getting in as many naps as you can. If you are fortunate enough to have a flexible schedule where you can sleep in until later in the day, then great. But otherwise, you will just have to do the best you can. This may mean taking naps at lunch time, naps after work, and naps in the evening time. And certainly use the weekends as a prime opportunity to catch up on those missed hours of sleep too!
Training during Ramadan and staying on top of your nutrition is difficult. It’s not easy, but on the plus side at least its only for one month! Then your life can go back to normal after! Good luck!