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:
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!
Basically, I spoke about how “starvation mode” (at least the version most of us know it as) is a myth.
In this post I want to talk about a fairly similar topic: “metabolic damage”.
You may have heard this term thrown around lately, as it seems to be the latest fad within fitness circles.
What is metabolic damage?
So, the theory goes something like this…
You follow a calorie-controlled diet for a prolonged period of time. You workout regularly and consistently (particularly doing a lot of cardio, too). Over the weeks and months you manage to drop body fat and maintain or even build muscle mass too. But what happens next?
It appears that all of that dieting and training negatively impacted your basal metabolic rate (slowed your metabolism). Your body starts burning less calories than it should. And this ultimately brings your fat loss to a halt. It has “damaged” your metabolism, i.e. “metabolic damage”. Now the only way to fix it is by following a super complicated far-out bunch of witchcraft type diet techniques.
Is metabolic damage real?
No, metabolic damage is not real. End of article. Just kidding! Keep reading.
As discussed in my post on “starvation mode”, when you are in a prolonged calorie deficit, it is true that processes do take place in the body to prevent further weight loss. But it won’t “stop” you from losing fat. And there are some external factors at play too when dieting.
So, it is true that:
– You naturally tend to feel more tired and move less – i.e. NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) levels decrease (fidgeting, pacing, walking, etc).
– Also, it is true that your metabolism begins to slow down after consistent dieting (this is adaptive thermogenesis), meaning your body will burn less calories while at rest.
What may be classed as external factors, are:
– TEF (thermic effect of food) levels decrease, probably because you’ll be eating less food due to dieting. So, your body will burn less calories through the process of digestion.
– You will burn less calories during exercise, because your body adapts to become more efficient at carrying out exercise while saving energy. Plus, it may very well be that you are not training as hard as you think you are, if energy levels are declining from dieting.
But no, your body does not enter a “mode” where it refuses to drop body fat! Nor does your metabolism get damaged.
The Minnesota Experiment
I want to refresh your memories from my last post on “starvation mode” POST,and again mention the Minnesota Experiment.
You can read more details about this in my previous post. To summarise, an experiment was conducted on starvation. The participants were genuinely starved (extremely low calories) and forced to perform hard physical activity every day for six months. The findings of this dangerous study were that the participants lost 25% of their bodyweight on average. And, despite being starved and worked to exhaustion, the participants’ only saw a fairly small reduction in their basal metabolic rate (metabolism). Furthermore, this decrease in their basal metabolic rate was significantly remedied after twelve weeks of following a normal diet again.
The take home message: their bodies did not suffer metabolic damage. They continued to lose weight over the duration of the experiment. And their metabolisms pretty much returned to normal afterwards. If this is what happened to these guys after six months of torturous conditions, do you really think it will be different for you? In comparison, your diet of a slight calorie deficit , with workouts a few times a week is a breeze!
And another metabolic damage study
Still not convinced? OK, here’s another paper. They concluded that “the theory of permanent, diet-induced metabolic slowing in non-obese individuals is not supported by the current literature”.
The rate of weight loss did slow down, but it never came to a stop. And participants continued to lose weight for the duration of the study.
Zinchenko, Anastasia & Henselmans, Menno. (2016). Metabolic Damage: do Negative Metabolic Adaptations During Underfeeding Persist After Refeeding in Non-Obese Populations?. Medical Research Archives. 4. 10.18103/mra.v4i8.908.
Then why does it seem that fat loss stalls after prolonged dieting?
This question is actually very simple to answer.
Fat loss tends NOT to be linear, especially after dieting for a little while. This means that after a few weeks into a calorie-controlled diet, you may very well not see a pattern of regular fat loss each week. You might lose 1lb one week, 2lbs the next week, no change for the next two weeks, and then 1lb the week after. It’s not always linear! You may think that your body is not dropping fat anymore, when in fact it still is. The process just may have become slower.
You may be gaining muscle mass whilst dropping body fat. This is especially possible for those new to resistance training. If you lose a lb of fat but gain a lb of muscle, then your body weight will not have changed.
You may be retaining water. This can happen depending on:
the time of day you weigh yourself,
your stress (cortisol) levels,
your menstrual cycle if you are female,
or even due to how much food you have still in your digestive system.
The most likely solution – you are eating too much. Even when you have the best of intentions in sticking to your diet, adherence becomes harder and harder over time. Portion sizes slowly begin to creep up, whether you know it or not. The best fix for this is to weigh and log all of your food and drink.
OK, metabolic damage doesn’t exist. But what should I do after I finish dieting so to prevent regaining fat?
The answer to this question is really simple: reverse dieting. I talk more about reverse dieting in this post HERE from when I used reverse dieting myself after dieting. To sum it up, it is exactly as the name implies. It is the process of gradually increasing calories and / or decreasing exercise levels over a time period to give your metabolism time to adjust back to normal, without piling on body fat.
I hope you found this post useful. Yes, your metabolism will slow down a little from dieting. But you now know that metabolic damage simply just doesn’t exist, so is one less thing to worry about.
In these short videos I again reflect back on my experience to give you some training and nutrition advice. And again, I bring you this information straight from my bedroom…why I have these sudden ideas to make videos like this when I’m in my bedroom, I really don’t know haha!
I’ve made so many mistakes over the years regarding my training and nutrition. There are so many things I used to believe to be true that aren’t. Thinking back now, some of the stuff I used to do was straight up stupid!
But the good news is that now I’m in a position, years later, to put my experience to good use, and help others out! Learn from my mistakes!
It takes years of experience to acquire knowledge in any area of life. In these short videos, filmed from the prestigious arena of my bedroom might I add, I reflect back on things regarding training and nutrition that I only wish I knew when I first started out.
If I had this knowledge back then, my life would have been sooooo much easier. And this is why I am taking the time to share it with you now, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.
You want a wide back? Wings? An impressive back that is visible even when you are wearing a shirt? Then keep reading!
As with the shoulders and traps, the back muscles are what gives your physique its “V taper”. Combined with a narrow waist (which is the result of a good diet to reduce body fat), a wide back is always impressive and is one of the muscles visible whether you have your shirt on or not!
You will notice a common theme, in that I believe in prioritising muscle groups that are visible even in clothes.
The exercises I show below are some of my favourites for lats development. The devil is in the detail, in that with rowing and pulling exercises, I like to implement a stretch in the movement.
For example, notice my technique with the pulldowns in that the movement incorporates a full stretch. I relax my shoulders and let the weight stretch my scapula out. This same technique can be applied to pull ups (no kipping, swinging, or cheating!). However I actually favour pulldowns over pull ups. Most of us aren’t strong enough to perform many reps with pull ups using this strict dead hang stretch technique.
I’ve spoken before about my thoughts on prioritising training body parts that are visible with or without a shirt on, and this includes training for a thick neck!
I can talk about how neck training can be helpful for improving posture, and also for the injury prevention benefits it provides if you partake in collision sports such as boxing or martial arts. But, to be honest, I just think a thick neck looks cool, and you don’t have to take your shirt off to reveal it!
The neck muscles will often be stimulated secondarily in compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, barbell rows etc. And the neck will often receive stimulation in exercise that involve stabilisation of the shoulder girdle, as when training your delts and traps.
However, I like to include some direct neck isolation work, to really try and make that neck grow! If you want a thick neck too, give these a try!
It is my opinion that shoulder training should be a priority when training for an aesthetically pleasing physique. I’ve mentioned before that a wide set of shoulders are noticeable regardless of what clothes you are wearing!
These are some of the exercises I like to perform as part of my shoulder training, with a main focus on medial detloids (side delts) and trapezius (traps) development.