Simple Weight Loss

I put together this easy to follow infographic of how to eat for simple weight loss.

Eating for weight loss is often overcomplicated way more than it should be. In fact it doesn’t have to be complicated at all! Nail the basics, the important things in your diet first. And then if you want to, you can get picky about working on the smaller details!

Take a look:

simple weight loss

Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables fill you up using very few calories! They’re full of fibre, vitamins & minerals.

Opt for things like lettuce, rocket, tomato, onions, cucumber, celery, asparagus, kale, spinach, aubergine, mushroom, bell pepper, cabbage, broccoli.

Protein

Protein is important for muscle maintenance, growth, and repair. Plus it also fills you up, and your body burns calories through digesting it.

Preferably have lean sources of poultry, meat, fish, and dairy.

Flavour your Food

This is crucial! Bland food sucks!

Add herbs, seasonings, and spices, or low-calorie sauces.

Things like garlic, salt, pepper, soya sauce, mustard sugar-free ketchup, paprika, salsa, peri peri, basil, mint, chilli powder, oregano, etc.

Everything Else

After mostly filling up on vegetables and protein, you include whatever carbs and fats you still have room for.

Bread, rice, pasta, potato, grains, fruit, butter, nuts, oils.

Or even a little dessert, like ice cream, cake, chocolate, etc!

Something Calorie-Free to Drink

Save your calories for eating, not drinking!

Opt for things either calorie-free, or at least low in calories.

Water (still or sparkling), tea / coffee (black or with a little skimmed milk, with sweetener notsugar), squash (not juice), diet soft drinks (Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Pepsi Max etc. (not regular Coke).

I wore a Waist Trainer for a month. Here’s what happened

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!)

waist trainer

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.

waist trainer

What happened?

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 talk more about training for wider lats HERE:

To find out more about my Online Coaching Services, please click the link HERE!

Training during Ramadan

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!

training during Ramadan

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!

training during Ramadan

Strength Training

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!

training during Ramadan

Extra Training

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.

You could do some of the exercises from my Dynamic Warm Up HERE!

training during Ramadan

Cardio

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!

training during Ramadan

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!

training during Ramadan

Sample Routine for Training during Ramadan

Monday – Strength Training

  1. Barbell Squat (or Leg Press) 3 sets of 6 reps
  2. Overhead Dumbbell Press (or Smith Machine Shoulder Press) 3 sets of 8 reps
  3. Barbell Bent Over Row (or Seated Cable Row) 3 sets of 6 reps
  4. Dumbbell Bench Press (or Smith Machine Bench Press) 3 sets of 8 reps

10,000 steps walking throughout the day

Tuesday – Mobility / Flexibility

Stretching

  1. Push ups 3 sets of 10 reps
  2. Bodyweight Lunges 3 sets of 10 reps / side
  3. Crunches 3 sets of 20 reps

10,000 steps walking throughout the day

Wednesday – Mobility / Flexibility

Stretching

  1. Bench Dips 3 sets of 10 reps
  2. Bodyweight Squats 3 sets of 10 reps
  3. Lying Leg raises 3 sets of 20 reps

10,000 steps walking throughout the day

Thursday – Strength Training

  1. Barbell Deadlift (or Weighted Hyperextensions) 3 sets of 6 reps
  2. Barbell Overhead Press (or Shoulder Press Machine) 3 sets of 8 reps
  3. Weighted Pull Ups (or Lat Pull Down Machine) 3 sets of 8 reps
  4. Barbell Bench Press (or Chest Press Machine) 3 sets of 8 reps

10,000 steps walking throughout the day

Friday – Rest

10,000 steps walking throughout the day

Saturday – Mobility / Flexibility

Stretching

  1. Push ups with feet elevated 3 sets of 10 reps
  2. Glute Bridges 3 sets of 10 reps
  3. Plank 3 sets of 45 second hold

10,000 steps walking throughout the day

Sunday – Rest

10,000 steps walking throughout the day

training during Ramadan

What to eat

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.

training during Ramadan

Calories

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).

If you’ve never used a calorie counting app before, I show you how to use it HERE!

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.

See my post on Metabolism HERE

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.

training during Ramadan

Sleep

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

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!

“Metabolic Damage”

Last post I spoke about “starvation mode”.  If you missed it, you can read it HERE

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.

Not true.

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.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312308214_Metabolic_Damage_do_Negative_Metabolic_Adaptations_During_Underfeeding_Persist_After_Refeeding_in_Non-Obese_Populations

Then why does it seem that fat loss stalls after prolonged dieting?

This question is actually very simple to answer.

  1. 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:
  1. hydration levels,
  2. the time of day you weigh yourself,
  3. your stress (cortisol) levels,
  4. your menstrual cycle if you are female,
  5. 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.

“Starvation Mode”

It is quite likely that you have come across the term “starvation mode” before.

If you are dieting and exercising, but you are not seeing progress, then a common self-diagnosis is that your body has gone into “starvation mode”.  In this post I am going to reassure you that this is simply not the case!  Read on!

Here’s a common scenario

You were trying to lose weight, so you decreased your calorie intake and stayed disciplined to your workout routine.  You were happy to see your bodyweight readings going down, and your physical appearance was beginning to look slimmer and leaner.  Then all of a sudden, for no apparent reason, all progress appeared to stop!

You didn’t cheat on your diet.  You didn’t skip any workouts.

So, you do what most of us do when we have a problem.  You search online.  You talk to your friends.

And you soon come to the conclusion that you are not losing weight because your body has gone into “starvation mode”.

Starvation Mode

What is “starvation mode”?

“Starvation mode” is the term used to describe the theory stating that when your body feels it is being deprived of food, a survival mechanism is triggered where the body will stop you from losing body fat.  So, the theory concludes that if you have been dieting and then all of a sudden, your weight loss stalls, it is because your body “thinks” it is being starved.

Sound legit?  Keep reading!

Is “starvation mode” real?

The short answer here, is yes, but not to the extent you might think.  Yes, it is true that processes do take place in the body to prevent further weight loss, following a prolonged restricted calorie intake. Though it won’t “stop” you from losing fat.  And there are some external factors at play too when dieting.

– 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 when 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 through dieting.

But no, your body does not enter a “mode” where it refuses to drop body fat!

So, when dieting, you will feel more tired and less prone to move and burn energy spontaneously and unnecessarily (e.g. fidgeting).  And your metabolism will begin to slow, but this will not stop you from continuing to lose body fat.

An extreme example here, but have you ever seen someone suffering from anorexia?  They still continue to drop body fat despite literally starving themselves, right?!

The Minnesota Experiment

The Minnesota Experiment is worth mentioning, just to emphasise my point.  So, let’s go back in history a little.

Towards the end of the Second World War in 1944, an experiment was carried out to see the best way to assist starving people to return to a healthy body weight.

36 soldiers participated in the experiment, in which for six months they were put through conditions meant to replicate a prisoner of war (POW) camp.  These men were made to do hours of manual labour each day.  Plus, they had to march for many miles, and were only given a diet of half the calories of their average daily calorie output. They were quite literally starved.

At the end of the six months, the men had lost on average 25% of their bodyweight.  Their metabolisms (basal metabolic rate) were estimated to be only 20% lower than they had been previously (not a great deal considering the circumstances!).

The men were put on a “recovery diet” over the twelve weeks afterwards, at which point their metabolisms were recalculated to be only 10% lower than normal.  Which isn’t such a great deal at all!

So, my point here?  If these guys were to be put under the most extreme circumstances of actual starvation, and yet:

  1. They were continuing to drop body fat
  2. Their metabolisms didn’t even slow down by a great deal, and their metabolisms recovered fairly quickly afterwards too…

…then it is safe to say that the average person following a conservative diet and exercise program has nothing to worry about!

Starvation Mode

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:
  1. hydration levels,
  2. the time of day you weigh yourself,
  3. your stress (cortisol) levels,
  4. your menstrual cycle if you are female,
  5. 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.

If you think that it is “starvation mode” that has brought your fat loss to a stop, then think again. I am almost 99% sure that “starvation mode” is not the reason!

Is it worth taking Caffeine?

Caffeine is found in almost all pre-workout supplements.  It is found in energy drinks (like Red Bull, Monster, etc), as well as in coffee.  It is also present in various other things we often don’t suspect, like chocolate, soft drinks, and even cold and flu capsules.

For the moment, lets ignore inadvertent consumption of caffeine.  I’m going to focus on those who intentionally take caffeine with the purpose of seeking an energy boost.  Considering how many coffee drinkers there are in the world, caffeine is one of the most commonly used “drugs” globally!  So many of us feel like we can’t even function before having that morning coffee!

But what’s really the deal with caffeine?  And how can it effect performance?

caffeine

Mental and Physical Performance

Let’s cut the chase: caffeine “works”!  It’s true. The “energy boost” experienced by those who take caffeine is not imaginary or placebo.  Caffeine actually does aid physical and mental performance. Caffeine has a positive effect on both muscle cells and brain cells.  It can provide better focus, as well as better exercise performance.

Fat Loss

And there’s more!  Caffeine can also aid fat burning too!

Caffeine increases the production of heat and epinephrine (adrenaline), which helps burn more fat during exercise.

caffeine

When to Take Caffeine

Caffeine is absorbed into the blood stream quite quickly.  Following an intake of caffeine, levels in the blood stream seem to peak after about 60 – 90 minutes.  So, it makes sense to take caffeine approximately this time frame out from a workout, event, race etc.

How Much to Take

Recommendations are in the range of 3 – 6mg per kg of bodyweight to improve performance. So, a person weighing 80kg would take anywhere from 240mg to 480mg.

For your information, one 500ml can of Monster contains 169.05mg of caffeine.  Or one cup of regular strength coffee has about 95mg of caffeine.  A pre-workout supplement usually has about 400mg.

caffeine

Considerations

There are a few points to consider when it comes to caffeine use.

Firstly, note that caffeine has a half-life of 4 – 6 hours.  In other words, after 4 – 6 hours, half of it will still be in your blood stream.  It is for this reason that you don’t want to be taking caffeine too late in the day, otherwise you will struggle to sleep.

Another point to note, is that your body develops a tolerance to caffeine if you use it regularly.  So, if you already regularly consume lots of coffee, or even chocolate, soft drinks, or other caffeine containing products, you may need to take higher caffeine doses to see any benefit.  For this reason, it would make sense to keep caffeine use low / infrequent, to save it for when it is really needed.

Furthermore, it is debatable, but caffeine does appear to be addictive.  This is another reason not to take caffeine too frequently, or to use it in unnecessary circumstances.  Save it for events / hard workouts only.

Also to consider, are some of the side effects caffeine can have.  Some of these include, trembling, jitteriness, anxiety, and rapid heart rate.  So, don’t go overboard on your caffeine usage.

caffeine

Are Pre Workout Supplements Worth it?

This isn’t such a black and white question.  As mentioned previously, pre-workout supplements usually contain about 400mg of caffeine.  Compare this to a 500ml can of an energy drink, which contains about 169.05mg.  Or one cup of regular strength coffee has about 95mg of caffeine.

Pre-workout supplements usually do come with a higher price tag.  But, considering that they can provide a simpler means of getting an adequate intake of caffeine to aid performance (you’d need to drink several cups of coffee, or probably two or more 500ml cans of energy drink to get a comparable caffeine intake), they might be worth it.

caffeine

Conclusion

Caffeine is one of the limited supplements available that are proven to deliver performance enhancing results.  Caffeine can improve physical and mental performance, as well as enhance fat loss.

If you choose to use caffeine, take it an hour or so before hard physical activity.

But to avoid building a higher tolerance to it, and to avoid addiction, don’t use caffeine too regularly.

Be wary of the other possible side effects of too much caffeine.

And how you obtain your required caffeine intake to aid performance is up to you. Pre-workout supplements are the simpler yet pricier option.  Otherwise you could opt for coffee or energy drinks.

caffeine

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7775331

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2333832

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1616022

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16018347

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7775331

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15672985

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10049999

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10906543

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10049999

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9729561

Feta Cheese Chicken Breast

These taste great! Chicken Breast sliced length ways with Gherkin and Feta Cheese in the middle! Cook for about an hour. Season with paprika, parsley, sugar-free ketchup, and mustard…or your own choice of herbs and spices!

Serves 2 people.

Just a quick video here! I had these with mixed vegetables on the side, and lentils. But you could have them with rice or couscous or whatever else you fancied!

Also note that I opted for reduced-fat Feta Cheese to lower the calorie content. The condiments and herbs and spices I used were super low calorie too!

Nutritional Info

Per Feta Cheese Chicken Breast:
Calories = 214 cals
Protein = 30g
Carbs = 6g
Fats = 8g

Traps Training

Big traps are cool! In fact I’d say having big traps is freakin awesome! Abs are obviously cool too. But the problem is that unless you walk around all day without a shirt on, nobody will even know you have that coveted six pack!

But a big pair of traps on the other hand, are noticeable with or without a shirt on! Even while wearing a long sleeve shirt! I don’t think any other body part can get the same admiration and attention even while covered up!

Trapezius

By “traps”, I am of course referring to the trapezius muscle, that is visible on top of the shoulders, tying in the shoulders to the neck. In my opinion it gives the impression of a powerful strong physique!

traps

How to train your traps

The traps are hit INDIRECTLY through exercises like deadlifts and rows. And to an extent presses, pull ups, and pull downs. They are also used in back squats.

But to isolate and hit the traps DIRECTLY, this is best done through shrugging movements.

Monkey Shrugs

My favourite direct traps isolation exercise right now is “Monkey Shrugs”. This is demonstrated in the video at the top of the page. I find these are done best using dumbbells, where you shrug hard and hold the squeeze at the top, while simultaneous bending the elbows and raising the upper arms upwards. You will have to use a lighter weight than you would for standard dumbbell shrugs. But I find the contraction and trapezius activation from this exercise to be superior to anything else!

Cryotherapy – I was doing it first!

Cryotherapy – I was doing it first! 

I remember back when I used to play ice hockey, one of my coaches once told me of the benefits of having a cold bath.  He said it would aid muscle soreness and help the body recover after a hard week of training. He said it would help me to recover in time for games (which normally took place on the weekend).

My coach recommended 10-20 minutes or so with mainly the legs (the most used body part used in ice hockey) submerged in a bath filled with cold water.  And he suggested doing this the morning of game day.  So I did.

My Weekend Cold Bath Routine

Almost every Saturday and Sunday for nearly 2 years, I would fill the bath tub up to about chest level with water on the lowest temperature setting out the tap.  It would take me about 5 painful minutes to gradually get into the bath, with my breathing thrashing and my heart rate pumping like I’d been running hill sprints.  Once finally in the bath, I would start my timer and would stay in there for 15 even more painful minutes.  Often, I would listen to music to help pass the time, but it didn’t help much.  15 minutes doesn’t sound like long, but it felt like days!  Once the timer finally beeped, I would jump out of the bath and it would feel like my skin was burning as the regular room temperature hit me!  It was awful.  So why did I carry on doing this each weekend, despite how much I hated it?  Simple – it worked!

Cryotherapy

It worked for me

I must admit that it worked! No matter how sore or tired my muscles were before I got into that Godforsaken cold bath, I always felt the soreness gone afterwards.  Which is why I continued to do it!

Fast forward years later to present day, where it is now common practice for athletes from a variety of sports to be using similar recovery practices through cold water immersion / cryotherapy.  It is absolutely no surprise to me that this is the case!  I was doing it first lol.  And I saw first-hand the benefits of it!

Cryotherapy

Do I still do it?

I will happily admit that I have NOT used cold baths / cryotherapy since I stopped playing hockey, even though I am convinced of its recovery benefits.  I just really really really don’t like it, so I don’t do it!

Are there negatives of doing it?

Actually yes, it seems that you should avoid a cold bath right after training if your goal is muscle size/strength.  There is research to suggest that it slows muscle growth.

https://physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1113/JP270570

Cryotherapy

Where’s the proof that it works?

If you know me well enough, you know that I like to back up my own experiences and opinions with scientific literature when possible.

First let’s look at why it works:

The reason seems to be that when exposing the body to cold temperatures, it releases norepinephrine (a hormone), which helps remove inflammation.

It appears that cold baths constrict blood vessels to “flush” lactic acid (a waste product that causes muscle soreness – DOMS).

Evidence:

There is some evidence that concluded that cold water immersion reducing DOMS (delayed muscle soreness), but it could not conclude that it improved recovery or reduced fatigue.

https://www.cochranelibrary.com/resolve/doi?DOI=10.1002/14651858.CD008262.pub2

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0062356

One review showed that 11 – 15 minutes of cold-water immersion should be sufficient to see the benefits of it.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40279-015-0431-7

Cryotherapy

Warm up again after!

I will close this post by stating the importance of making sure that you warm your body up again afterwards, and to give yourself enough time to do so.  I couldn’t imagine a worse feeling than trying to partake in hard exercise shortly after stepping out of a cold bath!

Kuku Sabzi – I’m learning to cook!

I am learning to cook! I am always preaching to people about making their food interesting and flavourful! Too many people think healthy food = boring food, which is just not true!

I am always on the hunt for new cooking ideas. So when a friend offered to show me how to cook an Iranian dish, I jumped on the opportunity!

No please keep in mind that I wasn’t taking notes or anything, but hopefully I’ve remembered everything correctly!

Kuku Sabzi?

The Iranian dish I learnt how to cook, is Kuku Sabzi.

kuku sabzi

Preparation / cooking time approximately 30 minutes. Serves 2 people.

Ingredients

2 bunches of Parsley

1 bunch of Dill

2 tbsp of Dried Barberries (Zereshk)

1 tbsp Olive Oil (or use Low-Calorie Cooking Spray)

6 Whole eggs (or use just Egg Whites)

Half a tsp Sweetener

Salt and Pepper

1 packet of Microwavable Basmati Rice (or replace this with Mixed Veg / Cauli-Rice)

Instructions

Finely chop the Parsley and Dill.

Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add the 6 eggs.  Mix the ingredients together in the bowl thoroughly.  Set aside for the moment.

kuku sabzi

Rinse the dried Barberries thoroughly under cold water, and remove any stones / stems. Let dry.

Lightly grease a pan with Olive Oil, and add the Sweetener.  Add the Barberries and heat on low while stirring, for approximately 10 minutes until they soften.

kuku sabzi

Tansfer the Barberries into the mixing bowl with the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Grease a large pan with Olive Oil and pour the mixture from the bowl into the pan.

kuku sabzi

Cook the mixture until it is firm, flipping the mixture over so to cook both sides.

Season with Salt and Pepper and serve with Microwavable Basmati Rice.

Nutrition Stats

This meal may potentially be a little higher calorie for your liking. If so I’d suggest a light breakfast / lunch if you plan on making Kuku Sabzi! Otherwise, see the substitutions below to bring the calories down! But anyway, per serving as it is, the stats are:

Calories: 511
Protein: 22g
Carbs: 50g
Fats: 23g

Substitutions

To bring the calorie count down, you could:
– Replace the Olive Oil for Low-Calorie Cooking Spray
– Swap the Whole eggs for just Egg Whites
– Replace the Rice for Mixed Veg / Cauli-Rice.