Sunday, 26 December 2010

Holding off the pounds.

Christmas is here and the inevitable happens. You eat too much and you put on weight. Then you think you might as well carry on as the New Year is round the corner. I often hear people saying that they put on the weight because they eat too much and drink too much, so when they eat less and drink less, they will lose the weight. Wouldn't life be simple. I think you can tell from my tone that there as bit more to it. Here are the major differences to your diet over the Christmas period.

Drink. Alcohol is the worst kind of sugar we can have. Not only does it screw up insulin regulation which turns off fat burning and switches on fat storage, it also increases your estrogen levels which makes any attempt to diet feel like you are trying to swim up stream. Work parties, mulled wine and festive drinks send your average sky high.

Sugar. As mentioned above, sugar is a menace. Not only do we get an increase in sugar from alcohol but sweets, mince pies and cakes are slowly being drip fed into your body to keep your insulin levels nice and high all day long.

Carbohydrates/protein balance. Sugar is a carbohydrate so in essence the amount of overall carbs has gone up. People may then find they eat less protein (except at Christmas dinner). Again, this just turns you into a fat storage machine. Also, it increases your carb craving. Ever munched down a packet of crisps and wondered where it went??

Overall calories. I left this to last as the important thing to remember is that it is the amount of dead calories people eat that is the important thing. You can eat garbage less often and still put on weight more than someone who eats more food from usable calories. It is the changes in your hormones not just the total calories eaten that makes you get fat.

It's not all doom and gloom. I am here to say you can have your cake and eat it by following these simple steps.

1. Don't forget about your protein intake. Have some every 4 hours or at least have some before you have something sweet.
2. Start with a good breakfast. Break the fast with a low refined carbohydrate meal. High protein ideally.
3. Have water with every alcoholic meal and try not to drink on an empty stomach.
4. You don't have to starve yourself only to gorge on your main meal. Have a small (protein rich) snack before.
5. Supplement your diet with fish oils. They help you to prevent what you have eaten from being turned into fat.
6. Lastly, if you truly want to minimise the effects of the sugar rush over Christmas, short circuits or workouts are the key. 10-15 minutes will do it and help your muscles absorb some of the circulating glucose rather than sending it to your fat cells.

Enjoy the festive period and see you all next year.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Fat pets, fat owners.

After watching this adequately named programme on Sky 1, I was again shocked by the level society has sunk to. The programme showed how a group of overweight people had created overweight pets through a combination of a bad diet and a sedentary lifestyle. One lady took her dogs for a 'walk' in a trolley' as they were too fat to walk. I was amazed that the owners were able to change their lifestyle as I didn't think the cat owner ever could. She was full of excuses and someone who I would never train. However, I was more furious that this situation happened in the first place.

Mankind has an arrogance in which our thirst to progress, learn and survive brings with it cancer, disease and illness. Heart disease and type 2 diabetes are western diseases which can be prevented through diet. Yet we ignore statistics because we don't like wake up to the reality of our lifestyle choices. Imagine how animals would describe us on a nature programme?

"Welcome to our nature watch in which we look at human beings in their natural habit. They are a funny bunch. Despite major breakthroughs in science, they are a specie full of disease who have created synthetic foods which make them seriously overweight. To make matters worse, they are now inflicting their lifestyle on cats and dogs."

Agricultural advancements have overtaken the way our body has evolved. Whether we will ever get to a stage where we can tolerate heavily process foods is a separate debate. At the moment, all the evidence suggest that we aren't meant to eat a processed diet. The programme last week backed this up as there are now pet weight loss clinics. 40% of cats and dogs now have weight problems and weight related disease thanks to us. The participants on the show were unaware of the damage they were causing their pets by feeding them the rubbish they ate. We should be ashamed of ourselves need to admit that while we have the capacity to help the world, we do a good job in messing it up too.

Animals have evolved far less than humans so to expect them to live off our food is insane. I feel very strongly about over-domesticating animals and especially vegetarian pets. We have the capacity to make lifestyle decisions, animals don't. We need to be responsible by recreating some of the conditions they would live in. Cats don't have razor sharp teeth to eat vegetables with. Pets need exercise to simulate long treks, hunting and playing with other animals. They don't need toast, sweets and processed foods that cause us so many health problems.

Why the side step to animals? The programme highlighted the naivety that people have to food. It showed that we like to justify anything that suits us. "My cat is overweight but he is happy and I show him lots of love." We also need to realise that animals are not humans. It is bad enough that we are killing each other, let's not inflict our lifestyle on animals too.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

1-2 pounds of weight loss part 2.

If you follow my advice, you will lose fat. Clients who haven't over the years simply can't give up or cut back on their vices. Here are some of the key features which have enabled me to help clients lose fat over the years.

Nutrition. It is no good training hard then spending the next few days ruining it with high GI and high saturated fat foods. Keeping your insulin levels under control is one of the main factors which will help you lose weight and sustain a weight loss programme. Most processed foods and cereals are higher GI than their whole food cousins. Some 'health foods' such as health bars can also raise blood sugar and estrogen levels which make you fat. Alcohol also raises estrogen levels. It is pretty hard to overeat when eating the right kind of foods so learn what your body needs. Eat right for 4 days and have a day off or stick to the 80/20 rule (80% foods that are good for you, 20% treats). Make sure an expert determines what food is good for you.

Protein is crucial to your fat loss plan. Protein needs to be consumed first thing in the morning to ensure you kick start your metabolism. Skipping breakfast is a non-negotiable for my clients. Protein helps to regulate appetite as well as balancing out hormone levels. Protein helps to burn calories through the day as your body expends energy breaking down protein. The scientific name is called DIT (dietary induced thermogenesis). For your body to obtain energy from dietary protein, it must give up almost 3 times more energy than it needs for either fat or carbohydrates. Most people don't eat enough and miss out on these benefits.

HIIT. High intensity interval training is the main cardio that should be performed. HIIT raises EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) is what turns you into a fat burning machine after your workout. During your recovery period, your body will burn fat more effectively than same pace cardio and also balance out hormone levels. EPOC can still be present up to 48 hours after your workout, so if you did it every other day, imagine the fat furnace you will create.

Resistance training (metabolic workout). Using weights is still the most effective way for your body to control weight. Some people may claim that the amount of calories burnt during a weight session is lower than that of a cardio session. These people should do one of my weights circuits or try German Body Composition training. Even if you are concerned with the amount of calories burnt during your exercise session, you will continue to raise EPOC through weight training more than through same pace cardio. Not to mention driving up testosterone levels, increasing lean tissue which increases resting metabolism and decreases muscle breakdown. Your body will also look better than if you tried to lose weight by doing same pace cardio.

Same pace cardio has a place. It is pretty low down the list of priorities for weight loss. We should be exercising at a moderate intensity for 20 minutes everyday. If we didn't use public transport or cars, we would easily hit this target. However, as we don't, we need to ensure that we get some light cardio in. Don't go mad thinking that the more you do, the more fat you burn (while partly true) there are a whole list of chemical reactions going on which will make it harder to continue to burn fat during a same pace cardio session.

Be consistent. People start and stop their health and exercise programme and say the programme didn't work. You don't get fit, burn fat or change shape in one session. It is multiple sessions combined with all the above elements that determine success. The days you need to focus on are the days you can't be bothered. The success of your programme will be dependent on your successful days outweighing your less successful days. A personal trainer, training partner or a regular bootcamp holds you to your intention and keeps your momentum. Weekend warriors are just as bad. These are people who try to burn off an over-indulgent weekend with an extra long training session. This is why gyms are at their busiest on a Monday and Tuesday. It simply doesn't work.

Know your areas of attack. Some people walk blindly through life unaware of the subtle subconscious attack they receive which makes them put on weight. The default in the UK is fit and healthy people get ridiculed. You need to develop a thick skin or find a new social group to have a successful weight loss programme. Recognising who are the key conspirators will enable you to ignore their derrogatory comments. You will be surprised the amount of clients I have trained who were constantly put down by their partners or family members.

Times are changing as marathon and triathlon participation is on the increase. Here is evidence of positive peer groups pressure. People feel more able to use marathon training as an excuse for avoiding the Friday night binge. So maybe training for an event will assist you in your quest to be fitter and leaner.

These are the basics. There are advanced combinations (sleep, time of training, size of meals e.t.c) which I need to use if clients are weak in certain areas. It might seem complicated but this is because we have moved so far away from what our body actually needs. Work on the areas you are weak, and be consistent.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Chickpea crumble

This is a great recipe for vegetarians or your vegetarian day. I have tweaked the original that I got from Patrick Holford's optimum nutrition cook book. You are not going to get a huge amount of protein since it's vegetable based. However, the combination of nuts and chickpeas provide you with a complete amino acid so your body can use it. It is also pretty tasty.


1 small onion
1 stick of celery
2 carrots
A tin of peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon of virgin olive oil
a little vegetable stock
A can of chickpeas
A pinch of ground cumin
3 cloves of garlic (or to taste)


150g oatflakes
100g wholemeal flour
3-5 teaspoons of pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons clod-pressed seed oil

Set the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5. Steam fry the onion, garlic, celery and carrots and olive oil with a little stock water for about 5 minutes until the veg starts to soften. Add tomatoes, chickpeas and cumin and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the crumble ingredients in a bowl with the seed oil until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Pour the chickpea mixture into an ovenproof dish about 15 cm in diameter and sprinkle the crumble over the top. Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes.

I like to do a big green salad with avocado and tomato. There is no need for bread, potato's or other starchy carbs. This recipe is all about the ingredients. If possible, get your veg and tomatoes from a greengrocer, it will taste much nicer.

Friday, 2 July 2010

#10 Have faith

Faith can mean so many things to so many people. To some it can mean structured religion. Others may find faith in themselves. Whatever your interpretation, having 'faith' seems to get people through life better than those without it.

"Faith is what makes life possible...the alternative is a life that is empty and meaningless. Have faith and act on it today!" Anthony Robbins.

Studies have shown that people who had a faith were more likely to fight depression than those who didn't. In most rehab clinics, as part of their therapy, patients are encouraged to see their life as something bigger than themselves. They are encouraged to find a purpose for their life, as life without a purpose can exacerbate an underlying mental illness. Having personal experience of people with mental illness, the constant theme that runs through the mind is that no one cares about them, their life is meaningless and they have lost all hope.

New parents describe the shift when they see their child for the first time as "seeing your life as more important than your own." This in a sense is feeling a purpose to your life. Living it is another matter.

Every successful sports person will tell you that they had to overcome extreme adversity to get to the top of their field. It is hard to make it without talent. However, amongst the many talented people out there, there are always those who rise to the top. Either they had faith that they would get to the top or someone had faith in them to reach their potential.

"I learnt that it is faith that decides whether something will happen or not." Kaka (Real Madrid and Brazil footballer).

If you feel yourself losing faith or are having a Michael Douglas moment in the film 'falling down', ask yourself these questions.

What am I grateful for?
What do I want to do with my life?
Why am I not doing it?
What legacy do I want to leave behind?

I Hope you enjoyed the series.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

#9. Cut back on stimulants

After reading the last tip, this should make sense. Most stimulants are a short-term fix to a long-term problem. There are some reported benefits of caffeine to boost your workout, however caffeinated products used as a way to fight fatigue aren't a good idea. If you need a coffee to get you started in the morning, address the fact that you are tired and maybe need to get to bed earlier. Then enjoy your coffee!

Most people like a drink after work. However,have you ever considered that the enjoyment of feeling intoxicated is only part of what makes a drink enjoyable? Most people don't eat enough during the day, or drink enough water. By the end of the day, most people are stressed out, hungry and thirsty. A glass of wine or pint will temporarily satisfy all these cravings in one hit. Just the very thought should get you thinking about your beverage of choice. I'm not saying don't have a drink. I am merely suggesting that the drink is temporarily satisfying a list of other natural urges.

Most people who drink are addicted to alcohol. However, alcoholism is the prolonged excessive intake in which deprivation would result in severe withdrawal symptoms. Being addicted simply means you crave it and/or your body needs more to get the same feeling. Addiction is also habit forming. Your addictions are only highlighted when when you try to create behaviour change. The clients who are unknowingly addicted are the ones who tell me they want to get fit but will not give up their vices (alcohol, cheese, Pringles!).

I meet plenty of clients who have normalised their reliance on stimulants to get them through the day because it is considered an acceptable consequence of working life. It's like buying a car and gluing together bits of the panel rather than getting it fixed properly. For most, you are rolling the dice thinking your daily can of red bull can push back fatigue. Others aren't so fortunate and end up with more serious problems. Stimulants can also be a way to numb the pain of your life. Depression and mental health are a serious issue and don't get the attention they should.

Maybe write down a list of the stimulants/pain killers e.t.c that you take and see whether there is a pattern forming. Think about what was going on when you needed a cigarette or cup of coffee. Also get a professional opinion on whether there could be an underlying problem.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

#8.Stress management

Stress is the silent killer. You often don't know you are suffering from stress related disease. The difference between blood flow and blood clot can be millimetres. It is also something which we think we will deal with when the time comes. Some stress is actually good for us as stress/overload is how the body is able to grow and repair. However, psychological stress is the real problem.

An older client said to me, "I don't understand young people and stress. If they want to experience stress, they should try living on rations." This is a common misconception. Regardless of how ridiculous it seems, if you think the world is about to end because you haven't got your favourite locker at the gym, you can experience a heightened state of stress. Your brain can't differentiate between an actual stressor (being chased by a lion) and a psychological stressor (your interpretation). The mind is powerful enough to make you think that it is really happening. The body then starts a chain reaction of chemical messengers because it thinks there is real danger. The truth is it is all in our head. We all know those people who get worked up over the most ridiculous things.

Perception is reality so to help reduce stress levels, it is all about changing the lens you look at life with. This is only half the battle. Life will send you challenges which can get you all hot and bothered again. If you argue with yourself in the shower or continue an argument you had with a collegue, later on, by yourself, this applies to you! Getting some objectivity on your life can bring you into the present which will dramatically improve stress levels. Most people who experience stress are worried about things that haven't happened yet. Or things that happened in the past. It has been described by some experts as a symptom of the human consciousness. We worry about tomorrow when today hasn't happened yet.

Holidays are great because they take you away from life inside your own head and allow you to switch off. Boxing classes and general exercise are also great as you can take out your frustration in a controlled environment. Spending time with kids can also be a good stress reliever. Kids live life in the present and can bring you down to earth with a bump! Anything which makes you switch off is as important as work.

A friend of a friend dropped down dead in a gym not long ago. Stress related disease has been cited as a cause of death. This should be a reminder that we all need to take our health seriously. The truth is the majority of what we consider 'important' isn't that important. If you catch yourself getting worked up, ask yourself if it is really worth dying for?

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

7. Make time for breakfast

I have mentioned this before in earlier posts. The importance of eating a good breakfast is so important it needs repeating.

A study was done in California on girls between the ages of 9 and 19. The girls who ate breakfast on 3 consecutive days had a BMI of 0.7 units lower than those who didn't. It was even lower than those who ate cereal, so something is better than nothing. The study showed that as the girls got older, breakfast consumption dropped and those who again skipped breakfast, ate higher fat foods later on in the day. The breakfast eaters were also better at food planning and made better choices throughout the day.

A Harvard study showed that those who ate breakfast (cereals) found that participants were 17% less likely to die over the next few years of any cause and 20% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. Having no time for breakfast is not an excuse. You make time to fill up your car otherwise it will not go anywhere. We are exactly the same.

The clue is in the name 'break-fast'. You need to break the fast from the night.

Monday, 28 June 2010

6. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake

We all know that eating more fruit and vegetables are good for us. They contain cancer fighting and anti-aging properties which we can't get from anywhere else in our diet. Government guidelines state that we need 5 portions a day to keep us healthy. However, a recent study showed that eating 5 portions a day had negligible health benefits. One could read this and think "what is the point." The point you would be missing (which the study failed to point out) is that 5 a day is not enough to provide us with the necessary health benefits. We need to be eating much more.

Try a week of eating 10 portions a day. If you struggle to eat this amount, try adding juices or smoothies to your diet. Try to avoid buying them off the shelf. Get them as fresh as possible.

Here is a possible food plan.

Breakfast: 2-3 pieces of fruit

Snacks: 3 pieces throughout the day.

Lunch: salad containing 2 vegetables

Dinner: 2-3 pieces/portions of vegetables.

Don't be surprised if you lose a few pounds too.

Friday, 25 June 2010

5. Eat small and often

When your body breaks down food for energy, it converts carbohydrates into glycogen. Some is stored in your liver and drip feeds your body and vital organs with energy. It only has 4 hours worth of supply. Also, the body requires a certain amount of calories to stay alive. If we drop beneath this, the body starts a chain reaction of biochemical and physiological adaptations to ensure it survives. One of them is to slow down your metabolism. Once your body feels starvation your metabolic rate drops. This can be as much as 20% within 24 hours. Add to this the breakdown of protein in the body and you have a sluggish, acidic environment which isn't conducive to providing you with much energy. The longer this cycle persists, the weaker your immune system will be.

We need to top up energy levels with some protein, fruit, nuts and seeds in between main meals. In simpler times, we would forage for berries and seeds. Think like a caveman (or caveperson if this manages to get to Harriet Harman). The danger time is 2-5. This is most likely an unproductive time of the day for you. Also, have you ever suffered the wrath of a hungry child? Imagine a hungry employee who isn't nice at the best of times. Don't wait for it to happen, keep some healthy snacks with you.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

4. Rehydrate.

Working in an air-conditioned environment, alcohol, coffee, exercise and speech, all tax our water reserves. The more we do of any of the above activities, the more water we need to bring us back into balance. We need roughly 2 litres per day to stay hydrated. The rest should come from fruit and vegetables. If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

65-90% of human cells consist of water. Weight loss during a workout is due to lost water and needs replacing. Weigh yourself before and after a particularly sweaty workout to see what you have lost. A pound of weight loss is about 1/2 litre of lost water. A method used for extreme weight loss in boxing circles is to dehydrate the body so fighters can make a weigh in. Immediately after, they rehydrate themselves. It seems odd to potentially dehydrate a nerve cell then beat the living hell out of it for 12 rounds.

Electrolyte balance in the body is crucial for optimal nerve function. Without key electrolytes, muscle weakness or severe muscle contractions may occur. An old wives tale of adding table salt to your water isn't enough as refined salt has high levels of sodium ( we already have far too much in our modern diet). Unrefined salt has higher levels of potassium (which we need), but can be hard to get hold of. Instead, I add electrolytes to my workout water. This is even more crucial for those who like endurance events or training.

Signs of dehydration include dark urine, muscle tingling and cramps. Any more than 10% water loss can be fatal. If you like to drink alcohol, drink water between each drink and couple of glasses when you get home. You'll feel better in the morning.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Get a regular massage

Have you ever had that feeling when you get out of bed and need to contort your body in different positions just like a cat to get moving? All of a sudden, things start to loosen up and you are ready to go. Why do we do this? Can a muscle relax this quickly? No. What you are in fact doing is loosening up a flat band of tissue beneath the skin called fascia. It separates different layers of tissue and encloses the muscles. Muscles need to be able to slide smoothly against each other to function properly. Fascia contracts (around the muscle) when you go to sleep and needs loosening up in the morning otherwise you feel stiff. You sit down at your desk all day and go to bed to repeat the cycle day after day. 10 years later, you feel old because you are getting stiffer and more injury prone. The problem isn't age, it is the lack of maintenance work done to keep your body working at optimum levels.

A good massage helps to stretch and release the fascia much more than static stretching ever could. Stretching is even less affective when you get a build up of scar tissue in the muscle or fascia. In fact, the little bounce like stretch men do before they embark on a run doesn't stretch the muscle very much. Most likely, it stretches the fascia a bit, but mainly doesn't do much to prevent injuries.

We are generally bad at body maintenance work. If you are guilty of this, get a massage booked weeks or months in advance. Base the regularity around what you can afford. It could be weekly, monthly or every 6 months. Other benefits of massage include, better sleep, less headaches and quicker recover time between workouts. When you have a good massage, you can't believe how rubbish you felt before.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Down time

We spend the majority of our lives working and continually try to fit more into the day. Our time is finite yet we try to negotiate more time out of our day at the cost of our health. We send e-mails on the go and can be contacted all over the world. Switching off is getting ever harder to do.

Down time is important as it is the time we are able to switch off from the stress of life. If you live out of the city, you will experience the deep sigh of relief as the amount of commuters slowly decreases and the stations become more spaced out. It could be the first few days on holiday when you want to sleep or just think about nothing while you listen to the oceans waves. It could be the time when you melt into the couch and just unwind or time spent with your family. This time is important and needs scheduling into your day.

People who practice meditation are able to slow down their pulse, lower blood pressure as well as reducing the amount of cortisol the adrenal glands produce. All these factors contribute to heart disease. Heart disease is the silent killer and is completely avoidable through lifestyle changes.

Every day schedule in some down time where you can just think about nothing. It is hard to do but you will not regret it.

Monday, 21 June 2010

1. Get proper sleep

Everyone has different sleep needs but the average wakefulness in adults is 16 hours. Sleep is like the refresh button on your browser. It is the time when you burn the most amount of fat. It is also the time when your body regulates metabolism and hormone secretion. The changes shown in endocrine function due to a lack of sleep resemble advanced early ageing and the early signs of diabetes. People who sleep less tend to die young and it can increase your chances of contracting age related disease. Try getting to bed an hour early and you will feel the difference.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

All protein is not the same

I was discussing with a client what good sources of protein would be for breakfast. A gym member overheard our discussion and mentioned that yoghurt would be a good alternative. Although, technically she was correct, eating yoghurt for the purpose of getting a dose of protein is a waste of time and here is why.

Protein consists of amino acids which are the building blocks of life. Different permutations exist in foods which are split into 2 categories. Complete and incomplete. We need complete protein for the body to assimilate it into tissue. Animal based protein is a complete source, however, most plant based protein isn't. Whether you are a body builder or stay at home parent, we all need protein. Here are some of the symptoms of a lack of protein in your diet:

Thinning or brittle hair; ridges in toenails; light skin which burns easily in the sun; general weakness; slowness in healing; difficulty in sleeping; fainting.

The amount depends on your activity level. Active people and pregnant women need more protein as there is more building and breakdown occurring. Pregnant women in particular need more as there are huge amounts of energetic growth occurring for both the fetus and the mother. It helps to regulate appetite as well as getting more omega 3 in your diet (grass fed cattle). Inadequate protein consumption leads to cetabolism which contributes to high cholesterol and an acidic environment which are the conditions in which disease tends to flourish.

15-35% of our diet should be protein. Currently it is far less. We currently consume protein and don't consider what I call the 'protein hit' of food. We hear the word protein and think that we have consumed sufficient amounts.

This is the protein hit Per 100g

Turkey 35g (breast)
venison 35g
chicken 32g (breast)
Halibut 25g
eggs 12.5
cheese 12.5 (cottage)
yoghurt 4

The most obvious thing you should notice is that the protein content in meat is much higher. Even though I haven't stated it, dairy will have higher saturated fat levels than lean meats. If you think you are eating yoghurt for it's protein content, you might as well eat a caterpillar. If you cut meat out of your diet, be aware you are massively reducing your protein intake which will be hard to replace. The average person would need to consume around 6 tins of chickpeas to get their minimum protein intake. Exercisers would need 10+ tins! You would also need to replace iron, zinc, vitamin B12, B6, just to name a few. I forgot to mention that as wheat, nuts and beans are types of incomplete proteins, up to 50% of the protein is lost during the process, so you may need more! There is a reason why a crocodile eats once a year and a horse eats all the time.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

#4 I have an injury

Injuries can be a nightmare. Long-term pain can drain you emotionally and leave you feeling down in the dumps. However, the reality is that the majority of people will experience an injury of some sort, so you are not a special case. Ex-British sprinter Darren Campbell said that whenever he lined up for the 100m he always had a injury. Sometimes, you need to take control of an injury and not let it control you.

I have seen it time and time again that clients who thought they were stuck with an injury have had their pain managed, reduced or eliminated when training with me. People get stuck in a loop of being too scared to exercise when exercise will most likely help. Working around injuries requires professional guidance. A good personal trainer would be better than a physio ( I'll explain in later blogs why) or one of your friends who read something in a magazine. You need to know what pain is OK, where it is and if it is getting better, worse or staying the same. If you ever find that you use injury to avoid exercise, remember these 3 things.

1. Lack of condition and muscular imbalance is the reason why most people suffer injuries.

2. Just because you feel no pain, doesn't mean the injury has gone. You just can't feel it anymore.

3. There are people far more limited and more active than you. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and get moving. It will not be easy, but it will be worthwhile.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Check your eggs!

There are people falling over each other to make money out of the healthy eating revolution that is sweeping the food industry. While I relish the thought of people eating healthier so I don't feel like I'm constantly having to search for healthy alternatives, there are a lot of people exploiting this movement. None more so than the egg industry.

To identify what kind of eggs you have bought, there are 3 sections to a code. If you have an egg nearby go grab one.

Let's use an example egg code of 1UK54321. The first number (0-3) tells you how the chicken has been reared. The following code explains the reared category.

0 = Organic, 1 = free range, 2, = barn, 3 = caged.

The next code tells you the country of origin (UK. The last few numbers are the farm ID. In the above example, the eggs are free range, reared in the UK, from farm 54321. Caged are the lowest grade eggs and should never be used in my opinion. Jamie Oliver tried to raise public awareness of the farming standards of cheap food, but people still have an issue with paying the true cost required to raise good quality food.

Recently the food authorities caught up with a man who had been selling low grade eggs as organic and free range. He had flooded the market for years. He was jailed and asked to pay back £3 million. This was the biggest known food scam in Britain. The temptation to make nearly 3 times amount of money by changing the packaging of eggs is too great for some people. Major supermarkets had been selling his bogus eggs (allegedly unbeknown to them) and my greengrocer had to recently change supplier, as he bought 'UK farmed eggs' when actually they weren't. Where there is money to be made, there will always be scam artists.

So what do we do? Know what the codes mean. Get your eggs from a trusted source. The majority of supermarkets aren't in my opinion. A good butcher, greengrocer or farmers market would be a good option. Don't be scared of asking for information about where your food comes from. Ask for their supplier or farm information, then check it out. Don't think that paying more automatically means that it is healthy.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

#5 I have a slow metabolism.

This is by far the most flogged excuse I have heard yet. The truth is that people don't actually know what they are talking about when they talk about having a slow metabolism. I accept that I have a metabolism that will assist me in looking like a gazelle. If I abuse this, I will, and have put on fat (not to mention looking 10 years older). However, there are people who say to me that they have one of those metabolisms which means no matter what they eat, they put on weight.

Your metabolism involves a complex network of hormones and enzymes which converts food into energy as well as controlling how efficiently you do it. Not everyone burns calories at the same rate. Unknown to most people who use this as an excuse, overweight people tend to have a fast metabolism. Metabolism is affected by age, sex and proportion of lean tissue carried. This is why leaner, more muscular people find it easier to stay leaner than those who aren't. This is also another reason why weight training is essential for weight management.

Some people have thyroid dysfunction which will affect metabolism and sometimes lead to rapid weight gain. However, this applies to a small proportion of the public. The women I know who have metabolism issues are curvy, strong and are in great shape. They train hard, are stronger than most men and quite often get comments from other women like, "it's OK for you as you burn it off," or, " You're lucky, if I ate what you did, I would be massive." The 'it's alright for you' brigade send me round the bend. These people try to discredit the hard work put in by those who don't make excuses.

The concept of your body not being able to lose weight or get in shape makes us feel better that we can't. We have bought into an excuse with no understanding as to what is really going on. Unless you have been tested for metabolism issues, keep quiet as it's embarrassing to hear. Most clients I see, simply don't realise that they aren't 15 anymore and need to look after their body a bit better and in a different way. They claim they have metabolism issues as a bottle of wine a night makes them put on weight more than when they were 21. It's not your metabolism, it's the 640 additional calories and the glycemic load which adds the weight!

I hope you enjoyed the series. If you happen to hear any of these excuses or hear one which isn't hear, leave a comment to make us chuckle.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

# 3 I can't afford it.

Money is often used as an excuse not to exercise. This is a difficult topic as it has different meanings to different people. There are some who earn lots, spend lots and have very little left over. There are those who earn considerably less but have very little outgoings. I have trained clients who fit into both of these categories and I want to make it clear that money is never the issue. It is always a question of value.

When you value your health above everything else, you move heaven and earth to do something about it. Some people come to me and say, " I can't afford a trainer but is there anything you can advise me to do?" Alternatively, I have had prospective clients say to me they can't afford my prices and ask if I can do them a deal. When I tell these clients to go and jump( not before I advise them on exercise and nutrition), they are shocked! These are the people who can often afford it. They just want it cheap or they want to feel they have negotiated a good deal. The worst clients I have ever had have been the one's who can afford to waste a personal training session. Either way, these two examples make a bad client. Now, I am much more skilled, qualified and charge much more so that I can offer more value and not attract any time wasters.

Why is it that we can spend thousands and millions on buildings, however, we feel uncomfortable spending a fraction of this on health? The answer is that society places a higher value on possessions (wealth) than on health. We say, "hasn't Claire done well. She has a good job, lives in a big house in the country." We don't say, "good on her for being super healthy. I wish I could be like that." The majority of people make derogatory comments about healthy people. As if being unhealthy is the benchmark we should aspire to be. This is a reason why there are people who like the idea of being fitter and healthy, but feel uncomfortable with having to pay for it.

Like anything in life, it is not about a lack of resources, it is a lack of resourcefulness which holds these people back. They look at others and say, " it's alright for them." They shift responsibility of their life onto the cards the world has dealt them. These people love to either find others who are as 'worse off' as they are, or love to moan about how life is harder for them than anyone else. These people either need a hug or a kick up the backside (my dad's words not my own). I'll let you decide which it is to be.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Top 5 excuses heard in the gym

#2 I don't have the time.

When we were children, time seemed to go so much slower. Days felt like weeks and we packed so much in. Now as adults, we wish we could have 10 more minutes in which to do the things we run out of time to do. However, time is rarely the problem, it is a question of priorities.

I was once told by an old client that he didn't have the time to spend in the gym to look like I do. Having heard this many times before, I kept quiet and let him carry on with his sob story. It is so important that we verify the facts before we talk ourselves out of doing things. He had already decided in his head that I spend hours in the gym and since he gets home at 10pm has no time.

Here is what he was really saying.

"Working out looks like hard work. I don't think I could do what you do. I also heard from some guy that he spends hours in the gym to stay in shape. I have made some choices in life which I have unknowingly sacrificed a considerable amount of time. I can't work out at lunch because my boss will think I am work shy. Any spare time I have at the end of the day, I choose to spend either watching TV with my wife or winding down from my day. I want to get in shape but I don't see where I can fit it in to my life right now."

Here is something I can work with. Let the professional work out what is possible. Don't make the decision for them. It's like approaching your bank manager for a loan and saying, "I have no money, and I don't think you should lend me any money so I will not waste your time any longer and leave". These people give the impression that life is totally out of their hands. After a conversation with someone like this, you will not want to get out of bed in the morning.

If ever you encounter someone like this, tell them they could save a lot time in the day by not moaning about how little time they have. It all comes down to priorities. You don't hear a type 1 diabetes sufferer say, " I just don't have the time to take my injections." They make the time or they suffer serious consequences. Quit whinging, take responsibility and get someone to help you make a plan. Otherwise quit whinging, accept the choices you have made and give your friend's ears a rest (and mine).

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Top 5 excuses heard in the gym

I hate gym changing rooms. Not because of the smell, or the person who stands next to you while you are naked because they are too scared to tell you that you are in front of their locker. It is because they are a breeding ground for gym myths and pity parties. Someone overhears a member telling another member about a cabbage soup diet and before you know it, it comes back to me as a sworn way to lose weight. It can also be a place where lazy and demotivated people congregate to feel sorry for themselves about how they can't get fit or in shape. Here are the top 5 excuses I hear from people and the truth about what they are saying.

#1 I have tried everything and nothing works.

These people haven't tried everything and cling to the hope that they have done everything they can. They tend to be those who have a regimented gym routine which they have been doing for 20 years. They will spend hours training in their 'fat burning zone'. They will read a newspaper on the exercise bike and will not have changed shape since you have known them. They sometimes tell me what they will and won't do at the start of a class. They try a new diet every week and love giving health and fitness advice. My reply to their excuse is, "have you tried selling your TV and joining an athletics club? What about nailing your cupboards shut? " These are extreme measures but evidence that these people haven't tried everything.

What they are really saying is, "I have tried lots of ways to lose weight but have realised that the problem is me. I hope that in telling you this, you will feel sorry for me so I can feel sorry for myself at having this burden inflicted on me."

If you have the misfortune of meeting someone like this at your gym, smile, walk away, ask for the manager, cancel your membership and never go back. If you let this person infiltrate your life, it will be the end of everything you have worked hard for.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Healthy is too expensive!

I constantly hear the excuse that healthy eating is expensive. I won't deny that some healthy options would work out more expensive, but if it makes you feel good and your body can get the proper nutrition it needs to function properly, it is a small price to pay.

People often compare apples with oranges when discussing healthy foods. They compare a supermarket chicken (2 for £5) with a free range organic butcher's chicken (£15 for 1). It is like comparing an Olympic athlete with a couch potato claiming there is no difference in their physiology. All chicken may look the same but it isn't. I guarantee, even if there were negligible health benefits from eating good quality meat, the taste difference should be enough to convince you to change.

There is an obvious price difference which would deter many people but this simply highlights what you consider to be important. It isn't wrong to want to save money. However, in most cases, the saving is negligible as the cost to your health outweighs the extra spending on healthy options. Also, any actual saving will most likely be absorbed and spent on other things which may have a negative effect on your health.

There are some things that are cheaper, but they do require a bit of effort. Buying from the greengrocer IS cheaper than buying the same (or sometimes inferior) goods from a supermarket. It takes a bit of organising and there isn't the convenience of going to the supermarket. Convenient doesn't mean good so if your priority is your health, check out a greengrocer. The selection in the picture above costs less than £8. Admittedly, I choose the more expensive options such as spray free tomatoes. You don't have to. However, with your purchase, you will also help to support local business and the natural farming industry.

Did I forget to mention better health? Well add that to the list. Fruits and vegetables are sensitive to heat and light. The more time taken from the soil to your plate, the less nutrients they have. You will get some goodness, but mostly will be fibre. Knowing all this, why would you buy more expensive, less nutritious, less flavoursome food?

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Don't eat fruit and vegetables!

This is the latest article on the back of a study which needs some attention, otherwise you might think you have been mislead over the years. I'm going to throw some figures at you so hold on!

The article was based on a study of 500,000 people that showed eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables (which is 400g) a day didn't have much effect on reducing cancer risk. However, if you read between the lines, you start to see holes in the article. It went on to say that the results showed that eating 200g more of fruits and vegetables had very little effect. This equates to 2 bananas. So correct me if I am wrong, we are comparing the difference between those who ate 5 portions and those who ate 3 ( subtract 2 bananas from the 5 portions)? It then ended by saying this contradicted a study back in 1997 which said that there was convincing evidence which states the opposite of the recent findings. I checked out the study and it uses the word 'sufficient' when quantifying the amount of fruit and vegetables needed to protect against cancer. 2 more bananas is hardly a 'sufficient' amount.

Firstly, those who are in my enlightened circle (that means you) should know by now that 5 a day is too low for the busy lives we lead and the different forms of stress our body can encounter. I would like to see a study done on people eating 10 a day rather than 5 or 3... Secondly, we don't know what kind of people this study was used on. The average person is undernourished and over-stressed. In my opinion, this isn't a good starting point for any study. Thirdly, the article claims that the study in 1997 claimed that eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables provided the protection against cancers. 2 bananas is hardly a large amount. I can't find the amount of fruits and vegetables which the original study used. The writer seems to be guesstimating the amounts.

The final most important point is that the latest study in the group eating 200g more of fruits and vegetables, saw a reduction in cancers of 3%. Considering this equates to 204384000 people, wouldn't you want to be one of them?

Friday, 2 April 2010

Why we fail to reach our goals.

My good friend and colleague Gregg Marsh has beaten me to the punch. His latest blog talks about why people fail with weight management goals. The article talks about breakfast being the most important meal of the day, especially what we eat for breakfast. Our morning food choices set up a host of chemical reactions to support weight management for the day. The evidence is pretty compelling. In my opinion however there is a bigger issue for which I and other trainers can be guilty of missing. People come to see me with a fitness or weight goal in mind and in most cases they are completely out of touch with reality about what it will take to achieve that goal. Admittedly, I have sometimes been hoodwinked by a client's persuasive answer when asked about their commitment to the cause.

The better trainers out there instill into their clients what they expect and the consequences of not following the plan set out. Some do this through price; others have penalties for falling off the wagon; and others have a fitness challenge. One trainer booked his female clients onto a raunchy photo shoot! Is there one, tried and tested method that always works? No. But the link between all these methods is getting the client to be fully committed to their goal.

So what's Coach Chris' method? I get clients to create their red carpet moment. This could be a fitness challenge, a new dress, or a holiday. Whatever it is, it is something to keep them focused and committed, particularly on the days they can't be bothered. All the latest fitness fads, nutrition tips or gym memberships in the world are useless if you don't bring commitment to the table. So go on ... dream up your red carpet moment and see if you can't bring it to your workouts this week.

Stay tuned for my top 5 tips in creating long lasting commitment.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Cereal for breakfast? Don't believe the hype.

I seem to be going against the grain of society when advising people about what to eat for breakfast. "I can't live without my cereal," is often what I hear. Let me tell you the origins of a famous breakfast Cereal.

My Kellogg wanted to create a way for people to increase their fibre intake and transformed the way people ate breakfast. I imagine that the cereals back then had a much higher fibre content as we have much more advance methods of refining foods and grains. Cereals aren't really part of a natural diet. They are more a fashion which has grown into a tradition. Yes we need more fibre in our diet however, cereals are only one way to get it in. In my opinion, it is a pretty poor one. Have you ever had a bowl of cereal, belched and felt like you could have a second? This isn't the sign of a good source of fibre. The ironic thing is that a function of fibre is to make you feel full so you need to eat less.

There are many other sources of fibre which are much more nutrient dense. People who have an intolerance to gluten or other grains may find that cereals exacerbate this and may suffer from host of conditions ranging from bloating to skin problems. If you want superior health, fitness, or want to lose weight, ditch the cereal. Eggs, fish, grass fed meats, nuts, seeds and fruit are just some of the many alternatives. You will be going against the grain (excuse the pun) however the grain of society is not a good model to follow.

Soon I will walk you through a 5 day no cereal plan. Benefits will include, weight loss, less bloating (flatter stomach) increased energy and better appetite regulation. Stay tuned.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

It's all about your equipment

Around 2.5 million people play golf in the UK and over 55 million worldwide. The UK golf retail market brings in £350-£400 million. This includes gadgets, swing trainers and golf clubs. Players are always looking for the next gadget to take their golf to the next level. They buy into the claims that technology improvements will deliver. Only to see a minimal improvement before seeking yet another upgrade to their equipment.

The good news is that I am in total agreement about the equipment being to blame for poor golf. The bad news is that the equipment isn't your irons or your driver. It is your body! Modern life is killing your golf swing. Muscles are becoming stretched and weaker from inactivity and poor posture. If I were you, I would get a postural assessment from a physio or good trainer before even thinking about getting the latest driver. Want to hit the ball further? See a golf conditioning specialist in conjunction with a golf coach. That should give you an extra 30-50 yards to brag about instead of the latest driver.

1-2 pounds of weight loss.....

When I first qualified as a personal trainer, I was taught that the maximum safe amount of weight loss you can lose in a week is 1-2 pounds. I have since had this theory challenged by reputable practitioners and trainers. I have since modified my system and the potential weight loss I can offer has increased.

You may be asking how? Once you increase your metabolism, androgen levels (in men), growth hormone levels in conjunction with good nutrition and a proper exercise plan which boosts EPOC, 2 pounds should be a minimum. The problem is that most people haven't got a clue what I have just said. People guess or try a friend's diet because it worked for them. Cutting calories is the most common method. While calories need to be controlled, there is a lot more to it. Stay tuned for part 2 in which I will tell you EXACTLY how to achieve maximum weight loss.

The best diet in the world

Clients continually ask me, "what is the best diet?". This is a difficult question as it all depends on your goal and your guiding beliefs. You may beleive that all food is good for you as manufacturers couldn't possibly sell food that kills you. Therefore, follow my reduced calorie pizza diet. You may want to live and eat in harmony with the planet and achieve better health, which will require different food groups altogether.

Last year, I had this discussion with a neuroscientist and he said the paleo diet seems to be the one which fits in with the needs of our body rather than trends or advances in agriculture. This is a diet similar to early man which avoids refined foods and is rich in nutrients. The problem is that we haven't evolved as fast as farming methods have and we need to be eating a diet similar to that of a caveman.

What does this involve? Nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, fish and lean meats. What about breads and other starchy carbohydrates? It would be highly unlikely to see a caveman eating a croissant for breakfast. These should be your treat foods rather than the base of diet. What will you expect from a caveman's diet? Better appetite regulation, reduction in bodyfat and an increase in lean tissue are just a few of the many benefits of a paleo diet. It took me a long time to change the way I eat. I wouldn't go back as I feel great as a result. It also helps me to keep my bodyfat low all year round.

There are plenty of books on paleo diets and paleo foods. If you want to know more, get in touch or speak to a health professional.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

David Lloyd's rant

I was listening to the radio the day after Great Britain lost to Lithuania, at tennis, in the Davis cup. To those who don't know, the Davis cup is the premier international team event in men's tennis. GB now play in the lower leagues and lost to a team they should have beaten. The knives were out and people were looking to assign blame for the shame of yet another loss. However, I heard David Lloyd shooting from the hip in his summation of what went wrong. He believes that we can't find and nurture talent in the UK and the system is the problem. There is a brand new state of the art of Tennis facility at Roehampton which he says "doesn't need carpeted changing rooms or plasma screens."

I agree with him as I am having serious barriers with my junior golf academy I am trying to set up. We seem to have this imperialist arrogance which is ego driven which is costing juniors a chance to excel. There appears to be a point blank refusal to look at the system and shake things up. Why do all our talented sports men and women go overseas to train and hone their skills? It isn't just the weather. They appear to have a better system and it is reported that they have a better work ethic. I interpret this to mean they have talented coaches who are able to coach and mentor talented indivuals. Look at the England football team and the way Capello has shaken up the same under performing England players and got them to the world cup finals. There are talented coaches and trainers here in the UK and my aim is to get them to the talented juniors out there.