The Seven Most Effective Fat Loss Strategies

It’s that time of year… Cake, alcohol, chocolate and cheese have been liberated to become part of your regular diet and you have decided it has to stop. Welcome to January- this is where epic goals are set, intentions are at their greatest and fear of failure is outweighed by the desperate need to detox (your body doesn’t need to do this by the way- in fact it is always doing this) and to sweat out the sins of sloth and laziness that will on average leave most people 1kg heavier after the holiday period.

But fear not- what follows are (in my opinion) the seven most effective strategies for losing weight. This isn’t a sexy article- I am not selling any supplements, pushing a branded diet, I don’t have a book out and this advice definitely will not appear on the front of a news paper.

Why? The majority of people will understand that each of these points is true they stand up to scientific rigour. However, it doesn’t have a fancy name, doesn’t involve eating certain foods on certain days and comes with no celebrity DVD.

So away we go….

1. Work out how many calories you need and set a deficit of between 300-600 calories a day.

2. Create a meal plan- it doesn’t matter if you eat 1, 3 or 8 meals a day, eat to what your calorific goal suggests. It will help you avoid overconsumption.

3. Understand what is in your food- read the side of packets and weigh out a serving size. Educate yourself about what you are putting in to your body.

4. Eat a high protein diet- it will help with hunger levels, will maintain your muscle mass and help prevent muscle loss.

5. Be consistent with your carbohydrate and fat intake- it’s not really conclusive if low fat or low carb is “better” for fat loss. Some people respond well to different plans- initially just be consistent with how much you are eating.

6. Resistance train. Don’t go for a jog- if you resistance train while you are dieting you will maintain your lean muscle mass, it should be your priority in your training week.

7. Move. Getting stuck to your desk all day is a great way of limiting the amount of calories that you can burn. Get moving, walk up stairs, get a pedometer or use wearable technology like a fitbit or even a pedometer. Try and keep your residual levels of activity as high as possible.

That’s it your ready made guide to kick off the new year, it’s not recommended by a French doctor with an exotic name and it definitely doesn’t mention raspberry ketones, gluten free, prehistoric eating habits,  a new training style or have a desperate endorsement from someone on TV but these things work best… pure and simple.

 

 

 

More news and views from Results FAST: Foam Rolling, Social Media and Fitness Industry Professionalism.

1.Someone asked me about why everyone foam rolls at our gym. In summary here are the benefits:

Pre- workout: evidence currently suggests that there is an improvement in joint flexibility as well as no negative effect to performance (in comparison to just stretching which can see decrements).

Short-term (in session) recovery: evidence suggests foam rolling reduces the deterioration in jump based movements performance.

Long term recovery: Foam rolling seems to reduce muscle soreness and the ability to train more frequently.

Health: Foam rolling may reduce arterial stiffness and may be of benefit to arterial health.

For a more in depth review with research and stuff head over here for an excellent review by the guys at Strength and conditioning Research.com

Also here is a link to some of the soft tissue drills we work with.

2. Motivation and mindset “training.” Simply, if pictures on social media motivate you then we can’t help you (that is unless the picture is you). Photo shopped images with quotes written over the top are not motivating- if anything (on consulting our members) they are building up an image that is only relevant to the top 2% of exercisers). We were told by our website guy that we should post up to three times a day on social media- many businesses do this by sharing this type of content, we don’t as we believe what we share on-line is representative of our business. That’s why we only share credible articles by companies and individuals in-line with the same focus and ethics as Results FAST.

 

3. Leading on from the above…. Professionalism and the fitness industry. If you are going to try and sell us something at the gym be it a product, piece of equipment, workshop or course then please, please, please just say “We want you to buy our product.” This week I have had three conversations with people who were promising me a unique opportunity (in one case the product will probably stay pretty unique but that’s another story). One company posted straight to our Facebook business page- you could have called or e-mailed but no they basically spammed us. In the past couple of months we have been visited by trainers/ managers from other gyms- we know because our members used to train at your centres and they recognize you. If you want to come in and see how we work just ask- don’t go through a convoluted game of cat and mouse pretending you are interested in training with us, we would respect you more if you admitted “We want to see how well you do things” (because you wouldn’t bother coming in if you didn’t think we where that good:). Professionals share anyway- steal/ replicate if you can but you can’t replicate experience and a good education. On the positive side of things big shout out to a supplement rep though- they contacted us and asked if we would like to sample their product and then sent us basically enough protein, sports drinks, smoothies to sink a battle ship (I love free stuff). We might not buy their product but I will still respect their companies professionalism and the fact that there was no hard sell straight out from them.

5 Reasons You Should Quit The Gym

I don’t normally post fitness business content but this piece highlights a few points for gym members and “fitness consumers.”

1. If you are a member of a gym, read their website. If the landing page informs you of what equipment they have in the gym then it’s time to quit. Why? There is a saying that facilities tell while services sell. If all they are doing is informing you what is in the place then how does this help you achieve your end goal. If they are not telling you how they can help you then you are paying an expensive equipment rental.

2. As a follow on to point one if the gym has an extensive range of TV channels, monitors, games, swimming pool, spa and saunas unfortunately they are trying to distract you from the thing that you go to the gym for. Don’t get me wrong music can be incredibly motivating and create a great training environment but watching the latest reality television series is only going to dampen your intensity while exercising. You don’t go to the gym for a distraction- you go to get fit, join a spa and stop kidding yourself that you are “training.”

3. If your primary source of information is from a trainer who has been working less than two years you are probably wasting your time. Controversial as I know that everyone has to make a start in the fitness industry and you can achieve a multitude of qualifications from certificates to degrees to start you off. The truth is most certifications are not relevant to actually performing the job. As with most professions personal training is learnt on the job.. There is an 80% drop out rate of employees in the fitness industry within 2 years of qualifications with poor pay being cited as one of the major reasons. The truth is it is a competitive industry, not a glorified hobby as some people think. Anyone who has made a success of a training business that I know has worked over 60+ hours a week for at least 5 years to get where they are. If you are working with a new trainer make sure that they are in a great learning environment and surrounded with experience- that way you can guarantee that you are getting the right advice.

4. If someone tries to sell you supplements that promise you weight loss you should quit that gym. But gyms sell weight loss supplements all of the time don’t they? There is healthy weight loss using sensible nutritional strategies then there are supplement based weight loss plans. Most of these products are poor quality soy protein mixed with a range of artificial ingredients. What’s more you don’t need a qualification in nutrition to sell these products. One of these meal replacement supplement company’s Herbalife are currently being investigated by The Federal Trade Commission for Multilevel Marketing which is technically illegal. Most people who push these products care more about earning money through commission then the benefits that they will bring you. If anyone suggests a supplement that is a meal replacement (therefore not actually supplemental to your normal diet) then you may want to seek alternative opinions about how to achieve your goals in a healthy fashion.

5. There is more cardio kit and weights machines than free weights. This isn’t a “hard core” statement. Simply the reason why big commercial gyms have lots of cardio kit and resistance machines is that they are low labour items to show their members what to do. Free weights necessitate explanations and examples meaning you need better educated fitness training teams compared to a machine that you either need to take a pin out of or press a button. I could talk about why there are more benefits of free weights but it’s not my job to convince you of that. What I am suggesting is that it is cheaper for a gym to provide less expertise.

Burpees: Saint or Sinner?

One of the most poorly programmed exercises in the history of fitness is Burpees. This post looks to examine their placement in training and the rationale for their inclusion in different parts of your workout.

Predominant more in bootcamps, outdoor fitness and when working with limited amounts of equipment the rationale for their inclusion in training can vary.

As it is such a big exercise which mobilises the whole body the question to be asked initially is what level of fitness are you?

Burpees commonly feel like the end of the world to new exercisers. They cause a massive elevation in heart rate and ultimately poor exercise form limits performance (which is caused by fatigue).

With most boot camps they seem to be included in the middle of circuits as well as used as finishers (the last thing that you do in a session which leaves you lying on the floor in a puddle of your own sweat). If included with other exercises in a circuit format to induce fatigue then their form may be compromised if their repetition range is too high. By nature they are not an exercise you should struggle through so when do you tolerate bad form? In my eyes never. Therefore, beginners are suited to low repetition numbers predominantly at the start of a session. If you are not combining it with resistance training it is likely to be the most neuromuscular fatiguing exercise you will perform. So for beginners it is as much a strength exercise as it is a conditioning drill. In my experience most coaches place them in the middle or at the end of sessions to invoke fatigue? My question is that if it is the hardest thing you do in a session should it not go at the start so form is maintained if you are a beginner?

With advanced exercisers does the parameters move? Well, the ability to perform the exercise against fatigue does as does power output (in theory). The limiting factor to the exercise is still failure of form so in that case it’s pretty much the same compared to beginners. Someone who has good recovery therefore can do more repetitions for longer but as it is still an explosive exercise should it not be placed at the start of all routines or does the training focus dictate its position?

If the training focus is on strength and power development it could be considered more sensible to place it at the start of a session or at least early on after your primary loaded exercises. If looking to use it as an energy systems training tool e.g. Fat loss or full body conditioning sports then it can be used as a supplemental exercise in essence in the second half of your training session. As advanced exercisers generally recognise good posture and bad form compared to beginners then it is suitable for this to be used as a finisher.

What is the relevance of this post then to training. Beginners need to recognise form and body position first and will find this harder if already fatigued. Advanced exercisers can use certain exercises to build up their capacity to do more but like beginners will ultimately be limited by fatigue. Often though beginners are thrown Burpees too early in too large amounts to develop suitable strength while advanced exercisers could throw them in to the start of a session as an explosive “primer”.

Fascia, Pain and Corrective Exercise

A recent study has found that individuals with recurrent lower back pain have 25% thicker fascia in the lower back area than those with no pain. This was also reproduced in the neck area where increased fascial thickness of the scalenes (front of neck) was found in those with neck pain. Also it has been seen in the Achilles tendon as well.

thoracolumbar-fascia-xl

Your first question is what is fascia? Fascia is basically connective tissues that encapsulates the muscles, supports organs and transmit movement of the bones in the body allowing movement to occur. Fascia is in effect the clear, cling filmy substance that on a piece of chicken seems to wrap the main muscle tissue (preparing and cooking chicken is after all an anatomy lesson). For effective movement to occur the muscles must be able to glide past each other. If there is not clear movement then there may be a lack of proprioception, poor coordination of muscle function and possibly pain. Fascia is reactive to stress- place more stress on it and it will start to build up. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it will enhance the tensile strength of the body. However, excessive build ups clearly cause pain.

From a training perspective this highlights two things:

1. Fascial thickness is related to pain. Training on it’s own does not correct fascial thickness. The main way to remove these tightness’s is to increase the body temperature of these areas of fascial thickness. The major way of doing this is by deep tissue, high friction massage.

2.Postural issues related to fascia thickness that cause pain need to be helped by reducing the amount of cumulative stress to the thickened area. This may be termed corrective exercise as it highlights that the tissue is overworked and therefore surrounding and supporting muscles and tissue needs to be picking up the slack.

You typically see this in individuals with forward head position developing shoulder and neck pain as well as in those with flatter back postures. You can also sometimes see what is called a Dowagers hump develop on the upper back as a protective mechanism. What happens here is that the neck is in a forward position and as the muscles of the upper back try to hold on to the head extra stress to that area means that as a protective mechanism the body lays down more tissue to provide stability. Interestingly you can sometimes see this on the Achilles tendon where as a protective mechanism the body will lay down more tissue if the joint is under excessive stress. Sometimes this is seen as a bit of a lump next to the heel.

You can tend to see poor movement in a lot of things, knee alignment in particular can be affected by tight fascia down the outside of the thighs. This doesn’t mean just pain in the knee- it can also relate to lower back and hip issues. No amount of cueing or form adjustment will really help if structurally the tightness’s are caused by excessive tissue. In this case a more holistic approach of soft tissue work and strength exercise will be key.

In summary, what to do if you know posture is poor and painful even on occasion. Strength train in an organised fashion to correct any strength imbalances and restore tissue quality by deep tissue massage.

Deconstructing the Deadlift

I like deadlifting…. Mainly because I am good at it. This is a common thing for a lot of people who lift weights or perform any form of structured exercise. We tend to master the things we are better at, be it squatting, bench pressing, sprinting or marathon running. We develop excellence by specialization. First we decide that we want to achieve something (such as picking up and deadlifting your own body weight) achieving a target before repeating this task to replicate the successful behavior  Twinned with that we may not prioritize that exercise and forgo other more challenging exercises. People usually say that they do yoga or run, rather than stating that their exercise programme is a multi-layered fusion of a number of training styles that will unlock their physical potential.

I am interested in strength training. It helps you maintain lean muscle tissue and mobility if performed in the right way,  it enhances your metabolism and ultimately makes you look good. From a physical potential point of view it is also a facet of fitness that can translate to the development of other- flexibility training doesn’t make you stronger and cardiovascular training doesn’t enhance lean muscle mass whereas strength training can help the performance of both of these. This means for time poor people it is a great way of training and developing a well rounded physique in line with a bit of interval and aerobic work depending upon time restraints (another post).

Deadlifts are perhaps the king the free weight domain along with squats and the bench press. Indeed these classic exercises have survived for decades as many a gym can testify. While other forms of training have come and gone there is an old school approach that highlights picking up heavy stuff is generally good for you (if done properly) and if done constructively in the right way may turn you in to an elite strength athlete (possibly).

Deadlifts are what I am going to focus on today. After teaching the basics of any exercise you may consider adding some weight. This can often be the first issue as adding additional resistance changes the whole movement pattern of the exercise. With the deadlift you teach the movement by hinging at the hip, keeping the back straight and driving through the hips. See below….

Often though people don’t have the mobility to get in to that position, what you typically see is back flexion and forward bending. You may see lower back flexion- this is an inability to maintain a neutral lower back position and may be related to poor hip mobility and poor torso strength. You may also see upper back flexion in the thoracic area. This will be seen if people are weak in their thoracic/ back extensors. It is important to distinguish between the two as for individuals who move a large amount of weight may see a degree of thoracic flexion. Lumbar flexion needs to be avoided at all costs as it is potentially injurious. Individuals who deadlift in this manner should in the words of a great American rapper “check themselves before they wreck themself.”

But what to do if you lack hip mobility in this situation? Should you continue to deadlift? Well there are a number of options. Step one is to hammer hip mobility pre- session in your warm ups as well at every opportunity you can during the day- if that means telling your work colleagues you are now an athlete it is fine, though they may never understand. Step two is to ingrain the movement with lower threshold alternatives so that you can maintain a strong torso position while hinging at the hips. Kettlebell swings are a good alternative as are Rack Pulls.

Both of these should be undertaken while adding in to the mix a lot of hip dominant single leg exercises. Hip dominant single leg exercises are those where we can emphasise a strong torso while developing strength and mobility in the glutes and hamstrings. The humble step up is a good start point. Rear foot elevated split squats are perhaps a progression but are a great prelude to building up to deadlifting.

The next step is to deadlift from somewhere between rack pull height and full deadlift height. Typically this may be of boxes or a couple of plates. A lot of the time if someone has long legs, lifting from the floor provides too much stress on the lower back and form cannot be maintained. Indeed for a lot of our trainees at Results FAST it is smarter way to deadlift.

Full deadlifting as you see is a progression not a start point. While it is earmarked as a primary exercise it should only be done well in perfect form. If it isn’t then there are two things wrong. You are not mobile enough to achieve the correct form or the weight is too heavy causing you form to degrade. Mobility tends to shut down when you are not strong enough to maintain correct joint position- it usually means drop the weights a little as your back will thank you the next day.

Back to the Future… The Last 10 Years of the Fitness Industry

In this post I thought I would review the fitness industry’s evolution. Now from a historical standpoint I have been immersed in  fitness and nutrition for over a decade. With a background in both commercial fitness and small start ups and have a unique insight in to both ends of the market. As tradition dictates we tend to follow American trends in the UK- London first and the rest of the country a couple of years later.

Personal training was a lot smaller 10 years ago. In fact most gyms had one or two guys who pretty much had the run of the place. No competition ment a steady stream of clients. These are a lot of the guys who we see as industry leaders now. Make no mistake- these guys may not be the best technically, they got lucky and were on the boat first. The one’s still working are probably as smarter businessmen as they are trainers and they have had to adapt to a changing more educated customer as well as competition.

Around the year 2000 there was a big influence of rehab based training and the start of what is considered “functional” training. This led to a more cerebral product being sold to the consumer. Trainers no longer did bodybuilding programmes, they wanted to explore the inner workings of your torso, cardiovascular exercise became potentially fatal for your lower back and all of a sudden lying on your back became the new standing up as you try to activate your “inner unit.” This was a result of the synergy of physiotherapists becoming more involved in the training process post injury. Now, not to discredit the therapy fields, these approaches where designed for injured people by people who work with injured people. The kid glove approach would suit firstly those who needed it and secondly, those who didnt want to work that hard.

Pilates started to rise in popularity, this was great for the functional rehab guys. Clinical pilates remained true to it’s ideals- posture correction and the development of a strong mobile body. Pilates though started to morph in to what some will consider an expensive “abs” class. These group session promise all the ideals of pilates but cannot deliver the personalisation. As posture is a personal thing it leaves pilates as a contentious form of training between purists and commercial forces and a pack them high class mentality.

Also from a class perspective ten years ago salsa, yoga and step aerobics ruled the roost. In the present day Zumba get’s more press than anything else- these is effectively latin dance and is basically dance aerobics. Spinning, yoga, circuit training and combat based training such as boxercise are still popular- reason being that if done well they work for enhancing “conditioning.” It shows that if done well classes that get people the results that they want will be successful. It also shows that creating a social friendly and fun class builds adherence- regardless of the results (work out which one I am alluding to there- if you know me then you won’t need to guess).

The rise in Bootcamps is effectively the revival of circuit training. The reasons for this rise are also commercial- more for the trainer than anything else. With zero facility costs they are easy to setup and get going. Again these services can not be personalised for the individual and are a group exercise class. It will not make me popular in the fitness industry for saying this but this is fast food fitness to maximize profit for the trainer- most fitness “marketeers” even suggest rebranding these classes as “fitness camps.” A smart move perhaps… but if you put lipstick on a pig it’s still a pig. That said great trainers are great trainers and if the groups are small enough and inclusive for a range of fitness levels then they will continue to grow.

As personal training became more popular “functional” training became popular. Functional was a term used to represent training that translated to every day use. Vanity went out the window (perhaps for the first time) and training to help what you do every day became popular. I always think this is a bizarre concept it suggested that any other training was non-functional. Even to a point that cycling was non-functional unless you where a cyclist, running was non-functional, unless of course you where running a marathon and having big shoulders was non-functional… looked good but definetly non-functional.

This was aslo around the rise of sport specific training and the influence of training athletes. As a lot of training filters through from elite sport, if performance is hindered then people get sacked. Functional training in this sense now had to translate to direct improvements. Balancing, bosu boards and vibration plates grew in popularity, commercial health and fitness followed the craze. High end strength and conditioning though realised pretty quickly that this approach didn’t cut it. Old school methods individualized to the athlete worked, the smart guys assessed and took what they needed but barbells and dumbbells didn’t go away, commercial fitness though still has not caught up.

Athlete based training has started to shape commercial health and fitness. Why? It gets results simply, the customer is more demanding because they are more educated about methods of training and can demand perfection. Fitness professionals have become more widely read and in some cases better educated than they where 10 years ago- they two are not necessarily inclusive.

In the next post I will review where I think the next 10 years will take us…

Fat Loss Fundamentals

3124848496_334c931676I haven’t posted recently due to a busy easter period but the next article is a continuation of a series of posts on fat loss and removal. Fat loss is not just about doing lots of activity or going to weight watchers. It involves a number of complex processes that will result in a net burning of “fat.” It highlights why a bad diet doesn’t result in fat loss even if training regularly. It also highlights why fat reduction is reduced if activity is not prioritized.

Although I may be stating the completely obvious removing fat from fat cells so it can be used as energy is the emphasis of burning body fat.

The speed of this depends on the activity of hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) (which is partly regulated by the hormones insulin, testosterone, cortisol, estrogen, growth hormone and the catecholamine’s epinephrine and noradrenalin).

Primarily the catecholamine’s (transported in the blood) activate HSL in turn breaking down fat cells in to glycerol (a carbohydrate) and three fatty acids (the catecholamines include noradrenalin commonly referred to as adrenalin).

Glycerol can be used for energy as a carbohydrate; fatty acids can also be utilized for energy though interestingly they can also be restored by the body as part of a fat cell if not burnt as energy.

This process is called (re-esterification) which may happen if blood flow is sluggish.

The key regulator of HSL is a compound called cyclical adenosine monophosphate (cAMP).

When this is in abundance fat oxidation is increased.

In turn elevated insulin (which typically increases when carbohydrates are consumed) lowers cAMP slowing the rate of fat mobilization. cAMP is increased or decreased when the catecholamine’s bind to adrenoreceptors depending upon what receptors they bind to.

The two most important adrenoreceptors are beta 2 receptors (which will promote cAMP levels) and alpha 2 receptors (which will decrease cAMP levels).

As you can see catecholamine’s can promote and inhibit fat mobilization, though this is dependent on the other relevant relative hormone activity and the proportion and distribution of both types of adrenoreceptors in the body as to if there will be a net increase in fat mobilization.

As you can see at a cellular level there are a number of factors that increase or limit fat burning- focussing upon one part of this process does not necessarily mean long term fat burning- in fact it could mean the opposite.

With increased blood flow from increased activity the free fatty acids will bind with a substance in the blood called albumin and are transported around the body.

When energy is demanded by tissue such as muscles or the liver the free fatty acids can be burnt as energy after being transported in to the mitochondria (where energy is produced) helped by an enzyme called carnitine palmityl transferase (CPT).

CPT activity is moderated by your aerobic capacity and muscle glycogen levels- this indicates that that improved aerobic fitness is an advantage when looking to burn fat as well as glycogen depletion (minimizing the amount of stored carbohydrate in the body).

So what are the takehome points from this (obviously it may need a rereed- but if you can not be bothered then this is a shorter format).

Activity stimulates fat breakdown, energy demands will dictate how and where this fat is burnt, when dietary carbohydrates are low then fat burning is prioritzed). Exercise intensity needs to vary to alter the hormonal stimulus relating to fat burning though your fitness levels will dictate your fat burning “potential.” Simple!