The Key to Success

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Lets be honest, most people know what they need to do if they want to lose a little weight for the summer. Whilst they might need a trainer to show them the most effective way to get the best results in the long term, most people can and will lose weight if they eat a little bit more sensibly and train a little harder and more often.

However, there are a considerably large number of gym members who do train often and claim to eat sensibly who, month after month, just don’t seem to see any changes with their body composition.

Over the last decade i’ve trained a lot of people with a wide variety of goals, and have noticed that the thing which separates those who achieve great results from good results is the difference in their mindset. So for todays post, i thought i’d share a few key differences between the two which hopefully you’ll be able to apply to your own training and nutrition to help you achieve your goals.

BEHAVIOUR GOALS VS OUTCOME GOALS

Its hardly ground breaking news that in order to achieve your goals, you need to set some. However, its important that you set the right type of goal.

Generally speaking, you can divide goals into two different categories, outcome based goals and behaviour based goals. I’ve touched on this in a previous post here, so won’t delve too deep into it except to explain the main differences between the two.

An outcome goal is a goal based on the main outcome or objective that you want to achieve. For example,
- to lose 6kg
- to drop a dress size
- to build muscle
- to get a six pack

Whereas behaviour based goals are goals based on the behaviours needed to achieve the outcome goal. For example,
- go to the gym 4 times a week
- eat protein with every meal
- avoid caution carbs on non workout days
- drink more water etc.

The most significant difference between the two is that only one of these types of goals is within your direct control. Its important to accept that you have no control over how much weight you will lose, however you DO have DIRECT CONTROL over the actions you take to help you achieve your goal ie what you eat, how often you train and what you do in the gym.

If you are serious about improving your body composition, i’d highly suggest sitting down with an experienced trainer and ask them to suggest some behaviour based goals which will help you achieve your long term outcome goal.

PROACTIVE VS REACTIVE

One of the major key differences in the mindset of people who are successful in the gym is that they are proactive, not reactive.

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In fact being proactive is actually the first of seven habits that Steve Covey highlights in his book ‘the 7 habits of highly effective people’.

Ever since i read this book, I’ve always liked his definition of proactivity. According to the book

“It means more than merely taking initiative. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen.”

Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control ie what they eat, what they do in the gym.

RESPONSE-ABILTY

Take a look at the word “responsibility”, it can also be viewed as “response-ability” as in you have the ability to choose your response.

Successful people recognise that although they can’t always control what happens, but they CAN control how they react. If you’re looking to get into better shape for this summer, instead of focusing on being overweight or unhappy with your current body composition, focus on what you can do to improve it, ie what you eat, how you train.

To quote Stephen Covey again….

“Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values, rather than a product of their conditions, based on feeling”

SUMMARY

If you take anything away from this post I hope its that although you can’t control everything, you are always in control of what you eat and how you train.

The first thing you need to do is be proactive. Being proactive is all about taking action and you can take action by sitting down with an experienced trainer and setting behaviour based goals.

Finally you need to take responsibility for those goals, life is unpredictable and things may happen that make it difficult for you to get to the gym or stick to your nutrition plan, but the difference between those who are successful and those who are not, is how they react to these obstacles.

Happy New Year 2014

Blimey, how time flies, I can’t believe how fast the last 12 months have gone. But let me begin this post by wishing you all a happy new year and letting you all know that we’re more committed than ever to helping each and everyone of you with your body composition goals.

After a busy few weeks filled with Christmas parties, after work drinks, and meeting up with old friends and relatives for more food and drink, things have begun to settle down again. Now that you’re back working normal hours, there are no more excuses to avoid the gym.

I’ve already noticed a few new faces in my gym as well a few faces that I haven’t seen in a long time, and with a host of new members joining in addition to current members finding renewed motivation after a few weeks of indulgence, January is always one of the busiest months of the year.

A couple of years ago, In January 2012, I put a post up explaining how although an ‘all or nothing’ approach works well for short term goals, a habit forming approach where you begin making small changes over a longer period of time is more likely to lead to long term success.

Although, this happened to be one of my most popular posts on this site, this year I thought I’d change things up a little and instead provide you with a plan designed to see a drastic change in a relatively short period of time and then provide you with another plan to help you continue making progress throughout the rest of the year. so watch this space.

90 Day Transformation Challenge FAQs

Following on from yesterdays post, we’ve had a lot of interest in the basic package, so to clear up some questions that we’ve been getting we put together this post to address some already frequently asked questions

How much does the basic package cost?

To enter this competition and to be eligable for the big prizes, you need to go for our basic package which costs £50

Do I have to pay?

No, there is no obligation to pay for the basic package.If you would just like to challenge yourself to getting in the best possible shape in 90 days we have a FREE option for anyone who would like to challenge themselves to get in the best possible shape in 90 days on their own without the guidance of one of our coaches. However, you will not be eligible for the prizes at the end of the challenge.

With this option you will receive a body composition assessment guide and a free 90 day body transformation exercise program online in addition to weekly emails telling you what you should and shouldn’t be eating to get the most from your training over the next 90 days.

To sign up for this option and receive everything that we’ve promised above, just go to this page and register your details on the form.

What is the £50 fee for, and what do I get for it?

You can think of this £50 as you entry fee for the competition. However, for your investment will also get the following

  • a full body composition assessment in week 1 with one of our approved fat loss coaches who will also take your before pics
  • a tailored exercise program based on what our coach learns about your from your assessment in order to help maximise the amount of fat lost in 90 days
  • a 90 Day nutrition program to follow
  • another full body composition assessment at the end of weeks 4 and 8 where our coaches will check up on your progress and make the necessary changes to your exercise and nutrition plan

If you decide that you would like to go for this option, please send us a direct message through our facebook page and one of our coaches will get back to you within 24 hours.

What if I’d like more help from your coaches?

For those of you looking for extra help, we also have our ‘BEACH BODY TRANSFORMATION PACKAGE’ for those of you who like to do upto two semi-private training sessions with one of our trainers, and a ‘HOLLYWOOD TRANSFORMATION PACKAGE’ for those of you who would like to do some one on one training with one of our coaches. Both packages are very popular among gym members looking to get transform their bodies in as little time as possible.

Once again, if you decide that you would like to go for one of these options, please send us a direct message through our facebook page and one of our coaches will get back to you within 24 hours. Our coaches will be offering big DISCOUNTS on both of packages for people who sign up before the end of April.

Are you up for a challenge?

Generally, around this time of the year I find that a lot of my friends and family start showing a little more interest in what i do, and this year hasn’t been any different.

Now that the bank holiday weekend has come and gone, and especially because we’ve all had a little taste of some sunshine, getting in shape for the summer seems to be on everyones mind.

So to make things interesting we’ve decided to run a little transformation challenge and give away some big prizes to the best transformations!

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What you do next depends on which of the following options you choose…

OPTION 1

The basic package costs £50, and for your investment will get a full body composition assessment at the begining and end of the 90 days, as well as at the end of weeks 4 and 8 with one of our approved fat loss coaches.

In addition to this you will also be given a tailored exercise program based on what our coach learns about your from your assessment in order to help maximise the amount of fat lost in 90 days.

If you decide that you would like to go for this option, please send us a direct message through our facebook page and one of our coaches will get back to you within 24 hours.

OPTION 2

This is a FREE PACKAGE and is available for anyone who wants to challenge themselves and get in the best possible shape in 90 days on their own without the guidance of one of our coaches.

You will receive a body composition assessment guide and a free 90 day body transformation exercise program online in addition to weekly emails telling you what you should and shouldn’t be eating to get the most from your training over the next 90 days. However, you will not be eligible for the prizes at the end of the challenge.

If this is the option you would like to go for please complete the following steps

STEP 1
Please ‘like’ our facebook page

STEP 2
Click here to sign up to the competition. When you do this you will receive an email with a body composition assessment guide, your free 90 day body transformation exercise program in addition to weekly emails telling you what you should and shouldn’t be eating to get the most from your training over the next 90 days.

STEP 3
Please join our facebook group as we will be posting lots of information regarding the challenge on this page.

DO CALORIES MATTER?

One thing we really like to do on our mission to help people improve their bodies, is to expose fat loss myths. One of the biggest and most commonly believed myths out there is the myth of the low calorie diet!

Although there are many, the biggest criticism I have of the low calorie diet is that it’s still based on the concept of energy balance, ie energy in vs energy out.

Admittedly, there was a time where I subscribed to this concept, but the more I learn, the more holes I see in this argument. So I though I’d share some of my thoughts on why calories aren’t as important as I once believed…

A CALORIE IS NOT ALWAYS TREATED THE SAME IN THE BODY

The first thing that you need to consider is the thermic effect of food (TEF). Basically,  energy is needed to digest, absorb and metabolise our food, and TEF is the term for the amount of energy needed to do so. However, it is known that the TEF differs according to the nutrients consumed. For example, more energy is required to digest proteins compared to fats and carbohydrates.

In addition to differing amongst nutrients, the TEF also differs at different times of the day, some studies have shown that TEF is higher in the morning than in the evening.

In addition to this, studies have shown that the bacteria in your gut responds differently between processed and cooked food, and according to how your food has been cooked, both of which have an effect on the energy required to digest this food.

So if we take into account the thermic effect of food and the energetics of digestion, we can see that a calorie doesn’t always have the same effect on the body. As a stated in a recent post, there is a difference between weight loss and fat loss, which is why i quite like Will Brinks unified theory of nutrition which states

“Total calories dictates how much weight a person gains or loses; macro nutrient ratios dictates what a person gains or loses” Will Brink

ENERGY FLUX

This was a theory I first come across in an article written by John Berardi, someone who’s work has had a major influence on my approach to nutrition. Energy flux, or ‘G-Flux’ as its sometimes referred to, is the relationship between energy intake and energy expenditure, ie your energy turn over.

We’ve all been told that a
- negative energy turn over or a calorie deficit (Ie if you burn more calories than you consume) will result in weight loss, and that
- a positive energy turn over or a calorie surplus (Ie if you consume more calories than you burn) will result in weight gain
- a balanced energy turnover won’t cause weight loss or weight gain

The theory of G-Flux states that someone who consumes 4000 calories and burns 4000 calories, will have a leaner healthier body than someone who consumes 2000 calories and burns 2000 calories, despite the fact that the energy turnover is the same because a higher G- Flux results in an increase in metabolic rate, decrease in fat and increase in lean muscle tissue.

HORMONES

There are several other factors involved in weight regulation, hormones in particular can have a very significant effect on body composition. I’ve written about this previously here.

SUMMARY

The concept of energy balance is an outdated one, and statements such as a ‘calorie is a calorie’ simply aren’t true! Depending on the source, a calorie can have a number of different effects on hunger, appetite, hormones, metabolism, and a large number of other variables which can have a significant impact on health and body composition.

There may be some value in counting calories, even if it just makes you a little more aware of what you are eating. But although reducing calorie intake can result in weight loss, I believe that fat loss is a far more complicated process involving a larger number of variables.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise that a diet consisting of grass fed meat and organic vegetables is going to have more nutritional value than a diet made up of Big macs, mars bars and coca cola. I’m sure that if you had two individuals and place one on each diet, but made sure that they consumed the exact same amount of calories, both their health and body composition would differ drastically.

And there are several studies that support the fact that diets which contain different macronutrient ratios have different effects on body composition (lean body mass and body fat), even when matched for calorie intake.

In the long term low calorie diets can harm your health and be detrimental to your fat loss efforts, which is why our approach to fat loss is not based on calorie restrictive diets. Our priority is to build health and increase your metabolic rate through nutrition and exercise. We’ve found that by doing so fat loss always follows.

Instead of eating less, we focus on teaching you to eat better. Eating less just causes your metabolism to slow down, whereas eating better helps increase your metabolic rate, decrease fat and increase lean muscle mass. Keep an eye on our facebook page, where we will be sharing the secrets behind real fat loss, including HOW to eat better.

Do you want to lose WEIGHT or FAT?

One of the first things I like to make clear to a new client with body composition related goals is that their weight doesn’t matter. I know that this may sound a little counter intuitive but weight loss does not necessarily always mean fat loss, because scales do not differentiate between muscle and fat.

It may sound simple, but scales can only tell you how much you weigh. But make no mistake, it is very possible for people of variety of different shames and sizes, with varying amounts of muscle and fat to weigh the same despite looking very different.

There are several ways in which you can lose weight, you could cut your hair, relieve you bowls or dehydrate yourself, you could even cut off a limb. All of which would definitely make you WEIGH LESS on the scales despite NOT LOSING ANY FAT.


A less extreme example, although more common, of losing weight without losing fat is when weight loss comes primarily from losing lean muscle tissue. This only occurs when people aim to lose fat the WRONG WAY, by doing the wrong type of exercise or by drastically restricting calorie intake.

Generally when this happens, the body tends to metabolise muscle tissue for energy, meaning that although you may way less on the scales, you still have the same amount of fat that you did before but you now have a larger BF%. Not good!! You may even look thinner, but being skinny does not necessarily mean having a low body fat percentage.

What makes this scenario even worse is that with less muscle, your metabolism slows down, meaning that your body now burns less calories at rest, making it easier to gain fat.

On the flip side, it’s even possible WEIGH MORE DESPITE LOSING FAT, by adding muscle.

But this is not a bad thing, muscle is one of the most metabolically active tissues in the body, in other words, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns at rest, which is why its important to lose fat the RIGHT WAY.

In addition to this, muscle is denser than fat, meaning that it takes up less space. So you could hypothetically lose 4kg of fat, and gain 4kg of muscle, and although your weight will not change, you will be physically smaller, have better muscle definition, a lower body fat percentage, more muscle and therefore burn more calories at rest, and most likely drop a dress size or two.

That’s why its important to lose fat the RIGHT WAY, which means that  you need to incorporate some form of strength training into your program in order to preserve muscle and emphasis FAT LOSS.

So how do you know whether you losing fat or weight?

As the saying goes ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’, and the fact that you’ve taken the time to read this post indicates that you want to manage your body fat levels. Unfortunately the two most common methods of measurement (BMI and weight) used today tell us nothing about your health or body composition (ie how much muscle and fat your body contains).

For this reason, with our clients we always do a full body composition assessment, where we use girth and skinfold measurements to workout exactly how much muscle and fat you have on your body. We then use the information from this assessment to create realistic targets based on your body fat percentage (BF%), not weight!!

Sometime in the near future I’ll put a post up showing you how you can do the same. In the meantime, I hope you’ve taken something useful away from this post!

Fat Loss and Hormones – Cortisol and Growth Hormone

So far we have looked at how both estrogen and insulin can have a negative impact on body composition and how we can counteract these with exercise and nutrition. For this instalment i’d like to discuss another hormone which we’ve previously touched upon, Cortisol.

Cortisol is a stress hormone secreted by your adrenal glands in response to stress. This is a normal process and completely necessary from a revolutionary perspective. However, because the body can’t differentiate between physical and mental stress, the stresses of modern living especially in a city like London can lead to cortisol levels being elevated too high or for too long.

These chronically elevated cortisol levels can have negative consequences on your body composition for a number of reasons including but not limited to the following…

First of all, elevated cortisol levels cause fat to be stored in your abdominal area. Have you ever seen somebody who has a very low level of general body fat, but with a disproportionally big belly? According to Charles Poliquins ‘Biosignature Modulation’ principles, a high skinfold reading in your abdominal site, in proportion to the other sites, may reflect higher levels of cortisol.

Men are apparently more susceptible to the effects of this hormone than women, which is why men generally store more fat around their belly than women. Studies have also shown that men who have more fat around their belly have high levels of cortisol and decreased insulin sensitivity compared to those with less fat around their belly. And to make matters worse,  higher levels of abdominal fat results in more cortisol being created in response to stress.

Another negatiove effect of cortisol is that it inhibits growth hormone, a very important hormone for both fat burning and muscle preservation. just taking this into account, there is no doubt that learning how to manage chronically elevated levels of cortisol can be the difference between a good body and a great body.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO?

As with the other hormones in the previous posts in this mini series the problem isn’t with cortisol itself, only when cortisol levels are elevated too high or for too for too long. Taking this into account, the strategies I use with my clients to help combat belly fat is to reduce stress and increase growth hormone levels through targeted exercise and nutrition.

But before i continue i you need to be aware that there is another factor which is just as, if not more important than exercise and nutrition when it comes to reducing stress, and that my friends is SLEEP. Far too many people that I know work so hard in the gym only to get limited results because they aren’t getting enough sleep. Sleep is one the most, if not the most overlooked aspect of training, despite the significant impact that sleep has on both body composition and hormone regulation.

Simply put, sleep is  where all of your hard work in the gym and your dedication outside of the gym gets converted into a better body. Whereas, sleep deprivation can have a disastrous effect on your body composition and your health in general for a number of reasons.

  • First of all, sleep deprivation lower testosterone and growth hormone, which as you should know by know are two of the most important hormones in the war against fat. low levels of these hormones have been linked with higher levels of body fat.
  • Sleep deprivation also increases both cortisol and insulin levels to rise, leading to insulin resistance and fat storage around your midsection.
  • Sleep deprivations increases cortisol levels, which not only increase your appetite but also leads to cravings of sugar. Studies have shown that people who are sleep deprived are more likely to make poor food choices which can impede fat loss.

For these reasons, as well as many others, improving sleeping patterns should be a very high priority with people with high levels of stress.

John Berardi, or precision nutrition, recently wrote a fantastic post on the importance of sleep and what you need to do to get some  quality sleep, you can see it here.

NUTRITION

For those of you with high levels lower abdominal fat, the key is to reduce cortisol levels by restricting the consumption of stimulants and simple sugars.

RESTRICT STIMULANTS

Stimulants such as Caffeine can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system leading to a rise in cortisol levels. Simply eliminating caffeine from your diet can have a positive effect on your body composition. However, I find that people get very protective over their coffee so my approach may be to reduce the amount of coffee that they drink rather than completely eliminate it

AVOID SIMPLE SUGARS

Next on my list is to restrict (or even try to eliminate) the consumption of simple sugars. In the previous post in this series I wrote a little how not all carbs are the same.

Here’s a quick reminder

‘All carbohydrates (grains, fruit and vegetables) are converted to sugar within the body. The Glycemic Index (GI) categorises carbs according to how fast they enter the blood stream in the form of sugar. The higher the GI number, the quicker the carb breaks down and enters the blood stream as sugar’

As mentioned previously, high levels of cortisol can have a negative impact on insulin sentivity, so for this reason I’d suggesting avoiding high GI carbs at all times, other than with your post workout meal. Which brings me to my next point…

HAVE CARBS POST WORKOUT

Charles Poliquin recommends that men with more than 10% body fat and women with more than 16% body fat should avoid carbs even post workout. However, this is one of many areas where I disagree with Poliquin. I personally think that’s a little extreme and difficult to implement with the general gym population, so I tend to allow my clients to have carbohydrates on days that they train so long as they are consumed within their post workout meal and limited to a maximum of 30-50g depending on which phase of training they are in.

EAT FOOD THAT ARE HIGH IN MAGNESIUM

Magnesium is a mineral that can have a significant effect on body composition in general, because it has the potential to influence protein synthesis, testosterone production, and insulin sensitivity to name a few. Magnesium also plays a vital role in the detoxification of cortisol which is why i recommend foods high in magnesium for my clients with higher stress levels.

Good sources of magnesium include but aren’t limited to the following
- spinach
- kale
- brazil nuts
- mackerel
- dark chocolate

EXERCISE

It is perfectly normal for cortisol levels to be elevated after a training session, after all the whole point of training is to apply stress to the body so that it adapts and is better able to cope with the demands of that stress. However, when cortisol levels remain elevated for too long after exercise it can have a catabolic effect, which can lead to the breaking down of muscle for energy.

Muscle is one of the most metabolically active tissues in the body, meaning the more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn at rest) will me, making it harder to put on fat, and easier to lose fat. For this reason, muscle preservation is always one of my highest priorities when working with someone with fat loss goals.

AVOID LONG CARDIO SESSIONS
Long cardio sessions

FEEL THE BURN

As mentioned earlier in this post, cortisol is that it inhibits growth hormone, a very important hormone for both fat burning and muscle preservation. However, the opposite is also true, higher levels of growth hormone can inhibit the release of growth hormone. So one of my highest priorites with people who have high levels of belly fat is to use an exercise protocol that stimulates the production of growth hormone.

One of the ways i do this is using multiple sets of high repititions with short rest periods in order to cause a build up of lactate. The build up of blood lactate causes the pH level of the blood to drop, which in turn stimulates the production of growth hormone

Fat Loss and Hormones – Insulin and IGF-1

Welcome to the second installment of my 5 part ‘Fat loss and hormones’ series. In the first part I wrote a little about the negative effects that estrogens can have on body composition and how these can be counteracted through making the right exercise and nutrition choices. For the purpose of this post, I thought I’d focus on Insulin, another powerful hormone which can have a major effect on your body composition and health in general.

Insulin is an anabolic hormone which is secreted by the pancreas in response to elevated blood sugar levels. For example, when you eat, your food is broken down into sugar and absorbed into your bloodstream, causing your pancreas to secrete insulin in order to remove the sugar (as well as amino acids and fat) from the blood into other cells of the body.

There is nothing wrong with this process, however, problems occur when a poor diet causes insulin levels to be elevated for too long and your body becomes less sensitive to insulin (ie insulin resistance).

As well as having a detrimental effect on your overall health, high levels of insulin and glucose in the blood are highly correlated with fat stored on your love handles. In fact, according to Charles Poliquins ‘biosignature Modulation’ principles, love handles are a direct reflection of excessive carbohydrates in your diet, dictated by your ability to manage insulin.

So if you’ve lost a lot of weight or are fairly lean, but still are storing disproportional amount of fat on your love handles, when compared to other parts of your body, managing your insulin levels may be the way to lose that stubborn bit of fat

What is Insulin Sensitivity?

Before I countinue, I think it’s important to realise that we shouldn’t see insulin sensitivity and resistance as two independent states. I like to think of it as more of a continuum, with ‘sensitivity’ and ‘resistance’ being the two parameters at each end of the continuum (ie rather than being sensitive or resistant, we need to define your current state of insulin resistance/sensitivity).

The picture on the right is the best I can find to illustrate my point, and although the aim of this post isn’t to discuss diabetes or any other disease for that matter, I think it’s important to clarify the relationship between the two.

My main point, which comes from a recent discussion with a friend, is that you are not one or the other, and that there are a number of variables which influence how sensitive you are to insulin as well as how much insulin is produced, two of the most important being exercise and nutrition. As I’ve mentioned previously although we can’t control outcomes, we can control the behaviours that influence these outcomes. Your current state of insulin sensitivity is an OUTCOME, however, what you eat and how you train are BEHAVIOURS which can have a massive impact not only on insulin sensitivity but also on body composition.

What do you need to do?

As with estrogen in the previous post, the problem isn’t with insulin itself, only when insulin levels are elevated for too long, or if you are more insulin resistant than sensitive. Taking this into account, the strategies I use with my clients to help combat fat distribution patterns relating to insulin is to reduce levels of insulin and glucose in the blood increase insulin sensitivity, both of which can be influenced through exercise and nutrition.

NUTRITION

As I just mentioned the first thing we need to do is to REDUCE LEVELS OF INSULIN PRODUCED. And, although it may sound obvious, the key to managing insulin is to manage your blood sugar levels, by looking at the ‘types’ of carbohydrates that you are currently consuming in your diet.

Ever since the Atkins diet became popular carbs have become evil , and high protein/high fat/low carb diets have become the new ‘in thing’ for burning fat, and whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (for some people) it’s important to recognise the fact that every person on this planet is completely different from a metabolic and physiological perspective, meaning that the ideal proportion of protein/carb/fats will vary from person to person, and anyone who tells you that you should stick to 40:30:30 or any other ratio for that matter is talking out of their bum hole!

And although learning how to determine your own personal macronutrient ratio is beyond the scope of this post, (something I am planning to post about in the near future) for now the important thing to take away is that some people are able to tolerate carbs better than others, in fact some people actually thrive on carbs. But please bear in mind, even if you are genetically able to handle carbs very well, you still may store fat around your love handles if you consume an excessive amount of carbs in your diet.

AVOID HIGH GI CARBS

Regardless of how well your body is able to handle carbs, it’s important to know that not all carbs are the same. All carbohydrates (grains, fruit and vegetables) are converted to sugar within the body. The Glycemic Index (GI) catagorises carbs according to how fast they enter the blood stream in the form of sugar. The higher the GI number, the quicker the carb breaks down and enters the blood stream as sugar.

If you are insulin resistant and/or you tend to store a lot fat on your love handles you need to become more aware of the glycemic index of carbs and avoid high GI carbs. Put simply, consuming high GI carbs causes a quick rise in blood sugar, which then causes your body to produce more insulin, which in turn leads to your body storing more fat in your love handles.

One way to do this is to eliminate grains completely from your diet and focus on getting your carbohydrates from vegetables and low GI fruits. Another way, especially if you prefer the higher GI foods is to mix high GI foods with Lower GI foods (proteins and fats) to offset the impact of the high GI food, resulting in a lower GI meal.

(please note – its important to remember that there is massive amount of individual variability in the GI of any given food depending on the method of cooking, what they are mixed with as well as many other factors.)

NUTRIENT TIMING

The next method of CONTROLLING BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS is to look at nutrient timing. Even so called healthy foods can have a detrimental on your body composition if you eat them at the wrong times of the day.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. There is nothing wrong with carbs, the problem is when you consume the wrong amount of the wrong type at the wrong time! In fact, I believe that there is a time when you want higher GI carbs, and this during the post workout period.

Although Charles Poliquin, has said that men with a body fat percentage of over 10% and females with a body fat percentage of over 15% shouldn’t have carbs in their post workout shake, I strongly disagree for the following reasons:

  • Studies have shown that insulin sensitivity is at its highest at the end of your workout, meaning that your body can tolerate carbs better than at any other time of the day, meaning that there less likely to be stored as fat
  • As I mentioned previously, insulin is an anabolic hormone, and surely after any tough resistance based session, is when we want the body to shift from being catabolic into an anabolic state, in order to prevent muscle breakdown and promote recovery.
  • Finally, taking carbs with protein after a workout can reduce the catabolic effects of the cortisol (another important hormone which I will touch upon in this series) produced during the workout.

 

EXERCISE

Before I start, let me clarify that although exercise such as those in the picture below will work the muscles under your love handles, doing exercises which target those muscles in that area WILL NOT burn anymore fat from that area than from anywhere else in your body

I’m not saying that you can’t include these exercises in your program, but please don’t fool yourself into thinking that they will target you love handles, regardless of how much they ‘burn’.

A better strategy is to exercise in a way which increases insulin sensitivity and burns off the excess calories that you’ve consumed, and this means high intensity exercise based around Strength training

STRENGTH TRAINING

There is no shortage on studies showing that resistance training can improve insulin sensitivity, but did you know that heavier sets (compared to moderate sets) have been shown to work better for increasing insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake , meaning if you are insulin resistant or store fat around your love handles you should to incorporate STRENGTH TRAINING into your current training program

Some studies have also found shown

  • a link between volume and insulin sensitivity, suggesting that multiple sets are better for increasing insulin sensitivity.
  • that compound exercises are better than isolation exercises for improving sensitivity
  • that combination exercises increase Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1), an anabolic hormone which can also improve insulin sensitivity

For all of the above reasons, I like to do ‘Strength Circuits’ with my clients who show fat distribution patterns which suggest high levels of insulin and glocuse in the blood and/or signs of insulin resistance.

Here is an example of a strength circuit that you could use:

Perform the desired number of reps for each exercise, back to back in a circuit manner with as little rest as possible in between each exercise. Once you have completed the final exercise take a full minute off in order to recover, during this time drink some water in order to stay hydrated.

  • A1 – Deadlift
  • A2 – Front Squat to DB Press
  • A3 – Chin Up
  • A4 – Incline DB Press
  • A5 – Barbell Row

Repeat four more times, completing 5 rounds in total.

HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT)

Numerous studies have also shown that HIIT improves insulin sensitivity, for this reason I also include some form of high intensioty interval training with my client with these fat distribution patterns.

Interval training requires you to alternate between periods of ‘work’ and ‘rest’. For example, using a 1:1.5 work to rest ratio, you could cycle as hard and as fast as you could for 30 seconds, then slow the pace down and work at a lower intensity for 45 seconds. You could repeat this 11 more times, completing 12 intervals within 21 minutes.

I tend to start people who have less experience with HIIT with a work to rest ratio of 1:2 and progress them until they are working for longer than they are recovering. There are countless ways which this can be done, but here is a simple 6 week progression you can try your self:

  • Week 1 – 30:60
  • Week 2 – 30:45
  • Week 3 – 30:30
  • Week 4 – 45:45
  • Week 5 – 45:30
  • Week 6 – 60:30

The number of intervals will depend on how I incorporate HIIT into their program, which depends on how often they are able to get into the gym.

For my clients who train 3 times a week

  • MON – 30 min Strength Circuit + 15-20 mins HIIT
  • TUE – Rest
  • WED – 30 min Strength Circuit + 15-20 mins HIIT
  • THU- Rest
  • FRI – 30 min Strength Circuit + 15-20 mins HIIT
  • SAT – Rest
  • SUN – Rest

For my clients who train 4 times a week

  • MON – 45 min Strength Circuit
  • TUE – 30 mins HIIT
  • WED – Rest
  • THU – 45 min Strength Circuit
  • FRI – 30 mins HIIT
  • SAT – Rest
  • SUN – Rest

For my clients who train 5 times a week

  • MON – 45 min Strength Circuit
  • TUE – 30 mins HIIT
  • WED – 45 min Strength Circuit
  • THU – 30 mins HIIT
  • FRI – 45 min Strength Circuit
  • SAT – Rest
  • SUN – Rest

To sum up, for those of you who seem store fat predominantly around your hips your priority should be to reduce insulin levels, increase insulin sensitivity and. All of which can be done by making the right exercise and nutrition choices, and hopefully this post will have provided you with a good starting point.

 

Fat Loss and Hormones – Estrogen and Testosterone

The subject of hormonal balance is very complex, and for that reason I will aim to keep these posts as simple as possible. The first of the three major hormones which can have a negative effect on body composition is estogen. There are three types of estrogens, estrodiol, estriol and estrone, all of which all have important functions within the body. However, throughout the rest of this post when I mention estrogens I will mainly be referring to estrodiol, an estrogen created by the conversion of testosterone, through a process called aromatisation.

For the sake of this post, please note that I’m never talking about the amount of estrogen present in the body in absolute terms, it’s not as simple as saying that you produce too much estrogen. How much estrogen you have is irrelevant. I am more concerned with how much estrogen is present RELATIVE to testosterone, as the balance between these two hormones can have a major impact not only on general body composition but also on FAT DISTRIBUTION.

How do you know if your too Estrogenic?

Renowned strength coach, Charles poliquin has created a whole system dedicated to correcting hormonal imbalances such as these called ‘Biosignature Modulation’ where skinfold measurements are taken from 12 different sites and compared to the triceps reading in order to identify which sites have excessive levels of fat relative to the other 11 sites, and this is used to predict the hormonal issues such as this.  However, I don’t think that a pair of callipers are always necessary to identify this specific hormonal imbalance

It’s no secret that females typically tend to store more fat in their lower body, in their hips, bum and thighs and this is because of estrogen. Men with low levels of testosterone and high levels of estrogen also tend to have female fat distribution patterns and tend to store fat in these same places.

Another way of monitoring this hormone is to look at your triceps. Put simply, the leaner your triceps are, the higher your testosterone levels are, which explains why bingo wing are more common among women than men.

Another thing for all the men out there who have had problems with ‘moobs’ in the past, how much fat you store your pecs (relative to the rest of your body) is another indication of how much of your testosterone is being aromatised into oestrogen.  In this situation, as with the bingo wings issue, are skinfold readings really needed to identify this specific hormonal imbalance?… I don’t think so.

What do you need to do if you are too Estrogenic?

As I mentioned previously, the problem isn’t with estrogen itself but with balance between estrogen and testosterone. Taking this into account there are three strategies which can help combat estrogenic fat distribution patterns; reducing estrogen, increasing testosterone and blocking the conversion of testosterone into estrogen

First of all we need to REDUCE ESTROGEN levels

In addition to reducing excess estrogens within the body, those of you with excessive estrogen levels should also limit your exposure to xenoestrogens. xenoestrogens are manmade chemical estrogens in the environment which can mimic the effects of natural estrogens. In order to minimise your exposure to xenoestrogens you should

  • Eat organic produce, as organic vegetables are grown without the use of pesticide which can contain chemical estrogens. If you can’t find organic veg, then make sure you wash your veg thoroughly
  • Avoid microwaving food in plastic containers and wraps because the plastics contain a chemical called Bisphenol-A (BPA), an chemical estrogen that has been shown to lower testosterone levels, which can be transferred to your food under high temperatures
  • avoid phthalates, another form of chemical estrogens found in plastics and personal hair products such as shampoo

Next, we need to INCREASE TESTOSTERONE levels.

Before I tell you how to increase your testosterone levels, let me reassure all the women out there that increasing testosterone through natural means (ie exercise and nutrition) will not turn you into he-man.

Estrogenic fat patterning aside, Testosterone is one of the most important hormones when it comes to building muscle and burning fat, the two things you need to do if you want to a strong, lean and healthy body. Another benefit of raising testosterone levels is that it also promotes the secretion of growth hormone, another powerful hormone which will help burn fat and look better on the beach this summer.

The first thing you wanna do to increase testosterone levels before you even think about lifting a weight is to ensure that your are getting a good nights sleep. Several studies have shown that sleep deprivation can have a negative effect on testosterone and growth hormone levels. whats the use of working hard in the gym and sticking to your nutritional program if you’re gonna throw it all away by not getting enough sleep.

Finally, we need to BLOCK THE AROMATISATION OF TESTOSTERONE INTO ESTROGEN.

Now that you know WHAT you need to do, I thought i’d show you HOW you can make subtle changes to your exercise and nutrition program to  ensure that your hard efforts both in and out of the gym are not going to waste. Here are a few tips to get you started…

NUTRITION

Put bluntly, you cannot expect to change your body composition for the better without addressing your nutrition and anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t know what they are talking about or even worse, is lying to you.
A diet which is generally high in protein and omega-3 fats, whilst low in carbohydrates (think ‘Paleo’) will help detoxify excess estrogens and manage insulin levels, but here are some specific changes that you can make to your current nutrition program that can have favourable effect on your body composition.

  • Eat more cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflour, spinach, and cabbage help to modulate and detoxify estrogen. As mentioned earlier, always opt for organic veg, if possible. In addition to being more nutrient dense, organic produce is grown without the use of persticides, which can be estrogenic.
  • Eat food that are high in Zinc, not only can zinc increase testosterone levels, but it is also a potent anti-aromatase, thus helping block the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. Foods that are high in zinc include red meat, seafood and peanuts.
  • Eat foods that are high in Phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant based compounds which can bind to estrogen receptors with a very minimal estrogenic effect, thus blocking the recpetors from binding with more potent estrogens which would be more detrimental to your body composition. Foods which contain Phytoestrogens include, flax, sesame seeds greens, beans, garlic and olive oil
  • Avoid alcohol. It doesn’t take a genius to know that alcohol can do more harm than good for body composition, but its definitely worth noting that alcohol, especially beer and lager, is massively estrogenic and can lead to female body fat distribution patterning in men

EXERCISE

First of all, although ‘spinning’ can be an effective interval workout for fat burning, if you are prone to estrogenic fat patterning you should avoid spin classes, as regular ‘spinning’ can increase the amount of fat stored in the hip and thighs in order to provide a more readily available source of energy for the muscles.

The cornerstone of your fat loss program should be INTENSE WEIGHT TRAINING. As I say to all my female clients, there is no need to worry about bulking up. You cannot build muscle by accident and no fat burning program that uses weight training will require you to work with the volume or intensity needed to build muscle.

Weight training sessions should focus on high reps and short rest periods, as this has been shown to achieve the greatest testosterone response to exercise. I like to start those who are less experienced with weight training on 10 reps with 60 seconds rest and progress them until they are doing 15 reps with 30 seconds rest. There are countless ways which this can be done, but here is a simple progression which you can try yourself:

  • Workout 1 – 3 sets of 10 w/60 secs rest
  • Workout 2 – 3 sets of 10 w/45 secs rest
  • Workout 3 – 3 sets of 12 w/60 secs rest
  • Workout 4 – 3 sets of 12 w/45 secs rest
  • Workout 5 – 3 sets of 12 w/30 secs rest
  • Workout 6 – 3 sets of 15 w/45 secs rest
  • Workout 7 – 3 sets of 15 w/30 secs rest
  • Workout 8- increase weights and repeat

Each weight training workout should consist of 5-6 compound movements which collectively use every muscle in the body, giving you a full body workout.

For those of you who are a little more advanced, Density Training is a great way to increase testosterone levels, and I have personally seen a lot of fantastic transformations in a relatively short period from time using these protocols.

To sum up, for both women who store more fat in their upper arms, hips and thighs, and men who store fat on their chest your priority should be to reduce estrogen, increase testosterone and prevent the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. All of which can be done by making the right exercise nutrition choices, and hopefully this post will have provided you with a good starting point.

Fat Loss and Hormones

Lets be honest, general weight loss is not actually as hard as people think, at least not initially. I’ve lost count of the people that I’ve seen (both in and out of the gym) who lose weight despite what I would describe as sub-par exercise and nutritional choices. When I was younger I used to look at them and wonder why these people got results, was there some secret that nobody told me? Were they taking some miracle supplement that I never heard of? Or was it simply because they were able to stick to their training and nutrition plan?

Perhaps this explains why people lose weight on things like weight watchers, P90X, insanity, crossfit, and fad diets. Not because these are the best exercise or nutrition protocols, but simply because these systems are very good at getting people to stick to a plan and see it through to the very end.

You only have to look at the people that they use in their testimonials, I have no doubt that these people would have lost weight regardless of which program they followed simply because they TOOK ACTION showed the DESIRE necessary to follow and stick to a program until they got results. However, I also believe that there are far more effective ways of burning fat, and these people would get even better results if they had a personal trainer who was able to design a exercise and nutrition program specifically for them

Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m a big advocate of an individualised approach to both exercise and nutrition. Based on the fact that every person on this planet is different from both a metabolic and physiological perspective the best exercise and nutrition protocol for fat loss will vary from person to person

However, I fully acknowledge that It’s pointless having the perfect plan if they don’t follow it, because initially COMPLIANCE is the most important factor. Afterall, isn’t imperfect action better than inaction?

Which is why my first priority for any client with a body composition goal, is to make exercise and healthy eating a habit. Sometimes I get better results by giving a very basic exercise and nutrition plan to follow, instead of a more effective exercise plan and nutritional program designed specifically for them simply because it’s easier to follow and they end up sticking to the plan for longer.

 

The fact is, if you make a conscious effort to eat healthier and train consistently for 90 days your body will change for the better. However, without the right exercise and nutrition plan for you, it’s only a matter of time before progress begins to slow, and your fat loss starts to plateau. In addition to this some people will always find it difficult to lose ‘stubborn’ fat from certain areas of their body, how many men do you know who seem to have generally low levels of body fat but then have a big belly, or how many women do you know who can’t seem to lose fat from their hips or love handles despite losing it from other areas of their body, maybe this describes you?

The truth is, if you want to continue to lose fat and reach your desired body fat percentage you need to be more specific with your approach.

One way which you can be more specific is to look at hormones. Hormones regulate pretty much every process in the body, including fat loss. Although we can’t control hormones directly we can influence them indirectly through exercise and nutrition

In fact, renowned strength coach, Charles Poliquin has created a whole system dedicated to correcting hormonal imbalances such as these called ‘Biosignature Modulation’.

This involves taking skinfold measurements from 12 different sites and comparing them to the triceps reading in order to identify which sites have excessive levels of fat relative to the other 11 sites. Based on this information he predicts hormonal issues and addresses them with exercise, nutrition and supplementation.

Whilst I do not agree with everything Poliquin has to say with regard to training, nutrition and supplements, I do understand that hormones can influence body fat distribution. So over the next few weeks I thought I’d do a little series of posts on ‘fat loss and hormones’, to show you how you can shift stubborn body fat by addressing certain hormones through exercise and nutrition.