When it comes to getting optimal results for yourself or for clients, specificity to training and nutrition always breeds the best results. That is, training and nutrition should always be specific to the person. But with everyone being their own individual person with individual needs it can be confusing to know what will work for one person and not another person. How many carbs can you have? Do you carb cycle? Will intermittent fasting work for you or will it mess up your hormones? What about if it fits your macros (IIFYM)? What macro portions should you have? Will taking fish oil help you lose fat like it did for person X?
You can ask a hundred questions and depending on what your goals are, there can be a hundred questions that you could look at. A professional athlete or a physique competitor will often need an expert to give them nutrition and lifestyle advice, but for most people, nutrition doesn’t need to be overly complicated. At the end of the day, nutrition is often quite simple for most people; it’s the daily habits and routines that complicate things.
Having said that, I do understand that not everyone aims to compete in a physique competition or join a sporting event. Some of you may have just decided to start your healthy lifestyle and are simply looking to hit the gym and clean up your food.
If you are a beginner just hopping on the fitness wagon and aren’t too sure where to start your nutrition, here are 5 healthy eating guidelines you can follow to make sure all your hard work in the gym pays off.
1. Don’t get caught up in what worked for someone else.
The first thing you should understand when it comes to healthy eating, is that no one diet is going to work for everyone. The diet that the fitness model on Instagram model raved about for months may not work for you. Track your diet and then make changes based on what works and what doesn’t work. Track and experiment until you find something that works for YOU.
2. Eat whole, natural foods.
Whether or not you believe in eating meat, dairy or grains, your diet needs to revolve around whole, natural foods. The more local and organically produced you eat, the better (but not completely necessary, cost can be a factor). Cut out processed food and foods with a hundred different ingredients that you can’t even pronounce. Cook as much as you can with whole foods.
3. Don’t fall for labels.
Just because something says “All-Natural,” “Low Fat,” or “Gluten-Free,” doesn’t mean it is healthy or good for you. Do not fall for labels that are just meant to sell you a product. Stick with whole, natural foods as much as you can and read the ingredient list to determine for yourself if something is healthy.
4. Keep it simple!
All too often we overcomplicate our diets. We get stuck on tons of small details when we don’t even have the main pillars of our diet set. Start with the basics. Then worry about the details. When we get bogged down in the details, we get overwhelmed and generally give up on our diet. Pick out a few healthy foods you enjoy and build your diet around them. Pick out recipes around these foods. Try to pick recipes that require many of the same ingredients so your grocery list is short and simple. Keep it simple but also learn to add in a little variety every once in a while to prevent you from falling into a rut with your diet.
5. Preparation is key.
When we aren’t prepared, we give ourselves an excuse to deviate from what we know we SHOULD be doing. Meal prep and planning are extremely important especially when starting a new healthy diet. The easiest way to be prepared is to cook meals that make more than one serving so that you have leftovers for later that week. Preparation is also key for when you travel and even plan to eat out. Decide ahead of time how you are going to eat. Are you going to “cheat?” Or are you going to stick to your diet? If you make up your mind ahead of time, you will have an easier time not deviating from your plan. A great way to prep for trips or meals out with friends is to look at the menus or at least know what your basic healthy options are when you dine out. The more you can prepare yourself for different situations, the better off you will be. Being happy with your decision is also key even if you aren’t completely prepared. If you do end up cheating, don’t regret it. Enjoy and get right back on track the next meal!
Contact us today at www.trainasp.com.au or call us at (03) 9038 8008 to book in a consult with one of our trainers!
I love my grip toys. For one, grip strength is one of the most underrated factors in elbow and shoulder stability and strength, and is often what limits our pressing and pulling progress. Secondly, a set of well-developed guns can only be built on the foundation of strong forearms.
So, to cap off a session, I squeezed a few of these pinch grip reverse curls into my routine. The focus here was on keeping an isometric contraction in wrist pronation while taxing the brachioradialis in a reverse curl.
The majority of the exercises focusing on bicep growth stresses the supinated position – of course, given that the biceps brachii is a strong supinator. However, a lack of wrist loading in the pronated position will lead to muscular imbalances, weakness and eventual pain in the elbow joint, that may radiate to the shoulders and neck.
This simple exercise is a great way to balance out the forearms and promote bicep growth. By utilising a pinch grip on a dumbbell in a reverse curl, I’m also overloading the weakest point on strength curve of the biceps and exposing my nervous system to a different stimulus – doubling as a plateau breaker. Win-win!
Director Ben recently competed in the WBFF Australia Sydney 2017 show and we are extremely proud of his journey! Here’s two videos to highlight part of his journey pre comp and post comp! Enjoy! 🙂
5 Winter Essentials to Stacking on Lean Mass
It’s that time of the year again where gym warriors start their annual ritual of ‘bulking up’. With little opportunity to display the lean, chiseled six-pack forged over summer, winter has become a popular season for stacking on mass, building strength and a seemingly good excuse to be more relaxed with the diet. However, this ideal is often plagued with multiple challenges. Statistics have shown that the colder, gloomy months also promote a loss of workout motivation, an over-indulgence in carbohydrates, alcohol and comfort foods, as well as an increased likelihood of falling sick.
As such, keeping on top of your game over winter is crucial. Often, this can mean more than just working out and increasing your overall macronutrient intake. Because of the way foods are grown, manufactured and packaged nowadays, there is a loss of vital micronutrients, like vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, that play a pivotal role in our muscular development and optimal health. The lack of these dietary essentials can stagnate your muscle-building efforts in the gym and set-you back for the upcoming summer.
So, if you are looking to avoid muscle-building plateaus and maximize your gains in the coming months, you will need to ensure that your diet continues to include a good balance of essential nutrients. Here are 5 key essentials that are guaranteed to help you build lean mass, optimize fat burn and keep you motivated in the weight room.
This vitamin has been identified to have receptor sites within all of the body’s cells, making it crucial for life itself. In addition, research has also shown that supplementing your diet with vitamin D can help increase the size and strength of type 2 muscle fibers (these are fast-twitched muscle fibers most prone to growth), boost testosterone levels in men and maximize the body’s ability to build lean muscle mass. Vitamin D additionally helps in the elevation of mood, which is why we feel so much more motivated to train when it’s nice and sunny outside.
As Vitamin D is produced by the body’s response to direct sunlight, it’s more than likely that we will not produce enough of this vitamin throughout the winter moths. Ensure your levels are topped up and maintained by consuming a vitamin D supplement, two to three times per week and in larger doses.
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, and has been shown to boost immune health, a factor that is directly correlated to one’s ability to build muscle. What’s more, by adding a minimum of 2 grams of vitamin C to your post workout shake, you can effectively reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) and aid muscle recovery. Numerous studies have also linked supplementation of vitamin C to increased levels of testosterone production, making it not just an anti-catabolic, but also an anabolic agent.
It is estimated that about 70% of our neurotransmitters are manufactured within our gut. From Serotonin, which regulates our mood, appetite and sexual function, to Neuropeptide Y, which influences our food choices and overall motivation, our gut is central to our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. By maintaining optimal gut function with a good, resistant probiotic, we are able to facilitate effective absorption of nutrients for muscle growth, as well as maintain a high level of motivation for training.
Many of us do not consume enough zinc, especially from our diets. Zinc has a pivotal role to play in effective digestion and nutrient absorption. It also greatly influences the production of testosterone, a primary muscle-building hormone. Furthermore, zinc also acts as a primary aromatase agent, preventing free testosterone from converting into estrogen, a female hormone, within the body.
Carnitine is responsible for transporting fat into the cell to be used by the mitochondria (energy producing centres of the cell) in the production of energy. The increase of muscle carnitine levels has been shown to decrease visceral belly fat, improve performance by clearing lactate levels and maximize the body’s anabolic processes. It also helps with the body’s ability to handle sugar, and can thus acts as a buffer to the sugar spikes caused by those heavy carb meals over winter.
Acetyl-L carnitine, among other forms of carnitine, is the only form of carnitine to cross the blood-brain barrier and is best used as a brain energiser and mood elevator.
A carnitine supplement is best consumed pre-workout, and works best when it contains at least two different forms of carnitine so as to ensure optimal absorption and utilization by the body. Additionally, if you are aiming to fat burn, take in equal proportions of carnitine with an omega-3 oil, like a high quality fish oil.
Founder and Master Strength Coach
Australian Strength Performance
The sissy squat is a great tool to zone in on VMO development, aka, the tear drop muscle that serves as a critical stabiliser for knee extension, overall knee capsule stability and speed development.
Here Director Ben is using the sissy squat as a finisher to his leg routine. Trust us, at the end of the session, just body weight itself is more than enough!
To ensure you exhaust all your fibres maximally, start by leaning your torso backwards to increase the loading on the eccentric movement. Once exhausted, immediately follow that with a ‘drop-set’ with more reps, now with your body closer to the pivot point, thus making the exercise easier.
This mechanical advantage technique effectively allows you to use your body position to change the loading without having to change the actual weight used 👌🏼💪🏻.
This mechanical advantage technique effectively allows you to use your body position to change the loading without having to change the actual weight used 👌🏼💪🏻.
Contact us today at www.trainasp.com.au or call us at (03) 90388008 to book in a consult with one of our trainers!
Paused Deadlifts – 120kg x 3.
She performed these in a descending rep scheme – 7 7 5 5 3 3. Sheryl was a bit more conservative with the weights here. The focus, instead, was on maintaining perfect positioning in the pause – hard quasi-isometric lat contraction and a nice neutral spine. What was meant to be a full 1-sec pause was more a 0.6 – time goes a lot quicker in our head sometimes.
Effectively, this increases the time under tension at your weakest point in the lift, and hence forces you to stay tight to control the weight.
Give these a go! You’ll find that once you slap the weight back on the bar, your technique on regular deadlifts will feel much crisper 👌
Tips to Improve Your Sleep
How’s your sleep?
Do you even relax bro?
Your priorities are wrong.
If you have limited money/time/effort supplements, put invest in your recovery.
Training hard and performing day in and day out is easy when you feel good.
Here’s a few of my favs in constant rotation:
– Magnesium, fixes everything. Fact. I personally take Bioceuticals Muscleze and GABAmag from Trilogy Nutrition.
– Melatonin; darkness signaler in the body, also helps to reset/force adaptations in body clock. Has been shown to have some links to depression in people who are deficient in it.
– Inositol: a carb which functions as a powerful adaptogen, meaning it’s very effective and returning the body to baseline. Whether that mean turning down arousal or helping bump up energy! Also, some studies have shown Inositol to be as good, or better than both placebos and even as anti-depressants!
-Bonus points: As always, pro and pre biotics, because gut health is everything!
Also, try downloading flux on you laptop, or turning on the night mode on your phone before bed. It’s not as good as no electronic devices, but everything helps!
Remember, sleep is everything everyone!
Your choices, Your mistakes, Your lessons- Your Growth
You made a mistake or you tripped up in work, life, or love. You’ve said the wrong thing, or didn’t come through with your end of the bargain.
You think, how did I let that happen? I can’t believe I did that, again. If only I could turn back time and undo them.
We cause our own suffering. Furthermore, we seem to forget that when we make mistakes, we grow. An atmosphere of growth is integral to happiness. So create happiness by seeing mistakes as true growth opportunities.
Although we have been told to live in the moment, I say we are not just living the present moment.
We are very much our past experiences and choices as well. Every choices we made leads us to who we are today and we must learn to use our past mistakes to yield a shiny new perspective and, in turn, create a new outcome. If we allow them, our mistakes can fuel our awareness. In helping us decide how to act and react in a fresh and fruitful way, they can bring us closer to happiness and further away from causing our own suffering.
If you are struggling today and you feel like made a mistake in life just remember, you are wiser today than yesterday. Though you might feel bad because you’re encountering the same or similar problem, this time it’s with a different view and varied perspective.
Accept where you are. You will immediately suffer less. Remember this is merely one moment in time. It only defines you and your worth if you choose to make it a defining moment.
Ask yourself, how can I respond from this higher place instead of causing myself pain? What can I do differently to grow from this? Remind yourself as many times as needed that you have a view. You hold wisdom. You have the power to turn your life around and make your dreams a reality.
Think it. Say it. Act on it. Let it create your new character.
POSSIBLY A NEW GREAT WAY TO GAIN MUSCLE
Study by Dr. Rhonda Patrick on heat conditioning from the sauna to gain muscle.
HYPERTHERMIC CONDITIONING aka Sauna.
1. Increase blood flow to muscles
2. Increase blood flow to the heart
3. Allows body to regulate heat and stay cooler through sweat
4. Improve Endurance
5. Increase in Plasma Volume and increase in RBC count.
Increase Muscle Mass through 3 factors
1.Induction of Heat Shock Proteins
– Repair Damaged Proteins
– Present Oxidative Stress
– Increase Glutathione Production
– Prevent degradation of Proteins
– Increase net Protein Synthesis
– Decrease in Muscle Atrophy
2. Induction of Growth Hormone
– 2 x 20mins Sauna sessions at (176°F) boosts GH levels by 2-Fold
– 2 x 1hr Sauna session over 3 days (176°F) boosts GH levels by 16-Fold
Improving Insulin Sensitivity
– Decrease in Insulin Levels
– Improve Insulin Sensitivity
– Increase in Glucose (Glut-4) transporters in skeletal muscle.
3. HYPERTHERMIC CONDITIONING EFFECTS ON THE BRAIN
– Increase Norepinephrine, which improves attention and focus
– Increases Prolactin, which caused the brain to function faster
– Increases Brain Drive Neutropic Factor (BDNF) increase neurogenesis (growing new brain cells) and enhances learning/memory.
Contact us today at www.trainasp.com.au or call us at (03) 90388008 to book in a consult with one of our trainers!
Squatting and Lunges with knees past toes?
If your trainer tells you not to let your knees travel past your toes when squatting or lunging ask them why… Common answers being it is ‘bad for the knees’.
- The highest compressive force on the knee is actually at 90 degree of flexion when squatting to parallel.
- When you keep the knees behind toes, the greater the flexion at the hip leading to more stress at the low back (ie bending foward)
- The knee travels foward past the toe every time you walk up/down stairs.
- In Australia we sit down all day at work all day and sit down to 💩rather than squatting like in most asian countries which limits our normal Range of movement or ability to squat all the way down
- Olympic weightlifters push their knees over their toe in every lift and have one of the lowest rate of knee injuries. * With the exception of some injuires and variations of powerlifting style squatting.
(This video shows a 1 1/4 style walking lunge in where the knee travel forward each rep & the hamstring contacts the calf placing more stress on the Vastus Medialis)
Contact us today at www.trainasp.com.au or call us at (03) 90388008 to book in a consult with one of our trainers!
In my book progress is progress no matter how big or small. Chris a father of two, we embarked on a decision that being super shredded was not a priority, getting healthier, looking and feeling better and getter stronger was No. 1 on the list but most of all keeping up with his kids after a long day of work as a Carpenter.
So what we did:
1) Improve Gut Health by introducing Kefir, Super Greens, removing Milk, removing high Insulin Loading Carbs
2) Introduce more whole protein sources, eggs, chicken, fish, Kangaroo, fish like Salmon, barramundi, rockling.
3) Upper Fibrous carbs such as Broccoli, Spinach, Kale, Cauliflower
4) Reduce Starchy carbs such as Pasta, white rice, breads
5) Introduce more Fats such as butter, Olive Oil, nuts, fish
6) Create a better understanding of sleep and its benefits and improve from 5-6 hours to 6-7 hours of sleep
All this is aimed at improving on a lifestyle that is already overly stressed by making small changes on a weekly basis.
Training for Conditioning and Strength was a key factor to training.
Phase 1 we improve muscular imbalances
Phase 2 aim for Fat Loss and Hypertrophy
Phase 3 was a base introduction into stricter Hypertrophy
Phase 4 aim was Functional Hypertrophy to get stronger
Something that is quite common is parents not having the energy to keep up with their young and energetic children. At @trainasp we aim to improve somebody’s quality of life in some way whether it’s sleep, gut health, nutrition, strength, fat loss, gaining muscle, all geared to improving someone’s lifestyle.
A minimum of 2 but a maximum of 3 training sessions were performed every week over this period. Strength went up tremendously, the ability to consciously activate muscles improved, and Chris got leaner as well. By the end he deadlifted over 100kgs as well. Fantastic work mate!
I first heard about bone broth when I first moved to Australia three years ago and I’ve got to say, now I’m hooked! I make them throughout the year but I enjoy having them especially during winter! If you aren’t already making bone broth regularly, I’d encourage you to start today! It is an incredibly healthy and very inexpensive addition to any diet and the homemade versions beat store bought broth in both taste and nutrition 😀
The benefits of bone broth are infinite and some of the biggest natural benefits of adding bone broth into your primal diet are:
1. Joint Health:
Bone broth reduces joint pain and inflammation courtesy of chondroitin sulfates, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage.
2. Better Digestion:
The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid that attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion.
3. Rich in Minerals:
Bone broth contains high amounts of calcium, magnesium, and other nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation
4. Helps with leaky gut and inflammation:
The gelatin in bone broth protects and heals the mucosal lining of the digestive tract and helps aid in the digestion of nutrients whereas the amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine in bone broth all have anti-inflammatory effects.
Bone Broth Recipe:
4 lbs beef bones
12 cups water
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 medium onion, roughly diced
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped leeks
3 bay leaves
3-5 spring fresh rosemary
6 cloves garlic
- Place bones in a pot or a crockpot, add apple cider vinegar and water, and let the mixture sit for 1 hour so the vinegar can leach the mineral out of the bones.
- Add more water if needed to cover the bones.
- Add the vegetables and bring to a boil. Skim the scum from the top and discard.
- Reduce to a low simmer, cover, and cook for 24-72 hours (if you’re not comfortable leaving the pot to simmer overnight, turn off the heat and let it sit overnight, then turn it back on and let simmer all day the next day)
- Let the broth cool and strain it and add sea salt to taste and drink the broth as is or store in fridge up to 5 to 7 days.
To use a slow cooker, you will need to first bring the broth to a boil in a pot on your stove, then skim the scum off the top. Pay careful attention to this stage, as once the broth begins to boil the scum is rolled right back into the broth. The scum are the impurities that you want to remove. You can then transfer the broth to your slow cooker and turn it on to low heat for 24 to 72 hours.
What are the key factors we look at during training and program writing when looking at Muscle Hypertrophy (what causes muscle to grow)?
1. Mechanical Tension
It is unclear at what percentage of your 1RM you should work with in order to maximise muscle growth but it is best to work with different loads, as an example 85% of 1RM, or 70% of 1RM. It can vary and should always change every month. Time under tension also comes into this factor as you want to stimulate different fast and slow twitch muscle fibres for maximal growth.
2. Metabolic Stress
Is the cause of Metabolite build up normally due to mid to high rep exercises as your body gets into the breakdown of glucose for fuel. Metabolic stress can drive Hypertrophy and drives great Fibre recruitment and cell swelling.
Micro tears caused by muscle damage due to the stretch position and full range of motion.
These are factors of training, mechanical tension and TUT determines rep ranges, outside of training we can look to Nutrition and sleep for muscle growth.
Strength such as Powerlifting, speed strength such as Weightlifting and Functional Hypertrophy training are great ways of strengthening your body to give you the ability to put on muscle when getting back to Hypertrophy ranges.
Winter is finally over and the prospect of beautiful, sunny days is finally in sight! For many of us, however, the cold winter months have not been kind, and with declining motivation to eat well and hit the gym the winter weight has added a few unwanted kilos. After losing the motivation to train over winter it’s sometimes hard to get back into the routine of regular training. So what are some of the things that you can do to get back into the right mindset for hitting the gym? Below are a few pointers to get your mind back on track.
SET CLEAR AND CONCRETE GOALS
This is one of the most important points to follow if you want to succeed in attaining your gym goals. More often than not people go to the gym without specific goals. They might have a vague idea such as ‘I want to lose some fat’, or ‘I want to put on more muscle’, but this is typically coupled with an ‘I will train and see what happens’ approach and no timeframe in sight. The problem with vague goals and ‘seeing what happens’ is that typically not much happens at all. Vague goals leave far too much room for deviation and don’t hold the individual accountable; it’s much easier to justify eating junk food if you don’t really know what you’re striving for and if there’s no deadline to meet the goal.
If you want faster results at the gym it helps to aim for something more concrete. Many people apply the commonly-used S.M.A.R.T. acronym when setting their goals. If, for example, your goal is ‘I will get from 24% body fat to less than 15% in eight weeks’, this is how to apply the S.M.A.R.T. acronym:
(S)pecific: Is the goal specific in nature? In this case, yes, since you have given yourself specific figures to reach, together with a timeframe.
(M)easurable: Are you able to measure your progress? Yes, you can measure body fat percentage.
(A)chievable: Is the goal attainable? If you are committed to the appropriate lifestyle changes, then yes.
(R)ealistic: Is the goal realistic? Provided no major unexpected events occur, then yes.
(T)imely: Does the goal have a deadline? In this case, eight weeks.
Sometimes a goal may seem overwhelming or difficult to reach. In such cases it may be necessary to set up smaller goals in between that finally reach your end goal.
When you’ve reached your goal then create a new one, even if the goal is to maintain what you’ve achieved.
As a final point it’s also a good idea to write down your goal and stick it on your bathroom mirror!
UNDERSTAND THE NATURE OF YOUR GOAL
This next point is a great tool to help you stay on track and motivated. It really involves looking at your goal (and your life) from different angles and identifying how your goal can be a positive influence if you reach it, as well as the consequences if you continue on your current path. This may lead to some very hard realisations, but also identifies some very positive outcomes.
Here’s how it works. In relation to your goal ask yourself the following questions and list your responses:
- What would happen if I reached my goal?
- What wouldn’t happen if I reached my goal?
- What would happen if I didn’t reach my goal?
- What wouldn’t happen if I didn’t reach my goal?
The key is to respond to these questions whilst considering all aspects of your life, from your health, work, relationships, mental state, physical state, financial state, etc. Whilst this exercise may take a little bit more time and thinking you’ll likely find that it’s a great way to get you motivated again. If it helps you could even pin your responses in a place you regularly look at to serve as a reminder.
CREATE A MOTIVATIONAL BOARD
A motivational board is another way to stay motivated and is one strategy that many in the health and fitness industry use. This is the place where you can write down your goals, put up inspirational quotes, pin up pictures of the physique you wish to have, or anything that represents what you want out of life.
TRAIN WITH SOMEONE
If training on your own is what’s stopping you from staying motivated then train with a friend, join a group class, or better yet, train with an experienced coach. Training with a good coach will give you the appropriate guidance you need in terms of training with correct form, program design and pushing yourself appropriately to get the most out of your workout. A good coach will also make sure you stay accountable by frequently checking up on your training, nutrition and other lifestyle habits.
These are just a few ways to help you get back into the training mindset once again. Keep in mind that there are dozens of motivational techniques to choose from, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. Many people use visualisation and do this every night before sleep. Others watch motivational workout videos on YouTube, and others enjoy following fitness role models. It may be hard to kick-start yourself back into a regular training, but with the right motivation the habit will set in again and you’ll be on your way to getting ready for summer!
For many of us in the fitness game, winter is that time of year that seems to sabotage our fitness goals. The cold, dreary days make us stay indoors more than we’d like, and the layers of clothes means that many of us think it’s “okay” to let ourselves go. On top of that many of us seem to have a curiously increased hankering for all the foods we know we shouldn’t be having: chocolate, lollies, cake, pastry, pasta, chips, etc. If you’re someone who has increased winter carb cravings, don’t fret, you’re not alone. Many of our clients come to us during the winter period with complaints of irresistible carb cravings, resulting in growing waistlines. So what is it that drives us to crave carb-laden meals and sugary snacks during the winter period?
The Winter Blues
Well-documented research has shown that the winter months can bring about a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or more colloquially known as the winter blues. One of the reasons affecting SAD is the lack of vitamin D3 in our bodies due to reduced sun exposure. Optimal Vitamin D3 levels is crucial in regulating mood, with low levels of vitamin D having been shown in studies to be correlated with poor mood and even depressive symptoms.
In order to feel better, many people rely on high carb, sugary junk foods to elevate their mood. This is because the carbohydrates in these foods promote the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which enhances mood. In addition to this, the stress from being in a low state further depletes our body’s serotonin levels resulting in physical cravings for carbs in order to replenish the low serotonin levels, and the cycle continues.
So what can be done to keep vitamin D3 levels up during the cold winter months? Aside from going out and trying to get some sunshine in the grey weather, a simple solution is to take a good vitamin D3 supplement. Keep in mind, however, that because vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin, the absorption of this supplement will be far more effective when taken with sources of good, healthy saturated fats.
Increased Energy Needs for Homeostasis
Another reason for increased food consumption over winter may come down to homeostasis, the body’s process of maintaining a stable internal environment (e.g. stable body temperature). During the cold winter months, our bodies tend to burn more calories in order to stay warm. One method of doing this is by generating heat through brown adipose tissue, otherwise known as brown fat. Interestingly, brown fat utilises a substantial amount of blood glucose when active, bringing blood sugar levels down and potentially eliciting carbohydrate cravings. In addition to this, thermogenesis (the creation of heat) from brown fat can be induced by eating food, which may mean that our bodies are naturally stimulating our appetites in order to bring about diet-induced thermogenesis.
One common mistake that many people make when they experience elevated hunger is to try and “manage” their hunger by ignoring it or taking the route of calorie restriction, which has been proven to be ineffective for long term fat loss. Others may choose to have “light snacks” that often include chocolate, biscuits or a sugar-loaded granola bar rather than real, wholesome food.
Hunger is often your body’s way of signalling that it needs more food, or simply more of particular vitamins and nutrients. Ignoring these signals or going down the path of calorie restriction often results in binge eat, over-snacking (often on junk food) and poor food choices in general. The research on calorie restrictive diets have time and time again shown that those who practice this will tend to put on more body fat in the long term than when they started.
If you find yourself hungrier over the winter period, aim to increase your consumption of protein from healthy, clean sources and as always, eat plenty of vegetables with your meals. If you’re eating carbs then opt for unprocessed carbs such as brown rice, sweet potato, yam, quinoa or pumpkin. As a final note on this point remember to stay well hydrated during winter. Hunger can often be mistaken for thirst and winter is one of those periods where people don’t drink enough water.
One possible explanation why some people experience winter carb cravings may be due to an evolutionary adaptation based on lifestyle practice. Studies on earlier nomadic and farming groups show that populations experiencing cold winters relied significantly on grains and tubers harvested during the warmer months as well as on a small proportion of cured meats. This is because many of the fresh fruit and vegetable food sources would not have survived the cold, and hunting animals became significantly more difficult.
As such, the increased cravings for carbs during the winter months could have resulted from an innate evolutionary reliance on carb sources over winter.
Of course, this adaptation may have aided our survival up until 100 to 200 years ago, but the world we live in now is vastly different and we no longer have the winter famines that our ancestors had. Vegetables, meat or other protein-dense foods are readily available. If you find yourself with carb cravings then increasing protein consumption from healthy sources can help decrease these cravings by keeping you satiated. Don’t worry if you find yourself eating more food during your meals provided that what you’re eating is the right kind of food. If you keep yourself satisfied with the right kinds of food then you’ll be less likely to eat the foods that add to your waistline.
The reasons why people experience winter carb cravings can differ from individual to individual ranging from low vitamin D levels, to increased energy needs and potentially even evolutionary adaptations. At the end of the day, however, whatever the causes are for your carb cravings it doesn’t mean you need to make poor food choices. Being smart about what you eat by consuming nutritious, unprocessed food with plenty of meat and veg can greatly curb carb cravings. If you find yourself indoors and lacking sunlight then it may be worth trying a good quality vitamin D supplement to boost depleted levels which may assist in improving your mood and curbing your cravings.
Today we have a guest post from one of our inhouse specialists – ASP Coach Priscilla Burnett! As well as being a full-time ASP Coach, Priscilla is also a qualified chef, and with many years experience in the culinary industry she is here to discuss her top tips to spice things up in your kitchen!
The most common issues I have found with my clients when it comes to their nutrition, is the challenge of creating exciting meals within their prescribed nutritional guidelines. Food for them can often become bland, mundane and just plain boring when focusing more on the nutritional parameters that we’ve recommended. As a Chef and ASP Coach though, I have the opportunity to use my years in the kitchen as a tool to offer clients ideas to ‘spice up their lives’.
Below I have compiled some of my most most popular ideas for you to try for yourself at home!
FORGET WHAT YOUR MOTHER TAUGHT YOU!
When I start to talk about cabbage, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower, many of you will conjure up some horrid image of a plateful of soggy, overcooked mush. Unfortunately for these humble, nutritious vegetables, many of you have discarded them from your dinner tables. But it is actually not their fault they’ve gained the poor reputation they have over the years, it’s ours!
With the Great Depression affecting the way many foods were cooked, the ritual of boiling vegetables and leaving absolutely no nutrient value left in them became the norm for many of us growing up. However, this process also left a bad taste in our mouths, pun absolutely intended!
So, let me show you how these little gems can be the delight that they were always meant to be and the highlight of your next feast.
igh in vitamin C, cut the cauliflower into florets and also add as much of the stem as possible. As with any vegetables with a stem, this is where most of the nutrients are, as the stem is the ‘straw’ in which the plant draws up the nutrients from the ground.
Drizzle a small amount of walnut oil, fresh rosemary and season with salt & pepper.
Roast in oven for 20 minutes.
Remove when florets are browned and starting to blacken on the ends. This brings out a lovely nutty flavour to the cauliflower.
Try slicing celery and leaving to macerate in orange juice.
The orange juice brings a sweetness that helps cut the acidity often associated with celery. Serve either as a side or add kale and walnuts and serve as a tasty twist to a Waldolf Salad!
Possibly the most hated of vegetables, but with the help of some friends can be the enjoyment of your dinner party!
Pan fry sprouts with a nob of organic butter, sliced bacon and chestnuts.
This can be served as a salad, but is also excellent as a compliment to a pork dish.
The bacon brings saltiness to the dish and adds texture to compliment the softness of the Brussel sprouts.
Priscilla was one of the masterminds behind the recipes in ASP’s first cookbook! Lean Cooking Made Simple incorporates similar methods to those mentioned above to help spice up your nutritional routine, with
nutritional break downs, facts and tips, all based around healthy, wholesome foods! Check out the link below to grab your copy, only $11.00!
Following our recent post discussing the benefits of squatting squat ‘arse to grass’ we have here a much-needed follow up post providing five tips for HOW you can perform such an essential, but somewhat difficult exercise, and safely. As always with these topics they are likely to generate questions and queries, so please feel free to Contact Us or post your questions, feedback, and experiences on our Facebook Page.
1. Stretch Your Calves
Often the main reason you may not able to go deeper in your squats is tight calves. Try loosening up your calves using an isometric stretch on a leg press – holding each stretch at the lowest position for a minimum of 20 seconds and changing the position of your feet from pointing inwards, neutral and outwards.
2. Elevate Your Heels
By elevating your heels on a platform, you shorten the calf muscles and push the knees forward. This allows your body to be kept more upright as you move deeper into the squat, and also has the added advantage of making the squat a more quad dominant exercise.
3. Stretch Your Lower Back
A tight lower back can often cause your back to round as you descend into the squat, putting unnecessary stain on the lumbar erectors. Performing supine windmills beforehand can help loosen the back muscles, facilitating a deeper and more effective squat.w to get a better night’s sleep! In the meantime, sleep tight!
4. Widen Your Stance
Place your feet slightly wider than your hips, and turn your feet slightly (10-15 degrees) outwards. This creates a greater degree of movement for the femur (thigh bone), at the hip joint, allowing you to squat past a ‘parallel thigh’ position. Anatomically, this position tends to be more ‘natural’ and further activates the strong gluteal muscles, enabling you to lift a heavier load with increased stability.
5. Squat With Chains
Using training aids like chains are useful not only in overloading the squat at the top, but also assisting in deepening the range of movement at the bottom of the exercise.
All too often we are taught to limit our squatting to just below parallel rather than perform full ‘arse to grass’ squats, because it is a ‘safer alternative’. The main argument being that a full squat places a lot more stress on our knees and ligaments.
While from a static anatomical standpoint, this argument is seemingly true, our body actually behaves different in a dynamic movement under load. For example, supporting structures like cartilage and ligaments work to dissipate the intensification of stress on joints. On sensing the increased load, stretch receptor cells in the joint alert the brain to increase the muscular and ligamentous stability in and around the joint capsule, thus preventing injury.
There are circumstances a full squat would not be initially advised, such as for individuals with disintegrated or damaged knee cartilage, post knee operation patients, or individuals with disc bulges or spinal issues. In the majority of clients with knee issues though, it is ironically their years of half squatting, poor technique and the lack of full squatting that forms the root of their problem.
So, if a full Range Of Motion (ROM) squat is not bad for us, what exactly are the advantages of performing such an exercise?
- Recent research has shown that full ROM squats help to strengthen the ligaments around the knees, and maintain the capsule integrity.
- Squatting through a full range of motion helps to minimise imbalances of the quadriceps muscles by forcing the muscles to work through the lower half of its movement capacity, as well as reduce imbalances between the quadriceps and hamstrings.
- It encourages optimal muscle recruitment and activation over a larger range of motion, leading to better quadriceps development.
- Deep squatting helps to activate the lower fibers of the Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO), which serve a critical purpose of stabilizing the knee during movements like running and jumping.
- Full squatting is an instinctive movement pattern of the body, like walking or breathing. For example, perfect squatting techniques are best observed in children, who perform the exercise with ease and without instruction.
- It can help to eliminate knee pain caused by patella-femoral tracking syndrome which ironically can be caused by muscular imbalances and tight iliotibial band as a result of partial squatting.
In our modern technological age, with televisions, computers and phones dictating every waking minute of our lives, it’s quite common to find ourselves with increased feelings of stress or tiredness. We now place less importance on the healthy, stress relieving habits that keep our psyches in balance; like sex! Our libidos are extremely important energies and are also prime indicators of both psychological and physical stress. Here we share a few great tips from ASP to get you back in balance and naturally bringing sexy back!
1. Sleep is Critical
Sleep is vital for optimal energy production and a great training session. But restless nights don’t only affect your daily activity, they can also take their toll on bedroom antics! To ensure a good night sleep, make an effort to remove yourself from the television or computer screen a good 30 minutes before bed. This allows your mind to wind down and dissipate the adrenaline built up from it’s flashing, bright lights.
Sleep in a dark room with no lights (includes phones or television standby lights), as the receptors on your skin may keep you awake in response to the light.
Check out our Sleep Remedies post for more tips on gaining a better night’s sleep.
2. Learn to Relax
All too often the built up stress from the daily grind can deplete the production of sex hormones like testosterone and DHEA, and this can diminish one’s sex drive. Supplementing with magnesium and taurine often helps to reduce anxiety and ease the mind.
3. The Brain is the Sexiest Organ in the Human Body!
Now, although that may come down to a matter of opinion, there’s no disputing that having an increased concentration span and a positive, motivated attitude throughout the day is a great start to feeling sexy all over again. Supplementing with up to 600mg of Alpha-GPC per day has also been shown to be highly effective in enhancing brain cognition and mood.
4. Take a Quality Electrolyte Daily
Sweating and/or a diet high in ‘convenience foods and sodas’ can lead to the depleting of the body from much needed salts like sodium, magnesium and potassium, which are critical to optimal energy and health. Because energy is often a limiting factor to a healthy sex drive, more energy means you can now bring your sexy back! A quality electrolyte is ‘Electrolyte PX’ developed by Dr Mark Schauss, and will help give you that boost you’re after.
5. No One Feels Sexy When Bloated
Let’s face it, there’s no feeling good when you’re poorly digesting your dinner, yet nowadays we are constantly bloated because of the foods we consume. This can often be due to intolerances to foods like homogenised and pasturised diary, nuts, gluten (in breads and pastas), or even eggs. Apart from cutting out these foods from your diet, use a good pre and pro-biotic to aid nutrient absorption and dissipate that uncomfortable bloated feeling. There’s no greater aphrodisiac than feeling sexy in your skin!
Struggling to lose that festive season bulge?
Looking to shed that final 1% body fat that just won’t move?
Below are four untold truths of fat that may change your perception on what’s best for your body, and might just be the key to dropping those kilos!
1. Everyday Fat Cells DON’T Multiply!
Fat gain is actually often due to an increase in the storage size of the fat cells, NOT the number. The only time fat cells multiply is during puberty or pregnancy. As a result, individuals who tend to gain fat during those times, will find it harder to lose weight.
TIP: A great tip for accelerating that fat loss is coupling a high quality flexseed/ fish oil together with L-carnitine. This helps to increase the energy production of the cell and increase overall metabolism.
2. High Cholesterol is NOT a Be All and End All Indicator
Having a ‘High Cholesterol’ level may not be all that bad. Cholesterol is a lipid molecule found in all cell membranes and a main constituent of our brains. Sometimes, a high cholesterol reading can actually reflect the natural response of the body to replenish the loss of cholesterol via cell disruptions like stress or cell oxidation. So in fact, high cholesterol can often just indicate the body’s healthy process of repairing itself.
3. Fat is the Body’s Toxin Storage System
Fat accumulation is the body’s natural protective instinct against the effects of toxins. From petrochemicals and xenoestrogens to heavy metals, we are in contact with at least 200 of these toxins on a daily basis, causing our bodies to be in a constant state of protection. It is no wonder why our population is getting fatter and more disease ridden.
4. Saturated Fat is Essential!
Saturated Fat is critical to maintain cell membrane integrity and an essential synergist for the effective absorption of amino acids in the body. It is therefore imperative we include servings of unprocessed saturated fat in our diets. Societal emphasis on low fat and high carb/astpartamic products has no doubt contributed to a population deprived of essential proteins for body repair and detoxification.
Got a question? We’d love to hear from you! Post your queries, experiences of feedback on our Facebook wall here and we’ll get back to you the best we can!
If you’re a working individual, then finding time to work out on a regular basis can often pose a challenge. With the amount of work and extracurricular commitments we tend to have on our plate, it is no wonder that so many of us find the most convenient excuses when it comes to exercise.
For the growing minority of health and body conscious individuals, going to the gym has become a set routine several days a week. While regular workouts are commendable, performing the same circuit of exercises repeatedly (whether it’s a weights or cardio based program) can often see you hit a plateau. The lack of further progress can get quite discouraging, and this represents the main reason why gym goers lose motivation, give up and quit altogether.
Whichever category you are in and whatever stage you’re at with your training, here are some tools that will see you thrive in the long haul, and keep you pressing on towards your weight loss, muscle gain or performance goals!
BE A PLANNER – IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU PLAN TO FAIL
The title says it all – planning is essential should you want to get clear vision of what you want for yourself.
Objective and Measurable Goals – The first rule for planning is to list down objective and measurable goals for yourself. This means rather than forming a subjective ideal (e.g. I want a body like Halle Berry or like that guy on the cover of Men’s Health magazine), list down something specific like clothing size or bicep circumference. If you are training for athletic performance, aim for measurable goals such as target lifts, sprint times or vertical leap height.
Objective goals are not only easier to monitor, but they also help prevent against subjective body image illusions. Some of us are overly harsh on ourselves and are never satisfied with great results because of our own self-perception. For example, a person suffering from ‘Biggerexia’ will always see himself as smaller and weaker compared to everyone, even though this may not be the case. As such, objective evidence of muscle growth and progress helps ease these subjective perceptions. On the flipside, some lazy underachievers may ‘feel’ like they’ve lost weight after one workout session and overly reward themselves. Objective evidence serves as a reality check and tells you exactly where you are at.
Realistic Timeframes – The second rule of planning is to set realistic timeframes for your objective goals. False expectations can often lead to being left disappointed and discouraged. Because every person differs physically with regard to training years, muscle composition, diet, etc., it’s important to understand that some workout programs may work more efficiently for others than for you. Consult with a health professional, strength coach or personal trainer to get a better idea of what timeframe is likely for a typical person of your health, age or gender.
Divide and Conquer – Rule number 3 is to divide and conquer. That is, breakdown your timeline and set goals (which may be a 6-month or year-long endeavour) into fortnightly targets which you can review as you go along. Short-term goals are essential to keeping motivational levels high and regular monitoring of progress will also give you a better idea of how well you are tracking. If you want extra motivation, take monthly pictures of yourself to track your progress. Seeing the visual evidence for yourself can be a strong source of motivation!
Reward Yourself – The fourth and final rule of planning is to reward yourself when you meet your short term goals! Rewards act as a form of positive reinforcement and can be a great motivational tool. Caution: Make sure the rewards are appropriate. Don’t go undoing all your hard work by over-indulging in a 2000 calorie meal if you’ve only lost a kilo!
THE ‘WHY’ QUESTION
Be honest with yourself. Why are you doing this? What exactly fuels your motivation to exercise? Whether it’s looking good, to excel in your sport or other health reasons, you need to know exactly what you stand to gain. List down all the things that motivate you – the aesthetics, the health benefits, getting into that wedding dress, making sure the abs appear before that euro trip in summer, etc. Having this written clearly and pasting it up so you can conveniently see it every day will act as an constant reminder – a great motivational tool. Try putting yours on your bathroom mirror!
ONE PROBLEM = MANY SOLUTIONS
Sometimes, things just don’t go to plan, or we slip up. But hey, that’s part of the journey and being down on yourself won’t improve the situation. Refocus and set your eyes on the prize. With any problem, there is always more than one way to overcome it.
For instance, I find that with many of my bodybuilders who have to be extremely strict when dieting for a show, the urge to binge on sweets can sometimes be overpowering. Those that give in tend to consume ridiculous amounts of sugary foods that can set their progress back by a few weeks, and beating themselves up for this setback will only lead to more binges and guilt trips throughout their competition preparation. Many individuals have and will give up because of this roller coaster ride of emotions.
My solution? An unorthodox approach adopted from regular visitor to us at ASPC in Melbourne, Coach Poliquin – give them some heavy cream and cinnamon powder whenever the sugar cravings hit. Delightful to the taste buds, this little maneuver satisfies sugar cravings and in fact reduces their further desire for sweets – all whilst maintaining a low sugar intake.
Visualisation is a technique used by many coaches to achieve success for their athletes. It follows the logic that you would be more motivated and thus likely to succeed once you can perceive what succeeding feels like. One of the ways I like to use this tool is by getting my athletes is to use all their five senses to embrace what it feels like to have already achieved their goal. These are some of the questions I commonly ask:
- What can you SEE during your moment of success? Is it the crowd screaming or are you looking at gold medal in your hands?
- How does it FEEL to have achieved it? Do you feel invincible, My break washing
- on top of the world, or speechless, emotional perhaps?
- Describe what you TASTE? Is it the celebratory champagne after the victory, or the sweat just after the winning try?
- What can you HEAR around you? A cheering crowd after you lifted your PB, or
fans screaming your name?
- Is there a familiar SMELL? The smell of rain on the tarmac after your winning sprint or the scent of chalk on your hands after a successful lift.
- Similarly, you can always embrace your personal success story by envisioning it. Make sure you embrace the sense of victory, the way your body feels and looks, the confidence levels and the satisfaction of success. By doing so, you lock a real experience of success within your sub-conscious. This establishes a pathway that will actively guide your conscious actions towards making your goal a reality.
ANTICIPATE YOUR PITFALLS
To make this a successful tool, ‘Anticipating your Pitfalls’ is best practiced as a 3-part process:
- Acknowledge your downfalls and make sure you write them down. This may be your love for beer or sweet desserts, or even a busy schedule which always serves as a valid excuse for skipping a workout session.
- Anticipate the situations that will put you face to face with these vices, and stay far away from them. If it’s there, you are more likely to give in to it.
- Replace that anticipated vice with a positive action. For example, when going out clubbing with mates on a Friday will lead to drinking, make the effort to go out and watch a movie instead. By taking the pitfall out of the picture, it does not become an option. Here’s another: If you know you tend to procrastinate and skip workouts, then find a gym partner to keep you accountable and set yourself a fixed time for each gym session. If you prioritise it just like you would a hot date, you’ll never miss it!
SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS
It is said that you are the product of the 5 people you hang around most with… so if you are constantly around people who encourage negative actions, or persuade you to lose sight of your goals, you are more likely to give into them than you are to push through and succeed.
Aim to surround yourself with people that will support you in your quest for your goals. Choose your gym partners wisely – aim to workout with people who are also dedicated to working hard, rather than chit-chatters who stand around talking for 5 minutes between each weights set.
Thought, action, reality and the power of visualisation.
Remember Aladdin, and the genie granting his three wishes? Imagine that you had the power to get an infinite amount of wishes granted. Imagine that you had the ability to start changing your life and achieving your career & health goals from today. Imagine a life of abundance, happiness and health.
The ability lies in the power of thought, the power of visualisation; a technique that can be used by anyone at anytime to achieve any desired goal.
WHAT IS VISUALISATION?
Visualisation is the act of creating an image in your mind with a desired outcome. Just like a tape or a rehearsal before a play, the image is replayed over and over again in the mind’s eye, and rehearsed as if the desired outcome has already been accomplished.
The image/scene is replayed repeatedly in the minds eye involving:
- Sight: What do you see?
- Sound: What do you hear?
- Touch: How does it feel?
- Smell: What does it smell like?
The idea is to make the scenario as vivid as possible, almost like you are actually there experiencing it. In doing so, you tap into your subconscious mind to make an imprint of the outcome. This imprint results in the necessary thoughts/actions in your conscious mind to allow for the desired conclusion.
SUBCONSCIOUS VS. CONSCIOUS
Think of your subconscious mind as a library of information, an infinite database of information and life experiences. Just like the operating system on a computer, it runs in the background while you are surfing the net, playing games, on Facebook or writing a document. The subconscious is active whether you are awake or asleep.
The transition between the subconscious and conscious mind can be related to driving a car. When you first learn how to drive a car, your conscious mind is focussed on your driving environment. You are aware of the sounds the engine makes when you step on the accelerator, when to change the gears, whether you are driving too close to the car ahead of you, you are extremely cautious of your environment.
As you gain more experience in driving, your subconscious mind takes over your driving ability. Your conscious mind is now focussed on where you need to go, which is the best route to take to avoid peak hour traffic and what radio station you enjoy listening to.
The subconscious mind governs the way we think, the way we act and the way we perceive the world. It is a force that we should learn to tap into on a regular basis.
EXAMPLES OF SUBCONSCIOUS VISUALISATION
In basketball, a player will run through in his mind the perfect shot. The feel of the ball in his hand as he flicks his wrist and makes a three point shot from the half court mark. In his mind, he hears the sound of the half time buzzer going off and the roar of the home crowd. The shot goes in the basket with a huge ‘swoosh’. The scene is replayed over and over again in his mind to train muscle memory, increase his confidence and accuracy in each of his shots.
In a study done on visualization in sports, a group of soviet athletes were split into four focus groups. Group 1 focussed 100% on physical training. Group 2 focussed 75% on physical training and 25% mental training. Group 3 focussed 50% physical training and 50% mental training. Group 4 focussed 25% on physical training and 75% on mental training. The group that focussed most on mental training came out on top.
THE SUBCONSCIOUS AND VISUALISATION IN YOUR DAILY LIFE
Imagine that you are going for a job interview tomorrow, for a job that you really want. In your mind’s eye, you visualise walking into a brightly lit office looking your best, the interviewer greets you with a warm smile. You imagine the smell of the cups of coffee on the table as you perform your best sales pitch ever. The interview goes well with you feeling confident that you have gotten the job. The interviewer offers you a firm hand shake saying ‘welcome to the company’. You run through this scene over and over in your mind visualising the desired outcome. When the interview finally happens, you are confident and articulate during the whole process as if it was second nature to you.
Alternatively, on a cold and wintery night you visualise yourself at the beach. The sound of the waves, the feel of the soft sand on your feet. How perfect that white bikini fits you without you having a muffin top. The envious looks of other women around you thinking ‘wow I wish I looked like that!’ as you walk to the shoreline. It is this image that you play constantly in your mind as you contemplate whether you should go to the gym at 6:30am the following morning.
The more vivid and the more creative you can be with each visualisation, the better. The more you think or visualise about something, the more likely you are going to get it. Start thinking about what you really want and imagine yourself getting it, feeling a sense of accomplishment once you have attained it. In your mind, start each day in your mind visualising exactly how you would like it to be and guess what, it will unfold just the way it was meant to.
When it comes to weights training, the bench press has gained unrivalled popularity amongst other upper body exercises. For many, the pectoral muscle group remains the most, or sadly for some, only focused-on muscle group. However, despite our obsession with the bench press, many of us quickly hit plateaus in strength and pectoral development and are never able to reach that next level. Below are 5 powerful tips to help bust through your plateau and unleash your full benching potential.
1. PRIORITISE YOUR ROTATOR CUFF MUSCLES
What muscles you say? The rotator cuff muscles constitute four intricate stabilising muscles in the shoulder girdle. These muscles play a pivotal role in optimal shoulder movement and strength, but are often neglected at the expense of prioritising the much larger, and more visible deltoid muscles.
In most cases, the resulting imbalance is created by weak external rotators and disproportionately stronger deltoids and pectorals. This can lead to constant clicking in the shoulders, acute pains, impingement syndromes and muscle weakness, especially while performing a major pressing movement like the Bench press.
External rotation exercises like Cuban presses, cable external rotation exercises and Powell raises can effectively help to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and increase your benching strength.
Performing these simple exercises at the end of your chest workout over the next four weeks will be sure to see you bump up the number of plates on that barbell.
2. INTRODUCE ANTAGONIST SETS
Introducing a back-focused exercise between each of your bench press sets, such as a bent-over row, lat pull down or a chin-up can actually help to increase your bench-pressing strength. Research has shown that the antagonist pairing of exercises as such is not only a more time effective way of training but also a great way to boost your results. By working the antagonist muscles, we encourage optimal fiber recruitment of the stabilisers utilised within the exercise, and prime the primary muscles to lift more.
Simply speaking, training the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and rear deltoids (the antagonist muscles) between sets of bench presses effectively increases the overall stability and strength of the pectorals and anterior deltoids (the primary/agonist muscles) for the proceeding set, thus allowing you to lift heavier in the bench press.
3. ROTATE BETWEEN DUMBBELL AND BARBELL BENCH PRESSES
It’s important to regularly rotate between using dumbbells and barbells for several reasons. For one, dumbbells are a great way of evening out imbalances between both sides of the body. They also allow for a greater range of motion on the pectorals and anterior deltoids, hence increasing the recruitment of muscle fibers involved in the pressing motion.
By focusing solely on barbell work for an extended period, you will quickly hit a plateau as the body adapts to the same repetitive motion. Changing it up with dumbbells creates a new and different neurological stimulus for the brain, forcing it to see the exercise as a different movement pattern, and effectively breaking the existing plateau.
This process of readapting forces the muscles involved to recruit different and an increased number of muscle fibers for the task. Regular rotations between barbell and dumbbell work can thus help you to continually increase your benching strength.
4. BUILD YOUR WEAKEST LINK
You are only as strong as your weakest link. It is common to see people perform ‘half-presses’ in the gym, where a heavy weight is moved through an easier and shortened top range of motion. Yet, they fail to press the same weight once it gets to the bottom position nearing the chest. This is a result of the lack of muscle recruitment at that given range.
Muscle activation techniques can increase intra-muscular contraction of muscle fibers within that position. Techniques such as holding a one or two second pause at the bottom position of the bench press or performing quarter reps with a lighter weight before pressing it up. In the long run, this translates to increased strength in the weakened range, and hence more overall strength in the bench press.
5. REST TO PRESS
The lack of adequate rest on a muscle group often leads to incomplete repair and the loss of strength. After a big session focusing on the pectorals and triceps, individuals often continue to train ‘other’ muscles like the deltoids in the following days.
What many of these people fail to realise is that these smaller muscle groups are also involved in the bench press, and must be given adequate recovery before they hit the bench again.
It is therefore important to plan your exercise splits carefully to prevent too much overlap of muscle groups. Adequate rest on the muscles used in the bench press will definitely see your bench improve by the next session. So from warming the bench to stacking the plates, be sure to follow these sure fire tips and watch your bench press strength increase like never before!
Diets are the latest trend in our weight conscious society. With everything from shakes and calories, restrictive plans to pills and celebrity fads, diets aim to make you slimmer, healthier and happier. Yet a ‘Die-It’ as the name suggest, appears to be merely a painful means to an end rather than a sustainable and satisfying solution.
Recent statistics have shown that while Australians spend up to one million dollars per day on dieting products, they are likely to regain one to two thirds of their lost weight within the year, and almost, if not all of the lost weight within five years. The question then remains, why are diets so ineffective? Here are some tips on making a diet more enjoyable and sustainable for you.
1. HAVE A LIFESTYLE OVER A “DIE-IT”
Being on a ‘die-it’ often carries an underlying belief (and often a desperate wish!) that your action is merely short term. This not only results in extreme and often harmful eating habits such as “crash-dieting”, but also ”diet-clock watching” – where an individual develops an unhealthy focus on “letting loose” at the end of the suppressed diet rather than focusing on the ultimate goal of health and wellbeing.
As such, it is common to see people reward themselves with comfort foods once they can justify that the dieting period is over. Such actions can lea to guilt and emotional overeating, causing the individual to ‘rebound’ or ‘relapse’ in an extreme way, and put on more weight than when they first started the diet.
On the other hand, by embracing your new nutritional plan as a lifestyle change, you are consciously accepting the positive change in your eating habits to be a long-term action that will be part of everyday living. This paradigm shift is not only effective in eliminating the guilt and need to emotionally eat, but also in maintaining focus on overall health and wellbeing in the long run.
2. CHOOSE A NUTRITIONAL PLAN THAT SUPPORTS YOUR INDIVIDUAL OPTIMAL HEALTH
While there are so many diets in the market, not every one will suit you. What can make someone lose fat fast can in fact help you stack on the kilos and vice versa. It is important then to consider and choose a diet that will support your individual body needs. A nutritionist or qualified Biosignature Practitioner would be able to assist you. When you’re on a nutrition plan that supports optimal health, you will find that not only does the fat melt off,
but you feel more energised, sleep better, are able to think more clearly, and also naturally start to reject the comfort food you were previously on.
3. INTRODUCE ONLY ONE CHANGE AT THE TIME AND DO NOT MOVE ON TO THE NEXT UNTIL YOU HAVE MADE THAT CHANGE
Small and steady changes are easy to introduce, remember and implement. It is how good habits are formed and built upon. For example, if you normally rush off to work with only a coffee in the morning, then having a small handful of nuts or an egg in the morning can be a great way of introducing breakfast as a habit. Once the action of eating something is cultivated, then you can look at better alternatives for the meal.
FOR EVERY THING TAKEN OUT, SUBSTITUTE IT WITH ANOTHER
A sudden removal of a regular food from your routine can cause a void and lead to cravings and constant thoughts about the removed food. Choosing to substitute the food for a similar but healthier option is a more gradual, but effective way of removing that undesired food habit. For example, if you have a habit of drinking a couple of bottles of beer or a can of sugary soft drink every night, start substituting this with a glass of iced-soda water that will still leave you quenched and refreshed, but in a better state. is text.
5. BE CREATIVE IN YOUR FOOD PREPARATION
Whoever said that healthy food had to be bland, tasteless and dull? One of the biggest problems in sustaining a diet is the lack of taste and variety in the food. This has the effect of deterring people from their new eating regimes. Be creative in introducing spices and herbs to flavor your foods. You’ll be surprised just how good healthy foods can taste!
6. IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN, YOU PLAN TO FAIL
Not planning your meals in advance can lead to bad choices in foods especially when you are hungry. When you plan in advance (e.g. stocking up your pantry with nuts rather than chocolates) or prepare healthy ready-to-go meals or snacks beforehand, you not only plan what nutrition you will be consuming but also have less of a tendency to look for other less optimal choices when hunger strikes you.
Not seeing results? Hit a plateau? Wondering why your workouts haven’t worked for you? It’s always frustrating when you’ve invested your precious time, effort and not to mention money into your workouts, only to find out that your weight, physique, strength or fitness has simply hit a plateau. If you’re stuck in this rut then you already know that something you’re doing just isn’t working. Perhaps it’s time to start looking at some of your workout habits and see if they are really beneficial for you or counterproductive instead.
Get ready for a reality check.
Here we debunk some common workout myths to help you unleash the real hercules (or aphrodite) inside of you!
“HAVING CARBS JUST BEFORE A WORKOUT GIVES ME AN ENERGY BOOST THAT ALLOWS ME TO PUSH HARDER DURING MY WORKOUT”
Surely you have come across the gym member who swears by having a banana or protein bar before, or during a workout, because that allows them to push harder, as the sugar converts into energy. In my opinion, that’s all in their mind – a placebo so to speak.
Truth is, for sugars to be converted into energy, sufficient time must be allowed for digestion of the food before it can be transported by the blood to the mitochondria (energy centers of the cell) to be used as fuel. In an average individual, digestion alone can take as long as 4 hours, depending on the efficiency of his/her digestive system. Moreover, while you’re working out, blood will be instinctively directed to the muscles to help with contraction and nutrient supply. The digestive system then becomes a secondary priority, and the food consumed tends to sit in the gut partially digested.
Large intake of sugar pre-workout also brings about an associated increase in insulin (the storage hormone) and a drop in cortisol (the stress hormone). While this may be seen as a positive response, cortisol actually plays an important part in the workout. It acts as an adrenaline to give us the “oomph” we need to push harder. In reality, the introduction of carbs pre-workout will only suppress our ability to train to our limits.
“READY-MADE PROTEIN SHAKES ARE CONVENIENT, NON-MESSY AND WILL HELP ME BUILD MUSCLE”
There is no doubt that with convenience and pretty packaging on the top of their priority list, people rush to buy pre-made shakes sold at health food counters – all at the price of feeding their bodies with a low grade protein. Protein oxidises and denatures within an hour of being emulsified in water or milk.Due to protein’s unstable nature, manufacturers often add sodium based stabilisers (like sodium benzoate) to prolong the protein’s stability. Such stabilisers have been linked to health problems such as disruptions in mitochondrial functioning (simply speaking, this makes you fat!), gut sensitivities as well as liver and DNA damage. If the protein shake is milk based (this constitutes 90% of premade shakes on the shelf), then more problems arise. Milk can often cause bloating to those who are lactose intolerant, and furthermore, cannot be digested quickly enough to facilitate the window of opportunity straight after a workout.
My suggestion is to use a high quality whey isolate powder, preferably from organic grass-fed cows or New Zealand cows. Mix the powder with water only and consume it immediately after workout to maximise the protein’s properties and the body’s post-workout anabolic window.
“CAFFEINE AFTER A WORKOUT IS NECESSARY FOR AN ENERGY BOOST”
Caffeine is a great pre-workout stimulant used to raise cortisol and adrenaline levels during a workout. It also increases the body’s pain threshold and maximal strength, thus allowing the person to work harder for longer.
The main post-workout objective however, should be aimed at reducing cortisol for an anti-catabolic (preventing muscle breakdown) response as well as increasing testosterone and insulin for an anabolic (muscle building) response. This maximises the body’s ability to build muscle. By having a coffee straight after the workout, stress levels will continue to be elevated for extended periods. This encourages muscle breakdown and increases fat storage around the abdominal region. So if you’re wondering why that six pack is still in hiding, post-workout caffeine might just be your answer.
“I NEED TO WORKOUT FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR AND A HALF PER SESSION TO SEE RESULTS!”
This statement would represent some of the most regular gym goers, and you probably see them more often than you would the trainers. I call them gym socialites, as you’ll see them chatting and resting more than they actually train!
Workouts exceeding an hour per session can be highly counterproductive to your efforts. It’s best to keep your training to no more than an hour (excluding warm-up). Here’s why – after 45 minutes into your workout, physiologically your body’s testosterone levels will start to decrease and there’s a corresponding increase in cortisol.
This unfavourable shift in the testosterone-cortisol ratio has a two-fold negative effect on the body:
- is catabolic, converting the protein in muscle into glucose and glycogen (these products tend to be stored as fat around the gut)
- is anti-anabolic, discouraging the body from using amino acids to form protein in muscle cells.
- is the hormone that regulates muscle growth in the body, and its decrease means the body’s ability to build muscle also decreases accordingly.
Furthermore, with too much resting time in-between sets, you WILL lose both concentration and strength for the proceeding sets, as well as the desired training effect the overall workout is aimed at.
“WOMEN SHOULDN’T LIFT WEIGHT BECAUSE IT ADDS TOO MUCH BULK”
Here’s one that goes through every woman’s mind. It is a common misconception that any form of weights or resistance training will lead to an overnight explosion of muscle growth, leaving you with chunky thighs and hulk-like arms.
The good news, ladies, is that muscle simply isn’t that easy to gain unless you’re taking additional steroids or testosterone boosters. In reality, most women have up to 15 times less testosterone than men, making it much harder for a female to build muscle.
It is also important to understand that when you lift weights, your body undergoes additional physical stress. This causes micro tears in the muscle tissue, bringing about an inflammatory response. As a result, the specific area that has been worked tends to swell – this is only temporary ladies! Reparation of the muscle in the next few days will cause the inflammation to dissipate, and produce a tighter, toner muscle.
In addition, most women also tend to experience fluid retention (particularly in the lower half) in the first 4 to 6 weeks of doing weights regularly. This is a natural child-bearing mechanism that the female body undergoes – not that you have suddenly put on muscle or weight!. For women training past that initial period, you will find that this does not occur anymore. In fact, following the initial period, the fluid tends to drain away almost instantaneously overnight, leaving you feeling leaner and more defined.
“FREQUENT AND CONTINUOUS AEROBIC EXERCISE WILL INCREASE FITNESS AND ATHLETIC ENDURANCE”
Continuous jogging for 30 to 45 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week, is commonly perceived as the best way to increase athletic endurance and stamina. However, any athletic or fitness benefits associated with the same continuous aerobic exercise has been shown to plateau after just 6 weeks!
Additionally, continuous aerobic workouts have been found to impair athletic performance. For example, if you are an athlete who competes in a sport requiring speed and explosiveness, then continuous aerobic training can detrain your system, reducing both strength and power. Studies have shown that continuous lower body aerobic work decreases vertical leap and sprint times, thus making you slower and less dynamic. Furthermore, on a hormonal level, such aerobic training reduces the body’s testosterone/cortisol ratio, effectively decreasing your ability to gain lean muscle (see myth 4 on workout duration for more information about excess cortisol and its adverse effects).
“USING THE LATEST AB-GIZMO AND DOING CRUNCHES WILL GIVE ME A RIPPED AND TONED STOMACH!”
Why is it that the most advertised fitness equipment always target your abs? You don’t see bicep or calf machines flying off the shelf, yet thousands of ab-swings, ab-kings and other ab-things are sold via infomercials all guaranteeing that 10 minutes of crunches a day will give you a lean six-pack. The reason is that abs are often the hardest muscle to achieve real success in, especially if you aren’t genetically gifted and born naturally lean and ripped.
What you have to understand firstly is that performing a specific exercise for a certain targeted area or muscle group does not make fat in that area simply vanish. As you burn more calories (doesn’t matter doing what, it can be doing crunches, weights or running) fat stores slowly burn up. However, you don’t have control over which fat stores are used up first. Adipose tissue (fatty tissue) distribution around the body is dependent on one’s genes and hormonal predisposition, so in order to reduce fat specifically (that’s right, Spot Reduce), you need to target the source – hormones. I use a technique called BioSignature Modulation which can specifically target fat loss in desired areas just by addressing the associated hormone(s) in question. Find out more about Biosignature in our Services section).
Secondly, the abdominals are fast-twitched muscles and grow with heavy loading through a full range of motion, so countless reps (or should I say half reps for those that do crunches) of ab work will increase only lactic build-up, but not contribute much to muscle growth.
“AEROBIC EXERCISE IS THE BEST WAY TO KEEP MY HEART HEALTHY AND KEEP ME LOOKING YOUNG”
A lot of people feel like they are working out more during an aerobic session, because their heart rate is kept high and sweat is continually produced. As such, aerobics often makes the workout feel more healthy and effective. However, it is a fact that continuous aerobic activity increases oxidation within the body, often leading to an excessive build-up of free radicals (especially if you are not consuming sufficient anti-oxidants). This leads to metabolic changes that have been found to accelerate aging! So really, by increasing your aerobic activity, you are forcing your body to get older.
If you are looking to increase your cardiovascular fitness, maintain your muscle and yet lose the fat, then stick with interval training. Interval training has been proven to increase the intensity of your workout, the calorie burning capacity of your body even after the workout ceases and improve both aerobic and anaerobic fitness. This means that you retain lean muscle whilst getting fit.
“DOING CARDIO IS THE BEST WAY TO REDUCE BODY FAT”
To prove this misconception, answer this question: Who typically has less body fat – a marathon runner or a 100m sprinter? If you picked marathon runner on the basis that they simply do more aerobic exercise, then you are mistaken. Sprinters, who hardly do any continuous aerobic exercises, on average have less body fat because of their high-intensity training which has been found to increase metabolism and calorie expenditure for as long as 24 to 48 hours after their workout!
Additionally, excessive aerobic exercise highly stresses and fatigues your adrenal glands, leading to symptoms such as tiredness, arthritis, depression and reduced concentration. Crucially, adrenal fatigue and stress also leads to hormonal imbalances, not only making it difficult for effective weight loss to occur, but could in fact increase body fat. This explains why you may be exercising regularly, yet unable to see much weight loss results!
Have you been slogging it out in the gym with little or no results? We are often led to believe that the amount of work and sweat we put in equates to the results we achieve. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. Maximum effort alone with little or no variety in our workout routines can still lead to frustrating training plateaus that can be hard to break out of. Here are six tips that can get you out of that rut and achieving your goals more quickly:
1. PERIODISE YOUR TRAINING
The word ‘Period-ise’ simply means to group your training into distinct periods or phases. Each new phase can be dedicated to a particular training goal such as strength, hypertrophy (muscle-building) or fat-loss.
Generally speaking, it is best to change your training goals often, as that not only adds variety to your training but also encourages the recruitment of different types of muscle fibers. Research has shown that 70% of the population will adapt to a given training program with about six to eight repetitions of the same program. This usually equates to keeping your program for a maximum of 3 to 5 week periods before changing it up.
2. CHANGE THE EQUIPMENT USED
Varying the types of equipment used within training is important for both neuromuscular (the coordination between the brain and muscle) and muscular development. When we use the same type of grip, handle, bench angle or equipment over and over again, we are restricting our muscles to the same stimuli. While this leads to training plateaus and boredom, it is also a common cause of overuse injury, where the joint is strained through an overly repeated motion. By exposing our muscles to different types of equipment, we encourage the recruitment of a different proportion of fibers, as well as the creation of new patterns for movement and stability.
3. VARY YOUR TEMPO
Tempo refers to the speed of the movement when performing a repetition. This is not a new concept and may be familiar those who already make an effort to perform their exercises at a well-controlled pace.
When executing a given exercise, we are putting load on the muscles involved until we finish the set. The tension created on those muscles is known
as ‘Time under Tension’ or T.U.T for short. By varying the T.U.T, we are able to produce a specific desired training effect such as muscular endurance, hypertrophy or power.
Compare a person who completes 10 bicep curls within 30 seconds and another who completes the same in 60 seconds. Where all other factors are constant, the length of time the bicep muscles is under tension is effectively doubled in the latter example.
With an increased T.U.T, the body is able to recruit more muscle fibers and cause more micro damage within the muscle, hence giving the body more opportunity for growth and recovery. What this means is, if you are not already monitoring the timing of your reps and sets, this could be an effective strategy for you to gain better results almost instantly.
4. PRACTICE A FULL RANGE OF MOTION
These days, many people place more importance on the weight lifted or the number of repetitions performed than on actually performing a full range of motion with correct technique.
Moving through a full range of motion with each repetition ensures that a large proportion of muscular fibers are being utilised, contributing to better development of overall strength and muscular development of that muscle.
By performing an exercise over a limited range, the muscles targeted are only effective within that given range. Short ranges of motion contribute to an imbalance within the muscle, but also between the joint and the muscle itself, often leading to nerve impingements, muscular tightness and overuse injury. While there are specific types of training that encourage shorter ranges of motion, they are used for rehabilitation purposes or for specific periods of time.
This is such an important concept that is taken too lightly by so many. How many individuals do you know who are impacted by work stress and/or family stressors and yet still opt to channel what little energy they have left into long bouts of vigorous training?
While the gym can sometimes be used quite effectively as a source of stress relief, overtraining is in itself a major physical stress on the body. Overtrained individuals often find themselves getting weaker, losing weight, sustaining more injuries and experiencing fluctuations in appetite. Unfortunately when it comes to stress, the body’s response is simply to increase its release of cortisol (the stress hormone). On an ongoing basis (i.e, where the stressors are continuous) this especially leave. This leads to the breakdown of muscle and encourages fat storage around the front of the belly .
The key here is to train smart, keeping training times to no longer than 45 minutes after warm-up, and taking at least a week off after 12 weeks of consistent training.
Resting can sometimes mean staying away from a particular exercise, especially if you have been excessively using it. Renowned Strength Coach and regular visitor to us in Melbourne, Charles Poliquin, suggests a ‘Jachère’ style of training can be crucial for growth.
For example, if you have been continuously performing bench presses for the last 6 months in every chest workout, try staying off the bench for up to 12 weeks. This does not mean staying off chest workouts, but substituting your bench presses for a dumbbell chest workout. When you return to the bench 3 months later, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with your increase in strength.
6. CONSIDER TRAINING TWICE A DAY
For the individual that has a little more time on their hands, sometimes training twice a day can really help boost results. For example, performing a more demanding strength training at the start of the day and a lighter circuit session in the evening. While such a training regime is a great plateau buster, it must be monitored carefully to prevent overtraining and fatigue, as that can be counterproductive to your gains. The main considerations when training twice a day are optimal nutrition and sufficient recovery, ensuring a minimum of 6 hours of rest between workouts.
Remember – Training hard is good, but training smart is better! Enjoy!
Following my article Being Awake to the Problems of Losing Sleep many readers showed a keen interest in what I might have to recommend as remedies for improving sleep. So here’s my take on natural sleep solutions – A useful list of tips we all should know about foods, supplements and lifestyle habits in gaining a better night’s sleep.
1. NATURAL FOODS
Foods high in Tryptophan
(an amino acid) such as turkey, fish, dairy, eggs, bananas, figs, pineapples can make a good and relaxing evening meal. This is because tryptophan is involved in the production of serotonin, a feel good hormone that also helps induce drowsiness. However, try to refrain from eating big meals within 2 hours of your bed time, as this not only hinders growth hormone production but can disrupt the quality of sleep.
Refrain from eating or drinking stimulants
(things that are likely to increase heart rate and dehydrate you) such as caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and foods high in fat or salt close to bedtime. Caffeine from percolated coffee for example, has a half-life of 8 hours, meaning its effects on the adrenal system will last a whole eight hours! So ensure your last cup of coffee for the day is no later than 2:00- 3:00 pm in the afternoon, otherwise you’ll probably be in for a restless night.
are known for calming the adrenal system after a stressful day, though sometimes it may take up to 2 weeks of nightly use for the person’s system to feel and enjoy the tea’s full benefits. The most popular sleep-inducing herb is Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), an ancient remedy for insomnia. Common teas like Tulsi and Chamomile are also known to work a treat by reducing cortisol (a stress hormone). Other herbs include Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) from North America, which acts upon and calms the nervous system, and Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), recognised by European herbalists to aid digestion and induce sleep.
is a cheap yet effective supplement that will help with reducing cortisol, induce calm and improve sleep patterns. For those that find pills hard to swallow, magnesium creams are also highly effective as they get absorb into the skin and can act rapidly to give the same advantages.
is another helpful supplement. The Poliquin products range we stock in Melbourne include a product called Uber inositol. When taken just before bed, this supplement helps induce deep sleep by balancing out all neurotransmitter imbalances, including raising serotonin levels to help with sleep, and decreasing adrenaline levels.
is a powerful antioxidant 20 times more potent than vitamin E. If you are waking up between 1am and 3 am constantly, it can be an indication that your lung meridian (an energy centre of your body) is disrupted due to a lack of antioxidants. Regular doses of grapeseed extract often does the trick to help this sleep bump.
Liver Support Supplements
like the P1P2 balance from Poliquin that we have available in Melbourne, which can help improve the quality of sleep, especially if you find yourself frequently waking between 3am-5am. Often our liver has to work overtime to detoxify numerous toxins from our systems and this strain can affect sleep quality.
Phosphatidyl Serine (PS)
works to reduce stress and high levels of adrenaline within the system, effectively calming a person down. When used before bed, PS is great for inducing deep sleep.
3. PHYSICAL EXERCISES
such as a walking, jogging or working out in the gym produces endorphins – chemicals which help you feel good and improve sleep. However, performing vigorous exercises close to bedtime can overly increase adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones), and be counterproductive to good sleep. As such, exercises should be done at least two hours before bedtime and not immediately before.
Light and Muscle Relaxing Exercises
like yoga, which can also help release physical and mental tension without overstimulating the body. Here’s a simple relaxation technique to be done in the “Savasana Position” (Lie flat on your back with a pillow under your upper body so that your shoulders are slightly elevated; this makes breathing easier). In this position, mentally focus on relaxing individual muscles in your body, starting from each toe, up your calves and thighs, through your hips, lower back, abs, chest, shoulders and neck. Focus on relaxing the muscles on your face and feel your eyeballs gently relax down into the eye sockets. Relax the temples and forehead, then the bridge of the nose, your cheeks and jaw muscles. Feel the connection between the ear passages and the jaws, and relax them. Allow your tongue to rest on the lower palate and for your relaxed mouth to be slightly parted. The key here is to focus on deep and effortless breathing. You’ll probably find yourself concentrating a little harder on the steps to do this initially, but constant
4. PSYCHOLOGICAL TOOLS
Stay Relaxed and Positive
when you cannot get to sleep. As rhetorical as this might sound, frustration or anger will only agitate you and tense your muscles up. Adopt a positive mindset and know that even if your mind can’t completely shut down, the fact that your body is in a restful position is already aiding muscle and tension recovery. Drowsiness often occurs in 30-45 min waves. If you happen to miss a wave, don’t get restless, simply relax your mind and body in time for the next wave.
Prayer or Journaling
can be an effective method for ‘getting stuff off your chest’. Speaking, thinking or writing out the day’s highs and lows, triumphs and anxieties can be an effective way to release these built up emotions. It may also help organise your thoughts and rationalise away any unnecessary worry or tension. One great technique I’ve learnt from Strength Coach Charles Poliquin recommended to many of our clients in Melbourne is to use a grateful log.
Here’s how it works: Before going to bed, get a pen (not a computer!) and write down at least 10 different things you are grateful for within the day. You could simply begin with: “I am grateful for…”.
As New Age as it might sound, this practice is very calming for the mind and helps you appreciate the world in a positive light before falling asleep. I have found this to ease all my stressed clients, prevent their minds from racing all night, and enrich the quality of their sleep significantly.
5. CREATING A SUITABLE ENVIRONMENT
Try to Rid Your Bedroom of Electronic Distractions
such as televisions, laptops and phones. Apart from the obvious noise and lights disturbances, these devices also emit radiation that has had been scientifically shown to interfere with your sleep patterns.
Needing an Alarm Clock is NO Excuse to Use Your Phone
The best option would be a simple battery operated analogue clock. However for those that insist on having digital bed side clock, ensure that your clock has red numbers, since blue and green colours used on the digital clock stimulates the brain.
Sleep in a Cave!
Closing all curtains and blinds to have complete darkness encourages your body to produce more melatonin and to induce drowsiness. If you’re not able to get complete darkness in the room, use a sleep mask.
6. FORMING THE RIGHT HABITS
Avoid High Adrenaline Activities Before Bed
Adrenaline-fuelled activities are typically thought of as including strenuous exercise and daredevil stunts. However, what we consider relaxing, such as watching television or chatting online will also raise adrenaline and decrease melatonin production, thus disrupting your sleeping patterns. If you do have to watch television, make sure you choose an appropriate genre such as a relaxing comedy and not a thriller or horror flick.
How About SEX?
Is that too high an adrenaline activity to avoid before bed? Research shows that although sexual activity results in increased heart rate and adrenaline, it also helps us release a cocktail of brain chemicals and hormones, including prolactin, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin, vasopressin and nitric oxide (NO). These chemicals are strongly linked to the sensations of drowsiness and relaxation, as well as a reduction in stress levels – so sex can be a great help when trying to sleep.
Establish a Regular Sleeping Pattern
by going to bed the same time each night. This sets up your “body clock” so that you are more likely to feel tired at the same time every night. Research has found that ideal time for sleep is between 10pm and 6 am in the morning, where the first 4 hours are crucial for the physical recuperation and the next 4 hours, from 2-6am are for mental/psychogenic repair.
Refrain from doing “Daytime” Activities
whilst lying in your bed. (e.g. watching TV, working, studying, etc) Doing so gets your body used to being awake whilst lying down in bed and makes it harder for it to recognise and abide by sleeping patterns.
It is widely accepted that when it comes to fashion, sophistication and a touch of class, no one says it better than the French. Yet in more recent times, it is their rather controversial diet that has stolen the limelight. From buttery croissants and full fat yoghurts at breakfast to cheeses and confit of duck at lunch accompanied by robust red wines, the French diet is rich in flavour, calorie dense and great at getting you into shape. Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Gisele Bundchen have both used this diet to regain their amazing figures after childbirth.
Here are 5 great tips on how living la manière Française (the French way) keeps you slim, healthy and beautiful.
1. MAKE IT A POINT TO KEEP YOUR MEALS REGULAR
The French Diet is all about maintaining a balanced lifestyle rather than entertaining a quick fix. In France, people make an effort to incorporate regular meals into their busy schedules; with breakfast, lunch and dinner tending to be the norm. By having fixed times for meals, you not only promote an effective metabolic rate (how much energy is being used up through the day), but also ensure steady and consistent energy levels throughout the day.
2. TAKE TIME TO ENJOY YOUR FOODS
The French people are food connoisseurs in their own right. Eating is regarded as a luxury and every mouthful is savoured, enjoyed and celebrated by their palates. By taking time to enjoy each meal, you encourage better digestion, decrease stress and get more satisfaction out of smaller food portions.
In contrast, wolfing down your meals often leads to eating more as it takes an average of 15 minutes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full. In addition, a large food intake at any one time is accompanied by a steep rise in insulin levels (a storage hormone) and results in fat being deposited directly around the love handle region. Eating slowly is thus a great way to appreciate flavour, eliminate unnecessary calories and reduce your waistline.
3. OPT FOR FRESH PRODUCE WHERE POSSIBLE
The French are big advocates of choosing quality foods over quantity. Fast foods and packaged foods are uncommon, and the French will go to great lengths to ensure that their foods are prepared with the freshest ingredients and the best locally farmed produce. Apart from enhancing the flavours in foods, fresh locally farmed produce also mean fewer pesticides, fewer artificial chemicals and more naturally occurring nutrients for the body.
4. MAKE SMART FOOD CHOICES
Organic Butter over Margarine
Staple French cuisine, with the likes of croissants and patès are known to contain copious amount of butter. Yes, it’s true that butter is a saturated fat, but more importantly it is also true that many of our body systems (such as the hormonal and immune system) and cells depend on saturated fat for survival and proper functioning. High-quality butter from good organic sources provides natural fats needed by the body; fats that are low in toxins, high in vitamins, trace minerals and natural antioxidants. When used in place of margarine, (a hydrogenated fat whose molecules resembles plastic), butter has scientifically shown to better heart health and reduce the appearance of cellulite in women.
Choose a Full Fat Yoghurt
Yoghurts constitute a huge part in French diets, especially during breakfast, and its benefits are plenty. A high quality naturally-produced yogurt contains milk fats and proteins, enzymes, vitamins and live cultures for good digestive health. The fat in the yogurt plays a crucial role in facilitating the body’s absorption of the milk calcium, as well as providing the body with all the nutrients as nature intended. This allows for satiety, and less cravings for sweets. The live cultures in yoghurt also aid the intestinal tract in fighting off bad bacteria, breaking down lactose (milk sugar) and creating an optimal environment for digestion.
Have up to 2 glasses of Red Wine a Day
Wine is an integral part of the French lifestyle. From socialising to dining, the French never fail to be seen with a glass of wine in hand. Wines, especially red wines, are high in minerals, antioxidants and contain a special compound called resveratrol, that is great in maintaining heart and arterial health, elevating testosterone levels (this helps to maintain lean tone muscle), keeps a person youthful and sustains longevity.
Keep Well-Hydrated with Water
The French always make an effort to drink lots of water through the day. Water is not only necessary to life, but being well-hydrated can also help speed up your metabolism and weight loss, boost skin rejuvenation and maintain a youthful, more radiant complexion
5. ENJOY REGULAR EXERCISE (KEY WORD – ENJOY!)
The French people understand the benefits of regular exercise. In fact, they love walking everywhere. From the grocer to going to work, the French walk because they enjoy it, not just for the sole reason of keeping fit. Learning to enjoy activity is a great way to stay motivated, maintain your health and sustain results.
In fact, a recent study found that people who exercised for weight-loss or toning up spent about 40% less time exercising than those who exercises for reasons beyond dropping weight such as: reducing stress, spending time with friends, or to increase their well-being.
As a strength coach, one of the most frequently asked questions by gym goers and athletes alike is: “what supplements should I be taking before and after my workout?”
This idea of workout specific nutrition though popularised by the commercialisation of protein shakes (cleverly endorsed by sports stars and bodybuilders), is not a novel concept. As early as 1940, whey protein has been used specifically as a workout aid to enhance muscle growth in athletes, and by the early 1980s, peri-workout nutrition had evolved to become a precise science adopted by top coaches such as Charles Poliquin to improve athletic performance.
However, while the benefits of workout specific nutrition are well documented, how well a person responds to a given supplement is dependent on numerous factors ranging from their training age, type of training performed to their individual genotype. Furthermore, it is my firm belief that one’s workout nutrition is only worth their workout invested. Simply speaking, a workout cocktail will not offer maximal benefits should the workout not be carried out properly.
Keeping this in mind, here are some supplements I have found to be universally helpful to anyone wanting to push harder and recover faster:
Caffeine – is a great stimulant that is best taken 45 minutes before the workout. Research has shown caffeine to enhance mood, increase adrenaline levels, increase maximal strength and decrease one’s perception of pain (Now, that’s one great way to push harder!)
What you also ought to know is that contrary to popular belief, espressos contain little or no caffeine, given that the caffeine cannot be effectively extracted from the brief amount of time boiling water runs through it. Instead if you want caffeine from a coffee fix, use a percolated coffee, or alternatively, a caffeine supplement like Java Stim from the Poliquin range that we stock in Melbourne will give you that edge.
Beta-Alanine – is another good pre workout supplement. It is an amino acid that increases strength and power output as well as delays muscular fatigue during training. A good dose of this supplement will give you a distinctive tingle across the face, chest and arms.
L-Carnitine – works within the mitochondria (energy producing centres of the cell) to burn fat, as well as increases the number and sensitivity of androgen receptor sites. Simply speaking, its purpose is to shred fat while increasing testosterone uptake during training – a combination that will get you leaner and stronger.
Alpha-GPC – (Alpha-Glycerylphosphorylcholine) serves to increase maximal strength by up to 7% pre-workout. It also Increases growth hormone production for muscle growth and regenerates the pituitary gland.
BCAAs – branched chain amino acids are a pre-requisite for individuals looking to get the best results from their workouts. Comprising of 3 amino acids: Leucine, Isosleucine and Valine, this supplement provides the main source of fuel for muscular contractions, aids recovery, decreases visceral fat and increases the testosterone to cortisol ratio while working out. Strength Coach Charles Poliquin recommends a dosage between 20 -40 grams of BCAAs during a workout for optimal results (In fact, he even goes as far as saying one’s workout efforts will be futile should BCAAs not be consumed!).
Lysine – is an essential amino acid (one that the body cannot naturally produce, and needs to be sourced from foods or supplements) that tends to get depleted during a workout. Research has shown that supplementing with 3-5 grams of lysine thoughout enables the body to maintain optimal conditions for carnitine to function, helps muscle recovery and promotes calcium absorption for stronger bones, tendons and cartilage.
As soon as the workout is complete (which ideally should last between 40 minutes and an hour tops for most individuals), aim to consume your post workout nutrition so as to optimise that window of recovery.
High Quality Whey – isolate/hydrolysate (provided you are not lactose intolerant) is abundant in BCAAs and protein for recovery and has the added benefit of being highly insulogenic , i.e., spikes insulin levels post-workout. This works two-fold: to decreases cortisol (a primary stress hormone that is catabolic) and insulin being a highly anabolic hormone, encourages muscle growth. For my athletes, I normally recommend a serving of 0.6 g of protein to 1 kg body weight.
Magnesium – is a cheap method used to decrease cortisol after a workout. This in turn can help to increase testosterone levels post workout to optimise muscle growth. Another alternative is to take 800mg of Phosphatidyl Serine.
(Check out Charles poliquin’s Blog at www.strengthsensei.com for more information on the benefits of Phosphatidyl Serine post-workout)
Vitamin E – (Specifically gamma-tocopherol) works synergistically with essential fatty acids to protect muscle from oxidative damage which may be created during the workout.
such as pomegranate or cherry juice, can help with providing antioxidants for cellular damage and sugars to create an anabolic environment for recovery.
Simple Carbohydrates – like dextrose powders should be consumed by athletes who are “carb worthy” (in the standards of Charles Poliquin, less than 10% body fat!). Simple sugars increase post workout insulin levels, creating a highly anabolic environment for muscle growth. Furthermore, adding protein to carbs post workout helps to increase protein synthesis up to 31% and glycogen synthesis up to 36%! The recommended amount is 2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight (Again, this is dependent on factors like training volume – The more reps, the higher the need for sugars post-workout). Products likeQuadricarb from the Poliquin Range offers 4 different types of simple sugars in one hit that facilitates both a rapid and continuous uptake of sugars into muscles following the workout.
The move from winter into spring often brings on new challenges. For most of us, that can involve losing those winter bulges and getting our physique in top shape for the upcoming summer. This is a time where personal training, gym memberships and bootcamps are in greatest demand, and also a great time to realise that proper nutrition is most crucial to achieving that ideal physique. So what better way to begin than by eating your way to a leaner, sexier body?
Recent research has shown that foods low in refined sugars and high in quality protein, beneficial fats and fibres are a great way to go when targeting the love handles and upper back fat, just under the shoulder blades. According to internationally renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin, fat gravitates to these specific regions due to the body’s insulin response to excessive carbohydrate consumption (do pastas, chocolates and desserts ring a bell?). If that sounds like you, then it’s your body’s unique way of alerting you to the fact that you (along with approximately 70% of the world’s population) are not tolerant to carbohydrates, and should minimise your sugar intake (including fruits and juices) in order to shape up and optimise health benefits. Furthermore, choosing foods that are dense in beneficial vitamins and minerals can also support and accelerate the process of your physique overhaul. For example, foods rich in trace minerals like zinc, calcium and selenium play an important part in building lean muscle and maintaining healthy looking skin
Here are 10 treats for your taste buds that will help you shed those unwanted kilos, feel healthy and bring your sexy back.
1. Wild Salmon
- Low in calories, yet makes a very satisfying meal.
- An excellent source of protein that helps build lean muscle and speeds up your metabolic rate.
- High in omega 3 essential oils that are necessary for maintaining heart health and overall cell integrity.
- Great source of protein that is low in carbohydrates, and high in fibre.
- They prevent aromatisation – the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. This helps the body maintain more lean muscle mass, and can contribute specifically to keeping the back of your arms (triceps) lean.
- High in antioxidants and natural antibiotics that help strengthen the immune system and prevent cancers. In fact, research has shown that women who ate just one third of an ounce of raw mushrooms a day (about one button mushroom’s worth) had a 64% reduction in breast cancer risk.
3. Brazil Nuts
- A nutritious snack high in healthy fats to help regulate your thyroid and effectively accelerate your fat burning ability.
- High in selenium – a trace element that that has shown to prevent breast cancer, maintain youth and speed up your metabolic rate.
4. Ricotta Cheese
- More than just being high in calcium, ricotta is also rich in branch chain amino-acids (a protein constituent) that boost lean muscle and immune function.
- Is produced from whey protein (a highly absorbable and beneficial milk protein) that is left behind in the cheese making process, unlike other cheeses that are made from milk curd.
- Contains phenylethylamine – a naturally occurring chemical compound that acts like a stimulant elevating desire and mood.
- Prevents the build-up of estrogens in the body. Estrogen accumulation has shown to cause certain cancers like breast and ovarian cancer and specifically induce fat deposits on the thighs as well.
- Rich in Vitamin C, calcium and zinc that is crucial for collagen production, a protein that gives skin elasticity and firmness.
- Rich in antioxidants that strengthens the immune system and combats sun damage to the skin.
- High in monounsaturated fats that will help lower bad cholesterol absorption and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- A great source of antioxidants that helps maintain firm great looking skin.
- A tasty healthy alternative to sauces, spreads and dips.
- A green leafy vegetable that is rich in bone-fortifying calcium.
- Prevents the accumulation of estrogens, which is important for cell health and maintaining lean legs.
- Very rich in beta-carotene. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A which assist in cell turnover so old skin cells that dull your complexion are replaced with new ( youthful looking) ones.
- Helps build lean muscle, a strong immune system as well as maintain a healthy overall cholesterol count.
- One of nature’s most complete sources of protein and nutritionally balanced meals, provided the yolk and white are consumed together. An Organically-farmed egg (as Mother Nature intended), contains just the right proportions of omega3’s and 6’s for optimal nutrition.
- The cholesterol in the yolk is a crucial component of each of our 75 trillion cells and is used to maintain an optimal cholesterol count within our bodies.
9. Green Tea
- A refreshing beverage high in antioxidants that can help combat stress, strengthen the immune system and prevent cancers.
- A cup of organic green tea can help prevent the absorption of 50 grams of carbs after a meal – a great quick fix for carb binges.
- A robust spice that contains capsasum – a compound that helps to elevate your metabolic rate, maintain good heart and skin health, and is used as an anti inflammatory.
- Contains as much as 3 times the amount of vitamin C as oranges, a vitamin that helps boost immune function and maintain vibrant skin.
In recent years, there has been a push for foods that are artificially preserved, sweetened, packaged, canned, genetically modified, fortified, and microwavable to be seen as healthy and 100% consumption-safe. What that means for us is that despite destroying vital nutrients and enzymes in whole foods, and adding numerous artificial chemicals (many, lethal in accumulated dosages, with names we can’t even pronounce!), these food cocktails are considered acceptable for our bodies and our ongoing health. Little wonder nowadays we develop countless nutritional problems! With this understanding, let’s embark on a quick nutritional re-evaluation to seek some truth about 5 common food myths, no holds barred:
“When eating eggs, the cholesterol-filled yolk should be discarded, while the egg-white, high in protein and goodness is eaten.”
Eggs represent one of nature’s most complete sources of protein and nutritionally balanced meals, provided the yolk and white are consumed together. An Organically-farmed egg (as Mother Nature intended), contains just the right proportions of omega3’s for optimal nutrition. The cholesterol in the yolk is a crucial component of each of our 75 trillion cells and is used to maintain an optimal cholesterol count within our bodies. Without the yolk, we limit our ability to absorb the nutrients within the egg-whites. It is natures’ way of telling us we should be consuming the egg whole to enjoy its benefits.
In fact, back in some primitive societies, whole eggs were considered so nutritious; it was often prescribed as a pre-pregnancy food for the mother-to-be. Some of these women ate up to 8 eggs daily for extended periods in preparation for conception.
“Tuna, nicknamed ‘chicken-of-the-sea’, is a great protein source and can be consumed frequently.”
Tuna may be high in protein, yet most varieties contain abnormally high levels of mercury. Fossil evidences of more ancient tuna varieties also exhibited a similar pattern of elevated mercury levels, indicating that we should be careful about consuming tuna as a species.
Toxicity studies suggest that by having a single standard can of tuna each day for a week, the safe level of mercury consumption for a 200-pound person is exceeded twice over!
Short term, mercury accumulation can cause decreased mental function and insomnia. In the long run, individuals may develop disrupted thyroid function (tuna will get you fat!), poor gut function and hypertension. Mercury toxicity can also complicate birth and seriously compromise the health of the baby within the womb.
“Margarine is a healthier alternative to Butter, a saturated fat.”
Margarine is a product of a chemical process called hydrogenation. This causes the vegetable oil to solidify and stay rigid under room temperature. Hydrogenation destroys the nutrient and vitamin value of the oil and transforms it’s molecules to resemble a plastic rather than fat!
Because our bodies cannot effectively detoxify plastics, we accumulate it, causing us to store fat and can eventually lead to cancers. Hydrogenation also often leaves traces of nickel and aluminium (used in the chemical process) within the margarine and metal toxicity has been found to cause Alzheimer’s disease and cancers.
In contrast, butter is made naturally from beating cream. The vitamins and minerals are preserved, and pure butter without additives contains healthy fatty-acids that benefits cholesterol levels and general health.
Additionally, numerous studies have shown that margarine increases ‘bad’ Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol levels of its consumers. Interestingly, since margarine began displacing butter and animal fat in households, heart disease has correspondingly risen from its anonymity to become a leading cause of death!
And finally, given its celluloid-like properties, experts have linked margarine consumption to the development of cellulite. Research have shown that women who revert back to consuming more natural fats like butter tended to display marked improvements in their cellulite problems (so ladies, think again when you opt for margarine).
“Skimmed/low fat milk is a healthier alternative to full fat milk.”
Removing fats from milk separates this naturally-occurring nutrient from its source, creating an ‘incomplete’ food. When consuming skimmed milk, our body will crave for that missing element, often giving us food cravings and hunger-pangs.
Truth is, we cannot absorb the minerals from the milk without the saturated fat that act like carriers. So if you are drinking milk for the calcium, it is futile unless you consume full-fat milk.
Additionally, low fat milk often contains milk powders to obtain a smooth consistency. The milk powder is made by spray-drying the milk proteins and fats, oxidising the cholesterol within it. Increasing research has linked oxidised cholesterol to heart disease.
“Diet drinks are always a healthier alternative because of its significantly lower calorie count.”
Diet drinks contain fewer calories because they contain alternative forms of sweeteners such as aspartame to trick the taste buds. When the tongue tastes the sweetness of the drink, it alerts the brain to incoming sugar. Accordingly, this stimulates the digestive tract to receive the sugar input. However, when no traces of sugar are detected, it sends a return message to the brain indicating a need for sugar. This ironically spikes your craving for sweet foods! Furthermore, recent studies have also started to draw a link between Aspartame and certain cancers.
“Diets, Diets, Diets.” That seems to be the hot topic on everyone’s lips leading up to summer. Alas, the annual quest for a toner, leaner, more defined physique begins, but with the vast amount of information on dieting, nutrition and looking good, which ones actually work? Let’s take a look at three popular diets and find out what exactly makes a diet work for you.
The Atkins Diet has been widely popularised because of the rapid changes dieters see in their weight. The diet works by switching your body into a state of ketosis, using fat as the main source of energy instead of carbohydrate, thus inducing drastic weight loss. Dieters follow a regimented 4-stage eating plan. The first stage is a two-week induction phase where only fats, meats and certain cheeses are allowed, and starchy carbohydrates, fruits, nuts and legumes are kept to an absolute minimum. Following which, selected carbohydrate portions are gradually increased with each subsequent phase, and done so until the desired weight is achieved.
Celebrities who have been on the Atkins Diets include Halle Berry, Sarah Jessica Parker, Cameron Diaz, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
- Good for people who are pre-diabetic and those with type II diabetes.Works well for people who are overweight and need to lose fat fast. Great for meat lovers, given that it is a high fat, high protein diet.
- Weight loss in the first week or so is mostly due to water loss from the body.
- It is non- sustainable in the long term.
- Depravation from carbohydrates can cause one to ‘rebound’, and over indulge in sweets when getting off the diet. (So don’t be surprised when you are heavier than when you first got on the diet!).
- While it allows for unlimited saturated fat, it does not specify the need for organic saturated fats. The increasing incidence of heart disease and high cholesterol nowadays is due to the accumulation of trans-fats, plastics, chemicals and stress hormones in non-organic animal fats.
- High amounts of protein at any one time can also increase insulin (the storage hormone) secretion substantially, causing fat to be stored instead of lost.
SOUTH BEACH DIET
Founded by Arthur Agatston, MD, the South Beach Diet has had a following of big names such as Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, Jessica Alba, and our very own Nicole Kidman. This diet is based on the theory that cutting out ‘bad’ fats and carbohydrates will help your body lose weight and be less susceptible to heart disease, thus helping you become healthier and slimmer.
Unlike the Atkins, the South Beach Diet does not restrict carbohydrate portions per se, but emphasizes the use of ‘good’ low glycemic (GI) carbohydrates ( carbohydrates that do not cause a sudden spike in our blood sugar levels) over ‘bad ’ high GI ones, such as highly processed foods, sweets and soft drinks. It also distinguishes between ‘good’ unsaturated fats and ‘bad fats’ like saturated fats and trans fat, both of which is believed to increase in the likelihood of cardiovascular disease. The diet is divided into three different phases all of which include specific allowable foods, meal plans and recipes.
- Ideal for people who want a rough outline on nutrition rather than a structured program.
- The focus on ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbohydrates has been found to decrease the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and help with type 2 diabetes.
- Carbohydrates are not cut out completely, but are substituted by ‘good’ low GI carbohydrates.
- There is no need to count calories or weigh foods on this diet.
- The diet can be a slippery slope for carbohydrate addicts, as no clear guidelines about portion sizes or grams are given. This is left open to the dieter’s interpretation and may lead to overeating.
- Focusing on the Glycemic index (GI) can be rather misleading and cannot be taken as an absolute indication for healthy living. For example, French fries have a lower GI than baked potatoes, but that does not mean it is a healthier option.
Created by Dr Barry Sears, the Zone Diet was not originally intended for weight loss diet but in fact, had an initial focus of decreasing heart disease. The diet focuses on the consumption of a correct ratio of food groups, in particular each meal should comprise of 40% carbohydrates: 30% protein: 30% fat. By keeping to this optimal ratio, our body’s sugar and fat storage hormone – insulin, will not be over secreted at any one time. This means reduced inflammation, more sustained energy, a better metabolism and the best part of all, the weight falls off. Celebrities including Madonna, Demi Moore, Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston have all claimed success with the Zone diet.
- Places a focus on lean protein and ‘good cholesterol’ which is healthy for your heart.
- No specific foods are forbidden, thus giving the dieter a wider variety to choose from.
- While an ideal ratio is specified, the total amount of food to be consumed within each meal is not. Eating large quantities, despite keeping a ratio does not make it healthy to the waistline!
- The Zone can be time consuming as food has to be prepared in a fixed proportion. Inconvenience can often deter dieters from reaching their goals.
While all 3 celebrity diets are helpful in losing weight in their own right, dieters often cannot sustain the results of the diet, leading them to put on more weight than when they first started. Oprah, for instance, has been on almost every diet known to man, only to see her weight ‘yo-yo’ up and down. This is known as the ‘rebound effect’. The stricter the diet and the more emotional suppression the dieter goes though, the larger the rebound effect. Frequent yo-yoing also impairs the proper functioning of the thyroid gland (this is the centre that regulates our metabolism), and leads to drastic weight gain.
Diets may work better for one individual over another. This highlights one fundamental truth – that we are all different in body chemistry and physical structure, and therefore have different nutritional requirements. Unless we are eating what our body really needs, it is not going to be helpful to our weight nor health in the long run. Severely low calorie diets have also been shown to increase cortisol (a stress hormone), causing abdominal fat and muscle breakdown.
So if you really what to shed those nasty kilos and keep it off for good, make sure to give these tips a go:
1. Make eating healthy a lifestyle, not a temporary band-aid.
A Diet (Pronounced ‘die-it’) as its name suggest, is a means to an end. By making a lifestyle choice to nourish your body with healthy produce, you will keep that weight off for good.
2. Stop counting calories!
While calories do have a part to play in the dietary equation, they also discount the importance of other elements in foods such as vitamins, mineral and phytochemicals. These are essential for maintaining the optimal health of our bodies as well as facilitating the absorption of nutrients, without which our bodies breakdown and are more susceptible to disease.
3. Do not just focus on weight loss.
Often initial dietary weight loss can be due to the loss of water (not fat, as you would be led to believe!). Learn to rely on other signs such as how your clothes fit, muscle tone and overall fitness levels.
4. Specific foods stimulate specific hormonal responses.
For instance, while pound for pound carbohydrates have the same calorie count as protein; it stimulates insulin more than any other food! Insulin is a storage hormone that is responsible for reducing blood sugar and storing fat.
5. Aim to have protein in every meal.
Protein sources such as meat, fish and eggs not only increases the satiety of the meal, keeping you fuller for longer, but also increases your metabolic rate. In fact, having protein in the morning has been found to stimulate neuro-peptide Y, a neurotransmitter manufactured in the gut which is responsible for feelings of motivation. Thus a good hearty breakfast sets you up for the day and can help you make better decisions.
6. Stick to nature.
Because our bodies are organic, it is best suited to handle foods that are natural. Unprocessed, organic foods contain a higher amount of vital nutrients and are not adulterated with artificial chemicals and pesticides. By opting for fresh organic produce as often as you can, you will ensure that your body has the nutrition it needs for optimal living.
7. Stay off packaged, canned and preserved foods.
Such foods are known to contain large amounts of xeno-estrogens and ‘plastic- like’ molecules which our bodies are unable to breakdown. According to Renowned Strength Charles Poliquin, our inability to detoxify such estrogens effectively often results in fat storage specifically around the thigh and hamstring region.
8. Eat fat to burn fat.
Due to our diets of modern foods, our bodies severely lack omega-3, an essential unsaturated fatty acid. Omega-3s contribute to the optimal functioning and integrity of all our cells. A high quality fish-oil such as Poliquin or Nordic Naturals is regulated by the highest standards in the industry and can provide a much needed supplementation our diets. The benefits of increasing our Omega-3 intake include weight loss, improvement of cognitive ability, and overall cell health.
9. Eat and enjoy your foods slowly.
Taking time to chew and taste the flavours, will not only promote better digestion, it will also ensure that you do not overeat.
10. Exercise with weights.
Research has found that you would reach your maximum weight loss potential after only 6 weeks of continuous aerobic cardio (that’s right, all those extra miles on the treadmill won’t do you any good), and in fact, can make you fat around the belly region. By using weights, you are building lean muscle tissue. Every extra pound of muscle actively tones your figure and burns an extra 70 calories a day!