‘Quick Fixes’ to Weight Loss

I bet that title caught your attention, hey?

Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you may have guessed what’s coming… Despite what you see on tv, or read in the media, there simply aren’t any quick fixes to weight loss.

Don’t be fooled by the beautiful models and Instagram celebs who promote these products; it’s amazing what some people will do to get a little cash in their pocket.

Trust me, these girls didn’t get abs like that by drinking three cups of detox tea per day. A strong, healthy body is the result of hard work, effort and determination. If you want to reduce body fat, you’ve got to put in the work. It’s that simple.

Here’s a list of key words that you may want to be wary of:

Cleanse: ‘purify your digestive system, with our three day juice cleanse’.

Hahahaha – nope. Consuming only juice is not a healthy or sustainable way to reduce body fat. Whilst your overall bodyweight is likely to drop whilst on a juice diet, this will primarily be water weight. It’s impossible to lose 10lbs of actual body fat in three days, despite what some very clever marketing campaigns will lead you to believe. Not to mention that reducing micronutrient-dense fruits and veggies to a juice depletes them of much of their fibre content – the very thing your gut loves about them in the first place… Work that one out.

Detox: ‘a miracle tea which will help you shift stubborn belly fat’.

Really!? No… Just no. If you believe these ludicrous statements, you’re the ideal target consumer for large corporations, who seek to make money through marketing ‘wonder’ products, which absolutely DO NOT WORK. Yes, a detox tea will have you sitting on the loo more than usual – so, again, you’ll shed a few pounds of water weight. But REALITY CHECK: your ‘stubborn belly fat’ (or any other fat for that matter) ain’t gonna shift as the result of a cuppa. Get to the gym, lift some weights and/or smash a short, high intensity cardio session. Done.

Low-Fat/Fat-Free: I’ve talked about this a lot before (check out my rant here), but it’s a fact that some people just can’t get their heads around. We’ve been driven to believe that fat is the root of all evil in the nutrition world, because people equate the word directly to body fat. However, fat will not make you fat. Fats are an essential macronutrient, which the body needs in order to function efficiently. Products stripped of their fat content are nearly always full of sugar and artificial ingredients, in order to compensate for the lack of fat(which is actually much more useful to our bodies than a whole load of chemicals), and make them as tasty as possible.

Protein: *WARNING* – just because a product is advertised as ‘high protein’, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy! There are too many ‘health food’ products on the market which are ridden with sugar and packed full of preservatives. The only way to find out is to always read the label, thoroughly. You know my rule by now, if you can’t pronounce it or don’t know what the ingredient is, you probably don’t want to put it into your body.

So there you have it. Nothing can replace discipline. Stop searching for a quick result, and instead focus on the bigger picture.

‘Fitness’ is all-encompassing. There is no set destination, no end date. This is a lifestyle, and when you’re in it, you’re in it for the long haul. But trust me when I say, you’ll learn to love it.

 

How to Stick to Your Resolutions

Over a week has now passed since we welcomed the New Year, and some of our good intentions may be starting to fade away. But not to fear! I’ve come up with a few tips to help you stick with your resolutions for the long-haul.

1) No quick fixes. Focus on the bigger picture.

Don’t try to transform your entire life overnight. Cutting out every morsel of bad food, or going to an early morning fitness class every single day may not be the most sustainable solution, if it’s not at all what you’re used to. Not to mention, it will probably become a bit of a chore (psychology is essential with this stuff – you’re training your mind as much as your body).

Instead, implement smaller, more realistic changes, which you can maintain and adapt over the course of the year. For example, why not start with 3 gym classes per week, but also focus some attention on your nutrition? That way, you can adjust your schedule as necessary when your body feels ready. No absolute shocks to the system, and less risk of crashing and burning right away.

2) Write down your goals.

There’s plenty of evidence to show that those who write down their goals are much more likely to achieve them. The very act of writing something down makes it concrete; it’s like a confirmation of what you’re striving for, from yourself, to yourself.

You can even take it one step further and go public… Stick your goals onto a pinboard or attach them to the fridge. If it’s written down for you (and others) to see, it’ll keep you accountable, and also act as a much-needed reminder when you feel you’re about to go off track.

3) Get your pals involved.

Resolutions aren’t all that fun if we have to go at it alone. The prospect of trying something new can be daunting, so why not rope in a pal? (I say rope in like it’s a bad thing, but remember the whole idea is here is ‘self-improvement’… For everyone involved!)

With a buddy by your side, you’ll be able to push and encourage each other, and motivate each other to stay on track. Not to mention, everything is more fun with a teammate by your side!

New Year’s Resolutions

When the New Year comes around, we all jump at the opportunity to make ourselves a better person. As basic as these are, I thought I’d share my resolutions with you, just in case you’re struggling to come up with some for yourself.

1) Stress Less:

Despite generally being a very positive person, I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself, because I’m also an undeniable perfectionist. This year, I’m challenging myself to seek out the good aspects in those situations where things haven’t gone quite to plan. The reality is, life is pretty damn great, and there are a whole load of things to be thankful for, always.

2) Sleep More:

This leads on from my last point, because for me (and most of us) lack of sleep is directly related to stress. In fact, even the thought of too little sleep stresses me out! As a Personal Trainer, my hours are pretty antisocial… 5am wake-ups aren’t ideal for your sleep pattern. However, better organisation will mean that I can get to bed earlier and catch those much-needed zzzs.

3) Minimise on Procrastination:

We’re all guilty of it, but I really am a first class procrastinator. When I have a to-do list as long as my arm, I’m too good at passing the time doing something arbitrary, as opposed to focusing on the task at hand. I could save a hell of a lot of time (and unnecessary stress) by getting it done straight away.

4) Make Time for People:

Living life at 1000 miles per hour means I all too often neglect spending time with those closest to me. So this year, I’m determined to spend more quality time with my loved ones. It’s all very well living out here in Dubai, but you’ve got to get out there and indulge yourself in all the city has to offer, if you want to make the most of your experience.

5) Content:

Last but certainly not least… Content, content, content. A blog without content really isn’t a blog at all, and I’ve been really slacking of late due to work commitments. So January is the month to get back on it, and hit you with some interesting info! Stay tuned…

High Intensity Interval Training – HIIT

High Intensity Interval Training is a topic I’ve discussed before, but I’ve never dedicated a post solely to the subject. So, it’s about time for a little explanation! No doubt you’ve heard of HIIT – it’s everywhere nowadays. But for those of you that don’t really understand the concept, I’m here to help.

HIIT is an ideal form of exercise for those aiming to shed some body fat. We’re talking maximum calorie burn, minimum amount of time. It all sounds a bit too good to be true, right? Keep reading to find out how it works…

What is HIIT?

It’s a method of training which involves alternating between timed periods of high and low intensity. For example, circuit training with 40 seconds of hard work, followed by 20 seconds rest. The idea is to exercise at maximum capacity during the ‘work’ phase, before allowing your muscles to partially recover, and then repeat.

How does HIIT work?

Training at maximal effort shifts the heart rate into its anaerobic zone, meaning that muscles are forced to work without oxygen for a short period of time. An ‘oxygen debt’ is therefore established.

However (alike to all debts) this must be repaid; a process referred to as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). This is the increased rate at which muscles take in oxygen, after having performed strenuous exercise. The result? The body’s metabolic rate will remain elevated for hours after you finish working out. In simple terms, you’ll burn more calories whilst at rest, all because of that HIIT session.

The Benefits:

  • No gym? No problem! HIIT can be done at home. Basic, functional movements, such as squat and lunge variations (jumps are ideal), push ups and mountain climbers are all suitable.
  • HIIT doesn’t have to be hours long. It can be short and sweet – even just 25 minutes will do the job, provided you’re working at maximum capacity!

Now, get out there and give it a go for yourself.

Making Time to Workout

As a fitness professional, I’m certainly not new to the phrase ‘I don’t have time to exercise’; it’s something I hear all of the time. I get it, absolutely. If you have a full time job, or a family (or both… superheroes right there), then it can be difficult to take a little time out and focus on yourself. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not important to do so… In fact, it becomes all the more vital.

Here are a few handy tips to help you find those extra minutes in the day, so you can smash a workout and feel great afterwards!

1) Get organised.

Buy yourself a diary, write out your plans and make a schedule. If you organise a specific time in the day for a workout, it’s much more likely that you’ll make it happen. I would recommend doing a session in the morning, because very few things can get in the way, such as having to work late, or last minute arrangements to see your pals. You don’t want to miss out on that!

2) Go to bed earlier.

A lack of sleep will leave you feeling lethargic and de-energised. If you want to have the motivation to workout and feel your best, optimum snooze time is 7-8 hours. Just think, an early night means that you can also wake up a little early, and fit in that much-needed workout to start your day.

3) Don’t train for hours.

A workout need not be excessively long. 20-30 minutes of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is plenty. It’ll boost your metabolism and aid in fat burning throughout the course of the day! Not sure what HIIT is? Head over to YouTube, where there are plenty of real-time examples for you to try.

4) A workout doesn’t have to be in the gym.

When we think of exercise, we tend to think of a gym. For some, this thought alone is enough to avoid working out. In which case, try training at home. It’ll save you time and money. All you need is enough space for a yoga mat, as this is sufficient to perform a whole array of tough, fat-burning bodyweight exercises. Another top tip is to make use of your furniture… A dining chair alone is plenty of equipment – use your imagination!

Now, time for some tough love…

When it comes down to it, there are 24 hours in the day, and that’s the same for everyone. Admittedly, some people have more to squeeze into that period than others, but it’s all about organisation. If you want it, you have to make time. And I know as well as anyone that if you want it enough, you’ll make it happen.

Five Simple Steps Towards Achieving ‘Balance’

Balance seems to be the it word of the fitness industry right now. It’s everywhere. You’ve undoubtedly heard it tossed around; hey, perhaps you even use the word yourself. In this post, I want to address what ‘balance’ means to me, and suggest five simple steps to help you achieve it.

Here we go:

1) Don’t deprive yourself.

In my opinion, this is without doubt the most important factor. We’ve all been there, dabbling with (sometimes very bizarre) fad diets, without a legitimate understanding of them – usually because the logic behind them is somewhat constructed. Five cups of green tea a day and complete avoidance of anything mildly indulgent just isn’t sustainable. Now, I’m not saying it’s going to be exactly the same for everyone, but in my experience, this approach towards ‘health’ just doesn’t work. I’m now in a very content place, where I eat chocolate on a daily basis and enjoy every damn bite. Eat the good stuff – treat yourself. Just do so in moderation.

2) Get to know your body.

This very much leads on from the last point. A solid nutritional foundation is vital in enabling a sustainable lifestyle. I’ve come to understand how best to fuel my body – what works and what doesn’t. I know that eating regularly is essential in order to avoid hanger-related mood swings, along with the desire to eat everything I see all in one sitting. Do your research, experiment a little, and find what works for YOU – after all, every individual body is different.

3) Stop focusing solely on aesthetics.

Constantly studying your appearance is a torturous process, and it can become obsessive. Instead, focus on the way you feel. Eat nutritious food (around 80% of the time) because you gain enjoyment from knowing that you’re fuelling your body correctly. Exercise because you love to challenge your body’s capabilities, not because you ate too much junk last night. The point at which we are able to adjust our mentality towards ‘health’, is the moment that we can establish a genuine sense of balance.

4) Stop comparing yourself to others.

There’s no denying that this is a tough one to hack. Consider it this way: how can you achieve the slightest sense of contentment in yourself, if you insist on comparing yourself to others? Rather than scrolling through your Instagram homepage thinking, ‘I wish I looked like that’, be encouraged by another person’s strength, and allow them to be inspired by yours. It’s time we stop critiquing one another, and learn to work together. Be the source of someone else’s inspiration.

5) Find your thing.

I’ve used this phrase a lot recently, but it’s something I’m so passionate about. Exercise is a critical part of your journey towards a balanced lifestyle, however, it’s difficult to attain a sense of fulfilment doing something you don’t enjoy. For me, running on a treadmill is the most boring thing in the world, so I find alternative ways to get in a cardio workout. Try a new class with a friend, go hiking at the weekend, revisit a childhood activity. Don’t limit yourself, get out there and find something you love – that way, you’re far more likely to stick at it.

Working Out When Sick

Exercise is fab; there’s no denying it. We all know that by now (unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past decade). However, in this post, I want to address the flip side of the coin, and identify why exercise isn’t always the right thing to do… Specifically, when you’re ill.

For a regular gym-goer, like myself, it’s hard to avoid the media-driven ‘no-excuses’ mentality towards fitness. It’s more than likely that your home page on Instagram is riddled with inspirational quotes, workout videos, and a whole load of perfectly formed bodies (not that you should be comparing yourself to those anyway…). The struggle is very much real: trust me, I get it.

But despite what we are conditioned to believe, it’s important to realise that exercise isn’t always the solution. Yep, I really did just say that – shocker, I know. Now, I want to make sure my message here is very clear: I am not, in any way, trying to discourage you from working out. My point is that there is no shame in skipping a workout if you are feeling genuinely unwell.

sick-woman-in-bed-with-a-cold

Rest may just be exactly what the Doctor ordered… Here’s why:

During strenuous exercise, the body undergoes hormonal changes, and is placed under significant stress. Blood pressure is elevated, heart rate will increase, and breathing becomes quicker and deeper. These adjustments place a physical strain upon the throat and lungs, pushing the body outside of its comfort zone.

In usual circumstances, these reactions contribute to improving our overall fitness. However, when you’re unwell, your immune system becomes weakened whilst fighting to overcome the illness. Therefore, the excess stress that exercise places upon the body will only operate to inhibit, and thereby elongate, the recovery process.

So there we have it: it’s critical that you allow your body the time it needs to recover, before engaging in anything arduous.

I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again: please don’t read this post selectively and assume that I’m promoting a reduction in activity levels… In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Exercise is the most incredible, uplifting activity, and I can’t recommend it enough. Your task as an individual is to determine those times when you are genuinely unwell, and then allow your body the rest it needs. If it’s just a little sniffle teamed with a lack of motivation, get up, get out, and smash a workout… I promise you’ll feel better after!

My Shopping List Staples

Shopping can be confusing at the best of times, especially when you’re trying to make healthy choices. I receive a lot of questions regarding nutrition, and I’ve already put together a rough food diary, which you can view here. I thought it would also be useful to create a list of my cupboard/fridge staples, to perhaps make your trip around the supermarket a little less faff. Here we go:

Fruit:

  • Bananas: I am quite literally bananas about bananas. I use them for everything – smoothies, baking, topping rice cakes and peanut butter. You name it, a banana can do it. Plus, they’re rich in potassium, and a source of quality carbohydrate, ideal either pre or post workout
  • Frozen Berries: buying your berries frozen means that you get a lot more bang for your buck… In more ways than one. When berries are frozen, their nutrients are sealed in, thus they maintain a higher nutritional value than their fresh counterparts, which have been bumped about during the journey from field to fridge. They’re also a lot less expensive, and last for ages in the freezer. Great for adding to smoothies, or topping your porridge
  • Avocado: you may be inclined to call it a vegetable because of its savoury taste. Butttt, avo is a fruit packed full of monounsaturated (healthy) fats, potassium and fibre. I start almost every day with the amusingly basic breakfast of eggs and avo, and I’m not bored of it yet

Veggies:

  • Sweet Potato: dense in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium and iron, sweet potato is a quality source of carbohydrate, with a valuable nutritional profile. Added bonus: it makes everything taste better
  • Cucumber: chop into sticks and munch alongside a fresh pot of hummus – you have the perfect snack! Did you know that cucumbers contain silica, the mineral responsible for promoting good nail-health? Well, you do now
  • Spinach Leaves: phytonutrient central, with anti-inflammatory properties. Spinach helps to maintain healthy eyesight, and its an absolute overall winner

Carbohydrates:

  • Oats: rich in beta-glucan – a dietary fibre known to reduce levels of bad cholesterol in the body. I eat oats cold, soaked in water or Rude Health Brown Rice Milk
  • Rice Cakes: the ultimate versatile snack. Top with peanut butter and banana, cream cheese and veggies, tuna and mashed avocado… The possibilities are endless
  • Uncle Ben’s Wholegrain Rice: these microwaveable pouches are easy to cook, and oh so tasty. Great for when you’re in a hurry, and available in a variety of yummy flavours

Protein:

  • Salmon Fillet: rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D and B12, selenium, niacin – the list goes on. The perfect protein-packed addition to any meal
  • Cod Fillet: a low calorie source of lean protein, dense in vitamins B6 and B12. Pair with sweet potato wedges, vinegar and homemade mushy peas to make your very own healthy fish and chips. Don’t mind if I do…
  • Eggs: the nutritional powerhouse, containing 13 essential vitamins and minerals, alongside a high nutrient and healthy fat content. I eat so many eggs that one day I may actually become one
  • Tinned Tuna in Spring Water: a readily available, affordable source of protein, and a great option for when you’re on-the-go. I opt for tuna in spring water, as opposed to oil, as this reduces calorie content

Snacks:

  • Fage 0% Fat Yoghurt: high in protein, low in fat. The ideal addition to a post workout smoothie, when fats should be kept to a minimum, to ensure rapid absorption of carbohydrates and protein into the body
  • Full Fat Greek Yoghurt: I buy both full and 0% fat yoghurt, to eat at different times of day. Mix 200g full fat Greek yoghurt with a handful of frozen berries, to create a tasty and filling snack
  • Meridian Peanut/Almond Butter: 100% nuts, enough said
  • Dark Chocolate: the darker, the more delicious… We’re talking 90% cocoa. If you can find raw cacao chocolate, that’s even better

This is by no means a fool proof, all-inclusive list, but I hope that it’s helpful nonetheless!

How to Ease the Pain of a Hangover

As I’m writing this post, I’m struggling with a very sore head. If I stand up too quickly, I feel dizzy and that awful hangover taste remains in my mouth no matter how many times I brush my teeth. My body hurts. Do you think I went out last night?

So I’m writing this post not only as an offering to you lovely lot, but also to myself. I want it to act as a bit of a reality check, that it’s okay to go out and have fun, drink a bit too much and act a little silly. The key is just not to make a habit of going too hard. You can’t live your life avoiding everything unhealthy, because you’ll end up missing out on loads of the fun stuff (that’s not to say that the gym isn’t fun… The gym is my favourite, but you get what I’m saying).

I purposefully didn’t name this post ‘How to Cure a Hangover’, because my honest opinion is that this horrendous feeling can’t be cured. So these are just a few handy tips that should help you feel a little better.

Water: I know, you’ve heard it before, but alcohol is a diuretic, which means it removes fluid from the body. Most of the symptoms of a hangover result from dehydration, so drink up. When I’m suffering from a sore head, I find plain water quite hard to drink. A great alternative is to add in a few slices of lemon/lime to spruce it up.

Get Outside: I appreciate that moving from your bed is probably the last thing you want to do, but getting outside into the fresh air will help you feel so much better. It’s the best way to clear your head, not to mention, it will take your mind off how rubbish you feel.

Avoid the Desire to Binge on Junk Food: I know it’s tempting, but if you’ve already put your body through a heavy night, you need to help it recuperate properly. Lots of fresh fruit and veggies. Bananas are a great option, because they’re full of potassium. They are also high in electrolytes, which your body will have lost as a result of consuming alcohol.

Don’t Have a Hair of the Dog: Whoever came up with this idea? Alcohol, the cause of your problems right now, as a potential solution? No thanks. Having more alcohol is always going to be a bad idea. It will only prolong that awful feeling your experiencing, so steer clear of this myth.

Sleep: Chances are, you’re probably already lacking on sleep from a late night. So if you’re feeling tired, have a nap. Just make sure you set your alarm, and don’t sleep through the whole day, otherwise it will be a nightmare getting to sleep when it’s actually time for bed.

I hope you find these tips useful!

The Importance of Rest Days

We all know the importance of working out and training hard. However, something that is so often overlooked is the importance of taking rest days. If you want to achieve maximum results from your strength training, you need to allow your body time to recuperate.

What many people don’t know is that lifting weights actually breaks down fibres in the working muscles. Increased strength and mass occur when these fibres heal and rebuild themselves. This is why rest and recovery (alongside a clean diet, high in protein) are so crucial if you want to see progression. Not giving your muscles adequate time to repair leads to increased risk of injury.

If you overtrain by not allowing your body sufficient recovery, performance will plateau. This is why it’s a good idea to split your workouts into muscles groups, targeting certain areas on specific days. This method enables you to train one area of your body whilst another is recovering.

The required amount of rest varies from person to person. The trick is to listen to your own body: if your muscles are sore/you feel fatigued, take a rest day. Just make sure you’re able to determine the difference between necessary recovery time and laziness.

I tend to take two rest days per week, although I’m not the sort of person who can sit around and do nothing all day. So if you’re anything like me, and get itchy feet if you’re not moving, here are some ideas of activities to perform on your rest day:

Cardio: walk, run, cycle, swim – whatever you fancy. Cardio is a great way to get fresh blood pumping around your body. Providing freshly oxygenated blood to the recovering muscles will aid in recovery and repair.

Yoga/stretching: this is a great way to de-stress and clear your mind. Not to mention, it aids in easing muscle tension. Increasing your flexibility greatly reduces the risk of injury, so it’s important to take some time to focus on this.

Foam rolling: getting rid of those nasty niggles is crucial, and strangely satisfying (I always feel about a stone lighter, and a lot more bouncy once I’ve finished rolling my legs). Rolling out your muscles can help increase blood flow, and will also assist in improving mobility.