‘Why Do You Go Out So Much if You’re A Fitness Professional?’

Of course, I understand where people are coming from when they ask this question. However, I think it’s all too easy to place fitness professionals on a (in my case, arguably somewhat precarious) pedestal.

The phrase ‘practice what you preach’ comes to mind: how can I inspire others to be healthy (‘health’; that somewhat ambiguous and abstract concept, but let’s not get into that), if I spend the weekends with a cocktail in hand?

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Well, in my opinion, I’m practicing exactly what I preach. I’m 24 years old, and enjoy a night out as much as the next person. It just so happens that I live in a city where both food and alcohol are a prevalent component of most weekend plans.

Yes, alcohol is very calorie-dense.

Yes, I will probably go and eat an extra burger if I’ve had a few drinks.

However, manipulation is key: there is always a solution.

Here are a few factors I like to implement during a boozy weekend, in order to minimise the negative effects of one-too-many rosés.

  1. Always train the next day. Always, always, always. No excuses: you got yourself into this position, so ya better move ya damn peach.
  1. After point 1, you’re probably thinking I’m mad. If you struggle badly with a sore head and can’t face the gym, get out and go for a walk. I tend to train in the morning and then walk in the evening. I like to grab one of my besties, take to the beach (the countryside/city will more than suffice if you live outside of Dubai), and have a catch up. Before you know it, you’ve accumulated 10,000 steps, and you know alllllll the gossip from the weekend. Double whammy.
  1. Be clever with your alcohol choices. Ok, so perhaps rosé is ya jam (obvs). So, why not start with a couple of glasses of rosé, then switch it up to something a little lower in cals. Think spirits and soda (add some fresh lime juice if you need a lil extra pozazzzzz), diet mixers, etc.
  1. Don’t eat like a moron when you’re hungover. You’ve had your fun, now it’s time to reign it in a little. We’re fortunate in Dubai that we can get pretty much anything delivered, so if you’re feeling like a total lazy bum and don’t want to cook, opt for something fresh, as opposed to a dense, oily, calorie-laden fry up. You’ll feel better for it. I promise.
  1. Eat moderately less/move more in the coming few days. You guys know by now that calorie restriction isn’t my favourite activity, so I always opt for moving a little more. Either way, it’s about re-establishing an adequate energy balance (calories in vs. calories out) to avoid weight gain.

Weight loss requires a lifestyle overhaul: there’s no point at which the hard work stops permanently. Yes, you can ease your foot off the gas a little from time to time, but the reality is, you’ve got to be fully invested.

I’m a big believer in allowing clients to enjoy the things they love, whether that may be a pizza or a pint (or both, in many cases). The moment that fat loss becomes excessively restrictive, is the point at which adherence dwindles.

Society propagates short-term transformation ideals every day. But, ultimately, if you want to maintain any sort of positive development, this is a long-term process. Surely, then, it’s of utmost importance that we learn to manipulate certain lifestyle factors, in order to incorporate the things we enjoy?

Unsuccessful Fat Loss

All too often, we (the media, ill-educated ‘fitness professionals’, and probably your favourite health bloggers) target incredibly specific aspects of nutrition, deeming them responsible for ineffective fat loss.

Consider the image below:

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How many times have you heard someone blame one of the above reasons (other than number one) for their inability to lose weight?

The truth is, gluten isn’t making you fat. Sugar, likewise, cannot be solely responsible for weight gain (unless of course you’re eating in a calorie surplus, and 100% of those calories are obtained from sugar alone).

Nine times out of ten, if a member of the general public ‘cuts out gluten’ or ‘goes sugar-free’, they will lose weight. Why? Because they are simultaneously (and subconsciously) cutting out a huge portion of their usually stodge-ridden diet, and likely replacing it with a less calorie-dense alternative. Does this mean that gluten/sugar were directly responsible for making them fat? No, no, no. But the daily cakes, sweets, take outs that contain gluten/sugar (which the subject has now renounced)?  Now we’re talking.

Demonising specific food groups, in itself, demonstrates a lack of awareness on the subject, and it’s a practice that instils unnecessary scaremongering relating to certain aspects of nutrition.

Likewise, blaming basic bodily/hormonal functions for poor weight loss is (in the vast majority of general population cases) just plain stupid. Sally down the road isn’t overweight because she’s insulin-resistant, and your colleague Jeff isn’t piling on the pounds because he skipped breakfast, and his body is subsequently operating in ‘starvation mode’.

Let’s look at the reality…

What Sally didn’t tell you about her diet, is that she spends her afternoon snacking on ‘just a few’ biscuits in the office, which easily total 400 calories every day. Over the course of her five-day work week, that’s an extra 2000 calories. Consider that figure per month – a hefty 8000 cals on biscuits alone. But they were just a ‘little snack’, right?

Jeff, on the other hand, forgot to mention that he makes up for his lack of breakfast by ‘treating’ himself to a sausage roll from the bakery in the afternoon. And we all know that sausage roll tastes better served up with a full fat cola.

Both Sally and Jeff are, of course, completely metaphorical in this instance. But, I hope you can start to understand my point: people are all too quick to seek a ‘reason’ for being overweight, in order to excuse themselves.

Fat loss comes down to consumption and expenditure. We’ve been over this before (if you missed it, read more about the energy balance equation here).

The more you eat, the more calories your body takes in. If an increase in consumption is not met with an increase in expenditure, the energy balance is somewhat out of whack. In simple terms, the excess of calories will be stored as fat.

So, what’s the point in going over the same ol’ nonsense again, Char?

My point is this… We NEED to stop targeting specific food groups, hormones and everything in between, and get to the facts on fat loss. As fitness professionals, it’s our duty to address false claims, marketing ploys and downright stupid theories on the human body.

So, my message is the same as always…

  • If you want to lose weight, stop eating like an ass.
  • Consume good, wholesome foods: a varied, naturally colourful, fresh dietary intake.
  • Base your meals around lean, high quality protein sources.
  • Eat treats to maintain your sanity, in whatever way works for you. Personally, I advocate little and often, as I feel this is the most realistic and reliable approach.
  • Move. Every damn day. However you want. Just move.

One day, it’ll start to sink in. Promise.

Peace xoxox

Juice Cleanses, Bone Broths, Skinny Teas: The Myths, Debunked

This morning, our work group chat went offfff. Someone shared an image that had been posted on Instagram, promoting juice cleanses and bone broths as a photoshoot diet strategy. Enough is enough. It’s time to call out the bullsh*t.

Firstly, I want to address the issue of social media itself. Our social platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc) can be incredibly informative. However, with the rise of influencer marketing, we have to be aware that not everything we see is 100% truthful. In reality, I’d estimate that about 70% of the ‘health and fitness’ related content over Instagram is factually inaccurate.

Why? Money. It’s amazing what some individuals will do/say/promote in return for a little cash. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that this is some people’s livelihood, but come on… Let’s retain a little bit of integrity. Kudos to the influencers that only work with brands they genuinely believe in, you guys are the real MVP. However, far too many people are willing to promote ‘fad’ products, which have little-to-no value to the consumer.

On that note, let’s get to the nitty gritty. We’ve been here before. It’s a conversation that’s all too familiar for me now, and hopefully, it’s getting that way for you too.

Here it is: a single ‘weight-loss’ product is not an adequate diet strategy.

A juice cleanse is not a sustainable way to lose weight.

Bone broth is not the reason you dropped some body fat.

‘Skinny tea/coffee’ DOES NOT MAKE YOU SKINNY.

So, you want to go on that juice cleanse which is advertised to help you ‘drop 10kg in 5 days’… Firstly, let’s just point out that it’s physically impossible to drop 10kg of body fat in three days. Here’s what will happen:

  • You’ll drop some water weight.
  • You will lose a small percentage of body fat.

But… continue reading for the important stuff.

A juice diet, bone broth cleanse, or skinny coffee regime will not, itself, stimulate a reduction in body fat. Despite some very clever marketing strategies, none of these products have a mystical effect on your internal state. They will not ‘flush out’ your gut, or promote an increased metabolic rate.

The real reason you’ll drop some body fat? Because you switched up an excessively calorie dense diet (which made you overweight in the first place) for lower calorie liquid alternatives. Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking… Ah, so liquid must be important to lose weight then? Nope! Wrong again. The fact that these ‘weight loss’ products are liquid is totally irrelevant.

So, what does this all boil down to? Calorie deficit. This topic must be somewhat fresh in your minds, remember my post ‘Calories and Fat Loss’ a couple of weeks ago? Same same. But I’ll say it again (and seemingly again and again after that).

Fat loss occurs through a caloric deficit. Fat loss does not occur because you had your fruit and vegetables in liquid form. Fat loss does not occur because you drank animal broth. Fat loss does not occur because you consume skinny coffee. Expend more than you ingest, and you will lose weight. That’s just science.

Don’t be a sucker for consumer marketing.

Peace xoxox

Calories and Fat Loss

How many times have you heard a statement along the following lines?

  • ‘I need to lose weight, I’m going to cut out bread’.
  • ‘Ooh, no chocolate for me, that’s fattening’.

These statements are wildly outdated. Not only that, they’re damn right wrong.

So you want to lose weight? Let’s break it down. When it comes to fat loss, it’s about establishing the correct energy balance to align with your goals.

If you’re unsure what I’m talking about, consider the following:

‘Energy in’ = calories.

‘Energy out’ = energy expenditure (through tasks such as living, moving etc).

  • If energy in is equal to energy out, weight remains the same.
  • If energy in is greater than energy out, weight will be gained.
  • If energy in is lower than energy out, weight will be lost.

Energy-Balance-Diagram

So, as you can see from the picture above, fat loss boils down to calories in vs. calories out. In this sense, whether you decide to obtain your calories from chocolate or lean meat/vegetables is neither here nor there. Obviously, there is a logical approach to fat loss (which basically just consists of not being a moron), but whatever approach you take, calories remain as calories. Now, this is not me suggesting that you shouldn’t consume good, wholesome foods. Let me explain…

Your body does not have a magical trigger system to identify the calories obtained from ‘naughty’ (hate that label) foods, to immediately store them as fat.

Evidently, some foods (typically those which are also ‘hyper-palatable’ – v yummy and totally desirable) are more dense in calories. This means you can eat a much lesser volume, whilst still consuming a relatively high caloric intake. Other food groups (often classified as ‘healthy’ – think lean meats, veggies etc) are not nearly as hefty in calories. What does that mean? You can eat a whole lotta volume and still keep the calories low. In other words, you get a lot more bang for ya buck.

What am I getting at? I want to debunk the idea that certain foods are deemed to be ‘off limits’ when trying to shift some fat. Why? Primarily because I bloody love chocolate. No one should have to live without chocolate. Or pizza. Gal likes her food yo.

So no, dieting doesn’t have to mean absolute avoidance of all hyper-palatable foods. In fact, I’d personally argue the complete opposite. In my experience, the inclusion of more calorie dense foods, often identified as ‘treats’ in this context, can be highly valuable.

For me, and most of the clients I’ve worked with, a small, regular ‘naughty treat’ (for want of a more appropriate label) acts to maintain sanity. Look at the bigger picture: if a small bar of chocolate is going to stop you craving a big dirty binge, then surely that chocolate bar can be identified as a pivotal part of your progress?

It’s about establishing a balance that will keep you on track in moving towards your ultimate long-term goal, but also maintain your sanity in the short term. So, perhaps rather than searching for a single identifiable food source as the cause of your weight gain, why not look at the bigger picture?

Consider your nutrition as a whole. Chocolate or bread will not halt your progress. Weight gain will not occur unless there is a surplus of calories. So, providing you are able to establish a calorie deficit (through either moving more or eating less), then you will lose weight. It’s as simple as that.

In fact, it’s as simple as this:

Use your brain.

Don’t be a moron.

Eat your protein.

Don’t be scared of bread.

Your body loves micronutrients.

Don’t be a moron.

That’s pretty much it.

Peace xoxox

15 Gym Girl Problems

Whether you’re a newbie to the fitness world, or an avid gym-goer, I’m sure you can relate to a few of these struggles. If you haven’t been faced with these problems just yet, then take my word… They’re REAL.

  1. The moment when you unthinkingly pour boiling water directly onto your protein powder, and your proats consequently become a disastrously-textured mess. Yuck! (Fitness life hack: mix in the protein powder after you’ve combined the oats and water, duh.)
  2. The constant struggle between your love for peanut butter and the desire to have visible abs.
  3. Coffee or preworkout. Is it acceptable to have both? Probably not, but let’s do it anyway… BAD IDEA.
  4. *WHY IS MY SKIN TINGLING?* Oh wait, that’s probably the result of consuming coffee and preworkout at the same time. Caffeine overload – SEND HELP.
  5. Not being able to sleep properly because of said caffeine, and stressing because sleep is the home of gainzzz.
  6. The battle between the aforementioned need for sleep (for muscle growth and repair purposes, not laziness – obviously) and that 5.30am workout you’ve scheduled.
  7. When you get to the gym and realise you forgot your headphones. Nightmare.
  8. Let me just pull my now somewhat sweat-laden phone out of my sports bra. Oh great, did he just see me do that?
  9. Learning to accept DOMS as a part of your everyday life… Cannot sit down like a normal human being. Cannot get up without looking like a grandma. Cannot climb stairs at all. Cannot comfortably raise arm above shoulder height.
  10. Cancelling social plans that don’t involve exercise or healthy food, in order to exercise or eat healthy food.
  11. Owning 487,000 pairs of leggings, but very few normal clothes.
  12. Wearing the same 3-5 pairs of leggings most of the time, despite previous point.
  13. Buying more unnecessarily expensive leggings, so the other 487,000 pairs can sit in your drawer for eternity.
  14. Wearing gym kit all of the time; even when you’re not going to the gym. Judge me all you like, I’m free to high kick in public whenever I feel like it (always).
  15. Need to wash my hair, but haven’t worked out yet today. Is it acceptable to leave the house like this?

‘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.

 

Making the Most of Your Workout

As a Personal Trainer, I come across plenty of people attempting to lose weight, but going about it in the wrong way. I’ve come up with a few tips to help you make the most out of every workout.

1) Plan Ahead:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again). Getting to the gym with no session plan will lead to time wasting, and plenty of it. Arrive with a structure to follow – it’ll make your session a whole lot easier. If the machine you want to use is occupied, switch up the order and come back to it later. At least the session will be written down for you to see, so there’s no danger of mindblanks… We all know it happens!

2) Form:

Completing an exercise with bad form can make the movement much less effective, not to mention the extent to which it increases risk of injury. Deadlifting with a rounded back, or squatting with excess anterior (frontal) tilt places severe, unnecessary stress upon joints. To ensure you know how to perform exercises correctly, I recommend visiting a reputable website (such as bodybuilding.com), where you can watch a video that demonstrates perfect form. This will help you to gain more out of every movement.

3) Ditch the Phone:

You know as well as I do that taking a phone to the gym is the ULTIMATE distraction. Yet, we all still do it! Whether used for selfies or Facebook stalking, a phone simply isn’t helping you to get results. In order to maximise your time in the gym, leave the damn phone in your bag. You’ll survive without it for an hour…I promise.

Now it’s time to put these into practice. Enjoy!

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.

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!