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

Why You Should Hire a Personal Trainer

Are you feeling uninspired, demotivated, or a little uncertain of what on earth you should actually be doing in the gym? Perhaps it’s time to get a little outside help.

Hiring a Personal Trainer could be just the kick up the backside you need. Here are a few reasons why…

  1. Motivation

It’s all too easy to talk ourselves out of exercise.

‘I’m too tired, I should probably get some sleep.’

‘Maybe my muscles need (another) rest day?’

‘It’s ok, I can just go to the gym tomorrow.’

Before you know it, you’re three weeks out of training, twenty seven donuts down and that bottle of rosé in the fridge starts to look a little too appealing.

However, if you work with a Personal Trainer, your sessions will be scheduled in advance. That, combined with the fact that you’ve probably paid in advance, should be motivation enough to get ya lil toosh to the gym. In short, a coach will help you to maintain consistency. No more excuses.

  1. Variety

Motivation from a coach extends further than just getting you to the gym. Each session will be structured to your personal requirements (and if it isn’t, there’s a 99% chance that you’ve hired a terrible PT).

It’s a coach’s job to ensure that any training regime is diverse, interesting and enjoyable. An individualised programme is likely to differ somewhat from the training you plan (or perhaps don’t plan) when you train alone. This variety can be crucial in maintaining focus and drive, not to mention helping to avoid plateaus in strength/physical appearance.

  1. Form

So you reaaaaally wanna do a deadlift, but you can’t hinge without hurting your back?

Perhaps you don’t even know what a hinge is…. In which case, it’s definitely time to get yourself some professional help.

In theory, no movement pattern should cause pain to an injury free, able-bodied person. If it does, chances are, you need to fix the way you move. A good coach will be able to assist with cues and guidelines you didn’t even know existed.

For Dubai-based Personal Training enquiries, contact me on 0527421966.

Fitness Life Hacks

These tips/rules aren’t necessarily just for the newbies amongst us. The seasoned pros can also do with a little help every once in a while.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of a killer playlist. Those days when you’re just not feeling it (and even the days when you are), pop on some badass tunes and go be a gangsta in the gym. Get ya swag on. My go-to? Drake or Future – undoubtedly both way too cool for me, but they do the job.
  2. Buy some kitchen scales. No doubts, no guess work. If you’re tracking macros, accurate calculations are important, otherwise you’re not really tracking anything at all. Just think, there are 9kcals in just one gram of fat, so inaccurate estimations could take you way over your desired daily intake.
  3. Carbs are not the devil. No, no, no. They’re an essential macronutrient, and play a vital role in energy production. They’re also the primary source of energy that the brain uses to function (full blog post to follow on this topic, as there’s simply too much to say here). For now, all you need to know is not to fear carbs, or avoid them completely. Instead, research how best to incorporate this food group into your diet, to help you reach your goals, alongside your preferred style of training.
  4. Sleep sleep sleep. Both your body and your brain rely on a good night’s sleep to operate effectively. A lack of rest will leave you feeling flat, depleted, and unable to perform at your full potential. If you’re busting your butt in the gym, make sure you’re allowing yourself adequate time for muscle growth and repair. Aim for 7-8 hours per night.
  5. Understand that the best way to learn is by doing. This industry is full of contradictions. One opinion undermines another on pretty much every subject. It’s unbelievably frustrating and will leave you questioning what to believe. The solution is to do your own research, broaden your knowledge and then put things into practice. Every individual body is different, and you won’t know what works for you unless you give it a shot.
  6. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in a rut with your training; change up your routine on a regular basis. If you don’t alter your workouts, the body will adapt and a plateau in progress is inevitable. Not to mention, you’ll soon become bored and lose interest. Mix things up, try a new programme – your body will thank you for 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!

Finding Inspiration

For me, inspiration and motivation go hand in hand. That being said, they don’t always exist naturally. Sometimes, you’ve got to get out there and find them for yourself.

I’m often asked how I maintain the motivation to eat good food and get my butt to the gym, so I’ve put together a few handy tips to help you find inspiration when you need it most!

1) Social Media Influencers.

Too many people focus on the negative aspects of social media, without appreciating its value. Fill your timeline with those who share the same interests as you – those who are already where you aspire to be.

If you’re looking for healthy recipes and meal inspiration, there are countless amazing profiles. Equally, if you’re searching for workout ideas, do a little research and discover your favourite fitness bloggers.

Don’t compare yourself to these people, but allow yourself to be influenced by their good habits. You’re much more likely to drag your perky little butt to the gym if your timeline is full of gym girls, than a group of old pals you haven’t seen for ten years on a drunken night out.

2) Utilising your own social media for good.

This leads on from my last point. Social media is more valuable than just selfies. Sure, the occasional progress update/sweaty gym snap is great, but don’t forget to also include quality content that can be genuinely useful to your followers.

We’re talking workouts, recipes, your favourite healthy cafés, or a new gym class. Even a motivational quote may be exactly what one of your followers needs to help them stay on track. By creating quality content, you’ll inspire others. That will, in turn, inspire you at the same time… I promise!

3) Don’t sweat the small stuff.

You had a bad day, and ate half a tray of Krispy Kremes? Yep, we’ve all been there (except when it’s me, it’s most likely two trays of KK, a double cheeseburger and 14,000 bags of Haribo, but who’s counting anyway?).

It happens! Don’t beat yourself up. If you let a blip like this drag you down, it’s going to be much harder to re-establish the motivation to get going again.

Stay positive, and try not to overlook how far you’ve come. Get back on track as soon as possible, and avoid letting that cheat day turn into a cheat week, because it’s a downwards spiral from there. You’ve got this!

4) Tuuuuuuuuunes.

Never underestimate the value of a killer playlist to get you going. Music can totally transform both our mood and mentality. Find the tunes that make you feel like a badass, put your headphones in and zone out. It’s just you and your workout. Get it done.

5) Schedule your training.

If you’re a busy bee (who isn’t nowadays?), the best option is to allocate specific time slots within your week where you can go and workout. My recommendation is always to get up, get out and get it done in the morning, because that way, life can’t create nearly as many hurdles, temptations and excuses to interfere with your session.

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.

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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!

How to Stay Healthy Whilst Travelling

We know all too well that attempting to remain healthy whilst travelling can be a bit of a struggle. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that holidays are a time for indulgence, and I challenge myself to conquer the breakfast buffet as much as the next person.

That being said, constant overindulgence will leave you feeling groggy and de-energised in no time, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll also become a little grumpy. For this reason, I try to implement minor, healthy alternatives throughout the course of my holiday, in order to maintain a little bit of normality in my body.

Here are a few tips to help you stay on track whilst on holiday:

Avoid Plane Food: This stuff is just awful. Full of chemicals, preservatives, and a whole load of sodium, pre-packaged plane food is enough to leave anyone feeling unwell. Instead, find a more healthy option within the airport terminal to take on the plane with you. I tend to team a wrap or salad with a pot of fresh fruit and some nuts to snack on throughout the journey. If you’re really organised, another great option is to prepare your own food at home in advance.

Be Prepared: I’m the kind of person who eats a meal, and then gets hungry two-three hours later, whilst my family/friends are still full. To avoid any hunger-related meltdowns, pack snacks in your handbag/rucksack; this way, you’ll never be caught off guard. I tend to opt for something protein-based, as these snacks will keep you fuller for longer. My favourites are Grenade Carb Killa or Quest protein bars, and Upbeat smoothies.

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If You’re Going to Workout, Do it in the Morning: I’ve never been a fan of training on an empty stomach, so on holiday is the only time you’ll catch me in the gym pre-breakfast. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll squeeze in an afternoon workout, but the likelihood is, these plans will crumble. You won’t want to drag yourself away from the pool, and the pre-dinner drinks will be calling your name. Get up and get it done. Besides, what could be better than working out and then refuelling with a killer breakfast buffet? (arguably, the best feature of any holiday).

Be Cocktail Savvy: We all love a good piña colada, but with a similar calorie count to a light meal, it’s not an ideal drink of choice to have regularly. Although cocktails taste damn good, they tend to be full of sugar (and spice, and all things nice. I know, they’re hard to resist). Have a few, of course, but the trick really is moderation. I’m not saying don’t drink at all, but why not try switching up some of your cocktails for a vodka with soda and fresh lime? It’s a tasty, light and refreshing alternative, just minus (almost) all of the nasty stuff in those sugar-laden cocktails.

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Stay Hydrated: When spending time in the sunshine, it’s absolutely crucial that you’re taking on enough water. Dehydration impedes your body’s ability to undertake basic daily processes, and this includes metabolic function. Reduced calorie burn? No thanks, I’ll take the water. Adequate hydration will also assist your body in flushing out toxins, from the one-too-many drinks you may have consumed the night before.

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