It’s almost time for the panic. The realisation that summer starts next week and you forgot to diet and had really wanted to fit in that favourite bikini. Oh well there’s always next year. OR…..you still have time so let’s stop talking and start doing!
This month there are a few points and common misconceptions I’d like to touch on that will help you get started on the right foot and achieve that dream body in time for summer.
Let’s start by tweaking a small phrase that really gets under my skin when talking about body composition and making a transformation. That phrase is “Weight Loss”. Anyone can under eat to lose weight and reduce the scales earning gold stars in the slimming club but that is simply not an optimal or healthy attitude if we are imagining having and maintaining the body of our dreams. Let’s forever change our goal to “Fat Loss.”
Secondly, you might have heard the term “Muscle weighs more than Fat” well it kinda’ doesn’t make sense in that form but when we talk of per volume then yes the same size and shape of muscle weighs a hell of a lot more than fat. So for this reason we’re going to ditch the bad habit of “Scale watching” because it just isn’t an accurate account of what’s happening with your body. If we are successfully building muscle and losing fat then the scales are likely to even go up. Especially in those who are new to resistance training. IMAGINE THE PANIC. A much better way to track our progress is visually so let’s start by taking pictures once a week in the same place with the same light. We call this a “Visual Diary”. Further to this, with my clients I will take 2 measurements using Fat Callipers, measuring the mm’s on the front and side of the belly.
Callipers are very easy to use, easy to read and are readily available online priced from anywhere between
€4 and €35. By measuring with callipers it gives us a close idea of fat loss rather than just weight loss. I will measure only 2 points (front/side belly) as we can’t actually “Spot remove” fat. Fat loss is relative to the whole body so IMO a full body fat percentage is not needed in this instance. We want to see the scales stay around the same and the calliper millimetres to go down – JOB DONE. We will also see the changes in our visual diary.
A stumbling block for a lot of people aside from the waves of misinformation on the net, is ASSUMPTION. Most of the time we assume that a certain method, product or produce should “be healthy” or “burn fat” or “not fattening” and other popular generic phrases. But then when actually we get down to the bare bones science of things (boring I know) it tends to be quite the opposite. One example of this is CARDIO.
Now we all know for fat loss that Cardio is our friend. But then there’s an old saying “too much of a good thing is bad”. Aside from endurance and stamina training (long distance running, combat training etc) Cardio or an incorrect application of, tends to be just that. One of the main things that I will tend to have to adjust when starting work with a new client, aside from making them eat more is to drastically reduce their cardio regime. Let me try and explain a few of my views on the subject.
OVER STRESSING THE BODY (CNS)
Something I’ve regularly touched on in the past is the notion of our body being blind to our goals. What I mean by that is that the body and the Central Nervous System in particular doesn’t actually know that we are just trying to drop a size or 2 to look good for our trip to Ibiza in 3 months, 4 days, 12 hours and 17 mins. It makes decisions and reactions based purely on patterns. And in the same way it will raise an eyebrow when all of a sudden there are signs of a sudden shortage of food out there in the world (Crash Diet), it will also start to be concerned about a sudden dramatic rise in energy output and exercise activity. It will assume that you’ are either fleeing from predators or foraging long distances for food (Famine Mode) or BOTH.
Both of these scenarios can put a lot of pressure on your Central Nervous System (CNS) which is our bodies main supercomputer let’s say. In a biological way it is the job of the CNS to make decisions to KEEP YOU ALIVE. Decreased calories and increased energy output are really going to pose a lot of questions here and the body, aside from detrimental hormonal issues caused by this overload, the body is going to react accordingly. In short if your food is running out (Diet) your body is already going to want to store energy (Fat) for emergency and now your energy output is higher it further implements the need to store MORE. So let’s be sensible with our approach to these two, often misused elements of body composition and find the right balance.
MUSCLE IS YOUR FRIEND
By working to a very low intensity by keeping the heart rate low, we are still in a situation where we are expending calories at very little demand and cost to the CNS. It’s far less likely to promote a situation that will force the body to react and therefore feel it needs to start storing. Let’s say for a male walking on an incline at 6kmph it would take perhaps 35 to 40 minutes to expend the same calories as a 15min HIIT session but splitting your cardio this way can give your joints and CNS a well needed break. For LISS I really like to keep it very low at a brisk walk.
*The above is an opinionated analogy of how we react to these situations. For a more scientific approach to the benefits to muscle hypertrophy and muscle preservation look up Dr Jacob Wilson PHD’s work in the field. SOURCE Wilson JM, Marin PJ, Rhea MR, Wilson SM, Loenneke JP, Anderson JC. Concurrent training: A Meta-Analysis examining interference of aerobic and resistance exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 (in press).
Although over marketed, overhyped and mostly overpriced, there is a place for useful supplementation. Of course the free stuff first WATER and without getting too technical (I wrote a whole piece on the stuff in a past issue) drink lots and lots of it. VITAMINS are important for fat loss and my recommendation is a Multivitamin but most importantly a C,B and D. OMEGA 3 is an essential fatty acid that should perhaps be no 1 on this list so be sure to add in if you’re a little shy on fatty fish or grass-fed meats. There are 2 others that I would suggest and one is Diindolylmethane or DIM (Found in Broccoli, Sprouts, Cabbages and Kale) can be a useful anti-estrogen supp and IODINE (White fish, Seaweed etc) can help to produce Thyroid boosting hormones and support cells and your metabolism.
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