Crushing watermelons with my thighs.

Ever since I started lifting I wanted to have such strong legs that I could crush a watermelon between my thighs. It’s always been a bit of a joke kind of goal but at the same that was my ultimate one. It sounds odd doesn’t it?

I cared more about his goal and being able to achieve it one day than I did getting to a certain size or looking a certain way. 

I remember the first time I ever saw it was when I was watching Kortney Olsen do it on a YouTube video. That’s was when I realised that was my mission. 

I attempted it a few times but always failed. Until Thursday 11th May 2017! Video below.

I made a huge mess in the kitchen but I cleaned it all up with a huge smile on my face. Unfortunately there was no one there to high five (I don’t think my mother in law was too impressed) but I still feel totally amazing from doing it and I want to show everyone my legs and how strong they are! 

Fasted cardio. Good or bad?

Do you do fasted cardio? Does fasted cardio work? What is the evidence that fasted cardio is better than non fasted cardio?

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Some people bang on about fasted cardio and how it helps you burn more fat. The reason behind this is that your body will use energy from fat stores rather than energy from the food you have just eaten. While there is SOME truth in this, there is absolutely NO scientific evidence to back this up.

Fasted cardio being better than non fasted cardio is made up based on assumption, taking into account 2 scientific facts.

1) You burn more fat when your insulin levels are low.

2) Your insulin level is low when you wake up due to the fact you havent eaten through the night and have ‘fasted’.

Therefore the assumption is that when you wake up, after having not eaten all night your insulin levels are lower therefore you can burn fat better. That is the part that is true.

The whole truth is that if you have a zero carb breakfast, high in fats and protein, your insulin levels will be low and your body will burn fat just as well as if you were fasted.

There is only evidence that low insulin levels helps you burn fat faster, and no evidence what so ever that not eating at all is any more beneficial.

So what’s the answer? IF you don’t like to eat before cardio for whatever reason then fine, if you do like to eat before hand but want the maximum efficiency for fat loss, eat something very low or zero carb such as chicken and eggs. There’s no need to go hungry, if you’re hungry then eat.

Personally I eat before a workout, but usually something light like eggs so it’s not sat heavy in my stomach for the session, but I don’t really do much cardio apart from maybe a quick HIIT session. Even then as I always do my cardio after my strength training I usually need the food to give me enough energy to push my sessions as hard as I can.

Let’s go to weight watchers.

While this isn’t my normal type of article for this blog I thought it might be important to highlight the dangers of fad diets, many people follow them, many people go on huge calorie deficits and many people who just can’t get the result they want even though they are eating so little. I see a lot of clients who have joined the likes of weight watchers and slimming world, juice plus, herbalife and other crazy diet trends, or as I like to call them FADS.

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I am about to tell you exactly why these types of ‘diets’ should be avoided at all costs. These diets are not a healthy way to lose weight. But also bear in mind that these are businesses that thrive off of you coming back.

Firstly, anything that uses a shake to replace a meal is ridiculous. Could you imagine actually eating food instead? What…? Food…? Yeah, right! Yep, instead of drinking something resembling a milk shake you could actually fill your stomach with food, a burger maybe? Wowzers!

Secondly have a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch and eat a sensible meal that contains around 500 calories for dinner. woo hoo, actual food finally. But wait a minute… each shake is 200 calories maximum and my dinner is 500 calories, so that means I’m eating 900 calories a day, well that’s that sorted then, I am totally going to lose weight on this diet!… Ummmm, weight yes, fat no I’m afraid. Sorry to burst your bubble here, but your body NEEDS a certain amount of calories to actually function. A 2 year old should be eating 1200 calories a day. So yeah, a 2 year old is eating more than you.

Thirdly, weight watchers and slimming world. You will find that all is good when you start with these diets, you go along to your meeting, stand on the scale in front of the woman ‘who has lost 75 stone on the same diet’ who patronisingly writes down this weeks weight and then tells you if it’s a thumbs up or a big sad face and asks you what’s happened this week. You spend all day counting syns or points and making sure you don’t go over, but it’s great because you only pay £5 per week and you get  to eat chocolate cake because the syns allow you to. You’re actually losing weight week on week. Awesome, and for those who have a lot of excess I can’t argue that these programmes do work and have their place. But a majority of people who use these groups ‘just want to get rid of the last stone’ ‘lose the flabby arms and belly’ So you start going along… BUT where is this weight coming from? Because you look smaller but you still have flabby arms, and flabby thighs and your stomach isn’t very ‘toned’ like you thought it would be with the weight loss. In fact… you still look… well, a bit wobbly! But you’re skinny now, so why do you still have a lot of fat?

Let me explain exactly what happens with ALL of these diets.

Your body, without the excess fat you want to get rid of, needs a certain amount of calories. Let’s just say that in this instance it is 1800 calories. (yeah…more than any of the diets allow anyway probably)

Now let’s add on the excess fat that you are carrying, which means your body now needs more calories, let’s say another 400 calories. So in total you need to eat 2200 calories in order to STAY THE SAME WEIGHT.

So now let’s go on our fad diet. You reduce your calorie intake. You lose a few pounds the first few weeks, great. Now you need to eat even less to keep on losing weight. What’s happening? Yes you’ve lost weight but you’re destroying your metabolism, while you have lost some fat, you have put yourself at such a calorie deficit you’re no longer eating enough to sustain the ‘healthy 1800 calorie you’, underneath the fat, so what happens is your body starts to use the muscle as an energy source because it’s a more efficient way of getting fuel than converting fat. This weight loss then becomes fat loss AND muscle loss. This muscle loss is coming from the ‘healthy 1800 calorie you.’ So the ‘1800 calorie you’ now becomes a 1600 calorie you, which is no longer a healthy person. So as well as losing muscle you are undernourished, you are deprived and you are depleting yourself of energy sources.

Why’s it such a bad thing that I’ve lost muscle? Firstly, muscle burns 3x more calories than fat. So basically by taking away the muscle you are making yourself less and less efficient at burning fat.

Secondly, muscle weighs more than fat, so if you have lost weight, how much is fat and how much is muscle? By losing muscle mass you are upping your weight loss but not your fat loss.

Thirdly, What is taking the place of muscle? Nothing. Nothing is filling the space where the muscle should be. So now you just have skin surrounding fat which is wobbling all over the place, theres no tightness in fat, but there’s tightness in muscle.  You NEED muscle to be successful in fat loss.

Because your metabolism has slowed down, any calorie surplus you now eat, you’re body will begin to store it. As what? Fat! This is why people go around and around in circles with these diets. Once they have hit their ‘target weight’ they start eating normally again. and thus put weight back on, but this time it is actually fat, not muscle of any sort. So now you’re gaining more fat than before. And the process starts over again.

So what is the answer?

Just eat! I’m not talking about the online takeaway company, I mean just eat food. Don’t count syns, or points, just learn what a balanced diet is. Don’t deprive your body of what it actually NEEDS, make sure you are exercising to maintain your muscle mass. Step away from the ‘healthy’ bars and biscuits, they’re loaded with sugar, any food that shouts about being low in fat or sugar on the packet is hiding something somewhere else. These diets do not educate people on how to eat. They simply make you think that they work, when the truth is, they don’t.

IIFYM (if it fits your macros) a joke?

If you’re already seriously into lifting you’ll know that tracking your macros is key to success when reaching your goals.

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If you are new to the game and you’re tracking your macros, are you using the IIFYM? IIFYM basically means eating whatever you want as long as it fits your macros. I once had a lady tell me that my diet makes me a sad and miserable person and I should eat a chocolate bar and maybe I would lighten up, bearing in mind I had never met this woman, or even spoken to her, and to be honest she was nothing but a keyboard warrior in my eyes, at the time I was on a 12 week programme which meant I had a rather strict diet for those 12 weeks, during this short bit of communication with this woman I was simply pointing out the importance of sticking to my diet to get the most out of my programme. Instead she decided to call me several names use fairly viscous text. So IIFYM… eat whatever you want? OK, fair enough, and if your macros are correct and you’re eating to the amounts set then sure, you’ll lose weight or increase your muscle mass. BUT… here’s the biggest downfall people make when usung the IIFYM.

If you google IIFYM you will see a lot of before and after pictures of ‘clean diet, 1200 calories a day’ and ‘IIFYM 1900 calories a day’ claiming that IIFYM has gotten better progress with more calories, one thing they fail to remind you all, is yes of course you’ll get better results with a higher calorie intake because you’re not starving your body and you’re able to maintain muscle mass. On too little calories you’re going to lose a serious amount of muscle.

While your diet may well be hitting your macros, what is the food doing to you when you eat it? You can make chocolate fit your macros, and bread, and donuts right? Are they giving you any nutrition? Do they supply your body with anything in order to help improve the quality of your cells? Anything to help repair damage done by oxidation? Nope.

You can get your carbs from rice and pasta, great. But your carbs should also be coming from leafy greens and other vegetables. Vegetables are what will provide you with the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) your body needs in order to work efficiently.

A majority of people actually have a deficeincy somewhere in their diet, this means that so many other things in your body may be affected by that.

Let’s look at the mineral iron for instance. Iron is a prime mineral for energy. It is what your body uses to carry oxygen from your lungs into the blood stream and around the body. This isn’t for when you exercise, this is needed all day everyday. You’ve proabably heard of anemia, if you’ve had it you will know that you suffer from extreme fatigue and tiredness.

Now let’s look at other vitamins and minerals that work alongside iron.

Vitamin C.

Iron is best absorbed in the body when you have a good amount of viatmin C, or if you are taking iron supplements then take it with orange juice or choose an iron supplement that also has vitamn C in it. You’ll notice that there are a lot of supplements that contain 2 or more vitamins and/or minerals in, there’s a reason for that, it’s because quite simply they work in sweet harmony together.

Let’s look at Vitamin B and iron as well, if you have an iron deficiency, you’re more than likey to have a vitamin B deficiency too, this is because vitamin B is actually needed to help unlock the iron in food and to help the body absorb it and utilise it, if you are vitamin B deficient, you’re likey to be iron deficient… you can see where this is going huh!?

So that is just 2 vitamins that are needed in order for your body to utilise just one mineral.

 

This is why IIFYM is not always the best way for people eat. Yes it might be getting you to your goal weight etc, but there’s nothing that says you’re healthy getting there. Before weight loss and muscle gaining you MUST first think about your health. When calculating your macros and planning your meals make sure it’s nutritious food, eat plenty of vegetables and make sure you include leafy greens. If you don’t nourish your body then your immune system won’t be working efficiently, your cells won’t be repairing, and you’re body will be continuoulsy fighting against the foods you are consuming.

So yes use the IIFYM but choose your macros wisely, there’s no point having an awesome amount of muscle or being the weight you want if you’re not looking after what you’ve created.

Reps and sets. Do you know why you’re doing what?

The range of reps and sets you do correlates to which muscle fibre types you are targeting. They all have their place and they can all be used in conjunction with each other to reach your goals.


They are 3 types of training.

1- Endurance

2- Hypertrophy

3. Strength.

An easier way to remember this if you’re not down with the liguo is to think: Longer. Bigger. Stronger.

Endurance training means you can go on for longer.

Hypertrophy means to increase muscle size- bigger.

Strength means to get stronger… obviously.

Endurance training recruits type 1 muscle fibres, (see more info on muscle fibre types in my previous blog post about genetics)

    When endurance training you are looking to use a rep range of 12-20 and completing 2-3 sets with 30 second rest time in between them. Aim to use a weight that you can manage for the full set, but you should find it’s a struggle towards the end for the last couple of reps. If you feel like you can carry on and do another 10, then the weight isn’t heavy enough and you’re basically going to get a better workout by pouring milk into a cup of tea. This is where most women get it wrong, they do countles reps with a weight that would barely challenge a 2 year old… I should know, I have one! Men tend to go the opposite way and do too heavy a weight and are not able to complete the full reps and sets… which takes you into hypertrophy training. You need to keep the tempo at a steady speed, making sure you’re not using momentum to get the lift, bringing the weight up should be the same speed as bringing the weight down and it needs to be controlled to the very final part of the movement. If you need to use momentum to get the weight up then it’s likely that it’s too heavy for this type of training.

 

Hypertrophy training recruits more type 2a muscle fibres.

    The rep range you’re looking at here is 8-12, and completing 2-3 sets with around 1-2 minute rest period between sets. As with endurance training you should be choosing a weight that is challenging towards the end of the sets. If you get to rep 12 and you can still push for another few reps then this isn’t a true set and you have basically just used your warm up weight… but congratulations on that, you’re obvioulsy stonger than you think!

 

Strength training recruits more type 2b muscle fibres.

    The rep range for strength is between 1-6 reps, completeing 3-5 sets and resting for 3-5 minutes between sets. There is a lot of importance of rest time particularly for strength training as too short a rest time will mean the energy system this type of training requires, will not be replenished and you’ll be targetting more hypertrophy training rather than strength. While there is no doubt that hypertrophy training will build strength it focus’s more on muscle size, whereas using strength training rep and set ranges is optimal for building strength, therefore you’ll see quicker progress if getting stronger is what you’re aiming for.

Ok so that’s a basic run down of what you need to be looking at for whatever your goal may be. This doesn’t mean that when you write a plan of your own you should only stick to one type of training for your session, you can mix them up and do strength and hypertrophy training on the same muscle group in the same session.

For example if you’re looking at leg day and you want to increase strength but also want to grow size, then choose the exercises you want to use to target the legs, for instance, use a compound exercise for strength training, ie a squat or leg press, this targets several muscles (quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves) so is great for strength training, then choose an isolation exercise like leg extension which targets the quads and then use the hypertrophy training rep and set range on that.

So a simple overview of this example is this: Big compound exercises works more muscles for overall stength and the isolation exercise is used to target the muscles you want to increase in size, which for legs is usually the quads, hence why I have used this example.

If you’re trying to fathom out why a trainer has written certain things in your programme this guide should help make it a bit clearer, however if you have just read this and you feel your programme hasn’t been written to meet your goal then speak to your trainer and ask them. If they can’t tell you exactly why they have picked an exercise and what it’s doing for you then you need to find yourself a new trainer… or of course you can drop me an email and we can design a tailor made programme to get you started.

It’s genetics. No, really!

I see a lot of people discussing how easily or not they can lose fat or put on muscle.

Some people don’t believe me when I tell them I find it super easy to build muscle. Even with being a girl I can pack on muscle quicker than some of my male friends. What’s the deal with that hey?

So let’s have a look and go through some factors when it comes to building muscle. I’ll cover genetics and fat loss in another article.

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Testosterone

Firstly and probably the easiest and simplest way to put it (but not always as straight forward as this, I will discuss that further on). Men can build muscle a lot easier than females, this is down to the testosterone levels. You need to have testosterone in order to build muscle, that’s a fact, and men have a lot more testosterone so it doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out. This is why women should never be worried about becoming bulky if they go for a couple of heavy dumbbells, or shock horror the barbell!

Here’s how extreme the testorone levels differ between both genders.

Total testosterone (amount floating around at the time of a testosterone test)

An average healthy adult male will have between 270-1070 nanograms per deciliter of blood.

An average healthy adult fertile women will have between 15-70 nanograms per deciliter of blood.

This is such an extreme difference, which is why women can’t build muscle as quick as men. You may have seen women looking bulky if you have ever had a glimpse of a female bodybuilder, more factors… steroids being one, and also take into account how long that person has been training, how much time, effort, dedication and commitment they have had to put into contest prep with training and their diet, this really makes the muscles pop, they are usually dehydrated as well in order to make the muscles that more defined ready for the big day. Female bodybuilders or figure competitors also have a body fat percentage which is incredibly hard to get down to and also impossible to maintain. They DO NOT look like that all year round.

I actually have a higher level of testosterone for a female due to a hormone imbalance I have, which goes in my favour when it comes to building muscle when I compare it with my female friends.

Ok now for the next factor.

Muscle fibre types.

There are 3 types of muscle fibres. Type 1, Type 2a and Type 2b. You are born with a certain amount of these fibres, you can not change the amount of muscle fibre types you’re born with. Some people will have more Type 1, some will have more Type 2a and some will have more Type 2b, whatever the combination, let me tell you, it ain’t gonna change.

Let’s look at each muscle fibre type and understand what they do.

Type 1 (slow twitch)

These muscle fibres are used when endurance training, they rely on oxygen as an energy source. They contract slowly and don’t fatigue. These are the muscles you use every day when standing, holding yourself up, walking and general day to day activities, they are also the muscle fibres that are recruited when long distance running, cycling and swimming etc.

Type 2a (fast twitch)

These muscle fibres are used for speed and strength, they use both aerobic (oxygen) and anaerobic (no oxygen) energy sources. Because these fibres aren’t as reliant on oxygen as type 1 fibres they will fatigue quicker due to the decreased amount of blood flow going to them. These fibres are active when completing moderate weight training (8-12 reps) fast running events such as 400 meters, strength and power type activities. 

Type 2b (fast twitch)

These muscle fibres are also used for strength, speed and power. They contract very quickly to create forceful movements, these muscles use an anaerobic energy source so they fatigue very quickly. These muscle fibres will be recruited when performing sprints, heavy weight training (1-3 reps) and powerlifting activities.

Depending on what muscle fibre types you have the majority of, will depend what kind of training you find easiest. Believe it not you can actually have a DNA test which will tells you. So if you have a large number of type 1 fibres and not a lot of type 2 then you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll never be a Hussain Bolt or winning any medals for sprinting. The same goes for the other way around, you’re not going to be the next Mohamad Farah unless you were born with a majority of type 1 fibres. Although this definitely doesn’t stop you from doing all types of training, it just means that your body and genetics are better suited to particular types of training.

My high testosterone level (in the higher range for a female) and my genetics, mean that building muscle comes so much easier to me than a lot of other women. The same goes for men too, if you have a very low testosterone level and your DNA means more type 1 muscle fibres then you’re going to find building muscle much more difficult. It can get very very frustrating, that teamed with a fast metabolism will mean a serious diet overhaul and eating your weight in your required macros.

If you’re a male and you are struggling to build muscle then the first thing you need to look at is your testosterone level, you can buy legal testosterone boosters in your high street supplement stores, and you should also consider re-evaluating your diet too, things like soy products have a higher level of the female hormone oestrogen, which means that will have an effect on your testosterone levels, as will milk too. Weightlifting actually increases testosterone levels so at least your training will be going in your favour. Another thing to look at is your stress levels, cortisol is the stress hormone and if that’s high then that too will have a negative impact on your testosterone levels.Vitamin and mineral deficiencies also impact our hormone levels so make sure you’re getting enough by taking vitamin and mineral supplements. Insulin also impacts your other hormone levels, so make sure your diet is good and you’re laying off the processed foods, high in refined sugar and very little nutritional value. SEX is an awesome way to increase testosterone levels too, the more you have the better regulated your testosterone levels will become.

So bottom line is, eat good food, lift heavy stuff, get rid of the stresses in your life and have more sex! Doesn’t sound too bad bad to me!

When it’s time to friendship dump your gym partner.

When you embark on a new journey to reach a goal you have set, you want to see results yes?


A scenario that I encountered the other day whilst discussing goals and exercises with a couple of gym users who had come together, left me a bit annoyed.

These 2 poeple had come to the gym together, both wanted to build strength but one of them was more to target an onld injury and the other was for all over strength. Great! Right up my street, they had come to the right person.

I started teaching squats to the girl who was interested in building all over strength, showing her correct form, depth etc. I then handed her a 10kg barbell so she could feel the diffence in the centre of balance whilst holding the weight across her shoulders. Great, her from was really good and she listened to my instruction really well and seemed to pick it up quickly. So what’s the problem with this? Her gym partner told her that she should ditch the weight and build up to it. Another exercise this happened with was with the polymetric box, targeting glutes and quads I showed her how to use the step to really challenge these areas, and once she got used to the movement to grab a couple of dumbbells and progress that way. The gym partner, pointed at the aerobic stepper and told her to start on that and build up to the polymetric box. I could see a pattern emerging here.

Firstly, this girl was a fit and able bodied human being, capeable of lowering herself onto a chair or sofa to sit down using just her body weight as a load, or even holding a cup of tea or some books or even a bag! Strangely similar to a squat is it not? She was also completely capeable of walking up the flight of stairs to get to the top floor gym, similar to several steps on the aerobic stepper.

So what’s my point?

Why would you start off at a level that is way below your capeablity when you are there to progress and make changes to yourself physically? By starting on an aerobic stepper instead of a polymetric box takes no more effort than walking up a flight of stairs that you know you can already do with ease. By starting off too easy you are setting yourself up for failure. And why? Because all motivation will go out of the window when you don’t see results. If you’re not getting results then you’re not going to stick at it. In order to progress you need to challenge yourself, if you don’t then what’s the point?

A lot of people I see in and around the gyms I go to are at a plateau. They’ve been doing the same thing for months sometimes and not added any weight, maybe they’ve been scared to add any weight in case it’s too hard. Well guess what? It’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy we would all be in great shape and have bodies to die for.

By not progressing your routine you will never be better, and that’s kind of the point of the game! If you have people who are telling you not to try something in case it’s too hard then be firm and tell them you WANT to go up a level. Most of us, especially new gym users, have little or no confidence when it comes to increasing weight when performing load bearing exercises but it is crucial to your progress and to reach your goals.

And if you’re the one telling your friend that they should do something thats easier… find someone else to train with, go hard or go home.