Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Some simple tips to help with your healthy eating

To start with, note that I didn’t say “Diet”. If there’s an intended end to your Diet (i.e it’s for 30 days, or until you go on holiday etc.), then it’s not healthy eating, it’s a short-term fix and you’ll end up right back where you started or worse (you’ve heard the term yo-yo dieting and are probably familiar with it!).

So for healthy eating, you need to form new habits and break old ones, for the long term. Slim, fit and healthy people don’t gorge out because they’re slim, they eat healthy to stay healthy. Yo-yo dieters eat healthy(ish) to lose weight, then eat crap again once they’re slimmer, and gain it all back again.

If you want to be healthy, act like a healthy person. Every time you come to make a decision about what to eat ask yourself “Would a healthy person eat this?” If the answer is “no”, don’t eat it!

What would they choose…?

Same for exercise. Would they skip this workout? Or would they push through and do it anyway?

BE that person.

Just that one tip alone [Act like the person you want to be] could be enough for you to see massive improvements in health, and off the back of that, weight loss.

So what else can you do?

Here are some of the things people struggle with (and I know this because they told me), and a couple of tips on how to improve on them:

Snacking in the evening
This is common, and tends to happen regardless of whether you ate dinner early or late. So if you’re still snacking after dinner then it’s probably not a hunger thing, it’s out of boredom/habit. In this case there are a couple of things you could do;

1.       Be strong. You know you’ve just eaten dinner, and you’re not hungry – don’t eat for the sake of it, simply say no. For what it’s worth, snacking after dinner will release hormones that should naturally be dying down in the evening. This will lead to poor quality sleep, and prevent hormones from balancing out, which will lead to excess fat storage. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING after dinner until breakfast.

2.       If it IS hunger then maybe you didn’t eat enough protein/fat at dinner or ate too many starchy carbohydrates. Change your dinner to include more protein (meat, fish, eggs etc.) and more veg. Ditch the pasta, bread, rice, potatoes (you can have them in your post-workout meals).

3.       If you ate a good dinner and still feel hungry, drink a large glass of water (about a pint).

4.       Keep yourself busy/distracted. Sitting on your arse watching TV is boring. You’ll want to snack. Read a book, go for a walk, play with the kids… just keep busy. And before you say you’re busy all day and need to relax – stop making excuses! A nice walk or reading a book IS relaxing; you don’t need to be sat down doing F’All!

Eating Out
Another common slip up. Yes, you’re out for a nice meal. No, that doesn’t mean you have to treat yourself to whatever you want PLUS dessert, and gulp down a bottle of wine with it.
This goes back to acting like the healthy person. Pick the healthier option on the menu. If there really are no healthy options, go somewhere else – plenty of nice restaurants to choose from.
If what you want comes with chips, ask them to change the chips for extra veg. You’re paying for you food, so order what you want! They won’t spit in your dinner for asking for veg instead of chips (unless you send it back to change it after!)
Choose a meat/fish dish and have it with vegetables. Sip some water with your meal. And if you HAVE to have dessert, choose the fruit salad instead of the chocolate fudge brownie with ice cream!

Healthy snacks
A LOT of people struggle with snacking. Most people don’t realise just how much they’re eating throughout the day. Keep a food diary for a week and see how you do!

Personally, I’m not a fan of snacking. Eat your 3 square meals a day, and leave it at that. If your meals are full of nutrition, plenty of veg, protein and fat, your need to snack will more than likely be boredom/habit. (See the snacking in the evening section above).

If you absolutely must have a snack, (maybe you worked through lunch, which is bad by the way – hormones levels again…) then stick to the same rules; nutrient dense foods with protein and fat, not crisps, sweets, biscuits, cakes, bread, crackers, weight watchers snack bars or Go Ahead bars! (And seriously, since when has it become acceptable to have biscuits for breakfast Belvita?!!!)

Options include: Boiled eggs, nuts and seeds, protein shake (NOT SlimFast etc.), cold meat. If you want fruit, make sure you have it with one of these.

Oh, and this seems obvious, but make sure there are no unhealthy snacks around for you to eat! Don’t have a bar of chocolate in your bag, or a stash in your desk drawer, and tell you co-workers NOT to offer you cake or any other shit because you DON’T want it!! (Chances are you’ll be doing THEM a favour – they’ll feel guilty eating junk if you’ve turned it down, so you might even help them lose weight too!) Like the loving grandparents of your kids – they are NOT doing you a kindness offering you junk food! (Grandparents/parents take heed – there’s a hint there for you!).

In fact, look at them in disgust when they offer you sweets. They’ll soon get the hint.

Getting bored of meals
This one is so easy to action it’s ridiculous, yet 90% of people stick to eating the same bland crap day in day out. Ironically, this is usually an excuse not to eat healthily (despite the fact most people probably eat the same 6 or 7 junk meals over and over anyway).

Find a good recipe book and start cooking. It’s not as quick a nuking a frozen lasagne no, but you won’t be slaving in the kitchen for 3 hours a night either. And how much do you want to lose weight/get healthy?!

Buy a full rack of herbs and spices and plan your meals in advance so you know what ingredients you need to buy.

Not having the ingredients for different recipes should NOT be an excuse to be lazy!

And when you cook, MAKE EXTRA. You can have it for breakfast/lunch the next day, or freeze it so you’ve got a healthy meal there ready when you don’t have much time or haven’t been shopping yet. Much better than resorting to takeout or microwave meals.

Portion control
Another easy fix. If your goal is weight loss or maintenance then portion size DOES come into it, but don’t fall into the calorie restriction trap or you’re in trouble.

Focus on nutrient-dense foods like fresh meat and veg. Protein and fat (basically meat) are slower digesting and trigger your “I’m full” hormones. Meaning you won’t eat as much, and you’ll feel full for longer.

Switch to a smaller dinner plate and load it up with veg and meat first. Then if you’re eating other carbohydrates, you’ll be limited to how much you can fit on the plate. Don’t go back for seconds or have a spare plate for your bread!

And if you find you’ve cooked too much – brilliant! There’s tomorrow’s breakfast again!

This is one of the biggest insults you can throw at your body. It’s loaded with sugar and calories with NO nutrition whatsoever. It disrupts your hormones (find you wee a lot when you’re out drinking?!). And it’s a poison (yes, POISON) to your body. If you feel like shit after a night out, then it’s because you’ve poisoned yourself. Your body is now toxic. And all efforts (on your body’s part) will be going to detoxing that poison, leaving all other body functions in standby mode until it’s out of danger. Fat storage here we come!

Avoid drinking during the week (seriously, where’s the need to drink at home in the evening?!).

If you’re out with friends: 
1 – it’s quite possible to order a non-alcoholic beverage when you’re out (I’ve heard most places DO do that).
2 – Drive. That’ll limit you. 
3 – Don’t give in to peer pressure, weakling. 
4 – If you MUST drink, go for a light spirit with soda water and some fresh lime, or a glass or two of red wine (not a bottle ladies!). At least it’ll be less of an insult to your body than cocktails and beer.

Some of these things may seem obvious and simple, but it’s often the smallest changes that add up to the biggest results. And by doing just ONE thing to improve your health, there’s a knock-on effect into other areas.

So if any of these are things you struggle with, tackle just that ONE thing and see how you go. Chances are it won’t stop at just that one change, but focus on one thing for now and let the rest follow.

Contact me if you want any help with your diet or training.

Mark :)

Is your training confused? Part 2…

Last month I wrote about people who confuse cardiovascular training with training for fat loss. This month, as promised, I’m going to briefly cover why lifting the heaviest weights in the gym isn’t necessarily the right thing to do if your goal is to gain muscle mass.

I see it time and time again, people (normally young men) training, let’s face it, for vanity (who doesn’t want to look better?!), lifting the biggest weights in the gym… badly.

The confusion here is in the difference between hypertrophy (muscle-building) and strength training.
Although there is a connection between muscle size and muscle strength, it’s not absolute – if you’ve ever heard the expression “punching above his weight class” you’ll know that size isn’t directly proportional to strength and vice versa.

A lot of strength comes from neural adaptation and your muscles becoming more efficient at lifting heavy weights, NOT from increased muscle size. So if you’re lifting ever increasing weights and sacrificing good technique just to tell people how much you lift (or because your mate’s lifting that weight so you can’t lose face and pick a lighter dumbbell to work with), then you’re actually hindering your ability to gain muscle size (and setting yourself up for a nasty injury).

Decide whether you want to brag about how much you lift (trust me, no-one really cares), or whether you want to gain some mass and get a great physique.

Once you’ve decided to drop the ego, and reduce the weight, you can start training properly.

Use proper technique, full range movements, and manipulate tempo and rest periods to increase the intensity of your workouts, NOT weight. Although it does come into the equation, weight is far less important than you might think.

Slow, controlled movements that stress all muscle fibres and increase the time under tension (of the muscle) will result in maximum stress to the muscle, which will bring about growth.

You also need to remember that EVERY DAY ISN’T CHEST DAY!

Muscles don’t grow in the gym; they grow when you’re recovering from your workouts. Give the muscles time to repair and grow before you hit them again. If you’re using a split routine - with the exception of legs, which you may be able to get away with training twice per week if you have a good program - train each body part only ONCE per week (this WILL mean having days off of training!).

There are far too many variables to cover here, but the take home message from this short article is this:
If you’re training to increase muscle mass/size, reduce the weight you lift, use good form, manipulate tempo and rest periods for intensity, and take time off to recover and let your muscles grow.

Combined with a good diet (and that doesn’t mean as many supplements as you can stuff down your throat), this will put you on the right track for gaining mass. Supplements “supplement” your diet, they don’t replace it - the clue’s in the name, it’s not rocket science. Ten protein shakes and half a tub of creatine won’t make up for a lousy nutrition plan.

If you want help with either training or diet you can contact me through my website