Monday, 27 October 2014

Cheat Meals

Anyone dieting has probably heard of or used a “cheat meal” or even a “cheat day”!

So is this good or bad?

My personal opinion – don’t do it! Certainly not every week.

For most people trying to lose weight, it’s really NOT just a case of calories in vs. calories out (i.e. eat less, move more); it’s a case of an inefficient hormonal profile.

If you’re lean, and weight loss isn’t a goal, chances are you’re able to handle a “cheat meal” without any negative effects because you have an efficient system (balanced hormones, efficient digestive system, good carb tolerance, good insulin sensitivity etc.). In this case, ‘calories in vs. calories out’ is far more likely to work – because you have an efficient system.

But if you’re overweight, chances are high that your hormones have, over time, become imbalanced. Insulin resistance is likely an issue, reducing carb tolerance; and digestion may be compromised. And it will take time to rebalance them, through both diet and exercise.

If you put in all that effort to follow a diet for a few days, and then have a cheat meal (read: blowout) it WILL, almost certainly, undo all your hard work and send you right back to the start hormonally. You may lose some weight initially, but you’re setting yourself up for failure. The weight loss will soon stop and your hormones are still out of balance (possibly even more so).

It’s like giving an alcoholic a drink a week. Will they have one and stop? Or go overboard and have more than a few?!

If you’re following a healthy diet, you can use a “re-feed” day, but you still need to follow the same rules. There’s never a good reason to have junk food. On your re-feed days (maybe once every 4-6 weeks depending on the individual) it should be with good, clean, real foods. It means you can eat more of the good stuff for a day, not binge on crap and expect it not to have an effect.

Your aim here isn’t to eliminate all the things you enjoy forever, but to eliminate them temporarily until you get to the point that you CAN indulge occasionally without any negative effects. When you’re in this position, there’s no need to feel guilty about the odd night out. You won’t gain a stone on a one-week holiday (that took you 6 months to lose!).

When your system works efficiently, you can enjoy the foods you want, when you want them (within reason). But until then, you need to rebuild your system, and that means spending some time being good, cutting out the foods/drinks you know you shouldn’t be consuming, and following a good training plan.

As you get leaner, you’ll be able to introduce more of the foods you love, but until then – fight on!

If you want help, visit for information on Personal Training, Nutrition coaching or Bootcamp Fitness classes.

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Mark Broadbent

Monday, 23 June 2014

What (not) to eat before you exercise…

Most people exercise/workout to lose body fat. Even the people aiming to gain muscle mass (which should be ALL of you) want to lose body fat too.

With this in mind, should you eat before a workout? How long before? And what?

The key thing to remember is that your body is smart and it will use whatever form of energy is most readily available. Why go to the trouble of breaking down and burning fats if there’s a steady source of sugar at hand?

If your goal is fat loss, you need to avoid sugar (carbs) before your workouts. Quite simply, if you have glucose running through your bloodstream, that’s what your body will preferentially burn, NOT fat. Why would it?!

So if you’re one of these people who go into your spin class, sports drink in hand, you need to stop. Right away.

You need to prime your body to burn fat by reducing insulin levels, which are elevated the most by consuming carbohydrates.

If insulin is present, you’ll be pushing sugars INTO cells (either muscle or fat cells, depending on how much exercise you’ve done and/or the amount of carbs you’ve eaten – because once muscle cells are full, they’ll head straight to fat cells for storage!)

If insulin is NOT present (i.e. you haven’t eaten sugary carbs), then your body will be relying on the stored energy in your muscles and your fat cells.

So grabbing a banana before your workout is a BAD idea, as are any sports drinks (trust me, avoid the supposed “low sugar/calorie” options too).

Save your carbs for AFTER your workout and/or your evening meal. This will replenish the muscle glycogen you burned during your workout, without storing excess as fat (assuming you don’t overdo the carbs that is – eat too many and you’ll be right back to fat storage!)

Nutrition can get very complicated, but for the most part, it’s the simple changes that’ll make the biggest differences. Get on top of those, and you’ll probably never have to worry about the minor tweaks and details unless you’re planning on competing.

Visit for information on Personal Training, Nutrition coaching or Bootcamp Fitness classes.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Is your diet working yet?

January’s long gone and by now lots of you may have fallen off the diet and exercise wagon, or simply lost heart in it due to lack of results.

You’ve done a few exercise classes and halved what you’re eating, and possibly joined a weight loss club to learn how you can still eat junk whilst losing weight (you know – save a few points at lunch so you can have that chocolate fudge cake after dinner, then not eat tomorrow…)

You’ve probably heard it before: “Eat less, move more”, and while I’m 100% behind exercise and healthy diet, it’s really not as simple as that.

First off, cutting calories should be the LAST weapon in your arsenal of fat loss. Reducing calories will work briefly, until your body realises what’s going on and simply stops burning as many calories. So your metabolic rate (how many calories you’re burning) slows down to match what you’re eating. Then weight loss will stop, and you can’t just keep cutting calories.

So… The FIRST things to do would be:

1. Increase the amount of calories you’re burning, whilst maintaining how many calories you’re eating.

This is done through TRAINING. This is not “exercise”. Getting out of breath and building up a bit of a sweat is great if you’ve never done any exercise before. It’ll strengthen your heart and lungs and improve your health a bit.
But if you want serious results, you need to TRAIN. That means find something that’s difficult, and push yourself as hard as you can.

Ideally, get to the gym and lift some weights. The heavier the better. This won’t make you a muscled beast, but will firm and tighten your muscles, burn calories, increase your metabolism (so you burn more calories every day), and make you stronger and fitter.

I understand the gym isn’t for everybody, but you need to find something that works with resistance (bodyweight or external), be it a class or a sport.

Intensity is the key here. Lifting weights that don’t challenge you won’t get you results. Maintaining a steady pace for an hour won’t get you good results.

2. Change what you’re eating (again without reducing the amount)

Write 2 lists. One of the foods you know you should eat more of, and one of the foods you should eat less of. Then swap them out. Swap one of the bad foods for one of the good/better ones. This is far more beneficial and effective than just cutting out foods to reduce calories (even the bad ones), and should make sure you don’t starve yourself. You should NEVER be hungry.
And “saving points” so you can indulge yourself at the weekend just won’t get you the body you want!

Start with these two actions and see how you get on for a month. And remember to measure yourself instead of weighing yourself.

If you want help, visit for information on Personal Training, Nutrition coaching or Bootcamp Fitness classes.

And follow us on Facebook and Twitter (do it now……) for extra tips, advice and motivation.