Thursday, 29 October 2015

Water for Weight Loss

I’ve mentioned this in previous articles, and preach it to my Bootcampers and Personal Training clients all the time, but I really can’t stress enough the importance of water.

We all know we should be drinking more water. But most people tend to confuse "fluids" with "water".

This confusion keeps them dehydrated, which if left unchecked, can lead to all sorts of problems including asthma, hypertension, diabetes, raised cholesterol, headaches, migraines, arthritis, depression and many more.
It may also interest you to know that you NEED to drink plenty of water to promote fat loss.

Our bodies are made up of about 75% water. It should stand to reason then that we cannot function optimally if we're even a little bit dehydrated.

Bedsides the obvious things (like blood) that are made up of water, all of our cells - that's every single cell that makes up our body, requires water.

When the body maintains its 70% balance point, the acid/alkaline balance of the blood stays closer to its optimum level, the transportation of nutrients around your body is improved, and just about every biological process going on in the body is working well.

Water is also used to flush out toxins and waste products from your system.

Joints (or more precisely, the fluid within your joints) requires hydration, meaning if you're dehydrated, your aches and pains will likely get worse. 

Got back pain? It's estimated that up to 80% of back pain could be caused by a lack of fluid in the intervertebral discs, meaning the "cushioning" in your spine isn't doing its job properly.

And going back to fat loss, you may have read in previous posts of mine that fat is where our bodies store toxins that are overloading the system. Our bodies can cope with a fair bit of abuse and will detox continuously; but they can't do everything! If you're consuming more toxins (from bad foods and drinks) than your body can detoxify, the rest has to go somewhere (because it can't just circulate around your body in your bloodstream), so it gets stored... in your fat cells.

While they're storing these toxins to save your life from over-toxicity, these fat cells cannot go anywhere. You need to detox and consume less toxins than your body can detoxify to allow some of these stored toxins to be released and expelled.

On top of this, you need WATER to flush out the system. Lots of water = better detoxing.

So how much water do we need?

While it varies depending on climate (sweat), exercise, respiration (how much are you breathing?), bodyweight, body composition, what you've eaten, and more; it's generally agreed that you should be drinking at least 1 litre of water per 50lb (about 22kg) bodyweight, per day.

More if you're exercising, doing a manual job, or living in a hot climate.

But not all drinks are made equal. By far the best way to rehydrate your tired body is to drink plain old water.

Just because drinks contain water, doesn't mean they hydrate you well. Tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, alcohol, sugary juices etc – can all help to de-hydrate you. Yes you'll get somewater from them, but half of that will go towards detoxing the sugar etc in them. There is no substitute for plain WATER.

Don't think because you drink a glass of juice and 8 cups of tea a day that you're getting enough water. 

When you start a rehydration program, you may find you have to go to the toilet more - if you're kidneys are doing their job. The more you drink, the more you'll pee. Pretty obvious really.

You could also add a pinch of SEA salt to your water. Not enough to taste, just a pinch, maybe half a teaspoon into a litre of water. This can help with electrolyte balance and stop you from running to the toilet quite so often. There are also other health benefits to this (and no, it won’t raise blood pressure!). Just make sure it’s sea salt, NOT table salt.

And finally...


I highly recommend that you DON'T drink tap water!
Read my post here to find out why that is.

So what do I recommend?

One option is bottled water. Not ideal, but a lot better than tap water as it should be free of many of the chemicals and materials found in tap water. But you do run the risk of the BPA leaching into your water (which has many harmful properties). Basically, the plastic bottles that the water is stored in is not ideal - unless you want to be drinking plastic?!

So... My recommendation is to get yourself a GOOD water filtration system (not a brita water jug or the likes).

My personal recommendation (after looking at many options) is the Virgin Pure Waterbar.

Not as good as some of the expensive reverse osmosis machines available (£1000+!), but a fraction of the cost as you basically lease it, so you don't have to buy outright and the servicing and new filters etc are all included. 

It filters out all of the nasties in your tap water, and provides both hot and cold filtered water on tap (a massive bonus because even bottled water drinkers tend to use tap water for their tea/coffee and cooking!).

Personally this works out cheaper than bottled water anyway. I've got the T7 which is £23 a month - so about £6 a week. Even buying the big 5 litre bottles, drinking 2-3 litres a day like we should would cost £4-5 a week per person. So it's a no-brainer really!

I've spoken to the guys at Virgin Pure and they've given me a code to offer my readers/clients 2 months free when you sign up to their 12-month contract. So that saves you £46 already!

Just use the code PTMB when you order either on their website or by phone.
(Yes, if you're thinking I'm on the payrole here - guilty! If you sign up for your 2 free months, I also get 2 months free! Not exactly going to be retiring, but a nice bonus for me if you do sign up!)

I highly recommend you look into this and sign up for your waterbar - they do have a no-contract option available too, but it's costs a tad more, and what's the point? You'll always need clean drinking water!

Regardless of if you get the water filter though, start drinking more water, and reduce your intake of other drinks.

Aim for your 2-3 litres a day and see how you feel - it may surprise you how much better you feel when you're well hydrated!

Let me know if you feel the difference! :)

Thursday, 15 October 2015

What is a Good “Diet”?

These days everyone’s an expert. 
Your over/underweight friend, your mum who’s been to a slimming club, your work colleagues, the magazine you read… But what they’re telling you is often contradictory and conflicting.

The truth is there’s no one, perfect diet that works for everyone. LOTS of these things will work… for some people.

They key things to embrace are not the differences, but the common ground between all successful “Diets”.

For weight loss, yes, you will need to eat less calories than you burn (but that doesn’t necessarily mean eat less!)

All successful, healthy diets (you can have a successful unhealthy diet, but the results are short-term and you’ll feel terrible doing them – think “juice detox”, or powdered meal replacements!!) have a few things in common...

A good diet will address energy balance (calories in vs calories out) without a drastic reduction in calories, but through good nutrition and switching from high-calorie/low nutrient foods, to low-calorie/high nutrient foods. By making this switch you may be surprised at just how much you can eat and remain within your calorie goal, whilst also getting lots of nutrition from what you're eating.

It will look at health, nutrition, hydration, body composition (body fat % vs. lean/fat-free mass) and performance, not just weight.

The healthy diet will not be set, but flexible and constantly changing to meet your needs. This relies on you monitoring your progress and making appropriate adjustments to suit. If weight loss is slow, you’ll need to alter the diet in some way; if you lose weight, but your body fat % increases, you’ll need to immediately re-evaluate and make the necessary changes to make sure you’re losing fat and not muscle. A mistake many calorie-cutting diets make by dropping calories too low.

The point is – you can’t follow an “exact” plan permanently; the diet will change as your body does, and you’ll need to stay on top of this. That’s why your skinny friend can eat junk and not gain weight and you just need to look at a cake… It’s because their dietary requirements are DIFFERENT to yours, and in a year’s time, so will yours be!

The diet needs to be sustainable, not something that ends when you lose x-lbs, or go on holiday; not something that you suffer through for 3 weeks, and then revert to your old ways. You don’t “Go on a diet”, you change your eating habits.

And finally, the “Diet” will look outside of just food! Exercise is a crucial part of the energy balance equation, and if you want to burn more calories than you eat, this should be your first port of call before you start reducing food intake and restricting your nutrient intake. 
The bonus of doing it this way (as long as you don't overtrain) is that you may not even need to restrict your diet or eat less- if you burn more calories, you may be able to carry on as usual and still benefit; although exercise without a healthy diet is not likely to work wonders.

The key here is to change over to healthier foods that nourish your body. By restricting food intake, you also restrict nourishment, leading to ill-health rather than the vital, healthy body you want.

Use diet and exercise together to build a better, stronger you.

If you need more help, visit for information on Personal Training, Nutrition Coaching, and Bootcamp classes.

Monday, 28 September 2015

What is "Cardio"?

Millions of people around the world insist on jogging. I hate jogging; it’s bad for your joints (especially if you’re overweight), and if you have any muscular imbalances or injuries it will exacerbate the problem.

So if you can’t run, how else will you do your cardio?

Cycling? Rowing? Cross-Training? Swimming?

Contrary to popular belief, these aren’t the only ways you can “do cardio”; lifting weights is cardio!

Cardiovascular/Cardio/CV training is anything that raises your heart rate.

So… if you load up a barbell with your bodyweight, sit it on your back and start squatting, will your heart rate increase? You bet it will! Pump out a dozen reps and you’ll be out of breath too. THAT IS cardio.

Jump up and hang off a bar, and knock out 15 pull-ups – also cardio.

Basically, lifting weights with any sort of intensity is cardio, especially the larger, full-body movements like squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, crawling, tyre flips etc. The more muscles you’re working, the more muscles are crying out for more oxygen.

Basically what I’m saying is you don’t have to do long, boring “cardio” sessions, that will hinder any attempt to build muscle, and is less efficient for fat loss than weight training, and can damage your joints beyond repair. If you lift weights with intensity, you’ll get all of the benefits of CV training, 
with the added, and very important benefit of working and strengthening your muscles.

Want to burn more energy (i.e. calories)? Work your fuel-burners (your muscles) harder.

Yes, there are many ways to train with weights, but for the most part they’ll all work your cardiovascular system and get your heart pumping blood around your body faster and harder, and the benefits far outweigh the traditional and boring methods.

If you’re training for a run/swim/ride etc., then by all means train for that (but remember weight training will also help); but if you’re training for fat loss/fitness, lift weights.

You may not be able to lift weights for as long as you run without stopping, but people have come to realize that interval training is more beneficial for fat loss than steady state (i.e. long and boring) 
cardio anyway. So think of weights as an interval session, but working your muscles too. Win, win!

If you enjoy running, go for a run - just don't over-do it. If you don't enjoy it, then there's really no reason why you need to be doing it.

So the bottom line is this: Lift weights! Regardless of your goals.

The 5 Worst foods in your Kitchen

So you think you’re eating healthily, and compared to most – you might be! But comparing yourself to an unhealthy population, and being in the top half is still far from ideal; and with so much conflicting information how do you know if you’re getting it right?

You might be surprised to find that some of the “healthy” foods you’re buying are actually fattening and bad for you. The very foods that are promoted as being good for you!

Food companies are businesses. They are in"business" to make money, simple. So if they can find a way to reduce costs, increase prices, and sell more products, you can bet they will! (And ethics often doesn't come into it).

So… What are my top 5 worst foods that you might have in your kitchen?

1.       Breakfast Cereal. This is just terrible. It’s loaded with added sugars and sweeteners, and to even be allowed to be sold as ‘food’, the manufacturers have to add synthetic vitamins and minerals to it (because without these, it has zero nutritional value and cannot be called food!). They’ll sell this as a bonus though: “Fortified with…”, “Now with added vitamin…”, and we lap it up like they’ve done us a huge favour! And I won’t even get into how it’s marketed to us but needless to say we're told it's good for us! Also lacking in adequate amounts of protein and fat, it’s incomplete as a meal and totally unacceptable as a breakfast (even if it is “wholegrain” or “high fibre”).

2.       Diet drinks. Cola, Lemonade etc. Fizzy drinks are loaded with sugar which we know is bad (although most people don’t comprehend just how bad!), but replacing them with “diet” versions will have no positive impact on your health! The artificial sweeteners pumped into them, which they HAVE to have to keep them tasting nice, is arguably as bad as the sugar – although we have no idea of all the adverse effects of these sweeteners, some have been linked to cancer, diabetes, obesity, IBS, migraines and more. Bottom line – don’t be fooled, drink water!If your kids won't drink water (ask yourself why - if they've been given other, tastier options, it's no wonder they'll kick up a fuss and refuse to drink plain old water!), try some herbal teas - you can get blackcurrant, lemon, strawberry, mint etc. Just brew them up and let them cool in the fridge. It may take a dozen tries before they'll drink it, but they'll soon get used to it and it'll be far better for them than any other sugary (or "low sugar") drink. Give them the option of that, or water, nothing else. They'll soon start drinking them :)

3.       Low-fat options. We need fat in our diet, period. While some fats are better than others, fats as a whole have been demonised by the food industry to our detriment. Take the fat out of something and it tastes horrible, so they HAVE to replace it with sugar or sweeteners. Low fat=high sugar (or to keep the “calories” down, one of the aforementioned alternative deadly sweeteners!). Fats are essential for every cell in your body to function optimally; be aware of where they’re coming from, but definitely keep them in your diet!Whole milk is better than skimmed. Proper butter is better than margarine. You get the idea...

4.       Granola Bars. Healthy snacking at its best. Take all the cereal problems and squeeze them together into a bar to eat on the go. Advertised as “99 calories” or similar, it’s just a smaller portion of the same! Usually held together with some form of syrup or honey etc. and possibly even topped with a low-fat yoghurt or some other kind of coating.If you want a healthy snack, make up a trail mix of nuts and seeds, or chop up some fresh vegetables like carrots, celery or peppers. Avoid cereals in any form!

5.       Fruit Juice. But fruit’s healthy?! While fruit itself contains sugars, they’re naturally occurring and are accompanied by fibre (the flesh of the fruit) that will aid in digestion and slow down the sugar rush. Still best avoided if weight loss is a goal or you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, but for the most part a healthy food.Fruit juice however has all of the fibre taken away. Squeeze all of the tasty sugar out of a fruit, and you have fruit juice. This is NOT a healthy choice, especially for your children.
Again, you/your children should be drinking water. If you want to add some flavour, use the teas as mentioned above, or squeeze half a lemon or lime into your water for flavour and extra nutrients.

There are no doubt many other insults lying around in your kitchen, but if you can start with these 5, which are among the worst, you'll be off to a great start. Once you've done that, you can start to look at other improvements.
Small improvements add up to big changes over time, with consistency, so take the first step now.

If you need more help, visit for information on Personal Training, Nutrition Coaching, and Bootcamp classes.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Strength Training Into Old Age

Most people as they get older tend to do less, exercise-wise. “I’m not as young as I used to be”, “I’m not that fit any more”, and “It gets harder as you get older”…

The usual excuses arise, but the only quote that really comes into play here is “Use it or lose it”.

The less you move, the less you’ll be able to move. Your body adapts to the stresses imposed on it – basically meaning you can do the things you’re used to doing. When you stop doing something, your body will get weaker, tighter, stiffer etc.

Used to be able to do the splits? You didn’t wake up one day suddenly unable to do them… You stopped doing them, so your body adapted.

Used to be strong? You stopped using that strength and gradually your body realised it didn’t need it anymore, so it went.

Along with good nutrition, the most important thing you can do as you get older is stay strong; otherwise you’ll be the person who needs help getting out of a chair, struggles with stairs, or can’t open a bottle of water! It stands to reason: If you’re beginning to struggle climbing the stairs – practice climbing the stairs!

If you’re young, start and/or keep up your strength training, or you’ll regret it later on.

If you’ve already noticed an “age-related” (or really, lack-of-use-related) decline in strength or mobility, do something about it NOW. It’s never too late. Be sensible, but do something.

Yoga would be a great way to deal with mobility issues and you can start at any level/ability and work from there.

For strength (easily as important as any other aspect), the same applies. Can’t get in and out of a chair? Start with that! Gradually increase the difficulty of what you’re doing making the movements more complex, and gradually adding weight. Building your strength will not only keep you active and mobile, it’ll also keep you stable (less likely to fall), and make your bones stronger (less likely to break if you do fall).

People tend to think strength training is just for the young and fit, but it’s not; it’s for everyone – and if you don’t want to get stronger, you seriously need to re-think things. There’s no downside to being stronger!

You don’t have to lift huge weights (although as heavy as you can with good technique is a good way to go); even if you lift a light weight for 10 reps, if you increase that to 11 reps, you’ve increased strength. Then try 12, or 13… you see the pattern. If you can, increase the weight and start again! 

Never stop.

If you’re not working to get stronger, you’re getting weaker. How far will you let it go?

If you need more help, visit for information on Personal Training, Nutrition Coaching, and Bootcamp classes.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Elimination Diets

Food sensitivities are more common than you might think; and they can cause acne, allergies, migraines and more.

Elimination diets are a great and simple way to find out if you need to adjust your regular menu.

The idea of an elimination diet is to remove certain foods from your diet for a given period (3-4 weeks), and then re-introduce them in a controlled manner, one at a time, to see if you have any adverse reactions to them.

As a basic guide (and it really doesn’t need to be more complicated than this), here is what to do if you suspect you may have a food sensitivity, or have a chronic condition that you can’t figure out the cause of.

Cut out the following foods for 3-4 weeks (completely!):

Citrus fruits; 
white potatoes; 
wheat/corn/barley/oats (and all other gluten-containing products); 
Legumes (all beans/tofu/soy/peas/lentils); 
all nuts and seeds; 
all processed meats; 
Milk; Cheese; Cream; Yoghurt; Butter; Margarine and other spreads; 
and anything else you suspect may pose a problem for you, or anything you eat on a regular basis (you can actually develop a sensitivity if you overeat something) .

I know this is a big, scary list! But focus on what you CAN have, and remember it’s only for a short time, and the benefits will be well worth it if you find something that’s been causing you grief for years.

What you CAN eat:

Almost all fresh fruit; 
Almost all fresh, raw, steamed, sautéed or roasted vegetables; 
Wild game; 
Unsweetened rice or coconut milk; 
Olive Oil; Coconut oil; Flaxseed oil; 
Fresh water; Herbal teas; 
Sea salt; Fresh pepper; Fresh herbs and spices.

Follow this strictly for 3 weeks and monitor your symptoms/how you feel.

In week 4, introduce a single food/food group for ONE DAY ONLY, then monitor your symptoms for 2 days. Continue this process with different foods and food groups until you figure out what is causing you issues. The fewer foods you re-introduce at one time, the more accurately you’ll be able to pinpoint the problem, but it will take longer.

Pay attention to your mood, concentration, gut/bowels, joints, skin, insomnia, headaches, sinuses, and energy levels.

This is not a restrictive diet (calorie-wise) – do NOT use it as a weight loss tool, but be aware that by eliminating foods you are sensitive to you will allow your body to detoxify more efficiently, and weight loss may occur.

Give this a try and see how you get on.

If you need more help, visit for information on Personal Training, Nutrition Coaching, and Bootcamp classes.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Overfed and Under-nourished

The general belief these days is that if you cut calories, you’ll lose weight.

Whilst this IS true, it’s not as simple as that. Where your calories come from is, in fact, much more important. Hormones dictate whether you’ll burn fat, store fat, build muscle, or lose muscle (as well as myriad other things). And what you eat will have a huge effect on what your hormones do.

Most people who eat too many calories and gain weight are in fact still under-nourished. If you’re eating the wrong foods it’s easy to over-consume calories, and still get very little actual nutrition.

A typical junk food meal from any well-known fast food restaurant could easily clock up 1500 calories yet you’ll get very little if any nutritional value from the meal.

This is why you can put away so much food and still be hungry; because your body is still crying out for fuel and nutrition even after you’ve eaten a huge meal. And also why it’s so easy to gain [the wrong kind of] weight.

Given that many people make bad food choices and over-consume calories whilst under-consuming nutrients, cutting calories (i.e. going on a “Diet”) will lead to even fewer nutrients being eaten. This WILL lead to muscle loss, a drop in energy levels, and poor health, as well as slowing down your metabolism and leaving you malnourished (and no, a smoothie/juice/shake WON’T make up for this deficit!).

The key is to select nutritious foods over the less nutritious foods. Fresh vegetables are high in nutrients and low in calories – eat more of these – a LOT more. Fill up on low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods and you’ll struggle to over-eat or surpass your calorie requirements, and you’ll also get the many benefits of giving your body all the nutrition it needs (along with, obviously, fats and protein).

Avoid calorie-dense, low nutrient foods – mainly sweets, cakes, biscuits, fast-food, fizzy drinks etc.

It’s possible to “under-eat” (i.e. drop calories) and still get adequate nutrition IF you choose the right foods. But keep your calories up, with nutritious foods, and you’ll reap far more benefits than you would from dropping calories! Weight loss will be from fat rather than muscle, and your energy levels and mood will improve dramatically. And you won’t have to deal with the usual post-“Diet” weight (re)gain afterwards.

If you need more help, visit for information on Personal Training, Nutrition Coaching, and Bootcamp classes.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

You, 2015

Without repeating the usual January advice about goal setting, a new exercise regime, whatever new diet is trendy at the moment; I’m going to attempt to give you the basics (again) in hope that this year, rather than starting some crazy new plan that you’ll never stick to, you’ll just make a few small changes and focus on being consistent with them.

Changing your entire lifestyle takes time, and if you try to do it all at once or too quickly it’s a recipe for disaster. So, what you need to do is simplify and streamline.

Attack the weight loss demon from two angles.

Firstly, eliminate the junk. Surprisingly, most people don’t gain weight from eating too much; but from eating the wrong things, at the wrong times. So step one is to eliminate all the processed, sugary foods and drinks (don’t forget drinks!).

For the time being, don’t worry about calories, fats, points or sins. Just change from convenience foods to fresh, single ingredient foods. If it’s got a list of ingredients on the packaging (especially ingredients you can’t even pronounce), don’t eat/drink it.

Don’t worry for now if that seems like it’s not a big enough change. If you can do this, and stick with it, you’ll notice a difference.

Secondly, exercise. This is another one people tend to overdo and burn out. If you already exercise regularly, DO NOT increase how much you do, just increase the intensity that you’re working at.

If you’re not already exercising regularly, do no more than 3 workouts a week to begin with, but again, work HARD when you do them. Keep them short and high intensity; always under an hour.

I’m purposely keeping this simple because most people overthink or overdo things at the start of their program, only to end up getting sick of it and giving up, or just failing.

DON’T over-complicate things. Make a positive change (no matter how small) and be consistent with it, and you’ll have improved your health. Once you’re consistent (that word again!) with that change, make another positive change. And repeat. Gradually, you’ll be improving your healthy lifestyle with almost no effort. One small change is easier to stick to than multiple drastic changes. 

One step at a time and this time next year, you won’t be “dieting” or starting a new regime – you’ll have it covered!

Yes, exercise and nutrition can get a LOT more complicated than this, but the simplest changes are often the most powerful; don’t get sucked in to marketing hype and magazine diets. Keep It Simple.

If you need more help, visit for information on Personal Training, Nutrition Coaching, and Bootcamp classes.

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