We all know that to improve performance we need to follow a healthy lifestyle, including a consistently good nutrition plan and training programme. But what about the other ‘less obvious’ factors that can effect performance both in the gym AND in day to day life?
Do you pay as much attention to your sleep routine as you do your nutrition?
Maybe you should.
There are 750+ scientific studies that have investigated the relationship between sleep and human performance, many of which have studied elite athletes specifically. The results are compelling: Sleep improves speed, explosiveness and accuracy. It enhances our ability to process information and solve problems. It improves our judgment, composure and ability to assess and respond to situations. It accelerates physical recovery from common inflammation, stimulates muscle repair, and helps restock cellular energy in the form of glucose and glycogen.
In other words, sleep is one of the most sophisticated, potent, and powerful—not to mention legal—performance enhancers that has competition-winning potential.
It is also one of the most under-utilised. Two-thirds of adults fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of sleep nightly. You’re probably not surprised by this, but you may be surprised by how it affects you as an athlete. Obtain anything less than eight hours of sleep a night, and especially less than six hours a night, and the following happens:
Just like you can't out-train a bad diet, you can’t out-train poor sleep. In fact, the physical and mental impairments caused by one night of bad sleep dwarf those caused by an equivalent absence of food or exercise.
Put another way: Unless you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep every night, you're undermining all your hard work in the gym and on your nutrition.
We spend too much time improving our mental and physical abilities to leave anything as powerful as sleep on the table. If you’re looking to take your performance to the next level in 2018, you have to make sleep a priority.
Here are some ways to make sure you’re getting eight hours a night:
Maybe if you have some holiday time over Christmas this could be your first step towards a healthier happier and stronger 2018!?
Things I’ve been asked by members this week so thought I’d share a quick blog ;
“I’ve been on this diet for a week, I’ve lost 3 lbs., but I don’t see any change in how I look."
“I’m getting so frustrated. I’ve been on my Nutrition to a TEE for the last 3 weeks, and although I can feel my measurements are going down I don’t look ripped and I don’t really see anything going on."
Ive heard variations of those comments from many-many-clients over the years. I’m sure some of you guys have heard yourself at some point when following a certain diet or approach to nutrition.
Truth? Typically no progress is fast enough, particularly if you have a long way to go and a lot of excess BF and a history of following fad / yo yo diets!
Take the Paper Towel Analogy and the picture of the two paper towel rolls - one is a before picture at your heaviest and unhappy and the second is you, 12 weeks in having decided to do something to change your poor lifestyle choices and having lost some fat. As you start losing fat (or tearing off sheets of the towel roll) you might not immediately notice any change but as time goes on, the more fat you lose (towels you lose) the more noticeable it becomes and then all of a sudden other people begin to notice and you can see it!
So often, in the beginning when you are putting in the effort to make good choices and lifestyle changes and being consistent, you might think that nothing is happening, it just takes a while to see it, this is particularly true when you are heavier and have a longer way to go. Unfortunately we live in a world where we expect immediate gratification. And fat loss doesn’t work like this.
Stay consistent, be patient and trust the process. Dont get frustrated and think its not working, it is! and you will never see the RESULTS if you always give up before you give yourself time.
You CAN DO THIS!!
It's that time of year when for some reason it becomes harder than normal to keep on top of your Nutrition. Apart from the darker evenings, shorter days & chillier climate, all of which can make you reach for the warming comfort foods, the onset of the festive party season means a constant overload of eating & drinking super high calorie treats.
**HEALTH WARNING** weekends can seriously sabotage your fat loss plans!!
For many people on a fat loss journey, its the weekend overeating (and over-boozing) that prevents them from seeing the RESULTS they work hard for Monday to Friday. It's something I see over and over again. Individuals killing it in the gym and managing their eating during the normal working week and then Friday night comes and BOOM. For a lot of people it's become so routine now its a habit.
The common theme;
"Every Friday around 5pm, as I waited for the bus after work, I’d start to salivate. The end of the work week means red wine, pizza, a giant bag of crisps, and a movie. It's my Friday ritual. Friday night, is eat whatever I want, the highlight of my week. My job is stressful so fast food and booze is my way of unwinding. Friday is a gateway drug to the rest of the weekend. a big breakfast on Saturday, and big lunches afterwards. Either out on Saturday night for drinks and a big meal. Or stay home for a takeout and movie on the couch. Then its Sunday brunch, perhaps coffee & cake during a Sunday walk. And, naturally, winter weekends is a big Sunday roast… because it’s Sunday"
Because it’s Friday. Because it’s Saturday. Because it’s Sunday. Sound familiar?
We aren't talking about compulsive bingeing here. This kind of overeating is a routine, stress-fuelled, social habit. In most cases, your social circle supports it, even encourages it - 'its just what people do at the weekends'.
The problem is, that after a while, weekend overeating starts to bite you in the ass.
As every overeater knows, the over indulgence comes with consequences.
By Monday you feel physically uncomfortable, bloated, and mentally, you feel crap, guilty and angry for eating it all. And while a little weight fluctuation is inevitable when you’re trying to get in shape, if you want to stay healthy and fit, or make fitness and health a permanent part of your lifestyle, then weekend overeating can easily sabotage your goals.
Aside from the obvious extra body fat or poor performance in the gym, there’s all the other associated health related side effects. Your joints hurt because of inflammation from junk food. You’re too heavy to train properly. Or you lie awake in bed with food sweats or get a shitty sleep because of the overdose of sugar, saturated fats & alcohol. The problem is, like any habit, the cycle can be hard to break. Training harder in the gym the Monday after a social weekend isn't the answer. Nor is drastically cutting your calories as you begin another new diet on Monday as the starvation attempt almost always leads to an even bigger blowout the following weekend. The more the binge-diet cycle continues; the further the health and fitness goals remain out of reach.
How do you break free of the weekend overeating cycle?
Are your weekday eating patterns affecting your weekend behaviour?
Do you have a healthy, unemotional relationship with food?
Here are the 5 strategies to help ditch the 5:2 habit (and hopefully the weight) for good.
Strategy #1: Instead of trying to be perfect - start to live with balance.
Aim for “consistently good” instead of “perfect”.
By trying to follow the “perfect” diet and super strict meal plans Monday to Friday and constantly stressing about screwing things up, by the time you get to the weekend, you're mentally exhausted with it all and the willpower gives out. You’re so fed up of restrictive eating you can’t wait to eat ALL THE food you actually enjoy. Bring on the weekend binge! For most people trapped in this vicious cycle, there are only two options in their mind: perfect or crap. So the distorted logic of “It’s Saturday, I’m out to lunch with my family, and I can’t have my perfect pre-portioned kale salad like I usually do, so instead I’ll just overeat a giant bacon cheeseburger and a huge plate of fries.” If you take “perfect” off the table, things change. You feel empowered because there are now other options. Instead of kale salad vs. five servings of fries, there’s:
“I’m actually in the mood for a salad with my burger so ill sub the fires for a green salad.”
Always aim for “good enough”. Don't separate weekdays from weekends, instead make every day an opportunity to consider your health and fitness goals, what you're in the mood for, which healthy options are available, etc. Remember: The consistently good method you stick to is better than the “perfect” one you quit.
Strategy #2: Let go of rigid food rules.
Food rules tell you:
* what you can and can’t eat,
* when you can or can’t eat it,
* how you can or can’t eat it, and/or
* how much you can or can’t have.
These rules take up an awful lot of mental headspace. They also set you up for failure… aka “the Fucked It Effect”. Here’s how the Fucked It Effect works.
If #1 food rule is Don’t Eat Carbs. No bread with the soup; won’t touch a sandwich; no toast with your eggs. Then Friday night, you find yourself out with friends, and everyone’s having beer and pizza. You try and hold out but you give in and grab a slice. You've fucked it, you’ve “blown your diet”, so you might as well keep eating. Cue the binge and miserable, guilty after effects.That normally means you let go all night. Maybe all weekend. Eating by the rules almost always leads to overeating, because once you deviate, there’s nothing left to guide you.
Ditch the rules and let your healthy lifestyle be your guide. Non-dieters (or so-called “normal eaters”) eat when they’re physically hungry and stop when they’re physically full, no matter if it’s Wednesday or Saturday, morning or evening, work lunch or weekend brunch. Remember every choice has a consequence and don't let it spiral out of control.
Strategy #3: Don't allow yourself Cheat Days.
Monday through Saturday is all about sticking to your diet. But Sunday… That’s Cheat Day. The happiest day of your week. You wake up on Cheat Day morning like a kid at Christmas. Go wild all day long, eating all the stuff you don’t allow yourself during the week. As evening nears, you start to freak out. So you eat (and maybe drink) even more. Because tomorrow, it’s back to reality, diet starts again. Back to fidelity and compliance. And no fun.
Some people find the idea of a weekly Cheat Day useful both mentally and physically. If this is you, and it works for you, then by all means crack on. But ill be honest, for most of the people I’ve coached, having one Cheat Day means the rest of the week is food purgatory. Instead, don't exclude anything and make good choices all week. You don’t need to “cheat” because there’s nothing, and no one, to “cheat” on. Maybe you enjoy some dessert on a Tuesday night because you’re in the mood for it, or maybe you don’t because you’re satisfied from dinner. Either way, you're on control of your daily calorie intake. What and when you eat is up to you — and your hunger and fullness cues. No matter what day of the week it is. And whatever you choose is going to be key to how you look & feel.
Strategy #4: Own your choices.
There is no “good” and “bad” food. Sins aren't for adults. Mind games like this undermine your health goals — and your authority over your decisions. Instead owning your choices, and letting your adult values and health principles guide you when you sit down to eat. By making food decisions by acknowledging the outcome, based on your past experience. For example:
“I’m choosing to eat this tub of ice cream on Saturday night. I’ll probably feel nauseated and anxious afterwards. In this instance, I’m okay I understand that.” In the end, own your choices: But don’t try and justify them. You’re free to eat and drink anything you want. You choose your behaviour. Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes. It’s your call.
Strategy #5: Stop justifying your behaviour.
Weekends present all sorts of justifications for eating a bunch of non-nutritious foods. And trust me, Ive heard them all!
* You were busy. Or maybe you had nothing going on.
* You were travelling. Or maybe you were at home.
* You had to work. Or you were bored.
* You had a family/social. Or maybe you were home alone.
We can all try to rationalise our beehive with excises. Busyness, boredom, travel, work, or family dinners don’t inherently cause overeating. People eat or drink too much in lots of different situations. The explanation simply matches whatever happens to be going on at the time.
Rationalisations are a convenient way of helping us make sense of — and perpetuate — our overeating.
Stop justifying your behaviour or blaming something or someone else, and ask yourself why you are really overeating. On the odd occasion, you’ll want to eat crap. And too much of it. That’s normal. But instead of justifying it, take the opportunity to ask yourself what’s really going on in your head at that moment. Are you bored? Stressed? Sad? Happy? If you do this you’ll start to see some patterns. That’s the key, your opportunity to change overeating behaviour — and do something to address those emotions instead of bingeing.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE:
There is no perfect time to eat better, or to live a healthier lifestyle Not tomorrow; not on Monday. Not after Christmas. Life is always a busy, there will always be an excuse. All we can do is our best with what we’ve got. Right here, right now. Ask yourself: How’s that weekend overeating working for you?
If you’re loving all your junk-food nights out or gut-punching Sunday brunches, and you’re happy with the results, keep going. But if you’re fed up with how you look, how you feel and the vicious cycle it could be time to make a change. Ask yourself: What does weekend overeating do for you? What does it lead to? What does it add to your life? How does it solve a problem or have a purpose for you?
Often weekend overeating is self-medication for stress, stimulation and novelty, and a way to connect socially with friends/family.
To reset your mindset and break the cycle of weekend overeating, try:
* aiming for “good enough” instead of “perfect”,
* letting go of your food rules,
* giving up the idea of Cheat Days or Cheat Meals - carte blanche permission to eat everything,
* own your choices, and/or
* quitting the rationalisation/justification for your behaviour.
If you do over eat, park it and move on. Don’t try to compensate. Just get back to your normal.
You don’t “pay back” the damage in the gym or on the treadmill, nor do you need to kamikaze your way through a whole jar of peanut butter. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go back to doing your best. Sometimes it helps to put someone else in control for a while.
You are the boss of you, and you should own your choices. But changing a deep-seated habit — like overeating on the weekend — is challenging. And just like your fat loss, the process of changing your habits will have ups and downs. Its a lifetime journey. It helps to have someone who will support and encourage you - a friend, a partner, or your trainer who will listen to you and keep you accountable. Good luck, I know you can do this.
I hope that by now, after the first two Nutrition Workshops in the series you are beginning to understand the simple basic rules of PROGRESS Mode, in that;
To LOSE weight (i.e. fat) you need to be in a consistent calorie deficit. This might mean that from time to time you will feel hungry. And guess what? Thats Okay!
To GAIN weight (i.e. muscle) you need to be in a consistent calorie surplus. Which means that sometimes you will feel full and you still need to eat, even if you're not hungry. And guess what? Thats totally fine!
If you are in FAT LOSS MODE then your focus should be to eat LOW CALORIE, NUTRIENT DENSE whole foods. Why? Because they provide essential nutrients & vitamins to fuel your body to move & train, its the most effective way to blunt hunger, they can be created into tasty meals which satisfy you & prevent cravings for sugar & shit, and they will fill you up, whilst remaining in a calorie deficit. This can include, but is not limited to: Oats (yes, I did say CARBS, because you can eat carbohydrate and lose fat!), Green Soup (CARBS), Strawberries/Blueberries (FRUIT also CARBS), Fish (PROTEIN), Poultry (PROTEIN), Eggs (PROTEIN), Greek Yoghurt (PROTEIN), Cottage Cheese (PROTEIN), Spinach/Broccoli (GREENS).
If you are in trying to GAIN more lean muscle mode then you should eat HIGH CALORIE and not very filling foods so that you can eat more, without feeling like you're going to explode and maintain your calorie surplus. This can include, but is not limited to: Avocado (FATS), Nut Butter (FATS), Quality Red Meats (PROTEIN), Rice (CARBS), Granola (CARBS), Full Fat Milk/Yoghurt (FAT).
Thats not to say that these lists are exhaustive, or that you can/can't eat things in the other camp. One of the reasons I avoid giving clients prescriptive Nutrition plans where I tell you exactly what to eat is because rather than tell you what to do, I prefer to help you to understand HOW it works and that whatever is 'best' for the individual largely depends on you then individual, because despite what social media might have you believe ONE SIZE definitely doesn't fit all. There isn't really a RIGHT or WRONG way, some people choose to eat meat, others are vegan. And thats cool. There are no BAD or CLEAN foods - be careful with health food halos, that would have you believe that because you bought it in a Wholefoods store and its organic/gluten free/vegan its also healthy and calorie free. Nope.
Take home message here? Stick to the basic principals for whatever MODE you're in. You can eat carbs and fruit if you're trying to lose fat as long as you maintain a consistent CALORIE DEFICIT. Protein sources and fats fit well on both sides. Finally, its not fancy. Its not magic nor does it guarantee FAST results (or Jessica Enis abs in a week) in 7 days. But it is realistic and sustainable. And it works.
More to come...
e**The 5 BEST Exercises for RAPID & EFFECTIVE Fat Loss**
1. Track your daily calories.
2. Track your daily calories.
3. Track your daily calories.
Surprised? Disappointed? If you were expecting quick fix exercises I apologise. But heres the truth : its important that you understand that REAL progress takes a TON of effort (by you), time and patience. There is NO 21 day fix. There is no pill or potion that will burn fat or dissolve fat from your chosen areas and keep it off for life. There is NO fast track to success. And anyone who tells you or sells you that there is, is not being truthful.
NOTE: There are rare occasions when rapid fat loss methods might have a time and a place within a well designed nutrition plan. But these are not long term solutions or sustainable plans and I wouldn't recommend this for anyone with a history of dieting. disordered or emotional eating. They are not a quick fix, and at some point you need to switch to something that you can sustain and follow so that you can continue to make progress and maintain your weight in the long term.
In the Nutrition workshops we have been discussing about how tracking your nutrition (via MyFitnessPal) along with consistency & accountability is essential if you are in PROGRESS (i.e. Fat Loss or muscle gain) Mode or Maintenance Mode. Why? Because fitness & health is a life long process. No matter how lean or strong you are, there is always room for some improvement, more to learn and an option for a better you.
Thinking that you will be happy & fulfilled when you reach a certain weight or size is not practical. And its not how it works. Happiness isn't attached to a number on the scales. If you don't love or like who you are right now, it won't suddenly be different when you're xx kg lighter/lose the belly/reduce the cellulite.
Instead, get ready for a journey of ups & downs, highs & lows. The long haul. Because when you start the process to a Fitter, Healthier, Leaner & Stronger you, you're in it for life. And enjoy it! If you hate every second or can't wait to finish the 'diet' you aren't going to last.
So, what am I saying here. Whats the take home message?
Don't look for a quick fix. And don't sign up for a rapid results guaranteed programme.
Instead, identify your goal, commit to CHANGE, be prepared to put the effort in, consistently and be patient. And I promise you will see the RESULTS.
More coming ......
How big is your spoon?
One of the reason why I advise using MyFitnessPal to track your daily nutrition is because even if you're eating good quality, real, whole foods its still very easy to gain weight. Actually its also possible to eat crap food and lose weight if I'm being honest (although I would strongly advise against this method if your health is important to you). Either way, what I'm saying here is that ultimately if youre looking to drop body fat ratio and/or lose weight - it comes down to calories. The calories you consume on a daily basis (food & drink) vs the calories need to survive (NEAT, sleep, live & your activity level). Im a big advocate of eating REAL whole foods but you also need to be calorie conscious if you don't want to get fat. Simple. I can't just eat what I want, unlike many people would like to think, I have to nail both what I eat to fuel my busy lifestyle AND how much I eat to maintain the physique I own. The good news is that it IS POSSIBLE to eat a decent amount of good food every day, feel full & satisfied, feel strong and healthy. But portion control is the key. Some might call this will power, either way, it matters and its the difference between seeing the results and not. Take the picture above for case in point. a level tsp (15g) of Nut Butter is 94 cals. I sometimes add it to my greek yoghurt and it nicely rounds up my fats for the day. 1 heaped tsp of Nut Butter (30g) is around 188 cals, and this will push me over my daily maintenance calories, to the point where if I do this consistently, over time I will gain weight. So while I encourage including healthy fats in your nutrition, you need to be mindful of the portion size you're eating especially when you're goal is to lose weight! Its these kinds of incremental changes that can make BIG differences and sabotage your results. Its the equivalent of adding in an small, extra snack every day that you don't account for a food. Nut butters are often referred to as health foods, but eating a whole jar in a week is going to fuck up your fat loss, if you don't make allowances for the additional calories, which you probably wont. The reason I advise eating real food over snacks in general, is because you can eat much more food for the same number of calories, which means you're more likely to be satisfied and less likely to be miserable or binge. The take home lesson here is, when it comes to high calories treats, even if deemed 'healthy', be mindful about how much you eat and how often - stay accountable and then you will reach your goals without having to sacrifice or cut out the odds you enjoy.
Eat well Monday to Friday and fall off the wagon at the weekend?
Does this sound familiar to you?
You religiously record your food in MyFitnessPal during the week, but at the weekend you tend to slack off. You try and stick to a good routine on weekdays but at the weekend you eat more junk and the routine goes out the window? Do you allow yourself a 'cheat' which ends up a cheat weekend of poor food choices and often have a few drinks too. Answer: Weekend eating is just as important as Monday to Friday eating. 2 poor days can erase 5 good ones!
The truth: weekends can kill your fat loss.
Just like snacks and little extras in between meals can also ruin your fat loss. On their own they might not seem like much but little + little + little is no longer little. In the long term, these little nibbles here and there add up and WILL put the brakes on your progress. If it goes in your mouth; it counts.
There's nothing special about weekends. If you can eat well from Monday to Friday, you can eat well Saturday and Sunday. Your Monday to Friday success proves it. There's nothing about a weekend that should mandate a lack of structure - particularly when you’re aim is fat loss and you're trying to achieve a personal goal. If you're serious about your goal, and you really want to shed the extra fat your carrying around, then you'll stick to the program. In this sense, there's no such thing as ‘everything in moderation’. That’s like being 'sort of committed'. You’re either IN, or you're not.
Remember, it was YOU who didn’t like what you saw in the mirror. And YOU chose to make a change. That comes with a responsibility to yourself to accept what is involved to stay ON IT and be accountable. Of course it's fine if you want to ‘sort of eat CLEAN’, on one condition; that you're also willing to accept the consequences of that choice, which means slow, or NO visible change to your body. So next Monday when you go back to the gym and you wonder why you still feel fat compared to other members, maybe ask yourself how much fun the weekend really was? Is it worth it? It’s not rocket science but it's the one thing we ALL need reminding of when we're talking about successful, long term CHANGE : CONSISTENCY is key.
Ultimately when it comes to nutrition, accountability is and always will be, the KEY to long-term, successful fat loss. I don't care how hard you train, or how many group classes you do, or how many extra block runs or calories on the rower you push out, if you can't nail your nutrition week in and week out, you're short changing yourself of the RESULTS you deserve. You're working hard at your training for sub-optimal, or in some cases, no, physical results. If you want great results you need to make good food choices, consistently. Week in and week out. One day at a time.
“Extraordinary RESULTS requires extraordinary effort”
There is nothing more frustrating as a Coach than someone who moans and complains about belly fat, being over weight, feeling unhappy, and not seeing results and when you look at their MyFitnessPal, there are obvious and simple mistakes.
In some cases people tell me that they're bang on with their diet, except for the odd night out and little cheats/odd glass of wine here and there. What? That's not bang on in my book. That's extra. I don't care how small it is, when 'small' is repeated often, it's no longer small.
Sometimes people complain that they feel hungry? So what? What do you expect? If you've been on holiday and got used to eating high calorie/high fat foods you're effectively detoxing and eating in a caloric deficit compared to what you have been eating and your mind (not your body) is craving the sugar and fats.
Hunger level is not always an indication of the need for more food. Look back at your food diary – if you have fuelled correctly then I promise you’re not going to starve or die. So get over it.
Everything counts, and it ALL makes a difference to the results you see in the mirror. Binge drinking nights out, little cheats here and there, additional this or that, it all adds up. If you're needing to lose a few extra pounds you can cope with the odd night out. However if you're carrying 3-4 stone excess body fat then I'm afraid it calls for some serious effort on your part to shift it. Choose the behaviour, choose the consequences. It's fine to fall short of 100% compliance, if you're willing to accept the results of those choices. If not, then don’t cheat. GREAT RESULTS are waiting for you once you're prepared to make the right choices. .
Instant gratification is the mindset of a child. The need to satisfy a WANT (not a need) “ I want chocolate” NOW, NOW, NOW. We've ALL been there; no one said it would be easy. But we can't honestly expect to see and feel results if we don't put in the work. So find ways to stay on track and stop giving yourself excuses or permissions to eat the food you want but you know you shouldn't. That food you want now will still be there in 28 days!
It's Simple, But It's Not Easy. Clearly it's not that easy, otherwise no one would have body fat issues and we'd all be ripped all-year round. But, fat loss IS simple once you realise how hard it is. When you finally understand and appreciate how much effort, responsibility, planning, creativity, intensity, discipline, thought and control the journey involves, and that RESULTS are not going to happen from a half-hearted ‘average’ or moderate effort - you will succeed. This takes work. YOU have to be willing to put in the hard graft with your nutrition!
Some people can work on a 90% rule - meaning that you have to be on plan 90% of the time, allowing you 10% off plan. Sometimes I get asked “what if you're 90% and the results aren't showing?”It might be that 90% simply isn’t going to work for you. I know for me, 90% doesn't really cut it. I’m lean but when I hit 100%, and put in the extra effort, it makes a big difference. I strongly encourage your focus to be on changing your lifestyle to become more conscious of what you eat, i.e. the process and the mindset and not the outcome. Instead of focusing on what weight you want to be, or the size 10 jeans or the number on the scales – aim to make good choices consistently in the way you eat day in and day out, and the outcome will take care of itself!
"I will nail my nutrition 100% of the time this week'. If you meet your process goals, your outcome goals (i.e. RESULTS) will take care of themselves.
Fat loss is a battle: its you versus your body.
The key to winning is NUTRITION compliance. Unless you enter the battlefield with that strategy in place, you might as well wave the white flag before you even start. We work as a Team but your success is ultimately your responsibility.