Sunday, 23 February 2014

Prepare to succeed!

They say that abs are made in the kitchen. This is not far from the truth! The key to successful nutrition, whether it be for fat-loss, muscle building or general well-being, is preparation.

When I say preparation I mean planning what meals you are going to have for the week, writing a list, shopping in advance and lastly preparing all your meals.

In my opinion this is the key if you are going to get into the shape that you want. If you leave nutrition to chance, you wont have the food available or the time to cook something and this leads to poor choices and convenience food. How many of us have got home after a long day, feeling hungry and not had anything in the fridge? Next step, something easy like toast, or even a takeaway.

Convenience food is often full of trans-fats, sugar and additives. If eaten regularly, this will often lead to an increase in body-fat. Fresh whole foods like meat, fish, eggs, veggies, salad, nuts and seeds will keep you lean. When you ask people why they opt for bread, takeaways, microwave meals, junk food, they will tell you they don't have time to cook. Often these people will be sitting on facebook for an hour a night or watching three hours or TV. There is always time.

Try these tips to get yourself organised:

  • Plan your weekly meals
  • Write a list before you go shopping based around your meal plans
  • Choose a day to cook up several batches of food. I do this on Sunday. Sometimes I cook two or three meals for the first part of the week and then do the same on wednesday for the end of the week. Some can be frozen or simply put in the fridge to be heated up
  • Have healthy alternatives on standby. Keep tinned fish in the cupboard, pre-cooked meat in the fridge, fresh salad that can be prepared instantly, healthy fruit and nuts to hand, etc. This along with pre-cooked meals will keep you fully stocked up and reaching for healthy food all day!
  • Think about when you are going to eat for the next day. If you have a busy day plan when your are going to take some time to sit down and eat. It's important and you will be more productive with healthy food in your system
  • Buy tupawere! Simple but effective. Use these to store meals in the freezer or take meals/snacks in these to work.
No excuses!


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Keep it simple!!

We are all guilty of reading up on the newest and craziest fitness fads. Sometimes it's very easy to get sucked in with the clever marketing or the fancy gadgets. The ab machine that will give you an 8-pack if you do it for 5 minutes a day or the new fitness class that 'melts' fat from your thighs.

For a beginner this can get confusing. For a long time now I have said stick with the basics. When I first joined the fitness industry I too got sucked in. I saw people doing single-leg alternate shoulder presses while balancing on a bosu ball. Why not just do a shoulder press with your feet on the floor and lift a heavier weight?

In the strength and fitness game, less is often more. Don't overcomplicate things with too many different exercises in the gym or confusing forms of cardio. If you are starting out and you want to get a bit fitter and a bit leaner, but you haven't exercised in a while then simply WALK! It's so easy and so simple but we rarely do it. This may be down to transport, lazyness, trying to fit too much into the day etc. But if we factored in 3 15-minute walks a day, all of a sudden we have totalled 45 minutes of cardio. Get off the bus a stop earlier, walk to work, put your headphones on and go for a 15 minute stroll one way and then 15 back. Not only will this improve things physically but mentally. If you have something on your mind, go for a long walk and i bet it won't be there when you've finished.

Some other basic strength exercises that you can base your programme around are:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Chest press
  • Pushups
  • Clean and press
  • Shoulder press
  • Chinups
  • Rows
Don't get caught up the latest fad. Keep things simple, consistent and progressive. This will get results.


Monday, 10 February 2014

Paused reps to improve your squats and bench press

If you struggle with the bottom part of your bench press or your squat, then paused reps are a great way to help improve your strength in these positions.

If you are training with squats then work on your normal sets with your normal technique. Then you can drop the weight slightly and do a few sets with a 1-2 second pause at the bottom position of the squat. Keep you body upright and make sure you count the seconds at the bottom. So many people think they are pausing but simply bounce back up. I tend to do 3 sets of 8 reps. When you are in the bottom position really focus on driving your feet into the floor as you come back up. This will help activate the leg muscles.

In the bench press, you can either pause with the bar on your chest (if this is a comfortable bottom position for you) or simply pause at the lowest position of the range which you use (some people prefer to be an inch or two off the chest). The same rule applies here, pause 1-2 seconds and then drive the bar up. Another 3 sets of 8 works well for me and I'll tend to do these after my regular bench pressing.

For Beginners:

I find the above techniques also work really well for begginers who are learning to squat or bench press for the first time. Even if you are simply doing bodyweight squats or light dumbell bench pressing, holding the bottom position really enables a beginner to get a good 'feel' for the muscles they should be working when moving back the other way. It also slows the movement down a bit. Going too fast can often affect the quality of the movement and this will prevent that.

Try adding these in for variety, or if your squat or bench press have plateaued!


Saturday, 1 February 2014

Do you really need that much sugar?

If you look at your daily food intake, how much of it is comprised of sugar? Not just pure sugar but also carbohydrates? Whether we eat pure white sugar or normal carbohydrates e.g rice or pasta, it all gets broken down into glucose in the body. This then gets shipped off to certain areas of the body to be used for various tasks, one of which is exercise.

For many of us that exercise, one of our main goals is fat-loss. However, when we exercise, our body likes to use the carbohydrates in our system as they are easy to access first. If we are eating a lot of carbs and our stores are topped up regularly, it may take up to 30 minutes to burn these off before we even switch to using fat as a fuel source! So if you go for a 30 minute run, your ability to burn fat could be minimal.

If we look to reduce our sugar/carb intake then this can increase our fat-burning success! Have a look at the below meal plan and see how we could switch sugars for protein:

Meal 1 - Cereal (sugar) and toast (sugar)

Snack - Fruit (sugar) and cereal bar (sugar)

Meal 2 - Sandwhich (sugar) and crisps (sugar)

Snack - Biscuits (sugar)

Meal 3 - Pasta (sugar) and sauce (sugar)

Snack - Low fat yoghurt (masked by adding sugar!)

The above looks at simple sugars and more complex sugars in carbohydrates such as bread and pasta. The above is a very typical day even for people that have a sedintary lifestyle. Sugar is basically stored energy so why would you need all this stored energy if you are sitting at a desk all day? If it doesnt get used it may turn to fat or stop you burning fat at the gym.

Try this instead:

Meal 1 - Omellette

Snack - nuts

Meal 2 - Chicken and cottage cheese salad

Snack - Mixed berries (low in fruit sugars)

Meal 3 - Steak, sweet potato chips (low sugar) and veg

Snack - Greek yoghurt (not low fat therefore no added sugar)

Have a look at your daily intake of food. Does it look like the high sugar plan? If so, are you struggling to lose fat even with all your efforts in the gym? Start switching the composition of your meals from high carb to a balance between protein, good fats and small portions of carbs and the fat may start to shift!