What type of PT do you need?

If you follow a lot of fitness people on social media (and to be honest if you read this blog you probably do unless your one of my friends and I made you follow it!) you’ll notice they fall broadly into a couple of camps.

Camp one – people saying drink this, do this, take this and you’ll get results like me. These are the ones doing ‘what I eat in a day’ ‘How I train’ ‘I can’t live without this’ sort of posts

Camp two- people calling those in camp one out and saying ‘don’t fall into the trap of believing the hype, editing, filtering that these PTs post’ and ‘there are no quick fixes or magic formulas’.

I guess I fall into camp two as do most of the PTs I know, but I don’t want to over simplify things, because it’s not always a simple as that’s ridiculous don’t follow that advice.

So for instance, a PT or coaching programe that states that Intermittent Fasting is THE solution to weight loss, and if you sign up and follow our diet and training plan you’ll be 2 stone lighter in three months. The magic ingredient here is you are only going to eat between 11 am and 7 pm so you won’t be having breakfast, we’ll also make some small ‘tweaks’ to what you eat right now. I’d say this a camp one type PT – one method, one size fits all and will get you results. Now let’s be fair. If 10 people all signed up, all followed it completely to the letter they’d probably all lose weight, and to be fair they’d also do so quite safely. Why would that be the case though? Well because they all cut out breakfast, made a few small adjustments to lunch, dinner and snacks and so reduced the amount of calories they consumed. The magic ingredient here was an eating window which meant they ate less each day, a rule that stopped them eating more because they followed it. They could have achieved the same results eating at whatever time they wanted but just counting calories. Equally if they had stuck to the window but not cut out breakfast or made any tweaks they wouldn’t have lost weight, because the eating window wasn’t the magic ingredient their energy balance was. The camp one PT isn’t bad or dangerous here and they may well be getting their clients results, they just aren’t educating them, so if Intermittent Fasting doesn’t actually suit that person and they can’t sustain it long term they are more likely to end up back where they started. This is the same argument I’d make about Slimming Clubs.

Much the same can be said about other ‘tips and tricks’ people post to ‘help people get results’.

‘I drink hot water and lemon every morning upon rising and have abs because it curbs hunger and helps melt away fat as well as detoxing your body.’ – Now having water upon rising will help hydrate you after several hours asleep, it can help wake you up, adds a bit of natural flavour to the water and it has been said water and lemon can aid digestion. I like to start my day with this, but not because I think it will make me thinner, it’s a part of my morning routine that helps me start the day feeling relaxed an alert and means I’ve had at least a little water before I start on the coffee. The PT claiming doing this will help you get abs is bullshitting you and neglecting to tell yo about the very low calorie diet, genetics and training that also contribute to those abs. Again it isn’t a lie, I’m sure they incorporate this as part of their routine but it isn’t the truth either is it.

‘Here’s what I eat in a day’. Great. I mean nothing wrong with giving people food ideas, I might see that salad and think oooh that looks tasty I might try and make that. But what you eat in a day, no matter how great you look, does not help me. Are you the same height and weight as me, with the same activity levels? Nope? Then what you eat isn’t going to be appropriate to me because I need to eat differing amounts. It doesn’t harm me to see what you eat, but it doesn’t help me reach my goal. It could make me feel bad though!

You’d recommend these Supplements would you? Great, they could benefit you, I mean I certainly do take supplements myself and there are some supplements that selections of the population could generally benefit from. You know what the word supplement means though right? Extra. So yes you could buy that supplement and you might feel some benefits. he supplement will not get you the results though if the rest of your diet isn’t working for you.

My point here is, none of these posts or types of actions you see from some PTs are wrong or bad for you or from a bad place but they fail to acknowledge the overall function of a positive diet for weight loss or any other goal.

One method of eating isn’t intrinsically better than all others, one supplement or habit won’t change your life in isolation. What Bob down the road or Sam on the internet did won’t automatically work for you in the same way it did for them. When you see dramatic testimonials from people remember that, yes they probably did do that plan, but they also probably found themselves in the right mindset with the determination to work really hard to get results at that point. In other words had they joined a different plan at that time they may well have also got the same results, because that was the time they were ready to commit to making a change. That’s not knocking any coaches. The coaching and support and tools need to be there for people to use and get the results, I’m just saying the chances are the people who went from the love handles before pic to the six pack after pic probably weren’t reluctantly dragged onto the program, did the bare minimum and still saw those results, they were probably the ones who’d decided it was time to make a commitment to see change and went all in.

Camp one PTs always appeal to people because they make things look simple, make one small change and that’s it and I’ll get you the body you want. What if I told you you could eat whatever you want but take this shake as well and you’ll be three sizes smaller by Christmas. I mean if it were true we’d all be up for that. Camp two PTs are a bit duller, honesty is much less of a big seller and the idea that actually you will need to create a few new habits, lose a few old ones, change your eating habits and exercise is just not as appealing as drinking a glass of lemon and hot water first thing each day.

Generally though, whatever a camp one PT says on their posts online if you sign up to their program you’ll probably find a fair few hidden changes you need to make that a camp two PT will just upfront honestly tell you to make, in fact the type of changes they’ll probably tell you to make in free content online. The value from a camp two type PT comes from the support to make those changes, the education to help you understand those changes and the overall understanding that there is no one size fits all solution and whilst Intermittent fasting might work really well for Gary it sure as hell isn’t going to work for Susan so she’s going to be using MyFitnessPal whereas Jane isn’t looking to lose weight at all so she’s not even looking at calories or eating windows but we are looking at how much fruit and veg she eats in a day.

That’s where the two camps differ really in my opinion. A good PT should be able to help YOU. If they promote one type of way of training, eating or living they are helping one type of person, probably someone like them and if you aren’t like them will they be able to help you reach your potential? The type of PT that can listen to you, your goals and your needs and work out what will work best for you and help you set realistic goals and timeframes is much more likely to help you be successful and enjoy the process.

Weekends and Weight Loss

Happy Friday. As we’re heading into the weekend you’ll no doubt see a lot of posts on Instagram about how a weekend binge will ruin any progress with your diet.

Now at face value this is true. Let’s say you need to eat 2,000 calories a day to be in a 20% calorie deficit and you have stuck to this every day so far this week. Then tomorrow you go out for brunch, then have a takeaway and a few (well maybe more than a few) drinks, including some hefty on the calorie cocktails and eat 4,000 calories and then Sunday feeling a bit worse for wear you have a Fry Up and lots of stodge to soak it up and manage to consume another let’s say 3,500 calories. All those Instagram posts are correct. You’ve eaten 3,500 calories more than your goal. Your deficit goal for the week was 3,500 calories (20% of 2,500 leaves you eating 2,000 calories a day). You’ve just eaten that deficit over the weekend, so yes instead of losing weight that week you’re likely to maintain your current status quo. Not ideal if you are wanting to lose weight.

Yes, to combat this you could just not eat and drink like an utter dick all weekend. You manage to eat homecooked meals that contain the odd vegetable Monday- Friday and not five Espresso Martinis in two hours and you an stick to a nice bowl of yoghurt and fruit for breakfast instead of a stack of pancakes. You could, theoretically do this Saturday and Sunday too right. I mean if you really want results it will be worth it right? And you an decide this works for you. Maybe routine and having the same sorts of food food every day of the week and not eating more one day and less the next suits you, in which case crack on.

But let’s be honest, for those of us who work Monday to Friday it’s easier to reign in the urge to eat like a five year old let loose in a sweet shop because for large amounts of the time we are busy and so sticking to ‘better choices’ is naturally easier. The weekend is when we want to see friends and family, socialise, eat, drink and live. We don’t want to restrict ourselves and so that’s why it’s always ‘do the weekends ruin our diet’ articles you see as opposed to ‘are hump day Wednesdays making you fat’. If we are honest and realistic is just telling people to eat better on the weekend going to stop them eating more? Is suggesting that they substitute rice from broccoli rice so they can feel like they’re joining in or putting their burger between two slices of lettuce instead of a bun going to help (I have such an issue with foods masquerading as other foods but that’s by the by)?

But your body doesn’t start at zero every day. You know how people say one bad day of food won’t make you fat or one salad won’t make you lose 6 stone, our body responds to what we do over a period of time. So your 2,000 calories doesn’t have to reset every morning. So say you actually look at it as 2,000 x 7 = 14,000 calories a week. You naturally easily eat less Monday- Friday so say you eat 1,700 calories each day, except for Friday when you had a couple of biscuits at work and had 1,800. You’ve had 8,600 calories, that leaves you 5,400 for the next two days. Now that still isn’t a fuck it I can go crazy here amount of calories. But that’s say a relaxed 3,000 on Saturday for a big Saturday meal (with maybe some swaps on the booze swapping cocktails for Prosecco to lower the calories- a swap i can get behind!) and 2,400 on Sunday for a decent amount of stodge t clear up the hangover.

That’s a solution that is both not letting your weekend ruin your diet but also not letting your diet ruin your weekend. It isn’t saying sod it and throwing calories counting out the window but it is allowing your diet to fit around your lifestyle. So yes, a crazy cheat weekend will ruin your dieting progress but a plan that allows you to fit those weekends into it can certainly exist.

A Fitness Blog – Where’s the Exercise Posts?

This is a fitness blog and I’m a PT and group exercise instructor so my main job is very much training focused / related. Yet this blog and a vast majority of the online coaching I do is very much nutrition and mindset based.

Here’s why.

You know when you think about getting fit you think the actual exercises you do, how many reps, training splits, the amount of weight lifted, the ratio or cardio to strength training – all that jazz – is going to be the most important part of getting results? Well, it’s not that it isn’t important it’s just not as important as you think it is.

If you are already very fit and active and you want to improve in one specific area or you have a very specific goal to train for then the details of your training will matter much more, if you want to work on doing a pull up, doing legs every day won’t help much.

If you’re starting to get more active, want to drop weight, improve your health, feel better in yourself, then the actual specifics of what you do are going to be more based what you enjoy and what you feel comfortable doing right now. In my mind, what’s the point of trying to force people to do an ‘ideal’ training plan if they hate it, are too nervous to go into that area of the gym yet, haven’t quite got to grips with the movement patterns? Would some modified moves and a more simplified program that helps them gain confidence be a better starting point? of course. If someone prefers classes or using resistance machines over free weights and incorporating those things mean they train then why wouldn’t we incorporate them?

If you’re meant to do a legs session, a push session and a pull session a week and one day you really cannot face doing legs but you’d be up for a second push session then, you know what, the world won’t end and you won’t end up some weird uneven specimen for it.

Basically training has so many benefits and it’s an important element of our fitness and health but it doesn’t need to be over thought or cause dramatic stress. Whilst I think it’s useful to encourage people to do it via blogs, detail adds only so much value.

Secondly with training most people is simple. If it’s a live PT you do what the PT says (with various levels of moaning), away from sessions when given a training plan (or if it’s online training) people tend to follow the plan as given. You say do squats, they’ll squat.

Nutrition advice, not so much. For the majority of us, food is so much more emotive. Whilst training certainly acts as an anchor and stress reliever for many it doesn’t tend to have the same emotional pull as food does. So when you say to someone here’s a training plan it’s generally not questioned. Talking about calorie deficits, not needing to cut out food groups, the importance of actually eating carbs, why it’s ok to have chocolate, why ‘clean foods’ don’t really exist. These are concepts so intricately engrained into our culture that push back is much more likely with the nutrition side of things.

Same with mindset, even if someone accepts what you say about food or say the importance of resting when injured rather than pushing through, it’s much harder to act on it and go against ingrained instincts.

So it’s not that training is easy to do or not important, it’s that once you get started doing something – anything – it’s often the most straightforward unemotive part of health and fitness. You soon start to see benefits beyond the physical and form habits. It’s that diet and motivation and mindset around health is a much more challenging area for the majority of people, whether that be people new to fitness or very experience people (PTs have to convince people not to train some days a lot more than you might think).

For this reason the topics I choose to write about are often diet and mindset based because they are the areas where I think people often need reminders and support and clear information to help make informed decision with regards to their fitness. When I do write about training I try to keep it to posts that will be useful to people, what to expect from classes, at the gym, what to pack in a gym bag and so on – practical things that might help someone train, because if they’re already training and don’t want to pay for a PT or coach they’re probably happy enough with what they’re doing and I’m not sure how useful a bunch of generic training sessions would be.

Dear Diary

I’ve been a bit of a cross road recently.

I’m not where I was fitness or physique wise pre Covid. I’ve written about this a little in previous blogs and I’m not kicking myself over it, but at the same time it’s really hard.

Honestly, pre Covid I thought I was out of shape. I felt like I wanted to lose a few pounds and up my training. Since then though, well. Obviously Lockdown hit and gyms closed, then I went back to teaching but my 14 classes a week became five which meant I was just moving a lot less (but eating the same because, well, I like food). I started taking antidepressants again (including some new medication with which weight gain is pretty common), which have always affected my weight. My dad became ill and mentally holding down both a job and a teaching schedule wasn’t what I needed so I took a break from teaching which meant I was moving way less. Then, a couple of days after he passed away I ended up with second degree burns across both legs (long story) which meant I couldn’t walk for a while and then couldn’t train. So overall I ended last summer about 10kg heavier than before, barely able to run and being able to lift around 50% of what I could.

The hardest thing I found was my own pride. I felt like, as a fitness instructor I should a) have not got myself to this point and b) should be able to just spring back. But I couldn’t, I didn’t want to do any quick fixes or fads, cut foods out or go on and all out mad period where the only thing in my life was training. I tried to be sensible, eat a little bit of everything, train at the level I was at and just build up. I tried to do it quietly, slowly and steadily, but I’ve been frustrated with progress and feel like I’m two steps forward, three steps back. I felt like I couldn’t talk openly about the struggle I felt because it wouldn’t send the right message out or sound positive enough, because of that I’ve held back from trying certain things for fear of looking weak as a fit pro and because of all this I’ve kind of ended up with limited structure and a feeling that I’m not really getting anywhere.

Of course I don’t actually have anywhere I ‘have’ to be. I don’t need to be a certain weight or size (although I can’t really afford a whole new wardrobe so being my old dress size would be useful!), I don’t have to lift a certain amount or run a certain speed and I’m fit enough to teach my classes so I could in theory just be as I am. Except I don’t feel good where I am, I feel less confident and less in love with my body (I did like the way my body looked – like honestly, I looked good naked!), I am signed up for a half marathon in a few months and right now I really don’t know if I can do it, and the idea of doing 100kg deadlift is currently laughable. So I want to lose weight, I want to feel fitter, I want to lift more because I know these things will make me feel better in my skin, stronger, more confident. I want to be at the start line of my half marathon and be excited not filled with dread.

So I’ve decided I need to separate current me from fit pro me a little bit. I know what I need to do and what others could d to progress, I have the knowledge and me currently being in a bit of a slump doesn’t mean I’m rubbish at my job. Equally, knowing alone won’t help me fix where I am right now, so I need to lose any ego and be a beginner, let myself struggle at something, fail in the gym and if people want to judge me, let them. My aim is by October (my birthday) I want to be at a size / shape and fitness level I’m happy with, where I’m confident and love going to the gym again, so running plan is in place, lifting in the gym starts now and eating less like an unsupervised kid in a candy store begins here.

Patience

One of the hardest things about starting out on a new goal is not seeing immediate results.

Due to a mixture of lockdowns, personal events, medication and injuries I’ve put on a lot of weight in the last two years, more than that my body has changed shape with it.  You know that point when you look at old photos you took as ‘before’ photos and you think wow I’d be happy with that now?  That.

But I’ve made positive changes recently, I’m training and eating better.  The thing is that at the moment it’s not showing much difference when I look in the mirror.  The truth is I know I need to be consistent for a few more weeks before it will.  It’s hard to be consistent though, when you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere.  It’s that age old catch 22, where if I saw changes I’d feel more motivated to keep it up but I won’t until I have kept it up for a while. 

I guess this is why some coaches and plans start people off with a bit of a crash diet.  That way you see a quick loss and feel motivated to continue.  Starting steady means visible results take a bit longer and that means keeping faith for a while.  If you can however it will invariably bring much better and more sustainable results.

Remember that with fitness and nutrition, genuine results are not immediate.  If you put weight on over the weekend, that’s not true weight, it’s a fluctuation.  In the same way if you want to lose weight it’s not going to happen overnight or with one super good week.  Start thinking longer term and be patient.   

The top of the Pyramid

My last two posts have focused on the Nutrition Pyramid. Here’s a little one on the rest of the Pyramid.

1) Micro Nutrients

2) Meal Timings

3) Supplements

These are the things you can start to look at once you’ve nailed the basics at the bottom of the pyramid. They can help you tweak your energy levels but looking at any of these in isolation when you haven’t got a hold of energy in v energy out will not bring you great results.

One of the most most common questions asked around these topics is what protein shake should I use?

Put simply, shakes are not a necessity – they may help you top up the protein that you are getting from food and can be simple and quick but if you hate the taste and prefer to get all your protein from food you aren’t missing out on anything! What brand should you use? The one that you like the taste of ideally!

Nutrition Pyramid – Macros

Yesterdays blog talked about the foundation of the nutrition pyramid, the next element of the nutrition pyramid once you’ve mastered the energy balance is macros. In particular if you master one thing here, master your protein intake.

You want to eat protein, carbs and fat every day even on a high protein diet such as Paleo for instance you would not be looking to cut out carbs.

But aiming for a certain macro split can be tedious and mean always thinking about what to eat and trying to balance hings out.

However, a good hack is to know that if you aim to eat enough protein each day and don’t go into a calorie surplus you will generally find that your carb and fat splits take care of themselves. .

With your Protein intake we want to aim for between 1.5 and 2g protein per kg of body weight. So if you weigh 80kg you will want between 120 -160g protein per day.

There’s 4 calories per g of protein so 120-160g would make up between 480 and 640 calories per day (there is 4 calories per g of carbohydrate and 9 calories per g fat).

Ultimately to achieve fat loss you need to be in a calorie deficit – regardless of how you split your macros

And one more thing, should you have protein shakes? Ideally we want to get as much protein as possible from food but shakes are good for topping up your protein especially when you are on the go. Best brand? The one you like the taste of as they do vary.

Finally, a hack to hit your protein intake: Try to eat 50% of your protein goal before lunch.

The Nutrition Pyramid: Energy In v Energy Out

The one aspect of your diet to master before you look at anything else. You want these two things to be equal (to maintain your current weight) or for Energy Out to exceed Energy In (to lose weight).

Whether you eat nothing but crisps or nothing but vegetables if you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight – regardless of what you eat, when you eat it or how you eat it.

Your Objective:

Understand how many calories you should be eating, how to work that out and why that’s important.

To workout how many calories to eat you need to know your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). This gives you an idea of roughly how many calories you burn in a day INCLUDING your normal activity… this means that you don’t need to add on exercise calories to this number. That’s important because who has time to work out a different daily calorie expenditure? You want an overall figure you can use every day.

The equation is

M24/F22 X Bodyweight in KG = BMR

e.g.

24 X 90kg = 2160 calories per day.

This is the BMR – Base Metabolic Rate. The absolute minimum calories the body needs to wake up, do nothing all day except for breathe.

To find how many calories you should eat for your activity levels multiply this figure by 1.1/1.2/1.3/1.4

1.1 – lightly active – moderate exercise but sedentary job

1.2 – moderately – active intense exercise but sedentary job

1.3 – Very Active – Moderate exercise and active job

1.4 – Extra Active – intense exercise and active job

e.g.

2160 X 1.3 = 2808 calories per day

Now…If you are here for fat loss you need to get in a calorie deficit by around 10- 20% the sweet spot!

e.g.

2800 calories X 7 = 19,600 calories per week!

80% of this is 15680 calories per week OR 2240 calories per day.

If you want to lose weight this is the absolute foundation of doing so. Without this anything else you do is a bit pointless as the foundations just aren’t there to support it.

Do the Basics Well

Successful people do the basics well and consistently

Sometimes it’s easy to look at things and think- they’re too simple there must be more to it than that. The reason I’m not getting the results I want isn’t that I’m eating too little or too much it must be how my body responds to certain foods… and so on.

Now the truth is there are lots of variables to our health and fitness. But, you can take account of all these things and yet if you don’t nail the basics it won’t be effective.

Think of your fitness and nutrition like levels in a game- to get to level two you must master level one. Each level acts as a foundation for the next level. You’ll often hear of things like the nutrition pyramid – that’s the same concept, you need to establish a solid base (in nutrition that’s getting your energy balance right as we discussed yesterday) before looking at macro and micro nutrients, meal timings or supplements will be useful- you basically don’t want to build on a shoddy base!

It’s human nature for us to want to look into the specifics, the idea that little tweaks will be the things that makes everything fall into place for us is tempting. But it’s the little tweaks at the basic level that will first make the difference. Once you’ve cracked those then feel free to move onto looking at the specifics of what and when you eat if you still want to- although you might find that you feel less of a need to.

Weight

If you started a weight loss journey at the start of January you might have found you’ve dropped a few pounds already.  Often at the start of any kind of change in eating patterns we can see a sudden dip on the scales.  That will start to slow / plateau out naturally after a few weeks though.  However that doesn’t mean you aren’t still getting results.  Our weight naturally fluctuates across the day / week / month so using the scales alone to monitor progress can end up being demotivating. 

Here’s a few other ways to monitor your progress which are far more reliable:

  1. Take pictures- front, back, side and compare across the weeks to see a difference in body shape.
  2. Take measurements of your thighs, upper arm, waist, chest and keep track of inch loss.
  3. Keep a pair of trousers that are maybe a bit tight to one side and try on every few weeks to see how the fit changes.
  4. Keep a journal of your mood, water intake, sleep, steps, lifts, running PBs and see how much better you feel as the weeks progress and your fitness improves, you might find you end up not even bothered about your weight.