What should you look for in a PT?

What should you look for in a PT?

There’s lots of ways you can work with a PT now: one on one, small group, online programming, apps. Beyond cost, what do you look for when deciding who to go to?

Maybe it’s location, if you want to train in person that will be a big factor; but it could also be their specialisms, experience, how fit they look, how comfortable they make you feel, the recommendation from people you trust or their client testimonials.

All of these things are valid reasons, ultimately you’re picking someone to work with based on things that are important and relevant to you is key, and here’s where I think the most important factor in looking for someone to work with comes in.

Do they get ‘you’. Specifically can they understand your pain points, identify how they affect your fitness and help you work around them?

We all have some sort of pain points, whether you think it or not, Some may be more obvious than others.

If you deal with depression or anxiety, that’s going to have an effect on how you train. Shift worker, busy mum, student; all these things can affect your training and diet.

Whether your issue is with fitting in gym sessions in the first place, struggling to focus during sessions, struggling to pluck up the courage to go to the gym or anything else in between; what you want is a PT who can understand that issue and help you with that.

Because in reality getting a gym plan is useful. Having someone tell you what to do in the gym gives you focus. A good PT will programme your sessions to incorporate progression and work specifically towards your goals.

All of that is useless though if it doesn’t work around your pain points. A good coach doesn’t just give you the right exercises for you, they understand the obstacles you face and look at how you can overcome them. That has an effect on what they have you do.

That doesn’t mean they have to have lived your experience, of course that can help but it’s not essential, but they need to be willing to listen, pin point the issues their clients faced and think about how to incorporate solutions into workouts.

If you struggle to stick to workouts or get results, a plan and a coach who can help you work around yourself and the things that keep tripping you up might make a difference. It might not make fitness feel easy but it might make a difference to your results.

Ways to help your mental health

Some of my favourite things to do relating to fitness and nutrition to help improve my mental health and help manage depression and anxiety that might also help you:

1) Drink water

Most of us don’t drink enough water at the best of time and if you feel low the chances are you will drink even less. Fill a water bottle and sip throughout the day. Dehyration causes fatigue and has been linked to feelings of depression so drinking water is a cheap, low effort way of helping you feel a bit better.

2) Vitamin D

This can help make you feel better natutally. You can buy supplements, a light box, possibly use a sunbed (with caution) or even better get outside and get some fresh air at the same time. Little effort required for a potential improvement in your mood.

3) Fish Oil

Omega 3 has been linked to improving symptons of mild depression. Make the effort to take a supplement each day – you can buy it in liquid form if you can’t swallow tablets (and are brave!). This was one simple habit that has worked well for me.

4) Eat regular meals

When you feel low eating proper meals at regular times can go out the window. Set an alarm for regular intervals and eat a small simple meal when it goes off. This will help stabilise your mood and create a feeling of routine and normality which can help when life feels like it’s crumblig around you.

5) Eat colourful food

Go to the shop and buy lots of different colourerd food. If you don’t feel like cooking buy prepared veg and fruit. Eating a variety of colours will mean your getting a variety of nutrients and will help improve your mood as well as your health.

6) Eat simple healthy meals

Eating healthy foods can have a dramatic affect on how well your mind feels. If I’ve had a bad week a simple healthy meal can help me feel more positive and in control of my own mind and body. It may sound stupid but when I eat well I feel like my body feels better and I’m looking after myself which in turn makes me feel brighter within myself. On days like this I won’t have the energy to cook a fancy meal so I go for a simple piece of salmon I can microwave or grill and a pack of microwave veg. 10 minutes to prepare a good quality meal.

7) Try some alternative meal prep

The holy grail of fitness freaks! Cooking is the last thing you want to do when you feel depressed. So if you find yourself having a good day make the most of it and prepare so batches of food that you can freeze. Then on days you just can’t face cooking you can defrost one of these meals and still eat something homemade.

8) Buy a slow cooker

Slow cookers allow you to make healthy tasty meals with little effort -and a casserole is brilliant comfort food. They are great for preparing a comforting meal without much effort and will make you feel better than turning to chocolate and other quick food sources that we often crave when we feel low.

9) Drink less coffee

Hardest one on this list for me! Adrenal Fatigue and depression / anxiety are linked. Too much coffee puts you at risk of developing adrenal fatigue – drinking less will help reduce stress levels. You could try a herbal tea instead which many people find helps then relax.

10) Walk

Getting outside helps you move more -that will help your mental health. Fresh air will help lift your mood. Being outside will help increase vitamin D intake. Walking can help clear your head. Walking is free. In short one of the best and most simple things you can do to help yourself fell more positive.

11) Exercise

As I said moving has been shown to help manage many mental health issues. You may not feel much like it but it can be in any form and doesn’t need to be for long periods of time to help. Start small and build up as you start to feel like you can.

12) Dance

Stick music on and just move to the music. Music can improve mood as can moving which makes thos fun activity a win win mood boosting activity.

13) Try group exercise

Nerve wracking and requires motivation. Sounds awful if you aren’t having the best day. But if you can push yourself to walk into the room you can find exercise, motivation, good music and social interaction in one place. It’s hard to leave a class not feeling at least a little bit more positive than when you walked in.

14) Join a team or club

Another nervewracking idea. Another idea which will allow you to exercise which will help your mental health and get to meet new people, another great mood booster. It can also help boose confidence which will help your mental health dramatically.

15) Try yoga

A chance to challenge your body and stretch along with a focus on breathing and mental wellbeing. You could try a class or find a free video on You tube. You could do an hour or even 5 minutes. Whatever you feel like at the start there is an option you could try out and you may feel more relaxed by the end of it.

Do you have any other tips for improving your mental health?

Back to Basics

As I’ve written recently I’m looking at going back to basics to get back into a routine.

Over the last week my training has been more consistent, my NEAT has been decent and I’m drinking plenty of water and nailing a few other habits. There’s two things I’ve struggled with though have been my nutrition and getting up in the morning.

I’ve not eaten terribly but I’ve not eaten what I’ve planned and as such have ended up going over my calorie goal. The reason? Stress.

It’s been a stressful week, work and personal stuff combined has meant I’ve been anxious at times and just generally strung out at others, feeling a bit like I was never going to fit everything into each day.

I wish I was one of those people who lost their appetite under stress. I am however a person who turns to sugar instead. Between snacking on sweet stuff and then opting to not eat the nice balanced meals I’d prepared and instead eat more carb based high calorie meals has meant that my nutrition just hasn’t gone to plan.

In reaction to this though I’m not going to do anything drastic. I’ve got food planned for the coming week and I’m hoping for a quieter week so I won’t be as tempted to reach for a high sugar stress release.

The key here I think is to not beat yourself out when the week doesn’t quite go to plan, not react by going on some drastic campaign to make up for it and just focus on starting again the next day.

So I’m taking the same approach to my mornings too. Last week I snoozed my alarm a lot, this week I’m reverting back to a cheap old school alarm in the next room so I have to get up to turn it off. A few bad mornings last week don’t need to define the coming week and other than trying to make a few small adjustments to improve my morning routine I don’t need to do anything crazy.

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.

Toxic Diet Culture?

Today I saw a post referring to calorie counting / losing weight (dieting) as toxic.

Toxic!

In 2022 can we please stop referring to anything we don’t personally like as toxic? Because whilst calorie counting may not be right for everyone that doesn’t mean it’s toxic. same with weight loss.

Now, quick caveat, there are people for whom calorie counting isn’t a good idea, it can indeed for some become obsessive and be damaging. For those people yes calorie counting is not to be encouraged.

But for many calorie counting is the most simple straight forward, cost effective and practical way of creating a calorie deficit – which if you want to lose weight – is what you need to achieve.

So let’s reframe the notion that calorie counting is toxic. Calorie counting is simply a method of tracking energy intake which for some people will work well but whom for some may not be beneficial.

Swimming is a very good way to exercise. Except not for me, because I can’t swim. Does that mean swimming is toxic and a bad way to train, because it doesn’t suit me? Pretty sure everyone reading said no in their head just then.

Very few things in life are in themselves toxic, our relationship with something may well be toxic, that doesn’t mean it is also toxic for everyone else.

Diets get a bad rap, because traditionally they’ve been seen as restrictive and not sustainable. That’s really not the case these days. Most coaches will encourage sensible calorie deficits and won’t suggest you cut out food groups or stop eating your favourite foods.

Diets are just using a bit more energy than you consume each day to create a physical change in your body. Unless you’re doing that to please someone other than you it is not toxic.

Certain things might be a bit triggering to us personally, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically toxic, I think it’s a bit unhelpful to ourselves not to recognise that, as it puts all the responsibility for our reactions onto society, when in reality we can’t control what other people say or do so we have to instead look to control how we chose to react to it.

How Strict Should You Be Over Christmas?

How strict should you be with your diet over Christmas?

A question that is asked every year again and again and will always garner some varying answers. Some will argue you should continue to track, offer ideas for damage limitation. Others will be aghast at this and say this is extreme and Christmas should be enjoyed.

Now let’s be honest here.

If you are happy where you at, are not working to lose weight or towards any specific goal and want to binge eat mince pies from 1st December then go for it.

If you are trying to work towards a goal however that mindset is likely to leave you feeling a little crap by January. What might be a more balanced approach is to decide in your mind when Christmas actually is. Because Christmas is really the days between, say, 24th- 26th December maybe even 24th- 31st December. The rest of December is the Festive season sure, but not actually Christmas.

So a strategy of:

  • Not tracking at all and eating whatever you like between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day (or New Years Day)
  • But tracking for the rest of December so you are aware of what you’re eating
  • Yet also being aware that you might not hit a deficit or even maintenance every week because you’re still going to be going to events and celebrating with friends
  • But being aware that by tracking you probably won’t go madly off track every single day and you’ll feel in control which in itself can stop you from going on a mad binge
  • When you do go out you can then chose whether you just eat whatever you want or if you decide to follow damage limitation strategies (not depriving yourself but substituting full fat mixers for diet, having a small wine instead of a large, lining your stomach or pace yourself so you’re less likely to eat a kebab shop on the way home and so on).

The upshot is in December if you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there are 93 meals. If you eat whatever you want between 24th- 31st December that’s 24 meals. That’s 25% of your month. If you are sensible (not strict just not a dick) for 75% of the month to be honest you’ll start 2022 feeing pretty good.

So how strict should you be over Christmas- the answer is not strict at all but Christmas isn’t 31 days long unless you want it to be!

Do Fad Diets Exist?

I was having a chat about Sliming World today. If you’ve read or listened to any of my content before you’ll know I have both positive and negative views about the club.

Essentially, my view is, that in it’s true form it’s not a bad way to eat. It encourages making food from scratch, eating from multiple food groups ad eating processed foods in limitation. It’s also pretty balanced so you could eat like that well beyond losing weight.

What it doesn’t do is educate you as to why it works, leaving you in a catch 22 where if you leave and stop eating ‘to plan’ you may well put the weight back on. It doesn’t educate you you enough to provide the freedom to maintain weight loss without still subscribing to ‘the plan’. Life changes and if you understand the energy balance equation you can adjust your eating and training habits as life changes and still get results. If you are simply following a plan with no idea of how and why it works, adjusting it as your life changes is difficult and that’s when a way of eating becomes unsustainable.

What might be a suitable way of eating for one person could be a ‘faddy’ way of eating for someone else. By that I mean, if you are using a way of eating (let’s say Intermittent Fasting) as a way of managing your food intake and you understand how and why it works for you then if it becomes unpractical to fast you will likely have the knowledge to adjust how / what / when you eat to a way that better suits but still works. If you are IM Fasting because someone gave you a set of rules (which work but why you’re less sure) what do you do if following those rules no longer suits you?

So essentially, I’d argue, there aren’t bad and good ‘diets’/ ways of eating. It isn’t that Slimming World is evil and tracking in MFP is the way forward for everyone. It’s a case that without knowledge of why something is working almost any way of eating could be viewed a fad.

10 Nutrition Myths

  1. Muscle can turn into fat if you stop training

Muscle and fat are two different tissue systems, with different functions, so they do not convert into one another.  You can lose muscle mass or gain additional fat leading to composition change but one doesn’t convert into the other.

  • Muscle weights more than fat

1kg of muscle weights 1kg, 1kg of fat weighs 1kg.  The analogy that muscle weighs more than fat comes from the same weight of fat will take up more space than it’s equivilant in muscle.  So 10kg of muscle would take up less space than 10kg of fat but still weigh the same.  Likewise you could reduce body fat and increase msucle mass but not lose weight even though you may have dropped several dress sizes.  It’s a confusing myth but essentially the message is don’t rely on the scales.

  • High fat foods are unhealthy

Our bodies need fats so this is not strictly true.  Of course if you eat too much fat you may find you don’t like the results.  It’s worth remembering that 1g fat has approximately 9 calories, compared to 4 calories per 1g of carbs or protein.  Eating excessive amounts of fat isn’t ideal but they aren’t inherintly unhealthy.

  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

You might like to eat three meals a day, 5 meals a day, 2 meals a day, intermittent fast or eat every couple of hours.  When you at depends of your lifestyle and what makes you feel best.  There’s no massive reason to eat breakfast if you don’t feel like eating first thing, or avoid carbs after 6pm or any other food rule.  For many the benefits of any such rules are minimal.

  • You must drink protein shakes if your train

Supplements should be just that, a supplement to your diet- the thing that makes up the last 10%.  If you struggle to get enough protein or need a quick easy protein fix after a session a shake is a good option.  Ideally though, you’d eat most of your protein

  • Low calorie is the way forward

Reduce your calories to 1,200 a day to lose weight right?  To a degree this won’t hurt the majority of people.  Create a calorie deifict and you will lose weight.  The issue?  Many people could eat much more than this and still hit a calorie deficit, and by making the deficit too big and following some standard random calorie allowance they can end up lacking energy and always being hungry- cue ‘breaking’ the diet and binging.  Far better to work out how many calories you should be eating to still creat a deficit ad work to that with a slower steadier loss.

  • Smoothies are good for you

I mean I like a smoothie, but they aren’t a weight loss magical superfood.  Think about it, how much fruit do you need for a smoothie?  Add milk or yoghurt, maybe peanut butter?  Now would you sit and eat all that in one go?  Maybe , but you wouldn’t consider it a small snack right?  Smoothies blend a lot of calories into a drink.  That’s fine if you are aware but little things like this that seem like a healthy, low calorie meal may be the reason you are consuming more than you think.

  • Healthy people eat ‘clean’

They wash their food before eating it?  What is clean eating?  Only eating green stuff, unprocessed stuff? Organic stuff?  What about the processed stuff that is marketed as ‘clean’?  Eating things that come from nature as a good proportion of your diet is a good aim, but don’t get too caught up in the clean is good trap.

  • Cheat Meals are a thing

Well they are a thing but they shouldn’t be!  Firstly, what are you cheating?  If you want pizza just have pizza, and more to the point make it fit into your week.  Calling it a cheat meal doesn’t make it calorie free but is more likely to lead you to go mad and derail your progress

Gravy goes on chips

If you’re southern you will know this isn’t true but for those north of the Watford Gap stop it.  It’s weird and wrong and has no logical benefits.