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Monday, 6 December 2010

Animal Aid Christmas Fayre 2010

This year we ran a stall & did the annual xmas push-up contest.  For the first time at the event we had under 16's competing!  To read all about our day Click Here

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Post Thankgiving damage control - you've got it wrong!

In my view many, many people go wrong after a festive event & Thanksgiving in the US is one of those.  Firstly you eat & drink too much during the day.  Then you get up the next day & go for damage control.  Even vegans & vegetarians who may shun the turkey still often tend to overeat, then go for the old "work it off" idea by really hitting the gym after the celebration.  I actually believe this is counter-productive!
What I actually suggest is that you stick to the plan!  That's right! If you have goals & you are on your way to an objective, then do not alter the plan due to one failed meal.  Rather like if you 'fall off the wagon' one evening, the next day you right back on.  Continue the plan!  One failed meal (however big) will not cause you to destroy all progress, but throwing away the system you are using to try & make up for a bad meal will cause yet another day off the plan, another failure!  Do not go & do extra exercise, do not starve yourself.  Eat your regular food, do your normal workout, return to a stable routine.  This is the secret to success in training.  There are no quick fixes in this game.  Whether you're trying to lose fat or gain muscle, it is rational training & diet done consistently that will get you the results over time.

Over the next few days you will receive many, many 'quick fix' ideas about how you can rev up your metabolism, cut that fat super-fast.  Ignore them, in fact those suggesting it probably do not even understand what it means to have a structured goal & a plan for fat loss or muscle gain.  If you get straight back to the routine today I can guarantee that one meal will not affect you in the grand scheme of things.  If you fall off the plan & try to 'catch up' I predict failure.  Lastly, if you don't have a plan, then I can guarantee failure.  Don't waste your time on the quick fix either, take some time formulate a plan to achieve your goals & start that instead of going for the quick fix option.  That way over the winter you will slowly, but steadily achieve your goals & by summer people will be asking you for your secret!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Space food

My friends (Hello Liz, Maz, Jaz & Lilly)
came back from Holidays a few weeks ago & bought me a pack of these!
They are space strawberries!  No, they don't come from space, but they are what astronauts take with them into space.  This packet only made it as far as Brighton though.
The ingredients were 100% strawberries & they were kind of desiccated & a little bitter.  To be honest they didn't taste too much like a strawberry as you & I think of them & I don't think I actually ever buy them given a choice...but it was weird having spaceman/lady food & seeing what they have to eat when they go into space as you never really think about munching in space.  Personally I'd think could you take something like sprouts....well seeds & mud as they'd survive take off, then the low gravity would surely make sprouts grow like crazy...wouldn't it?  (I really don't know much about growing stuff in space as I don't expect to be doing it any time soon :-), but for now it looks like bitter strawberries are the best you space adventurers have to look forward to :-)

We've been training wrong!

That's right! least according to some.
I don't usually single out people who say or do stupid things, but I read this advertisement for a new DVD & it got my blood boiling!

According to this you are all making a mistake working out those silly old biceps & hamstrings.  The secret is to avoid working any of those pesky big muscles & only work the smaller accessory (how the hell do you even do that?).
Apparently she's done 10 years of scientific work (yep, I believe that one!) & experience to make this 'discovery'.  According to her you will get 'bulky' if you work any major muscle directly (What!).  Oh yea, she also advocates no more than 3 pound weight should be lifted by women.
...& there was me thinking she was just making these women burn loads of calories with light, repetitive activity & then starving them...silly me!  Gwyneth Paltrow suffering thinning bones is obviously NOTHING to do with the fact she won't lift over 3 pounds of weight, starves herself with 'cleansing' & other extreme calorie restriction. 
The fact that many of us have helped cure thinning bones with sensible weight training, a decent diet & some sunshine must be a strange coincidence.  If only we'd starved our clients & insisted they never lift anything heavy then the condition would have corrected itself as we worked those accessory muscles (Yes that was sarcasm!).
I wouldn't recommend this one for your xmas stocking - buy a decent book or DVD that shows women they are every bit as able to lift as men &, on the whole, don't get 'too bulky' unless they are genetically inclined towards muscle mass building (& that can be corrected by mild dietary modification as a rule.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

West Midland Vegan Festival

Just a quick post to let you know that there's a new page up about our day in Wolves at the festival at We had a great day with talks by me & one by Pat Reeves.  There was also a push-up contest on the day as well!
Special thanks has to go to Fitness Superstore for being the main sponsor at the push-up contest (go check them out if you need any exercise equipment)

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Hemp Milk

This has recently come out in Waitrose supermarkets chain & health food stores, so as it was on offer I thought I'd get hold of some just to see what it was like.  First off it's not as high in protein as a soya milk (about half), so if you are desperate for protein this may not be for you, but it's still a reasonable source for most people.  On the plus side it does have some very healthy fats in it naturally & does taste quite nice (250ml gives you half the recommended daily omega 3 fatty acids!).  It is fairly sweet, not sickly sweet, but as I tend to drink unsweetened soya milk you notice the difference.  It works well on cereal & does ok in hot drinks.  I've not used it for cooking.
I found the taste pretty good with a kind of nutty taste.  You can drink it for the carton if you like without it needing to be flavoured, it doesn't have any bad after tastes.
The fat content may look higher than say soya milk (nearer the amounts found in whole milk), but this fat is Essential fatty acids (EFAs) & so they will likely be used for cell creation, repair & other metabolic processes so it should not stored as body fat.  This can be a useful additional source of health fats.
Personally I can down a litre no problems.  Certainly any athlete wanting to add muscle mass will need enough EFAs to build those extra muscle cells & this can be a convenient source of those fats, a reasonable protein source & less carbs than cows milk (around half - a bit more than unsweetened soya milk, but much less than either whole or skimmed cows milk).  If you're not interested in added muscle mass everyone still needs EFAs for maximum health, so adding this drink can really benefit anyone, especially if you've not been taking care of your EFA intake before (or don't like flax, hemp seeds or walnuts for example).
I'd try it if you can get hold of it as it could be a useful tool in your nutritional arsenal.

For more details go to Good Hemp Milk

Zen Physio Deep massage device

I've just started using using this new tool.  It's pretty heavy duty massage machine that I use for just a quick going over of tight areas (I'm a qualified massage therapist, so it's useful to add to my bag of  tricks).  You obviously have to have some idea when this is suitable to use.  It's especially good if you've got just some tight muscles (say you slept at an odd angle, tightened up from sitting for ages or have areas that naturally tighten up like the back etc).  The infra-red is quite subtle so don't expect a massive heating of the area (approx the same heating feeling as you'd get from a 1MHz ultra sound device I'd say).
Some people find it a little too vigorous especially over the organs, but others find it pretty handy for loosing them up a bit.  Basically if you like a harder style of massage you'll like this, if you like the softer approach then this may not be for you.
For the strength athlete it's role is to aid the relaxation of tight muscles, help reduce or improve DOMS.  Obviously do not use on any muscle that is damaged by an injury, so don't us on bruised or cut areas, or anywhere you suspect might be a muscle tear as it really won't help.  Do not use directly on bones either stick to soft tissue areas (although the exception is you can run it over the scapulae [shoulder blades] with no ill effect).
Who would I recommend it for?  Well anyone who gets tight muscles.  A massage will work better, but most of us can't afford a daily massage, but they can afford to use this daily if necessary.  With it's long handle & cable you can use it on your own.
Finally I didn't get anything for putting this up.  I bought the device & after using it for a while on both myself & other people thought some of you might find a review helpful.  There are a lot of similar devices out there, that I'm sure work just as well, but this one is certainly one I think could be useful.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Internet gurus Vs cardio

Robbie Hazeley - Champion over 50's vegan bodybuilder

OK I've been reading a lot lately about cardio that's been pretty ...well wrong.

"Steady state cardio doesn't work"

"You only burn fat using high intensity cardio"

I've even read that steady state cardio makes you fat!

So, is steady state cardio the villain, is it a waste of time, does it "do nothing", whoever says that, whatever their apparent experience is wrong. I've worked & been in communication with many, many athletes in the strength field including bodybuilders. When I say bodybuilders I mean all types, natural people, fitness & figure competitors, drug taking people, on all types of diets, & what I've found is when you are already training with weights steady state & diet works, look on any bodybuilding stage (be it natural or drug taking) & you'll find that weights plus steady state works. In fact I'd go further & say that often if your aim is to diet down to those really low % fat levels so you get abs popping out & paper thin skin over your muscles then you'll only have energy for weights & steady state. All the energy goes into the weights, there shouldn't be anything left for interval sprints, kettlebell lifts etc. If you have enough left for more intense activity then you aren't dieting hard enough or training hard enough under the iron.

Denise Nicole - vegan figure competitor

For a normal guy or lady the options are more wide ranging as you're often just after a flat tummy, moderate fat levels & just a 'beach buff' look, so you have options. If time is tight I'd suggest a metabolic workout using complexes or very short breaks between exercises, get in & out the gym in a way that combines both heavy-style lifting with cardio exertion. I don't believe you get the best of the weights or the cardio by doing this, but you'd certainly get enough to get your body into decent shape in a short amount of time. Another option is the to do weights at a slower pace working on strength gains (&/or size gains if those are required), then add cardio. Yes it can be high intensity style cardio, it works! The trouble is it doesn't always fit into your lifestyle & low intensity can often come to the rescue & keep that cardio going. Let's say you come to a session & energy is high, well feel free to bang out some sprints, hit the stationary bike with a vengeance, go swim as fast as you can for intervals, but sometimes you may not have the energy or indeed the motivation to go as hard at the cardio. This may be for many reasons, stress at work, late night, even hitting new record can lower the 'spare energy' for cardio. So, do you do a sub-standard 'High intensity' workout, that does next to nothing or do a decent low intensity session that gets the job done? Another reason may be you simply don't like doing higher intensity cardio, but enjoy lower intensity work. If you hate something you simply won't do it with any consistency, so if you love your slow run around the woods, but hate the interval sled pushes, I'd suggest that maybe you'll be more likely to keep up the runs, but drop the sled pushing as soon as you can think up a justification. I believe the 'getting it done' is more important than the perfect program for you. Sure making you do hill sprints 3 times a week might get you to your goals slightly quicker than three times a week around the woods for 45 minute jogs....but if you enjoy the jogs, look forward to the jogs, plan to get those jogs in whatever & on the other hand loath the hill sprints, use any excuse not to do them, which system do you think will bring most results?

Anthony Aurelius - vegan, Natural bodybuilder & martial artist

I personally have seen countless examples of steady state cardio in action (along with diet & lifting weights). Steady state works. Whether steady state is right for you is quite another issue, things like time, enjoyment, goals & many other factors mean it's not an obvious choice, you need to ask yourself questions & answer honestly. Me, I'm happy to mix & match depending upon my time & energy & how I feel. I often do steady state with friends in the morning, I live near the sea, we hit the beach jog & chat. A chilled out start to my day, sets me up in the right zone & I get some interaction I'd otherwise miss with friends. It's as much social to me as exercise, but other times often when I'm alone I do go for higher intensity, I sprint, I get out the sandbags, kettlebells, a barbell or even just bodyweight & go for some higher intensity stuff. 10-20 minutes full-bore cardio can bring you a sick feeling in the tummy, shaky muscles & a desire to just lie there for the rest of the day! But for me I need that work at least once a week just to remind me that cardio can be tough. So, I stand with one foot in each camp I do both the steady state & the higher intensity cardio. I enjoy both for their different reasons & I think maybe that would be the best method for most people who are in reasonable shape.

Jane Burton - vegan figure competitor

For those who are overweight, new to training or have other issues I'd always start with steady state, first walking, then jogging, stationary bike, slow swim or whatever you like to do. Do that until you feel very comfortable doing 30-45 minutes, then try adding some faster endings to your training, so if you're running just add a fast run to the finish over the last 100 metres or so, you won't sprint, but you'll start getting used to just going a little bit faster towards the end. After you've done that for a while, then it's time to move on to increasing the intensity with maybe a small jog & a few fast runs, then finally begin to ease in sprints as you gain confidence (back off if you notice any problems). I usually aim at 8-12 sprints over around 12-15 minutes. I tend to use a heart monitor, but you can go by time. A good rule of thumb for the healthy individual is to sprint just before you feel fully recovered. Once you can no longer sprint but just reach a fast run, then it's time to stop, your session is over for today...really push it, force those legs into a sprint even if they don't want to do it! Then rest & recover.

Martin Whittred - vegan grip master

So, when you're on the internet next time & you read that steady state doesn't work or makes you fat or whatever, know that the person saying that is either ignorant or is trying to simply push 'their' training system (& often part you with your cash!). Steady state works, high intensity cardio works, they are all tools that you can use to achieve your goals, so if you plan at getting into shape for the beach this year & are about to embark on a diet & training plan, but have been confused by all the chatter on the internet, bear in mind there are 1001 ways to reach your goals it's just comes down to picking one or two & sticking to them, that way you'll soon have the body you want come summer time!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

A different look at dieting

Here's an article that takes a different view about dieting than most trainers (although it has some support from the likes of Brad Pilon & his "eat stop eat" ideas). Basically the theory here seems to be you are more active when you are hungry, therefore by allowing hunger to build between feeds you'll burn more calories, by being more active. The basic problem with this idea is he appears to have used animals, not humans to actually test his theory. Basically you could very easily recruit humans for this type of study if you wanted & you could see see how it affects them. Also it does seem to be aimed at those who don't train. We usually have set training times, it may possibly be the case that a sedentary person may become more active eating less, but for those who train (& anyone who trains I call an athlete) not eating enough to fuel training will actually make exercise less effective. There are many studies out there that show this, you need to fuel before, then refuel afterwards if you want to get maximum results.
Obviously there is some tailoring needed. I used to say EVERYONE needs 6 meals a day if they are in training. That is until I started to sort out a diet for this tiny girl who needed very little calories & came to realise that having 3 or 4 feeds a day will work as well for some...depending on your goals.
A big strength guy (or very muscular lady) will certainly need 6+ feeds a day, no doubt if you're trying to gain you'll need to ram in the calories. If you're after holding onto size or losing some fat then you can try some variations. I don't think intermittent fasting doesn't work, I don't think 3 meals a day doesn't work. Some people with hectic lifestyles might find that eating only 3 meals or just not being so careful with their diets but fasting for 1 day a week is the best option for them. It may not be the "Best possible way", if they could get pre-prepared food, find the places to eat, had time to sort out a different plan, but it may be "The best they can manage" & if it gets the results they want then it could well be considered the 'best method', even if it's not what is more commonly advocated.

So with that in mind would 3 meals a day work for someone trying to lose fat...well it could, you'd eat less calories, it depends how it effects your training & metabolic rate overall. If you save 300 calories by eating just 3 meals a day, but by doing that your training isn't so intense & you burn 250 calories less, & because of eating less & the less intense training your metabolism slows so you burn 75 calories less...well you'll see that 'saving' 300 calories actually cost you MORE calories in terms of calories burnt, so it's all relative to total calories in to total calories out not just a simple matter of calories consumed in a 24 hour period.
Generally, unless you're really small you'll need to eat more than 3 times a day if you wish to add muscular size, to loss fat again most people who train tend to do better on more frequent, smaller feeds than less frequent, but bigger 'gut busters'.

I know you're going to ask so here's my basic plan (the guide starts with someone who has zero healthy food) :

1/ My first step is to 'tidy up' someone's diet, so it might be as simple as adding in a wholesome breakfast rather than sugary cereal or white toast. It could be porridge, whole grain toast whatever. Just to get them started on the way to healthy eating.

2/ While they start on the one above I have them order a cook book that contains a selection of healthy eating choices. Once they are comfortable with step 1. I get them to pick 1 or 2 evenings a week & try out a recipe, write down every one you like

3/ Once you have found a few meals you like you can begin to add them into. Now I'm assuming if you've started from zero healthy meals that you eat out as fast food places or make bad food choices when you eat out, so now we need to use the net & the local paper to dig up some places that serve decent food, or if you have no option where to eat learning to pick the best options at the place you have to eat at, so going for the bean salad instead of the burger, or the steamed veggies instead of the fries are what we have to start thinking about. Ideally we'll be searching for local whole food caf├ęs or healthier eating places, by avoiding the obvious junk food places there's less temptation to stray back to your old ways of eating.

4/ Now you should have a decent breakfast every day, a selection of meals you can cook at home & places to eat out around your home & near where you work, so now we start to include more of the meals (& continue trying out a new recipe once or twice a week - let's build up a big list of healthy options). With this you'll also be doing exercise, so now we've got you eating right we can see what tweaks (if any ) you need to lower the fat or add to the muscle mass.

5/ Assuming you're after fat loss & all the changes in diet & exercise aren't getting results then we need to tweak your eating a bit. The first basic idea would be to slightly lower your intake of starchy carbs by a little, losing a few grams of starchy carbs & replacing that with more green veggies will shrink your calories a bit as well as increase your intake of micro nutrients.

6/ We wait for 4-6 weeks to see what results we're getting. Assuming no changes we'll then try lowering portion size once again, this time by keeping the ratio of foods the same but cutting equally from every portion on the plate (take a little off everything).

7/ during points 5 & 6 where we are cutting calories it is important for every athlete to know something about refeeds. Planned refeeds are an important part of a dieting plan once you start cutting calories & can even be used in a general healthy eating plan to allow for structured eating of 'junk' food. A refeed does not have to be junk food, having a huge whole grain pasta meal followed by a healthy high calorie dessert can be a refeed meal. Some people advocate refeed days & they 'can' have there place in a diet, but as a rule I like to stick to refeed meals. Looking at it from a realistic perspective, it's harder to over eat in one meal, than in one day. Suppose I have a night out planned, so I pencil in my refeed meal for that evening. I could go out, have a meal, a glass of wine & a dessert, yep that's going to be a bigger than normal calorific intake, but if I get up have fake cream muffins & custard for breakfast, then later that day warm coconut fat poured over a full sized vegan pizza & fake ice cream for afters for a snack, then a few hours later a packet of biscuits dunked in fake cream, then in the afternoon a full roast dinner with all the (vegan) trimmings followed by a stupidly high calorie afters..oh yea & snacks inbetween (as it's a refeed day) of crisps & other high cal stuff. Then I can see you hitting a whopping calorific intake, whereas one meal...even a gut buster is kind of self limiting, you can only eat so much in one sitting however much you'd like to eat more, so there is a built in 'damage limitation' . So, I do say it's worth having 'structured refeeds', by structured refeeds I mean planned, if you don't plan the meal, you just say "I'll do it when I feel like it", you will tend to slip & one weekly refeeed will soon become 2, then 3 etc. Also by planning your refeed you can have what you really want, say you love pizza, well ok, you're planning to go out on Thursday, so you can eat that pizza with your friends, even have a dessert if you like (wow you can get that new vegan ice cream you wanted to try out). You're not mesing up your diet, it's part of the plan! Also if you know you are going to have it on Thursday, when you get that urge on Monday, you can say "OK I won't have that pizza today, but come Thursday YOU ARE MINE!". Why have a refeed at all you might be asking, wouldn't you lose more by not having a refeed? We'll lucky you asked, as it happens when you eat below maintenance several things happen to your body after a few days, the thyroid decreases output, so your metabolism slows, you tend to become more efficient at using calories as well, this double whammy means that you end up feeling like you have less energy while at the same time you use less calories. A refeed sends a message to brain "No worries, plenty of food available let's start burning!", the thyroid boosts production & the body feels it can afford to burn a few extra calories. So you can actually lose fat by adding in a refeed once (or at most twice) a week (I tend to start on 1 a week & rarely need to put people on 2). A refeed meal is one meal, not an evening of binging, plan it, don't just go crazy from 6pm to 2am having a beer & junk fest. As I said earlier it doesn't have to be junk, it can be just a big helping of a high calorie meal, the secret is it MUST be higher calorie feed. Having an extra spoon on legumes on your bean salad isn't a refeed it has to send a message to your body to loosen those controls, boost that thyroid & slacken off on being so efficient with those calories, so you need to eat a decent amount of calories in that meal. Junk is ok, high calorie health food is ok. A couple of things to avoid hydrogenated fats shouldn't be eaten as a refeed, they are poison, don't eat them at all if you can avoid it, heated oils that are high in EFA's shouldn't be eaten as they become carcinogenic so stick to fats that are mainly monounsaturated or even something like a coconut oil which is high calorie but heat stable - it's a refeed so high fat is not your enemy today!

8/ Beyond this if the fat still isn't coming off then we'd have to start tailoring your diet with ideas like no starchy carbs in the evening, carb cycling (assuming you are are carb sensitive type), a fat sensitive type will do better having fat cycling days. I've never heard, nor come across a protein sensitive type (someone who stores fat easily with higher protein intakes) they may exist, but I know no one who has found one. Most people who need to lose fat are either fat-sensitive, carb-sensitive or a combination. That is carbs tend to make the carb-sensitive person fat more easily, while fat makes the fat-sensitive person fat more easily. These both need different approaches to diet & VERY different diets. Most people will not be one extreme or the other, but if you tend to be more one than the other knowing will help you with any changes you need to make if the weight just isn't coming off. Bear in mind that most people will achieve their results without the extremes of carb cycling etc, for most just eating a balanced wholefood diet will be enough to get them into shape once they start training, if you need to go further than that I would suggest you find some help (this can be a nutritionist or even a book if the cost of a health adviser is too much).

9/ Final points. I would try & keep a food dairy starting a week or 2 before you start making changes. Get an idea of what you are eating. Yes it's a pain & yes sometimes if you eat out you have to guess at a calorific intake, but it gives you a baseline. This is what you are eating now. After that I would work out the amounts of the new foods you are introducing, then keep a rough track (detailed is ok too, but most people don't have time to track every calorie in detail everyday), if you get to stage 8 & the fat still isn't coming off then it's time to REALLY use the food diary & start working out totals & working out how to cut those calories. This is where a food expert can come in handy, they can do the hard work for you, they can swap round your foods & suggest things you may not have thought of. I would keep in that structured refeed or loses will not happen so easily, but a tweak here & there can be all it needs to get things moving again. You can do this yourself, it takes time, a pen & paper & a calculator but you can do everything you need with a basic book on dietary needs (in the case of most vegans that be be to include a vitamin B12 source, an omega 3 Essential Fatty Acid source & if you live in a cooler climate a vitamin D during the colder months as minimums all seem to be common things that most vegans need to address).

That's as far as I'd like to go a general dietary plan. If you're starting out right now today, then get a food diary & do a bit of weight & measuring, keep tabs & move slowly towards a wholefood diet & away from refined foods. That along with some exercise will be enough for many of you to get into fine shape & never have to even worry about calories or dieting.