Tips

Blog posts which include some of my top tips to getting you closer to  your health and fitness goals.

Fitness Trackers. There are so many of them on the market now as the health and fitness industry is still riding the crescent of a wave. But a new study published this week in the Journal of Personalised Medicine, from a team of Stanford researchers states that there is a much higher margin for error than perhaps the majority had thought.

The study looked at the accuracy and reliability of 7 of the most popular trackers on the market; the Apple Watch, Basis Peak, Fitbit Surge, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, PulseOn, and Samsung Gear S2.

60 participants were asked to wear the fitness trackers and were monitored while sitting, running, walking and cycling, whilst being simultaneously assessed via telemetry and indirect calorimetry.

The results were quite shocking.

‘Don’t rely on fitness trackers to track number of calories burned.’ The Register 26 May 2017

‘Why your personal fitness tracker may not be all that accurate.Consumer Affairs 25 May 2017

‘Fitness tracker fail: Research shows devices off by as much as 93 per cent when counting calories’ National Post 25 May 2017

I have always been very cautious over recommending fitness trackers to clients or anybody who asks my opinion, especially when it comes down to relying on them for how many calories you have burnt. But even I was shocked to read that when tested, the margin for error for calories burnt was between 24-90%!!! That is a whopping difference, especially for those people who use them to ‘eat back their calories.’

An acceptable error range would be 5%, so even 24% (which was the Fitbit Surge) is very high.

The study stated that the devices ‘adequately’ tested average heart rate, but there was still margin for error beyond what you might expect.

In my personal experience (I do not own one but some clients do), I think they are great for encouraging you to get more active, to strive towards the recommended 10,000 steps per day, to remind you to get up and move if you have been sitting for too long. However I have never liked the calories burnt aspect of them, and usually disregard what they say and tell clients not to use it as an excuse to eat more.

Example:
Somebody checks their fitness tracker at the end of the day and discover that they have burnt 1200 calories that day, when in actual fact they have only burnt 900. They may have an extra piece of cake or a glass of beer since they think they have done well that day and met their target. Overtime though this adds up, that is an extra 2100 calories every week which the user thinks they have ‘deserved’. If your goal is losing fat then this is could certainly be counterproductive.

SO SHOULD WE JUST THROW FITNESS TRACKERS AWAY?

No.

Hold your horses.

I am not saying fitness trackers are useless and should be resigned to your top drawer. I am just suggesting that you start using them with a little bit more caution. Track your steps, make sure you are being active. If you like seeing what calories you have burnt, great, but don’t use it as your tracking for food. Use it in conjunction with other measurements and look at trends over time.

Do you own a fitness tracker? What has been your experience with one?

Love Abi xxxx

Ps Have you read my April favourites blog yet? Click here. 

 

Last week I uploaded a blog on the benefits of bodyweight training so this week I am going to address my main love – lifting weights and the benefits which you will find from implementing some form of this into your weekly training schedule!

6 Benefits of lifting weights

Fat Burning Barbell Complex

#1 You will feel strong
Rather than focusing on what you look like or how many calories you are able to burn in a session (which is so unreliable), lifting weights gives you another focus. You want to get stronger each week and beat your previous best. This might be lifting the same weight from an extra rep, increasing the weight of the dumbbells or just trying out a new exercise for the first time. Lifting weights will make you feel like a badass.

learn everyday

#2 Fat Loss
Most people think that in order to lose fat they have to spend hours running or going through the motions on one piece of cardio equipment, this is not the case. Fortunately more and more people are beginning to realise that they can achieve fat loss goals in a different way, a much more enjoyable way. Lifting weights will build muscle which in turn lead to greater fat loss as muscle is more metabolically active than fat. (Ie muscle burns more energy than fat) So you will be burning more fat as you go about your day.

#3 Reduced risk of injury
Strength training will benefit not only your muscles, but your whole musculoskeletal structure including your bones, tendons and ligaments meaning that you are less likely to get injured. It is also a huge preventative of osteoporosis. Weight training will also increase your joint stability, mobility and flexibility.

#4 Improve your health
We not only want to look good on the outside, we need to feel and function well on the inside. Strength and weight training has been shown to impact on a lot of health markers in scientific research. This includes but doesn’t stop at; reducing the risk of diabetes, reducing the risk of heard disease, reducing the risk of cancer, improving brain and cognitive function, combatting depression and anxiety and decreasing blood pressure. Who doesn’t want to achieve all of these things?

 

#5 Improve your balance, posture and coordination.
I always include some form of one legged work in client’s and my own programmes which helps with balance and coordination. This is in fact one of the major improvements which I see over time, from wobbling all over the place performing a bodyweight lunge, to being able to do no trouble and with heavy weight.

#6 Increased confidence
Not only confidence in the gym, but how you carry yourself in the outside world. Your self esteem will rise as you find yourself achieving things which you never thought possible. Improved confidence and self esteem will increase your happiness and overall lead to a better quality of life!

These are just 6 benefits which I have mentioned! There are tons more. There is no need to be intimidated by the weights room. Ask an instructor for help, find a routine online to follow or watch a youtube video. Your confidence will grow as you start to do it more and more.

Let me know if you would like to see a blog on how to best set up a weight training programme!

Love Abi xxxx

Stretching: Which is the best method?

You should always warm up prior to doing exercise. Do not walk straight into the weights room and start lifting with your working weight for that day!!

stretching dynamic vs static

Main reasons to warm up:
Elevation of Baseline Oxygen consumption
Increase Core temperature
Increased Heart Rate
Improve Muscle stretch reflex
Get mentally ready for your session.

stretching dynamic vs static

There are two types of stretching: dynamic and static.

Let’s define both of these terms first.

Static: this is when you stretch a muscle for an extended period of time in one position. Static stretching relaxes your musculotendinous unit (ie muscle and attached tendon) and elongates it. An example would be a quadricep stretch when you pull your ankle up behind you and hold.

Dynamic: this is when you actively put your muscles through certain ranges of motion in order to loosen them up. A dynamic stretch routine trains your stretch relax and activates your muscle spindles. This type of stretching can include lower loads of a specific exercise or a variety of different movement patterns.

Which is best?

This depends on when you are going to perform them. I am going to look at before performing your training session.

Research has shown that dynamic stretches are far superior to static stretches if you are aiming to improve performance within a session. In fact, static stretches can actually have a negative impact on performance.

Static Stretching:

In one study by Nelson et al(2005); participants didn’t stretch at all before doing a 20metre sprint test, they then came back another time and did some static stretching before doing the same test. The results showed that the participants recorded faster times when they didn’t stretch.

Sprint times after stretching

Another study by Fowles et al (2000); looked at the relationship between static stretches and strength training. Their results showed that static stretching had a negative impact on performance for up to 60minutes afterwards!

stretching impacts on strength training

Dynamic Stretching:

Dynamic stretches are more specific as they are putting your muscles through similar ranges of motion to those which it will be using during your training session. It involves practising your muscle spindle being stretched to the correct length to perform exercises. It is also done at a greater intensity than static stretching so increases your V02, core temperature and heart rate ready for the main portion of your session.

The research from Yamaguchi and Ishii et al (2005), tested leg extension power before and after static, dynamic and no stretching at all. The results showed significant increased power after dynamic stretches, whereas power actually went down after static and non stretching.

dynamic stretching on power output

So even from this small snapshot of date, you can hopefully see that you need to stretch prior to your training session and that dynamic stretches are the method to choose.

Some of my favourite dynamic stretches which I like to perform prior to exercise, and recommended by Dr Mike Zourdos:

Lumberjacks
Shoulder Slaps
Windmills
Iron Crosses
Groiners
Bodyweight Squats
Banded Shoulder Rotations

stretching dynamic vs static

But what about injury prevention?

I am sure that you have heard that you need to stretch to prevent injuries, I think we have all been told that at one point or other in regards to exercise. However once again the evidence actually doesn’t point to this.

‘Further studies strongly suggest that muscle stretching before exercising does NOT produce meaningful reductions in risk of injury.’

But what about reducing DOMS?

DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness, that feeling in your muscles after you have worked out which sometimes makes you walk a bit funny! Again, I am sure you have been told that stretching will alleviate this feeling? Nope. wrong again.

‘This systematic review finds clear evidence that stretching before or after exercise has no effect on delayed onset muscle soreness.’

stretching dynamic vs static

If you suffer from DOMs, the best thing to do is keep moving. Take yourself for a walk to get blood flowing. Don’t sit down and refuse to move due to the soreness, you will not help yourself get rid of it any sooner!

Both quotes are from paper by Herbert and Gabriel (2002) titled Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review.

But what about increasing Range of Motion?

Finally you will be pleased to hear that there is some evidence pointing to the benefits of stretching if you are looking to increase the ROM of certain muscles. A 10 week study tested those which didn’t stretch at all, versus participants who spent 40 minutes stretching 3 days per week. They performed the sit and reach test pre and post experiement. Those which had spent time stretching did improve their sit and reach score.

stretching on improved range of motion

So what are the conclusions on the best way to stretch?

#1 You should perform dynamic stretching prior to your training session

#2 This should include active mobility drills, bodyweight exercises and aim to put your joints and muscles through specific motions ready for the session.

#3 You should not perform static stretching prior to a training session if performance is your main goal.

#4 Performing stretches will not help prevent injury or DOMS.

#5 If you want to increase your range of motion then doing some stretches will help, just don’t do it before exercise!!

Any questions or comments then please leave below!

Love Abi xxxx

EDIT UPDATE: I have since recorded a Youtube video showing you my routine for warming up! Would love you to check it out 🙂

 

Images provided by SBS Academy.

Acute effects of passive muscle stretching on sprint performance. Nelson et al (2005). Read Study HERE.

Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantarflexors. Fowler et al (2000). Read Study HERE.

Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review. Herbert and Gabriel (2002). Read Study HERE.

Do I need to cut out dairy?

Do I need to cut out gluten?

Do I need to cut out chocolate?

Do I need to cut out alcohol?

Do I need to cut out fizzy drinks?

Do I need to cut out carbs?

Do I need to cut out X/Y/Z?

I must have been asked this question or similar 100s of times, and the simple but annoying answer is….it depends.

No food should be classed as bad for us, just the same as there are no super foods. Obviously some foods are better for us than others, but no way should we be labelling foods good or bad, it just creates the wrong mindset when it comes to eating and life.

There was a certain amount of uproar a few weeks ago when the programme regarding ‘clean eating’ was aired on TV. I thought the presenter did a brilliant job of putting across the facts and thus enabling the viewer to make his or her own opinion.

‘You do not need to eat clean in order to be healthy or reach your goals, whatever they may be.’

One of my favourite quotes regarding the clean eating debate is from Alan Aragon, one of the most well respected nutrition researchers in the world; “if you are defining foods as clean and dirty, then celery would of course be classed as good and ice cream would be classed as bad. However if you were on a dessert island and could only survive by eating only one of these foods, which one would you choose?” (sic)

It depends.

Context is key to any of the questions above.

 

Gluten and Dairy
If you are intolerant to dairy or gluten, then yes you should go a period with cutting it out of your diet completely and see if this improves your health. Dairy, gluten and sugar are not the killer foods which the media likes to label them. On their own, they are not the reason for the obesity epidemic which is sweeping the world.

“A recently published study in the journal Digestion found that 86 percent of individuals who believed they were gluten sensitive could tolerate it. Individuals with celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune condition that affects roughly 1 percent of the population, must avoid gluten.”
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26043918

Swapping regular bread or pasta for gluten free is also expensive if you don’t need to do so! I see people choosing things like ‘gluten free cake’ as they think it is healthier than regular cake….it definitely isn’t. Therefore if you don’t have an intolerance, and you like the taste of a glass of milk, or a slice of toast then continue have it!

ryan reynolds gluten quote

Chocolate and treats
If your goal is fat loss, then yes there is the possibility that you will need to cut down on your chocolate consumption or similar palatable tasty foods (!) Chocolate is a calorie dense food, therefore if you are trying to sustain a calorie deficit, which is the most important thing for fat loss; you want to be sticking to nutrient dense and low calorie foods to fill you up as well as hit your nutritional targets. BUT that does not mean you need to cut it out completely. If a square of chocolate is going to keep you sane at the end of the day; on track with the rest of your diet and able to sustain a calorie deficit by including some, then go for it. I know I include some every single day.

Morrisons Slted Butterscotch Milk Chocolate

Alcohol and fizzy drinks
Similar to above, if your goal is fat loss then yes the chances are that you will have to cut down on your alcohol consumption if you want to reach your goals quicker. People don’t realise the amount of calories in alcohol, it all still counts. I just had a client text me yesterday shocked at the amount of calories in vodka as she was planning a night out! This does not mean that you need to become a hermit and stop drinking altogether, it just means you need to become a bit more aware of what you are consuming and fit it into your life and diet accordingly.

A couple of drinks a week is not going to kill you or completely derail your progress. But a bottle of wine a night, or a big binge on a weekend (plus the kebab on the way home) will put a halt to any fat loss goals.

Check out my blog post on best alcohol options if you are going out.

Fizzy drinks; this is a controversial one. I think Scott Baptie has written the best blog post which I have seen on the topic so head on over to his site if you want to read more.

Non diet fizzy drinks such as regular Coke, Sprite or even Lucazade should be avoided if fat loss is your goal. There is absolutely no need to be taking in that amount of calories from a drink, especially when there are zero calorie alternatives available. The number of people I see in the gym drinking a bottle of lucazade, which probably contains more calories than they are even likely to burn off during that session, is way too high. Key here is to realise and take notice of what you are putting into your body.

That said, I don’t think that having a Diet Coke, or any other zero calorie drink every now and then will do you any harm. Yes there have been some studies published to show that artificial sweeteners may in fact be detrimental to our health, however this is not substantial and as yet there is not enough data to fully support these claims.

Get into the habit of drinking water when you can, but if having a diet coke is going to suppress your appetite and stop you over consuming calories, then I cannot see it being a problem.

Carbs and Fat
Your diet is made up from the main three macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat.

‘Macro’ = you need them in larger amounts.

Hopefully you can see the problem if you are thinking about cutting a whole macronutrient out of your diet? This is completely the wrong thing to do. It seems that Fats and Carbs interchange roles as the ‘baddy’ in the media, but the simple truth is that you require both in certain amounts in order for your body to function optimally. You need carbs for energy (amongst other things), you need fats for brain function, and to regulate your hormones (amongst other things!), therefore cutting them out entirely will have a huge effect on your well being.

Both need to be eaten in accordance to your personal goals.

I hope from reading this blog post you can see why my answer to all of the questions at the beginning will be ‘it depends.’ It really does come down to context.

There is no ultimate fat loss diet. The optimal diet is the one which you enjoy and can stick to for a period of time.

You do not need to cut anything out.

There are no good or bad foods.

I know how confusing nutrition can be, there are so many conflicting things published or spoken about every day. I want to banish these theories for good and bring it back to the basics and make it simpler for you to understand and implement yourself.

Don’t get caught up in fad diets or the latest craze.

Think about things sensibly. Do your own research. I actively encourage you to go away and read up on anything which I have said and form your own opinion!

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to ask!

Love Abi xxxx

I will be honest, I was really struggling to come up with an idea for a blog post for today, I was practically banging my head against my desk. But I took a time out, put a podcast on, and WHAM there it was, what are my favourite podcasts. All the ones I listen to are recommendations from people, so why not give you mine?! Hopefully you will subscribe to one of two of them which catch your eye and get something out of them like I do.

It is very rare nowadays that I will listen to the radio or music whilst I am in the car, but rather I have a subscription to audible.co.uk and have a book on the go, or I listen to podcasts.

I find that it is a much better use of my time than listening to the same songs on a loop over and over again.

If you don’t like listening to them in the car, then alternatively plug something in and go for a 30minute walk every day. Exercise your mind and your body at the same time.

#1 Ted Talks
This is a recent addition to my podcast playlist, and is really the main reason behind my goal of learning something new every day. It was when I was scrolling through the list of episodes that I realised how much ‘stuff’ I had absolutely no idea about.

The episodes are usually 15-20minutes long and are on important subject matters from a huge variety of speakers. They never fail to make me stop, question and think. Recently I have learnt about nuclear weapons, online trolls, and ‘unanswered questions in physics…..’

If you want an episode recommendation to start you off then I loved ‘What I learned from 100 days of rejection by Jia Jiang.’

Ted Talks Link

Ted Talks Podcast

#2 Shredded By Science Radio
This is the company who I am furthering my qualifications with. They are top of the game in terms of the fitness and nutrition sector. If you don’t follow them and you are a Personal Trainer, then get it sorted ASAP.

Lawrence is a brilliant host of the podcast, always engaging and questioning his guests, with plenty of humour thrown in.

Episodes range from interviews with scientists about the latest research and how it should be applied, talks with other personal trainers, and some of my favourite episodes are Q & A’s with questions submitted by listeners.

Always informative and entertaining. It isn’t just for Personal Trainers though, if you are interested in health and nutrition and reaching your goals then get downloading.

Shredded by Science Link

Shredded by Science Podcast

#3 The Food for Fitness Podcast
Scott Baptie has some great guests on this show. From former Olympic Athletes to Fitness Cover models, Scott asks the best questions to find out what you really want to know.

His no nonsense approach to health and fitness is one of the main reasons I started to follow his work and really like to content which he produces.

One of my favourite recent episodes was with Geoff Cooke which was titled ’71 year old Intensive Care patient to World Champion Cyclist in 9 weeks.’ This wasn’t just a clickbait title either, it was true and so inspiring.

Food For Fitness Link

Food for Fitness Podcast

#4 The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes
I wont lie, the amount of adverts on this podcast does my head in, but I realise that they are needed to help profit from such great work!

There are two episodes a week on this podcast, one which is a long interview with somebody extremely successful, and then a shorter one on a Friday which is less information to digest but just and if not more useful.

His guests are from a huge variety of backgrounds, from NBA stars to authors, from DJs to psychologists, but the content is always so entertaining. I always learn something new.

One of my favourite recent episodes was with the founder of crossfire Greg Glassman. I loved hearing from a business point of view the reasons why and how Crossfit has become so successful in recent years.

The School of Greatness Link

The school of greatness podcast

#5 The Body and The Beast
This is a relatively new podcast, there have only been 10 episodes so far. The hosts are Jamie Alderton and Dan Meredith, both extremely successful people in their industries.

Basically this podcast inspires me to ‘get sh*t done!’

The amount of passion they have for success and achieving what they set out to do, is infectious, you almost feel left behind after listening to an episode.

It isn’t for the faint hearted, DEFINITELY don’t play this one if you have kids in the car! However I just feel so motivated and inspired after listening to what they achieve every day. We all have the same number of hours in the day, it is how we use them that determines how successful we are.

These episodes are long. Upwards of an 90minutes so I do have to listen to them on separate occasions, but they are so worth it. If you need a kick up the backside, or to ignite some fire in your belly to go out and do whatever it is you want, then give this one a listen to!!

The Body and The Beast Link

the body and the beast podcast

Thanks of reading! I hope you will go ahead and subscribe to some of these and get learning!

Love Abi xxxx

January Blog a Day 28/31