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Long time no speak. Today I’d like to talk about how to use intermittent fasting (IF) for fat loss.
Intermittent fasting is all the rage nowadays, and is one of my go-to methods for losing fat amongst busy, overweight people.
When you’re busy and have other priorities, you need simplicity. You need flexibility. You need something easy to follow.
Intermittent fasting provides that.
It’s an extremely effective way to shed fat and improve your health.
I’ve seen people go from fat to slim without having to count calories, weigh food, or follow restrictive, soul-crushing diets for months and months.
In combination with a properly constructed weight-training programme, you can expect to get leaner and more ‘toned’.
Here are the key points for effective intermittent fasting:
There are other nuances, but that’s it in a nutshell – watch the video below for my full breakdown:
Growing up in London I’ve seen many things come and go – ‘happy slap’ videos, grime music and Tony Blair’s integrity. But one thing has come and never gone – shisha cafes.
The rise of the shisha cafes was swift and rapid. Every week there was a new place would pop up – usually somewhere along the murky depths of Edgware Road.
To this day they are still popping up left, right and centre.
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s what a shisha pipe looks like.
It contains heated tobacco that is passed through water, and the user takes ‘pulls’ through the pipe, producing a deceptively comforting ‘bubble’ sound.
So what’s the deal with shisha? Is it dangerous? And why is it so popular?
First thing’s first, it’s easy to see why people get sucked into it.
The buzz of a busy cafe, young people of the opposite sex, football on the TV, good music, and the intoxicating smell of apple and mint wafting through the air – it all makes for a perfect night of Snapchat stories.
Not only that, but certain shisha places are hangout spots for celebrities, making them even more of an attractive option for impressionable young people.
So with that said, is it even that big of a deal?
According to most young people, it isn’t. Many assume that the smoke from a shisha pipe is safer than a cigarette (maybe because it’s passed through water).
This is not true.
We all know the numerous negative effects of smoking cigarettes, and shisha is no different. Similar to cigs, it uses tobacco and the health outcomes are most likely the same.
The smoke coming from the shisha pipe contains carbon monoxide, tar, and heavy metals to name a few things.
In other words – toxic and cancer-causing.
The numbers vary, but scientists estimate that 1 hour of shisha can be equivalent to 2-10 cigarettes (more extreme estimates suggest 1 hour is worth 100 cigarettes!)
To make this worse, the average time spent at a shisha establishment is 2-3 hours – and that’s a conservative guess if anything.
Multiply this by 2-3 nights a week and you are asking for addiction and chronic illness (shisha is addictive because it contains nicotine, the addictive substance found in cigs).
And not only do shisha sessions tend to be way longer than cigarette sessions, but they also often take place in hotboxed rooms, making the effects even worse. You sit there inhaling your own smoke, as well high amounts of passive smoke.
Furthermore, the majority of shisha ‘lounges’ also double up as ‘restaurants’, selling deserts, burgers and snacks.
Normally at fast food establishments, you eat your meal and leave. But if you’re going to a shisha restaurant for hours at a time, you are most likely going to order multiple snacks throughout. It all adds up.
While there’s nothing wrong with this for an occasional treat, many shisha-goers spend their whole weekends doing this.
The smoking and diet together form a very dangerous cocktail for your health and physique.
In terms of superficial reasons not to do shisha, there are plenty.
So big belly, no muscle, and no stamina. Very stubborn and difficult to reverse.
Lung damage makes cardio more difficult too. So the whole process of going to the gym becomes more arduous, and making any form of progress becomes more difficult.
So no, shisha is definitely not harmless compared to cigarettes. It’s just as problematic, if not more for the reasons mentioned above.
If you are complaining about your health and physique but are going to smoking regularly, you are missing a huge part of the puzzle.
People who started shisha in their teens are showing up at age 30 addicted, fat and out of shape. And people are starting younger and younger.
If you smoke consistently and can see it’s affecting you, you must take action.
I recently ran a poll on Instagram asking people for the top 3 reasons they train. I got some interesting answers and decided to turn in to this blog post.. here we go!
Famous psychotherapist Sigmund Freud believed that most of the things we do are ultimately motivated by sex.
According to Freud, the desire to look attractive, make money, be successful, attain status – we desire these things because we want to attract a mate and reproduce. I have to agree with him… this is one of the main reasons we train!
I once asked a new client why he wanted to start training with me. He told me that due to his weight gain, he hadn’t been with a woman for 2-3 years. No girlfriend, nothing.
To this man, his weight ruined his confidence so much he didn’t even try to get to know a woman, let alone get intimate with one. He completely stopped taking care of his appearance.
This is an extreme case, but it is very common in men, just in more subtle ways. Some guys are afraid to take their shirts off around the opposite sex because of ‘man-boobs’. Some guys stay fully dressed on the beach because they are embarrassed of their physique.
For the most part, these issues are SOLVABLE. If something can be done about it, something should be done about it.
The above situations also hold true for women. I’ve had female clients whose motivation to train was because they wanted to find a partner.
Looks are definitely not everything, but you need to look like you care about yourself. This will make everything that much easier. You don’t have to be a ripped model or hench athlete. Just be in shape. Have a little muscle definition. Have good posture. Fit well in your clothes. Don’t have a gut spilling out of your t-shirt.
Women judge men they don’t know firstly by their appearance. They will disqualify you if you don’t meet some sort of acceptable standard. So why let yourself get DQ’d before they even get to see your personality? The same is true in the reverse situation too.
I don’t care if anyone thinks this is shallow, sexist or whatever the nonsense PC term being bandied around these days is.. you can’t argue with human nature.
The biggest mistake I see men make is to only train their upper body and eat like a pig in an effort to ‘bulk’. They just end up fat with a belly instead. Having a belly is a sign of poor health and is not attractive to the opposite sex.
My advice for men is to at least make sure you don’t have a gut. Train more than just your chest. Train your upper back, glutes, hamstrings and posterior chain just as much as you train your chest, abs, and quads. Otherwise you will look imbalanced and your posture will suck.
Strength was another one high on the list. Strength gives you a sense of confidence that transfers to other areas of your life.
It also helps in real life situations – having to defend yourself in an altercation, having to lift furniture, having to carry stuff for long distances.
Strength is built in the 3-6 rep range, so choose a few big lifts and just get stronger at them over time. Deadlift, squat, and bench press are good places to start, as well as a farmers carry.
Nothing like knowing you can choke someone to death in a self defense situation after all x.
Lots of people described the gym as a fun hobby. The gym is an escape from the humdrum routine of work. You improve your body, improve your health, and even meet new people at the gym.
It’s actually very exciting when you start a new programme or try a new exercise because you start imagining the positive improvements that are going to come from it.
Not everybody sees the gym as fun though – some people are results driven and only care about the outcome (these people usually do 5×5 for their whole lives!).
Some people need more variety to keep their training interesting (I am definitely in this camp).
Try to introduce a new movement every 4 weeks or so – this is enough time for your body to adapt and improve in response to a certain exercise while still giving your muscles and nervous system a chance to practice and respond to the exercise.
The effects of resistance training on sporting performance are very well documented.
Weight training makes you faster, more powerful, and most importantly in my opinion, far more resistant to injury. Everybody who plays a sport should follow a structured weight training programme – not only will you be more durable and capable of training your sport harder, but it will probably improve your performance too.
Athletes should try to do more movement based training (i.e. bodyweight movements like lunges etc), incorporate different directions in their training, as well as include a variety of rep ranges for strength, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance.
This was another one that came up often. The gym can provides a sense of structure to your life. You know that on Monday you are training upper body, on Tuesday you’re doing legs etc. Habits and routines like exercise are very important as they spill over into other areas of your life.
When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, often unknowingly. Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why. But for many people, exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change. “Exercise spills over,” said James Prochaska, a University of Rhode Island researcher. “There’s something about it that makes other good habits easier.”
Follow a STRUCTURED training programme. If you don’t know what to do, get a coach to write you one (hit me up for online training and I will write you a brilliant plan!).
This was a surprisingly common answer.
Working in pharmacy for a long time, the amount of people I saw on antidepressants was truly shocking. Often times, these people were also very out of shape and had many other health conditions along with the depression. Maybe exercise and a better diet would have helped? Instead, the doctors simply prescribed them pills.
The pharmaceutical companies and medical industry are quick to push antidepressants on people as soon as they feel a little bit down, instead of exploring the root causes and other more natural methods of alleviating the problem. Resistance training is the wonder drug, not fluoxetine.
I am definitely prone to depression. After a few days without training I start to feel moody and low, and this is when I must do something physical. Our bodies were made to move. Our brains respond to movement by producing feel good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Exercise is God’s medicine. So many diseases that afflict us in the West are caused by a sedentary lifestyle.
I know guys my age (31) with high blood pressure and lifestyle-related diabetes. That is not normal. Of course, sometimes genetic factors are responsible, but the numbers don’t lie – diabetes is on the rise in young people.
You don’t even need a gym membership to train – bodyweight works too. You can look more attractive, feel more energetic, and have better health just by dedicating half an hour to physical movement every day. That is a beautiful thing!
I’d much rather suffer the ‘inconvenience’ of having to train every day than to take pills and injections for the rest of my my life. Some of those pills cause side effects that require other pills to manage them, and it becomes a complete cluster-fuck of medicines, side effects, and doctors visits. So use what God and nature gave you. I feel more like a hippy every day when I say this, but it’s so true.
Ok, that about does it.. don’t forget to sign up for my free ebook ‘Staying Lean At 30‘, specifically aimed at men 30 and above.. get it here! Hit me up with any comments you have.
How many times have you heard the phrase “it all goes downhill after 30?”.
I’ve lost count of the number of times other guys have said this to me… is it true though?
Getting older rarely leads to improvements in our bodies.
Wrinkles, grey hair, sagginess, loss of libido, baldness (I know about this one all too well!) are just part of the game.
There are many physiological process which slow down and change as we get older. Ultimately, these changes are unavoidable.
From a physique perspective, each decade after age 30, people who don’t train can lose 3-5% of their muscle mass. 3-5%!
That can make a huge to difference to how you look and feel. Just the mere fact of muscle loss will slow down your metabolism and make it easier for you to gain fat.
So not only do we have Father Time to contend with, but for most people entering their 30s, there are a whole bunch of other things too.
Financial security and climbing the career ladder become priority. Some guys are married and have young children that take up their time. Some guys are in serious relationships and their girlfriends won’t let them go out 😳.
The point is, fitness and health starts to be seen as a luxury and isn’t given the attention it needs. You slowly see the stomach getting fatter and the previous 25 year old you fading away.
Who’s that guy in the holiday pictures again?
I turned 30 in 2016 and I have definitely noticed subtle shifts in my body.
I feel training sessions more. My joints are creakier. Staying lean is more challenging. It’s harder to recover from a late night like during my 20s (now I have a migraine for 3 days after.)
In my whole life playing sports and lifting weights, I’ve only ever had one injury, a minor hamstring pull.
Once I entered my 30s, I’ve had back and knee injuries that kept me out for months.
Just look at someone like David Haye.
The decline in his speed and reflexes in the space of 5 years is very obvious. The multiple injuries accumulated as he’s aged have pretty much destroyed his career. (He’s still a physical specimen though).
So yeah, it’s inevitable that your body will change. But you can slow down and maybe even halt this decline.
There are no excuses for letting yourself go. Getting older is not a choice, but maintaining self respect is.
So here are the strategies to avoid ‘dad-bod’ and stay in shape.
Focus on posture
I always harp on about posture.
As you get older, you start to hunch over. Hours spent on the computer and phone, as well as the tightening of the chest muscles will make you look like Quasimodo.
Having a good posture makes you look taller and younger.
You can include face pulls, band pull aparts, and rear delt flyes in to your training pretty much every day. Sets of 10-20 are good and will build up the small muscles in the back.
You will need a band for pull-aparts, get it here
As well as that, add in lots of horizontal rowing movements, such as TRX rows, cable rows, incline rows, and bent over rows, TRX rows.
Do lots of work in the 8-15 rep range and really focus on feeling the muscles in the back working.
If you can’t squeeze the weight at the top of the movement for at least 2 seconds, it’s probably too heavy (thanks Jay Ferruggia).
Minimalist, express workouts
You have shit to do, so don’t waste your time.
You can achieve excellent results in just 3-4 days, 30-45 minutes per session if you are really good!
One way to really condense workout time is to use ‘non-competing supersets’.
For example, you may superset an upper body movement with a lower body one. Or an upper body push with an upper body pull.
The idea is that these movements don’t interfere with one another, so you can still push hard and get the most out of each one.
Also, instead of just resting after the exercise, you get more work in. This will cut down your workout time and ensure you hit your muscles hard during the short time you have.
If you have three days, ‘Push/Pull/Legs’ is a great split for you. You could also do ‘Upper/Lower/Full’.
Most of my male clients past the beginner stage are on some variation of the above.
Now what about if you don’t want to just lift, but enjoy other activities such as boxing, sprinting, or jiu jitsu?
You can and should still lift, but may need to reduce the volume (i.e. drop the frequency down).
If you need help with programming and want me to give you step by step guidance, consider signing up for online coaching.
This becomes even more pertinent once you hit your 30s, even though it should always be a consideration.
You need to plan in recovery sessions/activities in between weight training sessions.
Taking a walk, swimming, sitting in nature, yoga, meditation, massages, low intensity cardio, sled dragging sessions, and band work are all good for you.
These things keep your stress levels down and your joints healthy.
You may find yourself tighter and needing to stretch more often the older you get. Keep yourself mobile, because getting tight makes you old.
Hips and chest/shoulders are the key.
These 90/90 hip stretches from Andrea Spina are money.
Modify lifts that don’t agree with you
If a flat barbell bench press is what you’ve done for 10 years but now causes you pain, it’s time to swap it for something else my brother.
That doesn’t mean you have to stop benching. You could just swap it for a more shoulder friendly version, such as an incline bench press or a DB bench where your hands can rotate naturally.
Time to start working with your body rather then against it.
(That said, if you can do certain lifts without a problem, then go for it.)
Some good swaps you can make:
Swap ‘Flat barbell bench press’ for ‘incline barbell bench press’ or ‘neutral grip barbell bench press’ or ‘ DB bench press’.
Swap ‘barbell back squat’ for ‘front squat’ or ‘box squat’ or ‘goblet squat’.
Swap ‘straight bar deadlift’ for ‘trap bar deadlift’ or ‘rack pull’.
Start thinking ‘health’ rather than simply physique. You’re in this for the long term.
You can look good but be very unhealthy. Being at 6% body fat probably isn’t healthy because your hormones will be completely shot. Having huge muscles but eating massive amounts of food the whole day isn’t healthy either.
As you get in to the dirty thirties, your metabolism will probably slow a little bit, so you need to compensate by eating a little less.
The likelihood of getting diabetes also increases as you get older and fatter, so another smart approach may be to adopt a low carb diet, which I have found works brilliantly for getting leaner.
Note: low carb, not no carb.
Precision Nutrition’s infographic below is very simple but excellent for helping you understand what a low carb diet looks like.
There are two versions – one for any time of day, and one for after workouts.
For those that drink, alcohol tolerance will also most likely change. This can result in serious fatness if you try to keep drinking the same way you did in your youth.
Accept that you probably won’t be as slim like you did at 20.
This doesn’t mean you accept being overweight and losing all your pride. Not at all. It just means you recognise that your 20s and 30s are not the same.
But you can make your 30 year old self an even better version if you stick to what’s written above. it’s all about smart and efficient training.
Do you work out like a beast? Do you train twice a day like Lou Ferrigno? Do you do 2 hour sessions that would leave the average man broken?
Maybe you do all the above, yet still have a gut that you can’t lose.
If that’s the case, you are probably missing one vital ingredient for achieving the body you want..
Before I go on, let’s talk about something most people overlook.
The CNS = ‘central nervous system’.
The central nervous consists of the brain, spinal cord, and all of their nerves. Basically, it controls our movement, thoughts, feelings, and arousal level (not that type of arousal :/).
When I talk about recovery, I’m not just talking about muscle and joint soreness – I am often talking about the CNS.
Think of CNS as a glass of water. How full that glass is determines your capacity.
The emptier the glass, the more tired, weak, and unmotivated you feel. You will literally be weaker in the gym. Even your reaction times can be lower (important in sports).
Generally, when people talk about feeling ‘burnt out’, they are unknowingly referring to CNS fatigue. The glass is empty and not getting topped back up.
On the flip side, when your glass of water is topped up, you will most likely feel energetic, buzzing, and strong! These are the sessions you’ll probably set PRs on deadlifts or squats.
Though you can’t keep the glass 100% full all the time, you can try to manage it as much as possible.
Things that empty the glass:
Things that refill the glass:
Sleep is probably the most important, yet most sacrificed aspect of recovery. We are ‘on’ 24/7.
Deep, quality sleep is where all the magic happens. Without getting into all the science, poor sleep makes it easier to put on fat, and harder to build muscle. So allow the 1 am Game Of Thrones binges (note to myself here).
Another aspect of recovery often ignored are ‘easy’ days.
I’m a big fan of cycling between ‘High’ and ‘Low’ days, as popularised by famous sprint coach Charlie Francis.
For instance, if you have a hard workout on Monday, you might choose to do an easy cardio session the next day. That ‘low’ day will help boost your recovery so you can go hard again the next day.
Hell, if you don’t like doing easy days, just take the day off. Give your body a chance to replenish your hormones and neurotransmitters.
Heavy weight and lots of volume (high number of sets and reps) are generally very CNS-intensive, and therefore need adequate recovery.
One idea I like to preach is to always ‘leave a little in the tank’. Try to perform reps with picture perfect form, and stop the set 1-2 reps before you’re going to fail.
Finish the session feeling fresh so you can recover and come back stronger next time. Here’s my rather jacked friend Miko giving his thoughts on the topic.
As Miko says above, you have to see the bigger picture. Surely you want to be strong and fit for the rest of your life, not just in 4 weeks time for the beach. There is no rush.
I’m not the strongest guy in the world, but the PRs I’ve hit have always been a result of of patience over weeks and months. Any time I’ve tried to rush it, I soon hit a road block and can no longer get stronger.
Coaching enquiries –> here.
No matter what year it is, men will always be men. Despite attempts by the media to convince us otherwise, ultimately, we are cavemen. No amount of gadgets or expensive clothing can replace the simple, ‘primitive’ things in life like running, exploring, playing sports, and for some guys, fighting.
However, modern life usually presents us the exact opposite situation. Many of us work in an office, where we are stuck in a chair all day, staring at a screen, eating biscuits and pasta from our local Tesco Express.
As a result, our hormones are shot (in fact, the average testosterone levels of men has declined over the last two decades.
Put simply, we have low libido, we’re tired, and we’re fat. Not good.
Deep down, every man likes to think of himself as a warrior. But being a warrior starts with taking care of your body and LOOKING like one.
Training is one of the catalysts to doing that (but not the only one). It’s no exaggeration that it can change lives.
If some of that rings true for you, please read on for some ways in which to regain your strength, libido, and energy.
Get some sleep
“I never sleep, ‘cos sleep is the cousin of death”. I love Nas, but he got this one wrong.
Good sleep is one of the easiest ways to feel more energetic and powerful. Without it, things go downhill fast.
For one, people who sleep less generally have higher levels of stress hormones, which can lead to fat gain (especially around the belly).
Not only that, but poor sleep is associated with a drop in testosterone levels (the ‘man hormone’). Testosterone is associated with your libido, so once it drops, guess what happens to your sex drive… yes, you become a eunuch.
Apart from fat gain and libido, a good night’s sleep has huge effects on mood and energy. For me, the difference in confidence and overall vitality is very noticeable after a proper night’s sleep (compared to a poor night). The quality of your workouts will obviously improve when you’ve slept well too.
Unfortunately, ever since my teens I’ve been a terrible sleeper. I used to sleep late, wake up throughout the night, and sometimes, I just did not sleep at all.
For the last couple of years, however, I’ve become an early riser. I can fall asleep quicker and actually stay asleep. This is due to many deliberate lifestyle changes I’ve made over the course of two years, and while I don’t particularly enjoy waking up early, it’s now at least bearable.
One easy change I made was to train earlier in the day – training too close to bedtime would keep me awake until the early hours.
By far the biggest change I made, though, was creating a night time routine and sticking to it. The key to this routine is to do it at the same time every night so your body expects it.
Here’s how it goes:
Prepare breakfast for next morning,
Prepare clothes and anything that needs to be done for the morning (I get it out the way at night so it doesn’t subconsciously play on my mind while sleeping).
Have a quick shower (warm, not too hot).
Move phone away so I don’t see any flashing lights or notifications during the night (silent mode is a given).
Get into bed and read a book (Kindle or physical book, no tablet, because the back light messes with sleep). I usually nod off within 10-20 minutes.
Once you do this routine several times, your brain will come to associate it with sleep. You will automatically feel tired by the time you get in to bed.
If you still have trouble getting to sleep, a Zinc-Magnesium product (such as ZMA) before bed may help (this is recommended by Precision Nutrition, an excellent and trustworthy nutritional resource).
I recently started taking 500 mg Magnesium Biglycinate before sleeping and I feel a definite improvement in sleep quality.
Find your tribe.
A good honest workout will make you feel alive, especially when you’re doing it as a team. The most intense, enjoyable workouts I’ve ever had have come when I’ve been with other people.
Back in the day Arnold Schwarzenegger and his friends (plus the WAGs) used to take a barbell deep into the woods and squat until their their legs couldn’t support them anymore. Once they were done, they’d throw some juicy steaks onto the barbecue and party late into the night.
Some workouts can be brutal, but in the company of like-minded friends, they can become memorable life experiences. Find yourself a team to push you.
BTW – the above squat story is from Arnold Schwarzeneggers ‘Education Of A Bodybuilder‘, a great read.
While I’m no bodybuilder, Arnold’s immense drive and determination should be respected and learnt from. You can apply these lessons to any goal in your life – not necessarily just the training aspect.
The fact that many of us work sedentary jobs is bad enough, but add in the processed garbage we eat, and it’s no surprise that we’re fat and feel like shit most of the time.
Here’s the starting prescription for improving your diet:
Eat more protein
Eat more vegetables
Drink more water
These changes alone can have powerful results.
There are of course specific things you may need to do, but if you simply implemented the above consistently, you’d see yourself change before your eyes.
Lifting weights has numerous health benefits, and for stressed out men, it’s a key to feeling better.
Deadlifts, squats, sled pushes, farmers walks, overhead presses. Brutal exercises, but the reward is you feeling relaxed, confident, and alive.
Lifting is also how you will develop the granite muscle of an athlete. It certainly doesn’t come from an hour’s cardio (although cardio is very important).
Take the right supplements
When we look at an expensive, high performance car, the first thing we notice is the flashy exterior. But if the engine doesn’t work, that car ain’t going anywhere any time soon.
We need to look after our own engines.
Health is the most important outcome of training. The look comes as a byproduct.
You don’t need to take dangerous drugs to look and feel good. In addition to sleeping, training smart, and eating the right things, we may need to supplement to be in the best of health.
Here are some baseline supplements I recommend (even before the usual suspects of protein, BCAAs etc).
Let’s be honest, England has about two weeks of proper sun per year.
The rest of the time, it’s pretty gloomy. Many of us are getting diagnosed with low Vitamin D.
Vitamin D has numerous positive effects throughout the body and is important for testosterone.
Getting it directly from the sun or via a supplement are the most practical ways to ensure good levels; it is very difficult to get sufficient amounts from food.
Take around 1000-2000 IU of Vitamin D3 / day (as per Precision Nutrition recommendations).
The modern day Western diet is not very rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are found in in fish oil, and are very important for:
Immune, cardiovascular, and nervous system health
Prevention of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s
Unless you are eating oily fish quite often (which could actually be a problem, as much of it contains environmental pollutants), it’s a good idea to top up with Omega 3 in supplement form.
Look to consume 2-3 g fish oil per day (choose a supplement with high Omega 3 content, at least 30% EPA and DHA).
For it’s effects on sleep alone, this supplement is money. It also plays an important role in the cycle of muscle contraction and relaxation, and can raise testosterone levels. Get it here.
Working out, when we break it down, is a way of becoming better version of ourselves. It not only releases feel-good chemicals in the moment, but over the long haul, it makes us better looking, more energetic, and more effective men.
If you have read this and are fed up of making false promises to yourself, apply here. How many times are you going to tell people that this is the year you ‘kill it’? Most New Years resolutioners are chumps.. don’t be that guy.
If you’re a woman reading this, pass it on to a man you might think will benefit (husband, boyfriend, brother).
1. You’re not working out often enough
If you are new to working out, even 1 session a week will help. In the beginning, any physical activity is an improvement on nothing.
If, however, you’ve been training for more than a month, anything less than 3 hard workouts a week isn’t going to cut it my friend.
3 days is the minimum. 4 days is better.
2. You work out too often
On the flipside – some people go to the gym too often.
There are people who work out 6-7 days a week, and 3-4 months later have made little to no progress.
How can someone hit the gym so often yet not improve?
Well, one potential reason is that what they are doing lacks intensity. Texting or watching animals humping on an Ipad is not training. (True story, I have actually seen a man watching a video of animals humping while on the treadmill.. we live in strange times).
Another problem with working out too often relates to cortisol.
Cortisol is a perfectly normal hormone that we all produce. When we exercise, it increases for a little while and then goes away. However, cortisol is only supposed to be produced for short periods – not hang around our bodies for long amounts of time.
When you train too much, cortisol levels remain elevated for long periods. This is not normal, and can actually cause fat gain and muscle loss.
This is not to mention a whole number of other potential health problems, such as cognitive and immune system issues.
Chronic anxiety, stress, and insufficient sleep are other factors that may contribute to high cortisol levels.
When you tell people that working out too often may be detrimental to their goals, they often point to people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, in his prime, trained for 2 hours, twice a day, 6-7 days a week.
What they fail to acknowledge however, is that Arnold was a great athlete who was taking highly potent anabolic steroids.
(There’s no doubt that you can train twice a day, but you must build up to it over a number of years, you also have to be immaculate with your training management, recovery and nutrition.)
3. You do cardio but neglect weights
Weight training increases your body’s resting metabolic rate. The higher your RMR, the more fat you burn, even while resting.
4. You only do one type of cardio
I’m referring to long distance slow cardio here.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time and place for long distance cardio. But it’s certainly not every day, nor is it even three times a week.
Long distance cardio works in the beginning because it creates a calorie deficit (more calories out than in). However, after a while, you hit a plateau.
The scale no longer seems to move. So you start going longer and harder. But still no weight loss. Only more joint pain, persistent colds, and frustration.
Here are some ideas:
These types of activities create an intense response in your body known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, or the ‘afterburn effect’ in everyday lingo. These activities will help to smash through plateaus.
5. You focus your weight training on small muscle groups (like arms)
Larger muscle groups burn more calories compared to smaller ones.
Compound exercises are those where numerous joints and muscle groups are involved. Isolation exercises only stimulate one muscle at a time.
For example, push-ups train the chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs. Tricep kickbacks only work the triceps.
Which one is superior in terms of activating more muscle (and hence burning more fat)?
Easy, the push-ups.
Stick mainly to compound exercises if you want a more powerful fat-burning effect.
Fries – bad.
Apples – good.
Green juices – good.
Doughnuts – bad.
Doner kebabs – bad.
Vegetables – good.
TV dinners – bad.
It’s not rocket science. You know what is and isn’t healthy, it’s your job to clean it up.
There are people who go to the gym merely to avoid a feeling of guilt.. and after going, they binge on junk food because they feel they have earned it.
That 1 hour per day in the gym is used to justify poor eating habits in the other 15 or so waking hours. But it won’t work.
As long as you are eating well 90% of the time, you’re doing well in my opinion.
Once you actually get fit, you can break the rules a bit more as your body will have become a finely-tuned fat-burning machine.
Until then, you have to put in some work!
7. You don’t have an event
Why do you want to lose weight? What’s driving you to want to lose it?
Is there a bigger reason than just wanting to look nice?
Do you want to be more confident, or to increase your chances of attracting a partner? What’s behind wanting to look better?
You need to find your reason. It can be aesthetic, performance related, or health related. A good training plan will achieve all three anyway.
Maybe your family has a history of heart disease and you’re worried about your own risk. I have a client who started training with me because she wanted to improve her health after the death of her sister from heart problems.
That’s a powerful reason, one that keeps her consistent and motivated.
For me, I usually focus on performance goals, building mini goals along the way to gauge my progress.
For example, next month I’ll test my strength in the bench press, box squat, and pull-up, as well as my 100 m sprint time. In 3 months time I’ll repeat the process.
8. Unrealistic goals and expectaions
Get-fit-quick, like-get-rich quick, usually fails. But instead of ending up broke – you end up depressed.
Let’s do something patiently instead of looking for the quick fix and I promise your results will be so much better. Longevity is the name of the game.
The picture below represents one of my clients’ progress over a good 4 months. She herself made some of the same mistakes listed above, such as too much long distance cardio.
Don’t get suckered into false promises from magazines and youtube marketers. None of that is real. Hard work is.
Que pasa amigos?
Today’s post is something I feel very strongly about.
Seeing as I’m a personal trainer, this will primarily be about fitness, but you can apply it to most areas of life.
Healthy living and sports performance is truly my passion and I myself have paid good money to go to courses and learn from people more experienced than me. Every time I have done so, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge I can take away and pass on to other people.
I will happily pay for expertise if I feel it will positively benefit my life. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Today I want to talk about how having a coach may help you in your fitness journey.
Call it what you want – trainer, coach, mentor, but the concept is the same. You have someone more experienced and more knowledgeable to help you reach your goals.
5 reasons you need a coach.
1) Coaches see things for what they are
There is a lot less bias when you work with a coach. They see things for what they are – not what they want it to be.
When we look at ourselves, we do so with an opinion. We might be too easy on ourselves or simply too critical.
For example, we might think that there’s nothing wrong with drinking everyday – after all, everybody at work does it. We might think our training routine sucks, when in reality it’s actually very good and just needs a few minor tweaks.
A coach can cut through all the crap and show you what needs to be done.
2) Coaches have seen it all
Although you may believe you are a one-of-a-kind snowflake (which you are of course :)), the likelihood is that most trainers have seen it all.
You are not the only person on Earth who suffers from luxurious love handles. You’re not the only ‘skinny-fat’ guy on the planet. There is someone else out there with the same issue, and chances are, a coach has already seen and dealt with it.
A coach who knows his stuff can take the lessons from these other cases and help you solve your problem.
3) Coaches have a plan
I’ve mentioned my client Ben before.
When Ben first came to the gym, he was determined to do whatever it took to get back on track so he could box again. Having fought as a youth, he definitely had the natural talent, but physically he was out of sorts.
His conditioning was not up to par and he would gas out quickly any time we did padwork. Our priority was improving his stamina so that he was comfortable over three 2-minute rounds, whilst still being able to throw explosive combinations.
His second problem was that he was carrying a little extra timber which would obviously slow him down in the ring. We needed to chop that timber off.
Third, even though Ben was still capable of throwing bombs, we needed to maintain his strength, which would inevitably decline as he lost bodyweight. A lean, strong, powerful fighter is a very dangerous one.
Although I’m sure Ben knew the above perfectly well, knowing where to begin or how to do it was a different story. That’s one of the roles of the coach – to organise and plan training accordingly.
In the beginning stages he was eager to get going and wanted to do too much, which is to his credit.
I had to dissuade him from doing too much too soon. The first few weeks of any exercise programme is about building up your ability to handle intense work.
The heart, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nervous system need time to adapt to the stress of training. If you go hard too soon, injuries can pile up and the likelihood of you quitting increases.
4) Coaches keep you accountable.
Nobody is successful on their own. All the greats in sporting history have had good mentors around them.
probably the most fearsome heavyweight in boxing history, had Cus D’Amato. Cus took Mike under his wing from a young age and taught him everything he knew – not just about boxing, but about life.
Tyson was a troubled child, but Cus kept him in check. He kept his focus on the goal – becoming the heavyweight champion of the world.
Mike did eventually become the heavyweight champion, the youngest heavyweight champion ever in fact. Sadly, Cus passed away before he could see the dream become a reality. Without Cus, there probably would never have been boxing superstar Mike Tyson.
Having someone there to keep you accountable is one of the most important things in the world. It could be a family member, your spouse, a training partner, or your own personal coach.
Someone who truly cares will keep you focused. You should associate with people who help you move towards your goals.
I’ve generally always trained by myself as I train mostly for athleticism and my goals generally don’t align with my friends’.
(One of the benefits of training alone is that I can listen to music on my dope Bose headphones – I’m currently listening to a 10 hour version of the Inception theme tune. Hans Zimmer is the man.)
However, I now occasionally train with and exchange ideas with a good friend of mine, Srj, who shares a similar approach to training and is very well-read himself.
This gives me an extra boost in my training, because the journey is alot more fun when you have other people on a similar path.
We have both set ourselves specific goals we’d like to achieve in the near future i.e. doing more pull-ups, improving 40 yard sprint time, jumping higher, and improving certain lifts. Having someone to regularly check in with helps to keep your motivation topped up.
The quote ‘you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with’ definitely rings true. If you spend time with people interested in living healthy and training hard, you’ll naturally begin to absorb some of those habits.
If you spend most of your time eating salted peanuts down the pub with your mates, you’ll eventually morph into Frank Butcher.
The same is true for the media you consume. Listen, watch, and read stuff that will help you on your journey.
5) Coaches give you something extra.
This one is is undisputable (even science supports it).
Having someone you respect encouraging you during a tough set can drive you through even the worst discomfort. I definitely train harder if I have someone I respect pushing me.
It’s human nature. Nobody wants to let someone else down or look like a punk.
However, a good mentor or coach knows when to push you and when to ease off. People have a misconception about coaches simply being there to ‘smash you up’ and shout at you. That’s not a good coach to me. Coaches are there to make you better. There’s a time and a place for shouting.
Going back to Ben, he already had a winner’s mindset. Not a single time did he say ‘I can’t’ when I told him to do something. The words were never in his vocabulary.
But even he acknowledges that having someone alongside him helped give him that 10% extra. That 10% could be the difference between the the glory of victory and the misery of defeat.
And there you have it guys.. I was so fired up about this post I actually wrote about 2000 words to begin with, but I ended up chopping it significantly. Hope you enjoyed reading it as I did it writing it!
If it hit home, it’s time for you to take action.
Guten morgen and welcome back to Jump Lift Sprint.
Today I want to address a question that has been grinding my gears for a while – ‘does muscle soreness mean you had a good workout’?
Even though my job is primarily to help people get in shape, I consider myself more than just a personal trainer – I’m a coach and educator too. Rather than merely teaching exercises, I also try to teach the underlying principles of training.
Working in a very busy commercial gym, media myths and ‘broscience’ are still all too prevalent.
Some people still believe that you have to eat boiled plain chicken breast 8 times a day to look good.
Some people still think that doing 2 kg tricep kickbacks will give them ‘toned’ arms.
Some people still do crunches to get rid of a gut. The list goes on and on.
I want to to help dispel some of these myths and guide new trainees in the right direction. One of the most common of these myths has to do with muscle soreness after training.
Muscle soreness can occur after resistance training sessions, usually appearing 24 – 48 hours later. It can sometimes last up to a few days in extreme cases. This muscle soreness is known by the term ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’, or ‘DOMS’ if you’re cool 🙂
DOMS is extremely common after someone trains for the first time (or after a long lay-off).
90% of the clients I train for the first time experience this phenomenon. Every muscle fibre in their body aches for 2 or 3 days following the session. (However, after a week, they no longer experience this to the same extent at all. We’ll get to why later.)
So what is the commonly held belief surrounding DOMS? It’s that many people think that DOMS after a workout means the workout was good!
In many cases, this could not be further from the truth.
Personal trainers around the world will nod their heads in agreement when I say that with most clients, if you make them sore, you make them happy. The next day they will gladly tell all their friends about you, and they’ll keep coming back for more.
Knowing the above, many trainers have fallen into the trap of knackering out clients just so they feel the vaunted DOMS the next day.
I freely admit I was guilty of this in the past, especially very early in my training career. I’m happy to say that I have now changed tact and no longer resort to such garbage, even if it loses me a few clients who want DOMS every session.
Now if you read this blog, you probably know the name Joe Defranco by now. One quote of his that really sticks out is the following:
ANY coach can make you tired – it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But it takes a true professional to make you BETTER.
Go to Youtube or Instagram now and you can see countless ‘trainers’ joker making people do all sorts of dangerous, pointless crap to get views and likes. And unfortunately, they do get views and likes.
In modern fitness, doing ‘insane’ workouts and going ‘#beastmode’ is a badge of honour for many people. The soreness the next day makes these people feel like they’ve done something incredibly worthwhile.
I could take a class right now and make you do 100 burpees with a weighted vest on. You’d be sore as hell the next day. But what did you achieve?
The point of training is to get better. This may be in terms of improving technique, adding weight to the bar, doing more reps, or doing the same workout in a shorter time.
Every time you leave the gym you should have improved in some way. I’m not saying not to work hard and push yourself to the limit, far from it. But you need to know when to push and when to back off.
You should leave the gym feeling fresh and happy. Not like you just had a cardiac arrest.
Longevity is the name of the game. As long as you’re improving, you’re making progress.
What’s the point of making yourself so sore you can’t train for three days? In those three days you could have hit the gym twice and made more progress towards your goals.
DOMS is simply a way of your body telling you it’s not used to the workout you did (which is of course a good thing sometimes).
Speaking from personal experience, when I take time off the gym, switch up the exercises, or add lots of volume in a short space of time, I get DOMS. It’s never debilitating or extreme, but I get it.
After a week of doing the same workout (while steadily increasing the weight and amount of work), I no longer get the muscles soreness.
That doesn’t mean I’m not making progress – if I’m getting stronger and handling more volume, then I’m making progress.
For those who believe DOMS is necessary for building muscle, studies have shown that it is not. (Of course, no one study is proof of anything, but experience has shown that you can improve your body composition without debilitating DOMS.)
Apart from simply not being used to the workout you did, DOMS may be a sign that your diet and recovery are not on point.
If you’re not getting enough quality calories in, DOMS may be more of an issue. Good quality protein, amino acids, and Omega 3 fats may all help to mitigate muscle soreness. Even coffee and tea have been shown to help.
Sleep is also super important – it’s where your body repairs itself and grows stronger.
Despite Nas saying ‘I never sleep, cos sleep is the cousin of death’ (one of the best lines of all time), I think we can all agree that sleep is important.
Better quality sleep = better recovery = less muscle soreness.
As a sidenote, lots of sleep experts are saying that sleep before midnight results in a better of quality of sleep than after midnight. This is true even when the total number of hours slept is the same.
I can wholeheartedly concur. Since I started sleeping at 10.30 to 11pm (like a grandad, I know), I wake up feeling so much fresher.
So there you have it guys.. Muscle soreness does not mean you had a good workout, so stop chasing the dragon and chase improvement instead.
Updated as of May 2018
What’s happening people.. or asalaamu alaikum I should say.
It’s that time of the year when Muslims around the world are preparing for the month of Ramadan.
For a whole month, from sunrise to sunset, there will be no food and no water – but contrary to popular belief, Ramadan is about more than just abstaining from eating and drinking.
It’s a time where you’re encouraged to strip away distractions and luxuries, to live more simply. More prayer, more gratitude, more reflection, and even more family time.
Most major world religions include some form of ritualised fasting among their practices.
(Ritualised fasting, not to be confused with intermittent fasting.)
Now even though many Muslims will be fasting during this month, there will be many who want to continue training during this time (which is probably why you’re reading this).
I certainly fall into that camp.
From my own perspective, training is an important part of my life. It makes me a better person. I feel healthier, more balanced, and more disciplined.
There’s no reason why you have to give this up during Ramadan. You just have to be intelligent in how you go about it, because this time around fasting will be more physically draining than ever.
As we approach the peak of the summer, the sun doesn’t set until very late in the day.
We’ll be breaking the fast around 9.30 pm every night (and at the time of writing, the days continue to get longer.)
Therefore if you want to train effectively during Ramadan, it’s vital to create a plan to take the above into account.
But first, some good news and some bad news.
The good news?
You’ll probably lose some weight.
The bad news?
You’ll probably lose some weight.
Most people will lose weight simple by virtue of the fact that they end up taking in less calories.
The first time I trained during Ramadan I dropped a few kilograms of weight while simultaneously getting stronger.
Although I didn’t necessarily want to lose the weight, it wasn’t the end of the world as I was happy with the fact that I had more strength and looked ripped!
(Bear in mind, this was when I first started training so I was getting newbie strength gains. This probably won’t happen if you’ve been training more than two years. At most, you will maintain strength.)
If you’re looking to gain mass, however, you should accept from now the very high likelihood that you are going to lose weight.
This year’s eating window is super short. Unless you spend every waking second consuming food, it will be extremely difficult to get in all the calories needed to build muscle.
In my opinion, you should probably leave the mass gain plans for after Ramadan. Instead focus on maintain what you already have.
So here we go. Based on sound
broscience and personal experience, here are my tips for training in Ramadan.
1. Try to train directly before or after iftar (breaking of the fast).
Before is OK, after is better.
I’ve trained at both times, and in my experience, training after breaking my fast always resulted in a better training session. More strength, more power. The boost your body gets from food and water will make your training session better.
Having said that, training before iftar can certainly be done – but you’ll just need to be more conservative with your training intensity as you’re dehydrated and hungry.
2. Avoid excessive cardio.
This one goes out to all the cardio addicts. If you are fasting, you are most likely underfed, dehydrated, sleep deprived, and low on blood sugar.
Therefore it probably doesn’t make much sense doing hard interval workouts or 1 hour runs during this time. I once tried this on a bike and swiftly passed out. I woke up and my head was being cradled by the gym’s personal trainers. Embarrassing.
Use your limited time and energy wisely.
3. Lift weights
Ramadan is for lifting weights. Focus on maintaining strength and muscle as much as possible. The only way to do that is resistance training in a structured fashion.
Here’s an example of an upper body training session for Ramadan. (Click the names of the exercises to see a video of it being performed).
1a) Floor press – 3 x 6
1b) Barbell bent over row – 3 x 8
2a) Alternating incline DB press – 3 x 12 / arm
2b) Single arm DB row – 3 x 12 / side
3) Pull-up – 3 x AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
If you have the time and energy.
4a) Lateral raises – 3 x 12
4b) Cable rear delt flyes – 3 x 12
5a) Cable pulley bicep curls – 3 x 15
5b) Tricep pushdowns – 3 x 15
4. Light weight and high reps, or heavy weight and low reps?
This is largely down to personal preference more than anything, and other lifters may disagree with it.
The best type of lifting is always to use a mixture of rep ranges – some heavier lifts (4-6 reps), some medium lifts (6-8) and some higher rep stuff (8-15).
Doing the heavier lifts will ensure you keep your strength, while the medium and higher rep stuff will help you hold on to as much muscle mass as possible.
Just don’t go crazy with the volume.
The last thing you want to do on a calorie deficit is 10 sets of squats that leaves you sore and trying to repair muscle with materials you don’t have.
Save the crazy volume for when you can have more calories and more energy..
Adapt to the situation.
A quote I have always loved is the following from Bruce Lee.
Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.
5. Keep your pre-workout meal light (if you work out iftar)
If you’re planning on working out after iftar, keep your first meal super light.
There’s nothing worse than going to the gym on a full stomach. Instead eat a light, small meal consisting of protein, carbs, and healthy fats.
An example of this could be a protein shake mixed with milk, a handful of nuts, a banana and some dates.
(If you blend chocolate protein powder, milk, natural peanut butter, and a banana, it’s amazing by the way).
Though I always advocate eating ‘real’ food rather than shakes where possible, shakes come in handy if you need to hit the gym soon after eating. This is because they’re generally easily digested and light on your stomach.
After you’ve worked out, you can eat a larger meal.
6. Make your meals count.
If you want to hold on to as much muscle as possible (which you should), base your meals around protein and vegetables first and foremost.
The easiest way to quantify this is the ‘palm method’, popularised by Precision Nutrition.
Protein: Women – one palm-sized serving at each meal, men – two palm-sized servings at each meal.
(Meat, chicken, fish, eggs, lentils, beans (lentils and beans both also contain carbs though))
Vegetables: Women – 1 fistful at each meal, men – 2 fistfuls at each meal.
Once the protein and veg are sorted, we then come to the fat and carbs.
Under normal eating conditions, I usually recommend most people looking for fat loss have a ‘lower carb, higher fat’ diet. During Ramadan I suggest being a little more balanced.
(If you’re more experienced and are very aggressive about your goals, you can of course tweak this).
But in general I recommend the following.
Fat: Women – one ‘thumb’ of fats at each meal, men – two ‘thumbs’ of fat at each meal.
(Good fats – eggs, coconout oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, nut butters)
Carbs: Women – one cupped handful at each meal, men – two cupped handfuls at each meal.
(Some good carbs to eat are brown rice, brown pasta, sweet potatoes, & quinoa).
However, there is a caveat here. After your training session, feel free to add in slightly more carbs than the above recommendation, while reducing the fat slightly. This is because carbs are better dealt with after a workout, and will have positive effects on muscle building. We reduce the fat as it can slow down absorption.
7. Too much sweets can make you put on weight
I know it can be difficult. When families (especially Arab families) get together, the amount of sweets can get ridiculously hard to say no to.
Ferrero Rocher. Cakes. Baklawa. Kunafahhhhh.
While being together and enjoying Ramadan with the family is important, don’t go overboard with the junk.
They are very easy to overeat and you can unknowingly go into a calorie surplus and hence put on fat.
You want to look after your body, so eat with performance in mind.
8. Fruit is ok!
Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t eat fruits, they’re God’s sweets. Just don’t go crazy like anything else, and you’ll be fine.
9. Hydration is key
Obvious, but still needs to be said.
Fasting will dehydrate you. You need water for your body and brain to perform effectively. Even a 3% loss of body water negatively affects muscle function.
Try to sip water as much as possible after sunset and during your training session.
Just don’t overdo it as excess water will interrupt your sleep and cause you to urinate every couple of hours.
10. Supplements can help
This is where supplements can be important.
Drinking branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) during training will help preserve muscle (especially when the aim is fat loss). 5-10 g will do the trick. Just don’t choose the nasty unflavoured one!
Fish oils contain essential Omega 3 fatty acids that our body can’t make by itself. These are important for many aspects of our health. Make sure you’re getting them in.
Protein powder is also a help during periods such as ramadan where you need to keep protein consumption high.
11. Cut out the non-essential stuff
You’re already starting from a point of depletion, so cut out the ‘non-essential’ stuff for a month. Keep your weight training sessions short and sweet – around 40-45 mins.
Get the basic movements done first and foremost.
Weight training sessions should consist of basic movements like squats, deadlift variations, presses, sled work, and rows.
If you can fit in smaller muscle groups like arms and abs, great. If not, don’t worry about missing them for a few weeks when you have so much other stuff to do during such a short window of time.
So there you have it guys.
Ramadan is a great time for Muslims because it means getting closer to God, getting closer to family, and trying to become a better person.
From a training perspective however, it’s not perfect. But if you eat well and train smart, you can still make something of the situation.
Ramadan Mubarak people. I hope this helped you out, and please hit me up with any questions you may have in the meantime.
By the way, if you already train but need guidance and accountability, hit me up for online training. I have a number of guys already on it and getting great results.
Click here for a free consultation –> Online coaching