Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Low Carb Diet Logic

Low Carb Diets

The proponents of low carb diets want you to believe the following:
  •        That insulin is the only cause of fat gain and not an essential hormone for many important body functions.
  •           That over millions of years the human body has evolved to only get fat from us eating carbs despite us only discovering what carbs were less than 200 years ago.
  •         That carbs will only get turned into fat and not used for energy, but fats will only get used for energy and never turned into body fat.
  •          That insulin is bad and that replacing carbs for protein is good, but ignore that fact that eating protein increases insulin too.
  •        Excess energy/calories from eating fats and protein just disappears whereas all energy from carbs goes straight into your fat cells.
  •          Reducing calorie consumption is complicated and difficult, but checking every food label to ensure you are not eating carbs is easy.
  •          Any scientific study that shows low carb diets work is well designed by nutritional pioneers, but any study showing high carb diets are good/better is paid for by the sugar industry.
  •         Many carb free populations in history had low rates of CVD proving the evil of carbs but forget to tell you these populations groups used to die in their 50s.
  •         That once you stop eating carbs your body will burn fat and that your body can not burn fat if there are carbs in the system.
  • -       That swapping some carbs for protein will help you lose weight only because you are eating less carbs, not because protein aids the increase in metabolism.
  •        They have never counted calories, counting calories does not work but they know with certainty they used to over eat carbs, not fat or protein and that is why they got fat.

When pushed the low carb fans will change their arguments and want you to believe the following:
  •          That carbs from junk food are the worst (fruit and vegetables are ok) so cutting out junk food is recommended if you are on a low carb diet, but cutting out junk food on moderate to high carb diet won’t make any difference.
  •         If you exercise more carbs are ok, but this has nothing to do with balancing energy expenditure to energy intake as Calories in V Calories out does not work.
  •          That a big bowl of broccoli and carrots is not going to make you fat only because it is low carbs, not because it is low in calories and nutrition dense.
  •         The human body can work perfectly well with zero carbs, but you should eat carbs if you do sport/exercise as your body will work better.

Listen to common sense, listen to your Doctor, listen to a variety of different experts.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Random Thoughts - Specific Training, Specific Results

If I was trying to find a way to train my body to be good at doing something high endurance, with lots of reps, something like 100 press ups or anything resistance exercise. I would look to do the following:

- Minimise muscle tension - to reduce fatigue
- Minimise time under tension – to reduce fatigue
- Minimise range of motion as much as possible – less movement, less work
- Maximise use of biomechanical leverage – free power
- Spread the load over as many muscles as possible – less stress on any individual muscle
- Make use of momentum and elastic energy – free power

I am sure that will make perfect sense to anybody looking at this. However, this is how most people train when trying to gain muscle, not increase endurance. To gain muscle you must do near enough the exact opposite:

- Maximise muscle tension – to increase fatigue
- Maximise time under tension – to increase fatigue
- Maximise range of motion as much as possible – More movement, more work
- Minimise use of biomechanical leverage –No free power
- Isolate the load over the smallest amount of muscle whenever possible – More stress on individual muscle(s)
- Eliminate the use of momentum and elastic energy – No free power

Results are specific, so training must be specific

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

How Gyms are Failing Us

How Gyms are Failing Us

There are gyms everywhere these days and what is more they offer membership under £15 per month with no contract.  However, whether you train in a budget gym or a premium gym you may be falling victim to the tricks of the industry without even realising.  Here is a summary of how gyms are tricking and therefore failing us.


The fitness industry loves to play on your insecurities so you regularly see buzzwords such as ‘Core’, ‘Fat Burn’ and classes like ‘Legs, Bums and Tums’ and ‘Tone’.  Why?  Because these are the main areas most gym goers worry about.  However, this does not mean that you can optimally improve your core or burn fat by using whatever equipment the buzzword is attached to, nor is there any logical reason to only train your legs, bum and tums in a class.

- A workout is what YOU make it and most people should train their entire body every session.

Calories, Calories, Calories

Most modern gym cardio equipment defaults to show you how many calories you have burned during your workout.  However, unless you have manually entered your age, weight, height and had the machine monitor your heart rate this figure is just a guess.  In fact, often this equipment assumes you are 100kg plus and 40 plus so shows a figure that is way too high for the average user. People then often get too focused on calorie burn and not about exercise quality and progression.

- If you are working hard you will burn calories so monitor your heart rate using a monitor and progress the intensity each week.

Exercise Classes

Exercises classes are fun there is no doubt about it.  Taking part in regular exercises classes will give you most, if not all of the health benefits associated with exercise (reduce chance of getting heart disease etc).  However, all exercise classes are generic and that means they are not designed specifically for your needs.  Typically the intensity will not be correct for the individual or the exercise selection may not tender to the areas you most need it.  Additionally, for reasons I can not understand more and more exercises classes have the instructor up on a stage taking part instead of walking around correcting form and technique.  Therefore, you regularly see people who have been training regularly for years who cannot execute simple exercise such as the squat or overhead press properly.  Also, as already mentioned above a lot of exercises classes are gimmicks to play on peoples insecurities about a particular part of the body and often do not offer what they claim.

- Specific training provides both the fastest and the best results for any individual.  Classes should be used sparingly for fun.

Energy Drinks, Supplements

Gyms sell energy drinks and protein shakes for one reason, and one reason only = Profit.

There is a huge write up on all supplements and big money too be made.  Gyms do not sell these items because the customer needs them and for most customers they will gain more calories than they burned during their workout.

- Avoid supplements and energy drinks, eat good quality food and your body will respond to it.  Your body stores enough energy to last through a 1 hour workout and seldom is there a reason for anyone to workout longer than that so why eat more?

Cardio, Cardio, Cardio

Gyms pander to popular demand, not science so often have more cardio equipment than any other type.  Why?  Because cardio has a mythical, not factual, effect on our bodies and burns fat the best.  However, the science repeatedly shows that resistance (weight) training is optimal for burning calories, reducing our waistlines and shaping our bodies.  I am not for a second suggesting people should not do cardio, that would be foolish, but it is important that your quantity of cardio training supports your goal.

- Cardio is important, but the science shows it is not optimal for fat loss.  As a beginner perhaps 40% of your training should be cardio and as you get fitter reduce that down to 15-25% depending on your goals.  Ultimately, most fat loss will come from what you do in the kitchen, not the gym.

Abs/Core Classes and Equipment

While I have covered some of this under buzzwords I think this still deserves it’s own section.  All gyms offer a variety of ab machines and abs/core classes.  As we have learned above this is because people are insecure about their bellies and usually think that doing lots of ab training will give them a flat stomach.  This is fundamentally wrong, we do not, sadly, burn fat from the areas which we exercise. 

More importantly is that our abs are just one muscle making up what has come to be known (there is no official definition) as the core.  There is no logic whatsoever to single out the abs for training, the core works as an interlinked system so is only as good as its weakest muscle.  Also, the core works pretty much all day whenever we are stood up.  Therefore, specific core exercise are often less effective than using the core as nature intended while carrying out exercises such as squatting, deadlifting and pressing or using something like the Concept 2 rower.  In fact, more often than not people can maintain good core tension during a plank because it is static, but have terrible or non-existent core tension when they move.  Yet, arguable core tension is far more important under movement.

- Train the core as a system primarily as you move in everyday life and when lifting weights.  Perhaps once a week target the core specifically for approx. 10 mins utilising plank variations, deadbugs and birddogs or using TRX.

So how is this instructor helping her class by taking part herself?

Monday, 2 February 2015

Common Sense Core Training

Core training is all about our ability to keep our torsos straight. This should be natural but owing to a variety of factors such as inactivity we get hopeless at it.  The majority of peoples solution to the bent torso problem is to go to the gym and bend it some more by doing sit-ups and crunches. This defies logic as firstly sit-ups primary hit the hip flexors that are often over tight due to us sitting down 8+ hours a day. Secondly, as most people do excessive range of motion on crunches and therefore often use the wrong muscles (often those overnight hip flexors) which just makes them more bent. You don't straighten something by making it bend more.

Think of a sapling that you want to grow into a tall straight, magnificent tree.  What do you do to help it keep straight and strengthen? You tie it to something that is straight, you do not bend it.

So what do you think is going to help you keep your back straight?


or this?

Further reading:

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Common Gym Mistakes and Simple Solutions to them - Part 16

16. I Want to Get Fit, Strong, Big and Loose Fat all at the Same Time.

As you have hopefully learned by now your training has to be specific to your goals. If you have too many goals then you can not be specific.

You can be fit but fat, you can be thin but unfit, you can have big muscles but be weak, you can have strong muscles but small muscles. What defines this is partly DNA but mostly specific diet and specific training.

What most people do is join a gym and start a diet at the same time. They then do lots of cardio (See No 5) to burn fat and weights to get big and strong all at the same time. This is WRONG.

Lets use an example to prove the point. You normally eat 2500 cal a day and go on a diet reducing your calories to 2000 a day. You have also joined a gym and go 4 times a weak burning 300 cal per session.

The maths shows that you are now eating 3500 cal a week less, over a days worth of food, and are also now burning 1200 cal per week in the gym. That is a cal difference of 4700!!!! Do you really think that is healthy let alone productive? You will initially loose weight doing this but within about 10-14 days you will be exhausted, probably get ill and then rebound (get fat). If you join a gym do not reduce the calories too, clean up your diet ( reduce cr@p, not calories) and adjust to suite. And that’s just the calories side of things, now the exercise bit.

I wont repeat what I wrote about Cardio in Part 5, please re-read it.

To get strong you need to lift heavy weight for 3-5 reps with a rest period of approx 3 mins between sets and will mainly use the creatine phosphate energy system. 
To get big you need to lift medium to heavy weights, 6 - 12 reps with a rest period of 60-90 seconds and use the lactic acid energy system. 

They are different training systems, different energy systems and strength training also requires more co-ordiantion, power, CNS and is partly governed by individual biomechanics. Therefore, trying to do both at once will always be a compromise and how big a compromise will depend on DNA, Form, Diet and so on.

So what is the answer? Periodisation of course.

In simple terms (for the average gym goer) this is just training once element at a time, in sequence to optimise gains.

So your average newbie to gym who wants to loose fat, gain muscle mass and get stronger could now train like this:

Week 1          -           Light cardio, stretching, mobility
Week 2          -           Light cardio, stretching, mobility
Week 3          -           Medium cardio, stretching, mobility
Week 4          -           Medium-Hard cardio, stretching, mobility
Weeks 5-8     -           Hypertrophy (build muscle size)
Weeks 9-12   -           Strength/Power
Week 13        -           De-load, low intensity cardio/weights

So whats the logic in all this? I think its simple, but its my job so it should be for me. We start by getting the body moving, nothing fancy and a low risk of injury. We then gradually increase the intensity getting the heart and lungs working harder. As we move into the hypertrophy phase the heart and lungs are still working as we build muscle. Finally, we use our now (slightly) bigger muscles to move some big weights. After this we have active rest, we deload and train light to recover.

Each training phase compliments the next training phase where as the original example has all the training contradicting itself.

Whatever your goal or starting point periodisation is the way to go about it. Work in cycles of 6-12 weeks, deload, adjust, repeat.  For an excellent book on periodisation check out Periodisation Training for Sports by Tudor Bompa.