Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Fast effective weight loss

One of the most talked about subjects with health and fitness is weight loss! The problem is there is so much information out there and so many gadgets, pills, books and other items related to weight loss that most people end up getting overwhelmed and give up! Truth is the theory behind weight loss is very simple, the hardest part is putting the effort in!

Calories in vs Calories out

If there was a formula for weight loss this would it. Every person has whats known as a 'maintenance level' calorie intake, this is the number of calories that they will consume to keep their weight as it is, this number is not an exact, an extra 5 or 10 calories a day under or over is going to make no noticeable difference. This number is based on several factors:

  1. Height
  2. Current weight
  3. Metabolic rate
  4. Activity level
  5. Genetics

There are guide figures for men and women, for men: 2500 calories, for women: 2000. It may take some time before you find your maintenance level for the average person these are the figures. One of the hardest parts of weight loss is finding your maintenance level, sadly this can only really be doing through trial and error, however make sure you take the above factors into consideration. If you are very active your maintenance level is going to be higher, if you are desk bound and don't move a lot it will be lower.

Eating below maintenance

Simply put, to loose weight you need to eat under this maintenance level, once you have estimated this a good start is to drop 500 calories off. At this point it is important that you are counting your calories, now this may sound like a chore but it's quite easy to do. I recommend two websites, either fitday or caloriecount
Sign up to either of these and start counting straight away! its completely free and they have a list of every food, ingredient you can think of and their calorie values. After a while you can add your most used foods to speed things up a bit. After a few days you will start noticing roughly how many calories you are eating, adjust this accordingly to what you need.

Exercise helps!

So where does exercise fit into weight loss? Well when you are exercising you are burning calories, couple this with eating below your maintenance level and your onto a winner! The more you can keep track of your calories in and calories out the more effective your weight loss will be!

Keep it healthy.

An important consideration is that you don't want to overdo things, now don't get me wrong, when your trying to loose weight you want to do it as quickly as possible, but you need to be realistic, those fad diets that claim you can "loose 10lbs in 1 week!" are either scams or going to be very bad for your health, sure you want to loose weight but do not risk your health for it! Weight loss is a steady process and requires discipline. With that said though providing you stick to your diet then you can loose weight effectively and as quick as possible without damaging your health! To summarise this:

Don't starve yourself! This is the worst thing you can do, things like skipping breakfast and eating practically nothing all day are very bad for your health, not only that but they do NOT work! Your body is a surviving machine, if you do not feed it it will eat into muscle supplies and cling onto fat supplies for as long as possible, so starving yourself is going to make you weak and is one of the worst ways of trying to lose fat!

Hitting a plateau and maintaining your weight after weight loss.

Hopefully after a few weeks you will start noticing your weight loss, a good idea is to have regular weigh-ins and take photos in the same pose each day, after a few weeks hopefully you will start to see the difference. A lot of people will start losing weight but then after a will hit a brick wall, if this happens its usually because your maintenance level has dropped. If you think about the logic, you've lost weight, therefore your body needs less calories to maintain, if you haven't adjusted your diet to compensate for this though the chances are your probably eating AT your maintenance level! So the simple solution, drop another few hundred calories. It's important that you don't drop your calories too much, sudden drops are not good for your health, it is much better for you to use trial and error and gradually decrease your calorie intake.


Hopefully by now you've got a good idea as to what your doing, just remember these simple points and you cant go wrong!

  1. Keep it simple, there is no need to complicate things, remember calories in vs calories out!
  2. Stick at it! Don't give up, weight loss takes time and hard work, but the harder you work and the more organised you are about what you eat, the faster you can loose weight.
  3. Eating below maintenance as well as a good exercise program is the perfect combination for fast and healthy weight loss.

Good luck, feel free to let me know of your progress!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Weight training for dummies

There is nothing more daunting than starting a weight lifting programme and being overwhelmed with the enormous amount of information out there, many newcomers get discouraged and give up fast, or they are misinformed in the first place and do not see the results they were expecting! The following guide is going to give you a definite guide on starting a weight training programme, I will keep things as simple as possible because weight lifting should not be complicated, especially not for beginners!

I will be breaking this guide into several points, follow these and you will soon be putting on muscle mass / getting stronger. Before I start here are a few terms I will be using and there meanings.

Reps: A repetition, the number of reps is the number of times you lifted the weight for the specified exercise.

Sets: Each set consists of reps, if you did 10 reps then stopped then that is 1 set complete, typically when starting out you will probably be aiming for around 3 or 4 sets per exercise

Rest intervals: The time taken to rest between each set.

Intensity: The amount of effort you have had to use when performing a rep or set.

1. Focus on form when starting out

When starting off you should be focusing on your form for the first few weeks, your muscles need to adapt to the new movements you are putting them through. Don't be tempted to pile on the weight just to impress, we all had to start somewhere! Exrx offers great information on each exercise with an animated image on how to perform them properly. The worst mistake is to try and start lifting too heavy to begin with and causing an injury. Keep rep ranges between 10 -15 to begin with.

2. Don't overtrain

More is not always better when it comes to weight training, the important thing to remember is that your muscles do not grow in the gym, they grow when your resting, so you must ensure you are taking enough time of from your training, to begin with 3 days a week is a good programme to begin with.

3. Pick a routine and stick to it

A big problem for many lifters is that they don't stick to a programme for long enough to see if it's working for them, this will cause a big cycle of failure and very little in the way of gains! Pick a program and stay with it for around 8 weeks before moving onto something else. When your starting out I would advise a full body routine, 3 times a week.

4. Pick the right exercises

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced lifter, you should be focusing on compound movements, compound movements are exercises that use several body parts at once, this is almost self explanatory, why waste time with isolation exercises that only work 1 muscle, when you could be doing a compound exercise that works several body parts. I could talk about this topic for hours but I'll keep this one simple, when your starting out I advise you use the following exercises:

  • Bench Press
  • Military Press
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Pull ups
  • Barbell Rows
  • Lunges

I base all my routines around these movements, there are an endless amount of exercises you can use, the best resource for this is exrx (again!) where exercises are split into body parts. Don't spend hours doing several variations of curls! this is the biggest mistake I see so many people doing, you will not get enormous arms from doing countless sets of curls! You will be much better off with compound movements.

5. Work with adequate volume

Let me explain, you have to ensure you are working out enough, but at the same time making sure you are not over training. I would estimate 80% of people over train as oppose to not using enough volume. Volume is measured from sets, reps and intensity (see descriptions at the top) Personally when starting off I would recommend a 3 day a week full body workout with between 12 - 15 sets per workout. Pick 4 or 5 exercises and perform 3 sets for each, remember when starting off to use high reps and to ensure your form is spot on.

6. Vary your routine

Don't worry, I'm not contradicting myself on point three here, once you have a framework for a routine stick with it, however changing variables from week to week is always a good idea to prevent your body from adapting. These variables include:

  • Sets
  • Reps
  • Rest time
  • Exercises

Don't go over the top, simple changes are effective, some examples: add an extra set per exercise but then drop an exercise from the routine maybe, drop 30 seconds from each rest between set, alternate exercisers from week to week.

7. Eat!

I can't begin to explain how important this is! You can follow the 6 steps above perfectly but unless you eating enough and the right things you will NOT gain. I have written a post on bulking up (check my archive) for those who are looking at putting on mass. Remember you body needs fuel, in the form of carbs, it needs protein to grow, and don't neglect healthy fats as well.

That's about it for now, follow these seven steps and you will be fine, just remember to work hard and don't over complicate things.

Happy training!

A guide to bulking up

Bulking up is one of the main reasons a lot of people start a weight lifting programme. Many people (young people especially) try desperately to bulk up and add some weight to their frame, most unfortunately give up after a few weeks because of a lack of progress, truth is most people neglect the most important aspects of properly bulking up.

I'm going to make an estimated claim here, I expect 95% of people give up trying to bulk up simply because they are not eating enough. Whenever confronted about it the kind of answers you get are "But I eat like a horse!" "I eat all day I cant possibly eat anymore" and so on. Truth is, if your trying to bulk up and gaining you just are not eating enough! It is not impossible to gain weight no matter what your metabolism is like, this is the worst excuse in the book! Sure, there are people who I would class as "hard gainers" those who don't gain weight easy due to fast metabolism's and high activity levels, but give me a month or two with these people and I would make them gain weight!

So just how much do I need to eat to gain muscle?

In this post I'm going to be focusing mainly on the diet aspect of bulking up, because without a doubt it is the most important part of it. You can have the best training routine in the world but without eating enough you will never gain a pound!

As a rule of thumb, if you are bulking up you want to aim for around 20 times your body weight in pounds. Example:

John weighs 140lbs, he wants to bulk up, he should be aiming for: 140 x 20 = 2800 calories.

This is a very basic formula don't forget and should be taken with a pinch of salt. An important factor to consider is activity level, what do you do throughout the day? Are you sat in an office all day or are you doing manual labour work? Calories should be adjusted to compensate for this.

If I eat that much I'm scared I will get fat!

Here is another big problem, the fear of getting fat can be a setback for a lot of people bulking up. To that I say this; for a thin person to get fat it would take them a ridiculous amount of calories and laziness over a large period of time! A surplus of 500 - 1000 calories will NOT make you fat in a matter of weeks, especially not if you are a 'hard gainer' and are following a decent training routine.

What kind of foods should I be eating?

When it comes to bulking up you will start noticing that you will be eating the same foods a lot, there is nothing wrong with these providing they are right foods. here is a quick list of the stuff you should be aiming for:

  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Wholewheat bread
  • Oats
  • Potatoes
  • Vegetables
  • Fish
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Fruit
Obviously protein is important, but so are carbs, don't neglect them. Healthy fats should also be included in your diet, these can be from sources such as; olive oil, certain nuts, omega-3 fish.

Ideally if you can avoid junk food then do so, however if you are struggling to hit your calories then a small bit of junk food isn't going to hurt you and for many can actually help to gain that weight. Shakes are also an ideal way to get a large amount of calories down you quickly. You can make these easy from milk, oats and protein powder, chuck some fruit in if you cant stomach them on their own!

Trial and error:

Bulking up requires a slight bit of trial and error work when it comes to adjusting your calories. I always believe that it is better to go slightly over your estimates than slightly under, especially when starting out! Like I said before, a few extra hundred calories a day is not going to turn you into the Michelin man, just make sure you are training hard.

Compound movements

When bulking up it is important you are training hard and with a decent amount of intensity. There are so many variations of training routines you can do, full bodies, split body parts etc, however providing you can include the following 'big three' then you cant go too far wrong:

  • Deadlifts
  • Squats
  • Bench Press
You should base your program around these 3 movements, they are the most effective and important exercises you can do, especially when bulking up, without going into too much detail they will work your whole body and promote growth.

That's it for now, follow these simple guidelines and you will soon bulk up, just remember that you need to spend as much time in kitchen (probably more!) than you do in the gym if you want to bulk up!

Happy training!

How to get a six pack quick

When it comes to training and fitness, one of the most talked about areas is getting a six pack, especially so for males! Men have always been hung up on getting that perfect midsection and most spend a lot of their gym time concentrating on this one goal. The problem is, most don't know how to properly train for getting rock solid abs, nor do they realise the their is a lot more to it that spending time at the gym doing endless sets of crunches. Firstly, lets debunk a few myths:

1: Crunches and sit ups will 'tone' the abs!

I really hate the word 'tone', it is so misleading, when people use the word 'tone' they are usually implying that a certain exercise will help them drop fat in a certain area of the body, in this case most people are still under the impression that sit ups, crunches etc will shed that layer of fat in the midsection.

The truth: There is no such thing as spot-reduction, which basically means you cant loose fat in just one area of your body, fat is lost as a whole, there is no exception to this, you can create the illusion of losing fat in a certain area of the body by perhaps developing the muscles there, but you will not have lost fat in just that area.

2: For best results, abs should be trained everyday.

People assume that to get that six pack quickly, you need to train the abs every single day.

The truth: Your abs should be trained like any other muscle, i.e not daily! they are like any other muscle and require adequate rest to grow. Remember your muscles grow outside of the gym, not inside.

3: The crunch is the best exercise for working the abs.

This is quite a large misconception and usually leads to a lot of people giving up getting a six pack. Many newcomers believe endless sets of crunches will give you a six pack, sadly this is not the case.

The truth: The abs should be trained like any other body part, and that is with resistance and with variation. Different exercises should be used frequently to prevent the body adapting to the same old routine.

Keep it simple!

Those 3 myths above pretty much sum up where 90% of people go wrong when it comes to getting a six pack. For these very same reasons most people give up after a week or two because they are not seeing progress. Here are the simple facts if you want to get a six pack:

  • -You must have a low enough body fat percentage to be able to see your six pack, this is achieved through diet and cardio! for most people it will be under 10%
  • -Abs are developed through resistance training and with adequate rest
Bear in mind, these are in order! Diet is key here, I cannot stress this enough, you can have the most developed abs in the world but if they are covered by a layer of fat you will not be able to see them! You must work on reducing your body fat percentage through diet, and cardio.

So back the original statement, how to get a six pack quick. Well, in all honesty the time scale depends on so many factors, but the two main ones are; your current fitness level (more importantly body fat percentage) and your current training plan. Your two goals to remember here are to reduce body fat percentage and to develop your abs.

Reducing body fat

Lets keep this as simple as possible. you need to create a calorie deficit, i.e you need to burn more calories than your are consuming, rule of thumb for females: 2000 calories a day, for males: 2500 a day. Your activity level will govern how many extra calories you need to burn or not consume. You can do this either way or both ways, but whichever way you do it, your body needs to be in a calorie deficit for the body fat to drop. The best bet is to experiment, drop a few hundreds calories and check your progress after a couple weeks, take daily photos and weight checks (although weight fluctuates throughout the day so this isn't always a great indication, however if you are doing it daily you can usually start to see patterns)

Developing your abs

Again, lets keep it simple! You should be training your abs up to 3 times a week depending on your current routine. The best exercises for really developing your abs are;

  • -squats
  • -deadlifts
  • -dragon flags
  • -planks
  • -weighted crunches

Most of these can be found on exrx or a quick google search will bring them up! If your having trouble with any feel free to contact me.
I could talk about this subject for hours but I wanted to keep it as simple as possible, when it comes to training abs (or training in general) complicating things with only frustrate you and waste your time, keep things simple but work hard and frequently.

Happy training!