Hitting YO MACROS!

I often get asked for food or recipe ideas from people following IIFYM. They may only have limited macros left and aren’t sure what they could have to ensure they hit their daily requirements.

I’ve been doing this for a little while now, and I also have a background as a chef (many years ago!) so it is relatively easy for me to come up with different combinations at the end of the day to ensure I hit my macros. I’ve also got a good memory for which foods are made up of what. The longer you follow flexible dieting for, the easier it gets to "wing it" and come up with meal ideas at the end of the day too, so I have a few tips that might help you on your way. 

Something I have found that really helps is to have a few items on hand that are mainly just ONE of the macronutrients. It is easier to fit in JUST carbs rather than something that has carbs and fat – you may not have enough fat left but still have a heap of carbs to hit. Items like this are very handy to help you hit your macros at the end of the day, especially when you are just starting out too.

Carbs – I won’t lie, one of my favourites is gummi bears!! But if you feel like a “healthier” option, then fruit is always a good source of carbs and also provides fibre, which is important. I go through an absolute tonne of bananas – they are such an easy snack to take somewhere with you. Apples are great too, and are lower in carbs than bananas. Berries are also handy, especially if you do not have many carbs left but still need a little something . Most fruits will be just carbs, with virtually no fat or protein to worry about (apart from avocados of course!)

Veges are the same, although a couple are actually higher in protein than carbs (broccoli, Brussels sprout) things like pumpkin, beetroot, parsnips and potatoes are all great sources of carbs along with salad vegetables. Fruit and veges are also great sources of fibre, so its important to include them in your diet. More on fibre later…

Rice or corn thins are good sources of carbs too – the “Real Foods” corn thins have about 5C per serve. I have also come across “Be Natural” trail bars. These bad boys have much less fat than most muesli bars (1-2g) and about 20g of carbohydrate (5-6g sugar, 4g fibre) so again, an easy snack to take out, and hardly anything to feel guilty about!

And one last thing I’ll mention is honey! This has no fat or anything, just simply carbs. Much like golden syrup and treacle…  And wine… just putting it out there… ;)

Protein - there are a number of great sources. Protein shakes are really good as they are quick and easy, and it is so easy to find one that is low carb and fat these days. Genetix Nutrition lean whey from Nutrition Warehouse is really good with 32.3g of protein per serve and I use this every day. Great for baking and in smoothies too!

Chicken and fish are also great sources of protein, most fresh fish has between 20-30g of protein per 100g with white fish being relatively low fat. Fresh tuna has even less fat so is a great option to help hit your daily protein. Salmon contains about 24P and 15F per 100g so one to watch out for if you have hit your fats already.

Cooked chicken breast and kangaroo are both great low fat sources of protein. Other red meats are also a really good however just be mindful that you also must have some fat spare to fit a delicious steak or some lamb chops in for dinner! Cottage cheese is also another good protein source as it is low in fat unlike most other cheeses which I’ll cover off under fats!

Fats! I use butter. I use a lot of it. Well not a lot a lot, but if I have spare fats and am cooking I will cook in butter. And I use it on my toast. It tastes good and fats are important! I am also not an advocate of margarine or other plasticy spreads so I prefer to use things like butter and full fat milk over “fat free” or “low fat” alternatives.

Natural peanut butter is a good source of fat but it does contain protein as well. I use Sanitarium natural crunchy peanut butter, which is mainly fat, but protein is up there too. Other nut butters (you can even make your own) and plain nuts are great sources of fat. Macadamias are particularly high with 76g of fat per 100g. Almonds have less fat and more protein.

Avocados, whole egg mayonnaise and cream cheese are also some of my favourite fats. Other cheeses can be high in fat, but most also contain a good amount of protein as well, with some containing even more protein than fat. Haloumi, Parmesan and Mozzarella have more protein than fat – not by much – and cottage cheese is also higher in protein. Cottage cheese is relatively low fat compared to most other types of cheese though.

85% Lindt dark chocolate has slightly more fat than carbs, however most chocolate (milk choc, and chocolate bars especially) is higher in carbs than fat, some chocolate even has 2-3 times the amount of carbs than fat, which is mainly made up of sugar. Eggs (yolks) contain fat, and the white is the protein. If you have not got a cholesterol problem, then eggs are really good for you, yolks included! 

Fibre. Fibre is something I used to struggle to hit (along with fats) when I first started counting macros. I made a real point to look for foods that were high in fibre to ensure I hit 20-50g of it each day. Now my carb allowance is a lot higher I find it much easier to hit fibre, but starting out with less carbs it was difficult.

Carbs and fibre go hand in hand. In some instances people will take the fibre count off the total carb amount (depending on the nutrition label – this seems to be common in the USA) however going by Australian food labels, most of them will list fibre in its own category, under or near the total carbohydrate amounts. Sugars are also listed under the total carb amounts, but they are included in the total carb figures. I usually don’t bother entering in the sugars separately (in to my fitness pal) just the total carbs (plus fibre, protein, fats, and calories – calories only because the app requires it) sugars are carbs. And if you have hit your fibre and other micronutrient requirements then there’s nothing to say you can’t hit the rest of your carbs with sugars anyway, your body processes all carbs the same way.  

Anyway, I came across a few high fibre items:

Kellogs Fibre Toppers are pretty much just fibre! I add these in with my muesli and they’re also good with greek yoghurt, protein pudding etc. Wholegrain pasta – I found this to have more fibre than normal pasta, so when my carb allowance was lower I used wholegrain (instead of the dinosaur pasta I have now!!) 

Fruit and vegetables are really good sources of fibre, especially broccoli, pumpkin, mushrooms and berries. Beans are also a good source of fibre (they also contain carbs and protein). Baked beans have 5-6g fibre per 100g and they are not full of sugar and “bad things” at all, even though people still seem to think they are!

Coles brand muesli is also pretty good for fibre. I used to use Carmens, but switched to Coles – their serving size is bigger, with very similar amounts of carbs/fat/protein, yet twice the fibre! A serving of this, along with a serve of those fibre toppers takes care of a good chunk of the days fibre target for me.

And last but not least one of the best things I have discovered as a source of fibre is Bakers Delight “High Fibre Low GI” White bread – available in loaves or buns. 2 thick slices of the large loaf total 30C 1F 6.2P and 6.8g fibre. And one of the buns (great for home made burgers) has 27C 0.9F 5.4P 6.1g fibre. I use this every day (yes WHITE BREAD) and it is delicious! 

Is a Calorie a Calorie...?

Is a calorie a calorie? In short, yes. A calorie is a unit of measurement. Just like a cm is a cm, and a tonne is a tonne, a calorie is a calorie.

One calorie is approximately the amount of energy it takes to heat one kilogram (or litre) of water by one degree Celsius. Calories measure energy.

Calories come from macronutrients – protein fats and carbs. 1g of protein or carbohydrate is equal to 4 calories, and 1 gram of fat is equal to 9 calories.

Yes a calorie is a calorie in terms of energy however getting 100 calories from carbohydrates is different to getting 100 calories from fat, or 100 calories from protein. The amount of energy (100 calories) provided by each macronutrient will be the same however the difference is that the body will use or process carbs and fats and proteins differently.

If you are simply counting calories, and you are in a calorie deficit then yes you will lose weight. Calories in vs calories out. Eat less than you are expending. However if you want to instead lose fat, and/or gain muscle then you must look further than simply counting calories, and instead count your macronutrients.

By counting macros you are counting calories by default (calculate by multiplying protein by 4, fat by 9 etc) however this way you are ensuring that you are getting the right amount of each macronutrient for your goals. If you are trying to build muscle and lose fat, yet you get all of your calories from fat then you’re gonna have a bad time.

To preserve and repair muscle you need protein so this is important if you are doing a lot of weight training. Proteins get broken down in to amino acids in the stomach, then travel through to the small intestine and are absorbed in to the bloodstream and distributed through the body to repair injuries and replace old or dying cells. Digestion of protein doesn’t begin until it’s in the stomach, whereas carbs start to digest in the mouth. If you are hungry then the first thing people usually reach for is a carb, this will “satisfy” you straight away because you start to digest it pretty much straight after eating. Protein takes time to digest, it makes you feel fuller for longer but if you are hungry it will not give you that instant satisfaction like a carb does. Anyway the point here was that protein is required for muscle retention and gain, so make sure you get enough of it especially if you are doing a lot of weight training.

Carbs are essential for energy, and also muscle growth. Carbs get converted to glucose and this is then used as energy (in a nutshell). Simple or complex carbs will affect insulin levels differently. They both have their place - simple carbs during a work out will get in to your system faster and give you instant energy, whereas complex carbs (from vegetables, wholegrains etc) take longer to digest and provide energy over a longer period of time. Hence the reason why low or high GI carbs can affect how full you feel after eating. In terms of body composition there have been a number of studies done on the affects of using low/high GI carbs and overall, body composition remained the same regardless of which type of carbs were consumed. It comes down to personal preference as to the type of carbs you include in your diet. The same amount of carbs from a sweet potato or a white potato will be processed in the same way, and give you the same end result, the only real differences between the two would be their micronutrient values. 

Being that carbs are essential for energy, you need to make sure you are consuming enough for your daily activities and exercise. I have a high level of exercise with HIIT and weight training so I must fuel my body accordingly. I also need to make sure I am consuming enough carbs to assist with muscle growth.

And fats. Fats help with a number of processes in the body. They are essential for nerve and brain function and form a structural part of the brain tissue. Fats also help maintain normal heart function, and healthy skin cells. Essential fatty acids aren’t made in the body either so we need to incorporate fats in to our diet to cover this as these are required for growth development and cell functions. Fats also help transport some vitamins through the bloodstream (A, D, E and K) and also assist with forming hormones required to regulate a number of body processes.  And the biggest thing? FAT IS FLAVOUR! A fat free diet makes for a boring tasteless diet and we all know the pitfalls of that! Ha!

So yes, a calorie is a calorie, and expending more calories than you are consuming will provide weight loss, HOWEVER if you have specific goals around wanting to lose fat (to lose fat rather than lose weight is a much better goal in my opinion), gain muscle etc then you must look further than simply counting overall calories. Counting macronutrients instead will be much more beneficial. 

How to IIFYM!

Ok so you’ve calculated your starting macros, now what? It all seems a bit daunting. How do I start this? What do I do? How do I know what foods are made up of? How do I track everything? What about calories?

I get asked a lot of questions about iifym and how to actually do it. It can be overwhelming at first, and to be honest it is tricky BUT I promise it gets a whole lot easier. It’s amazing what you will learn by “dieting” this way. You’ll learn about what is actually in the foods you’re eating. And will learn more about how your body works, which foods are better and what you can and cant get away with.

Think of IIFYM like having a daily allowance. You have to learn to budget. If you spend all of your carbs by lunchtime then that’s too bad if you want pasta for dinner. BUT you can have pasta the next day so it’s not that big of a deal.

Each day you will have a certain amount of protein, fats and carbs that you need to hit. It is important to try to get as close as you can (within 5g either side is perfect!) to your daily targets. If you don’t eat enough, this can be detrimental to your results (not eating enough can cause your body to store fat) and eating too much, obviously, can lead to unwanted weight gain. BUT if one day you go under or over by a substantial amount don’t worry. Just get back on track the next day and you will be fine. As long as you are consistently getting close to your macros 80-90% of the time then it will work. If you’re going way over or under every day then it won’t.  For something more specific like a comp prep then its obviously better if you are more accurate.

The longer you do this for, the better you will get at hitting your macros too. And most people get to a point where they could pretty well hit their daily targets without having to physically track it.

I use the My Fitness Pal app to track my macros. I update my total daily calorie target (goals, custom setting) and used to adjust the macronutrients using the percentage split option. You can now enter in each macro by the gram, rather than the percentage split so your macro goals are exact. To do this you must run this add on when you are signed in on a computer: http://karoshiethos.com/2013/08/13/javascript-bookmarklet-for-enhanced-macro-goals-in-myfitnesspal/ total calories must be correct first (1g carb or protein = 4 calories, and 1g fat = 9 calories) then you can enter in each macro by the gram. The app will give you a running total and amount remaining for each goal you have set (protein, fat, carb, fibre, sugars, vitamins etc if you set these). 

Don’t worry about daily calorie targets or totals in the app as many of the foods entered in the database aren’t correct. Some days the app tells me I have gone 400 over on calories when I have hit my macros perfectly. These calorie totals don’t matter.

Adding food. When I first started this I had no idea how much of everything was in the foods I ate. You can search the app and quite often it will bring up a couple of entries for the same food. Some only have a calorie total and no protein/fats/carbs. Don’t use these ones, make sure you use an entry that includes macronutrient values. Some will have different macro break downs too – if it’s for something when out at a restaurant, check a couple of them and then pick the one you feel is best. You will get better at making educated guesses like this once you get more of a feel for what different foods are made up of.

For example, if I go out for dinner and have lasagne, and there is a lasagne entry that has 10C 10P and no fat, I wont use this one because I know lasagne has more carbs than this, and also some fat! If there was one with 80C 50F 40P and I thought it was a small sized portion then I might only add in ¾ of this portion.  These macros aren’t necessarily right, but they are closer than the other option, and as long as I’m only guessing like this every now and then it doesn’t matter.

I make sure I am accurate with tracking macros for food I cook myself. I cook my own food most of the time, and I have added a lot of foods in to my fitness pal so I know I am tracking as accurately as possible. The Australian Food Standards Website (http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/) has nutritional information on a heap of different foods and from this I have added in things like chicken breast, steak, veges, fruit and nuts. If you have packaged food then this information is on the packet so I have added some in using this, and also found a lot already in there that were correct as well.

When I first started, if I was trying to work out my last meal, I would add certain things in to the app and then check daily totals. I could then adjust the portion sizes and weights accordingly, check daily totals again and go from there to make things fit. I quite often use the decimal portion size option, that way if I enter new foods in per 100g I can easily add how much I am having down to the gram.

The longer you do this for the better you get at knowing what you can or cant fit in at the end of the day. Also, if there is something in particular you want, I find it best to add that in to the app first and then work backwards. During the week, I usually plan roughly what I am going to have each day the night before, or in the morning, but because of the flexibility of being able to have any foods you like you will find it gets easier to calculate on the fly.

Like anything, it takes practice and patience, it can be frustrating to begin with but it does get much easier the more you do it. Also, it is becoming increasingly popular, and if you find someone who has had success with this, chances are they will want to help you as much as they can as well. Who wouldn’t want to spread the good word about getting in shape whilst eating pop tarts and nutella?! 

Weights for beginners...

Ladies, don’t be afraid of the weight room! Lifting weights is what builds muscle, muscle makes you look good, and the more muscle you have the higher your BMR (basal metabolic rate) is – which means you burn more when you’re doing nothing! Since the majority of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) is during rest, then having more muscle is very beneficial!

Amount of weight, rep range, how many sets – it can all seem quite confusing when you’re first starting out. Also, a lot of women will stick to a lower weight and simply do more reps to get “toned”. Toned is not one of my favourite words. Increasing or building muscle is a better description of what you want to do (along with reducing fat) and the best way to do this is by lifting heavy!

Contrary to popular belief, females will not get “bulky” by lifting too much weight. Some women may find it easier to put weight and muscle on, but for the majority it is pretty hard. We simply don’t have enough testosterone to build muscle as easily as men.  

The type of training you do will depend on your own personal goals, however whether you are competing, or simply just wanting to get fit and look good, you will need to get comfortable in the weights room sooner or later.

As mentioned before, lifting heavy is the best way to build muscle and strength. And heavy weight means less reps and more sets. If you want to focus purely on strength, then rep range could be as low as 1 rep per set (1RM / 1 rep max) or sets of 2-3 reps. If you are doing less reps then you would usually perform more sets. The idea behind lower reps is that you can push more weight as you only need to perform a few reps at a time. If you had to get out, say 10 reps, then you would have to drop the weight accordingly.

Different weight and rep ranges do different things. Anything from 4-12 reps is considered hypertrophy training – the lower end of the scale more strength focused and anything from 8 -12 reps more for size. (You want both)

I stick to this rep range for the majority of my training, with 6 x 6 being a bit of a favourite. If I am doing 4-6 reps I will do 6-8 sets. From 8-12 or even 15 reps I will usually do 4 sets.

A lot of people stick to the same 12 reps x 3 sets. The problem with this is that your body adapts and you may find it hard to progress. Plus doing the same thing all the time is boring. You need to keep your body guessing, and mix it up.

I prefer to go heavy as often as I can. Increasing strength is a great way to see your progress and it is satisfying when you’re able to add more weight to the bar and can see you are getting stronger.

I also know I need mix things up so I change my rep ranges and add in some volume training every now and then. GVT (German volume training) is a great way to do this, plus if you are feeling a little flat I think this is an easy way to get in a good work out without having to think too much – all you need to do is count! (People will probably think I am crazy for saying that!) If you know your 1RM then you want to lift about 60-80% of this for GVT. If you don’t, then you will have to make an educated guess, however I recommend going on the conservative side to start with as you can add more weight if need be. Plus if you have not trained like this before it’s probably going to be a bit of a shock to the body anyway! GVT is 10 sets of 10 reps. Yes 100 reps. Rest in between sets is typically around 60 seconds although you may want to rest for longer if you are just starting out. It may sound daunting to start with, but it is actually easier than you think, as all you need to do is count. One or two exercises with GVT would be enough to call a good work out. And compound exercises are great for this especially.

Compound exercises are exercises that use more than one muscle group. E.g. bench press, deadlift - these are great - if you don’t know how to deadlift I recommend learning, squat etc. And isolation exercises are exercises that are focusing more on just one muscle (e.g. bicep curl, leg extension)

Compound exercises give you more bang for your buck. You are working multiple muscles at once, which I think is more efficient. Isolation exercises also have their place and a combination of both is essential however I like to focus more on big compound movements to get the most out of my time at the gym.

Another way to make good use of your time is by performing supersets, tri-sets or giant sets. Supersets are when you combine 2 exercises in to each set. You can superset the same, or opposing muscle groups and you do not rest until after you have completed the second exercise.

Tri-sets are the same, just with a third exercise added in. And giant sets are anything from 4 exercises performed back to back within the same set.

Drop sets are also a good way to easily add more variation to your work outs (and more size to your muscles). A drop set is where you start with a higher weight and perform a low amount of reps (relative to the weight). You then drop the weight down and perform more reps on this weight than the first. And then drop the weight a third time and perform more reps, or keep going until failure. You can set how many reps you want to do on each weight, or some people will perform reps until failure on each weight instead. The amount of weight you drop can be anything from 10% up to 30% for “wide drop sets” although it’s really up to the individual. In each normal set you will only use a certain amount of muscle fibres. The reasoning behind a drop set is to recruit different muscle fibres and this helps stimulate more growth (without getting too technical).

You could perform a drop set just on the last set of an exercise, or drop set for all of your sets. They are a great way to keep your workouts interesting and shock the body.

There are many other different methods when it comes to weight training, but I think drop sets and super sets are 2 of the simplest ways to add variation to your work outs. Between these, and utilising different weight and rep ranges it should be easy to keep things interesting and shock your body. This is important to get results. So if you have been doing the same old 12 reps and 3 sets and not making any progress, try mixing things up a little. After all variety is the spice of life!  

Supplements!!

There are a lot of different supplements on the market these days, it is hard to know which ones are worth bothering with. I take supplements daily, so will go through what I use and recommend and explain why.

One of the most important things to get on to if you are weight training would be a good lean protein. There are several different kinds of protein on the market so something that has a blend of different proteins I think is the best value for money especially when you are just starting out. I use Genetix Nutrition lean whey every day. (You can get this from Nutrition Warehouse) Lean Whey has a combination of WPI (whey protein isolate – fast release protein), WPC (whey protein concentrate – medium release) and casein (slow release protein) so this is a great protein to have any time. Straight after a work out a fast release protein is beneficial. Before bed casein is best because it breaks down slowly, therefore supplying the body with a steady rate of amino acids while you sleep. Instead of having to get a load of different proteins you can get one that does it all. It tastes great even with just water and comes in 4 flavours. I also use Giant Sports peanut butter chocolate protein – I think the name says it all! Instead of using shakes you can get protein from other sources – lean meats, eggs, tofu, beans etc I have to hit a decent amount each day so a shake makes this a lot easier!

Each day I also take a multi-vitamin, a probiotic (inner health plus), fish oil and Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM. Lifting heavy puts extra pressure on joints so the Glucosamine Chondroitin MSM helps prevent damage to joints and helps renew cartilage in the body.

Fish oil has a lot of health benefits so this would have to be one of the most important ones for me. From reducing blood pressure and cholesterol, to reducing the risk of heart disease and some cancers there have been several studies done on the benefits of Omega-3 fats. Fats are also necessary for fat loss/control and can also help with brain function.

A multi-vitamin is a good way to get in extra vitamins and minerals without having to take several different pills or supplements. Certain vitamins are better for different things (e.g. vitamin c for your immune system) but I think a multi-vitamin is a good all rounder.

And a probiotic helps regulate inner/digestive health. I started taking these last year and have noticed a difference. If you get enough probiotics in your diet then extra supplements aren’t necessarily required (yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut and certain other foods contain probiotics/healthy bacteria).

Out of the above supplements I would say lean protein, and fish oil would be my top two. But it doesn’t stop there! The more you get involved with weight training the more supplements there are that will help with your training and recovery.

I use Genetix Nutrition Revive daily (a branch chain amino acid formula) during weight training, and also sip on this in between meals. BCAAs are 3 of the 9 essential amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) essential meaning our body cannot produce these on its own (you must get these from your diet - foods containing protein also contain BCAAs). BCAAs help with energy production during exercise, and prevent the breakdown of muscle cells. BCAAs from supplements as opposed to foods get straight in to the blood stream and muscles. The more BCAAs you have in your muscles the more they will be used for energy and therefore prevent muscle break down. There’s more to it than just that, but that’s just a simple explanation of how they work. I am a fan, and Revive comes in some pretty good flavours too.

I have also recently started using Genetix Nutrition Glycoload during my workouts. This is a complex carbohydrate so absorbs quickly. Carbohydrates are important for energy, and restoring your muscles glycogen stores which deplete during exercise. By having a continuous supply of fast releasing carbohydrates during a weight session this ensures your energy levels are high, and carbs also help muscle growth. I have noticed a big difference since I started using this and if you can spare some carbs to use during a work out then I recommend doing so! I find it helps keep my energy levels up, I feel energised throughout my whole work out.

Pre workouts – if I train before work in the mornings then I just have a coffee shot as my pre workout. For me, 5am is too early for anything too strong, as I don’t want to be crashing at lunchtime with half a day at work still left to go. I find a short black to be a good natural pre workout, and I drink coffee every day normally. Caffeine is a natural painkiller, it is also good for stimulating metabolism and has other health benefits (when consumed in moderation of course).

If I am going to have an especially hard session and am training later in the day then I do like to take a pre work out. I find that it helps keep me focused, and provides extra energy, although with my new found love of intra workout carbs a pre workout as well may not be necessary. Some pre workouts also contain fat burners so you can kill two birds with one stone by having something like this, and the extra fat burning ingredients usually make for an extra energy boost. As a rule I like pre workouts, the stronger the better, but you do need to cycle off them to ensure they remain effective.

Post workout – one of my absolute favourite supplements is Genetix Nutrition Full Force. This stuff is amazing. It’s a post workout recovery formula and has everything your body needs straight after a good weights session. Protein, carbs, creatine, amino acids (essential and non-essential) vitamins, minerals – everything you need for recovery and muscle growth. Plus the new chocolate flavour is seriously good.

Creatine – this is something I use daily. Some people cycle it, and use it for (example) 3 days on, 3 days off. I simply have one serve each day. Creatine helps with muscle recovery, and has been proven to increase muscle size, strength and endurance, and it can also prevent muscle break down. I usually add this to a protein shake, or BCAAs. Creatine is also found in foods like beef and fish, it can break down when it is heated/cooked though.

Glutamine – this is a non-essential amino acid, good for muscle recovery and can help with muscle soreness after a work out. I have this, but don’t take it daily anymore. If I am particularly sore or have had a big work out then I will use it.

Magnesium – this is great for muscle recovery. I use Bioceuticals Ultramuscleze magnesium formula. I used to use this on every training day, but haven’t been using it lately as I haven’t really needed to, plus I’ve got enough other stuff I take at the moment! If you get extremely sore after working out then this definitely helps!

ZMA – another good one for recovery and contains zinc and magnesium. I buy this in capsules (Genetix Nutrition) and it really helps with muscle soreness, recovery and can also help with sleep. Take them at night about half an hour before bed, I find these do help a lot with recovery and will take them after an especially hard work out and/or if I am noticeably sore.  

One other thing I use is a sleep formula. Sleep is very important, it’s when your body repairs and grows. I’ve had trouble sleeping for years and find this really helps. I still wake up during the night, but at least feel like I have had a good nights sleep come morning. Muscle Pharm Bullet Proof is good although I have heard its being discontinued. Currently I am using Dorian Yates GH Blast. If you struggle to get proper nights sleep then I definitely recommend giving this stuff a go.

If you are just starting out and getting in to weight training then I would recommend a lean protein to start with. Fish oil and a multi-vitamin would also be on my list for beginners.

For anyone that has been weight training for a while and wants to increase this, I would suggest adding BCAAs, a proper post workout supplement, and also something for recovery (ZMA and/or a magnesium formula).

And for those harry hard outs who love lifting all day every day, if you aren’t already get in to the intra workout carbs! Highly recommend it! 

Quick Fixes, Diet Pills & 2 Minute Abs!

I hate to break it to you all but there are no magic weight loss pills, or miracle cures that can make you lose weight without actually doing any work. Some of these “quick fixes” may work to start with, but we should all know the problems with this approach by now. (If not, read my post Calories In vs Calories Out)

There are fat loss supplements being marketed and sold to people promising extremely unrealistic results. Before and after pictures are being fraudulently used to promote these products as well, appealing to the majority of the population who are, lets face it, lazy. They would love a quick fix to actually work. If you can get great results without having to do anything except drink skinny me tea, or take African mango diet pills, of course people are going to try it. It’s only natural to want to get results without having to do any work.

The trouble is, none of these will actually work. Magical muscle building supplements, weight loss pills and teas, the latest exercise machines that promise rock hard abs in 3 mins a day – newsflash: THEY ARE A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY!!

You cannot lose weight and get "toned" simply by taping an electric muscle stimulating machine to your stomach. And any sane person should fail to see how fat cavitation machines can actually physically work in any way, shape or form. Wrapping yourself in a weight loss sauna wrap or squeem to “lose inches off your waist” is absolutely absurd! Anything that guarantees results by doing little to no work in just 2-3 minutes a day is a lie. 

The ab circle pro company was ordered to pay back millions of dollars (up to a total of US$25m) in refunds after losing a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit. Their marketing team falsely promised a firm, flat stomach in just weeks not months by using their product for only a few minutes a day, amongst other deceptive claims.

Skinny Me Tea – a weight loss “supplement” (laxative tea) has several fake before and after pictures on their website and Instagram account. There have been numerous health issues caused by this product with one girl even becoming hospitalised after using the tea. Yet they still have several Instgram accounts after having their first one closed down, and are STILL promoting this product. And there are thousands of people still believing their ridiculous claims, following them online and buying it in the hopes that it will make them lose weight.

Of course you will lose weight by taking blatant laxatives but this will only be very temporary. Once you stop taking them the weight will go back on. Plus it would mostly be water weight anyway.

The Lemon Detox Diet is another one that people are still falling for. I have actually done this myself many, many years ago, and wow what a joke! (I bought in to the whole cleansing thing which was in hindsight very stupid!) It is simply starving yourself for your choice of 7 or 9 days. Well, not entirely starving yourself, you get all of the nutrients you need from a concoction of maple syrup, lemon juice, water and cayenne pepper. Between that, and drinking salt water every morning (yes, DRINKING salt water) it is guaranteed to make you lose weight. Its also guaranteed to make you tired, hungry and miserable especially for the first few days. Your taste buds get destroyed by the salt water breakfasts and then any weight that was lost goes straight back on once you're done. And more. And you've completely wasted at least one week of your life. 

Fat burners. Some fat burners don’t necessarily get rid of fat. However, HIIT cardio will, and so will eating in a calorie deficit. Combining a fat burner with proper diet and training couldn’t hurt, but you will get pretty good results just by eating right and training anyway. Some fat burners are useful in the final stages of comp prep, although sometimes you end up using a whole lot of supplements at once and cant tell what is working and what isn’t. Remember that you can do a lot just with proper diet and training.

Using a preworkout supplement that is also a fat burner can work well as the extra ingredients can give you more of a kick, and its not being taken just to “burn fat” You need to combine training with nutrition to get results, there are no two ways about it.

The quicker you lose weight, the quicker you put it back on when you come off the supplement and go back to what you were doing before. Many people will gain even more weight. These supplements have many side affects and wreak havoc on your metabolism, immune system and hormones to name a few. This can make it harder to lose weight again, and the cycle continues. The sooner people accept that there is no “easy way” the sooner they can start to make lifestyle changes that they can sustain. And this is what gets results. Consistency.

Small changes are enough to start with and instead of focusing on how far you have to go, breaking it down to what you need to do each day and week makes it easier to manage. Instead of trying to lose 10kg for example, a better way to approach it could be to make sure you go to the gym 3 times a week. Or if you are completely new to exercise, walking for 20-30 mins a day is a great place to start. Walking during your lunch break or getting up half an hour earlier in the mornings to walk are easy ways to fit this in with your lifestyle. Once it is part of your normal routine then make another small change, maybe more of a focus on diet and nutrition. The next change could be to add some resistance training two or three times a week, and so on.

Trying to do too much all at once gets overwhelming. People focus on the end result and this is why quick fixes, fat burners and weight loss teas are very tempting. But overall they just cause more set backs. By focusing more on the journey, consistently doing what you need to, and taking things one day at a time then the rest just takes care of itself. All of a sudden you see how far you have come, and this is much more important than focusing on how far you still think you have to go.

Nothing will get you better results than time, consistency, determination and hard work. Learn to enjoy the journey. Trust the process and the results will come. Don’t bother wasting valuable time or money on quick fixes – if something sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is! 

The Fitness Industry

The fitness industry as it stands is a bit of a mess. There is so much misinformation in the media about fitness, health, and diet. And it seems that every second day there is a Courier Mail Facebook post about the dangers of sugars (fine, in moderation), or about protein being worse for you than smoking (Layne Norton has a great article that responded to this) or some other such thing.  No wonder people are so confused when it comes to weight management!!

Competing in bodybuilding / bodysculpting competitions is also gaining more popularity. I think it is a great goal to have, as long as you are doing things the right way and looking after your health. Wanting to compete to get in shape is great, but starving yourself to do it defeats the purpose of living a healthy lifestyle.

Because of this influx of competitors, it seems every second person now is a contest prep coach and/or a personal trainer, and I know the Australian Institute of Fitness is pumping out PTs like its going out of fashion. It seems to be about quantity over quality and as long as they are paying then that’s all that matters. It is hard to find someone that actually has their clients best interests at heart, and also knows what they are doing.  

It is all too common to hear of trainers promoting low calorie cookie cutter diet plans, advising clients to do endless cardio sessions, and drop their calorie intake to well below what is considered normal for the average person to lose weight. And there are still people listening to them simply because they don’t know any better. I have heard some absolute horror stories. We all have.  

There are so many (girls especially) on dangerously low calorie diets, eating little to no carbs yet they are expected to walk on a treadmill for 2 hours a day and train with weights? This is a blatant set up for failure and binging. If you are in this position now, please RUN AWAY!!! If you know someone in this position then tell them to run away!! And instead of trying to drop 10% body fat in 3 weeks to compete (not possible) first start by working on not only your metabolism, but also your relationship with food.

These low carb and low calorie diets seem to be the underlying cause of many of the other issues. Insecurities with body image, obsessiveness with exercise, eating disorders, banned substance abuse can all stem from drastically lowering calorie and carb intake. It is only recently that people, myself included, have started to speak out about these problems and bring them to light. The fitness industry is not necessarily so glamorous behind the scenes.

Do you know the average amount of calories given to prisoners in concentration camps with less demanding labour assignments was around 1,300 calories per day? And those engaged in hard labour were given around 1,700 calories per day? Google it…

Yet for some reason the magical numbers floating around in the fitness industry at the moment are 1,200 calories for females, and 1,500 calories for males. That is crazy!! Of course you are going to lose weight if you STARVE yourself!! Or worse, you pay someone else to tell you to starve yourself.

A study on the effects of short term dieting showed that 95% of people who lost weight on a “diet” put the weight back on (recently I heard that it was now 98%). That is huge! And while the low carb low cal diets work quickly in the short term, this is how some supposed coaches are making their money, using cookie cutter diet plans and starving their clients. It is a quick fix. If you look at something like the Michelle Bridges 12 week challenge, it is nothing more than that. And as soon as people go back to eating “normally” once they have finished they will gain the weight back that they lost anyway. And you cannot survive on low calorie forever no matter how great you think you feel eating so little.

These supposed fitness industry professionals have access to so much information, studies and research papers online, yet they still preach old fashioned, out-dated weight loss protocols and most see their clients as nothing more than dollar signs.

Ashy Bines is another prime example, literally advising young impressionable women to starve themselves to lose weight. Telling them not to eat LETTUCE because it contains too much sugar?? I’m sorry but that is absolutely absurd.

Almost as absurd as Tracy Anderson's latest book which states on the cover that “this book weighs more than you should ever lift” or Susie Burrell (a well known nutritionist) stating that 50g of carbs is a large serve and you should aim for only 30g for lunch… It is NOT one size fits all and where did she even get those numbers from anyway?

I am not claiming to be an expert. But I do know that these people most definitely are not experts either. Spreading idiotic information like this is dangerous, because people are listening and following it. Why? Because they don’t know any better.  And because they seem to have great marketing teams (Bridges especially!)

I am not trying to sell “diet plans” or anything like that I am simply trying to create more awareness, and help people where I can by sharing my experiences and what I have learnt on my own journey.  I’ve experienced a lot of these issues first hand and know what damage it can cause. I’ve spent a lot of time researching and understanding what works and why, and I only wish I knew then what I know now! 

 

HIIT - Burn Fat Burn!

Shorter, higher intensity cardio sessions are most effective for fat loss and preserving muscle. HIIT (high intensity interval training) also increases your cardiovascular fitness very quickly, so this is a great way to get fit fast.

Many people get stuck in the mindset of simply burning calories. Yes cardio burns calories, but you want to be efficient with your time spent doing cardio. You also don’t want to be burning the muscle you are working hard to build. Too much steady state cardio can also raise cortisol levels as it stresses the body. This doesn’t help with fat loss!  In fact, it can actually make your body store fat.

If you opt for shorter more intense cardio sessions you will burn more calories overall anyway, as you continue to burn fat long after your have finished your session. There is also the added benefit of it taking less time, leaving you with more time for other things. Training is enjoyable, but you don’t necessarily want or need to be spending hours doing it to get results. Work smarter not harder! I mean work smarter AND harder…

2-3 HIT cardio sessions per week should be enough. Then the rest of your training should be made up with weight training. Weight training is excellent for burning calories as well, and builds the lean muscle you want to make you look good. Also, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn while at rest.

It is best to keep cardio and weight training as far from each other as possible, and HIIT cardio is best done on a completely different day to weight training.

Currently I do 3x HIIT sessions each week. I usually like to do these after work on Mon, Wed and Fri. I prefer to do weights early in the morning so I usually do a weights session on Tues and Thurs mornings before work, and on the weekend. This way I get to sleep in on Monday mornings, and also have one HIIT ticked off early in the week. If you have a routine, and work your training in to your lifestyle you’ll I find it’s a lot easier to stick to.

My HIIT sessions are usually sprints on the treadmill. This way I have a timer, and can easily set the speed to what I like. Plus I like running a lot more if it’s short and at a higher intensity:

5 min walk to warm up, then 5x 3 min rounds of the following:

Jog at about half your sprint speed for 2 min 30 sec

Sprint for 30 sec – total 15 mins (5x 3 min rounds)

(Then 5 min fast walk to cool down at the end) All up it will take less than half an hour.

When I started off I was sprinting at 16kmph. Now I am sprinting at 18, 19 and 20kmph! I jog at 8.5kmph and have kept this speed the same as this gives me enough time to recover in between having to sprint.

And it should be a sprint too, not a run or a jog. Its only short, 30 seconds so make it count!

There are a number of other things you can do for a HIIT session if running isn’t your cup of tea. The idea is to get your heart rate up high, for a short amount of time, then recover. I sometimes use the rowing machine for something different, and would use a ratio of 2 mins steady/slower pace, and 1 min of going all out (I tried the 2:30 and 30 split but found this much too easy) plus the same 5 min warm up and cool down either side.

Another one I like is tabata on a stationary bike. Tabata is a Japanese style of interval training, and uses the time split of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest and usually 4 min rounds (so 8x work/rest cycles in each round) This is also common for circuit style training, so you would be on one exercise for a 4 min round (e.g. jump squats / lunges etc) and then change to the next one for the next 4 mins.

If I do tabata for my HIIT cardio, I complete 18-20 mins using the 20/10 split. 10 seconds is not a lot of rest. Its hard, but 18 mins is not a long time. I do the same 5 min warm up, and cool down either side. All up 28-30 mins.

The more you do HIIT cardio, the easier it gets because you simply get fitter. It is great for cardiovascular fitness, and is the most effective way to burn fat.

It’s also easy enough to do something at home without any equipment. Tabata work outs using simple body weight exercises are a great way to get your heart rate up (those jump squats I mentioned, push ups, lunges, I would say burpees but I think they’re horrible so I never do them, star jumps, skipping etc)

Anything that gets your heart rate up, its only for a short time so suck it up and remember the pain is only temporary, it will subside! Plus you’ll feel and look great afterwards.

Instead of doing hours of boring steady state cardio, switch to a couple of short HIIT sessions a week and see what a difference it makes! 

How To Calculate Your Macros

Ok, so having a specific goal for your protein, fats and carbs each day seems like the way to go, but how do you know the amounts of each that you will need?

There are a couple of ways. The easiest would be to get a coach, or someone to do it for you. You let them know roughly what you have been eating, and some other info like body weight, height, etc and they can calculate your macros. Online coaches are relatively inexpensive, and will also alter your macros as needed. I find I am more successful if I have someone I am answerable to. And as I am competing again then I like to have a coach to help me with this as well.

Paul Revelia (www.prophysique.com) does my nutrition and macros for me and I would definitely recommend him as a coach.

There are also some great online resources available www.melvfitness.blogspot.com.au and www.soheefit.com both have e-books on how to calculate your macros specifically. And www.nickcheadlefitness.com has a flexible dieting guide if you sign up to an online newsletter. I haven’t read these personally, but I do follow these guys on social media and like what they have to say about it all.

Alternatively you can work out your own macros, and there are a couple of ways to do this. One is that you track all of your food for a week then you simply average out the amount of fat/protein/carbs you are having each day. If you have been maintaining on this amount of food, then these would be your “maintenance macros” or, if you have been gaining/losing weight on this, then these are the macros that you would be using to gain/lose weight. It’s a good starting point at least.

The problem with doing it this way is that your total calorie intake may be about right, but your macronutrient split might not be. For example, if you lowered your fat intake and increased your carbs/protein but kept total cals the same, you may get quite different results. Although, still a good starting point and with a bit of trial and error it shouldn’t take too long to get it right.

The other way to calculate (easier) is to use an online macro calculator. This will be less personalised but again, is good as a starting point and you can change it as required. www.iifym.com/iifym-calculator It will calculate your TDEE as well. You need to add in your height, weight and some other information. You may need to guess a couple of things, some boxes have different options so either try a couple of different combinations and then work out an average of those, or I would suggest using the “Athletes formula” formula in the first section unless you know your body fat percentage.

In the second section if you are looking for fat loss I use “suggested” as I think its better to start off this way, and then if you find you aren’t getting the results you still have room to move. If you reduce too much too early then this gives you less room to move later on. Otherwise choose to maintain, or bulk etc. 

In the third section use “IIFYM” and for protein I use 1-1.15g per lb of body weight (if you are used to eating less protein, use less but probably no less than 0.8g) and for fat I use 0.35-0.45g per lb of body weight. If you know you work better with higher fats then adjust this. I would say it is a safe assumption that a lot of females would be on a relatively low carb/cal/fat diet by default so around 0.35g could be a good place to start. 

I also aim for 20-50g fibre each day.

I use the My Fitness Pal app to track my food. You can change the total calorie goal on the website (on the homepage go to Goals, Change Goals, check “custom” and Continue.)

You can add your total calorie goal and then split your macros in to different percentages. Or if you run this add on ( http://karoshiethos.com/2013/08/13/javascript-bookmarklet-for-enhanced-macro-goals-in-myfitnesspal/ ) you can split your macros down to the gram. If you just split so it’s as close to my exact macros as possible, and then go off my running daily totals. E.g. my “protein goal” in the app might show as 148g but I know I actually need to get to 160g for the day.

To calculate your total daily calorie intake, you use your macro amounts:

1g of protein, and 1g of carb = 4 calories.

1g of fat = 9 calories.

So from this you can see how a small amount of fat can easily add up to a lot of calories.

After getting your macros set up, and utilising the Fitness Pal app to track, I would give it a good couple of weeks to see how its working. A great way to monitor progress is to take photos – so a before one, and then each week or every second week take progress photos to compare. 

You may feel as though it isn’t working, but when you compare photos it makes it easier to see any differences. If you are looking and feeling better, and seem to be dropping weight (if fat loss is your goal) then once you are where you want to be, then you could look at doing a reverse diet and slowly adding calories each week.

Alternatively if it doesn’t seem to be working (fat loss) then drop your carbs and fats slightly. The smaller the drop, the slower weight loss will be and the LONGER you will keep the weight off. Remember this is not about a quick fix. Don’t get tempted to drop a whole lot of calories to lose weight faster. Slow and steady wins the race.

A total calorie drop of around 100-200 cals (depending on totals) would be a good deficit amount to begin with. Keep protein the same, and decrease calories using carbs and fats. Bear in mind that fats are important for weight loss so don’t use them for the majority of the decrease. 

It can be a bit tricky working out what foods to have when you start off. If anything, to begin with it makes you more aware of what you are eating, and as you get better at it you will find it easier to hit your daily marcos more accurately. I am at a stage now where I know what I can fit in without having to go through the app to add it. You get a feel for it the more you do it, and some people eventually stop tracking and just go off intuitive eating, which is the same as IIFYM but you don’t have to physically track your food, you know what you should be eating each day without it.  

If you aim to get within 5g of each macronutrient consistently each day, then you will be fine.

Also remember its not the end of the world if you have slip ups – this can happen especially to start with, and is not worth beating yourself up over. Its best to just not worry about it, move on and get back on track the next day. You will find this happens less and less as well, and if bingeing has been an issue in the past it should eventually stop with flexible dieting. Woo! Enjoy the pop tarts! 

Stupid Scales

Instead of trying to “lose weight” the focus instead needs to be to lose fat.

Weight loss, and drops on the scales can be from a number of things, one being water retention. You may lose 1kg in a week, however that 1kg is most likely water, and your fat levels have remained the same. But you lost 1kg, so you are pleased with the results. Alternatively, and more often than not, this also works the other way. You may have gained 1kg on the scales yet your body fat has dropped and muscle increased. Or you may simply be retaining water. But that 1kg gain wreaks havoc on your mind, you think you have failed and you may as well eat a whole block of chocolate now because you’re a fatty anyway. (For more on this check out “Stress, Hormones and your Mind”)

We all know that muscle is more dense than fat. 1kg of muscle takes up less room than 1kg of fat. And muscle looks better than fat. Because of this, the scales can EAD. I currently weigh myself once each week, however this is to advise my coach of where I’m at so he can make adjustments. I get dexa scans done every 3 months and this shows much more accurate progress. After going up on the scales for 3 weeks, I decided that yes I will track weight because he asked me to, BUT I will take measurements as well because those numbers started messing with me. Once I decided I don’t care about those numbers, woah and behold I am feeling leaner and I am also suspecting that the scales will show a drop this week now anyway.

If you are of an average (or even a bit above average) size then you should try to forget about those scales. For people who are very overweight, or obese then the scales will still be a good indicator as to how you are tracking, but only to start with. There will come a time where you should stop weighing yourself, and use other means to measure your progress. Dexa scans are the most effective way to track progress especially for athletes as they give an extremely accurate break down of muscle/fat in each part of the body. For those of us simply wanting to get in shape or “tone up” and lose a bit of fat, then a simple tape measure is something you should invest in. By taking measurements of your hips and waist (also thigh, chest, bis, etc if you like) this will give a good indication of how you are tracking. You may go up on those stupid scales one week, yet your waist measurement is down 2cm. Success! The scales are looking pretty silly now, aren’t they?

So stop worrying about what they tell you and throw them in the bin! 

Me & Dieting

I competed twice in 2012. Previous to this, I had been through several weight loss/gain cycles. Years ago I had lost weight by counting calories and doing a lot of cardio, calories in vs calories out right? And it had worked. But then I gained the weight back slowly. Then I repeated. And, same thing again gained it all back and more. I changed my diet and started “clean eating” and found a passion for weight training. I was in fantastic shape, and decided I wanted to compete, but then lost I my job. Everything got out of control and the 8kg I had lost, went straight back on over the course of 3 months, plus an extra 2kg. That 10kg gain shocked me, and I started another low calorie diet along with a high level of weight training and cardio. I lost it within 3-4 months, and competed. At the end of my comp prep I was down to very low calories, walking 3 hours a day AND doing 5 heavy weight sessions a week. I am glad I competed and got a taste for it, but losing the weight that quickly (my own fault for putting it all back on, too many beers!) did not do my metabolism any favours, especially considering my history with weight loss/gain. I had a very all or nothing attitude and I believe this contributed to the excessive weight gain after losing my job.

After competing I had a break from “dieting” and could finally eat something other than chicken, asparagus and egg whites. I ate mainly what I thought were “healthy foods” but found that after about 6 months I had gained weight again. I decided I would drop calories again, and do some extra cardio. It didn’t work. I dropped calories again. Nothing. Even more cardio. No change, and I was even starting to gain weight. Shit.

Fat burners!! I decided that I must need a little extra help, and went off to get some fat burners. Lucky I did.  Instead of fat burners, I came out of the supplement shop (Nutrition Warehouse – they’re awesome!) with lean protein, vital greens, multi-vitamins and probably the best advice I have been given in regards to my health and well being. “Google Layne Norton and watch his video blogs” This was after an explanation on what happens after doing low calorie diets over and over again to lose weight. Thanks Elle you’re a legend! And we need to do another crazy leg session again soon!

For anyone wanting information on health, fitness and training seriously look up Layne Norton. His way of explaining things on his video blogs is simply fantastic. (www.biolayne.com)

His credentials are pretty damn good too with a PhD in Nutritional Sciences and a BS in Biochemistry along with pro natural bodybuilder and pro power lifter status (2 current power lifting titles) so you could say the guru of all things health and fitness.

Anyway I began to watch these video blogs, and they made a hell of a lot of sense. I had been through the exact things described (hours of steady state cardio, low calories etc) and from watching these videos straight away I saw the issues with what I had been doing. There was a better way. And it involved pop tarts!!

I emailed Layne to enquire about coaching, but as he was not taking on any new clients he referred me on to a close friend of his, Paul Revelia. Paul is also a pro natural body builder (IFPA and NGA) with over 20 years experience and an excellent reputation in the industry - another guru of all things health and fitness. (www.prophysique.com) I have been working with Paul since September 2013, and since then have gotten my metabolism back on track. I am no longer binging. I no longer get cravings. I am eating MORE than I ever have before (and a tonne of carbs!) I am not limited with the foods I eat. I have gained muscle and dropped body fat (see my dexa scan results in “Calories In vs Calories Out”). I have increased my cardiovascular fitness a ridiculous amount (sprints at 20kmph!) and increased in strength with my weight training. I can comfortably bust out 10 unassisted chin-ups (close grip) and I’m up to 7 for wide grip. Absolutely smashing it! Before, I couldn’t even do one!!

The training part has always been easy for me. I seem to be naturally strong, and also very competitive which helps. Diet is the thing I have struggled with. Since I started using IIFYM last year I have learnt more about how my body works. It has taught me how to eat in moderation, and how to eat for my goals. And having someone as knowledgeable as Paul to help me has guaranteed my success. I have a totally different mindset now towards diet and training and even competing. I compete to show off the hard work I am putting in to my training, and I compete with myself. I am enjoying the training and the journey so much more now that I actually get to have a life, and am not tied to a restrictive diet. I can actually go out and have pizza (and cake – I did that last night!) yet still get the results I want.

I only wish I had known about this sooner!!

At this stage I am on track to compete at the end of 2014 – IFBB Figure. I am keen to share my experiences along the way and what I have learnt so far to help others who have been in the same situations as I have. 

Stress, Hormones and your Mind

Your mind plays an important role in your weight management. Once I decided I not to worry about the number on the scales (and that I was NOT going to look at my belly each morning in the mirror either, like I had been doing) I have actually felt leaner. By stressing, and thinking about that belly fat (which is the last place it goes from on me! There and my hips… grrr) this can affect your cortisol levels.

Cortisol is the stress hormone. It rises when you are stressed, worried, or doing things to stress the body (e.g. hours of steady state cardio is pretty stressful on your body… yep too much cardio can actually be very detrimental to your fat loss – mind blown or what??)

When your cortisol levels are high, your body finds it very hard to burn fat, and will do what it can to hold on to it. Fat loss will stall, or sometimes even weight gain will occur (cue water retention again) and this will make you even more stressed that your plan isn’t working, usually promoting you to cut more calories and/or do more cardio, thus magnifying the problem and making the whole situation worse. I know, I have been through it and it is extremely frustrating!!

Worrying about not losing weight, and especially thinking about problem areas non-stop can actually make it more difficult to lose the weight. If you instead focus on the journey, and trust the process, weight loss will come naturally. The most important thing to remember is that consistency and moderation are the keys to success. If you consistently go to the gym x amount of times each week, and consistently eat what you are supposed to (most of the time) then this is what gets results.

By not worrying or stressing about numbers or having to lose weight by a certain time and instead just enjoying exercising and eating well you will feel happier. This will help balance your hormones, and you will look and feel better for it. If you create a lifestyle that is sustainable, with foods and exercises you enjoy you will never have to worry about your weight again. 

Clean Eating vs IIFYM

I was a “clean eater” for quite a long time. I would say that most people now following IIFYM would have been clean eaters at one stage in their lives. I honestly thought I LIKED chicken and broccoli every day. Hell I felt great, I was looking great, I was still eating what I thought was a lot of food (albeit extremely low carb/cal/fat) but what I didn’t realise was that this behaviour was creating a bad relationship with food and I would go so far as to say an eating disorder.

Clean eating is an interesting one. From what I understand, it is eating mainly whole, unprocessed and natural foods. Sounds sensible and healthy?? Well its not necessarily. There is no limit as to how much of these healthy foods you are allowed. This to me is a pretty big flaw. Almonds, and avocados are considered “clean” or healthy yet they are extremely high in fat therefore they are calorie laden. Based on “clean eating” you can eat 3,000 calories worth of almonds but not gain weight. Hang on… What if your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) is only 2,500 calories? And you haven’t just eaten almonds; you’ve gone nuts on avocado, chicken and broccoli and all the rest of it. YOU WILL GAIN WEIGHT.

Another thing is the amount of focus there is on eating vegetables. When I was eating “clean” I would have for dinner, every night, no less than 3 heads of broccoli, a zucchini, and a green capsicum stir-fried with my chicken or steak. THAT IS A LOT OF VEGES! Cooked vegetables create gases as they break down in your stomach, which can slow digestion and make you feel bloated. Your body is an amazing thing and can adapt very quickly, so I can only assume this is how I coped with doing this for months on end… Your body needs variety in order to function properly.

3 hours after this massive dinner there would be a ginormous green salad with salmon. Every day. Except on a cheat meal day…

I do not agree with cheat meals. I think they encourage binging and the idea that some foods are good and some are bad now does not sit well with me. This is the very thing that started my problems with food. By labelling something as bad, you immediately want it. You will crave it, its human nature. And when you crave something it can be difficult not to give in - it will usually happen sooner or later. Once you give in you feel tremendous guilt, you have failed not only yourself but your coach/trainer as well. You have wrecked everything so you may as well go all out and have a real big splurge seeing as everything is ruined with your diet for today. Not good.

Or, if you are good and have great will power instead of giving in to that craving then you will hold off until…. Your CHEAT MEAL!!! Yes, once a week (some people do it more often) you get to have a whole meal completely “off plan.” That is, anything you want and best of all it is GUILT FREE. Yes. NO!!! Just because you eat only chicken and broccoli and clean foods during the week does not mean you should go out and binge! Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of being a clean eater? You don’t want that processed crap in your body? Please. If clean eaters are so dedicated and hard core because they only eat whole foods and look after their bodies during the week then what are they doing binging on a whole pizza followed by a chocolate mud cake and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s on the weekend?

Ok that was a bit of a rant. But you have to admit it makes sense. I understand some people do not binge and they go out and enjoy a nice meal for their “cheat meal” and that is that. Or is it? I started that way too but then, after depriving yourself so much during the week it is only natural to start to want more during your cheat meal. You wont get a chance to eat like this for another whole week! More often than not it can turn in to a cheat day, or a cheat weekend even.

The reasoning behind a cheat meal is that it should raise leptin levels (fat loss hormone), however the way a cheat meal is perceived as a free for all, 9 times out of 10 a cheat meal can actually cause damage. Insulin levels can also rise causing you to crave more after that initial hit.

Having a more controlled approach and using what we call a reefed day will give the same rise in leptin but without the same binge/risk factor as a cheat meal. Refeed days are high carb days (woo hoo!) and are calculated specifically to encourage fat loss and muscle gain. It is best to do a weights session on a reefed day too so you are getting the most out of those extra carbs! 

IIFYM or flexible dieting has actually fixed my little problem I had with binging, as I do not need to wait for a cheat meal to have something I want. I can have chocolate every day if I like. Not blocks and blocks of it, but if I want some I can easily fit this in, in moderation.

Because I can eat any food I like any time I like, I actually no longer have cravings like I used to. This also means my macros are right. If your macronutrients are right you should not get cravings, you should not be hungry and you should have enough energy.

More often than not people think that dieting should be hard. You should be hungry and suffering. Who on earth would want that? If someone told me years ago I could get in shape, feel great, AND eat the foods I like (and not just chicken and broccoli everyday) I would have been listening!! You CAN eat whatever foods your like in moderation and get results. And this is sustainable long term.

Flexible dieting for life!! 

Food, Nutrition & Dieting

Diet/nutrition is the most important thing when it comes to weight management. You may have heard the saying “you cant out exercise a bad diet” and while this is true in theory, it doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the foods you like and still get results. What?

After experimenting with every way to lose weight under the sun - low cal, low carb, clean eating and crash diets (I even tried that stupid lemon detox diet years ago – don’t ever ever ever ever try this BTW) – and after completely and utterly wrecking my metabolism and my relationship with food, I came across this wonderful magical thing called flexible dieting or IIFYM (if it fits your macros). It. Is. Amazing. 

In a nutshell you can eat the foods you like (anything… yes A-NY-THING you like) but the catch is that you can only do so in moderation. Not a bad catch to be honest. And it WORKS. I have had the most success with this approach and this is shown in my dexa scan results. I also no longer have cravings or succumb to binging like I used to, and have learnt to enjoy all foods in moderation instead of labelling foods as good or bad. They are ALL good, in moderation (even refined sugar, shock horror yes I eat tim tams and lollies check my instagram account for proof!)

IIFYM is not counting calories, but it is a similar concept. Flexible dieting is counting macronutrients. Macros are proteins, fats, carbs, and we will also count fibre. This form of “dieting” recognises that each individual has their own specific macronutrient requirements, specific to their goals. It also recognises that whereas you may be used to eating chicken and broccoli to get lean, there is no reason why you cannot swap that chicken for a different form of protein with the same macronutrient profile.

It does not matter WHERE you get your proteins, fats and carbs from, it only matters the AMOUNT you have.

Now I know what you’re thinking, you can’t possibly get all of your carbs from sugar and still function normally. No, that is not the idea. By default you end up consuming mainly whole foods, as you need to hit your fibre (which is difficult if you just eat junk) and other micronutrients (vitamins/minerals etc) however as long as these micronutrient daily totals are satisfied then you are able to make up the rest of your macronutrients with “junk” if you wish. The idea is to have the supposed naughty foods whenever you feel like it but just in smaller amounts. All foods really are fine in moderation. Even gluten (to which only a very small percentage of the population is actually allergic), sugar, WHITE CARBS, pizza and fat and so on. What matters is the amount of these foods you have, and whether you like them or not. If you like something have it, if not don’t.

It can be a little tricky at first, but it gets much easier. It also makes you more aware of what you are eating, and enables you to make better choices.

If you want to use over half of your daily fat allowance for one piece of cake, then that is up to you. I have done it, and it was actually really interesting to see how such a small (ok medium) sized piece of cake stacked up against my whole days requirements. It was approx. 1/3 of my total carbs for the day, and over 1/2 of my total fat for the day. Do I do that every day? Hell no. But I was able to enjoy cake for my partner’s birthday without having to go without, which is what I would have had to do previously, or wait for a “cheat meal”.

Speaking of cheat meals…. My post “Clean Eating vs IIFYM” covers these off…  

As for IIFYM or flexible dieting, one of the reasons I believe it is so successful is because it is sustainable long term. If something is too limited, and you are hungry all the time then it’s very difficult to stick to.

It also helps people become aware what is in the food they’re eating, and thus makes it easier to make healthier choices. It has fixed the issues I used to have with cravings and binging, and there is a lot of science and research to back it up, along with my own personal results, which I cover in my post “Calories In vs Calories Out.”

The key for a successful nutrition plan is to find something that works for you. I personally think IIFYM is the best way to do this. Some people prefer “clean eating” and having a cheat or binge meal once a week. I do not think this is an effective way to be eating and think it causes a lot of problems with peoples relationships with food, however if you’re happy sticking to chicken and broccoli every day then that is entirely up to you. I simply voice my opinions on what I have tried, and what I think works or doesn’t work with my reasoning behind these opinions. I hope the information I post is useful to you on your weight loss journey.