Tuesday, 30 December 2014

A resolute challenge

The new year is fast approaching and that means new year resolutions are made and broken. It is well known that resolutions usually fail. I typically believe that goal setting and creating new habits trump a fragile resolution any day of the year. I have written about goals and goal setting before in this article.To add value to the idea of goal setting is the idea of a challenge. Adding one challenge that you want to accomplish for the year. Now you would say a challenge and a goal are basically the same thing. I could understand why you would say that. The difference I find is that a challenge gets you out of your comfort zone. A challenge would be trying some stand up comedy, public speaking or rock climbing if you are afraid of heights. A goal doesn't require you to necessarily get out of your comfort zone but a challenge does, a challenge requires that you face a fear in some form. How many challenges you set is up to you, my advice is the further you think you will be out of your comfort zone the less challenges you should set. I personally only set one challenge for myself, to swim a kilometer which may seem more of a goal but I am a baaad swimmer and I will be well out of my comfort zone. I have already rock climbed and skydived so the challenge of heights is out of the way. What challenge will you set yourself this year?

Monday, 22 December 2014

The silly season is upon us.

It is the Christmas crunch and health and fitness gurus are writing articles on how to survive the silly season. I don't want to write an article about how you should do it, I do want to write about things I do, have done, that work for me. You may take some ideas from here and you could apply it to your silly season.

I keep a food diary and I have talked about this in the past in articles. I am sure some of you still don't keep a food diary and have no desire to start. That is your prerogative but I have found that keeping one allows me to not only track my energy needs and intake but educate myself about what foods I eat. You may argue that good quality food choices are enough but what if you think something is good when in truth it isn't. For example a food diary can help you understand that a granola bar is really a sugar bar with oats. If you prerecord your meal you are also more likely to stick to it. Further more alcohol can loosen our appetite morals and we begin to just eat whatever. A food diary I have found makes me more disciplined.

I use the food diary to see how my energy bank account is looking for the day and something looked at even less the week. Off course sometimes I go over my calories during the season, I can't preempt everything I will consume. I don't get pedantic about that and if I take note of the week I remain under overall. I still however try to get 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit a day this will aid in my training quality.

I do apply a rule to myself if I find myself asking if I need or want to eat something I just say "meh" shrug my shoulders and don't eat it or say "no thanks". If I have to ask I probably have had enough. If I get someone pushing me to have more I always ask if they are having more this helps me redirect away from me eating and puts that person on the spot. The big one is booze, alcohol, poison I will try to have 1-2 glasses of water before and after drinking this helps keeps me hydrated and avoid a hangover. It also keeps me quite full and reminds me to drink a little less as often people can get carried away in the silly season. I like to drink in moderation and bear in mind that it does have limited value nutritionally to me. Yes there are benefits of moderate alcohol consumption but moderate can quickly become a bender.I also plan ahead I will not drink and drive as it is just stupid really.

I keep to a plan for training as well. I don't try to train away poor food choices because I do put conscious effort into making good food choices. I do write my training plan for six weeks to incorporate more caloric usage in my training which allows me to chase longer harder sessions as I do have more time due to holidays and more available energy.

More importantly this season I will take the time to let go and relax. I do have a plan for training and eating but if I miss a session on a day due to other commitments I don't get worried. I have seen people get anxiety about it ,hell I've been one of those people but more importantly I take the time to be thankful for what I have. I stop and just observe and listen, I feed my well being. Commonly I hear that we should appreciate things and people everyday but I live in the real world and it is not everyday I appreciate and grasp what I have around me. The final thing is I appreciate what I give more then what I get and this is from a material point of view. My partner and I enjoy giving good gifts and we strive to find things that will add value and meaning to those we give. If we don't get something material it doesn't matter what matters is we gave. Enjoy the silly season take a moment stop and breathe it in and appreciate it and those around you.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Supplement not enhancement

Being involved in the health and fitness industry I often get asked two questions, “What do you think of X supplement?” or “Do you want to sell some supplements for some extra cash?” The answer to the first questions is varied. The second one is always a polite no, this question in particular can quickly become annoying when you have worked in this industry for as long as I have. It is often also followed by another question, “What do you take?”

That one is an easy question, the two main supplements I take are fish oil and a magnesium powder with zinc. I take 2-6g of fish oil a day, I do this because there are many proven benefits to taking fish oil. If you want to know the benefits just do a Google Scholar search. But mainly I take fish oil because I am not a big seafood eater. I started to eat some fish in recent years but I am not a shellfish, crustacean fan at all. My partner says I am crazy and perhaps I am but I can’t get past the fact they are the vacuum cleaners of the sea.

I take the magnesium/zinc supplement because I find many of our foods are deficient in these two nutrients, mostly due to farming practices. Being an active male these two nutrients are needed for the body to work well, such as improved Testosterone production (if you don’t have enough zinc) and improved immune system to name a couple. On average I take the Mag/Zinc powder every three days or so because if I take it daily I get powerful dreams. Not bad or good just powerful, this is reported in a variety of Mag/Zinc supplements. It also improves my sleep which is a article for a different time.

I don’t intend to take supplements like protein powders or creatine on a regular occasion because I believe my diet is generally varied enough. And in regards to the supplements I do take I am doing so to supplement my diet because I lack those things. But the issue I take with the supplement industry is the way they have convinced people that these things enhance you like superman. Let me say this simply supplements are created to give you something you are not getting in your normal diet. They do not and will not give you some kind of hulk like strength or other superpower. It never ceases to amaze me how many people are looking for the quick fixes and supplements are one of those things that are always touted to be just that.
One of the most common supplements I get asked about is Testosterone boosters which really costs a pretty penny. Firstly how does anyone really know if it works? You would really require regular blood tests to really note a difference. Even for those who swear they feel different, it is impossible to rule out a placebo effect. Also if the person was a young adult male then he most likely doesn’t need Testosterone.
What about the multitude of diet pills out there? Diet pills is a very close second for supplements I get asked about. Now I am not going to pull any punches here as some of these can be downright dangerous. These pills are supposed to “enhance” your fat burning ability. What they don’t tell you about is the long list of side effects that come hand and hand with it. Some of those can be quite dangerous such as kidney and liver damage.

There is no doubt that the supplement industry is massive and to be honest they have some really smart people working for them yet what sells and what is best for you are two different things. This can also be seen with large energy drinks companies touting that they have the formula to improve your workout. Yet a recent study showed no improvement to performance Doug Dupont does a great breakdown. http://breakingmuscle.com/supplements/study-puts-red-bull-caffeine-and-taurine-to-the-test

This leads me to the latest craze, Pre-workout “enhancements” not supplements. They are sold as supplements but they are enhancers. To be honest I have seen this stuff work but over time the effects seem to fade and they can be adverse to your health. I have heard this first hand from someone I weightlift with. He told me that whilst it improved his performance he had trouble sleeping and his heart would race like it was going to pound out of his chest. I guess this can draw a parallel argument in some ways to drugs in sport and that some people will do anything to get the extra no matter the results.
I think ultimately as an individual I choose not to take Testosterone boosters or pre-workouts and diet pills because they are not supplements to my diet they are enhancers and that is my choice. Off course what you do is your choice and ultimately these enhancers are short term fixes almost like shake diets. We need to change our habits, diets and routines if we want the best for our health and quality longevity.

WARNING: I am not a dietician or a doctor I am not providing advice on what supplements you should take and you should see a dietician or doctor to obtain their professional advice best for you and you individual situation. You will notice I do not have any affiliate links to the supplements I use as I am trying to sell anything in regards to supplements or enhancers.

Monday, 1 December 2014

What is it like in there?

When talking to people about health and fitness I enjoy watching the facial expressions. It is far more interesting to focus on what the body and face are saying instead of listening to the words. Sometimes words lie, even when the person doesn’t intend to. You can get so much more when you focus on the whole picture. Generally my favourite is the “Oh yeah” coupled with the raised eye brows, a very good indicator that what I have suggested is either to hard or they simply don’t care. I frequently get this reaction when talking about food, more specifically a fridge audit.

Now for those of you who have already participated in a fridge audit you already know what a great tool it can be. But to the many on the path to improved health and fitness it seems like it is unnecessary. For me the easiest way to explain it is if you were to get a home loan from the bank they will want to look at your finances before they approve it. The fridge is no different, if you are trying to get an idea of what a person is putting in their body take a look in their fridge. I was once asked by a patient “You want me to look in my fridge what’s yours look like?” Well I had a picture on my phone to show her. After looking at the picture she was quick to reply “You like rabbit food haha” she was joking and followed up with “You certainly practice what you preach”. I suppose she was right I do practice what I preach and I had proof to boot. That patient then went home and had a good look in her fridge. Now I am hoping some of you just got up and went and checked your fridge, if not please do.

So now let me tell you what is it you want and don’t want to find? It is simple. You want to find vibrant colours and plenty of variety. Just like a plate of food at meal time the majority should be vibrant vegetables, a small portion of meat and some complex carbs. Off course you would also like to find some form of yogurt or probiotic food and other dairies. Lean meats preferably grass fed or wild oily fish really as close to nature as you can get. What you don’t want to find is too many refined sugary drinks, pre-packaged meals and overly manufactured foods. The audit is simple and allows plenty of scope to choose foods that you may or may not be tolerant to.

So for those of you have mastered their exercise programs but are still struggling with weight loss or improved performance maybe the fridge audit is the way to go. And if you are feeling daring I would suggest a pantry and freezer audit as well. What is in your fridge? What cool things do you have in their? (no pun intended but it worked out well).