Anyone who has been following this site, following me on twitter or watching me on QVC with my yoga DVD, knows that my favourite sentence is…….exercise is the closest thing to an anti-ageing pill! I do very much believe this to be true and there is mounting evidence to support it. We’ve been looking a lot at diet in the last few months and now I think it’s time to look at exercise more closely. And what better place to start than at the gym? Here trainer, Rhys Brooks gives us an overview of how to work out and maximise fat loss while doing so. You will see that he mentions nutrition and diet as well and that he too recommends the 80/20% ratio of eating! 80% of the time eat well and 20% of the time indulge! And he and Fleur (my expert diet nutritionist) haven’t even met! Honest! Funny how the same lifestyle message keeps coming up, isn’t it
The difference between staying fat and shifting fat
I see it every day. People coming into the gym, thinking that an hour of exercise two or three times a week is going to peel away the pounds or miraculously turn back time to when they were 5 kilograms lighter. I’ve been witness to people’s futile attempts to get over their plateau and actually change their body shape.
Having worked in commercial gyms for over 8 years, I can unequivocally say that losing weight is a battle. It is complicated, frustrating and at times almost impossible. There are no quick fixes. No miracle pills. But as in any life situation, to win the fight you have to be prepared. Prepared with the right knowledge and game plan. And prepared to put up a hard fight.
The first step in turning a losing battle into a victory is to establish where you are going wrong. I have identified the 10 most common reasons people will struggle with fat loss. From here you will then understand the necessary changes you will need to make to win the war on fat.
- Lack of intensity –I stand by the statement ‘no pain, no gain’. If you are not experiencing some form of pain, be it from lactic acid, burning lungs or pumping muscles, you are not working hard enough. I see too many trainers and trainees exercising at sub par intensities that simply will not deliver results. On entering the gym, leave your ego behind. Push yourself. You’re hair will not stay perfect. You’re face will go red. You will sweat. Damn, you may even attract a few raised eyebrows. But stay focused, get out of your comfort zone and remember to see long-term results you will have to experience short-term discomfort.
- Lack of consistency – I’ve seen so many people start off strong but then lose all hope and give up when they do not see immediate results. Truth is, these things take time and require consistent training and nutrition. So before you even set out, get it in your head that you will only really start seeing results after 6 to 8 weeks. Being good for 2 weeks but then going on a binge or skipping a week at the gym is just going to wipe away any progress you have already made. For best results stick to a structured training program performed 3 – 4 times a week. Studies have shown that trainees will experience 50% more results with 4 sessions per week over 3 – a strong reason to try and squeeze that extra session in. Regarding nutrition, I like to see my clients follow the 80/20 rule – 80% of the food they eat must be nutritious and from whole foods and the other 20% is at their discretion. If one can be consistent with both exercise and nutrition they will reap the rewards.
- Too much emphasis on cardiovascular exercise – Day after day I see the same people on the same cardio machines exercising at the same intensity expecting to change their body shape. This may work for the first 6-8 weeks until they reach a plateau. After that, no matter how long they run on the treadmill, nothing’s going to happen.You see human beings are not designed for long, steady-state exercise but rather spurts of high intensity cardio. Run away from the bear and up a tree or run after that deer until you’re in range to shoot it. Understood in this respect, steady state cardiovascular exercise is actually quite unnatural and is interpreted by the body as a stress. The body responds with an increase in stress hormone cortisol, kicking in survival mode where the body down-regulates and the metabolism slows. Good indicators that you may have been over dong the cardio is the inability to lose belly fat, sleep disturbances and digestive issues – all brought on by increased cortisol levels. Thyroid hormones may also be affected as a result of too much cardio. A constant cold body temperature, especially cold hands and feet, is also a sign of excessive cardio.A more effective and time efficient form of cardiovascular training for weight loss is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) where short, explosive bouts of exercise are coupled with longer duration recovery periods. A common HIIT protocol is 30 seconds on, 2 minutes off for a total of 20 minutes. Please note that those 30 seconds are performed at 100%, all out effort.
- Lack of resistance/weight training – Next time you are in the gym take a look around at the girls who lift weights seriously and I stress seriously. Then go have a look at the girls on the cardio equipment. I guarantee the leaner trainees are in the weights room. A carefully structured weight training program is one of the best ways to change your body shape. Males and females alike need to get lifting to shift that unwanted body fat. The process of muscle breakdown and repair is quite energy demanding and will help increase your basal metabolic rate, meaning your body will continue to burn calories once you leave the gym floor. Ladies, avoiding weights because you’re afraid to get too muscular is an unwarranted excuse. To get big and bulky you need testosterone – a hormone that woman simply do not have enough of. So stop worrying and start lifting hard and heavy.
- Poor nutrition – Changing your body means changing your lifestyle and pivotal to this is changing what you eat. If you want to look good, 80% of your results are determined by nutrition. This is an extremely difficult task, especially because most will follow what they are led to believe is a good diet by the food companies. I regularly see gym goers snacking on ‘health’ bars and drinks, thinking they are of benefit to their weight loss efforts. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth. Sadly health food companies try and flog products, carefully disguised as being healthy but which are in fact deceivingly filled with sugars, hidden ’bad’ fats and inadequate nutrients. One of the worst campaigns I have seen to date is the Special K challenge. This is a great way to drop a dress size in a few weeks, it is also a great way to ruin a woman’s metabolism and have them regain all the weight and then some a few months down the line. As stated previously, to get the best results your diet needs to come predominately from whole foods. Shop in the fresh foods section and (within reason) avoid anything that is packaged. Also try make your meals from scratch. Ready and prepared meals lack real nutrients and are laced with additives.
- Lack of organisation – Preparation is the key to success with an exercise/nutrition regime. Firstly it is important to plan when you are going to exercise. These times must be locked in the diary and committed to. Don’t be tempted to hit the snooze button or use working late as an excuse not to exercise. Organising your nutrition is just as, if not more, important. Take the time to carefully plan your meals. Do the necessary grocery shopping beforehand and use the night before to prepare and pack your meals for the day ahead. Online nutrition programs such as myfitnesspal are great tools for tracking your food and keeping you organised. Tupperware can be your best friend too! Leave nothing to guesswork. If you know exactly what you are going to eat and how you are going to train, it leaves little room to stray.
- No exercise program – Training without a set exercise program is a sure way to set yourself up for failure. You need to have a structured program that has been put together by a professional and is designed in such a way that it takes your goals, recovery, ability and training experience into consideration. A program is also a great way to track your improvements and ensure you are making progress. I recommend that an exercise program change every 4-6 weeks, after this time the body has adapted to the program and will no longer change. A new type of program is then required to provide a new stimulus and further adaption can then take place once again. This is known a periodization.
- Lack of commitment – Commitment goes hand in hand with consistency but takes it beyond just going to the gym regularly or not deviating from your eating plan. Commitment is a mental state. An attitude of implementing everything you do with 100% intention and enthusiasm and following through, no matter what. Before starting an exercise program you must be 100% true to yourself and commit wholeheartedly to seeing the program through. There will be times when you are not liking the program, feeling tired or when the pub or warm bed is calling your name. It is at times like this that you need to remember your commitment to yourself and keep that end goal in mind. A training partner or personal trainer can be a great in keeping you committed. Another tip if you feel like throwing it in, is to visualise all the associated positives that will come from reaching the end goal – new clothes, comments from friends, more attention from the opposite sex, a healthier body, a younger you, lowered stress levels – the list goes on.
- No set goals – In order to go somewhere you need to know where you are going. The goals you set need to be positive and realistically attainable. Getting lean is not an ideal goal. It is too broad. I find it is better to set a series of small achievable goals, working towards each one every 4-6 weeks. This method helps increase exercise adherence as achieving small, attainable goals is very rewarding and increases and perpetuates motivation. Some good examples are body fat percentage goals or exercise performance goals such as a distance travelled in a certain time. The one thing I would not do is set your goal as weight lost. This method may play tricks on you, especially if your body responds well to resistance training and you add more muscle than fat lost. If this happens the scales can stay still although you will definitely be dropping body fat.
- Hormonal imbalances – The female hormonal system is complex and can work against the exerciser’s best attempts to lose body fat. The most common hormonal imbalance I see in females is estrogen dominance. A body higher in estrogen will store more body fat in the hips, thighs and bum. What causes this imbalance? The enormous amount of chemicals and pollutants that the human body is subjected to in today’s world. Many of these mimic estrogen in the body and create an imbalance in the hormonal system. They are refereed to as xenoestrogens. The liver should detoxify all xenoestrogens. However as we are subject to so many, the liver struggles to detoxify these compounds. You can reduce your estrogen load through avoiding paraben laden cosmetic products, the oral contraceptive pill and microwaving food in plastic. Always drink filtered water, use glass bottles and wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly. Eating broccoli, cauliflower and flaxseed is also known to fight estrogen dominance. Keeping your liver healthy is extremely important in dealing with this issue. Supplements that can help reduce estrogen loads and improve liver function are DIM and Calcium D-Glucrate. A daily fibre supplement can also greatly improve the removal of xenoestrogens from the body. This is not just a female problem, many men these days suffer from estrogen related issues. Prostate enlargement and man boobs are prime examples of this. If you wish to know more about this topic contact a Biosignature practitioner who specialises in fat loss through hormonal modulation.
Personal trainer & Nutrition Consultant
BA Sport & Exercise, CHEK, FMA and Bio-signature practitioner.