Are You Getting Enough Potassium?

When it comes to blood pressure and heart health one of the most common recommendations is to reduce your sodium intake. You often hear people saying “I need to cut down how much salt I eat”. But you rarely hear people saying “I need to get more potassium”. A new study from Boston University shows that people who have increased potassium intakes have reduced rates of cardiovascular disease.

What Are The Recommended Daily Allowances?

According to the Institute of Medicine (2005) the RDA for sodium is 2400mg and the RDA for potassium is 4700mg. That’s almost a 1:2 ratio of sodium to potassium and that’s what would be desired according to them. However, according to the Food Safety Authority in Ireland our RDA for sodium is 4000mg and RDA for potassium is just 2000mg. That’s a 2:1 ratio of sodium to potassium. Heart disease is a very common problem in Ireland. I wonder why? I don’t know about you but I’m going to side with the Institute of Medicine and researchers at Boston University on this one.

What The Boston Study Found

The scientists followed over 2,000 people, ages 30-64, and tracked their eating and health data over 12 years. When the study started, none of these folks had cardiovascular disease. They found that the more potassium people ate, the less risk of cardiovascular disease they had. Specifically, risk was elevated at potassium intakes of less than 2500 mg, but began to drop once people were eating more than that.

This is just another example of how you can improve your diet by adding something to your nutrition. In this case it’s potassium. Instead of cutting something out like almost every diet out there. It’s not my place to tell you reduce your sodium intake but it’s worth looking at what kind of ratio you might have.

Where Can You Get More Potassium?

Many fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, and legumes are packed with potassium. For perspective, here’s a shortlist of how much potassium a typical serving of a few popular foods contain. (List taken from

  • Potato (1 medium): 926 mg
  • Acorn squash (1 cup cooked): 896 mg
  • Spinach (1 cup cooked): 839 mg
  • Butternut squash (1 cup cooked): 582
  • Plain lowfat yogurt (8 ounces): 573
  • Sweet potato (1 cup cooked): 572
  • Kiwifruit (1 cup): 562
  • Clams (3 ounces): 534
  • White beans (½ cup cooked): 480
  • Cantaloupe (1 cup): 473
  • Banana (1 medium): 452
  • Soybeans (½ cup cooked): 443
  • Grapefruit (1 fruit): 415
  • Carrots (1 cup): 410
  • Milk (1 cup): 382
  • Pinto beans (½ cup cooked): 373
  • Lentils (½ cup cooked): 366
  • Kidney beans (½ cup cooked)
  • Split peas (½ cup cooked): 355
  • Navy beans (½ cup cooked): 354
  • Tempeh (½ cup): 342
  • Edamame (½ cup cooked): 338
  • Mandarin oranges (1 cup): 324
  • Cauliflower (1 cup raw): 320
  • Red bell pepper (1 cup raw): 314
  • Raisins (¼ cup): 307
  • Black bans (½ cup cooked): 306
  • Pork (3 ounces): 303



Training Splits

Which Training Split Is Best?

The answer to that question will be different for everyone. It all comes down to time available to you. Once you know how many training sessions you can do consistently every single week you can then make a plan of action. Obviously training once is better than no training at all. But training every single day isn’t optimal either. There is a balance that needs to be struck in your training week. There are loads of training splits out there. You could do whole body workouts, upper-lower workouts, push-pull-legs or body part splits etc. What it comes down to is the amount of time you have to fit training in and also what your goal is. 3 or 4 sessions per week is probably best. 5 or more and you really would need to make them a lot smaller and less intense. Most people just don’t have that kind of time either.

Choosing A Split

Before we choose a training split we first must make sure that it takes the following points into consideration.

  • Does the split provide enough frequency for each muscle group?

Ideally you want to train each muscle group two or three times a week. Annihilating each muscle group like in a bodybuilding style format probably won’t work optimally for the majority of people.

  • Will one workout negatively impact the following workout?

If you trained your back on a Monday you would have also used the other pulling muscles in your arms, your biceps and forearms. To then try and train biceps on a Tuesday will mean you won’t have as much energy in the biceps and so you can’t train that muscle optimally. This is an example of negative impact.

  • Is there enough recovery time between workouts?

Generally speaking the three variables in training are frequency, intensity and volume. Normally you would have two higher and one lower. All three together are incredibly tough on your body and would hurt your powers of recovery. If you want to train often and intensely (lifting relatively very heavy loads) you need to lower the amount of volume in each session. Train often with lots of volume means you won’t lift as intensely. And training intensely with lots of volume means you’ll need to reduce training frequency. Depending on how you want to train you can gauge how much recovery is needed.

Before we look at the different splits let’s get one thing out of the way. If you can only train once or twice per week you should do whole body training. Don’t even think about doing a different split. When you can do three sessions or more you can look at something else. Let’s get into it.

Whole Body Workouts

If you have time for 3 sessions in the week whole body could be good for you. You could train Monday-Wednesday-Friday with the weekend off. Or you could do Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. A typical session might include a lower body movement, an upper body pull and an upper body push. To fill it out you could do some core work or isolate arms or shoulders. Each session could vary the the exercises for each muscle group where you could have an A, B or C workout or you would switch between A and B from week to week. Every muscle group is trained frequently and you would adjust the intensity or volume without negatively affecting the following workout. A day rest between sessions as well as two consecutive rest days allow enough recovery.


If you have 4 training days you could use the upper/lower split to hit everything hard twice per week. It could look like this;

  • Monday – Upper 1
  • Tuesday – Lower 1
  • Wednesday – Rest
  • Thursday – Upper 2
  • Friday – Lower 2
  • Weekend – Rest

You can train with a higher intensity in each session as there will be very little, if any, negative impact on the following session. There’s only 2 sessions for each set of muscle groups so you can up the volume here also as there is enough recovery. If you aren’t a fan of training legs put abs or core work in here as well. that way you won’t have to spend the entire session on lower body muscles. And who doesn’t love training abs!?


This split is popular as it allows you to really focus on each session because they’re so different. You would have 3 training days or if you have a fourth you would just repeat the cycle. The problem I have with this split is that it only hits each muscle group once per week if training 3 times. Rather than making a possible fourth day the next workout in the cycle I would make it a whole body day. That allows you to work all body parts twice per week. I would set the week up like this;

  • Monday – Whole Body
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Legs
  • Thursday – Rest
  • Friday – Push or Pull
  • Saturday – Opposite of Friday
  • Sunday – Rest

All 3 splits will work well, it really would come down to the effort you put into your training. What to do in each session, exercises to use, reps, sets etc is more complicated and depends on your goals. That’s what people pay me for! The main thing is finding a training routine that you enjoy and are motivated to do. If you hate your training routine you won’t stick to it. Find what you like and make progress!

Don’t Bother Using BCAA’s

Supplement companies do a really good job of marketing their products to solve all your problems. A lot of men and women interested in burning fat and building muscle use some of these supplements. There are certainly good ones but there are also ones that are a complete waste of time. Branched Chain Amino Acids or BCAA’s fall into the latter category. Before I explain why let me go over a few protein and muscle basics first. This is what muscle is made of;

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Protein and Muscle Tissue

Protein is made up of 20 amino acids, which appear in different combinations and concentrations throughout the food chain. Nine of those 20 are classified as “essential” because your body can’t make them from other amino acids. You have to get them from a food source. Three of the nine essential amino acids – leucine, isoleucine, and valine – are the BCAA’s.

Skeletal muscle tissue, like everything else in your body is constantly being remodeled. It’s being broken down and rebuilt all the time. To build muscle you need the building to outdo the breaking down. The BCAA’s are great for starting the muscle building process. However, the problem is the signal they send by themselves isn’t strong and doesn’t last a long time. In studies comparing BCAA’s to whey protein, which contains the three BCAA’s as well as all the other essential amino acids, whey had a 50% greater impact on muscle protein synthesis and lasted several hours longer.

If you’re choosing between a whey protein supplement or BCAA’s just go with whey. If you feel like using both would be more beneficial that just doesn’t work unfortunately. Overall protein intake will be a greater factor to spike muscle protein synthesis. A good figure to aim for is 0.8 – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Even better if you can make that intake balanced throughout your meals and not all in one go at dinner.

Stress And Weight Gain

If you’ve been stressed for any period of time you may have noticed some weight gain. Or the case may be that it was somewhat harder to maintain your weight. But why, exactly, is stress a problem? We might eat more and exercise less, but is that all there is to it? And what are the underlying reasons? Thankfully we have some insights into this from researchers at UCLA in the US which showed why stress and obesity are so closely related.

How Stress Can Lead To Weight Gain

The following graphic is adapted from their review. The idea is that stress can affect numerous systems that are involved in weight control. Follow all the little arrows and you see that these aren’t isolated effects and that each one actually creates a feedback loop or a continuous cycle.

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Cognition – Stress can mess with your mental skills like thinking, planning, and organizing, as well as the ability to focus and manage your emotions.

Behaviours – Stress can influence eating, physical activity and sleep behaviours. Each of those can also affect one another.

Physiology – When stress hormones are higher they can make you want to eat more food or tell your body to store more fat. Stress increases your appetite for more feel good chemicals like dopamine. This in turn makes you want to eat really tasty foods (like the ones with a perfect mix of sugar and fat, ice cream or donuts for example).

Biochemistry – Stress may also influence blood chemicals related to weight control like leptin, grehlin and neuropeptide Y. These are responsible for suppressing hunger and appetite (leptin and neuropeptide Y) , stimulating hunger and appetite (grehlin) and stimulating fat storage (neuropeptide Y).

How Obesity Can Lead To Stress

With the addition of weight stigma we get another feedback loop and the vicious cycle goes on and on.

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Eating advice and nutrition plans can only go so far. The topic we’ve covered here shows that there’s often much more going on than the bare foods we eat. Getting the right amount of proteins, carbs or fats is almost made irrelevant if stress has its way with someone’s appetite, emotions and behaviours.

What Can You Do To Manage Stress?

While I can tell you that meditation has never been my thing, it has worked for many others. You could also de-stress by spending more time outside or in nature. Go for a walk with your partner, a friend or your dog. Schedule a weekly massage. Block off time for a hobby you enjoy. Listen to some relaxing music. Find what works for you and do it more often. When you get better at managing or reducing stress it might then allow you to make better food choices. Or eat appropriate portion sizes and amounts. You could get more deep sleep and be more physically active.

Many people might not even think of stress as something that’s stopping their progress. Instead they may be racking their brains thinking it’s something about their food or training. This is why having a coach who has done and seen all this before with tons of people could be beneficial to you. Someone who has all the answers to questions you haven’t even thought of yet. Get in touch if you want to make real progress and see a better version of yourself, mentally and physically.



Tomiyama AJ. Stress and Obesity. Annu Rev Psychol. 2019 Jan 4;70:703–18.

Creatine Supplementation

Google ‘workout supplementation’ and you are bound to come across creatine or creatine monohydrate. It’s been used for a long time simply by adding it to a drink and is relatively inexpensive. Creatine is also one of the most widely studied supplements out there. It benefits so many things and processes in our bodies that it would take a long time to cover it all. Too much to stay within the 5 minute max read time I want for my posts. You want quick, actionable info and I’m here to deliver it. But if you’re interested in the research you’ll have no problem finding paper after paper on the subject.

How Does Creatine Work?

To put it simply, it helps you build strength and muscle. The main way scientists believe it does this is through forming more adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Adeno-WHAT!? Stay with me. Think of ATP as your body’s energy currency. There’s an adenosine molecule and three phosphate molecules like this;

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Now for your muscle to contract it needs to take one of these phosphates away. A chemical reaction happens and allows you to lift a weight or sprint at a high intensity. That then leads to this;

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The ATP becomes ADP (adenosine diphosphate). The problem is your muscles only have a limited amount of ATP and can’t use ADP for energy. To maintain your high intensity sprinting or if you want to lift a heavy weight for another rep or two you need to find another phosphate to link up and make more ATP. That’s where creatine comes in. When you consume creatine through animal protein or supplementation, the creatine molecules bond with phosphate molecules.

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To form more ATP, the ADP takes the phosphate from the creatine molecule and you can keep on training hard.

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With the ability to complete more reps or an added set of an exercise you then are able to do more work. Over time you become stronger and can gain more muscle.

Who Could Benefit From Creatine?

With all the research done on the supplement and its documented benefits it would help almost everyone. That includes people who don’t train. While someone who eats a lot of meat or fish will have more creatine stores already, they might see less of a performance bump. However, most people don’t even get close to enough protein intake so meat eaters will still benefit. Vegetarians would probably see a more dramatic improvement.

How To Take It

The loading protocol for creatine is to take 5 grams four times per day for 5-7 days. After that time you can then just take 5 grams once per day. Or you could just take 5 grams per day and your stores will slowly but surely ramp up after a few weeks.

While I can’t say “take this supplement” or “take that supplement” this is just another case of me giving you knowledge on the subject and you can make your mind up for yourself. I personally have been taking it for a long time, have never had any issues with it and will continue to take it as part of my supplementation regimen.

Stepping On The Scales

What Do You Think When You Weigh Yourself?

Do you compare your weight to a previous weigh in or what you’d like to weigh? Maybe you wonder what you did to make the scales go up or down? Have you ever made an action plan after seeing your weight? University of Oxford scientists decided to find out what went through peoples’ minds when they weigh themselves. With this information they could see what thoughts might be helpful for weight loss.

Study participants weighed themselves every single morning for eight weeks. During and after every weigh in they were to think aloud, audio recording or writing their thoughts in a journal. This was to capture their thoughts in real time and in their normal environment.

What The Study Found

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As you can see, 90% compared their weight to a previous or goal weight, but hardly ever made a specific action plan. As it turned out, the only behaviour that actually helped weight loss was making a specific action plan. The study also gave a few interesting insights. These may or may not be familiar to you.

Weighing each day gave feelings of happiness, shame, frustration or guilt depending on the numbers. The daily weigh-in made participants think about what behaviours led them to that weight but didn’t spur them to make a specific action plan. However, it was noted in the study that some people said their results influenced their actions for the rest of that day. Some participants were left baffled by the results as they couldn’t make sense of the weight fluctuations day to day. It was often frustrating as they would eat well one day but then see the scale being higher the next. Half of the participants said they liked being weighed daily as it helped them keep track. The other half thought daily weighing was too frequent but would do it weekly to see the trending of weight loss or gain.

Hate It Or Love It

For some people weighing themselves can be helpful and motivating. Others may find it demoralizing or frustrating. My advice would be to use it if you can do so without getting emotionally hung up on the results. That goes both ways. If you feel absolutely delighted when you see a positive change but feel terrible with a negative change just don’t do it. There are healthier ways to measure progress than putting yourself through that emotional roller coaster.

If you’re someone who can use weighing as a helpful but objective tool try and make a specific action plan when you do. If you dislike using the scales try this instead. Measure your progress by improving your behaviours. It could be improving your water intake up to at least 2 litres. Adding more protein to more meals. Including more vegetables in your daily nutrition. When your behaviours improve like this the weight loss will happen as a consequence. You won’t need the scales to show you.

Paleo Vs Mediterranean Vs Intermittent Fasting

It’s A Triple Threat Match

Researchers in New Zealand pitted the three titled diets against each other in a year long study. They took 250 people classified as overweight or obese, asked them to pick one of the popular diets and then would check in with them twice in the year. Each participant was given written resources, a 30 minute face to face instruction session and an exercise plan. Other than that there was virtually no support. This was to mimic what happens all the time when people decide to follow a diet and go it alone without any coaching or support. Would one be much better than the others? Could the participants stick to the plan for the year long study?

What Did Each Diet Look Like?

Modified Paleo Diet: Participants were instructed to emphasize fruit and vegetables, animal protein, coconut products, butter and extra-virgin olive oil. They were also to avoid grains, sugar, and processed seed oil. However, to help participants stick to this diet some full-fat dairy could be included, as well as a serving of legumes and grain-based foods. This is why it was a modified paleo diet.

Mediterranean Diet: Guidelines for this diet were based on Harvard’s Healthy Eating Pyramid and emphasized high amounts of fruit, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, with moderate amounts of fish, chicken, eggs, and dairy, and red meat once per week or less.

Intermittent Fasting Diet: Participants could fast on any two days of the week of their choosing. This meant cutting calories to 500 for women and 600 for men on fasting days. Their fasting-day meals could be anything they wanted, but they were advised to select foods rich in protein and low-carbohydrate vegetables. On non-fasting days, participants could eat whatever they wanted but were given a general recommendation to follow a sensibly healthy diet.

How Did They Do?

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Adherence refers to the percentage of people who stuck with the diet for the full 12 month study even if not following the guidelines completely.

As you can see the fasting diet was by far the most popular choice and had the most weight loss. The adherence to the fasting and Mediterranean diets were both similar above 50%. The paleo diet was picked by the fewest and had the lowest adherence. People just didn’t stick with it and those who did lost the least weigh. That was a modified diet also, not the strictest form of paleo.

What Could This Mean For You?

The study results reflect what I see with gym members and clients all the time. People normally have a hard time sticking to a strict approach. In this case that was the modified paleo diet, which is arguably the most strict of the diets. When people have more flexibility with their food choices they lose more weight. In this scenario that was the intermittent fasting group.

Also consider this. The study was 12 months long with people who were overweight or obese. They had weight to lose. In two of the diet approaches just over half of the people stuck with them and only 35% of people stuck with the other diet. The most successful of all these people only lost an average of 4 kilos in 12 months! Basically 50% of people or more will quit on a diet or training plan by themselves. And the ones who stick with it will get dreadful results anyway. That just shows that people need coaching, support and accountability. Diets can’t be trusted to be beneficial either, it’s healthier habits that work better. If you’re someone who doesn’t want to go it alone and actually wants long term results, CLICK HERE and we can make it happen. You won’t follow a diet destined to fail and you’ll have support every step of the way.


Jospe MR, Roy M, Brown RC, Haszard JJ, Meredith-Jones K, Fangupo LJ, et al. Intermittent fasting, Paleolithic, or Mediterranean diets in the real world: exploratory secondary analyses of a weight-loss trial that included choice of diet and exercise. Am J Clin Nutr. 2020 Mar 1;111(3):503–14.

How To Manage Problem Foods

Almost every one of us have problem foods. These are foods that we just find hard to resist. When you want to burn fat and fit into your favourite clothes better, how we manage these foods can be a difference maker. You’ve probably heard the saying ‘Everything in moderation’ right? Does it actually work?

Researchers at Penn State University asked 186 women who were classified as overweight or obese to rank the foods they can’t resist and find hard to stop eating. The most common foods that topped their lists were;

  • Ice cream
  • Crisps
  • Chocolate
  • Cookies
  • Pizza

No huge surprises there! The researchers then had the women follow a weight loss plan for 12 months and monitored their strategies for managing their problem foods. After the 12 months they found that the best strategy to manage problem foods was limiting the portion sizes. In fact the women who used this strategy more often lost 7.2 kilos compared to women who used it less frequently who only lost 3.8 kilos. That’s almost twice as much weight loss by following that one strategy.

How Can You Work On Your Problem Foods?

Make a list of your problem foods. This will increase your awareness of them and hopefully reveal some patterns. While the researchers didn’t say avoiding foods completely was a great strategy, we can use our own initiative on that. Let’s look at it this way. You’re tired, stressed or absolutely starving. There’s a tasty food from your problem food list staring at you in your kitchen cupboard or fridge. What do you think will happen? No matter how much willpower you have you’re going to grab that food and tuck in. If the problem food is in your house it’s going to be eaten. However, the same goes for foods that are healthier for you. If we have foods that are better for us in the house we’re more likely to eat those too. It’s just about being aware of these things and slowly making that switch. And at the end of the day if you must use a strategy for problem foods limit the portion sizes.

Maybe Eating In Moderation Does Work, Maybe It Doesn’t

It depends. That’s the honest answer. My way of coaching is that there no good or bad foods. Foods are either better or worse for you and your goals. Everyone is different. There are some foods that just don’t work with people and should probably be avoided. Refer to these foods as your “Red Light” foods. These foods might not work for you because;

  • They don’t help you achieve your goals
  • You always overeat them
  • You’re allergic to them
  • You can’t digest them easily
  • They give you pains or make you feel awful afterwards

Take 5 minutes out of your day, get a pen and paper and actually write down a list of your problem foods. Be completely honest with yourself and how these foods affect you. If there’s a food on the list that you know you can enjoy without overeating and have control while eating it, great. If a food has any “Red Light” characteristics then you know what to do.

6 Tips For Gym Beginners

Gyms in Ireland have been back open for a week now. If you’re new to the gym, about to join or still consider yourself a beginner here are some tips that may help you.

Get A Member Of Staff To Show You The Equipment And How To Use It Correctly

Too often people join gyms and stick to using the only equipment they’ve used before. For most, that’s the cardio equipment. To get the most benefit from the gym learn how to use the resistance machines as well as other cardio pieces. It’ll help you get stronger and fitter as well as give you more things to do. This way you won’t get bored of doing the same routine over and over. Sometimes people also feel uncomfortable or embarrassed if they don’t know how to do things by themselves. These are big pieces of machinery with lots of moving parts and different setups. Ask how to set the machine up for your body that makes it comfortable for you and allows you to do the exercise safely.

Start Slowly And Progress From There

If you’ve been out of training for a long time or are completely new to training, start slowly. First learn how to execute the exercises safely and with control over the weight and/or your body position. When you have the correct technique for any exercise you can then start increasing the challenge. Don’t go too heavy too soon with resistance exercises. If doing bodyweight exercises master lower impact ones before progressing to higher impact ones. Walk before you sprint. Until your body gets fitter and stronger you may not be able to handle a lot of volume or recover quickly between training sessions. Give yourself time to adapt.

Don’t Copy What Someone Else Is Doing

If you look around the gym you’ll see people doing all sorts of different things. Even if you see someone who is incredibly fit or looks like they know what they’re doing, do not copy that person. They may still be doing an exercise incorrectly and are an injury waiting to happen. They may be much fitter than you and are doing an exercise too advanced for you. There are lots of different scenarios here. Get the help of a qualified trainer or instructor to show you how to train properly. Friends or family might be more experienced than you are and sometimes give you ideas of what to do. Again, they aren’t qualified either. You’d be surprised how many people have been training for a long time and yet have bad technique habits. Just because what they’re doing feels OK to them. Your body is different to theirs and unfortunately they might be on their way to an injury. If an exercise doesn’t feel right, is awkward or even hurts, don’t do it.

Focus On Yourself And Your Reason For Being There

Chances are that you joined the gym to get healthier and fitter. Whatever deeper reason you joined the gym for is your business. A lot of the time people will feel uncomfortable that people are watching or judging them for being a beginner or being out of shape. Everyone was a beginner at some stage. The majority of people in gyms who look fit and are in good shape didn’t start off that way. Don’t be afraid of doing something or pushing yourself because you’ll look sweaty, be huffing and puffing and people will see you. It’s a gym, everyone is there for the same reasons. To exercise, get fitter, healthier and stronger. Sweating is a consequence of that so don’t feel uncomfortable. 99% of the time everyone is in their own zone and not even noticing what others are doing around them. And if for whatever reason someone is looking at you, look right at them and ask “Can I help you?” They’ll snap out of it right away. They might also be unsure what they’re doing and are looking to copy you. In which case point them to this post!

Build Up Consistency

Every year people join gyms with all the best intentions in the world. They’re going to train every day of the week, change their habits overnight and everything is going to be amazing. What happens to most of these people? They quickly burn out and we don’t see them very long. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. Find a routine that you can stick to and be consistent with. If that’s a gym session once or twice a week, great. Stick at that if it works for you. Build up to 2 or 3 sessions per week as you get fitter or if your schedule allows it. Don’t immediately think you can go from no training at all to 4 or 5 sessions per week. What will happen is you won’t make it to all the sessions you planned, you’ll feel let down or you’ll do too much too soon and burn yourself out.

Enjoy Your Training

You’re taking steps to improve yourself by improving your health and fitness. If you’re improving your looks while at it and it gives you more confidence, even better. However, it won’t happen overnight, it won’t happen in just a couple of weeks either. The point is you should enjoy this process of positive transformation. If you’re feeling negative energy at all, you need to change something. Don’t put too much expectation on yourself to train so often or be great at the exercises straight away. The same goes for seeing results right away. If you’re a complete beginner with very little strength or fitness, you should see a big difference in a relatively short time. Strength and fitness can be worked on in the gym. If you have awful nutrition habits outside of training you might not see a big change physically. The good news is that can also be worked on. Find a way of training that you enjoy, if you like what you’re doing you’re more likely to be consistent with it. And in health and fitness consistency is the key to progress. Train twice a week for the whole year and you’ll do 104 sessions. On the other hand you could do 5 sessions a week but burn out in a month, you’ll do just 20 sessions and we won’t see you in the gym anymore.

If you want help and guidance to make the most of your training and nutrition contact me at 0870536322. You’ll be glad you did. Together we will work to transform yourself physically as well as mentally, saving you time and energy.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Weights Or Muscle

“I Just Want To Be Toned”

Before I start personal training with someone we have a consultation session or call. In every consultation I ask the person what they want to do and why? The majority of the time I’ll hear the quote from above. More often than not it’s women who say it. It is normally accompanied by wanting to feel more confident or to be happier in their skin. People like to feel confident enough to wear a t-shirt or a sleeveless dress. At some level we all want to look in the mirror and feel good about ourselves. Wanting to be more “toned” is absolutely fine. The thing is most people know the word from hearing it but they don’t actually know what it really means. Do you? What it means is that your muscles are more defined. How do you really get that look? You actually have to build some muscle and lose some fat that’s covering it if there’s some there to lose.

Two Different Points

Person A is overweight and their arms have no definition. Now let’s say they lose a load of fat and their arm gets smaller. Without any appreciable amount of muscle underneath the fat they lost they still won’t be toned. Their arm will just be smaller but have no shape. Losing the fat will be great for their health but we’re talking about aesthetics today. Person B is thin. Their arms have very little or no fat at all. But 9 times out of 10 they have no muscle either. Again this isn’t that toned look people are after. What is the missing link in both cases? Muscle.

And that’s the problem a lot of people have, they think building muscle will make them bulky. You might think this is something only women will say but a lot of men say it too. They think if they just start lifting what they believe to be heavy weights that they’ll somehow wake up looking like the Hulk. It’s unfortunate but it just shows how many people are ill informed.

I Understand Where They’re Coming From

People in this instance want to look smaller, not bigger. They see lifting weights as something at odds with their goals. In this scenario I mean weights that are heavier than those rubber coated, multi-coloured ones. Those weights go up to 5kg in most gyms. During the initial consultation I’ll ask what has the person done before to try and get the look they want. That’s when I’ll get the following answers a lot of the time. Yoga, spin classes, long distance running. I’m not going to knock these forms of exercise. There are a lot of people who enjoy them. But if I wanted to improve my physique I know that these things won’t do it for me. The general gym goer doesn’t though.

Two Questions For You

Firstly, if you’ve tried these forms of exercise (yoga, spinning, jogging) before and aren’t happy with your body do you think lifting weights or doing resistance training will actually make you look worse?

Secondly, if you’re over the age of 35 what age were you when you think you looked your best? I’ve actually asked this question to women who became very happy and successful clients of mine. Their answers mostly ranged from late teens to mid 20’s. If you said the same in your head, know this. Those ages are when you have the most muscle on your body without doing resistance training. Without training and after that time your body starts to lose muscle as you get older. So lifting weights in your 30’s, 40’s or older isn’t a bad thing. It might just help get you closer to your previous best body.

What You Need To Understand

Gaining muscle is actually quite challenging, even for men who have naturally way more testosterone (a muscle building hormone) than women. If it was easy you’d see every person who went to the gym and lifted weights be absolutely huge. That’s just not the case. There are people (mostly men) who are bigger and more muscular but realise that it took them a very long time, sometimes many years, to get to that point. You might see female bodybuilders (who may be taking steroids) or elite female crossfit athletes who are very muscular and think that’s what weight training will result in.

But you need to be eating a lot of food, lifting a lot of weight and training frequently to fuel muscle growth to get to be the size that some of these men and women are. Not to mention the added assistance of steroids or performance enhancing drugs that may also be present in some cases. It just doesn’t make sense to equate your training with theirs.

The Take Home Message

If you’re a woman you normally have very low levels of testosterone. You’re not going to be eating a ton of surplus calories because you want to burn fat. And you won’t be training like an elite athlete or bodybuilder. There’s literally no need to worry about lifting weights or growing a tiny amount of muscle. Muscle is what gets you that “toned” look and helps keep you that way. It’s built very slowly so you’re not going to wake up one day and be completely different. If you feel like you’re getting a look you’re not happy with you can just stop, muscle is very easy to lose. A lot of my female clients who saw more definition in their arms, legs and other body parts actually loved having a little more muscle. Maybe you will too. If you have any questions about training or would like to explore working with me to help you look your best get in touch at 0870536322.

Should You Use Ice To Recover From Training?

More often than not people will say “Absolutely, you need to control any swelling and it helps with numbing the pain!”. You’ve possibly said this yourself just now. Maybe you’ve been in a situation where you used a bag of peas from the freezer on a twisted ankle. If not for yourself you may have suggested an ice pack when someone got a bang or has sore muscles from training. Ice baths have been widely used by sports teams and athletes all over the world to aid in recovery from tough sessions. That’s what almost everyone thinks, but are they right? Does icing speed up recovery from minor injury or training? Should you use an ice pack next time you have a slight muscle strain or ligament sprain?


Let me explain why you shouldn’t bother. Dr. Gabe Mirkin is the man who first made the acronym RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) in his 1978 book “The Sportsmedicine Book”. For years it has been the go-to treatment for injuries and to help people recover from injury/training. However, in 2014 the very same man said that ice may delay healing instead of helping it. You can look for yourself here.

What happens when you get an injury? The injured area becomes inflamed or swollen. It might feel hotter or may even have some bruising. That inflammatory response is your body’s first stage in healing itself. Histamine is released causing swelling. Things called macrophages go into the injured site to fight any nasties that are there and growth factors are recruited. These growth factors stimulate a bunch of other good cells with fancy names to come in and start rebuilding the things that were injured/damaged. For this to happen optimally we need blood flow to and from the area. BUT when you start icing the area you slow that process down as cold makes our blood vessels constrict. You’re basically stopping the ambulances, fire engines and builders from going in and doing their job.

More Evidence

A study published in 2011 compared people who iced their torn calf muscles versus people who didn’t. The results showed the icing group had just as much pain in their legs after icing. They also didn’t return to work or activities any quicker than the non icing group. A scientific review in 2012 concluded that athletes who iced sore muscles or used ice baths regained strength and power slower than those who didn’t. Finally a study in 2015 found that subjects who used a cold therapy after training experienced less strength, size and endurance than a group who didn’t use cold therapy.

Take Home Message

When it comes to icing sore muscles after training, don’t bother. You’ll slow down your body’s natural recovery and also limit the benefits of that training on strength, muscle size and endurance. The same goes for anti-inflammatory medications if you’re using them post training. If you’re incredibly sore from training you could try some gentle exercise like walking to get some blood flow around the affected muscles. Or you could train smarter and not get to the point of being in incredible pain in the first place. Stimulate your muscles, don’t annihilate them!


Will A Party Ruin Your Fat Loss Progress?

You’re in the middle of a training plan. Motivation is high, your nutrition is dialed in and you can see progress in the mirror. Life is great. Then something comes up that might throw a spanner in the works! You’ve been invited to a birthday, work party or barbecue. And you know this is going to be a big one. You don’t want to be that person who passes on the birthday cake because you’re “on a diet”. Or the one who takes a small plate of salad at the barbecue. That co-worker of yours has been at the company for years, you have to celebrate with them before they leave the place! But what about your progress!? I’m here today to tell you why you should have no fear. You can enjoy the food on offer, have a great time and not fall off the wagon.

What The Science Says

Studies over the years have shown that the consumption of a massive amount of calories from a single meal or several meals over a very short period actually lead to very little fat gain. In one study the researchers fed the subjects a meal of bread, jam and fruit juice. 480 grams of carbs, 8 grams of fat and a tiny amount of protein coming to around 1900 calories in the single meal. They then tracked the subjects’ metabolic responses over 10 hours.

The majority of the carbs were converted to glycogen (what our muscles and liver store and use as fuel). The rest of the carbs were burned up and just 2 grams were converted to fat. However, in the 10 hour period after the meal they burned 17 grams of fat so there was no actual fat gain from that one meal. So no need to worry about fat gain from one meal.

But what about several meals like this over a week?

A study done at the University of Colorado involved 16 people who were fed 50% over their daily maintenance calories for two weeks. Each subject gained about 0.2 pounds of fat a day. Another study at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center involved 29 men who were fed 40% more than their daily maintenance calories for 8 weeks. They each gained about 0.2 pounds of fat a day. This would show that there’s a limit to fat gain per day.

But another study, this one conducted at Loughborough University, took 15 normal weight individuals and fed them 78% more calories than needed for maintenance over the course of a single day and the average “weight gain” was 1.76 pounds. That’s an awful lot more than just 0.2 pounds of fat. This just shows that fat gain and weight gain are two different things. Just like fat loss and weight loss are completely different also.

Know The Difference

You see you can gain weight if you go bananas at an event like the ones I mentioned. But hardly any of that weight is actually fat, especially if it’s a one off or limited to a few hefty meals on a one week holiday for example. The weight you gain from a big meal or a week holiday of excess (as the case often is) will be lost in a couple days. Let me explain.

The first thing to note is carb intake. As the first study above showed, much of your carbs will be stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen. For each gram of stored carbohydrate you normally get 3 grams of water with it. This is why you see rapid weight loss on very low or zero carb diets. When you stop eating carbs, your body uses up more glycogen and for every gram of glycogen used up you also lose the 3 grams of water. Guess what happens when you eat more carbs again? You put back on the water weight!

Secondly most large meals would have a higher amount of sodium in them. This sodium makes your body retain water as well. Added to the extra water held in the glycogen and you could have a few pounds of fluid hanging around. That’s why it can be quite frustrating if you weigh yourself every day and see fluctuations all over the place. A lot of the time its not fat that is being gained or lost every day but the amount of fluid that’s in your system and muscles.

Take Home Message

Don’t be anxious about events like these throwing you off your game. If you use the habits I’ve mentioned previously like eating slowly and eating until 80% full you’re less likely to overeat but can still enjoy the foods at these events. Another tip is to do a workout on the day of these things. If your muscles use up glycogen while training then you “make a hole” for the carbs you’ll have at the event to go into. The food should replenish your glycogen stores and offset some of the possible weight gain. Know that that weight gain isn’t all fat, just up to 0.2 pounds of it. Most likely you’ll be back to your previous weight within a couple days.


KJ Acheson, et al. Glycogen synthesis versus lipogenesis after a 500 gram carbohydrate meal in man,” Metabolism, 1982, Dec 31 (12):1234-40.

TJ Horton, et al. “Fat and carbohydrate overfeeding in humans: different effects on energy storage,” Clin Nutr. 1995 Jul;62(1):19-29

Darcy Johannsen, et al. “Effect of 8 Weeks of Overfeeding on Ectopic Fat Deposition and Insulin Sensitivity: Testing the ‘Adipose Tissue Expandability’ Hypothesis,” Diabetes Care, 2014, oct; 37(10):2789-2797.

Jim Schwarz, et al. “Short-term alterations in carbohydrate energy intake in humans. Striking effects on hepatic glucose production, de novo lipogenesis, lipolysis, and whole-body fuel selection,” J Clin Invest 1995, Dec;96(6):2735-43.

Francis Mason, et al. “Effectiveness of a brief behavioural intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period: randomised controlled tria,” BMJ, 10 December, 2018.