Do we really lose weight through exercise?

Just to clarify and shock you even more, the answer is NO.

Don’t worry I was just as confused when I heard this being told to me; infuriated almost, using the old argument that ‘it worked for me’.  And as much as personal anecdotes are useful, in case you didn’t know it’s not science.  So why are we convinced that exercise leads to weight loss?  Well it’s quite hard to escape when that is how most fitness franchises and professionals promote their business.  In fact one marketing guru actually tells people to have a before and after shot as part of their main advert.

b4after

Let us now begin to tackle the above question by examining weight; when we step on the scales what are we actually being told, this number that becomes the maker and breaker of our daily happiness and focal topic of all our conversation.  What is actually being measured?  Enter Doctor Robert Lustig expert in childhood obesity whose lecture entitled ‘Sugar, The Bitter Truth’ went viral with millions of viewings.  He states that when we weigh ourselves we are measuring 4 components:

  1. Muscle
  2. Bone
  3. Subcutaneous fat (fat layered underneath skin)
  4. Visceral fat (inside the body around the organs)

And to prove he is not a fictional character here the link to the lecture.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceFyF9px20Y

In fact, did you know that you could even be a TOFI, Thin on the Outside and Fat in the Inside; enter professor Jimmy Bell, a professor in obesity and (I like to think) personal friend of mine.  Bell has found many people who are TOFIs and he discusses the concept in a 2006 Guardian article the link for which is below.

TOFI

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2006/dec/10/medicineandhealth.health

 

 

So what does exercise do?  Simply it increases muscle, yes immediately the hearts of some women are filled with trepidation, ‘I get more muscles?’  I don’t want to be muscley or ‘hench’!!! No silly, you don’t have to be working big superficial muscles like bodybuilders, you may be working your cardiac muscle through cardio, or your deep core muscles through yoga and pilates, even long kinetic chains of several muscles with functional and bodyweight movements.  But anyway, whatever the type of exercise you are not losing weight directly from exercising you are gaining muscle.  Hence you could be not be losing weight but losing body fat and looking better but the weight may not have decreased in the slightest.  Therefore, your first take home lesson from this post (if you made it this far) is don’t get too obsessed by the number on the scales.

 

And it is here that things start to become clear; introducing your new best friend, MITOCHONDRIA.  To be fair most of you have heard of these bad boys before, during biology lessons but for those of you that never took it past school level they are the power plants of cells and their role is to convert nutrients we eat into energy.  Hence, if you enhance your muscle, any type of muscle, you will not lose weight but you will increase your total number of mitochondria creating a pathway for the excess fat to be metabolised.  Everything clear?

mitochondria

 

Now you know this, it is easier to understand the type of exercise we need to be doing in order to lose body fat.  More importantly, what exercises are actually ineffective, pointless even.  In a nutshell, there needs to be a routine that you can stick to all year round which you can build on when you are making a drive, for the Summer for instance, or ease off from prior to Christmas.

The Department of health state that we should be getting at least 150 minutes exercise of moderate intensity per week which can be broken down into 4 40 minute workouts.  So that is your base to build on which you stick to even at Christmas time in my opinion, but at least at the beginning of year.  Many make the mistake of pushing too hard at the beginning of year.

Then there needs to be variety in your routine.  So with your 4 weekly workouts you will want

1 flexibility workout like yoga

1 weights workout like body pump or your own all-body routine

1 cardio workout like spinning

1 circuit workout like…oh yeah that’s right no one cares about circuits or they do versions which are too hardcore!!

This with a healthy meal plan is all you need to start with.  To monitor your progress by all means measure your weight, but also take photos to build a picture over time.  Circumference measurements around the arms and waists will also help you visualise your improvements.

I hope I have managed to clear up a few areas of confusion and all the best with reaching your goals for 2014.

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Work for a FIT SELF not a FIT BODY

legraise

Here is a philosophy I am getting more and more passionate about as I witness the day-to-day activity going on in the gym.  There are a whole host of exercises performed regularly all based on fallacies; tricep extensions to get rid of bingo wings, ab crunches to rid belly fat, side-bends to attack love handles, and leg-raises to work the lower abs and pelvic wall (but ‘I feel it in my abs!!’ Well I feel a punch in my face on my face doesn’t mean it is good for me!!!).

However, all these are based on one big fat delusion; that we train to get a Fit Body. Quite simply, we do not train to get a fit body but a FIT SELF.  Therefore, we do not waste time with ineffective exercises but we maximise our efforts with things that get us fit.  The great thing about adopting this philosophy is that because our workouts become so effective, as a bonus we end up with great looking bodies.  Therefore, strive towards becoming a fitter you otherwise you could carry on with tricep extensions and leg raises then witness diminishing returns, a loss of motivation and soon, it’s bye-bye and so long, nice knowing you.

With guys they go wrong when they start overdoing bicep and chest workouts, skip leg sessions and then end up with top-heavy physiques.  Worse-still, while excessive abdominal exercises may yield thicker abs (only in guys with already low bodyfat) one’s spinal mobility gets seriously restricted.  In addition, such people only work superficial muscles leaving the inner core stabilisers behind, exposing one to potential hernia problems.

skinnylegs

With girls there is a comparable problem when they spend forever on bum exercises and the Stairmaster to get a firmer behind.  Now if the philosophy here was to get fit one would have had a proper fitness program involving squats, lunges and deadlifts and this would still result in an appealing derriere.  Just remember, this is fitness, you may not end up with the ideal body, there may be more muscle in some areas than you want but most of the time you cannot have it all.  What is guaranteed though is that you get a good body that is easy to maintain.

butt

We’ve heard the expression ‘Shake what your mama gave ya’ and yes butts like the one in the picture are mainly down to genetics.  There are other branches of the wellness industry where you can improve aesthetics and turn to surgery, crash-dieting or on a much lighter scale, figure-enhancing clothing like the latest brand of underwear known as Rounderwear.  Check out their his and hers products at http://rounderwear.com/

rounderwearmen

So wear a pair of these when you come to the gym and then aim to get fit.  Filter out all the crap from your training so that gyms can get rid of all the useless equipment.  Take these steps and let your whole outlook on fitness change.

Unlocking the Mental Secret to Weight Loss

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The paths to weight loss are many and weight loss is something that preoccupies people all over the world.  With fitness being the most conventional path that people go down for this purpose, we often hear about the importance of nutrition in this process.  However, weight loss, or Fat Loss, as I prefer to call it, is very much influenced by our mentality as well, and the mind plays a huge roll.

So let me create one specific situation for you to place yourself in allowing you to really intensify your goal…

Imagine you are in prison, for whatever reason and now having paid your debt back to society you have now been given your release date… it is only a month away.  Now this really is a goal; you want to make sure that when you are unlocked for the last time and those doors open you are in the most awesome shape you have ever been in.  You no longer have any distractions and you have that date in mind so what do you do? You hit that gym, or that rowing machine, or even your prison cell workout every single day without fail,  knowing that one lost workout is a day wasted.  You avoid that biscuit or chocolate because you know that is an extra millimetre round your waist line and a few push-ups gone down the drain.

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So put yourself in that prison with that release date in mind, and let that create that inner determination and will to help achieve your goals.  This will give you that extra drive to train even when you thought you couldn’t and push even when you thought you were running on empty.

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The workout and routine that I stuck to to help get rid of my stubborn belly fat was a 30 minute row on the ergometer every single morning with the last ten minutes being intervals.  I imagined myself in that situation and got down to it and got on the machine no matter what and soon I began to see those results I craved.

Of course, you could have a different situation in mind like getting into your wedding dress or getting prepared for the beach but it just doesn’t cultivate the same attitude as the prison scenario.  The association between sweat and grit with wedding dresses just isn’t there unlike prison so that connection is enforced and results are achieved.  Hope this can work for you as it did for me.

 

 

Fitness Resolutions: Turn wishes into reality

movbolt

And as we slowly drift out of our slumber, recover from our pulsating headaches and realise it’s the 1st of january the aim of many is to get into shape.  Perfect time for wannabee writers like myself to impart their words of wisdom on the subject.  If I had to give one unique tip, it would be this:

Get the fitness routine in place and ignore the diet

Yep, I said it.  Don’t throw away the Chrimbo treats just yet.  It’s a gradual process but improving your wellness and wellbeing through fitness is a marathon not a sprint.  Fitness resolutions are mere wishes and only become reality through realism.  The January surge in gym attendance characterises this mindset and the subsequent lull and decline exposes the lack of willpower in fullfulling this wish.  So we need a plan in place that we are capable of following.  If Usain Bolt dreamed of becoming a double long distance gold medallist he would have failed after a few training sessions because the target was unrealistic.

buddy

The goal: Find the fittest version of ourselves

Forget all that ‘get buns of steel’ and ‘lose the manboob’ bullshit.  A simple generic goal for all of us that we can guarantee through our training is to find the fittest versions of ourselves.  Therefore, intially diet doesn’t really matter because we are just trying to get fit.  Hell, we can eat chocolate and still get fit and we can feel less guilty about a chocolate bar after a spin class.  So put the plan in place; look at your class timetable and see what appeals to you and what fits in with your work schedule.  Make sure one of those classes is a pilates or yoga class, invest in a session with a trainer.  We (at least I am anyway) are more than happy to see some clients once a fortnight where we learn new routines for them to use in their own time, thus maintaining that consistency  and guaranteeing an upward curve of progress.

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This notion of ‘finding the fittest versions of ourselves’ is something I have embraced through our unique training system of Circular Strength Training (CST).  I met Mattia (above) in a CST seminar in Florence (sorry Firenze) and realised how with the right dedication and subsequent effort as well as the proper guidance we can do things  that were never possible before.  With CST we cover all angles and take the best elements from a multitude of disciplines including Pilates and Yoga.  Just look at Mattia in action here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89-xEHmf9iE

The result : Fitness becomes part of our enduring culture

You get gym addicts that train hard but don’t necessarily train smart.  They forget about the enjoyment, the connection with one’s inner core and breathing and the need to remain injury-free.  The result is a series of compensations through one-dimensional training methods which they just work around with the help of analgesics.  Few can sustain this especially when conventional training does not teach you the most efficient joint-sparing movement patterns demonstrated by CST head coach Scott Sonnon here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdWUUVTkQ-E

True the moves are advanced but the application here is for special opps; we can perform simpler versions of these moves with the application being to simply navigate around the workplace or kitchen where a lot of back-pain is experienced.  Had a great time teaching my little pregnant sister how to move around the kitchen of her new home in a more efficient manner to spare her all that pain.

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So as usual I have rambled on in order to open your eyes on what fitness is to me but it all begins with that first step of putting a plan in action.  Have a happy 2013.

Healthy regards

Saaj

Lift your mood with the right track

As a personal trainer working in a commercial gym, a lot of my work is acquired by talking to members (and often annoying them) in order to discuss their approach to fitness.  Today this is really difficult because most of you have your bloody earphones in your ears!  Still,  now that I have established myself I don’t need to this much thankfully.  Therefore I can talk about the merits of good music because this really lifts our mood and helps us work harder right? Actually, one study conducted by Schwartz suggests that this is not the case

http://journals.lww.com/jcrjournal/abstract/1990/09000/effects_of_music_on_exercise_performance.2.aspx

It conluded that music doesn’t really boost performance?? Really?  Who took part in this study, a bunch of zombies!!!!

Thankfull Len Kravitz PHD (dont’ ask) has done a proper study showing that music enhances performance, muscle stimulation, motor skills and of course enjoyment.

http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/musicexercise.html

However, music in your ears I believe is a hindrance.  To perfect one’s form, especially during intense interval training you need to eliminate all hindrances and those earphones can serve as an obstacle.  It might be OK during your boring cardio or ineffective station-hopping but when you are really working, any motivating music can only be background music, I’m just saying.

It is of course important to have the right music.  I know this too well as I teach spin several times a week.  I have taken some risks with certain tracks but now I try and stay commercial just to be safe.  A great website is fitmixpro; search for your own tracks, the right BPM and the software will put it together in one big mix.  The site is supposed to be for fitness professionals but there is no login system yet so take advantage.  A complete mix will cost around 11 pounds but you can get one of my mixes for free by going to the following link

http://soundcloud.com/search?q%5Bfulltext%5D=saajspins

Someone else with some great mixes is my client Tommy Clark.  Check these bangers out

http://soundcloud.com/dj-tommy-clark

So music is a great motivator but only in certain circumstances provided you have the music that matches the intensity level needed for the workout.

Hope you enjoy the mixes and try to leave us some comments.

5 motivational tips: # 5 find a buddy

So your final motivational tip is to simply find someone to train with.  A buddy gives you encouragement and a competitive edge. Basically, if you were one of those that would have left the gym after two months, having a buddy there would have made you stay twice as long if not more.

Obviously, for certain exercises a friend is needed to help you lift the heavier weights.  Also, if you are unsure of what the correct technique is for an exercise you will need someone to show you.  Beware though, sometimes the group can get a bit too big for everyone to benefit.  Honestly, in my opnion three is definitely a crowd.  Two is more than enough especially when more benefit  is achieved with shorter rest periods.  A tricky issue is when there is an overwhelming difference between fitness levels where the fitter person may push the other too far.  I remember when I trained with big guys and they would make me lift crazy weights where they assisted me from the first repetiton (good old Arnie style training).  Make sure you are still working at a level that is honest, enough to challenge you in a realistic manner.  Doesn’t matter if your buddy is doing flying pushups like this

You can stick to push-ups on your knee if that is sufficient to challenge you.

What more can I say about the use of a buddy. Their benefit is that obvious.  Perhaps I should instead warn you about being too dependant on them.

p5 motivational tips: #4 Monitor your progress

How are you going to keep working out?  Actually, how are you going to make fitness part of your enduring culture and not a temporary chore?  Visualise your progress!  Get a heart-rate monitor and watch how your body adapts to higher intensity work before the heart-rate elevates.  You will see this improvement in no time.  Watch yourself getting stronger but be careful, your body may just be making neuro-muscular adaptations and not necessarily getting bigger.  Therefore, get your tape measure and get results for your arm or chest circumference.  Get some calipers and obtain skinfold measurements at the triceps or in the ‘love-handle’ area.  This link will allow you to obtain software that allows you to do this.  You can record progress over time, create slide-shows, even graphs.  It really is a great piece of kit

http://www.linear-software.com/tour_BT.html

I really credit people that keep a log of what they are doing and how much weights they are pushing.  I said before though that we may be pushing more as a result of increased neural activity, or through compromising our technique or even perfecting it (sounds weird I know).  Also, most people aren’t interested in getting stronger but bigger or leaner (or more toned in the case of most women).  There are other ways of monitoring your progress that reflect the type of training I favour and which you should also favour.  Circuit-training, creates an internal environement conducive to getting leaner, fitter and stronger simultaneously and naturally.  So when you do a circuit it may be so tough that even completing it is an achievement.  Or you could time how long it takes to complete it.

Bottom line is make sure you monitor progress as this is key to discovering the fittest version of yourself.

5 Motivational Tips: #3 Visualise your goals

So now you know why you are trainnig it is important to visualise the ‘why’. Because you now realise that aestheitc goals take longer to achieve you have been realsitic enough to set yourself shorter term goals.  Now you can put that image of Cheryl Cole or Matthew McConaughey up on your locker, mirror, toilet door or even your desktop.

Your goals however maybe more profound than that and I would say they should be.  Your latest health-screening may have uncovered unpleasant things about your blood presssure, cholesterol, BMI etc.  Nowadays you can even be told about your likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer or dying of a heart attack.  These are things you may want to keep in  front of you in order to visualise your goals.  There are people that only exercise as a precription and feel they have to work out for the sake of their long term health.  I give them a lot of credit for realising that exercising is the best method to acquire longevity, pain-free health and ageless mobility in life.  This then gives you happiness and satisfaction long-term but you have to find the right form of exercise that will work for you.  Switching between hour-long treadmill running and machine-hopping will only make you give up eventually.

Another way to visualise your goals is through movement.  If your aim is to perform push-ups or pull-ups watch people that are already doing this as your inspiration.  However, part of being fit is to improve our mobility a much neglected area.  All people seem to do is stretch before and after a workout or go to yoga class.  With Circular Strength Training mobility is at the heart of everything we do.  Our head coaches have developed flows which require a balance between strength and mobility.  I watched senior CST coach Scott Sonnon perform one flow and just made it my aim to do the same.  Go to my workouts section and read the post ‘Introducing My You Tube Channel’ to see more on this.  But here is Coach Sonnon’s demo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZJwMpvJiYM

And now mine

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcw4G5lwAHs&feature=youtu.be

So visualising goals is of great importance when motivating yourself and now you know there are number of ways to do this.

5 Motivational tips: #2 Set your goals, NON-AESTHETIC ONES!

So every gym has its own block of hardcore regulars that come to the gym, sun, rain or shine.  It is a collection of all the fittest, leanest and healthiest people in the area.  The people that make you sick.  How do they find that motivation.  Such people have already achieved their goal but are scared of losing what they just gained.  They carry on doing the same thing day in, day out out of fear even though all they are doing is getting stonger and stronger in specific exercises.  how much more perfect can their physiques get?

For the majority however, continuing to find that motivation is difficult.  So you need to set yourself better, more realistic goals.  Aiming to get a certain bodyshape or achieve a certain bodyweight is so last year people.  Also, getting that body takes a lot of time for those of us that aren’t blessed in the genetics department.  I know this for a fact, I was born to be short and fat, now thankfully I am just short.

Therefore, keep the aesthetic aspect as a long-term goal because believe me it can be a process that takes years (I’m being honest).  Then set yourself short-term goals like being able to last a spin class or being able to perform a certain exercise like a pull-up for guys and a push-up for girls (and of course there are girls that can do pull-ups).  One thing I like to do is give certain timed challenges to my clients and encourage them to beat their previous times.  I even put clients up against each other in a virtual way and it becomes almost like playing games online 🙂

So set yourself short-term goals that are more tangible and more realistic.  ‘Make sure I fit in three sessions a week or eat eggs for breakfast every morning’.  As you become more accomplished at this you find you have been working out for a long time and seeing these differences and now the aesthetics are coming along as a bonus.

It comes down to performing ‘health-first’ training and everything else (ie looks) becomes a bonus.  Sorry but I think this photo encapsulates such a notion

5 Motivational Tips: #1 Enjoyment

So five days between now and Sunday for which I should have a couple of goodies in store for my readers.  Prior to that let’s go through five of my motivational tips to keep you involved in some sort of exercise or another.

We’re only going to be fit and healthy if we make fitness part of our enduring culture and not consider it a chore.  That’s why it is important to enjoy getting or keeping fit.  This may be easy for some because it is something they naturally take to but for others it is a lot harder.  So for starters, choose something you enjoy; this is why Zumba is so popular becuase of the enjoyment factor.

In Zumba you get to move a lot and sweat a lot.  It is probably better than some forms of cardio that people are doing due to the use of multi-planar movement, making it good for mobility as well.  And what’s more, there is no shortage of classes wherever you go, at least in the UK anyway.  I mean let’s face it you may find it harder to locate a class in Saudi Arabia lol.

However, this alone quite simply isn’t hardcore enough.  To really zap the fat and keep it off then you have to be engaging in some sort of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).  Not going too much into detail so this is a rundown of what HIIT is

http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/8-benefits-high-intensity-interval-training-hiit?page=8

Anyway, doing this by yourself is very difficult and requires so much discipline.  Hence, you need to find a way to do this in a fun setting so look no further than Spinning.  An intense cardio session where there is a range of intensities, perfect for firing up the metabolism.

Above all it is fun and people are turning to it becuase it makes cardio that much more interesting.  I got into shape by doing daily cardio sessions on the rower for 30 minutes every morning and believe me it was hard and required so much discipline.  Now I teach spin and cardio is so much more worthwhile (getting paid for it helps btw 🙂 ).

So find a way to make your workout more fun.  Group exercise is a great way to do that.  Zumba on a lighter level and spinning on a more intense level but walking the dog may be a more appropriate step for you depending on your current state of fitness.  The aim is to make it part of you that you want to do.