1. You DON'T have to get washboard abs
You get overloaded with images of men and ladies with 6-packs and washboard abs. For most people this isn't realistic and it doesn't necessarily mean you're 'healthy'. Be realistic and set yourself up for success not failure. Looking at your overall health and not getting obsessed with achieving chiseled abs or a perfectly sculpted butt will help you to lose weight. Although it may be aesthetically pleasing, there are so many more benefits of exercising and losing pounds. Improving heart health, bone density, posture and mental well-being are just a few!
2. You DON'T need to do endless cardio
You may think that losing weight means endless hours on the treadmill but it doesn't. In fact if you only do long bouts of cardio it can have the opposite effect and your body starts to conserve energy (calories). By mixing things up a bit with 'high-intensity interval training' and weight training, your body will become a more efficient fat -burner. Your metabolic rate will increase, burning more calories at rest and muscle is more metabolically active helping to burn even more calories.
3. You DON'T need any specific products
There are endless gadgets, fitness and weight loss products out there promising quick and easy ways to shed the pounds. If it sounds too good to be true, then it is! There is no short-cut or easy option out there and you are just waisting your hard eared money. Improving your daily habits, eating better consistently and keeping active are what's important, so keep focused on this. In the end it comes down to burning more calories than you consume. Variation is key to both keeping the body guessing and to keep up your interest and enjoyment. Try new things, experiment and have some fun!
4. You DON'T have to give-up fruit
Some of the popular 'diets' out there get you to severely restrict or ban fruits all together. Fruits contain fructose (natural sugar) and the body deals with this differently to processed sugars. Because of the high levels of water and fibre, the body digests fructose slower, impacting on blood sugar levels much less. Another advantage of fibrous fruit is that it slows down carbohydrate absorption and helps to lower cholesterol. So eating fruit can actually be an advantage when it comes to losing weight.
5. You DON'T have to go gluten-free
There has been a lot of publicity about gluten-free diets over the last few years. Some promote going gluten-free as the best way to lose weight but this is just not true. Yes, if you have an intolerance (celiac disease) or gluten sensitivity then it is a healthier way to eat. If you do have either celiac disease or a sensitivity, it affects the function of the immune system by damaging the intestines and adversely effects gut health. Gluten on it's own doesn't constitute an unhealthy diet, it's your overall intake and food choices that needs to be improved.
6. You DON'T have to skip meals
Trying to cut calorie intake by skipping meals regularly is one of the worst things you can do. This is a sure-fire way to feel hungry which leads to poor food choices like unhealthy snacks and overeating. You will also feel irritable, tired and have poor concentration levels. Space out your food and snacks over the day (5 times per day is a popular way but find what works for you). Go for nutrient-dense high-fibre, quality foods in the right portion sizes (veggies make great snacks).
7. You DON'T have to go 'fat-free'
If you consistently go for the 'fat-free' options or totally cut out butter or other fats then you could be left feeling hungry. Studies have shown that those who include healthy fats in their diets feel less hungry and are more likely to stay on track. Instead of going for fat-free versions of your favourite foods, try eating these foods in moderation and the right portion size. Eating better quality, minimally processed foods in the correct portion sizes is the best way to lose weight long-term. Most of the foods that have had the fat reduced or removed have sugary substitutes instead (so could actually be working against you).
8. You DON'T have to eat silly amounts of protein
Protein is important for your overall intake but eating more and more won't help you lose weight. A target of approx 1g per pound of body weight is a starting point. Your body-type and activity level will dictate if you need slightly more or less. An even easier way to get the right amount of protein is to use your hand-size as a guide; 2 palm-sized portions for a man and 1 for a woman (per meal). There are 4 calories of energy per gram in protein (the same as carbohydrate) so be aware of this. Essentially the body doesn't know if it's getting calories from protein, carbs or fats. Check what goes into a lot of the 'high-protein' foods as they can have a high sugar intake (some protein bars have more sugar than a chocolate bar).
Stop guessing & start progressing...
1. Don't stretch before you workout.
The days of static stretching before exercise are pretty much gone. Studies have shown that static stretching before a workout can actually decrease your performance. This is especially true for strength training and has limited ability to prevent injury.
Dynamic stretches are a much more effective way to prepare for a workout. You take the body through dynamic movements, using full range-of-motion and getting the nervous system switched on. By the end of your warm-up your heart rate should be elevated with a bit of a sweat on.
For example, if you are going to do some squats...
- Jog on the spot
- High knees
- Jumping jacks
- Body weight squats
(complete each one for 20-30 seconds)
Research has shown that this type of dynamic warm-up can reduce the risk of injury, improve flexibility and strength.
2. Do a workout specific warm-up.
Once you have completed a good dynamic warm-up, its time to get specific. If for example you are about to squat (as above) then you could do some squats with very light load at a higher rep range. Not only does this get the body switched on for the exercise, you can use this time to focus on good form and correct movement patterns. Or another example could be to do a set of push-ups before a bench press.
3. Stretch after your workout.
After your workout is the time for stretching when the muscles have been worked (cold muscles are less supple). Static stretching is what you will be familiar with and should be held for at least 30 seconds, breathe deeply and relax into the stretch. It makes sense to focus on the muscles you have just been using which will help to prevent injury, speed-up recovery and reduce D.O.M.S (delayed onset muscle soreness).
4. Use a foam roller.
It's common knowledge that massage is one of the most effective ways of recovery from exercise. It will get blood flowing and help keep muscles, facia and connective tissues healthy. But what If you can't get a soft tissue or sport massage?
You can get a foam-roller for those aching muscles and use a technique called 'self-myofacial release' (SMR). You can help release those tight spots and knots, helping to rejuvenate muscles and tendons. I would recommend getting some advice on how to use a foam roller properly.
5. Rest & recover.
Unless you're a pro athlete or competitor, rest and recovery is probably one fo the most overlooked parts of training. It's tempting to think you need to go heavier and heavier or faster and faster even when your knees are aching or your shoulder is nagging you. Get advice on proper progressions and how to plan your workouts at the correct intensity.
Muscles and joints need recovery after exercise and the amount of rest needed is probably determined by your genetics. But as general rule leave at least 48 hours before training the same muscle groups. Make sure you get plenty of sleep and proper nutrition before, during and after your workouts. Overtraining is one of the biggest barriers to getting the results you're looking for, so listen to your body and get some sound advice on post-workout nutrition.
Stop guessing & start progressing...
Recently there has been studies that suggest eating breakfast may not be as important for weight loss as we thought. In my opinion eating a healthy breakfast will give you energy, nutrients and curb cravings which leads to better food choices for the rest of the day.
Here are 7 of the most common breakfast choices that will not be helping your waistline (and 7 healthier alternatives!)
1. High street speciality coffee
It is becoming more and more popular to have a speciality coffee as a substitute for breakfast. This is especially true for city workers and commuters. Something like a regular 'frappuccino' or 'macchiato' has up to 7-8 teaspoons of sugar (depending on add-ons) and way over 300 cals. Don't be fooled by some of the 'healthier' options as well. Some of the 'tea lattes' can have up to 14 spoons of sugar. Thats more than a large bowl of sugary cereal! These drinks lead to an almighty sugar spike and then crash, leaving you feeling hungry and increasing cravings for more sugar!
Healthy alternative: Go for a small rather than a large or super-large. Skip the added whipped creams, syrups and sprinkles. Choose soy or almond milk if you like them.
Juices can be lower in calories and have as many vitamins as a traditional smoothie but they can also contain more natural sugar than a can of coke. These natural sugars cause a quicker insulin spike than when you get the sugar from whole foods. Also they tend to lack fibre so won't fill you up so by mid-morning you are feeling really hungry.
Healthier alternative: Stop juicing everything in your blender and eat whole fruits. Or have fresh fruits in Greek yogurt or a higher protein breakfast.
3. Pancakes and waffles made with refined flour
Starting your day with pancakes and waffles made with refined flour isn't the best approach for weight loss. They don't contain much protein or fibre that will help make you feel full. Bagels and muffins also fall into this category. An egg-based breakfast or something higher in protein has been shown to be more effective than a carb-heavy breakfast for shifting belly fat.
Healthy alternative: If you really must have some pancakes or waffles then try using a whole grain flour. You could also try having a small portion as part of a more healthier breakfast.
4. Flavoured yogurt
Some yogurts could now be classed as junk food because of the amount of added sugars. As well as 5-7 spoonfuls of added sugar, these flavoured yogurts can contain artificial thickeners and other nasty's.
Healthier alternative: Get plain Greek yogurt that is high in protein and flavour yourself with fruits, nuts and seeds.
5. Store-bought smoothies
The smoothie has a reputation for being a health food and If done properly they certainly can be. However, the store bought or high street versions can be anything but healthy. With clever marketing and packaging you can be easily duped into thinking you have the holy grail of health food in the palm of your hand. Having looked at some of these off-the-shelf smoothies I can tell you that some have more calories than a burger and fries! Some also contain over 15 spoonfuls of sugar in a large bottle. Even some smoothies that have natural sugars can contain as much as fizzy drinks, so be mindful of that.
Healthy alternative: Make your own 'Super-shake' with healthy protein like Greek yogurt and add fruits, veggies, healthy fats (no added sugars).
6. Cold 'whole grain' or 'high-fibre' cereals
Whole grains and high fibre foods are of course important. Again, be aware of other stuff they put into the mix as they may not be of good quality. There will be hidden sugars in a lot of these cereals as well as a low carb to fibre ratio. Look for 3 grams of fibre per 30 grams of carbs.
Healthier options: Try plain whole oats, oat-bran or original shredded wheat.
7. Breakfast rolls
We are all a sucker for a good old bacon and egg roll sometimes but they could be adding a lot of low quality extra calories to your day. The problem with these breakfast rolls or sandwiches is that they will contain low-quality carbs and not enough protein. For example you may have a bacon and egg in a white bap. This will usually only have one egg, be made with low quality bread full of sugars and additives and fall short of your protein targets.
Healthier option: Homemade whole-grain English muffin with lean bacon and two eggs. You could also try whole-grain bread or wraps.
Stop guessing & start progressing...✌
Have you heard about Apple Cider Vinegar?
I have had a few people ask me what I think about it and what it claims to do for your health. So, I have researched it and looked for studies that back-up the things being said.
Apple cider vinegar has been touted to cure-all, purify blood and help you lose weight. However, just like a lot of these new 'super-foods' some claims are over-hyped and exaggerated. That doesn't mean that you should chuck yours away, as there are some potential benefits.
Firstly, let's look at three of the things that ACV can't do that you may have been told it can.
Now let's look at some benefits that are backed-up by science.
How much ACV to take.
Stop guessing & start progressing...
'Locally produced British sausages packed full of flavour'
I recently picked up some sausages from 'Harpenden Farmers Market'.
They are produced by a company called 'Great British Sausage Co.' and these particular one's are called 'Waterloo Sausages'.
Let me tell you that these little beauties were superb!
They are locally produced 'Red Tractor Farm' assured and made with the highest quality 'East Anglian' pork. They contain 95% pork and have a natural pork casing. I always advocate minimally processed, locally produced food that has taken as little time as possible to get to your plate.
I am a massive fan of these sausages and it's got me thinking of so many ways to use them; casseroles, breakfast, barbecue, stuffing and so on...The flavour is quite something and you can tell the quality as soon as you get them out of the packet.
I came up with this simple tasty pasta dish to celebrate these delightful sausages, using fresh tomato, black olives and basil to give it a real mediterranean flavour!
What You Need:
- 1 Pack of Great British Sausage Co. 'Waterloo' sausages
- 150g of orzo pasta
- 2 Cupped handfuls of pitted black olives (halved)
- 2 large handfuls of cherry tomatoes (halved)
- Handful of fresh basil leaves
- Table spoon of crushed chilli flakes
- 2 Table spoons of extra virgin olive oil
How To Do It:
- Cook the orzo past until it's 'al dente', drain and put to one side
- Fry sausages in a pan little at a medium/high heat with olive oil until browned
- Slice sausages into 5 or 6 pieces and put back into pan to finish
- Turn heat down and put in the tomatoes and cook as the sausages finish
- Put the black olives in and fresh basil at the end
- Put the orzo into that pan with a little olive oil, toss together until the pasta has warmed through
- Add some crushed chilli flakes for a nice kick and a grating of fresh parmesan
you can pick up these sausages at St Albans and Harpenden farmers markets, more info can be found on their website https://www.britishsausages.co.uk/farmers-markets/
Get our newsletter for more recipes and fitness tips!
My favourite thing about this time of year is the inspiration I get from all the amazing food that's in season.
Here are 10 superfoods that you should be using in the kitchen this autumn!
Be Happy, Be Healthy...Nick
Ok so pumpkins are part of the 'winter squash' family but it deserves a little mention of its own. This halloween decoration is also a superfood packed with carotenoids, fibre, vitamins B, C, E, iron, potassium and folate. You could use pumpkin for soups, muffins, flavoured rice and cous cous.
2. Winter Squashes
As with the pumpkin, winter squash is full of nutritious goodness and carotenoids which may give protection against heart disease and cancers. Probably the most well known is the butternut squash but there are a huge variety of these autumn veggies for you to try. Think of tagine, risotto or roasted when you come to cook them.
This one is a bit controversial but I love sprouts! Sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable the same as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. They are high in anti-oxidants thought to reduce the risks of diseases. Don't over cook these until they're all mushy, sauté with some bite, add garlic, onions, ginger or chestnuts.
4. Sweet Potato
Like all these foods listed you can get them all year round. However if you get them locally and when truly in season you will get the best out of them. Sweet potatoes are what I like to call a 'smart' carb and contain vitamin A, C, calcium and potassium. As well as the usual mash or wedges, try using them in curries, soups or even as a dip.
This little beauty has a whopping 40% of your recommended intake of vitamin C and is packed full of anti-oxidants. Pomegranate makes a great snack on its own, sprinkled in salads or yogurt and it goes great with salty cheese.
The humble pear has to be one of my favourite fruits and are a great source of vitamin C and copper. Pears are a good choice if you want to increase your fibre intake. Getting enough fibre aids digestion, improves gut health, controlling blood sugar, helps weight management and improves skin health. You could blitz them in smoothies, slice on yogurt or toss in salads. Check out my'pear & halloumi'
These nutty, sweet, white root veggies contain high amounts of potassium and are very versatile. Potassium helps to balance the negative affects of salt and lower blood pressure. As well as making good mash they work well in soups and stews. Roast some off and use them as a handy snack.
This may be an obvious one but apples most certainly a food you should be eating ("an apple a day...") Eating plenty of these during the autumn will give your anti-oxidants a big boost. Make sure you eat the skin as this contains the most nutrition, much more than the flesh alone. I put apples in smoothies, salads or healthier gluten-free crumble.
The grapefruit is a good choice to start eating during the autumn months. It is high in vitamin C and can give your immune system a real boost. Some studies suggest this fruit can help lower stress levels and lower cholesterol levels. Great on it's own but goes well with cumin and coriander.
I was actually surprised when I researched the health benefits of dates (yes those little brown things your nan would try and feed you!). As well as being a good source of protein, potassium and fibre, they contain 23 types of amino acids and 15 different minerals. You can use dates as a binder or natural sweetener. Eat dates sparingly because they are high in fructose (sugar).
There's lots of misconceptions about weight loss and a lot of confusion over which foods to eat, which exercises to do and which one's to avoid.
It's so confusing for most folks, especially as you hear different things all the time and it changes from one week to the next.
Here are 9 things you don't want to do (although you think you do) for weight loss.
1. Don't rely on exercise (only) to lose weight.
Exercise alone is certainly not the ket to weight loss! In fact you have to make sure your exercising properly for your goals, your body type etc. Some studies have shown that too much of the wrong kind of exercise can actually holt weight loss all together.
Don't neglect exercise though as the overall health benefits are untold and gaining lean muscle the right way will help with fat loss. Nutrition is king when it comes to weight loss. You could train every day but if you don't change what's going in your body, your body won't change.
Remember, you can't out-train a poor diet!
2. You don't have to skip meals or snacks.
If you purposely ship meals to cut calories you will probably end up eating more. You will make yourself more hungry, more irritable and likely to snack on something unhealthy. Skipping meals will also throw your blood sugar levels (insulin) around which is the opposite of what you want to be doing. In general it is better to eat less but more frequently, spaced out during the day, including snacks. Be aware of your portion size and eat snacks that are high in nutrients and fibre (veggies are always a good choice).
3. You don't need to do endless hours of cardio.
This may surprise and delight some of you! Some think that pounding the treadmill four hours is the best way to burn fat. It's no surprise as most of the cardio machines tell you about the 'fat burning zone'. It takes a long time for your body to actually get into the 'fat burning zone' and your body can start to save calories (energy). A well designed mixed program of resistance training and higher intensity cardio is more affective and you will be burning more calories at rest. Genetics will play a role in how your body responds to certain training. You may have to try different things but have some fun along the way!
4. You don't have to achieve a six-pack.
Getting a six-pack or washboard abs may seem like the holy grail of being fit and healthy. This just isn't realistic for most people. Achieving it and staying motivated is very difficult. Improving your health should be a big motivator and of course you will shed pounds along the way. Think about the positive affect on your heart, your bones, your posture and your mental well-being.
Improvements to your diet shouldn't just be about your biceps or buns. Increase your intake of whole nutritious foods, feel energised and reduce the risk of chronic illness.
5. Don't be duped into buying loads of gadgets, apps or equipment.
Any product that promises a big return for little effort should ring alarm bells. You may have seen the infomercials about the latest 'ab blaster' or miracle juice drink. Don't look for the quick fix! Nothing can beat tried and trusted basics of healthy daily habits done consistently. Being consistent with exercise and eating well will help to keep you in the calories deficit, needed for weight loss (approx -500 cals).
This means regular exercise and eating a diet of whole nutritious foods that match your activity, body type and lifestyle. There is no 'one-size-fits-all' exercise or 'diet'. Everyone is different so experiment, try new things, you will find a way that suits you and your life and your goals. Hey, why not speak to a professional? We are here to help!!!
6. You don't have to go 'gluten-free'.
Gluten free diets have been a big thing the last few years and it has been promoted by some as a sure way to lose weight. It will only be healthier to cut out gluten if you have coeliac disease or gluten intolerance, which has a damaging metabolic affect on the autoimmune system which can lead to serious health problems. You won't lose weight or improve your health just by cutting out gluten. Looking at your diet as a whole and making adjustments to your all-round intake is where you will make the biggest impact.
7. You don't have to eat ridiculous amounts of protein.
Yes protein is very important for lean muscle growth and helps you to feel more full. However, protein has the same amount of energy per gram (4 calories) as carbohydrate. In general most people don't eat enough protein so getting some with each meal (1 palm-size for women 2 for men or equivalent) should be ok. This is a starting point that would need to be adjusted depending on your goals, amount of exercise etc. Be aware of protein that is high in fat or protein bars/products that are high in sugars as this will add up in your daily calorie intake.
8. You don't have to cut out fat from your diet.
If you ditch all high fat foods like butter or only choose fat-free versions of your usual favourites then you will probably feel hungry or unsatisfied. Getting a balance of healthy fats like omega 3 and 6 into your daily diet has been shown to help with cravings and feelings of fullness. There are also health benefits of getting healthy fats daily. Be cautious of low-fat versions of foods as they will often have added sugars to compensate for flavour. Choose 'real' natural versions of healthy fats in moderation.
9. You don't have to cut out fruit.
I have seen and read about some 'diets' that ban fruit all together because of their amount of sugar. The natural sugar in fruits is a much slower digesting than added processed sugars so won't cause such a 'spike' in blood sugar levels. There is the added benefit of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fibre in fruits. Like all the food groups, be mindful of how this fits into your diet in the bigger picture.
Stop guessing & start progressing...✌️
The first thing to remember about supplements is that they should only be used to supplement good nutrition, regular exercise and a good recovery strategy. My first recommendation for 'supplements' is to eat real foods and to work on getting a good sleep ritual.
There are so may supplements out there, some good, some bad, some work, some don't. Of course there are many supplements out there that are good.
Before I use or recommend a supplement I research it and look for independent studies that back up the proclaimed benefits. A lot of supplement companies will hold their own 'studies' so you have to be cautious of this.
Here are 10 supplements that I know do work and that I take or have taken myself.
Stop guessing & start progressing!
This makes a great lunch or dinner...
You have a good mix of 'smart' carbs, protein, fats and veggies. There's nothing like a good kick of chilli to rev-up the metabolism! (as always...it's optional 😗 ) 👇 WATCH SHORT CLIP BELOW 👇
What you need.
(For 2 people)
✔️ 2 medium/large sweet potatoes
✔️ 6 pieces of smoked streaky bacon (trim the fat if you like)
✔️ 1 large onion
✔️ 2 cupped hands of feta cheese
✔️ 1 pack of tender stem broccoli (220g)
✔️ Rape seed oil (I used Lemon infused)
✔️ Crushed chilli flakes
How to do it.
➖ Preheat oven to 200c
➖ Get a pan of boiling water going
➖ Pearce sweet potatoes several times and microwave for 2-3 mins on each side
➖ Put potatoes in oven for approx 10-15 minutes to finish
➖ Chop onion and bacon finely and sauté in a pan until onions are soft and bacon starts to get a little crispy (the fat from the bacon should be enough, otherwise a drop of healthy oil)
➖ Boil the broccoli to your liking (I have to have mine 'al dente')
➖ To serve, slice the potato in two, put the bacon and onion on top, crumble your feta, drizzle your oil then add your crushed chilli to finish
Author, Nick Lower
Welcome to my blog!