The Mediterranean diet has long been touted as the best type of diet for general health. It is known to be particularly protective against cardiovascular disease but experts now claim it is equally protective against dementia.
A number of leading British health experts claim that this type of diet will be far more effective than some of the more dubious drugs that are currently prescribed for dementia. This is important because in a time when there is increasing financial pressure on the NHS anything that can reduce drug costs has to be beneficial. Not only could it reduce costs but it may also enhance some elderly patient’s quality of life. Dementia currently affects about 35.6 million people worldwide. The experts are calling for a change in emphasis with health policy, moving more towards lifestyle change and the Mediterranean diet. It is no coincidence that this very same approach is advocated for the treatment of obesity. We now have an opportunity for some joined up thinking in terms of tackling serious health issues. What is more this is most probably a cheaper option than a lot that have been proposed in the past.
Advocating lifestyle changes rather than pharmaceutical drugs won’t be popular with drugs companies but it makes far more sense. This advice uses as its foundation the Mediterranean diet. So you should be designing a diet that has a large emphasis on fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. The same goes for weight loss, just with the added caveat that you need an energy deficit in the diet.
Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) released data last week that suggests that with the expected increase in life expectancy that there will be a threefold increase in global dementia cases by 2050 — from 44 million to 135 million. Although this is a dramatic increase there is some hope on the horizon. A number of public health experts believe that a Mediterranean lifestyle diet could contribute to the goal of at least cutting the predicted figure in half. A number of studies also support this view.
So there is a very clear message here – if you want to live a long, healthy and productive life, and this means having a good quality of life, you need to make lifestyle changes. You need to move more to a Mediterranean lifestyle and this includes getting active. This will not only help control your weight and keep you fit. It will also ensure that your brain remains agile and alert.
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Caffeine is the most common drug in the world and yet when we’re drinking a cup of coffee we hardly think of it as taking drugs. Although everyone associates caffeine with coffee you can get as much caffeine from a strong cup of tea.
Where do you find caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant found in the leaves, nuts and seeds of over 100 different plant species. This fact is used by producers of some energy drinks to mask the caffeine content of the drink. They will use a more obscure caffeine source so it’s not so obvious you are consuming caffeine, guarna is one example. As well as coffee and tea, cola drinks, cocoa and chocolate all contain varying amounts of caffeine. It is generally believed that Palaeolithic man first discovered caffeine-containing plants and made beverages from them. Caffeine is water soluble and readily absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. When you consume caffeine it will typically peak in your blood plasma after approximately thirty minutes. You then start to see peak levels in your urine after approximately 2.2 hours.
In terms of caffeine’s physiological effects its main role is stimulation of the central nervous system. It also stimulates cardiac muscle so increases your heart rate and will also increase blood pressure. Because of this caffeine supplementation should be avoided by people with cardiac problems and/or high blood pressure (hypertension). Finally caffeine is a mild diuretic (makes you want to pee). It is for this reason that people believe coffee dehydrates you. In fact the average mug of coffee will mildly hydrate you as it will leave some extra fluid in the body even allowing for the diuretic effect of caffeine. This situation changes once you start having extra shots in your coffee. A strong mug of coffee will slightly dehydrate you. It is for this reason that when you are given an espresso coffee you will often get a glass of water with it.
In terms of exercise performance you will get effects in the body using caffeine doses ranging from 2 through to 9mg/kg bodyweight. To some degree the effect will be attenuated by your degree of habituation. So if you are a big coffee or tea drinker you may struggle to see any effect. In terms of caffeine’s ergogenic benefit it is most effective if you are caffeine naïve. This means you have no caffeine in your system. It takes between five to seven days to wash all the caffeine from your system. Because of this you can use it for a performance boost once a week. One major benefit of caffeine is that it raises your pain threshold and reduces symptoms of fatigue. This will allow you to train harder and longer, thus reaping the benefits of this training effect.
As with all supplements you have to have a good nutrition foundation before looking at any form of supplementation. Caffeine is one of only a handful of supplements that is readily available and very effective if used correctly. If you want to know how to manipulate your diet and use supplementation effectively you can sign up for the LEAN Fit programme. This programme is designed to optimise nutritional intake and understanding to produce effective results from your training programme.
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Exercise will increase the amount of free radicals in your body. These reactive particles have been associated with a number of things including muscle soreness, various diseases and ageing. So they certainly sound like something you should avoid. The fact of the matter is that you cannot avoid creating free radicals as they are a natural by-product of any aerobic process (a process that utilises oxygen). The good news is that your body has been well designed and can cope with free radicals quite well. The body produces anti-oxidants in various enzymatic forms and they do a great job of mopping up the free radicals.
Nutrition and Antioxidants
Your body needs to be properly fuelled in order to produce your anti-oxidant enzymes. Certain vitamins and minerals play a very important role in your anti-oxidant defences. These are vitamins A, C E and B2 (riboflavin) and the minerals are zinc, manganese, copper and selenium. As a rule of thumb if a fruit or vegetable is brightly coloured (especially primary colours) these will be good sources of anti-oxidants. You need to be careful how you cook your vegetables as vitamin C is particularly labile. In other words it is easily destroyed by cooking, in particular heating and processing. Also prolonged exposure to oxygen and bright light will destroy the vitamin C content. So handle your fruit and veg with care, and store in a dark cool place.
The more you exercise the better your anti-oxidant defences will become. This is providing you are eating sufficient good sources of anti-oxidant containing foods. It is tempting to think that more is better in this case but that is not how your body works. If you have excessive amounts of Vitamin C in your body you will just excrete it. In other words you will have expensive urine. Up to about 1000mg/day shouldn’t cause you any harm but you will still most probably have expensive urine. As for the other anti-oxidants there is no evidence that supplementing with these over the recommended intake has any benefit in terms of athletic performance. In fact there is some evidence that taking too many anti-oxidant supplements may actually impair performance. This is because the body needs a degree of oxidative stress to produce a training enhancement. If you have too many anti-oxidants in your system this completely dampens the oxidative stress and you get an attenuated training response. So the rule of thumb is - ensure that you have good sources of natural anti-oxidants in your diet and are meeting your energy requirements. This will be sufficient to keep your anti-oxidant efficient and keep the free radicals at bay. There is no supplement for sound nutrition, which should be the foundation of any training programme.
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A personal trainer (PT) is for life and not just for Xmas. Now I’m sure you've seen this slogan for dogs but does it apply for your PT? This actually raises two questions, would you get your partner personal training sessions as a Xmas present? How would this be taken, ‘a loving gesture’ or ‘I think you’re a bit out of shape and need to do something about it’?
I suppose if it is something your partner has been thinking about and perhaps said that would be a great present that will be fine. However if it isn’t then this might truly test the strength of your relationship. One way round it might be to hang on to this present and give it to your partner in the New Year. At this time of year you can pretty much guarantee the New Year’s resolution will be lose weight get fit, so now you are a real saviour with this present.
The next point raised here is “a personal trainer is for life” but is this really true? From my perspective having worked as a PT for twenty years this shouldn’t be the case. I see my role as a cross between motivator, educator, counsellor and confidant. I certainly fulfil each of these roles during some point with a client. However my end goal is always to get rid of the client and I mean this in the nicest sense of the meaning. If I do a good job with the client I can educate them about exercise. We can work on building regular activity into their lifestyle and they will understand what their training options are. As time passes I can assist them with their diet. As I am a registered nutritionist I can be prescriptive to some degree when it comes to nutrition. I primarily want to educate the client about nutrition though so they can make sound nutritional choices themselves.
All of these processes have a natural time course so that leaves motivation. No matter how good a trainer you are there are limits to how much motivation you can provide. With education and understanding your client should become more self-motivated. Even elite athletes will change coaches just to get a fresh perspective and a different type of motivation. This means that a personal trainer isn’t for life and all PT’s need to accept and embrace this. If you are just going through the motions then you need to re-evaluate your personal motivation. Your end goal should be to get your client to a point where they don’t need your input on a weekly basis. You may touch base with them from time to time but they really shouldn’t need your services two or three times a week if you do a good job with them over time. So it would seem that a personal trainer isn’t for life.
When it comes to nutrition and weight loss I share some tips in my latest video series. You can get these seven videos FREE by simply completing the form below.
What’s your excuse for not losing weight is a valid question to ask a client because most people that have tried losing weight and failed will have a valid excuse. That is to say it is valid in their eyes. However most of these ‘excuses’ when put under harsh and accurate cross examination start to fall apart.
In my eyes excuse stands for:
Extremely Crude Use of Suspect Evidence
In other words I generally don’t believe them. Top of every excuse list and this applies to exercise, activity and eating healthily is ‘I didn’t have time’. The minute you tell me you watched some television this week this excuse is dead in the water. Equally true if you got up late or spent any time playing computer games. This is a case of where do your priorities in life lie. Exercise and/or activity and a healthy diet are fundamental components of good health. If you are willing to trade good health for any of your other time consumers then they had better be very valuable. The stark fact of the matter is that without good health you won’t be able to do a lot of these anyway. So how good are your excuses sounding now, are you willing to trade?
But losing weight isn’t easy
I agree with people that say "losing weight isn’t easy"; generally, nothing in life that is worth having is. That said, with a bit of help it isn’t impossible either. You can help yourself with overcoming this hurdle through a combination of better time management and this generally means better planning. The other thing you are definitely going to have to do is to move good health further up your priority list. If you have failed in losing weight over the years and have tried a few different regimes this is indicative of where your true beliefs currently lie. If you want to know what you really believe in, look at what you currently have.
Any really successful or really happy individual will tell you that they firmly believed they would be successful or that they really deserve to be happy. This type of strong belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. These individuals spot every opportunity to make their beliefs become reality. So if you keep telling yourself you haven’t got time or perhaps use other excuses then you will spot every opportunity to reinforce that belief. Equally you will be ignoring any evidence that is contrary to your belief.
So if you want to become successful in your quest for losing weight, get fit or eat healthily then re-examine your excuses. Perhaps do this with a close friend and get them to play devil’s advocate and question every reason you come up with. Be like the annoying and inquisitive child and just keep asking ‘why is that so’? After a few hours of really drilling down you may finally get to the real reason you can’t lose weight. I can guarantee one thing “it won’t be because you didn’t have time”
The LEAN Man System encompasses a large element of psychology and one of my roles when working with a client is to help them get their head in the right place. If you would like to know more about the LEAN Man System and in particular nutrition for weight loss then why not sign up for the FREE video series. Simply complete the form below to start receiving your FREE videos.
A lot of athletes fail to get their diet to meet their levels of training. What is more they often get the content and timings of meals wrong. Meal timing and meal content are fundamental keys to getting optimal results from your training regime. So if this is the case then exactly what should you be doing?
Frequency of training
The first thing to say is that meal content and timing become more critical the more you train. If you are only training a few times a week then provided you are meeting your nutritional requirements in terms of energy and the correct balance of the macronutrients then meal timing is not too critical. Once you reach a point where you are training six days a week and perhaps in some cases more than once a day then you have to get this right. Now you might think well I only train once a day so I’m fine but if you are in an active occupation then this is not correct. Personal trainers, group aerobics instructors, construction workers would all fall into this second category.
The first thing to get right is your pre-exercise meal as this is going to fuel your training. Generally this meal should be in the region of 200 to 300g carbohydrate (CHO). Most people don’t tolerate food close to exercising so the general advice is to have this meal two to four hours before training. Providing you are only training for around sixty minutes then using water to rehydrate will be fine whilst training. One possible exception would be strength training and there is some evidence that it may be beneficial to consume a mixture of protein and CHO in a 1:4 ratio respectively, whilst training. Post exercise your key nutrient will be CHO and you need at least 60g in the first hour post training. Again there is good evidence for including protein with this recovery meal and this time a 2:1 ratio of CHO:protein is recommended.
This is a very brief overview of nutritional considerations for training. What is more all this has to be designed and included within the overall daily nutritional intake. Dependant on what you are trying to achieve with your training this will dictate whether you need to be in energy balance, have an energy deficit or be in positive energy balance. These types of considerations coupled to getting the overall macronutrients and micronutrients in the correct gram amounts is where the challenges lie. If you need assistance with your training diet you might consider getting a LEAN Report or perhaps completing LEAN Fit. If you want more information about general nutrition then why don’t you sign up for the seven FREE video series by completing the form below?
How often do you see people in the gym, who are trying to lose fat, and they are busy sipping away on a sports drink. The manufacturers of these drinks have done a great job in convincing people that they need these energy drinks to support their workouts. What is more there are now ‘low calorie’ sports drinks. That is a contradiction in terms as the whole purpose of a sports drink is to provide energy and aid rehydration. Just as an aside, how many bright blue natural drinks have you come across in nature?
If you look at current sports nutrition guidelines from a number of organisations (American Dietetic Association, American Council for Sports Medicine, Sports Dietitians Australia) they are all consistent on their stance around the use of sports drinks. In events that last up to 60 minutes sports drinks are not necessary and plain water is the easiest way to rehydrate. As events last for longer so >90 minutes this is where sports drinks become effective.
But back to our gym member busy running like a nutter on the treadmill and sweating profusely. Surely under these conditions they are better off using a sports drink? Well the simple fact is that is not the case. They are putting in the hard work in order to burn extra calories to assist their weight loss efforts. As they are a little bit out of shape this is hard work and over the course of their 40-45 minute session on the treadmill or cross-trainer they will burn in the region of 300-400 kcals. If you take into account that their sports drink will contain between 250 to 350kcal then by consuming the drink whilst they train they have managed to nullify the calorie deficit their workout created. But now matters get worse, because having finished their workout they now go into the gym café and either have another sports drink or perhaps a healthy juice; if they also add a cake to this then that is job done.
Extra calories = FAT
By going to the gym they have effectively managed to consume a few hundred extra calories. Far from losing weight they will slowly be gaining weight. If you also take into account the extra appetite drive that will be coming post workout you have a perfect recipe for additional body fat. So next time you visit the gym take a bottle of water with you and make sure you have a healthy post exercise snack to hand for after your workout. If you are going to work hard in your workout then you really should reap the benefit by using sound nutritional practices.
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A lot is talked about protein, often by people who are misinformed. As I’m giving a lecture of protein for sport this afternoon in Cardiff I thought I’d just briefly consider a couple of aspects linked to this macronutrient.
The average intake of protein in the UK is approximately 2g/kg bodyweight (BW). The reference nutrient intake (RNI) is given for age groups, genders and bodyweight but is approximately just less than 1g/kg BW. So you can see from this that for most of us we are getting more than enough in our everyday diet. When you start to look at nutrition guidelines for sport they very much depend on the type of sport with ranges from 1.2 up to 1.8g kg BW being recommended. What is clear from this is that protein deficiency in a diet is going to be quite rare.
When you talk about protein you are actually talking about a polypeptide. This term describes the chemical make-up of a protein. All protein is built from amino acids of which there are twenty in total. It is the varying combinations of these amino acids that give us the different types of protein. Of the twenty that exist eight of these are essential and providing we get these in our diet the body can manufacture the remaining twelve amino acids.
When considering supplementation for exercise there is some evidence that using essential amino acids in isolation may be beneficial for building lean tissue (muscle). This is because when you consume these at the correct time (during and post exercise) they may help maintain a more anabolic environment; this would be conducive to building muscle.
Protein and weight loss
In terms of weight loss protein does have a number of advantages. Firstly it is very satiating (makes you feel full) so that allows you to sustain an energy deficit without feeling so hungry. Secondly protein has a very high thermogenic effect. What I mean by this is that it takes a lot of energy to properly metabolise protein. This can be as high as 25% so if you consumed 100kcal of protein 25kcal would be burned up just metabolising the protein itself. This has obvious advantages for weight loss when compared to the 2% to 3% thermogenic effect of fat.
One thing to be aware of is that a very high protein diet will put a strain on your kidneys as these have to assist in the metabolising and clearing of the nitrogen associated with amino acids. On a high protein diet your water needs a can be up to five times greater.
So higher protein diets can have some benefit both for sport and for weight loss but these types of diets should be used with the guidance of a registered nutritionist (RNutr). The LEAN Man system has programmes both for sport (LEAN-Fit) and weight loss (LEAN Man). If you would like further information about nutrition, sign up for the free video series. It’s FREE so just complete the sign up form below.
Water in whatever form you consume it is essential for life. We are mainly made up of water and in fact a lot of the food we eat is also mainly water; especially fruit and vegetables. A lot is said about water but one thing I know from experience with working with obese and overweight clients is that water is important for weight loss. If you look at the biochemical pathways that produce energy in the body the things that are constant are that many reactions require water to actually occur and most biochemical reactions require an aqueous environment. A lot of my clients when I first start work with them fail to hydrate properly. The analogy I always use is: would you try to run your car without oil in the engine? Obviously the answer to this question is NO, so why try to run your body without water? Water performs all the roles that oil does in your car engine. It is lubricating, it provides thermoregulation so you don’t over heat, it reduces wear and tear and finally it provides an environment for efficient combustion of fuel to produce energy. If you had a built in dipstick in your body you’d be advised to check water levels regularly. You can calculate your water needs by looking at your energy expenditure. For every 1000kcal you expend you need a litre of water. So someone burning 2500kcal would require 2.5L in the same 24 hour period. Now that is not to say that this all has to be consumed as pure water. Firstly you will get water from your food. A diet high in fruit and vegetables may be providing at least 50% of your water if not more. Water in coffee and tea counts although how much your body keeps will depend on the strength of your tea or coffee. The stronger you have it the greater the diuretic effect. In other words the more your body will pee out. The colour of your urine is an indicator of your level of hydration but not a very accurate indicator. Your first pee of the day will generally be a dark yellow mustard colour as your urine will have concentrated through the night. As the day progresses your urine should become a pale yellow, straw like, colour. If you eat a lot of beetroot your urine can appear reddish in colour and certain vitamin supplements will turn your urine orange.
You can drink too much water and this is known as hyper-hydration the condition that can arise from this is hyponatremia. This is effectively a dilution effect on the sodium balance in your body. This leads to electrical disturbances in your nervous signalling and interferes with important sodium/potassium pumps in the body. It is quite rare, but is seen with amateur athletes who consume loads of water whilst competing and this coupled with sweat losses causes hyponatremia. In sporting events lasting greater than 90 minutes or if it is very hot then it is advisable to use a sports drink containing some electrolytes (sodium in particular).
The bottom line is that you need to be properly hydrated for the body to function optimally. The most common feedback I get from clients who hydrate properly for perhaps the first time in years is “I feel like I have so much more energy”. The fact of the matter is that their body is now able to function more efficiently. So if you are overhauling your nutritional intake start with hydration. It’s easy to do and won’t cost you anything if you use tap water.
The importance of snacking as a means of weight control or as part of a weight loss programme should not be overlooked. A study published in the January issue of the journal Food, Quality and Preference found that eating smaller snacks and smaller portions of chocolate would satisfy you just as much as a larger portion. More than one hundred adults were given the same snack with the only difference being the portion size. Subjects consuming the larger portions had a 77% increase in kcal intake compared to those eating the smaller portions.
What is interesting about this is that fifteen minutes after consuming the snack both groups reported significantly lower snack cravings. This despite the fact that one group had eaten a lot less kcal.
The study’s co-author Brian Wansink, a professor of economics at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. stated: "This research supports the notion that eating for pleasure -- hedonic hunger -- is driven more by the availability of foods instead of the food already eaten, Just a bit satisfies, not magnifies, hunger and craving tendencies for snacks,".
These data might help people trying to shed pounds or prevent weight gain. Wansink suggests "If you want to control your weight, here's the secret: Take a bite and wait. After fifteen minutes all you'll remember in your head and in your stomach is that you had a tasty snack”.
You can further enhance the effectiveness of this strategy by ensuring there is a protein source included as part of the snack. Protein is very satiating and so you will feel fuller for longer. Highly refined carbohydrates are not very satiating and so these do not make good choices as snacks. The fibre content of food will also help with satiety as this binds water and is bulky in the gastrointestinal (GI) system. Anything that distends the stomach for longer and moves slowly in the GI will aid a feeling of being full. The appetite pathway is not instantly responsive so you need to give it time to respond to the various hormonal signals that are being produced as you eat. Slowing down the speed you eat and not having distractions such as the television will all help your brain register that you have had something to eat and allow it to produce the "I'm Full" signals that you require. We are often conditioned to clear our plates and do this as habit. Try leaving some food on your plate as a way of reducing your portion size.
Another good option is to buy slightly smaller dinner plates and don’t pile food up. Arrange the food neatly on the plate and take your time eating it. Fast eating is very often associated with a higher body weight. Once you’ve finished eating allow fifteen minutes and then ask yourself “do I really want some more”? Generally the answer will be a resounding “NO”. Modern food production and fast food outlets have conditioned us to expect bigger portions or “supersizes” as value for money. This portion distortion has undoubtedly contributed to the current obesity epidemic.
The key message is eat often, eat the correct foods, and eat slowly. If you address these three aspects your chances of weight loss success should increase.