Monthly Archives: July 2021

3 lifestyle hacks to ramp up fitness gains

What if I could give you 3 things that will immediately provide you with gains in your fitness? And as we know fitness gains are also health gains.

I am going to get straight to it, here they are –

  • track your weight
  • decrease food portion sizes
  • structure your training


Let’s look at each of the 3 in greater detail.

Hack #1. Buy some scales and track your weight. The single most important fitness factor relating to health is weight. Put weight on and usually your health decreases (the caveat to this is unless your bodyfat is stable or decreasing while weight increases). Go ahead and search “weight related to health” and see what pops up. In the same way an athlete records times, an accountant tracks spending and the gauge on your car tells you you need more gas, your weight should be tracked frequently and using the same scales and at the same time of day (to ensure you get valid numbers). You could try checking it more frequently to better understand how it fluctuates through 24 hours especially as it relates to different foods and fluids.

I do hear clients and others tell me they don’t need to do it daily as it creates too much mental pressure to watch what they’re eating. This is a true story. You can understand then that people do have actual mental issues when dealing with food. There’s a lot of them.

This is the area I have to work most hard at with many clients.

As with all parts of the fitness framework the old adage always rings true, “if you ain’t measuring, you’re guessing”. Start measuring and recording the results, create at least a smidgen of self accountability. I love that word so much I linked a definition of it! By then measuring and recording over months and even years you are taking firm control over the number 1 cause of health related issues.

Hack #2. Portion sizing is an easy way to understand your body better and to help with the previous issue of measuring weight.

As a quick aside I do not favour spaghetti as far as foods go but I know many do. It’s not uncommon for my food journalling exercise with clients to reveal pasta dishes being frequently consumed. I am not an advocate of immediate elimination of foods, in some extreme cases it is warranted but generally I start with portion control of the foods clients are most familiar with.

In a study in 2018, participants were overfed for 28 days and all increased weight significantly, excess insulin playing a role in the weight gain. I have discussed the role of chemistry in food production previously and how satiety hormones can be bypassed enabling the consumer of the food to continue eating not realising that they’re already full. This makes food companies more money and the people eating the food fatter.

We must go back to basics by taking control of our portion sizes (plus other things but let’s start with portion sizes) and by doing so we can have a substantial impact on our weight.

In my eBook, Fitter Leaner Stronger in 90 Days I have a challenge for readers. The challenge is to eat 50% less for 7 days, so every meal they would usually eat and every time they would drink anything other than water, they are tasked with eating or drinking a half portion. I have done 3 7 day challenges on social media and with a pool of 40 people the average weightloss over 7 days has always been more than 2 kgs.

We overeat constantly.

Please also remember another old fitness adage – “you cannot out-train a bad diet”.

Hack #3.

Spend 15-30 minutes on a Saturday or Sunday creating your weekly training or exercise and then schedule it.

It really isn’t that hard – do you have my free eBook? This will help you in so many ways to do exactly this.

There is so much very poor information out there when it comes to fitness, to someone that is somewhat (defintion: more than a smidgen) qualified to evaluate the situation I am actually appalled at the quality of it. Physiotherapists love it of course because many broken people means more customers but for you, my message is don’t make your physio rich!

Get the solid basics under your belt and then start planning when and how you will do it! This is the link to my eBook so please request this and I will get it to you asap!

The rest then is up to you – go for it!

Sunlight = testosterone!

In my bid to keep informing myself about all things fitness and health I watch a lot of very interesting podcasts including ones from Andrew Huberman/Huberman Lab.

Huberman’s platform provides a lot of research on a wide range of topics related to health.

I have been interested in the role of sunlight in our lives for a long time.

The evidence is well-known that sunlight is the foundation of growth for a lot of organisms and it seems sunlight is crucial to optimum human function as well. Regular readers will know I am very big on optimising function.

Light landing on the surface of the eyelids stimulates the release of the hormone seratonin and this hormone begins to wake us up. Seratonin works in the opposite to melatonin which the body releases to help aid sleep.

Light on our skin helps our body manufacture vitamin D and there’s been some research around this subject that has revealed some other extremely interesting facts.

Our bodies are able to manufacture their own natural sunscreen – true. This study followed on from earlier research by Brown University that pinpointed receptors, previously thought to only be in the eye that trigger melanin release which protects skin cells from the damage of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

There’s also evidence to suggest that by wearing sunglasses too often you shut down the work of the receptors mentioned in the previous paragraph and hence the endocrinal activity that sunlight triggers resulting in less melanin release.

And there’s more – Huberman states categorically that early morning sun directly into the eyes, by that he means without sunglasses and not actually sun-gazing (another interesting topic) results in greater testosterone release in men and women.

It seems keeping our eyes “safe” from sunlight has not been honouring our hundreds of thousands of years of evolution which kind of makes sense.

Bottom line is ditch the “sunnies” from time to time and boost your fun juice!

If it doesn’t test you, it won’t change you!

The single biggest flaw I see way too often in gyms is people cruising through 1, 1.5 and even 2 hours of a gym session. There’s no true work done just a series of exercises that generally isolate a muscle group or 2 and that underpin the misconception that doing loads and loads of reps gets the job done – “I felt the burn!”

Traditional training methodology tells us that we do sessions around chest and biceps, back and triceps, legs day and shoulders and calfs and split it all up over a week.

If you’re a pro bodybuilder or your coach is and one of you knows what you’re doing then you have a chance of looking good on a stage or when you walk along the beach.

For anyone else looking to eliminate an old sports injury or that bad back suffered a few years ago, wanting to improve muscle mass and get leaner, sleep better, think better, work better and just be better, then your approach needs to be different to this.

When you structure your training properly the biggest winner in your body is your hormonal balance.

Hormones effect sleep, your ability to concentrate, your moods, how well you digest food and if your body will put on lean muscle and lose fat to name a few of the important functions hormones influence.

A lot of hormonal balance is dictated by stress. If you’re mentally stressed at work your body releases cortisol, the stress hormone and here is what WebMD says about it –

Too Much Stress

After the pressure or danger has passed, your cortisol level should calm down. Your heart, blood pressure, and other body systems will get back to normal.

But what if you’re under constant stress and the alarm button stays on?

It can derail your body’s most important functions. It can also lead to a number of health problems, including:

After work if you then go to the gym and physically stress yourself the body doesn’t know the difference between mental and physical stress and continues to release cortisol. You think you’re doing the right thing and “releasing” your tension, having a bit of a blow out and it’ll all be ok when in fact you’re doubling down on the worst hormone you could be doubling down on.

But I have good news for you. Change your routine to complement your stress levels. Frequently on this blog I have provided the evidence for high intensity interval training (HIIT) and heavy resistance training (HRT) because of the positive hormonal effect of these types of training. Engaging in a session of HRT and HIIT can lower cortisol levels but the proviso is you must do these types of training properly so educating yourself about what constitutes this type of training is very important.

A lot of people including qualified trainers get it wrong so what are the basics?

For a start both HRT and HIIT are easily done within 45 minutes so endless sets of 4 different exercises all for the chest and then having to do the same for biceps are a thing of the past.

I suggest you look at 3 or 4 compound movements first, squat, deadlift, chest press and hip thrusters. Do them Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday or pair up hip thrusters with one of the other exercises during the week if the gym isn’t your thing on the weekend.

Do 5 sets of 5 reps of each of the exercises and take at least 2.5 minutes or even 3 between sets. Lift a weight that strains you so that if you needed to do a 6th or 7th rep it would be almost too hard to do.

Once the compound exercise is done then do a 10 minute EMOM (every minute on the minute). Minute 1 do burpees for 30 seconds rest for 30 and then minute 2 do air squats or push ups, you could even do a loaded exercise here such as dumbbell chest press (if you want to improve your chest) or deadlifts (with a lighter weight than if you were doing HRT to improve muscular endurance) and again work for 30 seconds and rest for 30 and then minute 3 go back to burpees for 30 seconds, 30 seconds rest and then minute 4 back to the strength exercise and continue for 10 minutes/5 rounds of each.

Anyone that tells you you can do this type of thing for 15 or 20 minutes is either a professional athlete or a liar because quite simply most humans cannot output high intensity for anymore than 10 minutes and even this involves frequent rests of equal length to the work periods (W:RR at 1:1).

The fact is HRT and HIIT are proven to provide the best bang for your buck training-wise and even more so as you get older and your Circadian Rhythm gets more and more out of whack with the influences of the aging process.

The challenge is truly understanding the concepts and then how to apply them to your exercise schedule. Because if you don’t you won’t be testing yourself the right way and will not be gaining the most from your time.

Take the guess work out and check out my very affordable, at home training solution or email me and start a conversation on how you can benefit most from changing up your exercise!

What fitness success looks like

This is James Knowles. He’s 49 and by the time he is 50 he will have achieved a lifetime’s dream!

He was a chubby kid, hated PE at school and was always last to be picked for sports teams (all his words).

He also tried everything in a bid to get fitter, leaner, stronger. He did water fasts, juicing, bootcamps, health retreats and engaged a lot of personal trainers.

I was amazed at the vastness of his knowledge of all the things that abound the fitness industry and generally are all simply not true, again this is what he told me –

  • eat 6 smaller meals instead of 2 or 3, you will improve your metabolism (what a beauty that one is)
  • do sit ups to get abs
  • long cardio sessions to “burn” fat
  • do high reps (15 to 20) to pump your muscles
  • buy a protein supplement (and you will magically get bigger muscles)
  • stretch after every session
  • “earning” the right to eat bad foods by exercising them off

Finally when he hit a minor plateau on his weightloss (he has lost 11kgs to date plus lost bodyfat; increased water and muscle percentage; and finally his average heart rate and blood pressure have both dropped) his wife pondered whether his intermittent fasting had triggered a starvation response. Clearly this is another fitness myth, this one around the body starving after less than 24 hours without food, a physiological impossibility.

So James was a typical case. A massively successful businessman, throwing money at fitness-quick fixes all his adult life and never finding success. Here was a wealthy man wondering how much of his wealth he would need to be reserving for his health fund as he got older. True.

He reached his absolute lowest point when on a 2-week fitness bootcamp he was doing heavy squats and something went very wrong. He suddenly felt a huge pain in his lower back and he crumpled to the gym floor in absolute agony. They helped him up and he was straight to hospital, a slipped disc and spondylosis was the diagnosis – a double whammy of a degenerative bone condition leading to the disc failure under load.

He spent a week flat on his back.

One week after that he met me, purely by chance in a cafe.

Month 1 on the pics above was 2 weeks after meeting me. I recommended he see my trusted physio for 2 weeks and then he and I got into it, with 3 months of rebuilding his core, his basic cardio function and working on the 7 basic human movement patterns.

3 sessions a week only. Intermittent fasting. Slowly but surely tidying up a very carbohydrate-centric diet. Keeping tabs on caffeine and alcohol. Using breathwork and meditation to help mitigate the effects of a highly stressful work environment. Drinking more high quality water. Prioritising sleep.

He then returned to the physio who gave him a clean bill of health other than the obvious issue of the spondylosis.

We then spent 3 months on strength and conditioning. We added 2 shorter sessions to his weekly workload. All his lifestyle changes became ingrained habits. Look at his 6 month pic!

We are now on another 3 months where we will help him with body composition gains (basically a 6 pack)! A 6 pack is what he has dreamed of his entire adult life, to feel good about taking his shirt off at the beach and around the pool. He’s almost there!

If you want this, you can have it but it will take time and money. I know what I am doing. Don’t take chances with your long-term health and fitness, do it right! And ladies meet Anne Boyd –

Your options range from do-it-yourself and very affordable to I will guide you all the way! Let’s get on email, Zoom or a call and see what transpires!

Fitness (done right) is true healthcare – discuss!

The more extra kilos you carry the more unhealthy you are. Why?

This is about human function which I have previously written about here. When the human body is not optimised functionality is restricted and one of the biggest disruptors is excess weight/fat.

Human function is basically our physiology and can be described as –

  • the physical, mechanical, and biochemical function of humans

This connects health, medicine, and science in a way that studies how the human body acquaints itself to physical activity, stress, and diseases.

Fitness done right can have significant effect on physiology/function and therefore your health. But we must understand what fitness really is.

You will not get healthy jumping around to music with an instructor shouting commands at you, with a drill seargent-type individual barking orders at you or following a random fitness app or YouTube ” fitness guru” on your phone. These might be fun and entertaining and make you sweat but how do any of these relate to human function and therefore improvement in your health?

Bottom line is none of them do.

Similarly your personal trainer should have a plan for you, with at least a basic accumulation of data outlining markers related to fitness, body composition and general performance.

If he/she does not bring this to the table with a clear explanation of how the plan will work then again you are not on the correct track.

As a professional in your area of expertise or discipline I am sure you are busy and your time is important to you. So wasting it with spending time doing the wrong things is not a high priority.

As I stated earlier you can have a significant effect on your health, physical appearance and general life performance by focussing on improving function. Physical, mechanical and biochemical function. Regular readers of my posts will know that I have a highly science-based approach to fitness especially regarding our endocrinal system.

Research is unequivocal, once we exercise for an outcome that stimulates growth hormone (GH) release we take our training and results to the next level. The biggest challenge for most is they don’t know what this actually means and if they do, the application is generally haphazard.

Once a human being begins to move to a GH dominant endocrinal profile the ease to which it is to build lean muscle tissue and to lose bodyfat is remarkable. All that is then needed is to ensure the correct techniques are applied to maintain the profile. In doing this you are addressing the issue of the extra kilos and getting healthier.

We can also fit in various specifics for sports and athletic pursuits.

It’s not just GH as it relates to biochemical function of course. A large part of this is our microbiome or microbiota and this is directly related to nutrition. Nutrition can be briefly summarised as –

  • quality and quantity of water intake
  • periods of fasting/cleansing
  • quality and quantity of nutrient intake
  • minimisation of poisons

All of the above list of 4 are easily dealt with if you have the commitment.

So improving our human function is quite simple and highly achieveable if we decide to commit to it with a reasonable amount of practicing knowledge. There are basic steps you can take to get relatively fast results that are easily implemented and maintained.

Why not get an expert involved!!

Measuring Success!

An old phrase used in the fitness industry is “if you ain’t measuring you’re guessing” to basically say you need to be taking note of some measurables to enable your success. There are so many and I have discussed some of these in previous posts and in this post I will explain key data points and give a real-world example from a client.

So firstly this does not mean apps. I have constantly found apps to be a waste of time for a variety of reasons. They offer too many irrelevant measurements which can have the effect of moving focus away from the more important ones. Quite often these apps don’t accurately measure what they say they are and therefore can be misleading.

Your time is better spent focussing on relevant numbers based on your specific outcomes and the challenges you face as an individual. Furthermore your training is also unique to you so capturing that relevant data is also important.

Most importantly you need to be able to read and interpret the data, this providing you with an accurate overview of what’s working and what’s not in your training process.

It’s not only training that needs keeping track of there’s food and sleep as well, plus, in my mind we need to be tracking our mental game, breathwork and meditation most importantly. I am of the belief, a belief built from years of trial and error that we need to silence our minds frequently and by doing so, enable much better clarity of thought.

These are my “big 4” being training, sleep, food and mental fitness and we need to track certain data around these.

In the data I’m presenting below my client Mike made great initial progress and then after 5-6 months the results tapered and began reversing. He and I are constantly communicating and I’m always trying to keep him focussed on the important parts of our collaboration. On several occasions we’ve had honest, courageous discussions where I’ve had to point out trends in data related to trends in behaviour.

It’s important to note that when it comes to the big 4, there’s usually lifelong habits that can be very hard to redress. Communication of messages designed to rectify such habits and behaviours has to be thought out and designed for maximum effect. Quite often the messaging is longitudinal, which I mean to be frequent and over a long period! A friend once remarked that certain people needed the keyboard communication technique to which I replied, “you mean emailing them” and he said no, “you have to punch it in”.

I’m sure you would expect I don’t use the keyboard approach, I use a variety of techniques all designed of course to get the my client the best outcome.

My most recent review with Mike had me suggesting he was most definitely using excuses for some of his behaviours and his feedback to me since correcting them and achieving the gains he has was to thank me for my forthrightness.

You can see from his results that there are some significant correlations around stress (resting heart rate and blood pressure) and weightloss. Plus look at the intermittent fasting average daily hours in June compared to previous months. Also look at the average daily gains in muscle mass and water in June, both significant markers of health. We collect daily numbers that take him a few minutes every day to upload and as you can see we have built an impressive amount of quality data specifically designed to help Mike achieve his goals.

There’s a lot to gain from tracking program-specific data. I use this remotely with clients and have weekly online fact to face reviews where we deep dive into relevant topics. This enables me to tweak the programming to maintain its effectiveness and keep my clients on track.

If my clients aren’t progressing they lose momentum, this being a symptom of poor oversight on my part. If you need accountability, are time challenged and don’t necessarily want to be exercising in a gym and want a world-class fitness solution that addresses all areas of your lifestyle feel free to reach out! If you would like to download my free eBook you can do so right HERE