FAQs & Myth's
- To lose weight I have to restrict myself to only vegetables and lean meat
- If I don't ache after a workout, it's not working
- Eating fat will make me fat
- I need protein shakes to gain muscle
- I can't lose weight because I've got a slow metabolism
- Being healthy means my diet has to be boring
- I'll look really bulky if I lift weights
- Carbohydrates makes you fat
- If I am aiming to cut down sugar intake. Does this include natural sugar found in fruits too, such as apple, banana, etc. If so what is the best way to consume sugary fruits?
- Should I eat low carbs or high fats?
- Can you explain calories to me?
- Why are blood sugar levels important?
"To lose weight I have to restrict myself to only vegetables and lean meat”
Weight loss in it’s most simple form comes down to energy balance. In other words, if I eat more calories than my body requires in a day, I will gain body fat.
Of course, there is a lot more science involved than that, but for most people looking to decrease body fat, start simple. Move more, eat less and prioritise the following:
1. Make sure you get good quality sleep (at least 8 hours)
2. Eat high quality food from fresh, local, natural sources.
3. Be aware of your portion sizes.
4. Get active, exercise 3-5 times per week.
5. Allow yourself time to enjoy life on a daily or at least weekly basis.
If you want to track your food intake more closely, which can be helpful from time to time, try using MyFitnessPal.com.
But most importantly, keep it simple, be creative and get the most food from your calories. Plan your meals around a good source of lean protein (Chicken, Salmon, Cod, Tuna, Turkey, Venison, Beef, etc) and include a generous portion of unprocessed vegetables (especially the green kind).
Consume these first and you'll fine you’re feeling full and have calories to spare.
"If I don't ache after a workout, it's not working”
Sore muscles, also referred to as delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) is the result of stress being placed on your muscles, causing micro-damage in the muscle fibres, as they repair your body adapts and gets stronger.
It’s quite common when you undertake a new exercise program or add an additional stimulus to a workout that you feel sore the next day, it’s a sign that you’ve outdone your bodies current capacity.
This does not necessarily represent the quality of a workout though, especially if you are dieting or more advanced in your training. If a muscle is used to being worked it may not have the same trauma response, meaning you do not feel sore or as sore following a workout. Additionally, if you are dieting you may feel more sore than previously, due to the body lacking the nutrients required to repair or sustain effectively.
That said, the day after a successful training session your muscles may appear slightly swollen and a bit tighter and harder. You’ll most likely be aware of them more than usual.
If muscles you trained feel completely normal or look ‘flat’ the next day, you may want to review your training and focus on how you stimulated them, as well s looking at your nutritional intake.
"Eating fat will make me fat”
Most commonly the body stores additional body fat when we have an energy surplus, in other words, eat more calories than we need.
Fat is actually vital to the many bodily functions, including protecting organs, absorbing some nutrients and producing important hormones as well as offering a source of energy.
There are various forms of fat, you may have heard of:
- Monounsaturated (OMEGA 9) - Liquid at room temperature and appear in many naturally occurring foods.
- Polyunsaturated (OMEGA 6) - Liquid at room temperature and appear in many naturally occurring foods.
- Saturated - Solid at room temperature and appear in many naturally occurring foods, like meat.
- Trans Fats - Most commonly artificially created via a hydrogenation process.
A well balanced diet should ideally contain Mono & Poly unsaturated fats. Aim to build your diet around foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains,dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts; and reduce intake of sodium, sweets and sugar sweetened beverages. By doing this your diet will be low in both saturated fats and trans fats.
However, having some saturated fat is really important to your diet as it provides many useful benefits including:
- Nerve signalling
- Improved immune system
- Brain health
- Stronger bones
- Live health
Fat is also a great way to get a slower release of energy, helping to keep your blood sugars at a consistent level. This is important for fat loss attempts and general energy distribution.
As a guide the American Heart Foundation, advises:
- 25 - 35% of your total daily calories as fats.
- Limiting saturated fats to less than 7% of your total daily calories.
- Limiting trans fats to less than 1% of your total daily calories.
- For good health, the majority of fats you eat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
"I need protein shakes to gain muscle”
You need protein to gain muscle but this does not necessarily mean you need to drink protein shakes.
Protein shakes are great for convenience and they can even aid you in meeting other nutritional requirements alongside your required protein intake.
However, you should also be careful they contain good quality ingredients and you are not unintentionally consuming more calories than you require.
If you wish to get your protein from somewhere other than a shake, you may want to consider:
Lean Protein (dairy, fish, poultry, venison, etc)
Plant based protein from nuts & grains
If you're looking to increase muscle, The National Strength and Conditioning Association (N.S.C.A.) recommends that active people consume 0.4g to 0.6g per pound of bodyweight with as much as 0.8g for a competitive athlete. If you’re dieting you may also want to consider upping your protein intake (whilst remaining within your daily calorie target) to aid weight loss.
"I can't lose weight because I've got a slow metabolism”
...with the exception of certain endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s syndrome.
Metabolism is the energy expended by the human body when performing bodily functions (breathing, circulating blood, repairing cells, digesting food, etc), aka Metabolic rate.
Metabolism is probably the most commonly used scapegoat for weight gain. It’s worth considering that if we truly had such poor metabolisms most of probably wouldn’t have enough energy to get up in the mornings, not to mention carry out basic bodily functions as efficiently as we do.
There’s a multitude of muddled truths when it comes to metabolism, so instead of looking at the confusion, lets discuss the best ways to get a kick-ass metabolism:
- Workout with weights. More muscle leads to more energy being required on a daily basis aka 'an increased metabolic rate'.
- The more active the person, the more calories expended.
- Drinking water is also thought to burn calories in the process of warming it to the bodies temperature.
- Digesting protein also requires more effort (producing a thermic effect) which burns more calories.
- Quality sleep. The better you sleep, the more productive and active you are likely to be the following day, again increasing calorie expenditure.
You’ve probably also heard that metabolism decreases with age, this is often true but not necessarily because you’re older, it’s due to a decrease in muscle and tissue.
So, if you really want to make a difference to your weight and body composition, get active, pick-up some weights (regularly) and control your calorie intake!
"Being healthy means my diet has to be boring”
You are not required to eat a diet of just green leafs and boiled chicken to be healthy or to lose weight. Admittedly, those who include green vegetables and lean proteins in their diet are off to a good start in ensuring their body receives many of the vitamins and minerals it needs, but just eating this doesn’t make you ‘healthy’ as such.
In fact, in my experience those who eat a heavily restricted diet are the same people who struggle with binge eating sessions and sustaining weight gain.They also tend to be miserable and tired, especially if their calorie intake is abnormally very low as a result of their restrictive diet.
So, what do I recommend?
Ok, these would be my 5 simple steps to maintaining a healthy and sustainable diet:
- 'The 90:10 Rule' - Consistency is key, create a diet based on real, unprocessed food that you are confident that 90% of the time you can maintain. The other 10% you can live a little more.
- 'Eat Clean’ - Don’t over complicate things, focus the majority of your diet on lean protein, green vegetables and complex carbohydrates. Remember that fat is an important part of your diet but it’s also higher in calories than carbohydrate and protein, so include it, but in moderation. Don’t go nuts….get it?
- ‘Keep a log’ - Ahead of each week plan your meals and stick them on your fridge. Additionally keep last weeks meal plan too. It’ll keep you on track for the upcoming week and help you remember if things when well or not the previous week. Other things you can try are mobile apps such as My Fitness Pal for calorie tracking.
- 'Live a little’ - Techniques such as giving yourself an evening a week to have a treat can prevent an evening of binging because you’ve heavily restricted yourself for so long that your cravings are pushing you over the edge.
- Experiment - Try new foods, mix up flavours, buy some herbs, spices and vegetables you’ve never heard of and try them out. Keep things new and interesting.
"I'll look really bulky if I lift weights”
The truth, gaining muscle is hard work, even more so for women than men, due to their usually lower testosterone levels. In fact, most experts suggest that a woman actively training to gain muscle would do well to gain 0.5-1lb per month.
Another interesting fact is that just because you’re lifting heavy weights, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to develop larger muscles. In the presence of the correct training programme and a notable surplus of calories you may start to see growth. However, it would still be a long, long way off achieving the look of a traditional female olympic shot putter.
Whilst, the term ‘Bulky’ may also be subjective, and largely determined by your own perception. I’d encourage almost everyone to introduce an aspect of weight based training into their workouts.
Here’s a few reasons why…
- Muscle is denser than fat, therefore 1lb of muscle is far more compact and will help achieve a more defined slender physique, once a healthy level of body-fat is achieved.
- Increased muscle means more calories burned just to stay alive. Aiding weight loss and eating more (who doesn’t want to eat more?)
- Improved bone density
- Reduced long term blood pressure
- Improved stress and anxiety
…There’s even suggestions that it aids brain function!
The deal clincher for me is that it’s an incredibly effective method for weight loss. In 1993, Melby’s research showed that after an intense weight based training session, oxygen consumption remained increase by 9.4%, 15 hours after the session finished!
Which in a nutshell means your metabolism stays elevated for longer following a weight based workout, and more calories are burned over a longer period, helping achieve fat loss.
"Carbohydrates makes you fat”
Sadly, carbohydrates have become a scapegoat for weight gain in recent years. The truth is, like other macronutrients as fat or protein, they play an important role in our diet.
In most cases, weight gain is due to an individual eating more calories (energy) than their body requires. However, poor food choices may play a part in increasing body fat.
Food choices and diets are largely over complicated, and in most cases all we really need to get back to basics.
if I AM aiming to cut down sugar intake. Does this include natural sugar found in fruits too, such as apple, banana, etc. If so what is the best way to consume sugary fruits?
Sugar in fruit is different to added sugar in processed foods and confectionaries. It's also processed slightly differently by the body and doesn't confuse the bodies hunger response, into thinking you've not eaten.
What is most important is not to alienate any individual foods, but have a good understanding of:
1. The role of Fats, Carbohydrates & Proteins, and how they work within your body.
2. The required portion size of Fats, Carbohydrates & Proteins, inline with your lifestyle and the level of activity you undertake daily.
If you're looking to lose weight and your day is fairly sedentary, you wouldn't require a huge amount of additional energy (especially not suddenly), so you may want to lower your carbohydrate intake and choose foods which offer slower release energy. That way your body can use it gradually and doesn't store it in your fat reserves.
You would also want to increase your protein, as this is good for maintaining your muscle and burns calories whilst it's being digested. Lastly, you would eat less calories than normal to put your body into a calorie deficit.
Therefore, in relation to your initial question, it maybe sensible to opt for fruits with lower sugar content, such as berries and cherries, and eat higher energy fruits such as Banana's, Mango's etc more sparingly or immediately after exercise for recovery.
Sugars quite topical currently and get a bad wrap, but as with everything, it's moderation and relevance to your lifestyle. In the same way that water and running are associated with being healthy, but drink more water than your body can handle or run daily Marathons and the effect isn't 'healthy'.
Should I eat low carbs or high fats?
It's a bit of a minefield when it comes to nutrition, so here's a simple overview that'll hopefully get you started.
Firstly, why do we need fats, proteins and carbohydrates....?
Fats are important for several reasons, three of which are: energy, absorption of vitamins and protection for vital organs.
Proteins are known for their ability to aid recovery and repair within the body, they also play a valuable role with hormones and enzymes systems, even assisting with DNA creation. Protein can also be used as energy, but this is not it's primary function due to it's other important jobs.
Carbohydrates are valuable for immediate and stored energy, some carbohydrates also provide fibre which helps our digestive system.
So, why more protein?
Firstly, protein is vital for our daily bodily functions. Secondly, when we digest protein, it takes longer for the body to break it down, which means we stay fuller for longer, and therefore don't feel the need to over-eat. It also burns more calories in the digestive processes.
Breakfast is often the meal most people struggle to include protein with, but it is vital that we do. If you eat an omelette for breakfast, you may stay full until 12.30pm, whereas if you eat a bowl of cereal you maybe hungry by 10:30am. You've also got more of the necessary building blocks for developing muscle and repairing the body, leading to more calories are being burnt (if consumed alongside a good exercise programme).
Next...carbohydrates. The important distinction is to realise that carbohydrates are found in a variety of foods including, sugar, sweet potatoes, rice, fruit, fruit juice, oats, spinach, broccoli and cereal. However, there is a vastly different nutritional profile and effect on the body between a bowl of spinach and bowl of sugar.
Sugary carbohydrates produce a high level of energy very rapidly. Quickly raising our blood sugar levels and sending our energy levels straight up and then crashing back down. The end result is a craving for more food and a low level of energy, with the excess energy from your previous meal often being stored as fat.
Continued levels of high sugar carbohydrates can result in the bodies ability to deal with these types of food being compromised and excess fat being stored. Long-term this can lead to diabetes.
Other longterm effects may include: Premature ageing, cancer, altered vision, cataracts and retinopathy, alzheimer’s, vascular disease, erectile dysfunction, kidney disease, joint pain and arthritis.
If you want to make a change, start reading your food labels. Foods with less than 5g per 100g of sugar are considered to be 'low-sugar' and are therefore healthier.
Be aware of unexpected foods: frozen fruit, juices, squashes, purees, bread, dressings and sauces.
In the 1950's it was thought that fat was the main factor behind weigh gain. Since the introduction of 'low-fat' foods in the 1950's the average female dress size has increased from a 12 to a 16! Possibly because many diet products substitute fat for sugars and sweeteners.
Fats play a vital role in our diet and it's important that we maintain a good level of healthy fat so our bodies can fully function. Fats also help keep us fuller for longer; offering a good source of energy and not causing rapid blood sugar rises.
Ideally our diet should always be balanced between, lean proteins (chicken, fish, beef, eggs, dairy), carbohydrates (low GI and fibrous vegetables) and healthy fats (fish, nuts, eggs etc).
Finally, when it comes to breakfast, try not to be constrained to the expected bowl of 'Cheerios' or 'Special K'. Set yourself up for the day with a high-protein breakfast.
Can you explain calories to me?
This is the first and foremost topic for weight loss or gain.
Whilst it’s really important to eat naturally occurring sources of healthy foods, ultimately if we consume more or less calories per day than our body uses, we will lose or gain weight.
It’s often said that 1lb of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories and therefore consuming plus or minus 500 calories over the period of a week (7 days) will lead to 1lb in weight change.
This provides a basic and easy way to gauge your daily calorie intake.
So, to lose weight you should be ideally 500 calories per day under your estimated daily calorie requirement, and for weight gain or muscle gain, it’s advised you exceed it by 500 calories per day.
Consuming all or the majority of your calories from lean proteins, plant based carbohydrates and healthy fats remains key to sustaining a healthy and happy lifestyle.
Your calories are already calculated and can be found on the first page. These include any changes required to meet your goals.
Why are blood sugar levels important?
This is one of the fundamentals of weight loss, maintained energy levels and being healthy.
When we consume carbohydrates, they are turned into glucose, to be used as energy by the body. Upon eating carbohydrate based food, our bodies release a hormone called insulin, this helps deliver glucose to the relevant parts of the body.
Sugary and refined carbohydrates are transformed into glucose much quicker, causing blood sugars to rapidly rise. When the body doesn’t require the glucose produced, it is stored as fat. Continued increased in blood sugars, can also cause insulin resistance, causing further weight gain.
Lower glycemic index and unrefined carbohydrates, such as raw vegetables, sweet potato, brown and wild rice, all take longer to digest, meaning slower release of glucose and therefore your blood sugars stay more stable and energy is provided over a longer period.
Additionally, natural or healthy fats also don’t spike blood sugar and can aid weight loss.