If your body shape falls towards or beyond the right hand side of these sets of images (approx. over 25%) and you are reading this then you are probably interested in the answer to the question of exercise vs. diets.
I’ll try and amass the vast swathes of research done in this field here: Firstly with respect to diets there is simply no diet that works better for fat loss than another; what makes a diet ‘successful’ is one that is adhered to over time. So whatever you can stick to is what will provide the most result. The reason I have highlighted the word success is that by its nature a diet is usually a short term program and what we see has the most success is sustainable (i.e. long term) modifications to ones diet.
So let us consider that verses exercise and take a look at what has the most effect. The best way to consider which of these has the most effect is to compare the results using the same currency. If we consider the body as a physiological entity then we are talking about calories. When we look at how many calories our bodies require on a 24hr cycle we see the majority are needed to operate internal functions such as breathing and metabolising our food (BMR). Only a small percentage on top of this would be burned in an exercise session. Therefore the effect of exercise alone on immediate calorie expenditure is heavily diluted by all the other calorie expenses of the body; you can see your calorie requirement and BMR here.
However in most forms of exercise you build lean muscle either as an intent or a by product depending on your session choice; and here is where exercise wins in the comparison to diets. Lean muscle burns lots more calories than other tissue types and so whilst it is not an immediate effect on calorie expenditure by the body a long term effect of exercise does result in more calories (and therefore fat) being burnt.
So what about diets; or as we said earlier changing your diet? Well if the answer is consistency you have to ask yourself “Can i live like this?” and if the answer is no then you have made your changes too strict and you must change them to be more realistic. If you can keep a food diary this will really help, studies show that what people are notoriously bad at is estimating the calories they eat. If you start with a diary and a calculator you can tot up your intake accurately and wont leave anything to chance. As you gain experience you can probably start trusting that your estimations are accurate, but its worth checking in every now and again to ensure you have not drifted!
A couple of tips that can help you stay on the straight and narrow:
1 = Never eat lunch out unless someone else is buying! This is pretty simply a filtering mechanism to prevent you eating food that you have not prepared but is a good way to remind yourself.
2 = A couple of minutes a day with your food diary is more valuable than 30 mins in the gym.
Of course we all make New Year resolutions with the best of intentions; gym membership sign ups are at an annual high and January is the most popular month to go ‘dry’. BUT the once busy January gym floor is back to its usual regulars only by March and those who abstained from the booze resume normal drinking habits around this time too. So how do you get resolutions to stick?
The answer is not to change the resolution but change the approach you take to achieve them. If you look at those around you who are positive, happy, successful and in control of their health you probably wont find many of the achieved these life goals overnight. They usually chipped away at them over a period of time and most likely suffered downs as well as ups along the way as life buffeted them around.
We must expect the same when we set fitness/weight loss/health goals and not beat ourselves up when we are beset by adversity. Gaining a pound on a weight loss plan not the end of the world and certainly is not a reason to stop trying. Not hitting a PB in a training session does not mean your not making gains overall, its just not your day. The trick is to stand back and look at your overall progress, you did not get to this place that you are trying to improve from overnight; it took years for you to gain this weight/loose fitness you once had/feel unhealthy (delete as appropriate, or tick all 3!) and you certainly cannot expect to change it all in January.
So my advice to you would be resolve to change your expectations for 2017. Good luck
Recently I was approached by a desperate friend whose daughter is overweight and about to leave home to go to University. Worried the daughter would go off the rails having left the supportive environment of her family home, we discussed her options.
Weight gain is a really tough one; both for the individual and for their loved ones. No one likes to see someone they care about becoming unhealthier, missing out on activities because they are too overweight, feeling terrible about themselves and loosing self-esteem or possibly having work issues. Added to this list and more, people stigmatise the overweight; society is conditioned to align beauty and success with slim people.
The solution, however as I explained to my friend, is not in a healthy education although this helps with the ‘rehabilitation’ part but in resolving the root of the overeating. And this is almost exclusively a head issue, which needs careful and professional (often) dissection, exposure and resolve before it can be eradicated in a way that means it won’t bounce back next time that person feels down, unloved, vulnerable or alone. Because there is a better therapy than food and that is self-love….
SCORE 1 POINT FOR EACH TRUE ANSWER AND 0 FOR FALSE
- Are you patient
- Do you fear public speaking
- Are you in debt (except mortgage)
- Are you laid back and content
- Are you the boss at work
- Are you a leader amongst your friends
- Do you sing at karaoke
- Do you have friends of both genders
- Do you get irritated easily
- Do you play a team sport
Score = 3 or less yes’s
You should build an exercise plan focused on gradually incremental sessions making sure that you cross train and integrate variety of movements within your training. An example would be to sign up for a triathlon, marathon or endurance race of some description. You should look for something that is unachievable with your current fitness about 3-4 months away. You should design a plan that your friends and colleges can either come and join you on or at least support you on the day.
Score = 4- 6 yes’s
Your exercise plan should be intense and focused on one goal in 4-8weeks time. You should feel it is going to be very challenging with your current fitness to get a time/score that you will be happy with. Your training should be entirely aimed at improving your time/performance in the goal you have set for yourself.
Score = 7 or more yes’s
You should choose a goal with your friends or family, maybe your sports team/club. Select something that everyone can do together, perhaps a mud challenge or multi stage event you can do in relay. Better still if you can raise money for a charity you are all supporters of and use that as a way to generate camaraderie amongst your peers. Train alone or together and keep it fun and varied.
Politics is full of promises, some are kept and others are not. But when a politician makes a promise you want him/her to be around for their term to see it through. Right? So what if the potential leader of a country is not in good health?
David Cameron at 43 became the youngest prime minister of our country in 200 years, and if we take BMI (body mass index) as an indicator of how much care someone pays to their health its clear to see he was a healthy investment for the nation.
Over the pond the picture is less clear; 2 candidates twice Cameron’s age are battling it out for premiership. What’s catching the media attention is Clinton’s recent diagnosis of bacterial pneumonia; and rightly so because despite her campaign’s attempts to debunk any fear the condition can become nasty. People over 65 with a weakened immune system are prone to the bacteria causing the infection. Yes the antibiotics can clear it up, but if her immune system was this weak to start with then how sure can we be about her general state of health. She already takes blood thinning medications for a blood clot that was found in her head 3 years ago whilst only 65 years old.
On the other hand we see Trump cherry picking medical reports to show the media, typical of his subversive manner, whilst joking about needing to loose a few pounds. A FEW POUNDS ? Clinically he is OBESE at 121kg and 181cm tall!
At 70 years old this makes it firstly much harder to loose the weight but secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it means that at the stage of life where the body is in a state of decline one really has to ask whether putting so much extra pressure on his internal organs is wise….usually wisdom comes with age, but with Trump we’ve seen enough to not put the words in the same sentence I think!
What makes an Olympian? – Is it indeed true that they are genetic freaks or are they just so driven that nothing could ever stop them?
Well there’s probably some truth in both.
Firstly you do have to have some genetic predispositions; you don’t see many short basketball players or high jumpers. An Olympic athlete’s build is usually optimised for his or her sport for example:
- A large lung capacity can well place them for aerobic participation; think swimming or running disciplines.
- Having large hands makes a great water paddle for the swimmer and having long legs makes a great long distance runner – whilst having shorter levers (arms and legs ration to body length) provides great mechanics for the power lifters.
- For the long distance runner the volume of their calf is said to aid the biomechanics in that a smaller one means less mass to move per stride. Combine that with long legs and you can begin to see how the African athletes are more naturally built for these types of events.
And for the rest of us? There are things you can change with a little dedicated training, the things that you or I could work to improve upon because we play sports that we love even though we are short with chunky calves!!!
- Like decreasing our resting heart rate through aerobic activity.
- Increasing our reflex speed through SAQ (speed agility quickness) and coordination drills.
- Working at our positive mental attitude and believing we can be better
- And of course becoming leaner so that the weight we carry around for whatever sport we play is useful muscular weight and not energy wasted in carrying around excess fat
….So there is still lots to play for guys, train hard, be as good as you can be and if you’re not heading for the Olympics watch in awe and amazement as I do, at the wondrous feats of the human body!!
Success is a mindset. If you want to become the best, you have to push yourself, you have to want to be a better you. This is a significant part of the British Army’s ethos and I think everyone can take away something useful from learning more about it.
Are you training, or are you exercising? Because training is different to exercising in one significant way – what defines whether you’re training is if you have a goal to your efforts; this could be to reach a career, to win a race, or even to become a better you…all are equally worthy.
It is important to have this goal because everyone has moments of doubt, of weakness, of fear of failure; but it’s the goal which helps push you through this.
Everyone who’s physically pushed themselves knows about the ‘pain cave’ or the ‘dark place’. It’s at that moment which you will be most challenged to either quit or push through the pain. Success requires prior planning in my opinion; it doesn’t need to be written down or vocalised, you just need to ask yourself why you’re there at that moment. Find a phrase which is powerful to you, this can be very personal, it could even be a memory, but focussing on the right trigger for you will see you to the exit of the pain cave…
In my experience the most striking example of this is when watching someone row a 2K. There is the first 500m which is a breeze, you feel you could row the pace all day. Then the next 500m to 1K makes you work harder, your breathing is ragged and all the efficiency you felt early on is gone – welcome to the entrance to the pain cave. What happens next is down to the person, do they want it enough, can they dig deep and refuse to quit? Some people have it, some people develop it over time, but without it there’s no hope.
Training should challenge you, it should be a struggle because it all helps you reach your goal, helps you to become a better you. Work out what motivates YOU and reap the benefits as a result.
Personally I didn’t want to believe it… But after trying not to listen, I heard about coffee potentially being bad for you?! I know, I didn’t believe it either, so I’ve looked into it; I’m far too biased to base this on my own opinion *slurps his brew* so I started with the research – and there appears to be plenty!
With so many studies to choose from I decided on a study carried out at the prestigious T H Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, carried out on 208,000 people (over 30 years!) in the well-known coffee loving United States.
The conclusions certainly weren’t what I expected, and perhaps not what you’d expect either.
On the positive side: The scientists concluded ‘moderate coffee consumption was associated with reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and suicide’. Plus, no associations were found with cancer deaths.
An interesting fact to note in this study though, is there being no difference in benefit between caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee!
By this point I was just relieved at least some of what I heard was unfounded and but it still leaves the gap for highlighting any actual benefit beyond short term alertness. However the key word here is MODERATE (referred to as 3-5 cups a day – which sounded a lot to me even…) says Dr. Ding, a doctoral student in Harvard’s department of nutrition.
So the up-shot of this study, in my humble opinion is if you’re a coffee drinker then keep it moderate and perhaps try the decaf, and if you’re not a coffee drinker then there’s probably not need to change your habits for the sake of longevity.
The slogan becoming harder to kill makes a good T-shirt, but is there a more profound meaning behind it? That’s what I set out to discover…
Survival comes down to functional training. This means how much of your training genuinely helps you in normal life, or what living wild would entail – picture zombie apocalypse where your running shoes are your best friend…
Obstacle course races have captured the imagination of our society, me included, and why is this? To me it feels like a chance to harp back to a bygone era, a primal time when your fitness was your weapon to survive. Perhaps it takes us being put into an environment where our survival of a course becomes the over-ruling concern to make us think of our fitness and health as being as important in our lives as it should be – I for one have certainly known of people who have rediscovered a desire to become ‘useful’ in their mind by doing such races, and that’s where I see the race’s purpose.
So what do we do with this new-found realisation? Probably very little but being an eternal optimist I can but hope. What we SHOULD do is not get bogged down in specialism – try to embrace all areas of fitness, especially the ones with clear transferable benefits to day-to-day life; and look at the training of the fittest, the athletes who cross sporting boundaries and the military personnel who train to meet any challenge, just to name two examples.