The Cheat Day: How To Do It Right?

The fitness and diet world is torn on the subject of cheat days. Some believe that 'You need them to stay sane.' While others claim 'Why would you reward a good habit with a bad one?'

To be fair, both have strong arguments, but as the holiday season approaches, the issue has been coming up more than ever. Here is everything you need to know about cheat days.

What A Cheat Day Does To Your Body?

On cheat days you can have your cake and eat it, too!

A cheat day in its' most basic form is you giving yourself permission to indulge. Since indulging typically involves fast food, sweets, and alcohol a lot more often than it does celery, its pretty much certain that you will consume more calories than you need.

Just for reference, your typical visit to a fast food restaurant (burger, fries, and a drink)  will pile on around 1000 calories. Hearty home-cooked dishes although better in nutrients, aren't much better in terms of calorie intake.

Let's face it, even with the best intentions the next few weeks are going to see you consume significantly more calories than you use and this extra energy will be stored in the form of fat.

So what do you do? Do you just decide to get fat in December before you get fit in January?!

I actually believe that a cheat day is a good thing for a number of reasons, but let me first of all explain the science behind it all...

First off, you need to be following a strict eating plan to something to cheat on!

I believe the key to any success with your fitness or diet goals is to know your body. The process of following my 30 day elimination programme is to find out how your body reacts to certain foods more so than just to drop a few pounds.

When most people try to lose weight they follow a calorie restrictive diet.

It's simple right? Less calories in = weight loss!

Well on paper yes, but we need to be aware of hormone levels and in particular a hormone called leptin which is found in the fat cells and is responsible for telling your brain when you are full.

When we follow a calorie restrictive diet leptin levels drop, your brain then senses starvation and the cravings kick in! This is why most people give up on a diet after just a few days. Their body is simply doing everything it can to restore balance. Therefore harnessing the best way to manipulate this process could be the key to success with your fat loss goals.

Your First Month Of Healthy Eating

Those of you that have seen my diet plan know that it is quite a strict process. You will by no means be starving but a lot of your favourite junk food won't be an option. The point is to reset your body to enjoy healthy food once again. But cravings are still a very real problem. Here is how I recommend you deal with them:

  • Experiment with food. Prepare tasty and nutritious meals for your family. Check out that new healthy restaurant. Restricting junk does not mean restricting flavour.
  • When a craving inevitably comes up, just acknowledge it. Understand that it's there because you are burning fat and tell yourself you are just delaying gratification.
  • Finally, at the end of the process, enjoy a cheat day. You will get a massive energy boost and your body will actually appreciate the shock. After that I recommend that you book in your cheat days once per week.

The Perfect Cheat Day

First off, you need to have a good healthy breakfast. I highly eggs and they have been proven to lower your appetite throughout the day. However, anything rich in protein and low in fat and fast carbs will do. You're going to cheat but the you don't need to go completely mad!

Next, whip out that cravings list. Which ones do you really want right now? Circle them and head over to the supermarket. Bear in mind, that whatever you buy you need to eat on the day. That holds true for parties, too, and we both know you will be going to quite a few over the next few weeks! No matter how much your host insists, you are not taking that doggy bag back home with you! You don't want anything tempting you during the week.

Eat freely, whatever your body has craved over the last few weeks - indulge!

If you love your junk food then removing it permanently is just going to make you miserable. It is my belief that all elements of health and fitness should be an enjoyable process and as you see the results of following my nutritional principles I guarantee that the cravings will become less and less.

Cheat Day Psychological Benefits

Internal organs align

The reality is most people will only really stick to a diet about 80% of the time. Over my many years of working in the fitness industry I recognise that instead of forcing my ideas onto clients I need to meet them where they are at. I want commitment but I understand that sometimes life can just get in the way and it is pointless trying to change others if I cannot be adaptable myself.  The cheat day offers a great solution for most people to achieve great results without feeling as though they are depriving themselves.

Instead of failing with a diet plan and turning a minor slip-up into a major set back you can simply accept that you will fall off the wagon manage it appropriately and continue with the diet as planned. A short break from your restricted diet can also really boost your mood and enhance your long-term motivation.

How To Be a Great Cheater!

I believe that a cheat day is a really positive move - as long as you've earned it!

The key to a lean and toned physique is in being strict with your diet - There's no getting around that. You get fit in the gym but you lose weight in the kitchen. Get into great habits, learn how your body reacts to the fuel that you feed it see the results and then be strategic with how you maintain them.

If you eat a clean healthy diet 80-90% of the time then you can get away with eating pretty much anything the rest of the time!

With that in mind... Let the Christmas Party season begin!

So those are my guidelines for a successful (or at least not as damaging) cheat day. If you have any questions or suggestions for future articles, please don't hesitate to share them in the comments below!

Cheers,

David


Your Ultimate End Of Season Review: Achieving Balance And Happiness The Easy Way

As some of you may know, I also work as the Human Performance Coach at Red Bull Racing Formula One Team.

It's an incredibly and highly rewarding experience but now that the season is over, I use this time to step back and evaluate how everything has gone for me in 2017...

Even if you are not involved in Formula One, the end of the year is fast approaching and maybe it's time to look at how it's gone for you?...

We all have New Year's Resolutions, but very few of us have end of year assessments which is a shame - as most people stick to their resolutions for an average of two weeks!

While this might be good news for the fitness industry that makes huge profits from the thousands of unused gym memberships, for the majority of people, New Year's resolutions end up being pretty much useless!

So, instead of starting that list of New Year's Resolutions for 2018, I invite you to join my end of season reflection.

How was 2017 for you?

What are you most proud of?

What was your biggest achievement?

What did your achievements cost you?

Where did most of your energy go?

This isn't just about patting yourself on the back! It gives you an understanding of what went well and what areas you need to improve upon in order to create a strategy of dynamic goals and resolutions so that 2018 can be even better!

Why Balance Is More Important Than Hard Work

Here is a piece of wisdom I learnt the hard way. You can't shut down the stress and anxiety by doing more work. Success at the cost of happiness is no success at all.

Over the years, I have heard all sorts of answers to 'What did your achievements cost you? ' Some of them are actually pretty shocking. Spending an outrageous amount of time at the office. Hardly seeing your family for months at a time. Sacrificing relationships. Sacrificing health. Sacrificing sanity!

I've been there before and seen it far too many times with clients that I've worked with and in order to change things for them and myself you need to first of all recognise where things are out of balance.

This is always the most difficult part, but I've found a little tool I refer to as my Wheel Of Life is a great starting point.

A Practical Way To Assess Balance

Most people are visual creatures. The wheel is a way for me to show my clients what their life balance looks like and it requires that you rate the quality of various aspects of your life. I have divided them as follows:

1. Career & Business
2. Finance
3. Personal Growth
4. Health
5. Family
6. Relationships
7. Social Life
8. Attitude

I find this covers most areas for most people, but you may want to personalise it more to your own life!

Fill Out The Wheel

I encourage clients to start with a little bit of reflection. What would my life look like if I had this aspect perfectly under control? For diet, that might look like home cooking most of your meals, making healthy choices when eating out, feeling energised, physically healthy and well-nourished.
Then, on a scale from 1 to 10, decide if you are pretty close to that or a long way from that perfect state!

Another way to complete the wheel is to think about your average day. How much of your time and energy goes into each aspect? Yes, worrying about it counts, too. Turn that into points on the 1 to 10 scale.

The idea is that you go through each aspect of your life and rate where you currently are in each area against where you would like to be. Some areas may be great for you while others may be causing you a number of problems. Most likely, each area will need a little bit of work.

Will The Wheel Roll?

Once you've completed the exercise, take a look at your wheel. Is it balanced? Is there any aspect that has significantly higher or fewer points than the others? In other words, if it were a real wheel, will it roll or will the weight of that one or more aspects stop the movement?

Now you know what to work on!

Turning The Wheel Into Actual Happiness

One of my favourite quotes goes:

"My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada."

It's by Ellen DeGeneres and it perfectly sums up my thoughts on contentment. Life will not always be perfect. You will have times where work overwhelms you. Where you neglect your health. Where your family consumes most of your time and where things just don't quite go to plan.

The point is there will always be tough times in life you can't avoid this, but you can get yourself in the best place to enjoy the highs and roll with the lows.

Do this exercise and then take the time to review it.

The next bit is to decide what you can do about it...

Note the areas that are lacking and commit to dedicating more time and effort to them. I personally like to list 3 practical things that would improve that aspect of my life. I know there might be days where I don't find the time or energy to do them but each week I try to revisit my wheel and and just check in on how I am balancing things out.

Your Thoughts

The reality is, time passes whether you decide to do anything about it or not!
If you're reading this blog then it's my guess that you'd like to do something to improve the health and fitness aspects of your life and maybe a few others.

I hope this post has at least made you think about assessing things and stepping into next year with a plan that will actually work for you.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers,

David


3 Amazing Cryotherapy Benefits: How It Can Improve Your Physical And Mental Health

After reading a lot about the benefits of Cryotherapy, I decided that the best way to see what all the fuss was about would be to experience it for myself...

As the wellness trend of choice, it is no wonder a lot more people are getting into it. But is it really that great for your health, or is the hype a little over the top? I thought I would share my thoughts on Cryotherapy benefits with all of you here on the blog. Read on to find how Cryotherapy could improve your health and well-being!

Getting Cryotherapy Straight

It may just make you think about the opening scenes of an Austin Powers movie! But please bear with me as I think there could be some really good benefits for you here...

Cryotherapy comes from the Greek cryo (κρύο) that means cold, and therapy (θεραπεία) meaning cure,  Basically, any use of low temperatures in treating an ailment is considered cryotherapy and this can refer to the simple ice pack on your swollen ankle, up to the high-tech cryosurgery procedures where tumours and other diseased tissue are removed by applying extreme cold temperatures.

So what sort of cryotherapy do the wellness gurus promote? Usually, whole-body cryotherapy or WBC for short. This is when you are exposed to the cold dry air for two to four minutes inside a cryotherapy chamber. As daunting as this may sound, it's actually quite a pleasant experience!

The process involves you stripping down to just your underwear and some lovely thermal gloves and slippers and stepping into the chamber that is adjusted to your height so that only your head isn't exposed to temperatures of around minus 120c!

I visited Cryogenix in East London where their marketing literature explains that "Extreme cold sends the body’s metabolic rate sky-high in order to produce heat. This effect will last 5 to 8 hours after the procedure, causing your body to burn around 300-600 calories. The results of whole body cryotherapy differs from person to person, but overall, the benefits and results can include the following":

  • Less painful joints
  • Quicker injury recovery
  • Jumpstarting the immune, nervous, vascular, and lymphatic system
  • Anti-aging

Cryotherapy Benefits For Fitness And Exercise

As a human performance coach, I take a decent amount of interest in anything that might replace me! Recent findings have shown that whole-body cryotherapy can actually mimic exercise. Apparently after a cryotherapy session, your muscles release the same compounds that they would after working out. This is fairly new research, but it could potentially mean that people struggling with obesity can benefit from cryotherapy.

The more traditional use of cold treatments is, of course, injury recovery. Ice baths have become par for the course for most elite athletes and cryotherapy chambers are becoming very popular as well. Cristiano Ronaldo, Usain Bolt and Conor McGregor all reported use cryotherapy on a daily basis!

The Mental Cryotherapy Benefits

There is more to this treatment than your physiological response. Cryotherapy benefits your overall feeling of well-being as well.

Taking a cold shower has long been considered a "character building" act. Nobody actually enjoys the freezing cold water but it is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. In fact, ice cold showers are the first thing I suggest when clients ask me about cryotherapy. Granted, 30 second blast in a cold shower is much less glamorous or hyped but it can have most of the health benefits. I have personally seen the 'cryotherapy benefits' of a simple morning cold shower:

  • It shortens your morning routine,
  • sets you up for the day,
  • shoves you out of your comfort zone, first thing in the morning.

If you have been having problems with productivity recently, a cold shower habit can help you kick that. In fact, I challenge you to try it with me for the next 14 days. Two weeks are enough to feel the benefits but it's  also short enough so that you don't give up. Get your freeze on!

How To Choose Your Cryotherapy Treatment Provider

If your local health club has a cryosauna, it can be tempting to ditch the whole cold shower experiment and run there instead. Or maybe you saw a really good Groupon for a cryotherapy session. Bear in mind, that not all places are as professional and safe as you might expect.

The first thing to guide you would be the experience they have. You will not reap all the cryotherapy benefits if it is not administered correctly. Gyms, spa centres, and beauty salons that have only recently bought a cryosauna are usually more attentive but they are also definitely inexperienced. Choose them at your own risk - I would personally only go if I had received some sort of word of mouth recommendation.

Ask them all the details about the procedure beforehand. The employees should be able to answer your questions. If they are not, once again I would question their experience.

Check the website as well. Does the information on there seem realistic? Have they linked sources or did they choose to hype the treatment mindlessly? When a treatment provider is overstating the possible cryotherapy benefits, you know for sure that their integrity is questionable. Can you really trust them with your health then?

Final Thoughts On Cryotherapy Benefits

So what's my verdict? Well, although cold treatments can be amazing in so many ways, don't expect them to 'fix you'. Much like massages, cryotherapy benefits are only an addition to an already healthy lifestyle. Remember that diet and exercise should always come first! Having said that, I found it an incredibly invigorating experience, as someone that has suffered numerous injuries over the years I am always looking for ways to manage my pain and improve my health and wellbeing and I am keen to explore this avenue further...

It is an expensive habit to keep up though, at £60-£100 per treatment, you will need to invest a tidy sum but if it does what it says on the tin then it could well be worth the investment... I will keep you updated!

Do you have any cryotherapy benefits questions or thoughts that you would like to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments bellow!

Cheers,

David


Four Unexpected Back Pain Causes (And What To Do About Them)

If you read my previous article on back pain then you'll know that this is one of the most common health issues that a huge percentage of the population struggle with. It is also one of the toughest to tackle. Back pain causes can range from a muscle strain to degenerative disease. In this article, we are looking at the common and not so common ones and what you can do right now to relieve your pain.

Types Of Back Pain

Let's first talk about the types of back pain which can be split up into acute and chronic.

Acute back pain comes suddenly and lasts a limited amount of time. Usually, doctors say that back pain lasting less than six weeks is acute. Notice that these terms have nothing to do with how strong your pain is. Acute pain could be dull and relatively weak much like chronic pain could be unbearably strong.

If your back pain lasts for more than six weeks (some may argue three months), then it's termed chronic and is usually associated with a long-term disease. With chronic pain, you don't always have as many back pain relief options as the cause can't always be treated. For instance, osteoporosis can cause back pain and unfortunately is not a treatable disease. Meaning that you can manage the chronic pain but you can't always remove the source.

Prevention Is Always Better Than Cure

As I discussed in the previous article, the best way that I know to banish back pain is not getting it in the first place! But statistics show that around 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives.

A small percentage of these cases will be chronic and you'll need proper medical advice to resolve it, but most cases are acute back pain and simply changing up a few of your habits is usually enough to eliminate it.

Heavy Lifting And Back Pain

One of the most common culprits is lifting heavy objects  - hardly a surprising back pain cause.

A lot of people feel that weight training is purely for vanity. Yes your body will look better but more importantly it will function better. Weight training is about training to be better at life! Just don't get too carried away and try to lift too much too soon, it kind of defeats the object here!

Always warm up before a strength workout. At least 5-10 minutes of active stretching and mobility exercises before every session are a must.

Learn to lift properly, whether that's a box of old things you want to move to the spare room or a deadlift you are performing in the gym, do it with good form and you will strengthen your back and not harm it.

Sitting Down

Let's face it modern lifestyle doesn't set us up for great posture. We sit in a car or on public transport for up to an hour to get to work when most of us then spend 8 hours (or more) sat down hunched over a desk, we then travel home in the same manner and spend the evening slouched on the sofa. Our bodies are more designed to sit rather than stand these days and that's why when we ask it to perform simple tasks it's just not up to the job!

Start tweaking your habits little by little... Can you move a bit more each day? Can you get a stand up desk? Can you try being mindful of the way you stand? Have a look at your posture, remember your mum telling you to stand up straight when you were younger? Well, you need to follow her advice more than ever now! Lift your chest, roll your shoulders back and tighten your core and over time you really see a difference.

Medication

This is the obvious answer to relieving pain isn’t it?

Reach for the pills potions gel sprays and anti-inflammatory creams... Ok I have to admit I have used some of the gels and sprays over the years to relieve my post exercise aches and pains but have you ever read the side effects of pain killing and anti-inflammatory medication?

Be very careful with medication. Although commonly used for a quick fix pain relief, the long term effects of anti-inflammatory drugs such as Nurofen or Voltarol can be extremely damaging. They have been seen to cause stomach ulcers and will only ever mask the underlying problem.

By masking the pain we place further stress upon the weakened areas and are unaware of the damage we are causing. As the pain increases so does the level of drugs to relieve the pain! This is madness!

Smoking

Did you know that smokers are three times more likely to experience back pain compared to non-smokers?

We all know the risks of cancer and heart disease but did you realise that your dirty little habit may also be the cause of your back pain as well?

Smoking causes decreased nutrition to the tissues of the back largely because of the carbon monoxide that cigarette smoke contains. Carbon monoxide sticks to the haemoglobin (the oxygen carrying part of the blood), this decreases the amount of oxygen to the muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons of the back. Oxygen is an essential nutrient in the healing process of the tissues of the back and must be present in order to achieve a full recovery.

Not only that but, nicotine is known to cause thickening of the walls of the blood vessels. This thickening contributes to restricted blood flow through the large and small blood vessels of the lower back and increases the amount of time for healing and recovery if you have a back injury.

So what should be done about it? Well, in short, GIVE UP SMOKING! Even veteran smokers have shown a marked decrease in back pain and further disc damage after quitting. Cutting down on smoking can also decrease the chance of developing back problems and can restore good blow flow.

These are just a few of the possible causes of back pain. Look out for my new ebook - Banish Your Back Pain out later this year for numerous  ways to prevent and manage back pain

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Cheers,

David


How To Cure Your Back Pain

Back pain is an incredibly common occurrence, approximately 80% of the population will experience it at some point in their lives and so its high time we talked about it here. Stick to the end of the article for an exciting new project I have planned that will help you banish your back pain. Other than that, let's jump straight in!

Where Does Your Back Pain Come From?

Back pain is very general. There are so many structures in and around your back and the pain could even come from your internal organs. Your pain could be caused by issues with your:

  • Spinal cord
  • Vertebral column
  • The ligaments that connect the vertebrae
  • The muscles of your back and their tendons
  • Nerves
  • Kidneys
  • Immune system (some autoimmune diseases)

For any pain that lasts longer than a few weeks and especially if you have other symptoms, please call your doctor. Some of the tell-tale signs of a more serious issue would be fever, nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations, pain urinating. Get it checked - Better safe than sorry!

If It Was A Muscle Strain (Or A Ligament Strain)

This is the easiest and most common back pain to recognise and treat. Even as a professional coach, I've had a few occasions where I have overworked my back. If you have also caused an injury whilst training, Some tips to prevent it are to make sure you always warm up, taking time to stretch after your workout, and leave your ego at the door and sure you take your time to progress in the gym (as opposed to jumping straight to heavy weights).

If you strained a muscle or a ligament, your first and most important step is rest. As soon as you feel the pain stop. Lie down on the floor or another flat surface. Breathe deeply and allow the muscle spasm to calm. It often eases away in a couple of minutes but give yourself some rest over the next couple of days.

Apply ice to the area for 20 minutes every day. Not only will it reduce the pain, but it also prevents swelling and bruising. Heat, on the other hand, is not a great idea for the first few days. However as you recover, a heat pad is often a great pain reliever as it very effectively relaxes your muscles. As always seek advice from a medical professional if the pain persists.

Posture And Back Pain

Confident woman walking
Great body posture prevents back pain!

I am a broken record on this one. Poor posture will always lead to back pain (plus a bunch of other problems). I get it, we are all busy and there isn't always time to think about proper posture but spending your day behind the desk and your night on the couch is a recipe for screwing up your back!

Fixing your posture starts with deciding to do so. Remind yourself throughout the day to roll your shoulders back and straighten your spine. A neat little trick I like is to set a 'trigger'. For instance, every time you check the time also check your posture. Being mindful of the way you stand will make the world of a difference for your back pain. And it will also prevent further damage.

Hydration Is Key

You know you have to drink water. You know that dehydration stresses out every single cell in your body. But what does it have to do with back pain? A lot, actually.

First, you have your kidneys. They filter out waste products and throw them out diluted in water. If you don't hydrate, your kidneys can't work properly. This can lead to inflammation, kidney stones, or even more serious issues. Since kidney inflammation is one of the possible causes of back pain, by drinking more water you can prevent that.

The other reason are your spinal disks. They connect the vertebrae in the spine. On the inside of a spine disk is a gel-like substance. When you are dehydrated, the disk loses some water and it's no longer holding the vertebrae properly. Drink enough water and you prevent that. The great part is that you can also help back pain by simply rehydrating. Of course, just in the first stages, not after years of dehydration, so drink up as soon as you feel it.

A line that I use constantly in my role at Red Bull Racing is to remind people that water is like their engine oil, without it things just seize up!

Eat To Help Your Back

Great nutrition will improve numerous things like your digestion, your mood, your immune system and it could also cure the back pain.

When it comes to bone health, focus on getting enough calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K. Calcium, contrary to popular belief, is not just found in milk. Leafy greens, broccoli, butternut squash, nuts, all of these are great plant sources of the mineral. So there are no excuses, even if you are lactose intolerant or vegan.

For your cartilage (a.k.a. what makes up the spinal disks), pomegranates, tomatoes, and red bell peppers are great sources of antioxidants. They limit inflammation, which can harm your tissue. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna contain omega-3 fatty acids. They are also anti-inflammatory, not to mention how beneficial good fats are to vitamin absorption and your overall health.

Finally, for healthy muscles, focus on the protein. Lean meats, eggs, fish, protein powder even (but only if it's hemp, check out the article to see why). Getting enough protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle.

Diet changes alone can cure back pain but it will take a while. They are a long-term strategy for both prevention and treatment.

The Cause And The Cure!

If there is no underlying medical issue and no huge trauma to explain your pain the the truth of the matter is the cause is probably down to you. The way that you sit, the way that you move (or don't), the food and fluids that you consume, the stress that you place upon your body and the way that you choose to look after it, it's all your fault! But you probably don't want to hear that!

Your body is an incredibly resilient machine, it can take most things you throw at it - but not everything. Pain is a reminder than something is wrong and maybe you need that reminder...

Here's the good news. If you've caused your back pain then you also have the power to cure it. Move more, spend less time on your backside, eat better, cut out the smoking and drinking, sleep more and learn how to de-stress and I GUARANTEE your back will thank you for it.

Banish Your Back Pain

Finally, I am excited to announce my new project - 'Banish Your Back Pain', a comprehensive guide to curing back pain once and for all. It is about to launch in December so keep an eye on the website and my social media!

Cheers,

David

 


The Untold Truth of The Ketogenic Diet

In the last few weeks, a lot of people have asked me about the ketogenic diet. I mentioned it briefly in a previous article and I thought I would go into more detail here.

The ketogenic diet has been getting increasingly popular over the last few years. It's not a new concept per se but to the general public, keto seems novel. So much so, in fact, that it's quickly turning into a fad diet. And there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding it so let's try to clear a few up!

What Does A Ketogenic Diet Look Like?

Diet usually implies cutting out some foods and/or swapping them with others. With the keto diet, however, it is just about the macronutrients.

These can be broken down into:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Proteins

Usually, dieticians and nutritionists will have you eat 40-50% carbs, 30-40% protein, and 20% fat. Your calorie needs are something very individual but the carb: protein: fat ratio for these calories remains the same. If your calorie budget is 2000, you would get 800 - 1000 of them from carbs.

On the ketogenic diet, the amount of fats you consume goes up to 60 or even 70%. This is to the expense of the calories in carbs. So in practice, the ketogenic diet would have you cut out foods like pasta and bread and eat more nuts, avocados, and fatty fish. It is definitely not just about eating more fat.

How Does It Help You Lose Weight?

There is a quick science lesson before you can understand it.

The reason why such a large portion of your daily calories should normally come from carbs is because your body just loves glucose. Carbohydrates contain glucose in different forms. Some are easier to digest and the glucose is more readily available, others not so much. This is where we distinguish simple (e.g. Fruit juice) from complex carbs (e.g. Vegetables).

Glucose gives your cells energy. They could also use fats to produce energy but the process takes a lot longer and is more complicated. Hence why your body prefers glucose.

When you consume less carbs, your body has to search for them, first off it uses up the glucose in your bloodstream. Then you move on to the glycogen (which is just glucose stored in our muscle tissue). These are quickly depleted, though, typically in the first 20 minutes of exercise or after just a couple of hours without carbs.

Then your body moves on to a substance called oxaloacetate.

The State Of Ketosis (And Why It's Good For Slimming Down)

Oxaloacetate is found in your liver. When your glucose and glycogen stores get depleted, your body's plan A is to produce more glucose. Oxaloacetate can be turned into glucose and that is exactly what your liver cells begin to do.

At the same time, your adipose cells start sending over fats and the oxaloacetate turns the fats into ketone bodies. The ketone bodies move with your blood and carry energy just like glucose does.

Once this happens you're in the state of ketosis which basically encourages your body to use up fat stores instead of craving the carbs it is not getting. Therefore your body will burn more fat than you would on the same calories but with a different macronutrient ratio.

The Fine Print On Ketosis

Here is a little something people don't tell you about the ketogenic diet. Ketone bodies are not your primary energy source for a reason. They are acidic, meaning that they also turn your blood acidic. Changes to the pH inside your body can be detrimental to a lot of the processes that are essential to survival. On a biochemical level, that might mean blocking enzymes or getting unwanted side products from reactions.

Overall, the state of your body being more acid than normal is known as (surprise-surprise) acidosis. Some common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Shallow breathing (your lungs trying to normalise the pH)
  • Increased heart rate
  • Strong headache

In diabetics, acidosis can be life-threatening. It happens to them because they can't use the glucose and their bodies produce ketones instead. When you are on the ketogenic diet, you are essentially forcing your system into the same state.

That is not to say that you would suffer all of these negative consequences. It is just a warning that the ketogenic diet can't be used on the long term, as beneficial as it may be for short term fat shredding. As I say with all of my articles, I'm just here to inform and not prescribe. Nothing is ever one size fits all, the Keto diet may work amazingly well for one reader and have negative effects for another. Just be aware of the potential dangers before you jump on the Keto bandwaggon.

More Safety Issues With The Ketogenic Diet

The acidosis is not the only possible negative effect of eating keto.

Glucose is essential to building new protein. When you are trying to gain muscle mass, building new protein is the name of the game. With less glucose in your system, though, there will be very little gains. That is why this isn't a long-term diet plan and you should switch between keto and a higher carb diet if you want to get slimmer AND stronger at the same time.

The kind of fats you choose also matters. In my experience, when clients first start the ketogenic diet, their performance drops. That is the acidosis plus the drop in glucose but it's also the fats they consume. Often it is saturated fat, which is unhealthy both in the short and long run. You should be careful to choose the right fats. Focus on high-quality, polyunsaturated, non-processed fats for best results. Try to get this from nuts, avocados and oily fish.

Practical Tips (And My Favourite Ketogenic Diet Recipe)

In practice, the ketogenic diet is best applied for a couple of weeks at a time. Plan ahead and use a calorie/nutrient tracking application to make sure you are lowering the carbs along with the increased fats. Meal prepping is a tedious but probably essential, especially for beginners. That way, you don't fall into the trap of consuming unhealthy fats.

An easy, keto-friendly recipe I swear by is my keto green smoothie. It is packed full of healthy fats and the greens add some extra antioxidant goodness. The basic ingredient list is:

  • A cup of baby spinach (organic)
  • Half a cup of full-fat coconut milk
  • 5-6 almonds
  • A couple of brazil nuts
  • One tablespoon chia seeds
  • Half a cup of water (or kombucha for some probiotics)

I like to add protein powder, too, especially in the morning. My favourite is hemp protein powder and I even did an article about it if you want to learn more. You could also throw on some berries for extra antioxidants.

As a bottom line, the ketogenic diet could be a great way for you to lose some weight. It is much more than a fad diet and, if done correctly, is safe and healthy. Be smart and maintain some common sense and you should be fine!

If you have any questions you would like me to answer, or any article ideas, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Cheers,

David


Hang In There: The Surprising Benefits Of Hanging

Do you want to add something new to your training programme that can improve your posture, your concentration, your stress levels and even make you look a few years younger?!

Hanging exercises are some of the simplest, most beneficial, and most ridiculously underrated moves you can do at the gym. Hanging benefits virtually all of your body and incorporating it into your routine is easy and fun.

Types Of Hanging Exercises

When it comes to hanging you have two main types of exercises - hand hanging and inversion.

With hand hanging, you grip a bar and, well, you just hang in there. This type of movement is a great tool for decompressing your spine, improving your back strength, and reducing the risk of injury.

Inversion techniques, whether you do them on an inversion table, inversion chair, or with anti-gravity boots, aim to reverse the effects of gravity. It puts your body in a very unusual position and its a way of placing controlled stress on your system. The increased blood flow to the brain, the improved lymphatic drainage, and the radical improvement in your posture are just some of the benefits of hanging upside down.

How To Do Hand Hanging Right

 

To perform hand hanging exercises all you need is a bar. Virtually all gyms have them and you can install one in your house for very low cost as well.  You can do it as a stand-alone exercise during work or study breaks or, as I have recently started to experiment with - as a great way to start your day!

A simple hand hanging technique is to spread your arms a little more than shoulder-width apart. Grip with your thumb around the bar at first. It is a stronger grip better suited for beginners (the same goes for when you are doing pull-ups). If you are comfortable with that, try reversing the grip. Although it will be more challenging, this grip engages your wrist muscles much better. No matter what grip you choose, remember to lock your elbows for added stability.

Start with the goal of hanging for 30 seconds. An experienced athlete should aim for 90 seconds to 2 minutes of hanging.

If this seems a bit tedious and you want more of a challenge, try active hanging. The idea is to maintain the same posture, except with your shoulders pulled down. This is especially good for strengthening the muscles around your shoulder joint. If you have ever suffered from shoulder pain, dislocations or similar injuries, active hanging could drastically reduce these issues. I usually have my clients do both types of hanging but to be honest I prefer active hanging as it gives you the extra shoulder stability.

The Benefits Of Hanging From A Bar

There are four main benefits to incorporating hand hanging:

  • Decompression of your spine
  • Improved wrist and forearm strength
  • Shoulder stabilisation
  • Better back mobility

Most people, unfortunately, spend their days sitting on a desk and lounging on the sofa. As you might suspect, this is really bad for your overall posture, the function of your internal organs and virtually all aspects of your physical well being. Being sedentary significantly restricts shoulder and back mobility, as you spend hours working with your arms by your sides.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time is also very harmful to your spine. The vertebrae in your spine  are connected by softer, 'squishier' lumbar discs. As you go about your day and especially if you sit a lot, the pressure on this discs increases. Over time that could cause injury and severe pain. When you hang from the bar, the compression is reversed. In fact, chiropractors do decompression techniques on their patients all the time and they are one of the best ways to reduce back pain. Hanging is a simple decompression exercise that can prevent plenty of problems in the future.

The Crazy Benefits Of Hanging From Your Ankles

 

Did you know that being hanged upside down was one of the cruellest and most agonizing execution techniques during the Middle Ages? A couple of centuries later and we are discovering that inversion, when performed correctly and with caution, can actually have some very impressive (and surprising benefits). Defying gravity by hanging upside down can:

  • Improve blood flow to the brain
  • Improve your posture
  • Improve flexibility and overall mobility
  • Reduce stress and help with concentration, productivity, memory, critical thinking
  • Better your overall circulation (essentially, by resetting it)
  • And even improve the appearance of wrinkles and blemishes on your skin!

The list goes on and on. The benefits of hanging upside down can significantly improve your well-being, quality of life, and athletic performance. There are some downsides as well, though. For instance, the 'getting back on your feet' part could make you very dizzy and even nauseous. Inversion is dangerous to perform alone, especially by beginners. Therefore, only perform this exercise under the supervision of an experienced trainer.

Benefits Of Hanging: Some Concluding Words

 

I really hope that you've  learned something new in this article. This is something that I have been introduced to in the last few months and now that I have seen and experienced the benefits first hand I am hooked!

Get yourself a pull up bar from home or try out an anti gravity yoga class and let me know how you get on...

If you have any tips for hanging exercises or favourite techniques you would like to share, please do so in the comments below. I would also love to answer any questions you might have for me!

Cheers,

David

 


Clicking Joints: What Is The Real Reason Your Bones Moan And Groan?

 

I’m sure you've experienced clicking joints at some point in your life... Whether it's a daily occurrence as you get out of bed and take a walk to the bathroom, or from your knuckles - that you enjoy cracking maybe a little too much!

Why do clicking joints happen? And more importantly, is it an indication of something more serious? It's another question that I get asked a lot and I thought I'd take the time to give you the low down on clicking joints, what actually causes this, and when it could be dangerous. Read on...

What Makes A Joint

Fit woman stretching
Stretching is great for your joints!

 

The bones are arranged in a way that means under normal circumstances they don't touch. The ends of each bone are covered in cartilage which is a resilient and smooth elastic tissue with rubber-like padding that covers and protects the end of bones at the joints. A joint is basically two bones coming together, bound by some tendons, ligaments, and muscles. More importantly, though, each joint has a capsule and contained inside this capsule is a tiny amount of synovial fluid that reduces friction between the joints.

How Synovial Fluid Causes Your Knuckles To Crack

 

When you pull the joint capsule ends either with normal movement or forceful actions like knuckle cracking, you essentially make the joint capsule bigger.

The amount of fluid within the joint does not change but some of the gases dissolved inside are released. "Air" bubbles form very quickly to fill the empty space. The process of these bubbles forming is called cavitation and because the release of gas happens so fast, a sound is produced and that sound is the infamous crack.

Why Cracking Your Knuckles (Or Any Other Joint) Could Be Bad For You

Clicking joints are not usually a cause for concern. They click because of the gas and this is a completely natural process. If you crack your joints often, though, the change of pressure will inevitably affect the ligaments. In fact, micro-injuries can happen with every single click. That is why I encourage my clients to slowly stretch before and after exercise. My rule of thumb here is to focus on active (yet still gentle) stretching and mobility exercises before the workout session and on slower passive stretches afterwards.

When Clicking Joints Are A Cause For Concern

Although clicking joints are usually nothing to worry about, there are some cases where an underlying condition is causing them. These usually fall in one of two categories: inflammation or injury. The difference is in the timing. It would be days, weeks, or even months before an inflamed tissue around the joint cause’s pain. If there was injury, though, you would know right away, especially if you tore a thick tendon.

Injuries That Could Cause Clicking Joints

At the extreme level one of the loudest sounds your body can make is if your Achilles tendon snaps. This is the thick cord that connects your ankle to the back of your lower leg and if it ruptures the sound is similar to a gun being fired!

A tear is more subtle and if it didn't happen at the moment of high tension on the tendon, the tearing of your heel cord could resemble a joint cracking. If you hear your ankles clicking and you suspect there could be some injury, observe yourself in the next few hours. Is there any pain or swelling? If so, chances are you could have damaged the tendon and it would be a good idea to have it checked out by a doctor.

Another common injury is twisting your knee. This type of injury usually happens to football players but with a bit of bad luck, you could even injure your knee running on the treadmill. The clicking sound, in this case, often means you may have damaged the cartilage as well. Once again, talk to a doctor and try to put as little pressure on the joint as possible.

Clicking and pain in your feet or toes could be the unexpected consequence of wearing uncomfortable shoes. I have seen it happen to a few of my female clients that were particularly fond of high heels. As hard as it might be, try to switch to flats and the problem usually subsides.

Clicking Joints And Inflammation

Arthritis is the generic term used to describe inflammation of the joints. As scary as it may sound, joint inflammation happens to a lot more (and more diverse) group of people than you might expect. It’s not just reserved for the elderly, I have met girls as young as 17-18 suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Although there are over a hundred types of arthritis the two most common are:

  • Osteoarthritis that comes with age and it affects virtually all joints in your arms and legs
  • Rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disorder, essentially your own immune system turning against your joints.

Sometimes clicking joints and pain can mean a serious underlying issue

Although arthritis patients require complex therapy (that this article won’t do justice), there are a couple of tell-tale signs that your clicking joints could be arthritis:

  • Trouble moving the joint
  • Pain and stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Muscle aches around the joint
  • Secondary effects on your entire system - weight loss, poor sleep, fatigue, loss of muscle flexibility or even function. Make sure you watch out for these and seek medical advice if you notice any of them.
Sometimes clicking joints and pain can mean a serious underlying issue

 

More Reasons For Clicking Joints And How To Improve Them

Sometimes the problem just can't be explained. An old injury that didn't heal properly, an incorrect alignment of your joint, over-exercising, all of these could cause clicking joints. Here are a few tips to minimise the cracking:

  • Stretch properly before exercise. It improves joint mobility and it also increases the flexibility of the tendons. This way, you are less likely to suffer an injury.
  • Have at least one rest day per week. Less can sometimes be more! Especially if you are a beginner. Overdoing it could cause injury.
  • Make sure you have enough nutritious food in your diet and you’re properly hydrated. A few of my favourite, joint-friendly foods are nuts and berries(loaded with healthy antioxidants that fight inflammation), oily fish like salmon (for the joint, and brain, healthy omega-3's), and the occasional steak (that contains all important amino acids for your joint fluid).

To help you get started on your way to healthier joints, here is my favourite pre-workout active stretching routine:

  • Push-ups with a twist - a regular push-up except you extend an arm when you come up. I usually do at least ten. If you can't do a standard push-up yet, going on your knees is perfectly fine as well.
  • Stretch walking lunges - I have my clients do a few laps around the gym, alternating legs on each step. Just make sure your knees never pass your toes.
  • High knees with a knee to chest - Essentially, you do three to five high knee jumps and then you hold your knee to your chest for five seconds. Spend at least five minutes on this and your knees will thank you.
  • Inward and outward foot rolls - The most basic of exercises but it makes the world of a difference, especially in clients with feet issues or pain.

So in closing are your clicking joints anything to worry about? Well, if you don’t experience any pain, then NO. But if the joints are painful, swollen or restricted in anyway it could be the signs of something more sinister and you need to visit your GP to find out exactly what is going on.

 

 

What helps your clicking joints? Do you have any tips or questions for me? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

David


Kinesio Tape: Helpful or Just Hype?

 Using Kinesio tape for treating injuries or inflammation is not anything new. It has been in treatment protocols for decades. Most experienced Physio's and massage therapists are familiar with the method. As someone who has struggled with numerous injuries in the past, I'm often seen with bright pink tape all over me!

But when a client comes to me and asks for advice on how to use it? A client without much background in professional sport? Who has not heard it from a doctor or a therapist but from her co-worker? Then it's easy to see that Kinesio tape has become a trend.

Since it is something I swear by, I thought I would share my thoughts with you, rather than just my client. What is Kinesio tape? Who is it for? How does it work (and is it a placebo)? Read on to find out!

What Exactly Is Kinesio Tape?

Basically, it's a tape for your skin. It is made out of a thin and stretchy cotton fabric with adhesive on one side and it's almost identical to human skin in the way that it behaves. Kinesio tape has the same thickness and elasticity and it moves just like your skin does. Athletes love that because it provides support without constricting movement.

Kinesio tape was first developed in Japan for treating musculoskeletal issues. Then their Olympic team started using it and from there it spread all over the world. Professional athletes use it to recover from injury but also to improve form and performance. Taping is one of the most versatile methods in kinesiotherapy, no wonder now it is reaching the general public as well.

What Do You Use It For?

Here is a list of conditions that taping could improve:

  • Acute soft tissue injuries - These are muscle strains, tendon and ligament injury, as well as bruising.
  • Bone injuries and pain - Support for after the fracture has healed, shin splints and even growing pains in teenagers.
  • Joint issues - Poor posture, instability, swelling, misalignment.
  • Tendon and fascia inflammation
  • Inflammatory and autoimmune conditions like lupus, arthritis and fibromyalgia.
  • Low muscle tone and muscle weakness

Obviously, if you have a serious medical condition like arthritis, fibromyalgia or general inflammation  then kinesio tape may well provide some welcome pain relief. However, it should not be seen as a cure-all, but as part of a treatment plan it can certainly play its part.

Does It Even Work?

You can still exercise with Kinesio tape!

So does it actually work?!

I'm sure there are many people out there that will point to a lack of scientific evidence to support the benefits of kinesio tape and maybe they are right to do so. I have experienced first hand the support and pain relief it provides and as a result maybe a placebo effect does come into play each time I now use it.

As with any treatment I offer or fitness programme I design, I am always looking to provide something that is appropriate for each individual. So no matter what I think, if a client really believes that this approach is beneficial to their performance, then that's good enough for me!

How does it work?

Unlike normal strapping tape, Kinesio tape provides elastic support. The traditional strapping technique restricts movement by wrapping non-elastic tape around the area of injury. That is great for the first few hours but it has to be Removed soon after because it restricts circulation and movement. Strapping with a rigid tape can actually slow down the healing process as blood does not reach the spot efficiently. Not enough oxygen and glucose get to the site and both of those are key to recovery.

Kinesio tape provides dynamic support. It protects your tissues, muscles, and joints while still giving you a great range of motion plus preserving circulation. Since it is non-restrictive in all senses of the word, you can wear it for days. Depending on how often you shower, it could last anywhere from 4 to 7 days. Even with rigorous exercise, applications have never lasted me less than 4 days.

The Benefits Of Kinesio Tape

The main benefit of kinesiology taping is it gives you 24-hour support without any negative consequences (like poor circulation or restricted movement). After an injury, your muscles get weaker. Maintaining proper form - be it during exercise or simply in your day to day activities - is more difficult. As a result, you can strain other areas that don't normally get that much tension.

It is a vicious cycle of the post-injury weakness causing more injury. The point of taping is to put the joint/muscle/tendon back to its' correct position. It helps posture problems for that very same reason. As for swelling and inflammation, the benefit comes from the passive lift to your skin. The tape gently tugs on your skin which makes the vein and lymph drainage faster. The quicker the drainage, the easier to reduce the swelling.

Since by-products like lactic acid are also removed through the veins, taping can also help reduce soreness the days following exercise.

 

How To Use Kinesio Tape

I always tell my clients to start with the basics. It's true for exercise, diet, and all other health habits you adopt. Of course, if you have any underlying issues that cause the pain and swelling, you would have to tell a doctor about them. Taping a sore ankle is not the same as taping to reduce arthritis-related pain. In the first case, you could probably get away with just the Kinesio tape. In the second, your healthcare provider should probably adjust the other treatment for arthritis. As always, when in doubt, consult a doctor.

There are some basic rules to follow when you apply the tape. First, clean skin is a must. Having any lotion, sweat, or even just water makes the glue weaker. It's best to take a shower before taping and then to clean the area with a cotton pad dipped in 70% alcohol. Make sure the ethanol dries before you apply the tape, though. Also, never use it if you have open wounds or if you have had reactions to acrylic glue before.

As for the actual tape, always cut it round in the edges. This way it will not peel and will last you longer. Don't just stick it on either. You want to have two anchor points where the tape is not stretched. For the rest of the tape, some stretch and tension are more than welcome. It is what gives you the effect.

I have filmed a short video tutorial for an ankle injury taping. Since it's one of the most common issues my clients get, I am hoping it helps you out. If you have any questions on Kinesio tape technique, I would be happy to answer in the comments down bellow!


MCT Oil: What Nobody Is Telling You About The Ultimate Body Hack!

MCT oil has been around for a few years now and has recently gained huge popularity via Dave Asprey and his bullet proof coffee. 

However it wasn't that long ago, that all fats were being deemed unhealthy. So what has changed people's minds so much over the last few years and why should you take MCT oil every day?

Let's dive right in:

What Is MCT Oil?

MCT oil has plenty of benefits to your physical and mental health. Yes, that also includes better cognition.

Your body functions on three fuel sources; carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. Lipids include fats (also known as triglycerides).

Protein has always been viewed as the building blocks for muscle growth, carbohydrates as our fuel to move and fats as something to avoid at all costs!

I'm sure by now, you now know that fat doesn't make you fat, in fact it is vital for numerous bodily functions.

An example of the "good fat" your body thrives on is triglycerides which are made up of glycerol and three fatty acids attached to it. The glycerol is the backbone and you have the fatty acids sticking out from it. It is found naturally in coconuts, coconut oil and in butter and other high-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows and goats.

So what is so good about MCT Oil?

To digest triglycerides, you need enzymes and bile salts. These transform the fat so it can enter your bloodstream. With medium-chain triglycerides, however, you don't have to do that. They already have the correct structure, to begin with so they are much easier to digest and absorb.

Not only that, but MCT oil can also improve protein metabolism and induce ketogenesis. - another buzz word at the moment.

Ketogenesis is simply another way for your body to distribute energy but has gained popularity recently as the process has been marketed as "turning your body into a fat burning machine!" Part of this statement holds some truth, however there are some side effects to ketosis.

This is a whole other subject that I will go into in a later article but basically, as your body burns fat, the liver produces ketones out of fats. Ketones cross the blood-brain barrier very efficiently, which is why MCT oil is sometimes called brain food.

Here's the key thing, a fat deficiency can seriously tamper with your hormones. Your body needs fats in order to produce oestrogen, testosterone, and a bunch of other incredibly important hormones. When you avoid fats in your diet, you risk an imbalance.

This is why I see first hand how so many female clients now have screwed up their bodies as a result of following poor dietary advice over the years. They have been badly advised to avoid ALL forms of fat in their diet and as a result they now have a hormone imbalance and symptoms such as weight gain, mood swings, lowered immunity, poor physical and mental performance, the list goes on and on.

Consuming MCT oil changes all of this. It gives your body and brain the energy boost it needs, it supports your digestive system and even has antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties.

 

The Reason I Put MCT Oil In My Coffee Every Morning

When people ask me how do I like my coffee, they rarely expect to hear 'With oil in it'. Bulletproof coffee is the real deal when it comes to boosting energy, improving my performance, and giving me a variety of other health benefits.

Obviously, it gives me all the antioxidants black coffee has anyway which are quite impressive. It lowers your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, prevents Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, not to mention coffee lowers appetite and it can help with weight loss.

Another great reason to have MCT Oil in your coffee is that caffeine is also soluble in fats. When you drink coffee on an empty stomach, the caffeine in the water will get absorbed fairly quickly. The MCT takes a little longer to be absorbed. That is why adding it to your morning cuppa gives you lasting energy (and by lasting energy I mean 4-5 hours at least).

Finally, To Sum Up The MCT Oil Benefits...

You have the energy boost and the coffee benefits, but Bulletproof coffee also gives you all the goodness of medium-chain fatty acid supplementation. That means:

  • An easy to digest source of energy. And it is the kind of energy that your brain loves, which improves your cognition visibly (even after your first cup of Bulletproof coffee).
  • Hormone support and imbalance prevention.
  • Burning more calories and an aid in weight loss. MCT oil is popular in the fitness community because it's a fat that helps you burn more fat.
  • Immune and gut health. There is evidence that MCT oil is beneficial to your gut microbiome. It helps balance out the bacteria by fighting the pathogens and supporting the good microbiome species. Since your gut health is related to virtually all other aspects of your well-being (including mental wellness), MCT oil has some major health benefits for your system as a whole.

So there you have it - the reason why I take my coffee with a teaspoon spoonful of MCT oil.

Do you agree with all this?  Do you have any Bulletproof coffee tips and hacks? Or do you just have a question to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Cheers,

David