Friday, June 26, 2009

10 sets of 10, with a tyre....

As you know we have a tradition of coming up with a non-sensical, random, no-rules workouts every friday. This week it was our very own Master of Volume Zahid, the man with the largest adrenal glands in East London to come up with a workout and he has done us proud. Zahid has developed a reputation for the longest workouts on the team and is the only person we know who calls ten sets of snatches "a finisher".....!

As those of you who train with us know, we like to take elements from the many different schools of thought out there and for this workout we were inspired by the high volume, mentally demanding but brutally effective german volume training - popularised by Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin and with earlier similar versions from the likes of Vince "ouch my shoulders hurt dips" Gironda. This was then combined with the sometimes rather insane methods of high rep explosive routines favoured by the Crossfit crowd.

Now, far from us to weigh in on the various pro's and con's of these often diametrically opposed approaches. We'll leave that to you to decide what works best for your own body and routine.

However, this weeks friday challenge was to perform 100 Tire Flips with 'Ernie' the tyre, in as fast a time as possible.

Currently the record is with the low-volume, low-rep, Zack "I don't do cardio or sets longer than 20 seconds -ATP dominant" Cahill, who posted a time of 27 minutes and 36 seconds and is now complaining of severe forearm soreness and walking like John Wayne.

Of course, the wisdom of this workout may be slightly questionable....it's just one heavy, hard, dynamic, full-body exercise done for a lot of reps, with not a lot of rest and it is physically and psychologically challenging....but why not give it a try? Alternatively come down to our gym any time during opening hours and give it a try yourself, we will be posting the best times on the blog.

Good luck!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Five ways to Get Fat

Yes, you did read the title correctly. Today's post is nothing more than a poorly veiled attempt at a bit of reverse psychology. Here we look instead at some dietary strategies that are guaranteed to help you stack on unwanted bodyfat in double-quick time.

So, if these sound familiar then you should probably consider giving the opposite approach a try....

1. Eat large portions of energy dense food - Studies find that when told to eat only until full, people will overeat when confronted with larger portions of energy dense food. One study showed a remarkable 800 calorie difference in a day when the participants were confronted with the option of lower energy/smaller portions. Portion control is often the first stop in figuring out why your eating plan may not be working.

2. Skip Breakfast - Guaranteed to lead to both poor food choices and more of it than if you had eaten a good breakfast, including some protein. N.B: Cornflakes and Orange Juice is NOT an example of a good breakfast.

3. Drinking beers and lagers - Unfortunately beer intake can be a direct contributor to the infamous beer belly and the research does support this with studies showing a clear link between alcohol intake and increased abdominal fat deposits in men (http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13556219772912).

Of all the various forms of alcohol, beer is in fact probably the worst one when it comes to weight gain and there are several key reasons for this. The combination of simple sugars and alcohol in beer send our hormonal system off the wall causing increases in both insulin resistance and cortisol. If our body grows less sensitive to insulin then we progressively release more and more, which encourages the body to store more fat. Cortisol, which is an adrenal hormone (the alcohol causes large releases of this) causes abdominal fat storage (there is plenty of research now showing the link between high cortisol levels and abdominal fat storage), while also telling the body to keep ignoring the insulin it is producing. As if that wasn't bad enough it also affects other areas of the body - breaking down muscle for energy, which slows our metabolism, affecting thyroid hormone production and lowering testosterone levels.

It gets worse, because as we age our testosterone levels start to naturally drop, which means that the effect of drinking is more magnified in older men. Increased fat storage at the waist then causes men to start to produce estrogen - the female sex hormone - and before long you have man boobs! This is caused by an enzyme in our body called Aromatase which converts testosterone into estrogen. Surprise, surprise, alcohol increases the activity of Aromatase.

Alcohol has a few other interactions that can harm fat loss efforts, for instance it can block absorption of essential nutrients such as Zinc, Magnesium, and the B-Vitamins. It can also affect how we metabolise essential fatty acids and it can create further stress responses through its diuretic actions (dehydrating the body).

Of course it is simplifying things a bit too just blame beer for this, stress can make this situation even worse by increasing cortisol levels in the body, preventing good sleep patterns, and leading to poor food choices (refined carbohydrates in particular) - all of which can lead to a 'beer belly'. Of course you can still get the 'beer belly' look without the beer, by consuming large quantities of any alcohol (some of which have more pronounced effects than others), along with eating a diet high in sugars and having poor sleep patterns you can recreate the metabolic circumstances that lead to increased abdominal fat storage.

4. Eat high sugar/high fat combination foods Foods high in sugar and fat, while tasting pretty good, are a surefire recipe for stacking on weight at the middle. A good diet should have an appreciable amount of quality fat in as it is essential to health, but pairing up crappy fats with sugars (in particular hydrogenated fats with artificial sugars like high-fructose corn syrup - HFCS) is a nutritional disaster zone. Sugar sends our insulin levels sky-high telling us to store away all those calories packed in to the food itself. So, to gain fat - keep insulin levels high, and to lose fat, get them under control (though not always low - as insulin is also anabolic and at times is needed for growth!).

5. Eat fast and late. Fast food, perhaps is best named for the speed at which most people tend to devour it. Chewing food aids digestion and hence helps with absorption of key nutrients. Poor digestion is particularly likely to lead to poor health and often weight gain. Combine this with taking in a whole heap of food late at night and you have the final nail in the coffin for a healthy lean lifestyle.

Armed with these top tips you should now be able to gain weight - mostly bodyfat - with the greatest of ease. Of course, if that isn't your desire then simple reversal of these practices should give you an idea of how simple dietary changes can make a huge impact on your weight and health!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The effects of a terrible budget...

Today, I am going to drift off our usual fitness related topic a little......I recently was having a conversation with a friend of mine about the recent budget and increases in income tax that were brought in by our embattled chancellor and it was interesting to hear how our opinions differed. He was impassive about the tax raises and feels that those who earn more should pay a lot more...I don't disagree entirely, but I don't believe further increases in income tax are the way forward.

While to many it may seem that raising the income tax of those high earners - many of whom reside in London - is a popular move, I am not so sure it is a good idea, particularly where small businesses are concerned. Many people may feel that this raise won't affect them as it is targeted as those high-end earners, however I do not believe that this tax raise truly benefits the wider economy or does anything to increase spending confidence.

Higher earners create wealth, that is the fact. They spend money in businesses all over the capital and in doing so create jobs for others. Taxing them at source with an income tax rate higher than the U.S, France, and Germany, does nothing for businesses - although it does add a few extra quid to the government pool to spend - perhaps a new moat or flatscreen tv for an MP instead?

Removing money from peoples pockets before they have a chance to actually spend it will do nothing to stimulate growth, in fact it just reduces spending confidence and frustrates the efforts of small businesses who are working their hardest on trying to gain new business. So, what do we do instead to raise revenue? Well, why not tax higher earners at the point where they spend their money rather than before they have spent it? That way people can CHOOSE where to spend their cash, increasing their disposable income, which in turn gets spent in businesses, thereby stimulating growth and employment.

So, we are effectively talking about a form of graduated sales taxation. For example, if you spend £150,000 on a new Ferrari then you would pay a higher rate of 'luxury' tax than if you were spending £6000 on a small eco-friendly car (where you could also benefit from a small cashback and low-cost road fund licence). Would a few thousand extra really bother someone who is prepared to spend that kind of money on a car anyway?

Now, I must supply the large caveat here that I am no economist or expert, and although I might have read Vince Cable's latest book on the topic, I am not saying this is the ideal solution. However, I am already seeing the effect of higher income taxation, in higher earners cutting back on their expenditure, the knock-on effect of which is reduced income to business and cuts in jobs.

I was reading an interview in the Times this weekend with the property entrepreneur Nick Leslau and it was interesting to read his opinions, which you won't be surprised to learn echo my own (perhaps he overheard me chatting to someone....?). His thoughts are that removing wealth creators from the business climate does nothing to stimulate growth - very true if you ask me, and particularly so here in London.

Today, I have been on Radio 5 talking about the tube strike. Personally, I think the Stones said it best "you can't always get what you want" and maybe the tube drivers would do well to look at the many private businesses and individuals who pay the extortionate travel prices here in London - Europe's most expensive city to travel in - and count themselves lucky they still have a job. Many, many people face reductions in hours, pay freezes, and long-term job insecurity - it is hardly likely that any of them will empathise with the RMT's decision. It still seems unclear as to what happened as according to the union leader, deals over pay and redundancies had been successfully brokered, only to be pulled at the last minute by, well we aren't very sure who! The RMT seem to be blaming the mayor in some kind of conspiracy theory, perhaps suggesting he deliberately scuppered the deal. Let's hope that this mess gets sorted and we can all get back to trying to pull us out of this recession.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Five of the Best...

Sometimes I am asked about recommended books for trainers or for interested folks who just would like to learn more about training or nutrition....as a self-confessed bibllioholic I buy at least one or two a week, not always about fitness, but also about business and personal development. Recently I have even lapsed into buying fiction!

So, for those of you who are interested in widening the scope of your library, I have listed below some top 5's of books that are certainly worth thinking about investing in if you are interested in widening your knowledge and learning some new stuff!

My Top 5 Training Books...

O.k, this isn't an easy category to pick, but my top 5 are based on a desert island philosophy (assuming that island also had a gym of sorts). So, they all offer the maximum of useful and usable information with the minimum of fluff or filler.

1. Science and Practice of Strength Training - Zatsiorsky

2. Optimal Muscle Training - Kinakin (if you could only buy one, this would be an excellent choice).

3. Poliquin Principles - Poliquin

4. SuperTraining - Siff (I couldn't in all honesty bring myself to leave this one out, despite its complexity)

5. Stretch to Win - Fredericks (there are a couple of books on flexibility I really like, but this is probably my favourite).

Nearly rans included Low Back Disorders by McGill and Fleck and Kraemer's original text (not their latest one which was a real disappointment).

My Top 5 Nutrition Books

1. Staying Healthy Through Nutrition - Haas (This book has so much information in, it is always a great initial reference)

2. Diet Delusion - Taubes (brilliantly researched and evocative book)

3. Digestive Wellness - Lipski (a fantastic guide to the first part of the digestive chain)

4. 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth - Bowden (I recommend this for all my clients, it is a brilliant reference. Those of you who like it would do well to check out his book on 'Living the Low Carb Life'. He is a superb author and writes better than most I have read.)

5. The Cortisol Connection - Talbot

There are umpteen more books I own and think are great for learning about nutrition. I make no secret that I am a fan of both the Atkins approach and that of Michael Eades too, although I haven't included any specific 'diet' books in this list. 'Why Zebra's don't have ulcers' is a fantastic book as well and another that I highly recommend along with Dr James Wilson's book on Adrenal Fatigue.

Lastly, my Top 5 for Business and Personal Development

1. Good to Great - Collins (BUY THIS BOOK!!!)

2. The E-Myth Revisited - Gerber

3. What Clients Love - Beckwith

4. The Four Hour Work Week - Ferriss

5. Blue Ocean Strategy - Chan Kim

Now, what are you waiting for? Get yourself onto Amazon and away you go!!!