Top tips from the Reflex Ambassadors on getting ready for summer

Alex in Pool

While most of us want to look our best all year round, it becomes more of a focus in the lead up to summer. With this mind, we chat to Reflex Ambassadors and fitness and nutrition experts Emil Hodzovic, Gauri Chopra and Alex Crockford on their summer approach, nutrition and workouts.

As well as being a Reflex Ambassador, Gauri Chopra is also a PT, online coach, fitness model and founder of The London Rooftop Gym. So, she’s in the know when it comes to getting into shape for summer, and her approach is realistic and motivational. Here’s her two key pieces of advice:

Gauri Weightlifting

“Number 1: Give yourself enough time and avoid quick fixes! Quick fixes and going to extremes to lose weight in a short period of time tend to do more harm than good and you’re more likely to pile the weight straight back on after you reach you goal. Especially when dieting. Keep it simple, and be consistent so it is easier to progress on and tweak when needed. Slow and steady wins the race.

Number 2: Have a plan in place. If you have a program set in place, there’s no room to second guess yourself or go in half-heartedly. You’ll be surprised at how such a simple thing can make all the difference. All you have to do is turn up and follow the plan!”

Alex Crockford, another PT who knows his stuff, as shown by the success of his #CrockFit fitness plans, agrees with Gauri: “I think following a plan that you can get consistent with is so important. It keeps you motivated and builds momentum. Without consistency, that summer body is not going to happen!”

Nutrition

Moving onto the right nutrition for those summer bodies, we get the lowdown from medical doctor, fitness coach and Reflex Ambassador, Emil Hodzovic:

“I would recommend taking the basic products regardless of goal and these would include vitamin D, a multivitamin such as Nexgen Pro, Omega 3s or Krill Oil and Creatine.

Then on top of this, it is very useful to have a good quality protein shake. The most important factors when choosing a shake would be protein content and quality and then taste is a close second. When I’m trying to lean down, ideally I want a protein product which tastes good even when mixed with water (to save calories!) and has minimal carbs and fats in it. Instant Whey Pro is pretty good but Micro Whey really is the next level when it comes to good tasting protein.”

So when you’ve got the right protein sorted, when’s best to take it? Alex recommends preparing a shake so when you’re done working out you can have it straight away. Gauri on the other hand doesn’t worry too much about when to consume a protein shake: “I generally like to make a nice protein smoothie when I get home from the gym, or simply make and eat good high protein meal. I tend to have post workout protein shakes when I know I won’t be eating for a while or when I am on the go to help tie me over till I can get a proper meal in.”

There’s no right or wrong answer on when to take a shake as long as you’re having the right amount of protein for your goals. We speak to Emil about how much protein he consumes when he’s looking to lean down:

Emil on holiday

“I usually aim to keep my protein to around 2g per kg body weight so at 115kg this is around 230g for me. As I lean down and start to drop bodyfat I tend to increase my protein intake slightly to preserve muscle and I can go to 250g or even 280g per day. As well as maintaining and growing muscle, protein is great for keeping you full when dieting!”

We also get his thoughts on carb consumption when you’re looking to get leaner:

“When getting lean, it is all about calorie balance. As calories become more limited and protein stays the same or even increases, carbs become more limited as well. This means that you need to be picky with carbs – both in terms of sources of carbohydrates but also when you are eating them.

When dieting hard you want to focus on carbohydrates around training to fuel the session in the most effective way possible. For me this is often a normal meal 3-4 hours prior to working out. I tend to opt for a meal with potatoes or rice. Then an hour before my workout I have a One Stop Xtreme or an Instant Whey Pro shake along with a banana.”

Working out

Of course, our ambassadors don’t rely on nutrition alone to achieve their goals. Gauri tells us about her favourite workouts in the lead up to summer:

“I like to do a combination of Low Intensity Steady State cardio (LISS) and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or anything that gets me moving in a non-conventional way. For LISS, my favourite thing to do is to go on an outdoor walk or hike and aim for a step count. It’s much more enjoyable than walking on a treadmill in my opinion!

For HIIT, I keep it short (10-20mins) and like to either do a circuit consisting of 4-6 exercises repeated 4-6 times, or use a 20 sec on 40 sec off protocol on a cardio machine of choice!”

Alex takes a similar approach: “I am always getting my daily steps or activity done. 10-15k steps at least as an overall low intensity output. But a few times a week I will include tough gym circuits, or bodyweight HIIT, or treadmill HIIT to get the heart rate high and achieve a big calorie burn.”

Emil opts for more structure so he can track his progress and maintain the amount he can lift: “I track my steps and calorie intake and output. The workouts are usually bodybuilding style workouts and I try to hit all of my muscle groups 2-3 times a week. I keep sessions short and sharp at around 45-60 minutes, including warm up, and then try to do my cardio in separate sessions.

Although I will use compound exercises such as squats and bench press as the base of my workouts I will also use a lot of isolation exercises to really hone in on specific muscles.”

A big thank you to Emil, Alex and Gauri for sharing their top tips with us. If you’d like to keep up to date with our Ambassadors you can visit our blog or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Interview with Alex Crockford on Working Out, Nutrition and Healthy Living

Alex

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of hearing from Alex Crockford – Reflex Ambassador, Personal Trainer and Founder of fitness brand #CrockFit. Here we get the inside knowledge on Alex’s lifestyle when it comes to working out, nutrition and living life the healthy way. 

Hi Alex, let’s start by talking nutrition. Do you have a specific nutrition plan for the week? If so, where do you get your inspiration and how often do you change plans?

Every week is different for me, sometimes I am able to plan, prepare and track my nutrition, whereas other times, if I am travelling or very busy, then I have learnt to stay on track but with a more flexible approach. If I am working towards an important shoot then often I will write down a specific plan and repeat that daily.

Sounds very organised so do you prepare your meals for the week?

Fortunately I have a lifestyle where I can prepare for the day or the next but I rarely plan for further than that. I don’t want to sound basic, but chicken, rice and mixed veg is so easy to prep and it keeps well for the next day!

Do you measure or track your protein requirements?

I usually keep track of my protein intake daily to make sure I am hitting my protein goals. Having tracked this for many years I usually just know how much protein I’m eating a day. I have always aimed for about 1g per 1lb of bodyweight so for me that’s usually around 175-200g.

And, do you have a similar plan for carbohydrates or fibre?

Carbs is something that has more fluctuation in my diet, whereas with protein I always aim to have more rather than less. My fats and carbs go up and down sometimes but fibre and carbs from veg is always a top priority for me. It is easy to just focus on protein, but it is important to always get the fibre in too!

This is a great point and one that is very relevant today given that recent reports say that many people aren’t getting the recommended amount of fibre. Are you aware of how much fibre you need on a daily basis? And how do you make sure that you get this into your diet?

I don’t usually count, track or aim for a particular number but I aim to include vegetables in every main meal and I usually recommend veg being the majority of your plate. Unlimited!

So do you supplement your food intake with any sports nutrition supplements?

Always! The majority of my supplements come in around workout time, such as pre workouts and always a post workout protein shake. Reaching a protein goal is tough on purely just food, so supplements are extremely useful. Other than that I have range of daily supps such as omega 3, multivitamin and vitamin D.

What about when you’re travelling – do you have a go to ‘on-the-go’ snack?

I turn to protein bars, rice cakes, apples. These are things that I look forward to (weird I know!). They’re also dry food and very easy to carry around.

Given your career as a PT and from your answers above, it’s clear you’re a super healthy guy but for you, what does a healthy lifestyle mean and how do you maintain that? Especially when you’re busy or on the go?

Well that’s my whole #CrockFit life that I promote everyday! A healthy lifestyle is one that makes you feel good on the inside and look good on the outside. A life that gives you confidence to walk on the beach, try new things and meet you new people. It means getting excited about your daily exercise whatever that might be, and enjoying the food you eat everyday. Food that fuels your body and your mind for training and living!

Sounds great! Thanks for your time Alex.

If you’d like to follow Alex’s journey and stay up to date with #CrockFit you can follow him on Instagram or visit his website. For more interviews and news from us, check out our blog and keep in the loop by signing up to our newsletter.

 

Interview with Gauri Chopra on Working Out, Nutrition and Healthy Living

Gauri Chopra

We speak to Reflex Ambassador, Personal Trainer, Online Coach AND Fitness Model Gauri Chopra on working out, nutrition and healthy living. Here she shares her healthy lifestyle tips and tricks with us. 

Hi Gauri! So let’s talk nutrition, do you have a specific nutrition plan?

I don’t have a specific nutrition plan as such, however I do like to dip in and out of tracking macros to ensure I’m getting enough of what my body needs for my lifestyle and training.

I generally keep my diet balanced throughout the week and aim for 85-90% wholefoods. The other 10-15% is made up of anything I’m craving, which may not necessarily be deemed as ‘healthy’. This way, I can keep my diet flexible and interesting to prevent the boredom of eating the same thing day in day out. It also helps me feel less restricted and therefore less likely to binge from cutting certain foods out.

It’s a great approach! So do you do any meal prepping to help keep you on track?

I prefer to batch cook rather than prep specific meals for each day. I generally batch cook my meats or fish so I have a protein source to grab and go, and similarly do the same for carb sources like potatoes or grains. I tend to add salads and veggies fresh as they tend to go off quicker, and fats I either add in the form of nuts, avocado, or the oil in which my food is cooked in. I feel prepping this way works best for me so I can mix and match based on how I’m feeling on the day!

Sounds like a plan! So do you work out your protein requirements for the week?

Yes, I like to use the 1g/lb bodyweight rule.

And, do you have a similar plan for carbohydrates or fibre?

Carbohydrates I keep flexible depending on how active I am or how intense my training is. Fibre I keep to a minimum of 25g to ensure my gut health is kept in check.

Fibre is incredibly important for gut health and something that can get forgotten about. Are you aware of how much fibre you need on a daily basis and do you have any tips for getting the fibre you need?

As a guideline I usually say 5g for every 500kcals consumed is a good minimum. My main sources come from leafy greens, whole grains, flaxseed, and chia seeds. My best tip would be to try and incorporate one of these into every meal!

So do you supplement your food intake with any sports nutrition supplements? If so, for what purpose?

I do supplement with whey protein for convenience, and because it tastes good! It also helps keep my sweet tooth satisfied and makes life so much easier on my busy days or when I’m on the go! My favourites are the Reflex Diet Protein and Instant Whey Pro.

When I am training fasted in the morning, I like to sip on some Amino Fusion. I feel like it gives me the energy to get a good session in, and ensures my muscles are preserved if I am training for a long period of time!

When I can feel a cold coming on, I do like to ensure I top up my vitamins with Nexgen Pro to ensure my body is fully equipped to fight off any nasty bugs!

And what about when you’re on the go – how do you ensure you get the right nutrition?

I love protein shakes and protein bars because they’re a super convenient and tasty way of meeting nutritional needs without much prep! My other favourite snacks or ‘handbag essentials’ are fruit and nuts, wholefood bars, popcorn, and dark chocolate.

Your diet sounds very healthy without being restrictive, for you, what does a healthy lifestyle mean and how do you maintain that? Especially when you’re busy or on the go?

To me, a healthy lifestyle means keeping active with the kind of exercise I enjoy doing, and eating in a way that nourishes my body to make me feel good from the inside out!

When I’m busy or on the go, I always make sure I’m prepared with healthy snacks so I’m not tempted to make poor decisions.

I also always opt for meals that are high in protein and fibre, and minimally processed when eating out to keep me fuller for longer. Looking at nutritional labels is always a must and allows me to ensure I’m maintaining a healthy balance throughout the day.

Workout-wise, I usually like to get them done first thing in the morning so it’s out the way and I have no excuse later when I’m too tired or busy. If I’m short on time, I’ll either get in a quick HIIT workout, or just make sure I keep myself active during the day by doing lots of walking and taking the stairs everywhere!

Thanks Gauri. As always, great to hear from you!

To stay up to date with Gauri, you can follow her on Instagram or check out her website.To hear more from us, sign up to our newsletter and take a look at our blog

Interview with Emil Hodzovic on Switching Up Protein for the Summer

Emil Hodzovic working out

As the weather is warming up and the summer months are in sight, we talk to Reflex Nutrition Ambassador, doctor and bodybuilder, Emil Hodzovic, on how he switches up his protein to achieve his specific training goals.

Hi Emil. Let’s start at the beginning, do you switch up your supplements throughout the year depending on your goals?

Yes, absolutely. I have some core products that I use all year round such as Nexgen Pro, Krill Oil and Creatine. Then, if I’m bulking, gaining strength or focussing on sport, I will use One Stop Xtreme both as my basic protein source and to fuel my workouts.

When I’m dieting I usually switch to Instant Whey Pro and if I’m competing in a bodybuilding show I will use Micro Whey to help minimise fat and carb intake – particularly in the final weeks before a competition.

As you can see I switch between products a lot!

And do seasons affect the type of workouts you do? For example, with summer on its way, many people look to lean down and tweak their nutrition and training plans accordingly. Do you do this?

Yes definitely. When I’m leaning down, my workouts tend to become more structured so I can track my progress and maintain my volume load (the amount I lift) across sessions.

On top of this I track my steps and calorie intake and output. The workouts are usually bodybuilding style workouts and I try to hit all of my muscle groups 2-3 times a week. I keep sessions short and sharp at around 45-60 minutes, including warm up, and then try to do my cardio in separate sessions.

Although I will use compound exercises such as squats and bench press as the base of my workouts I will also use a lot of isolation exercises to really hone in on specific muscles.

So when you are leaning down, what do you look for in a nutritional product?

When I’m trying to lean down, ideally I want a protein product which tastes good even when mixed with water (to save calories!) and has minimal carbs and fats in it. Instant Whey Pro is pretty good but Micro Whey really is the next level when it comes to good tasting protein.

How much protein do you look to consume in a day when you’re looking to lean down?

I usually aim to keep my protein around 2g per kg body weight so at 115kg this is around 230g for me. As I lean down and start to drop body fat I tend to increase my protein intake slightly to preserve muscle and can go to 250g or even 280g per day. As well as maintaining and growing muscle, protein is great for keeping you full when dieting!

Image of Reflex Ambassador Emil

How do you manage your carb intake when you’re looking to lean down?

When getting lean, it is all about calorie balance. As calories become more limited and protein stays the same or even increases, carbs become more limited as well. This means that you need to be picky with carbs – both in terms of sources of carbohydrates but also in terms of when you are eating them.

When dieting hard you want to focus on carbohydrates around training to fuel the session in the most effective way possible. For me this is often a normal meal 3-4 hours prior to working out. I tend to opt for a meal with potatoes or rice. Then an hour before my workout I have a One Stop Xtreme or an Instant Whey Pro shake along with a banana.

For people who would like to lean down for the summer, what product advice would you give them?

I would recommend taking the basic products regardless of goal and these would include vitamin D, a multivitamin such as Nexgen Pro, Omega 3s or Krill Oil and Creatine.

Then on top of this, it is very useful to have a good quality protein shake. The most important factors when choosing a shake would be protein content and quality and then taste is a close second.

For me, Instant Whey Pro ticks all the boxes here and there are a number of flavours so you’re bound to find one you like. At the moment, my favourites are Chocolate Mint Perfection and Raspberry Delight.

Thanks for sharing your insight with us Emil! If you’d like to stay up to date with Emil, follow him on Instagram.

And, if you think this interview can help others switch up their protein and nutrition to achieve their specific goals, share it with your friends and family:  

Whey Protein – The Basics

Image of Reflex Ambassador Emil

Here is Emil Hodzovic, Reflex Nutrition Ambassador, on the basics of whey protein. The who, why, what and when – Emil tells all!

Despite the huge range of protein varieties available these days, whey protein is always going to be the biggest player when it comes to protein shakes and for good reason.

It is a complete and balanced protein with high branched chain amino acid (BCAA) content and, importantly, it is fast digesting, rapidly getting vital amino acids to where they need to be. This makes it ideal as a meal replacement and before and after workouts.

Who is whey protein for and why?

Whey protein is an extremely useful tool for anyone who needs a convenient source of good quality protein. A lot of people incorrectly believe that drinking protein shakes will automatically cause them to gain muscle and become bulky, or that if they consume shakes and don’t train, the protein will turn to fat. Both of these misconceptions couldn’t be further from the truth!

For people who train hard, whey protein is a prime candidate for convenience and can provide the perfect blend of amino acids. What’s more, it promotes the recovery and repair of damaged muscle fibres when taken immediately after gruelling sessions, whether those involve weights, cardio or training for sports.

Whey protein can be used by anyone, including people of all ages who are just starting out in their exercise careers. Even people who don’t train or are injured can take advantage of whey protein to increase their protein intake or use it as a low calorie, highly nutritious meal replacement.

Whey protein can also be used in cooking and to reduce the calories of a recipe as well as adding that important protein hit! Using different flavours of whey can add a twist to otherwise bland or boring recipes.

What to look for in a good protein supplement?

An effective protein supplement should be complete and balanced with a high proportion of BCAAs. Whey protein fits the bill perfectly and generally speaking beats most other sources of protein including soy protein. Soy protein is used a lot in the supplement industry and is the cheaper, poorer quality alternative to whey protein.

On top of this, when buying protein, you want a powder which mixes easily and is tasty to consume. This means finding a flavour that you like. My personal favourites at the moment include Instant Whey Pro Raspberry Delight and Chocolate Perfection as they are versatile and taste great whether I mix them with water, milk or almond milk. They also work well with oats or stirred in with yoghurt.

When is the best time to consume protein?

The best times to use whey protein include:

First thing in the morning

It can be difficult to find the time for protein first thing so this is a perfect time for a shake. This applies to anyone, whether you’re dieting, trying to build muscle or just need a convenient tasty snack before work.

Personally, I am rarely hungry in the mornings and always in a rush but muscle retention is a priority for me so a shake with unsweetened almond milk and some fruit hits the spot perfectly.

Immediately post workout

This is the traditional time to use whey protein as you want a fast digesting, good quality protein with a complete amino acid profile to optimise the effects of the training session. It’s also hugely convenient and it means you don’t need to rush home or think about your next meal for a few hours.

Any time between meals

Whether it is for convenience or if you want to reduce your daily calories when dieting. Whey protein can be more filling and better at holding off hunger than crisps or fruit. And, it will also increase your daily protein intake.

Whey protein is an all-round, comprehensive protein supplement and can be used by anyone with any training background or history. If whey protein is the right protein for you, then shop now.

Shoulder mobility: 5 moves to improve your overhead press

Shoulder mobility: 5 moves to improve your overhead press

The shoulder is the most complex joint in the body. However, it is also the most vulnerable. Shoulder mobility is heavily influenced by the surrounding muscles and these muscular imbalances can cause real problems with pressing movements.

In this article, I’m going to explain why this occurs and give you 5 exercises to help correct common shoulder issues.

If you can’t perform the full range of movement, you can’t fully train the muscle. This will be impacting your strength and size gains.

Although resistance training isn’t actually to blame for becoming tight, working muscles in shortened ranges of motion can cause them to become short. Further to that sitting forwards at a desk for long periods of time shortens the pec muscles and weakens the upper back. All a combination of bad posture.

So let’s look at some simple ways we can fix this to help you get more shoulder mobility and improve your pressing.

We need to stretch these shortened muscles and increase the range of movement, but a strong overhead press also requires good scapular movement so we need to make sure that is included in our mobility work.

Most people skip a proper warm up and get right to work, and as much as I applaud your enthusiasm, your shoulders probably don’t.

Here are 5 shoulder mobility movements to incorporate into your upper body warm up:

Scap pulls

Take a shoulder width grip on a bar and allow yourself to dead-hang. Let your shoulder blades separate and your shoulders come up to your ears, then retract your shoulders and lats and pull yourself up, not bending your elbows. Perform 2 sets of 10 reps.

 

Chest Opener - step2Chest opener

Attach a band to a frame at shoulder height or above, take the band in one hand and step forwards. Allowing the hand to rotate upwards with a locked arm you will feel a stretch in the pec and anterior delt. You can also rotate the elbow up and down (but keeping locked) for more of an active stretch. Hold for 15-30 seconds or 20 rotations per side.

 

Bully Stretch - step3 - front Bully Stretch - step3 - rearBully stretch

Attach the band overhead and turn your hand behind your back. Keep the band close to you and allow it to pull your arm up your back – like the classic ‘high school bully’. Do not allow your shoulder to roll forwards. By holding this position you will increase your internal rotation. Hold for 15-30s per side.

 

Band Dislocate - step4 - A Band Dislocate - step4 - BBand dislocates

Take a resistance band at both ends and hold out in front of you. Keeping your arm straight, take the band overhead and behind you as far as you can go. Bring the band back over to the front without bending your elbows to stretch the pecs, front delt, and bicep tendon. Perform 10-15, pausing at the top where the muscle is tightest.

 

Shoulder Mobility - step5 - Pull apart BBand pull-apartShoulder Mobility - step5 - Pull apart A

Take a thin band or cables and take your hands out straight in front of you. Retract your shoulder blades together and with palms facing down, extend your arms straight out to your sides. Repeat for 15-20 reps.

DigeZyme Digestive Enzymes and Whey Protein

DigeZyme Digestive Enzymes and Whey Protein

The benefits of whey protein have been researched heavily and include promotion of muscle growth, decreasing blood pressure, aiding recovery from exercise and reducing inflammation, but what happens if we are unable to effectively absorb the protein? Unfortunately modern lifestyle and diet choices mean that our ability to utilize whey protein is sometimes diminished, however there is a simple way to ensure our muscles can optimally use whey to support their repair and growth.

We can measure how well a protein source is absorbed and utilized by the body, we call this it’s biological value (BV). The BV of whey protein is fairly high, up to 104 for a whey isolate formula such as Instant Whey; compare this to the BV of meat 80 and milk 91, we can easily see why whey protein is deemed as one of the best post workout sources of protein. However just because it has a high BV does not mean that 100% of it is absorbed and utilized. This is because digestion of protein is reliant on proper digestive enzymes which are released by the pancreas.

The majority of the protein consumed is digested in the intestines. In order for this digestion to occur the body must be able to break down protein into peptides and then further into amino acids which can be absorbed through the small intestinal wall; and in order for that to happen the body needs enzymes called proteases. These enzymes alongside, lipases which breakdown fat and amylase which breakdown carbohydrates are released by the pancreas.

Once the proteins have been broken down into amino acids they are absorbed into the blood stream where they are circulated to the muscle tissue and other cells. When the amino acids reach the cells they can start repairing and rebuilding the tissue damaged from exercise training to make it stronger and bigger.

However, if the body cannot break down whey protein then it cannot reach the muscles and start the repair process. Symptoms of low levels of digestive enzymes include bloating, gas, abdominal cramps, constipation and diarrhea.

Although diseases such as cystic fibrosis, pancreatitis and brush border diseases such as coeliac disease are known causes of decreased digestive enzymes, diet and lifestyle choices also have a huge impact; which is why abdominal complaints are becoming more common.

There are a few potential causes of enzyme deficiency; these include low grade chronic inflammation in the digestive tract- this can be caused by food intolerances, infection or nutrient deficiencies. Chronic stress is probably the most common reason for low enzymes, when our adrenalin is high and we are in “fight or flight” mode. This can be triggered by needing to get to school or work on time, an important meeting, a deadline or just generalized anxiety; the body reduces digestive function, including enzyme output. This is due to fight or flight mode being an essential function in prehistoric times for physical survival – the body would increase adrenaline, increasing the heart pumping and directing the blood away from non-essential organs (such as the digestive system) and towards the legs to keep them running. Ageing can also decrease enzyme production.

In modern life many people may suffer from either a nutrient deficiency, which could impair digestion or chronic stress (which can also impair digestion). This means our digestive enzyme production is low and our ability to absorb amino acids is low; causing a decreased recovery from training, reducing the chance of increasing muscle strength and size.

However, this does not mean supplementing with whey protein is useless, as it is important in the recovery process due to its BV, especially if training twice per day; it simply means we need to supplement with a digestive enzyme to assist the digestion process. Ideally combining a digestive enzyme with whey protein will yield the best results to ensure absorption and maximally support recovery.

How to Effectively Calculate Your Macros

How to Effectively Calculate Your Macros

In this post, the latest member of #TeamReflex, Juggy Sidhu, goes over the macronutrient basics and shows how to calculate your macros according to your personal goals.

 

What are Macronutrients?

 

Macronutrient

Key Facts

Protein

4 calories per gram;
Composed of amino acids (‘essential’, which the body attains through diet and ‘non essential’ which the body can assemble itself);
Used in our body for growth and repair of cells, increasing muscle mass and in enzymes, hormones, antibodies and neurotransmitters;
Aids with satiety, immune function, metabolism, weight management and performance;
Protein has a thermogenic effect and can also liberate fat from stores around the body to be utilised as energy.

Carbohydrates

4 calories per gram;
Carbs can be classified as simple and complex;
Simple carbs are faster to digest and absorb compared to complex carbs;
Carbs are the primary source of energy for your bodies cells.

Fat

9 calories per gram;
Three distinct categories, saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated which can be found in unprocessed and wholefoods;
Trans and hydrogenated fats are industrially processed, usually found to preserve foods and increase shelf life of products;
Dietary fat supports metabolism, cell signaling, the health of various body tissues, immunity, hormone production, and the absorption of many nutrients;
Improves satiety, body composition, mood and can offer cardiovascular protection.

 

Calculating your Macros

When calculating your macros a good place to start would be to understand exactly how much energy in calories your body would need to maintain at rest- this is called your basal metabolic rate (BMR). To create a more accurate figure of your BMR, it would be wise to understand your body composition and body fat percentages. Body fat percentages can be calculated using skin callipers, although these are more likely to be correct if performed by a trained professional.

The Katch McCardle method for working out BMR is:

P = 370 + (21.6 x LBM), where LBM is the lean body mass in kg.

To workout LBM:

LBM= Body Mass in KG x (100 – Bodyfat %) / 100

 

Let’s take a 100kg athlete with 10% body fat.

LBM= 100 x (100-10) / 100

LBM is 90kg.

 

BMR= 370 + (21.6×90)

BMR = 370 + 1944

BMR = 2314 Kcal

 

Now you know your BMR, you need to factor in a few calculations based on your daily activities and of course your training!

 

Average activity multiples

1.2 Sedentary job (desk job and little exercise)

1.3-1.4 Lightly Active (Light daily activity AND light exercise 1-3 days a week)

1.5-1.6 Moderately Active (Moderately daily Activity & Moderate exercise 3-5 days a week)

1.7-1.8 Very Active (Physically demanding lifestyle & Hard exercise 6-7 days a week)

In the above example our athlete with a BMR of 2314Kcal has desk job but trains intensely 5-6 days a week.

If our above 100kg athlete works in a sedentary office job (category 1.2) but then trains hard 5 days a week (category 1.8), it would be sensible to put him in a mid range of around 1.5.

 

TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure) = 2314 x 1.5

TDEE= 3702 kcals

 

The TDEE is an estimate of your maintenance calories, which would effectively allow you to retain a constant weight, in order to create a deficit, you can decrease the overall calorie intake, or increase activity levels.

 

Knowing Your Body Type

There are other considerations when working out your preferred macronutrient intake. The following table will outline the characteristics of three body types, ectomorphs, mesomorphs and endomorphs.  When setting up a nutrition plan, it is important to know your body and understand some key traits that tie into developing an improved physique.  For example, if you are an endomorph, starting at a higher body fat percentage and a slower metabolic rate, you may find it useful to understand that due to impaired insulin response or beta cell dysfunction, your ability to utilise carbohydrates may be significantly lower than an ectomorph.  Having said that, if you are a trained individual, it could be that your carbohydrate tolerance is actually quite good! These tables are approximates only and in no way should be considered the key to success when creating your own nutrition plan, as you will surely realise by now, what works for one person will not necessarily be right for another.

 

Somatotype
Characteristics
Approximate macro % split for each somatotype

Protein        Carbs            Fats

Ectomorphic
• Naturally thin with skinny limbs
• Endurance Exercise
• Fast metabolism
• High sympathetic nervous system activity
• Higher carb tolerance
27.5%
52.5%
20%
Mesomorphic
• Naturally muscular and athletic.
• Bodybuilding/ Strength
• Testosterone and growth hormone dominant
• Moderate to high sympathetic system activity
30%
40%
30%
Endomorphic
• Naturally broad and thick set.
• Strength Exercises/ Powerlifting
• Insulin dominant
• Slow metabolic rate
• Low sympathetic system activity
• Low carbohydrate tolerance
35%
25%
40%

 

 

Our 100kg, 10% body fat example could fall into the mesomophic range.  Therefore to calculate protein, carbs and fats you will calculate the following:

Protein= (3702*0.3) = 1110.6 kcals = 277g protein

Carbs = (3702*0.4) = 1480.8 kcals = 370g carbs

Fats = (3702*0.3) = 1110.6 kcals = 123g fats

If you are unable to categorise your body type clearly, there is another simple approach to working out your macros.  Consuming between the range of 2-2.2g protein per kg and fats at around 1g per kg body would be within normal ranges for an individual that trains.  The rest of the daily calories can be consumed in carbohydrates.

Therefore protein would be 2.2*100= 220g (880kcals)  fats 1×100= 100 (900kcals) and carbs would be set at (3702-1780)= 1922 kcals (480g).

 

Timing and considerations

While cutting, your goal should be to retain a positive nitrogen balance and stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS).  This can be achieved through consuming between 20-30g of high quality sources of protein every 3-4 hours. MPS offers a protective effect against muscle loss, as body fat levels reduce.  By retaining a high level of protein in your diet there will be an increased thermogenic effect (calorie output will increase to digest the protein,) muscle protection and offer greater satiety.

I am a huge advocate of using carbohydrates within your diet, if you are able to utilise them effectively.  Carbohydrates will fuel your sessions, your recovery and also improve your sleep. Carbs have had a bad reputation, because most people tend to either over eat them or tend to consume refined or processed forms, whilst also misunderstanding optimal timing of consumption.  I tend to use slower digesting carbohydrates pre workout or through the day and faster digesting carbs post workout.

For some reason dietary fats got a bad rep, then a great rep and then people thought that it would be better to just replace all carbs with fats.  Nutrition can be a minefield.  Therefore keep it simple, if you have moderate amounts of each macronutrient you will cover all basis for optimal health and function.  I keep a healthy level of fat intake in my diet throughout a cut, as they play a huge role in mood, energy provision, increased insulin sensitivity, fat loss and hormone production.

I always start a cut on around 4 litres of water, which for me is quite easy.  Others struggle to drink plain water, therefore mixing in Reflex Nutrition Amino Fusion can have a great effect on not only hydration, but also providing your body with a constant stream of essential amino acids. Consuming enough water can aid in the blood flow from tissues and improve the ability to oxidise fat on a cellular level.

How to Cheat at the Weekend Without Ruining Your Diet

How to Cheat at the Weekend Without Ruining Your Diet

The weekend can be a challenge as far as dieting is concerned. Our food-loving physique competitor, Tom McDonough, explains how to get through it without feeling guilty and ruining your diet progress.

 

Firstly I hate the phrase ‘cheat meal’… it automatically puts a negative twist on something as simple as eating a meal out with friends or family, and often leads to guilt. Start calling it a ‘free meal,’ a meal off the plan, a meal you can enjoy that you shouldn’t be feeling guilty about. I simply used the term for the article as everyone knows what a cheat meal is.

It’s pretty easy to stick to a diet five days a week. Most of us have a set routine that we can stick to and prepare food for so we adhere to our goals. When it comes to the weekend that’s a whole different ball game where routine goes out the window and we don’t necessarily want to be carrying food while out and about with friends. Hopefully this article will give you a few ideas on how to tackle the weekend diet without leaving you filled with guilt come Monday morning. You will have enjoyed your weekend without suffering.

There are many ways to skin a cat- how strict you want to be will dictate the methods you may choose.
Here’s are a few ways I do things and have successfully done in the past.

First, let’s look at options if you are being pretty strict and have a goal in mind: Simply write out a plan for the two days which include foods you’d like to eat over the weekend that are totally different to your optimal meals. The great thing is, because we are normally busy over the weekend and do not have to get up so early, your normal 5/6 meals that you eat on weekdays can be reduced to 3/4. That gives you a lot more calories to play with for each meal. You can even raise your calories a couple hundred over the weekend (don’t do this if you have someone helping with your diet.)

If you set yourself a plan through out the week heavy in “optimal” foods like the usual chicken and rice, then make a change. You could have pancakes for breakfast or eggs and bacon on toast and then grab yourself a subway for lunch. If you make the right choice even a foot long is only about 600/650 calories. Eat what ever, just make sure it fits your calorie allowance. Make sure that you maintain a good amount of protein within this and let the fats and carbs fall wherever. Eating this way is not perfect but much better than going off the rails and quite easily consuming an extra 2/30 00 calories which could set you back days.

This is obviously hugely dependent on your goals, and individual to each person. Your daily calories may be a lot lower, for example females may not eat 1500 calories and still have 1500 to play with so obviously your meal sizes would need to be reduced. You would need to design this FOR YOU. One plan for food certainly does not fit all but I hope reading this article helps you get the idea.

 

Pro Tips

Method 1- Goal Focused

  • Track your food
  • Write out a plan
  • Pick foods you look forward to eating

Method 2- Lifestyle Focused

  • Track your food
  • Consume less through out the day
  • Leave yourself plenty of calories
  • The day after have a low day
  • Weight session on following day
  • Choose food you enjoy

The Hungry Man’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting

The Hungry Man's Guide to Intermittent Fasting

In this special guest blog, strength and conditioning coach, Alex Backhouse, who has over 10 years industry experience, talks us through the basics of Intermittent Fasting; What it is and how you could benefit from this tried and tested eating approach.

 

What is Intermittent Fasting?

I’m sure you’ve heard all about it. You may be even experimenting with it already. The world seems to love things that have got technical sounding titles, especially when it comes to health, fitness and weight loss.

High Intensity Interval Training? We could just call that sprints. But it doesn’t sound as good. Intermittent fasting- sounds ten times better than skipping breakfast doesn’t it?

So to take the mystique out of fasting, let’s give it a better definition.“Non-sequential extended periods without calories.” From time to time, you don’t eat – at all.

There are several different ways to apply this caloric restriction, including the 5:2 method which involves 2 days of the week with severe calorie restriction. There are some that favour the occasional 24-72 hour fast, where you only drink water and other calorie free drinks.

I’ve found the ‘windowed eating’ approach easiest to use personally, and the one I’ve had great success with my clients with. You eat all your food within a timed window: usually 8 hours or less. The easiest way to do this is to skip breakfast, and carry on your day as if nothing happened.

 

How does Intermittent Fasting work?

“But breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” I hear you cry.

For me there’s a massive disparity with the type of things we were eating, 20, 50 or 100 years ago compared to the plethora of calorific delights at our disposal these days. Let alone the difference in lifestyle: transport, jobs, exercise, and recreation. My point is this: A day of working hard in the fields and coming home to a meager portion of meat and potatoes before bed is very different to how we live our lives today.

At some point, maybe breakfast really was the most important meal of the day. But not any more. I’m not even going to go down the route of whether Mr. Kellog invented that phrase as a marketing slogan and got the whole world hooked on carbs for breakfast. But it’s definitely a possibility.

So lets look a bit more at what happens to your body when you don’t eat. If you don’t believe in fasting, technically you’re already doing it every time you go to bed- this is where the magic happens. We recover from the day’s grind, the day’s workout. We soak up all the calories and nutrients we’ve absorbed from our food. Cells repair. We grow a little bit. We get older.

We burn fat too, because after a while, all the calories we’ve eaten have been assigned to different storage areas – muscle, liver, fat stores, and we enter the fasted state aka the post-absorptive state. We’re no longer digesting and absorbing calories, we’re now using them and burning them. So when we wake up, we’re burning fat. I’m pretty sure most of us would be happy with that.

“But my metabolism will slow down if I don’t eat small regular meals”

Allow me to paraphrase Kaiser Soze when I say “The greatest trick the food industry ever pulled, was convincing people they had to eat more food in order to lose weight.”

I’m well aware that in extreme cases this may be true, but I think most of us would agree that if we’re overweight, it’s because we eat too much in general. And a consistent, mild caloric deficit is essential for weight loss (I’ll come back to this bit later). Then there’s this phrase “stoking the metabolic fire”- implying that you need to eat to increase the rate at which your metabolism burns calories.

Well, metabolic rate is king when it comes to daily caloric expenditure. If we can be burning more calories at rest, or throughout the day in general, then this is our most powerful tool in the battle to drop some fat. But we do not significantly increase our metabolic rate by eating. We increase it through exercise and by having more muscle mass.

You can fast for up 72 hours before experiencing any drop in metabolic rate, providing calories are kept above BMR before and after the period of fasting

 

What are the benefits?

So we’ve established that a fasted state is safe for our hard earned muscle, and that we probably don’t need to be topping up our glycogen levels to 100% to go about our day- unless we were mid-way through Royal Marines selection. We can now come back to your daily calorie allowance and how much we need to restrict this by to lose weight.

As a regular exerciser weighing 92kg, my basal metabolic rate is around 3400 calories. If I subtract 500 off this (the accepted sensible amount for consistent weight loss,) I get 2900. Following a windowed eating approach, breaking my fast at noon, I now have 8 hours to consume nearly 3000 calories. Which is nice.

However, if I divided this into 5 meals of 600 calories each, the first of which I ate at 7am, I’m just going to feel hungry, deprived and grumpy for pretty much the whole day.

Are you starting to see the appeal?

Fasting is not for everyone and not for every situation. Adding muscle mass would favour being in a fed state as well as a reasonable (500) surplus of calories per day. But for weight loss, maintenance or even a simple system to enjoy food without obsessing over macros and calories, a windowed eating approach can be a valuable tool.

It’s not ALL about weight loss though is it?

Human Growth Hormone, a favourite of Hollywood celebrities as a ‘fountain of youth’ substance has been shown to increase during periods of fasting. Insulin levels get reset to a healthier level by restricting any rises in blood sugar.

And there are the ‘non scientific’ benefits…

You have more energy. Strange but true. You’re not constantly craving food or worrying about where you can get some protein- you learn to survive with a slight hunger pang in my belly. Personally, I’m actually more productive on it.

 

To summarise, hopefully my fresh perspective on 21st century life, coupled with the biological processes involved in fasting have allayed some your concerns about experimenting with what is probably the easiest method of reducing your daily calories and feeling better throughout the day.

Wake up.

No breakfast.

Black coffee or black tea is fine.

Plenty of water.

Your lunch is when you’ll ‘break your fast’.

Easy.

 

Try it tomorrow!

 

Note: Please seek advice from your doctor if you are on any medication or have any medical issues, prior to attempting to follow or trial any of the above advice.