Questions About Fat Loss You Need Answered

We know that food is important for fat loss, but what else?

Losing body fat is one of the main reasons that people decide to begin exercising. Although we know that exercise alone isn’t enough without diet interventions, there are still many questions about fat loss that we receive. Let’s answer some of the major ones to get everyone on the same page!

We know that food is important for fat loss, but what else?

1. Can we choose where to lose fat?

Everybody has a specific area that they’d love to change. For many it’s the belly, for others the legs, for some the arms. Given that we can do exercises that train specific muscles in those areas, it seems logical that we could also do the same for fat loss, right?

Unfortunately, there isn’t any strong evidence supporting this idea of “spot reduction”.1  Provided that you’re in an energy deficit, doing extra crunches won’t make you lose belly fat any faster than if you were doing a full-body training routine. The factors that decide where our bodies lose fat first are largely out of our control, like genetics,2 and sex.3

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train the areas that bother you! If you’re trying to lose weight in a specific spot, chances are you want to change how it looks. Building even a small amount of muscle mass will go a long way towards improving how you perceive that area.

Doing lots of ab exercises won't make you lose belly fat.

2. How quickly can we lose fat?

Nobody wants to spend ages losing weight. It’s not particularly enjoyable, and we all just want to get to the end result as fast as possible. But how quickly can we realistically lose weight?

As long as you’re able to maintain a high enough energy intake to function and stay reasonably healthy, a faster rate of fat loss is a viable approach. We’d consider losing >1% of your body weight per week to be fast. However, this is only advantageous as long as you can actually maintain it.

It seems that the more aggressively you try to lose weight, the less likely you are to adhere to it for the time necessary to reach your goal.4 This may mean that it takes longer to reach your end goal, but the experience will be a lot less stressful and unpleasant.

We recommend picking a rate of weight loss that you can stick to for a reasonable amount of time. If you’re getting burnt out after 2 weeks, it was probably too fast. If you’re not seeing progress after a month, you’ve probably been too conservative. It might take some time to dial in, but you’ll eventually settle on a rate that works for you.

Doing extra activity can help us lose fat faster.

3. Can we lose fat without losing muscle?

People often want to lose fat in order to show off the muscle that they’ve worked hard to build. Since an energy deficit can cause a reduction in both lean and fat mass,5 losing fat without also losing muscle is a real concern. Luckily, there are a few things that we can do to minimise that.

It seems that faster rates of weight loss might lead to losing a slightly greater percentage of that weight as lean mass.6 If you want to hold onto as much muscle as possible, don’t be too aggressive with your diet.

Having a high protein intake is another way to minimise muscle loss.7 The exact amount will depend on various factors but eating somewhere in the realm of 1.6-2.2g per kg of bodyweight is a good place to start.

Engaging in resistance training also helps to minimise muscle loss when dieting.8 It’s a common misconception that lifting weights is only important when you’re trying to build muscle, but it’s arguably more important when you’re trying to lose weight!

Flexing to show maintenance of muscle during fat loss.

We hope that we’ve been able to answer some of these questions about fat loss. If you’d like to get more individualised help with your own weight loss goals, get in touch and see what our coaches can do for you!

References

  1. https://hummov.awf.wroc.pl/A-proposed-model-to-test-the-hypothesis-of-exercise-induced-localized-fat-reduction,143162,0,2.html ↩︎
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24632736/ ↩︎
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11706283/ ↩︎
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36802029/ ↩︎
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20591106/ ↩︎
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32576318/ ↩︎
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24092765/ ↩︎
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5421125/ ↩︎

3 Top Healthy Habits to Boost Weight Loss

Embarking on a journey towards weight loss is not just about shedding kilograms as quickly as possible – it’s about adopting  a lifestyle centered around healthy habits that support your overall well-being. 

Sustainable weight loss isn’t achieved through quick fixes or extreme measures, rather, it stems from practicing and maintaining healthy practices that can be obtained for life. 

The habits that are incorporated essentially become your “new normal” in your day-to-day lifestyle. These habits not only facilitate weight management but also boost energy levels, improve mood, and enhance overall quality of life. Let’s explore three essential healthy habits for weight loss that can transform your approach and pave the way towards lasting success.

1. Balanced Diet: Fuel Your Body Right

One of the most important habits for successful weight loss is maintaining a balanced diet. Instead of restrictive fad diets that focus on what needs to be removed and avoided, shift the focus to what you can add in. 

Nourish your body with a variety of whole foods and add in foods that help support this. Adding in plenty of colourful vegetables, fruits, lean proteins (like chicken or fish), whole grains (such as quinoa or brown rice), and healthy fats (like avocados or nuts) in your meals. 

Have a think about where more whole food and less processed foods can be incorporated as highly processed foods are profoundly palatable and not as satiating. This makes it a lot easier to over consume often without the high nutrient benefits.

Tip: Plan your meals ahead of time and have healthy snacks and items easily available. This helps to avoid impulsive, unhealthy choices. It can be very easy to gravitate towards the high palatable foods when we are short on time or don’t have easy access.

2. Portion Control: Plating Up Your Meal

Controlling portion sizes is one of the key factors for weight management. Even healthy foods can contribute to weight gain if consumed excessively. Begin to construct your meals by focusing on volume foods taking up the majority of the space on the plate. These include things like non-starchy vegetables and lean proteins.

Tip: Also practice mindful eating by eliminating distractions (like screens or work) during meals. Chew your food thoroughly and take breaks between bites to gauge your hunger level.

3. Regular Movement: Move Your Body Consistently

Incorporating regular exercise into your routine is vital for expanding calories and improving overall fitness. Aim for a mix of cardiovascular exercise (like walking, running, cycling, or dancing) and strength training (using weights, resistance bands, or bodyweight exercises). Find activities you genuinely enjoy to remain motivated and make exercise a sustainable habit.

Tip: Schedule workouts into your weekly calendar like any other important appointment. Consider working out with a friend, joining a group fitness class or working with a personal trainer. We just so happen to be great at it and you can check out our blog here on the benefits on having a personal trainer. This can add accountability and fun to your training.

To Summarise

Incorporating these healthy habits into your lifestyle can transform your weight loss journey into a sustainable and enjoyable process. Remember, consistency is key—small changes over time can lead to significant results. Listen to your body, prioritise self-care, and celebrate your progress along the way! If you want to see how Ivy Training can help your journey, click here to learn more.

Lose Weight Not Taste With Artificial Sweeteners

In the pursuit of weight loss, it’s very likely to encounter an endless number of conflicting advice on what to eat, what to avoid, and which beverages to consume. Among the opposing advice, artificial sweeteners and diet drink alternatives often find themselves under scrutiny. However, contrary to what you may have read, diet soft drink alternatives can serve as valuable tools in your weight loss arsenal. Let’s delve into how these alternatives can assist you on your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

First and foremost, let’s address the elephant in the room: the supposed dangers of artificial sweeteners. Many individuals express concerns about the health implications of consuming artificial sweeteners found in diet drinks alternatives. However, extensive research has failed to establish a definitive link between moderate consumption of artificial sweeteners and adverse health effects. We have written a blog about this in more detail here.

More Taste For Less Calories with Artificial Sweeteners

Now, let’s turn our attention to the main reason why diet drink alternatives can be beneficial for weight loss. Their low or zero-calorie content. Traditional sugary soft drinks are loaded with empty calories. This can contribute significantly to your daily caloric intake without providing any nutritional value. By substituting these sugary beverages with their diet version counterparts, you can slash your calorie consumption while still enjoying a refreshing drink.

This reduction in calorie intake can help create a caloric deficit, which is fundamental for weight loss. Remember, weight loss occurs when you consume fewer calories than you expend, and diet soft drinks can help you achieve this balance more easily.

Still Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth When Losing Weight

In addition, diet drink alternatives can be effective in curbing your cravings for sweets. The taste of sweetness in these beverages can satisfy your desire for something a little sweet without the added calories. If this is something that you still want to incorporate or feel like you don’t want to miss out on, having diet soft drinks or other low-calorie drinks into your diet allows you to still indulge your sweet tooth without derailing your weight loss efforts. This is particularly beneficial for individuals who struggle with sugar cravings. The drinks can provide a guilt-free way to indulge while staying on track with their dietary goals.

Additionally, diet soft drinks can serve as a valuable substitute for high-calorie beverages. Such as fruit juices, energy drinks, or alcoholic beverages. These alternatives often contain a significant amount of sugar or alcohol, which can hinder your weight loss progress. By swapping these calorie-dense drinks for artificial sweetener alternatives, you can drastically reduce your liquid calorie intake. In turn, this can help accelerate your weight loss journey.

In a 52 week study conducted: there were notable differences in sustained weight loss.1 At week 52, water and NNS beverages (Non-Nutritive Sweetened) were non-equivalent, with significantly greater weight loss in the NNS beverages group. Participants consuming water maintained a weight loss of 6.1 kg over 52 weeks versus 7.5 kg with NNS beverages.

In Addition As Opposed To Always

It’s important to note that while artificial sweetener alternatives can be beneficial for weight loss, they should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. While they may help reduce your calorie intake, relying solely on these beverages for hydration and sustenance is not advisable. A varied diet rich in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is essential for optimal health and weight management.

In conclusion, diet soft drink alternatives can be valuable allies in your quest to shed excess weight. By opting for low or zero-calorie beverages, you can reduce your overall calorie intake, satisfy your sweet cravings and stay hydrated. All without derailing your weight loss efforts. Remember to enjoy these beverages in moderation as part of a balanced diet. And combine them with other healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise and adequate sleep.

With the right approach, diet soft drinks can be a refreshing addition to your weight loss toolkit. If you are wanting to lose weight and become a healthier you but are not sure where to start, contact us here.

Cheers to a healthier, happier you!

References:

  1. Non-nutritive sweetened beverages versus water after a 52-week weight management programme: a randomised controlled trial ↩︎

The Sweet Truth About Non-Sugar Sweeteners

Thanks to years of research, we know that excessive consumption of sugar may lead to a variety of negative health outcomes. Increases in body fat,1 cardiovascular disease risk,2 cancer risk,3 and Type-2 diabetes have all been linked to excessive intake of added sugars.4 A reduction in sugar consumption is therefore generally recommended to mitigate these health effects. Enter Non-Sugar Sweeteners (NSS).

Non-Sugar Sweeteners are an increasingly popular alternative that may help to reduce sugar intake. They contain no/low calories and can be either artificial (e.g. aspartame) or naturally occurring (e.g. stevia). They are generally used to sweeten a variety of pre-packaged foods and beverages, or as a direct substitute for table sugar.

Seems like a pretty sweet deal, right? However, there are some common questions and concerns that we need to address before giving a final recommendation. Let’s take a closer at a couple of them.

Are Non-Sugar Sweeteners Safe?

The main concern that people have regarding NSS is whether or not they are harmful to health. A no-strings attached substitute for sugar, a substance that we know has negative health effects? Surely there must be a catch? Fortunately, we have lots of research to help us find the answers.

Reported side-effects of NSS often include headaches and allergic reactions. Evidence shows that these are no more likely to be caused by NSS than by placebo.5 Claims that NSS cause an increase in blood sugar are similarly not supported by reliable data.6 For health conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and Type-2 diabetes, data from controlled experiments shows no significant relationship with NSS intake.7

Long-term safety data is less conclusive, with some small positive associations between NSS intake and markers of disease and mortality. However, the nature of long-term research means that it’s a lot harder to determine causation. Other variables that often go hand-in-hand with NSS consumption are the likely cause of the negative health outcomes that we’re seeing here. For example, people who replace sugar with NSS often do so because they want to reduce an already elevated risk of disease (due to overweight/obesity, lifestyle, diet, etc). Rather than long-term NSS consumption leading to poor health outcomes, the poor health outcomes are what lead people to consume more NSS.8

Overall, does this mean that NSS are safe? The body of evidence that we currently have seems to indicate that they aren’t inherently harmful on their own.

Are Non-Sugar Sweeteners Useful?

Non-sugar sweeteners are usually recommended as a great weight loss tool. Logically, replacing high-calorie, sugar-sweetened food and drink with low/zero calorie alternatives would make sense, right? Let’s see what the evidence has to say.

In short-term controlled studies, using NSS lead to a small reduction in body weight and BMI.9 This effect was greatest when NSS intake were either compared to a diet containing sugar, or when replacing sugar completely. In these scenarios, it appears to be a reduction in energy intake that drives the weight loss.

Long-term evidence associates increased NSS intake with increased body weight.10 However, it’s important to note that most of these long-term studies do not actually replace sugar with NSS, but just look at diets high in NSS. We know that the average adult diet is not particularly health-promoting.11 We also now know that NSS have the greatest effect on body composition when replacing added sugar. If NSS are being added to the average diet without changing anything else, it’s likely that other factors are driving this long-term weight increase, not the NSS.

What does this mean for the utility of NSS? Overall, they do not seem to be beneficial on their own. Adding NSS without addressing other aspects of a poor quality diet does not seem to have any uniquely positive effects. The main scenario in which they are useful seems to be when they replace added sugar, both for weight management and disease prevention.

Our Recommendations

Based on the evidence we’ve discussed here, here are our thoughts on non-sugar sweeteners:

  • NSS don’t seem to be inherently unsafe to consume.
  • NSS don’t seem to be inherently beneficial for health.
  • Adding NSS to your diet won’t lead to better outcomes if that diet isn’t also health-promoting.
  • Replacing sugar with NSS seems to be beneficial for managing disease risk and body weight.
  • We especially recommend replacing sugar-sweetened beverages with non-sugar options, as our bodies do not seem to account for liquid calories particularly well.12

Would you like to know more about non-sugar sweeteners or nutrition in general? Get in touch with one of our dual-certified trainers and nutritionists to see how we can help you improve your diet, training, and lifestyle!

References:

  1. The Dose Makes the Poison: Sugar and Obesity in the United States – a Review ↩︎
  2. Relation of Total Sugars, Sucrose, Fructose, and Added Sugars With the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and Dose-Response Meta-analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies ↩︎
  3. Consumption of Sugars, Sugary Foods, and Sugary Beverages in Relation to Cancer Risk: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies ↩︎
  4. Role of diet in type 2 diabetes incidence: umbrella review of meta-analyses of prospective observational studies ↩︎
  5. Aspartame and susceptibility to headache; Aspartame is no more likely than placebo to cause urticaria/angioedema: results of a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study ↩︎
  6. Glycemic impact of non-nutritive sweeteners: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials ↩︎
  7. Health effects of the use of non-sugar sweeteners: A systematic review and meta-analysis ↩︎
  8. Health effects of the use of non-sugar sweeteners: A systematic review and meta-analysis ↩︎
  9. Health effects of the use of non-sugar sweeteners: A systematic review and meta-analysis ↩︎
  10. Health effects of the use of non-sugar sweeteners: A systematic review and meta-analysis ↩︎
  11. https://www.csiro.au/en/news/all/news/2023/september/total-wellbeing-diet-1 ↩︎
  12. Effects of carbohydrates on satiety: differences between liquid and solid food ↩︎

Top Strategies To Boost Your Success with Habit Stacking

Five Reasons You Need A Personal Trainer

In the quest for a healthier lifestyle, putting as many health-promoting behaviours on autopilot as possible will reduce decision fatigue and boost adherence. To this end, habit stacking can really boost your chance of success and consistency. With habit stacking you will find yourself better navigating around the obstacles of incorporating new habits into your daily routine. 

We have all the best intentions of making these health-promoting behaviours in our day consistent. Doing so ensures we are kicking off the year on the right foot. However, our busy lives and schedules can make implementing new healthier habits feel quite tedious.

So, how do some people stay so consistent and continuously implement their new healthy habits?

This is where the art of habit stacking can come in. It’s a powerful strategy that involves piggybacking new behaviours onto already existing ones. Overall, this approach not only streamlines your efforts but also helps promote a seamless integration of positive habits into your daily life. 

The Ripple Effect of Success

Firstly, the beauty of habit stacking lies in its ripple effect. As you successfully integrate one habit into your routine, the sense of accomplishment and positive reinforcement spills over into other aspects of your life. 

Small victories breed confidence, creating a momentum that propels you toward more ambitious health and fitness goals. Therefore, habits are going to be the backbone of consistency as they have seamlessly merged with your routine. They will continue to be present after the motivation and interest dissipates. 

Rewiring Our Routine with Habits

In a weight loss study conducted over eight weeks, habit stacking was put to the test. Participants were split into either a habit focused with diet and activity behaviours or dietary intervention alone. As a result, the habit focused group had lost 2kg compared to 0.4kg in the diet alone group.

In addition, at the end of a 32-week follow-up, researchers found that the participants in the habit focused group had developed these behaviours for the long term. Some had even stated that they felt ‘quite strange’ if they did not do them. 

To sum up the research findings above, habits help you pave the way for living a sustainable healthy lifestyle. It becomes second nature in your routine. This reduces the cognitive load required when trying to make health-promoting decisions.

Habit Stacking In Practice

Here is an example of how I used the method of habit stacking in my client, Brooke’s routine.  One of Brooke’s intentions was to increase her daily movement. To begin, we investigated what her daily routine looked like. 

Each day she was commuting on the train into work. As a result, we established that she could get off the train a stop earlier to get a 10-minute walk in on her way to work.

How we habit stacked on that daily action was by incorporating movement around this already existing routine that she did. Each day an extra 20 minutes of walking was being done without it having to be an allocated walk in the day. 

Secondly, we focused on increasing her daily water intake. We looked at here we could piggyback this off an already existing daily action. For instance, she found she was having about 5 cups of tea and coffee. Each time she had a cup of tea or coffee, she consumed a glass of water. In short, she very quickly increased her water intake without having to think spontaneously about it during her day.

Keeping Habit Stacking Easy

In conclusion, habit stacking is a game-changer for those seeking sustainable health and fitness improvements. Through strategically linking new habits to existing routines, you not only simplify the process but also create a balanced alliance between various aspects of your life. Whether it’s incorporating physical activity, optimising nutrition, or embracing mindfulness, habit stacking empowers you to build a foundation for lasting well-being, one small change at a time. If you’re looking to create new healthy habits in your life and aren’t sure where to start, you can contact us here.

References:

  1. Making health habitual: the psychology of ‘habit-formation’ and general practice

Real Results, Real Client: Christina’s Incredible Weight Loss Story

Weight loss is a common goal amongst clients. I thought it would be insightful to do a deep-dive into what weight loss can look like in practise, using one of our clients as a case study to demonstrate how it can be achieved and what can be implemented to get the result we’re after.

Christina started training with me (Rachael) in 2019, after not having stepped into a gym before. Christina has trained consistently since her very first session, and has gained a significant amount of strength, muscle and confidence, but like many – struggled with her diet during lockdown. After gaining a few COVID-kilos, Christina decided that she wanted to focus on weight loss. She had three goals relative to her weight loss:

  1. She wanted to be within the healthy BMI range.
  2. She wanted to lose between 8-10kg.
  3. She wanted to lose the weight and keep it off.

These were Christina’s stats in January 2022:

Height: 170cm

Weight: 81.1kg

BMI: 28.1 (overweight range)

Dietary Changes

There are many different approaches that we can implement to achieve weight loss, but the underlying principle remains the same. We must be consuming fewer calories than we’re expending to lose weight. A calorie deficit has been proven to be the most important factor when implementing a weight loss strategy [1]. I discussed appropriate dietary inventions with Christina, and we decided that tracking her intake was a sustainable approach for her. This involved prescribing calorie and macronutrient targets that she would aim to meet. This approach would also allow us to easily monitor and manage her dietary intake to ensure that she was consistent with hitting her targets, and make adjustments to her intake if and when required.

Christina is in her late twenties and lives with her husband Tony and cat Molly. With a small family unit we agreed that this approach wasn’t going to be too overwhelming. Tony was also very supportive and would accommodate by making some slight adjustments to their nightly dinners. An example would be buying leaner cuts of meat and adjusting serving sizes. We are big advocates of setting up your diet for success, and often this involves getting your family and friends onboard with your goals and the changes you’re making.

The initial plan was to have Christina track her intake Monday to Friday through an app called MyFitnessPal, and eat mindfully on the weekends. I did put some soft ground rules in place for the weekends – she would aim to eat three meals each day that would be evenly spread apart. Aside from that, she was encouraged to eat out socially and include foods that she enjoyed.

App for Weight Loss

Training and Physical Activity

Christina was all set with her diet, but what about her training and other physical activity? Generally speaking, I don’t make adjustments to a client’s training program when someone suddenly decides they want to shift a few kilos. Whilst a lot of people tend to think they need to decrease their training load (the actual weight they’re lifting) and increase their training volume (think number of reps) to achieve better weight loss results, current research doesn’t support this. One study suggests that adjustments to training load do not impact reductions in fat mass [2]. Instead, we focus on nutrition but also encourage squeezing in some extra physical activity, especially if they’re not meeting the Australian Physical Activity Guidelines [3]. If you’re unfamiliar with the current guidelines, they include at least two strength training sessions per week in addition to 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity activity.

In addition to continuing with her two strength training sessions, I asked Christina to increase her other physical activity activity throughout the week. This included allocating a weekly step target and participating in cardiovascular exercise of her choice. For the most part, Christina opted for brisk walks or the odd YouTube workout that she could do from her living room.

Here’s an example of Christina logging some extra exercise in our app:

Accountability for Weight Loss

Weekly Accountability

I had Christina complete a weekly nutrition update with me every Friday, mainly to monitor her progress but to also help with accountability. She was very diligent with completing it most weeks, and I looked forward to getting that little ping notification on my dashboard every Friday!

Christina’s nutrition targets varied throughout her weight loss phase, and were adjusted when we saw a plateau in her progress. I won’t specifically refer to her calorie and macronutrient targets here, as the plan with Christina wasn’t to track her intake every day. As previously mentioned, she logged a food diary Monday to Friday, and ate mindfully over the weekends typically with three meals spaced evenly apart. This simply means that I cannot confidently say how many calories she was consuming on average each day, but it was evident that from her progress – she was eating within a calorie deficit.

The questions that I had in her weekly nutrition update included:

  1. Did you meet your nutrition targets?
  2. Did you face any struggles when trying to meet your nutrition targets?
  3. What did you do well?
  4. What do you think you could improve on?
  5. How are your hunger and appetite levels?
  6. How are your energy levels?
  7. How was your training?
  8. What was your weekly step count?
  9. How many hours sleep did you get each night on average?
  10. What do you need help with?

Below is an example of one of Christina’s weekly nutrition updates:

Weekly Nutrition Update for Weight Loss

Diet Breaks

I knew that there would be some “diet breaks” throughout the process, with a number of social events and travelling on the horizon. A diet break is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a planned break from being in a calorie deficit. Typically, a diet break lasts for about a week or two, and sometimes even longer if needed. These can be planned around certain life events, or can be implemented when a person simply needs a psychological break from calorie restriction.

We implemented a few of these diet breaks around birthdays, Christmas and a trip to Vietnam. These planned diet breaks varied in duration (especially when Christina ventured overseas), but she managed to maintain her weight loss throughout each of them.

Christina enjoying a planned diet break in Vietnam

The Outcome

Fast-forward 20 months, and we are at the very end of Christina’s weight loss journey. Christina has successfully dropped over 10kg (11.5kg to be exact) and is within the healthy BMI range, ticking off her goals she originally set. She decided she wants to crack 70kg on the dot and once she’s achieved that we will be focusing on maintaining her weight loss moving forward.

Christina’s current stats are:

Height: 170cm (we’re not magicians – this number did not change)

Weight: 69.6kg

BMI: 24.1 (healthy range)

This is what Christina has to say about the process:

I had been training with Rachael for nearly two years when we seriously broached the fat loss question. After being told by my GP that my BMI was pushing me into the overweight category, and even taken with a grain of salt, it was a bit of a wake up call. There were deeper reasons also for wanting to shift a bit of weight around body confidence and image, energy and nutrition.

Rachael was super supportive of all the reasons why and she came up with a nutrition and training plan that suited me and my lifestyle. It included simple nutrition swaps, increasing my protein, tracking my meals on weekdays and including a home training session, but these were introduced over time, building habits on top of each over. She considered my love of food and eating out on weekends, dislike for most cardio activities and access to simple meals. And because she took these things into consideration into the plan I was able to stick to it and maintain some healthy habits that I now hope to keep for a lifetime. 

A year and a half in and I have lost just over 10kg, an incredibly proud achievement. I’ve maintained my social life, continued my love for strength training and had ‘maintenance periods’ when life got busy. I’ve honestly never felt stronger or healthier, I’m so much more confident in myself and I’ve learnt so much about the food I’m eating and how it makes me feel. 

If you’re looking for a highly experienced trainer that can help not only with your training, but with your nutrition as well – we would love to help. Get in contact to book a no-obligation consultation.

References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33107442/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35998256/
  3. https://www.health.gov.au/topics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians/for-adults-18-to-64-years

Our Top Strategies to Lose Weight

Weight loss is a ubiquitous goal. As of the latest release from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 67% of adults are overweight or obese [1]. But why does that matter? According to a task force guideline from the American College of Cardiology and Heart Association, even a modest weight loss of 3-5%, which effectively reduces body fat, can substantially lower the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease [2]. We know that managing overweight and obesity can have positive health effects. Weight loss, specifically fat loss, although mechanistically simple, is anything but that in practise. Today we will dive into our top strategies for those looking to lose weight: a sustainable calorie deficit, setting up your food environment and prioritising preferences.

A calorie deficit is key to lose weight

There’s no two ways around it. You can’t lose weight without being in a calorie deficit. Often when people think of weight loss, images of carrot sticks and apple-cider vinegar are conjured. However, it doesn’t need to be that dramatic. The aforementioned task force guidelines emphasise the importance of tailoring the choice of a calorie-restricted diet to each patient’s preferences and health status. The recommended reduction of 500 calories per day from a current intake is a great starting point. To begin with however, what would constitute a “regular” number of calories from which to calculate a restriction? The Australian Government has a fantastic resource named Eat For Health which provides references for nutritional intake, as well as convenient tables and calculators to indicate individual intakes. A standard is somewhere between 1800-2400 calories for females and males respectively. With this in mind, although this reduction seems significant, it’s worth noting how easily 500 calories can creep into your daily intake. Foods such as peanut butter, as well as beverages like coffee with added milk and sugar, and alcoholic drinks, can all significantly contribute to daily calorie intake.

Your environment helps facilitate weight loss

The food environment is a critical variable to facilitating weight loss. Our advice is to not make things harder for yourself. It’s likely that hyper-palatable (taste good!) and energy dense (packed full of calories) foods within your reach won’t last long. We call these foods “obesogenic” not because they are inherently bad, but instead because they, have low nutrition value for the energy cost. Although the discussion of food environments at large is outside the scope of this article, it’s important to recognise that the home food environment plays a role in attempts to manage bodyweight [3]. The home food environment is where many individuals make their eating decisions. These decisions are often performed with little cognitive effort and therefore, it’s important to make decision making as simple as possible – ideally the decision is between a couple of different fruits rather than chocolate or a packet of chips!

To help you walk away with some practical takeaways, here are some recommendations to help you set up a better food environment:

  • Your favourite fruits to snack on, ideally in a visible location.
  • A freezer draw of healthy ready-made meals and additionally, your favourite easy-to-prep vegetables.
  • Some lean sources of protein stored in your fridge or freezer.
  • If you find yourself regularly indulging in energy-dense treat foods, it can help to not keep a supply in the pantry. It’s a lot easier to reach for a more nutritious snack when the alternative requires a trip down to the shops!

Preferences matter when losing weight

We know an energy deficit is key to weight loss. Managing the environment simplifies decision making to drive the deficit. Weight loss strategies should be personalised, based on patient preferences [4]. No universal diet exists for weight loss and maintenance. This means it’s not so much about an entire overhaul (usually), but instead compliance to intelligent adjustments. Compliance drives change. It’s not a free pass to indulge, but there’s room between indulgence and strict control. Don’t think you need to jump onto any particular diet, especially if you’re worried it won’t work for you. Our modern food environment offers options: zero-sugar beverages, non-alcoholic beers, low-fat dairy. Leverage them. Preferences matter, so choose foods that nourish and maintain a deficit. There are ways you can include dairy, carb sources and healthy fats and the occasional treats in a health-promoting diet.

Leveraging personal choice is key to success. For us as trainers it’s no different. For instance, Rachael still loves having 15-20g of Nutella on toast a few days a week and a low-calorie dessert after dinner, like a Paddle Pop. Tom loves his zero-sugar soft drinks (Pepsi Max > Coke Zero in his humble opinion). I myself have been known to indulge in a couple slices of banana bread a few days a week. Additionally, I’m a bit of a dairy man myself. When working through a weight-loss phase, I don’t remove dairy, but instead substitute full cream to reduced cream or skim variants.

We’re here to help you lose weight

We understand the process can be daunting, but you don’t need to go at it alone. We’re here to help you find sustainable health-promoting strategies to drive lifestyle change. Although a calorie deficit is key, we don’t want individuals to crash over insufficient nutrition. We also recognise that not everything is within your conscious control, so it’s important to ease the decision-making process by managing your food environment. Lastly, don’t forget to prioritise compliance by still enjoying foods that also meet your dietary needs and body composition goals! If you’re looking for more guidance, you can contact us here.

References

  1. Overweight and obesity, 2017-18 financial year | Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au)
  2. 2013 AHA/ACC/TOS Guideline for the Management of Overweight and Obesity in Adults | Circulation (ahajournals.org)
  3. Associations Between Weight Loss Attempts, Food Planning, and the Home Food Environment – PubMed (nih.gov)
  4. Optimal Diet Strategies for Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance – PMC (nih.gov)

Our Top 3 Picks for Ready-Made Meals

Ready-made meals are a fantastic solution for those times when you’re in a pinch. Thankfully, ready-made meals are becoming more accessible with a wide-variety of companies now providing viable options. Today’s article is a brief overview of three ready-made meal services that we’ve used and some of our favourite options with their nutrition information. Jake will cover his top three MyMuscleChef meals, Rachael talks about her experience with Vic’s Gourmet Gains, and Harry shares his favourite YouFoodz meals to grab from the local service station when he’s forgotten to pack his lunch!

MyMuscleChef

MyMuscleChef is a relatively well known meal delivery company that started as a small business in 2013. Fast forward to 2023 you won’t have to look far before seeing one of their ads on your TV!

MyMuscleChef’s purpose is to offer intelligent and versatile nutrition options that help people feel their best. Their goal is to match high-quality meals with great taste and accessibility. This allows customers to more conveniently achieve their health and fitness goals. They’ve recently developed a plant-based range, moved towards fresh over frozen products, and a new low-calorie range on top of their already impressive 70 high-protein meals.

I tend to personally meal prep most of my meals however with my work-life balance, and the schedule of my better half Mel, who is a nurse, very often we find ourselves in a pinch needing a convenient, high-protein meal for dinner or otherwise. We don’t mind the occasional takeout, but I find having MyMuscleChef Meals on hand is a great strategy to help me stick to my goals. 

Here are my top three meals:

Crumbed Chicken with Roasted Potatoes

  • Calories: 554kcal 
  • Carbohydrates: 49g
  • Fat: 19g
  • Protein: 44g

Beef Stroganoff with Spinach Fettuccine

  • Calories: 487kcal 
  • Carbohydrates: 31g
  • Fat: 12g
  • Protein: 62g

Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl

  • Calories: 704kcal 
  • Carbohydrates: 62g
  • Fat: 21g
  • Protein: 65g

Vic’s Gourmet Gains

Vic’s Gourmet Gains is a small business, owned and operated by an incredible cook, Victoria. With all of her meals being high in protein, it’s obvious that gym-goers are Vic’s target market and main consumer.

The upside of ordering from a small business like this is that the ready-made meals are made fresh and delivered on the same day. Vic will also go above and beyond if you require any customisations to your meals. The downside is that you need to order via Instagram Direct Message, and I am renowned for forgetting to submit my order by her Thursday 12pm cut-off and often get hit with a “Hey Rach, do you need any meals this week?” message.

Many of you might know that I don’t cook on weeknights due to the nature of my work and schedule, and have tried most meal prep companies on the market. In my opinion, Vic’s Gourmet Gains beats them all in terms of taste and freshness. My husband agrees as well, and often jokes about how lucky Victoria’s partner is!

Here are three meals that you would often find in my fridge at home:

Turkey Kofta

  • Calories: 488kcal 
  • Carbohydrates: 50g
  • Fat: 8g
  • Protein: 54g

Tandoori Chicken

  • Calories: 523kcal 
  • Carbohydrates: 61g
  • Fat: 7g
  • Protein: 51g

Butter Chicken

  • Calories: 556kcal 
  • Carbohydrates: 54g
  • Fat: 16g
  • Protein: 43g

Youfoodz

Youfoodz is a popular ready-made meal subscription service in that offers delivery, but also sells meals at local shops. They prioritise fresh, nutritionally-balanced meals with flexible meal plan sizes designed to suit your lifestyle. 

The company was founded in 2012 by Lance Giles and is headquartered in Brisbane, Queensland. YouFoodz offers a variety of fresh, healthy and convenient meals that can be ordered online and delivered to customer’s doors. They cater to a range of dietary requirements, including vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, and low-carb options.

The Youfoodz basic range has a slightly lower protein content compared to other ready made meal services. However, this doesn’t always have to be the focus as it is a function of your overall diet. Other qualities such as taste and affordability are equally important. Moreover, just like training fatigue we can also get something called taste fatigue. This is a result of constantly eating the same foods. If we are always choosing the same meals for the purpose of high-protein counts, we are missing the bigger picture. Choosing meals from a wider range of choices whilst being attentive to the overall details of the diet at large can improve adherence and enjoyment.

These are my go-to meals that I grab when I’ve forgotten my lunch:

Creamy Parmesan Chicken with Peas & Cauliflower

  • Calories: 275kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 18.7g
  • Fat: 8.5g
  • Protein: 27.6g

Peri Peri Chicken with Spicy Mayo & Potatoes

  • Calories: 495kcal 
  • Carbohydrates: 19.6g
  • Fat: 33.9g
  • Protein: 26g

Slow-Cooked Tuscan Pork with Loaded Mash

  • Calories: 395kcal 
  • Carbohydrates: 27.6g
  • Fat: 19.7g
  • Protein: 24.9g

Picking what’s right for you

Inevitably, your health and fitness journey will involve some trial and error. When it comes to making health promoting nutrition decisions you have plenty of choice. Factors such as cost, convenience, accessibility and importantly, taste, all play a role and how consistent you will be. Ready-made meals are a great option to have stored in your freezer in case you find yourself short on time, and it’s something that we recommend to our clients if they’re struggling with consistency. Ultimately, consistency will dictate your success. If you need help developing consistent health-promoting habits, feel free to reach out to us here.

Top Tips to Grocery Shop Smart

On your quest to become a healthier you, the weekly grocery shop is a necessary task that can be difficult to surmount. When you have to account for your family and yourself, it becomes even more complex. As you might have experienced, we all struggle with willpower to make health-promoting decisions at the best of times. Convenience, cognitive load and time management are all influencing factors. As the saying goes “fail to prepare and prepare to fail”. In today’s article we will provide our top tips to help you prepare better and simplify decision making.

Shopping for Substitutions

Substitutions refer to swapping out one choice for another. Rarely do we recommend a complete dietary overhaul. This is not only unwise and unnecessary, but simply stressful! Instead, some simple substitutions could go a long way in managing total energy intake. Secondly, substitutions can improve nutrition quality and increase overall satisfaction. A few simple places to start simply involve picking a lower calories version of the same food. This can include skim or light milk, 95% lean mince, cooking oils, pasta variations (as shown below) and sugar free sweetened beverages. Next time you’re on your grocery shop, look for some substitutions – you might be pleasantly surprised!

You can also look at swapping out foods accessible in your food environment. That is, if you were to leave a bowl of chocolates on your desk at work, would you be more likely to eat it? What if you were to swap out that bowl of chocolate for a bowl of fruit? How could that impact your health?

Shopping for Back-Ups

Not everything goes to plan. I’m sure this is something you’ve experienced before. Life is messy, and in your pursuit of a healthier and fitter you, your best laid plans won’t always stick. Substitution is a strategy for everyday however back-ups refer to strategies left in reserve. The most common example is frozen or chilled meals ready for when you don’t have time to prepare meals such as dinner.

We’ve also got in our companion article this month our favourite ready-made meals from three different companies. Be sure to check it out here. Back-ups can also include knowing your food environment and options beyond just the home. For instance, we recommend getting to know your local area and *healthier* takeaway options alongside access to ready made meals.

One example immediately springs to mind. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I do occasionally indulge in McDonald’s. One great back-up option Rachael put me onto is the Grilled Chicken Wrap. It’s not perfect by any choice but, for the convenience of being on the road, 447 cals and 27.8g protein at $8.20, there are worse options if you’re in a pinch. Honourable mentions include the wide variety of ready-made meals now available at petrol stations (such as YouFoodz or MyMuscleChef) and secondly, Nando’s is a fantastic choice when eating out – it’s hard to pass up the Peri-Peri Chicken Tenders and Broccolini!

Shopping Savvy

I don’t think I’m the only person here guilty of opening up the vegetable drawer in the fridge and finding a sad excuse for lettuce wilted in the corner. Not only does the guilt of letting food go to waste hit me, but additionally, the waste of cost and resources. Thankfully, you don’t have to buy fresh food to eat healthy. Although I understand taste may be compromised, buying frozen or canned produce is a completely viable strategy for limiting waste and still achieving your health and fitness goals. As an aside, frozen and tinned foods aren’t subject to seasonal fluctuations in price or availability and as a bonus, usually lower in cost.

Having the right appliances at home, albeit a luxury, means you can limit the time spent on meal prep and help you when you’re short on time, adhere to your health and fitness goals. Air fryers are a fantastic tool. By circulating incredibly hot air they can be used to prepare food in a short period of time without using large amounts of oil or the need to deep fry certain foods. 

An example of a convenient meal that comes to mind that uses frozen foods, limited prep time and is reasonably healthy can be creating air fried and seasoned frozen broccoli florets, potato chips and a fresh lean protein source. You can find all of these ingredients in the frozen section on your next grocery shop!

Set yourself up for success

The weekly grocery shop can be a stumbling block or a chance to step-up to success. Intelligent use of substitutions, back-ups, resource management and appliance use can make achieving your health and fitness goals magnitudes easier. As previously alluded to convenience, *cognitive load* and time management are all influencing factors when making health-promoting decisions. We hope the ideas in our article today provide you with the tools you require to succeed. It’s clear how nutrition can be more flexible and adaptable. Don’t get stuck thinking only freshly made, organic-only, gourmet meals that are cost intensive are “healthy.” If you’re looking for more practical nutrition guidance, you can contact the team at Ivy Training here.

10 New Year’s Resolutions That Aren’t Scale Related

New Year, New You? How about New Year, New Habits? We all know the drill: the New Year rolls around and all of a sudden, it’s time to make those New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, get in shape and finally hit that number on the scale that you haven’t seen in years. To make things more challenging, let’s add an unrealistic time frame to hit that milestone event that’s just around the corner.

What if I told you that there were a number of ways to focus on your health and fitness, that don’t revolve around the number on the scale? You read that right. No hard and fast diets. No unachievable “goal weight” with an impossible time frame to match. Let’s flip the switch. Start thinking about long-term, sustainable habits that will change your life rather than short-term New Year’s resolutions. You might even find that focusing on the process rather than the destination makes the entire process more enjoyable and rewarding.

Here are 10 New Year’s resolutions for you to try in 2023 that don’t involve the scale:

  1. Get some fresh air and sunshine every day
  2. Aim for some type of physical activity every day
  3. Try a new type of exercise or activity that you’ve never done before
  4. Focus on a new hobby that you enjoy
  5. Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  6. Make a commitment to hydration
  7. Add more fruit and vegetables into your diet
  8. Prioritise your sleep
  9. Make time for self-care
  10. Reflect and document your progress

Get some fresh air and sunshine every day

Try and find ways to get outside (when the weather is appropriate)! Getting out in the sun is a great way to promote Vitamin D production, which is great for immunity and bone health. Whether it’s grabbing some lunch and eating outside or setting aside 30 minutes between clients to go for a walk, we always try to schedule some time to get some fresh air and sunshine, and the steps are an added bonus.

New Year's Resolutions: Get some fresh air and sunshine every day

Aim for some type of physical activity every day

Daily physical activity should be on everyone’s list of New Year’s resolutions. Not all activity has to be “hard”, it can also be fun – this is why we enjoy encouraging people to learn something new! Between us trainers, we typically break our activity throughout the week with a mix of (mainly) strength training in the gym, along with other physical activity which can be as simple and easy as a walk around the block.

New Year's Resolutions: Aim for some type of physical activity every day

Try a new type of exercise or activity that you’ve never done before

Trying new things is a great way to discover new passions and even meet new people. The options are limitless, it could be a martial art, dancing, swimming or more! Jake has recently taken up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Legacy next door to the studio, and is finding the challenge of learning a new skill fun and exciting. Rachael has also tried Pilates in the past when she wanted to shake up her exercise routine, and Harry has dabbled in the sport of Strongman. There are plenty of ways to diversify your training and exercise, so don’t be afraid to try something new!

New Year's Resolutions: Try a new type of exercise or activity that you’ve never done before

Focus on a new hobby that you enjoy

New hobbies can be a great way to try something new and connect with people who have common interests. Hobbies can bring you joy, help you switch out of the bustle of life and provide new vigour for everything else you need to do. A lot of our clients enjoy numerous different hobbies, from art classes, dancing to learning a new language. All of them involve connecting with other people and forming new friendships, and others also involve some extra physical activity!

New Year's Resolutions: Focus on a new hobby that you enjoy

Take the stairs instead of the elevator

What we mean by this is, take steps (literally) to move more throughout the day. Small changes like choosing the stairs instead of the elevator can really help you accumulate more steps each day and increase your daily activity levels. We often catch ourselves choosing to walk down to Chatswood rather than driving just to increase our daily activity.

New Year's Resolutions: Take the stairs instead of the elevator

Make a commitment to hydration

We find having a water bottle nearby helps increase your water intake. Get your hands on one of those 2L water bottles and fill it up at the beginning of the day. Aim to get through the whole thing and maybe even a refill by the end of the day. Sometimes a bigger water bottle isn’t practical, so instead aiming to have a large glass or small bottle of water with each meal is a great way to reach this goal. Find what works for you, and stick to it.

New Year's Resolutions: Make a commitment to hydration

Add more fruit and vegetables into your diet

To put it bluntly, most of us don’t consume enough fruit or vegetables in our diet. If you’re not meeting the minimum recommendations of 5 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruit each day, it’s not too late to start. The first step is adding them into your grocery trolley. The second step is actually eating them (and not letting them go to waste)! You can start small by adding a serve of fruit and vegetables that you enjoy with each meal.

New Year's Resolutions: Add more fruit and vegetables into your diet

Prioritise your sleep

Aim for 7 hours of sleep each night and establish a bedtime routine that helps you wind down. We get it – sometimes our sleep is out of our control, especially if we’re attending to a young one or we’re under a lot of stress. We can try our best to establish a pre-bed routine can involve self care and reflection. Winding down before bed will allow you to get off to sleep faster, but also have more restful sleep.

New Year's Resolutions: Prioritise your sleep

Make time for self-care

Whether it’s a massage, meditation, a walk, or even a pamper, make sure you take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Setting time aside to look after and reward yourself is a great way to stay motivated. Experiment with a few different ways to practise self-care, and figure out what works for you best. It’s a great way to relax and de-stress!

New Year's Resolutions: Make time for self-care

Reflect and document your progress

Reflecting, documenting and monitoring your progress will help you appreciate the journey and consider what’s working, and what might need some extra attention or improvement. We help our clients monitor and track their progress, and we love getting their feedback along the way to ensure that we’re both on the same page. You might even find that this process of reflection can help you unwind, and could even be part of your self-care routine.

New Year's Resolutions: Reflect and document your progress

Our take on New Year’s Resolutions

Ditch the unrealistic New Year’s resolutions and let your new habits take you from resolution to revolution this year. Consider that not every action you take needs to be metric-based such as jumping on a scale (although there is a time and a place for this).  Instead, consider these process based habits that develop your skills, abilities and health over simply pursuing a metric. We hope you can consider the 10 tips we’ve provided for you today and adopt them into your lifestyle this year. If you’d like more help setting and achieving your goals, you can reach out to the team at Ivy Training here.

Don’t Make Health Harder Than It Needs to Be

Making healthy decisions seems simple right? Just tell yourself to get up and go on a walk, surely 10 minutes isn’t that hard? Or how about simply choosing to have less sugar in your coffee? Perhaps you’ve found yourself after a hot streak of 1-2 weeks, relapsing into old, unproductive habits. Willpower often fails to stand up to busyness and fatigue. What about the context of your social and physical environment?

For example, a 2009 research paper used survey data linked with geographic measures of access to food retailers and found the following:

“The lower the ratio of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores to grocery stores and produce vendors near people’s homes, the lower the odds of being obese.” [1]

Although decision making can be complex, the opportunities to improve are many. Better yet, we don’t have to rely on pure willpower. Today we will focus on your social and environmental context. We’ve got three examples to share which will illustrate this point. As you read on today, consider, the physical and social environments you find yourself in and the resources therein. Or better said:

“…the social and environmental context of action which provide, available options, sets incentives and disincentives, opportunity costs and cues with contingency for behavioural responses.” [2]

Your Environment as a Health Motivator

Not all environments are harmful, rather, many can be conducive to your goals.

Our resident moustachioed man-child Harry reflected on how his gym environment impacted his success in powerlifting. He had the following to say: “I’d been training for 3 years in a commercial gym which wasn’t ideal for powerlifting. Regardless, I was excited to compete and decided to sign up for my first powerlifting meet. Despite being self-coached, I placed second and qualified for states. It was at states where I met my current coach, and we began working together. This gave me access to a powerlifting gym where the like-minded community of lifters encouraged one another to new heights. I found myself not only getting stronger but also feeling more related to, confident and inspired. For me, changing my training environment and surrounding myself with a supportive team of friends, coaches and specialists lead to a much healthier mindset and approach to my training as well as allowing me to flourish as a lifter.”

Your Environment as a Health Harmer

Of course, it might just be the interaction between yourself, your circumstance and the environment you find yourself in that causes the issues. Rachael experienced this during lockdown.

With a hectic schedule performing mobile personal training sessions while lugging a weight kit during lockdown, Rachael had to bring meals with her to eat on the road. One morning she had forgotten her usual oat bar and banana and so she opted to stop by Missing Spoon in Gordon. To her delight they had a Bacon & Egg Roll and Coffee combo special…thankfully for Rachael she could swap out her coffee for a hot chocolate.

She started to notice her behaviours shifting however and had this to say: “Do you know how good it felt to eat a Bacon & Egg Roll and hot chocolate after not having access to dining out in what felt like forever?! Amazing. That, paired with the convenience of not having to pack my breakfast and actually being able to leave my vehicle and have some sort of human interaction in the midst of lockdown made me want to do it again. And again. And again. What was supposed to be a once-off occurrence turned into an almost daily activity for about two weeks. Then I thought, this has turned into an unhealthy habit, and it has to stop… now. So, I did. I even took an alternative route to travel between Gordon and Killara to avoid driving past the café. Out of side, out of mind, right?”

Your Environment as Conveniently Healthy

Without speculating too much into human psychology, we often assume effort is equated to both outcome but also virtue. That is, something worth having or doing is usually hard or requires effort and hopefully results in a positive outcome.

Although we don’t necessarily disagree, there’s nothing wrong with leveraging convenience, especially if it helps you be compliant to health-promoting behaviours and stick to your goals.

Here’s Jake’s experience of picking up a new activity, that happened to be conveniently healthy: “For myself I’ve wanted to for years to pick up a Martial Art again. In particular, I was excited about Jiu Jitsu. I was never motivated enough however to carve out more time or wanted to travel far for a class. Ever since I started at Ivy Training, I noticed there is literally a Jiu Jitsu studio next door. Even better, they have classes during my break. Thank you, Legacy! So here I am, 2 months later and loving it! Ultimately, I’m learning a new skill, being active and getting involved in a new community. I can still put in effort but I’m more likely to stay committed due to convenience.”

Context is Everything

We wish for everyone to have greater willpower to make better decisions. Unfortunately, that’s not reality. Instead, consider how you can make decision making an easier process. Furthermore, consider the interplay between yourself and your physical and social environment. We hope these three examples can help you better pursue health-promoting behaviours.

If you’re looking for help achieving your goals, you can contact the team at Ivy Training here.

References

  1. Relation Between Local Food Environments and Obesity Among Adults
  2. Theoretical Explanations for Maintenance of Behaviour Change: A Systematic Review of Behaviour Theories

Have You Been Naughty or Nice this Silly Season?

The silly season is about good food, family and fun. As wonderful as a time it is, it can inspire dread for those looking to maintain their hard-earned progress throughout the year. Well, don’t despair! Before we dive into today’ article, I’d just like to make three brief points.

  • Firstly, allowing yourself some leniency and resilience is important to the process of achieving your goals. You don’t always have to be moving in a forward direction and operating in perfect circumstances.
  • Secondly, consider that not every season is the time to push. The silly season can be stressful enough and we genuinely hope for people to simply enjoy it. Acute fluctuations in dietary intake and activity do not have to indicate future progress. 
  • Third and last, we would also like to mention that we can utilise the concept of temporal landmarks (or special times) to leverage motivation for change. New Year is one such landmark. A great read if you’d like to know more is this article linked below. The following quote summarises the author’s thoughts well:

“When temporal landmarks psychologically disconnect us from our inferior, past self and make us feel superior, we will be motivated to behave better than we have in the past and strive with enhanced fervor to achieve our aspirations [1].”

The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior

Suffice to say, we encourage people to relax a little these holidays and get excited to hit the new year with some fresh zeal for change! Today we will explore today four simple strategies with a quick view to the future (like next year) which will hopefully encourage you to have an enjoyable and less stressful holiday period.

These four simple strategies include:

  1. Staying active,
  2. Be satisfied but not silly,
  3. Setting boundaries, and
  4. Indulge in social interactions.

Staying active this season

We are big believers in regular physical activity, however our schedules can drastically change during the silly season. We would encourage people to think flexibly about their activity and consider either home workouts, exercise “bites” or other strategies. You might find the holiday period is the perfect time to dig into some more intensive house or garden work or might find a range of activities while on a holiday away from home!

Some simple ways to increase your activity outside of exercise and housework can include:

  • Daily walks with your family.
  • Travelling to somewhere nice to have a more scenic walk, maybe even ending with a picnic? Bondi to Bronte or the Blue Mountains come to mind here.
  • Buying a toy, ball or game that encourages physical activity where everyone can participate.
  • Trying out a new activity like kayaking.

There’s plenty of opportunities and no, you aren’t weird if you like to exercise in your time off. No one bats an eye if you brush your teeth or shower – exercise can be viewed as health maintenance. I often follow simpler and shorter “time-crunch” programs during the silly season as I still love to train, but I need the flexibility to accommodate for a more intense social schedule.

We have another article on home workouts if you need inspiration.

Be satisfied, not silly, this season

We will cover more about how to approach social settings involving nutritional decision making in our setting boundaries section however there are some immediate nutrition considerations we can make. The following points can act as guideposts for nutritional decision making.

  • Firstly, as much as possible, fill up on lean sources of protein and sources of fibre such as complex carbohydrates and fruits and vegetables. These should be your priority on every plate.
  • Secondly, try and keep to drinks that are low-calorie. Of course, we want you to sit back and enjoy a drink or two (if that’s what you do!) but as much as possible, juices and sweetened beverages can ideally be replaced with zero or low-sugar alternatives and water.
  • Lastly, consider your total daily intake, or better yet, intake over the context of a few days and what large events and meals you will be participating in. For instance, if I know I’m going out for a Christmas lunch, I will most likely not indulge in a particularly large breakfast or snack in between. That night, I might simply a small serve of lean protein and some vegetables if I’m still feeling peckish.

I might follow this pattern for a few days, limiting snacking and saving most of my meal-derived calories to allocate them to large meals at gatherings.

Setting boundaries

Boundaries are important and they help define simply put, what is okay by you. It’s common to feel pressured in social settings to engage in certain behaviours others are displaying. We can’t speak to cultural sensitivities or the nuances of things like hospitality and how that reflects another individual’s desire to give. That being said, fundamentally you are allowed to set your own boundaries about how much food you’ll put on your plate, alcohol you’ll drink and what level of activity you can practically participate in. 

You may also put boundaries on monitoring behaviour if that can be a pain point. For instance, you can choose during the silly season to forgo tracking your diet when outside of your usual environment. You may also simply choose to put a limit on how many times a week and how long you train at the gym (but still try to be active daily). This alludes back to our earlier point about simply maintaining this time of year. Being realistic about what you can actually do can help you stay positive, rather than feel unncessary guilty.

These boundaries help give you a sense of agency and control over your decisions. It’s also important to be clear about these boundaries to others when it comes time to explain why you may make certain decisions with your food, activity and other health promoting behaviours. As Brene Brown says: “Clear is kind, unclear is unkind.” There’s no need to feel guilty for setting boundaries. What you can practically say “yes” and what you say “no” to, helps shape your reality.

Indulge in social interactions this season

Social interactions are critical to everyone’s health. So much so that “We now have substantial evidence that social connection has a protective effect on health and longevity and, conversely, that lacking connection is linked to risk [2].”

One reason we get so excited about the silly season at Ivy Training is that we understand for many it’s a time to slow down and spend time fostering those rich and meaningful connections people have with one another. These connections really do seem to have a tangible impact on one’s health. For instance, a 2018 piece from the Annual Review of Psychology states that “Social neuroscience may provide a critical platform for further understanding the complex relationships between the brain and both physical and mental health” Additionally, “Over time, chronic experiences of social disconnection or connection may change the body — by upregulating or downregulating inflammatory dynamics [3].”

For myself personally, I love to train, but I understand that’s an incomplete picture of health if I focus on that alone. I make sure by allocating my time wisely, to engage in those rich social connections over the holiday period and for many such as myself, that includes having some great food, drink and conversations, guilt free! So, be active, eat well, but our challenge to you is to nurture those social connections. As cliche as it sounds, we believe balance is essential.

Come back stronger than ever

We want you to enjoy a rich and meaningful time away and that you hopefully come back refreshed and ready. There’s nothing wrong with kicking back and relaxing but hopefully you find these tips helpful as you move through the silly season. It doesn’t have to be a stressful time, but instead can be a time of renewal and refocusing. Come back in 2023 motivated to be stronger than ever before and if you think you’ll need a helping hand, you can contact us here.

References

  1. The Fresh Start Effect: Temporal Landmarks Motivate Aspirational Behavior (upenn.edu)
  2. Social ties and health: a social neuroscience perspective – PubMed (nih.gov)
  3. Why Social Relationships Are Important for Physical Health: A Systems Approach to Understanding and Modifying Risk and Protection – PubMed (nih.gov)

Struggling to Find Your Fit Family Member a Christmas Present? Check Out These Awesome Gift Ideas.

Are you struggling to find the perfect gift for the fitness enthusiast in your life? Look no further! We have some great fitness presents that you can slip under the tree this Christmas. In 5 sets of 3, we have categorised 5 different Christmas present ideas, with 3 options for each category in varying price ranges – perfect for any budget. Our 5 different categories are:

  1. Fitness Activity Trackers
  2. Home Gym Equipment
  3. Personal Lifting Equipment
  4. Fitness Fashion
  5. Kitchen & Nutrition Gifts

Fitness Christmas Present Idea # 1: Fitness Activity Trackers

With the ability to track your steps, monitor your activity levels and check your heart rate – fitness activity trackers have come a long way in recent years. If you’re Apple fanatics like us, you really can’t go past the Apple Watch purely due to its integration with our other Apple products and features like Apple Pay. It’s a game changer! Our top picks in order of price tag are:

  1. Fitbit Inspire 2
  2. Garmin vívoactive 4
  3. Apple Watch Series 8
Fitness Christmas Present Idea # 1: Fitness Activity Tracker

Fitness Christmas Present Idea # 2: Home Gym Equipment

We can safely say that any fitness lover will appreciate any of these gifts for working out at home. We can personally vouch for all of these products – we are proud owners of the Rogue Monster Bands and Harbinger Ab Carver in the studio, and Jake and Rachael survived lockdown with the Celsius Weight Set. Our favourite from least expensive to most expensive are:

  1. Rogue Monster Bands
  2. Harbinger Ab Carver
  3. Celsius 50kg Weight Set
Fitness Christmas Present Idea # 2: Home Gym Equipment

Fitness Christmas Present Idea # 3: Personal Lifting Equipment

The following gift recommendations are for the dedicated gym-goer who loves lifting weights. If you or your loved one uses barbells in training, you cannot go without a block of chalk, a pair of lifting straps and a lifting belt. You’ll find all of these items at the studio as well as in our gym bags:

  1. Rogue Gym Chalk
  2. Rogue Ohio Lifting Straps
  3. Rogue Ohio Lifting Belt
Fitness Christmas Present Idea # 3: Personal Lifting Equipment

Fitness Christmas Present Idea # 4: Fitness Fashion

Are you really training hard if you still look good while doing it? We say yes you can, and your fit family member can too. We know the feeling of stepping into the gym with our new lululemon outfit, and our favourite song blasting through our AirPods makes that top set a little bit easier. In order of price:

  1. lululemon Socks
  2. lululemon Gift Card
  3. Apple AirPods Pro
Fitness Christmas Present Idea # 4: Fitness Fashion

Fitness Present Idea # 5: Kitchen & Nutrition Gifts

They say you can’t out-train a bad diet, so it would be rude of us to not include some gifts that belong in the kitchen. It’s always helpful to have some new meal ideas (especially when the nutrition information is listed), and of course we need some snazzy containers to store them in! Our top picks for the kitchen include:

  1. The Bod Fuel Recipe Book
  2. igluu Meal Prep Containers
  3. Nutribullet Blender Combo 1200 Pro
Fitness Present Idea # 5: Kitchen Gifts

Merry Fitmas! We hope you find the perfect fitness Christmas presents for your family.

How to Squeeze Healthy into Your Busy Schedule

Introduction

Everyone wants to be healthy, but squeezing healthy into your busy schedule can be a challenge. In our previous blog, we spoke about some strategies that you can implement to improve your health. These included simple food and drink swaps, increasing your daily water intake, getting in your two servings of fruit and three servings of veggies each day, improving your quantity (and quality) of sleep, and increasing your activity levels. In this blog, I’ll cover how I implement healthy strategies into my busy schedule each week.

Whilst we all have 24 hours each day, we don’t have the same 24 hours. Sure, the measurement of time is a common denominator amongst us all, but the ability of what we can do do with that time varies drastically between people based on many factors, including ones we can’t control. In saying that, we do have the ability to determine our healthy non-negotiables for week, and do whatever you need to tick them off – whether it’s writing them down, adding them to your calendar, or even setting yourself little reminders.

My healthy non-negotiables for the week are:

  1. Training: complete 4 x strength training sessions per week
  2. Physical Activity: reach an average of 8,000 steps per day (56,000 per week)
  3. Nutrition: plan my meals for the week
  4. Sleep: get to bed on time
How to Squeeze Healthy into Your Busy Schedule

Training

It should come as no surprise that ticking off my strength training sessions for the week is high on my list of priorities. I am currently training 4 times per week, and I schedule those training sessions into my calendar as if they were an appointment with a client (or my hairdresser)!

I have a coach who writes my training program for me, which not only means I don’t need to worry about writing it myself, but I also get an objective input into things like exercise selection, intensity and volume. It’s not uncommon for me to train at a few different locations throughout the week, so I keep my gym bag in the boot of the car so I am ready to train on the run.

Below is a screenshot my Google Calendar for the week. I colour code my calendar as follows:

  • Yellow: client appointments
  • Light grey: breakfast and/or lunch
  • Dark grey: training or physical activity (like walking the dogs)
  • Green: Ivy Training content (like writing this blog)
  • Blue: other adhoc work commitments
  • Pink: personal commitments (like appointments with my hairdresser)

As you can see, I had “Training” scheduled in today between 1pm and 2pm. Scheduling in your training sessions like an appointment gives it priority, and will mean you’re less likely to miss sessions.

Physical Activity

Before you think, “Doesn’t training count as physical activity?!” Yes, it absolutely does. However, here I am referring to other forms of physical activity, and in my case it’s walking and monitoring my step count.

I give myself an average daily target of 8,000 steps each day, or 56,000 steps across the week. Thanks to a combination of running around the studio after my wonderful clients and taking my gorgeous Frenchies for walks, I usually hit my 56,000 steps by Friday or Saturday and will often have a complete rest day on Sunday. It’s all about balance!

Below is a screenshot of my Health app on my Apple iPhone, and you can see that I’ve hit an average of 10,565 steps each day this week so far, and I’ll head out for a walk before dinner this evening to get today’s steps a bit higher. My yearly average is sitting at 8,704 each day – can you tell which month I got struck with COVID? If it wasn’t for that my average would likely be a tad higher. I track my steps with my nifty Apple Watch, but you can also use your smartphone or other activity tracker.

Nutrition

How I structure my diet for the week depends on what my current body composition goals are. At the moment, I have the aim of maintaining my body weight and composition. My approach is tracking my dietary intake Monday to Friday (eating in a slight calorie deficit to offset my intake on Saturday and Sunday) and enjoying meals out with family and friends over the weekend.

During the week, each day I aim to:

  • Have 4 meals spread approx. 4 hours apart
  • Eat approx. 140g protein
  • Eat 2 servings of fruit
  • Eat 3 servings of vegetables
  • Have dessert (even if it’s a 79kcal Paddle Pop – I love a little treat at the end of the day!)

To make life a bit easier, my husband and I order meals each week from Vic’s Gourmet Gains. Her meals are home cooked, taste delicious and are a great source of protein and vegetables. My pantry is always stocked up at home and the studio with nutritious options so I am not left stuck without my next bite to eat.

Whether you’re cooking for yourself or are using a meal prep company like me, having your meals prepped and ready at the start of the week is a good way to ensure you’re squeezing healthy into your busy schedule.

Squeeze Healthy into Your Busy Schedule

Sleep

Okay, so sleep is something that I struggle with at times during the week. My quality of sleep is awesome, I just struggle with quantity – especially on nights that I don’t get home from the studio until 7:30pm.

From Tuesday to Friday, my alarm wakes me up at 4:00am. In order to get an 8 hour sleep, I would need to be sweet dreaming at 8:00pm. As much as I’d love that to happen, it’s just not feasible with my current schedule. So, I settle for the next best thing – a 9:00pm bedtime for a 7 hour sleep. To help me get to bed on time, I have an alarm that beeps at 8:30pm each weeknight telling me to get my butt to bed. Sometimes I listen to it, and other times I ignore it (when I know I shouldn’t)!

As you can see from the screenshots below, I have been aiming to get ready for bed at 8:30pm, however my average sleep time is 6 hours and 4 minutes this week. It could absolutely be better, and it’s something that I am working on improving. Let me know if you have any tips!

Don’t Put Healthy on Hold

Your health isn’t just a number on the scale, plates on the bar, steps on your Apple Watch or your stats on Strava. The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that “Health is the extent to which an individual or group is able to realize aspirations and satisfy needs and change or cope with the environment” [1]. Health is about overall wellbeing, not just avoiding disease or infirmity. Being healthy is a resource and, like any resource, you need to access it and cultivate it. The WHO has indicated there are key determinants to health which influence how accessible it is. These determinants are:

  • the social and economic environment
  • the physical environment
  • the person’s individual characteristics and behaviours

Today we will cover strategies you can implement today to improve your health, which are accessible to everyone.

There’s no secret to success

We love a quick fix, who doesn’t?

That being said, we don’t believe in relying on “hacks” or secrets to become healthy. We also don’t necessarily need to push for a certain target to be ‘healthier”. Key word: healthier. For instance, certain Body Mass Index (BMI) ranges carry with them greater risks, but getting closer to the normal range, even if you aren’t there yet, is an improvement. Today we are simply exploring health promoting habits. With that in mind, we love the following quote and believe it’s quite relevant to the discussion today:

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

– Robert Collier

Effective strategies that improve your health will consider your social, economic and physical environment. They will also take into account your preferences and lifestyle. We believe the most effective strategies are repeatable and require little investment. In our blog, we’ll cover strategies that you can start implementing:

  1. Simple food and drink swaps
  2. Increasing your water intake
  3. Getting in the recommended servings of fruit and veggies
  4. Improving your sleep quality and quantity
  5. Increasing your daily steps (and physical activity)

Simple swaps that are oh so sweet (and healthy)

If the heading wasn’t a giveaway, I’m talking about substituting sweetened food or drink options with artificial sweeteners. A classic example would be swapping out sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) for low-and no-calorie sweetened beverages (LNCBs). That main fluid we recommend people consume daily is dihydrogen oxide, a super complicated drink that does wonders for your health – otherwise known as… water! That being said, many people enjoy soft drinks and have a sweet tooth. So, what can they do about it?

The good news is that you can enjoy those drinks without the excess sugar or calories, which can negative effects on your health. If you were on the fence about artificial sweeteners, and don’t wish to use them, that’s absolutely fine. Thankfully, quality research has validated its usage for managing bodyweight and cardiometabolic risk factors [2]. We feel comfortable recommending them as alternatives to SSBs and you can use LNCBs at no extra cost than what you would be normally paying.

Does anyone remember the “Swap It Don’t Stop It” campaign from the Australian Federal Government in 2011? The aim was to encourage Australians to lose centimetres from their waist to reduce their risk of heart disease and diabetes. They showed people how they could make small (but achievable) lifestyle changes in four simple ways:

  • Swapping big for small – to reduce portion sizes
  • Swapping often for sometimes – to reduce highly processed foods
  • Swapping sitting for moving – to encourage movement
  • Swapping watching for playing – to get involved in sport or other active social activities

Don’t keep water waiting

Speaking of beverages, many people could benefit from drinking more water. We aren’t worried about people falling over from extreme thirst however increasing fluid intake can have a few potential benefits:

  • Manage body composition (3)
  • Increase daily activity*
  • Improve exercise & sports performance (4)
  • Improve cognitive function and mood (5)

Now, to be clear, other fluids and to some extent, foods (like watermelon), actually contain, well, water! However very often they also include calories in the form of dairy, sweeteners, syrups or otherwise. We advocate that the majority of your fluid intake be from water. How much water to drink is a complicated question and actually not well substantiated in the current scientific literature. So, we aren’t making water recommendations necessarily. Your biologic thirst response is likely adequate under normal circumstances.

We recommend however making water your choice of beverage to minimise excess calories of low nutritional quality, to possibly increase your activity (I mean, you’ll be making a few trips to the bathroom!) and you may simply feel better. At any rate, it’s a harmless recommendation that comes at no cost. So, try it, monitor your water intake and see how you feel if you start trying to drink more.

Have you had your two and three?

We’ve all heard the phrase: “get your two servings of fruit and three servings of veg a day!” In the case of fruit and vegetables – the more the merrier! Not only are they full of fibre and phytochemicals, but their unique food matrix (that is, the complete fruit and/or vegetable) is beneficial to consume. Thankfully, fruits and vegetables can be conveniently consumed, requiring little prep.

So, how can you consume more? Fruits tend to be the simplest “snack food” out and skin is nature’s packaging. They can be conveniently packed and eaten while travelling to work, sitting at your desk, between or even during meals. Vegetables can be a staple at each major meal and add food volume and bulk. You can’t go wrong with a lean protein, source of complex carbohydrates and 1-3 servings of vegetables at lunch and dinner time (or breakfast if you’re like me and like eating large).

Increased fruit and vegetable intake has been linked to decreasing all-cause mortality and improving both health and body composition outcomes (6, 7). So, that old saying is probably right: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” Lastly, fruit and vegetables are usually no more expensive and often cheaper than buying lots of processed foods. Sources of legumes, lentils and beans can be a good source of extra protein that’s cheaper than animal products. You can also buy frozen veg and fruit or canned alternatives – these are perfectly fine and healthy.

Enter Sandman

Like most people, I love to bag some Z’s (or get a good sleep). Your body loves quality sleep too (8). We’ve all been there – irritable, hungry, tired, groggy and clouded. Being low on sleep isn’t pleasant. Like many of the above suggestions we’ve made, this suggestion really comes at no extra cost. It is difficult to make any hard and fast recommendations however we like how this research paper sums it up: “it is important to continue to promote sleep health for all. Sleep is not a waste of time and should receive the same level of attention as nutrition and exercise in the package for good health (9).”

Our recommendation is to experiment with how much sleep seems to be right for you and stick to a routine for bedtime as well as trying to go to bed and get up around the same time, most days of the week. Consistency and routine are what will have the biggest impact. Some other quick tips may include:

  • Limiting electronic light stimulation and use of electronics before bed
  • Limiting caffeine intake 6-8 hours before bed
  • Try something that calms you down whether it be reading, breathing, stretching or otherwise
  • Try to avoid eating large meals and certain foods IF they give you gastrointestinal distress before bed

Step it up

We recommend people be active according to the physical activity guidelines (10) and a convenient way to do monitor activity is to track steps. In fact, steps have been a useful metric for researchers too and up to a point, increased total steps improve overall health outcomes and place further away, hard endpoints such as death (research)! Now it doesn’t have to be 10,000 steps a day. In fact, if you aren’t doing that many, more steps, today, is a great start!

Any steps count. Even walking on the spot or getting up and doing some extra cleaning and vacuuming can count. Simply getting up and moving more can have a profound impact on your overall health. We understand there’s a time commitment to this recommendation, but the following thoughts might make this goal more achievable:

  • Taking more steps during your commute or workday (like taking the stairs instead of the elevator)
  • Taking phone calls or meetings while walking
  • Try and set small chunks of time aside to do a quick loop around the block or office
  • If it’s not disturbing the peace, go and talk to your co-worker in person rather than sending an email or text in the office

Healthy doesn’t have to be hard

We want everyone to have the opportunity to be healthy. You don’t need to invest huge amounts of time, money or resources to make positive and powerful changes in your life. So, stop putting healthy on hold and start making moves today!

References

  1. Health and Well-Being (who.int)
  2. Association of Low- and No-Calorie Sweetened Beverages as a Replacement for Sugar-Sweetened Beverages With Body Weight and Cardiometabolic Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis – PubMed (nih.gov)
  3. Drinking Water Is Associated With Weight Loss in Overweight Dieting Women Independent of Diet and Activity – Stookey – 2008 – Obesity – Wiley Online Library
  4. Dehydration, Wellness, and Training Demands of Professional Soccer Players during Preseason – PubMed (nih.gov)
  5. Effects of hydration status on cognitive performance and mood | British Journal of Nutrition | Cambridge Core
  6. Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables – PMC (nih.gov)
  7. A Comprehensive Critical Assessment of Increased Fruit and Vegetable Intake on Weight Loss in Women – PMC (nih.gov)
  8. Improving sleep quality leads to better mental health: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials – PMC (nih.gov)
  9. Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this? – PMC (nih.gov)
  10. Physical activity (who.int)

Carbe Diem: Your Guide to Carbohydrates

Sourdough Bread

Carbohydrates seem to be a source of confusion in the fitness industry. Some people will shout “carbs are life!” and others will warn you “not to eat any carbs after 6pm.” We’re here to clear things up. Let’s get this straight off the bat, carbohydrates are healthy and part of a health promoting diet. But as it’s said, “You are what you eat”. Well, I want to be full of energy. Fittingly, I should probably eat something nutritious and full of energy! The question arises then, what does that look like and as an adjunct, when is it best to fuel up for a training session? Today we’ll address the following four points in the context of a resistance training session and fuelling up for increasing your potential performance on the day. They are as follows:

  • What are carbohydrates?
  • Dosing your carbohydrates for performance
  • Carbohydrate caveats
  • Some examples

As with all things, inter-individual differences exist. And, as we’ve said before, our daily performance potential can fluctuate based on a number of circumstances. Planning your pre-training nutrition will put your best foot forward. Consider this your guide to carbohydrates and how to improve your pre-strength training nutrition.

Groceries

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of three major nutrients and main ways our body gets energy. As their name suggests, they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen (in the same ratio of water, which is 2:1). Although the norm, this exact chemical formulation is not always the case.

The two primary forms of carbohydrates we consume are:

  1. Sugars – including fructose, glucose and lactose, and
  2. Starches – found in starchy vegetables, grains, rice, breads and cereals.

Carbs enter the bloodstream in the form of glucose and as a response to rising glucose levels in the body, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin shuttles sugar into muscle cells to be accessed for energy. We call this glycogen.

Complex carbohydrates are present in foods such as bread and pasta. Simple carbohydrates are in foods such as table sugar and syrups. Complex carbohydrates contain longer chains of sugar molecules than simple carbohydrates. Both simple and complex carbohydrates can form part of a health promoting diet but we recommend people primarily get most of their carbohydrate intake from complex sources which also happen to be rich in fibre and other minor nutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Vegetables

Dosing your carbohydrates for performance

Now that we know what carbohydrates are and what they do, what’s the big hullabaloo about when we eat them? Let’s introduce you to the concept of nutrient timing. “Nutrient timing incorporates the use of methodical planning and eating of whole foods, fortified foods and dietary supplements [1].”

Resistance training is classified as high intensity and requires primarily two energy sources:

  1. Creatine phosphate, and
  2. Stored glycogen.

So although carbohydrates are used, nowhere near as much is used compared to extended (> 60 min) bouts of moderate or high intensity (> 70% VO2max) activity. The goal is to simply maximise stored glycogen by ingesting the appropriate amounts of carbs relative to training intensity and volume [1]. For resistance training, although high-intensity, we know the duration of the physical activity is low. The efforts themselves may only last 20-45 seconds for a complete set, with at least 1-3 minutes rest and session lengths around 45-90 minutes. Therefore total intake or timing matters less than aerobic endurance activities. A range of about 5-6g/kg of bodyweight per day seems reasonable.

Lastly, fasting does not improve performance [2]. For strength trainees, consuming at least 15 g carbohydrates within 3 hours of a session is a good place to start. Moreover, if the workout contains eleven or more sets per muscle group or there is another high-intensity workout planned that day for the same musculature, higher carbohydrate intakes up to 1.2 g/kg/h may be warranted to maximise glycogen resynthesis in between workouts [3]. Most importantly, “eat enough energy and nutrients to support the body’s energy and nutrient requirements. Failure to do so will inevitably lead to a poor competition outcome, no matter what the athlete does just before the competition [4].”

Jake with some carb sources

Carbohydrate caveats

It’s clear that carbs are necessary for optimising performance. Moreover, we know that they can form part of a health promoting diet. So, are there any concerns we should have when looking at modifying or increasing our carbohydrate intake to improve training?

Our first concern is whether or not you’re trying to change your body composition. In particular, are you looking to lose body fat? Thankfully, carbohydrates may actually help in two distinct ways. First, complex carbohydrates can be satiating due to the fibre content. This means you’ll feel fuller for longer. Also, since carbs have less calories per gram than fats, more can be eaten. For reference, carbs have 4 calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. Both points are useful when trying to meet nutrient needs while also being in a calorie deficit. Secondly we want to encourage individuals to get most of their carbohydrates from complex sources. Simple sugars have their place but often lack nutritional value and can add up quickly regarding calories, whether or not you are looking to lose weight. 

If your calorie budget is tight you can plan ahead how you allocate carbs throughout the week. On training days you can try and consume more carbohydrates, prioritising the eating windows pre and post training to have more calories from carbohydrates. We call this “carb cycling”. You will need to be diligent to ensure you meet your nutrient and energy needs on the days you choose to eat less carbs. This strategy won’t suit everyone but it is an option.

Sourdough Bread

Some examples

Information is all well and good, but let’s get to the practical application here. What are some examples of some easy to prepare foods and meals to consume before training? Here’s a few of our favourite, simple options, adjusted for an average 80kg male:

  • 100g banana has 23g of carbohydrates, and it’s easy to consume before training.
  • 2 slices (~60g) of wholemeal toast has 22.8g of carbohydrates, and is also easy to consume before training.
  • 100g of dry rolled oats has 68g of carbohydrates.
  • 200mL of Daily Juice Co. Pulp-Free Orange Juice has 17.8g of carbohydrates, and is easy to consume pre-training. Although we should be cautious about liquid calories, this might work well as an easy option if you’re training first thing in the morning and don’t stomach food that early.

Conclusion

We hoped today that we answered the question, “what and when should I eat before training?” To summarise, consuming 5-6g/kg of carbs per day is reasonable target and being consistent here matters more than anything else. Foods ranging from something more substantial such as 30-50g of dry rolled oats prepped to your liking or even a simple 80-100g banana can easily meet the target of consuming 15g of carbs within 1-3 hours of your training session. As always, individual experience and gastrointestinal tolerances will inform the specifics of your pre-training fuel. Just remember that the overall quality of your diet and consistency matters more than micro-managing once in a blue-moon. Be consistent, first. If you’d like more specific nutritional guidance, you can contact us here.

References

  1. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Nutrient Timing — New Jersey Research Community
  2. Barbell Medicine Forums – Why Do You Recommend Eating Carbs and Protein Before a Workout in the Morning?
  3. The Effect of Carbohydrate Intake on Strength and Resistance Training Performance: A Systematic Review – PMC
  4. Advanced Sports Nutrition, Second Edition, P.160

How Rachael Lost Over 8kg in 18 Weeks

To accompany our ‘Why YOU are the Secret to Your Weight Loss blog post, Rachael Fisher recounts her recent experience with losing over 8kg.

At the end of August in 2021, I decided that I wanted to lose some weight. Sydney had recently entered the hardest lockdown we had seen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I noticed that some poor eating habits were creeping in. These poor eating habits were mainly eating larger portion sizes than usual, and spending a bit too much time ordering Uber Eats.

After not weighing myself since 2020 (this is coming from someone who would typically step on the scales every morning), I clocked in at 75.7kg on 23 August 2021. This is around 10kg heavier than my usual weight,  and I was feeling less confident and comfortable with myself. At 168cm tall and a body weight of 75.7kg, my BMI was 26.9 which is categorically “overweight”. I knew that something had to change which would address at the core, expending more calories than I was at that point consuming.

If you’re interested in knowing your BMI, you can calculate it on the Heart Foundation’s website

Dietary Changes 

Lockdown can offer an opportunity or threat. With no end in sight, it became the perfect opportunity to buckle down and focus on losing weight (or more specifically, fat). Here’s why:

  • There were no social gatherings to attend.
  • Restaurants, pubs and bars were closed indefinitely.
  • We have a well-equipped home gym.
  • We have two beautiful French Bulldogs that we love walking daily.

To make things as easy as possible, I also made a conscious effort to tidy up my food environment. I subscribed to a weekly delivery of YouFoodz for dinner, and stocked up on plenty of nutritious snacks (like fruit!) and kept foods that I had been overindulging in (like tubs of Magnum Almond… my ultimate weakness) at the supermarket. 

I also downloaded an app called Carbon Diet Coach. I had used another food tracking app called MyFitnessPal for over 8 years and would adjust my own calories and macronutrients when needed, but was drawn to Carbon Diet Coach as the tracking feature is very similar to MyFitnessPal but it had the added bonus of auto-adjusting your calories and macronutrients based on your weekly “check-in”. This feature helped quantify the emotional component that comes with adjusting your own dietary intake, and made it a less subjective (and at times stressful) experience. Each Monday, I would “check-in” and add my body weight into the app, and mark whether I was compliant or not. To be compliant, I needed to be within 2.5% of my nutrition targets for the past week.

For some people, tracking your diet so diligently can seem like a tedious and sometimes unbearable task. For others (like myself), I enjoy the structure and the analysing the data. This is an example of the individual approach to losing weight and fat loss – different strategies work for different people.

Carbon Diet Coach

Training and Physical Activity

So, I was all sorted with the diet. Generally speaking, I don’t make any changes to my strength training sessions when I am losing weight. I also don’t train specifically to lose weight. I train to get stronger, improve my body composition (by gaining lean muscle mass) and stay healthy.

What I did change was increasing my step target to 10,000 each day on average (70,000 for the week) and added in two cardio sessions. The cardio sessions were about 30 minutes in duration, and consisted of high repetition isolated weight training, and some intervals or steady state cardio on the rower we had at home. 

Having these specific goals with my diet, training and body composition not only helped me get to my desired outcome, but it also made lockdown, dare I say it… enjoyable. These processes contributed to my fat loss, but more importantly, they also helped me stay on track even when my body weight would fluctuate. 

My week of training and exercise looked like:

The Process

Whilst my training and exercise didn’t drastically change over the course of 18 weeks, Carbon Diet Coach auto-adjusted my calorie and macronutrient intake 7 times. 

I started on 1755 calories per day, which was broken down into 170g carbohydrates, 55g fat and 145g protein. I initially lost more weight than expected in the first week, so my calories went up to 1929 calories by adding an extra 30g carbohydrates and 6g fat for the next fortnight. My weight loss plateaued shortly after that, and my intake dropped down to 1670 calories with 160g carbohydrates, 50g fat and 145g protein. I managed to see a decent rate of weight loss on those calories for 8 weeks. After the eighth week, my weight for the second time had dropped more than expected so my intake was adjusted up to 1746 calories with 170g carbohydrates, 54g fat and 145g protein. That lasted 4 weeks before my weight loss plateaued. To finish the year, I ended on 1482 calories with 131g carbohydrates, 42g fat and 145g protein.

I noticed a significant difference in my hunger levels for the last two weeks. What got me through was eating foods that were higher in volume and lower in calories to increase my satiety (like strawberries and salads) and increasing my water intake. I was also looking forward to taking some time off tracking my diet over Christmas, which was fast approaching.

Rachael preparing a salad

The Food Diary

In case you’re wondering what those calories and macronutrients look like in a day, I have added a video recording of my food diary when I was on 1746 calories per day in early December. When my calories and macronutrient targets dropped a few weeks later, I had to tweak my meals slightly. An example of this would be swapping the banana for strawberries, avoiding unnecessary fats like olive oil, and skipping the dessert or swapping it for a lighter alternative.

Breakfast: Two poached eggs with avocado and tomato on sourdough toast (plus a drizzle of oil).

Lunch: Pulled chicken sandwich with spinach, tomato and cheese (on sandwich thins, which is just a lower calorie/carbohydrate option compared to normal bread) with a Granny Smith apple.

Snack: Protein shake with a banana and a vanilla Chobani Fit.

Dinner: Roast pork and mash YouFoodz meal with a Skinny Cow ice cream cookie.

The Outcome

Over the course of 18 weeks, I dropped 8.3kg. That’s an average of 0.46kg per week. If you take a look at the graph below, you’ll notice that my weight loss was not linear week-to-week and I experienced my fair share of weight fluctuations. I will admit, it can be disheartening sometimes when you feel like you’re giving it your all and not reaping the benefits straight away but it’s important to trust the process and stay the course… you will get there in the end.

Body Weight and Calories over 18 Weeks

Whilst the scale is a good indicator of progress, it’s not the only indicator. These are some of the other benefits I noticed with losing weight:

  • I am feeling much more confident and comfortable. 
  • I lost 7cm from my waist.
  • My clothes are fitting better. 
  • My BMI dropped to 23.4 which put me back in the “normal” range. 
  • I am down two notches in my weightlifting belt.
  • I got stronger, specifically in my bench press (although this likely is not related to losing weight).
  • My resting heart rate is lower.

What Now?

Almost two months have passed, and I have managed to maintain my weight loss with an array of social events thrown into the mix – Christmas, New Year’s and a holiday up to Hamilton Island to name a few. Whilst I am feeling a LOT more confident (and my BMI is back into the “normal” range), I would still like to drop a few more kilos. So for the next short period of time, it’s back to tracking for me!

Rachael sitting in her kitchen

Why YOU are the Secret to Your Weight Loss

Weight loss isn’t simple. The old mantra “eat less and move more” [1] is not only unrealistic, it’s overly reductionist [7]. If we consider weight loss as a simple physical goal, we ignore the complex human behind the process. Furthermore, this reductionist approach fails to consider the environment, social and cultural landscape that the individual interacts with. This may present more or less opportunities for managing one’s health. All this is to say, that we may have less agency than we realise yet still there’s a pervasive weight loss stigma that only serves to worsen the issue for those struggling with being overweight and obese [10].

In Australia alone from 2017-18, an estimated 12.5 million Australian Adults, or 2 in 3 Australians were classified as overweight or obese [10]. Today, I want to briefly explore the complex topic of weight loss. I’d also like to provide you with some direction, if losing weight is something you should do and are ready for.

Let’s talk obesity

Obesity is a term used to describe an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation. This is a chronic disease state which results from an imbalanced interaction between hunger (appetite) and fullness (satiety). As a result, Individuals eat at a higher energy balance than normal which results in excess energy stored as fat. It causes a myriad of metabolic, biomechanical, and psychosocial health complications. This is a multifactorial issue as many of the inputs driving appetite and satiety are subconscious and influenced by psychological, environmental, biological, and social cues. Therefore, we can’t “will” ourselves to be less hungry or more disciplined, however we can consider which inputs are modifiable. Available treatment categories include lifestyle modification, medication, and surgery, escalated based on individual needs. 

Man stepping on weight scales

The classic additive model 

Now that we’ve got some definitions out of the way, let’s dive into some of the deeper points. Although it would seem intuitive, our bodies do not linearly increase energy expenditure due to increased activity [7], or decrease exactly linearly as we reduce energy intake. In the latter case, we call this “metabolic adaptation” where the more we’ve lost, the less we burn at a rate lower than what we would normally predict (although this is not so extreme that it would prevent long term weight loss [8]).

When people say “eat less and move more” they are implicitly referring to the additive model that assumes you can outpace your energy expenditure by simply training with more frequency and intensity without realising that your body, in an effort to maintain homeostasis will reduce energy expenditure elsewhere without your conscious control. This is known as the Constrained Energy Model.

Constrained Energy Model

There are many ways in which our bodies subconsciously attempt to maintain homeostasis. For example, individuals can experience metabolic changes that are behavioural, such as “sitting instead of standing, or fidgeting less, but they may also include reductions in other, non-muscular metabolic activity”. In another example, men and women enrolled in a long-term exercise study exhibited reduced basal metabolic rate over time. Lastly, “studies in healthy adult women have shown suppressed ovarian activity and lower oestrogen production in response to moderate exercise” [7]. Our bodies have tightly controlled mechanisms to manage fluctuations in activity and bodyweight.

Although I’m potentially making a strawman argument here, when people say “eat less”, many assume that means ‘rabbit food’ (for example, lots of salads). What I’m trying to highlight is that the statement itself is one part inaccurate and one part misleading. We can eat relatively low calorie (energy dense) high volume foods. Of course we should exercise and we need to consume less calories than what we’re burning to lose weight. All this is to say, the energy in and energy out equation has more factors influencing it than just food intake and exercise output… and we haven’t even considered the thermic effect of different foods yet!

Sourdough on bench top

Look beyond the scale

Often when people come to me and tell me that they want to lose weight I ask if they have considered what they think about maintaining or gaining muscle mass. Usually I receive a quizzical look until I explain further. We should specify weight loss as ‘fat loss’ and secondly, know that maintaining lean body mass while losing fat is paramount to long term success [9]. A greater amount of lean mass (muscle tissue and organs) will increase one’s resting metabolic rate and also carries with it a range of other health benefits [9].

When determining how to lose weight, we should strive to reach a healthy overall weight and bodyfat level. Adipose tissue (fat storage site) is a metabolically dynamic organ that also serves as an endocrine organ capable of synthesizing a number of biologically active compounds that regulate metabolic homeostasis. Adipose tissue in physiologically desirable quantities helps maintain body homeostasis [5]. In an abnormal situation such as obesity, adipose tissue does not perform its function correctly and this results in a “dysregulation” of the mechanisms reasonable for maintaining a stable environment, potentially leading to metabolic disorders and other chronic complications [5]. 

For many, a combination of both the BMI scale and waist circumference norms should provide enough of a reference to go by regarding bodyweight targets and fat loss but of key importance is to strive to be within a healthy range while developing or at least maintaining muscle mass. The Heart Foundation states that your health is at risk if your waist size is over 94cm for men and over 80cm for women. They also have a BMI calculator if you’re interested in knowing where you sit on the scale.

Heather bench pressing 30kg

Considering the individual

Understandably, the issue is complex. Unfortunately, the marketability of a single method or ‘quick fix’ is far easier than a complex answer. As Stan Efferding said [11] compliance is the science. Spending time arguing about which diet or exercise program is best is problematic as there’s currently no conclusive evidence showing one is superior to another but moreover, even if there was, it would be a moot point if the individual couldn’t sustain the process. The number one predictor of success is compliance. The most consistent dieters have the best outcomes.

Behavioural changes that you can implement

Thankfully we have resources that demonstrate trends which can be modified at an individual level [2]:

  • 98% of participants report that they modified their food intake in some way to lose weight.
  • 94% increased their physical activity, with the most frequently reported form of activity being walking.
  • Most individuals had to keep with their food modifications.
  • 78% ate breakfast every day.
  • 75% weigh themselves at least once a week.
  • 62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
  • 90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.

Some other evidence-based tips that you can start immediately include the following:

  • Participating in regular exercise which increases sensitivity to satiety signals (plus other benefits)!
  • Increasing availability of high satiety foods (think protein, fibre, whole grains and water).
  • Reduce availability of hyper-palatable foods that are energy dense.
  • Create an environment that supports your goals. This might be as simple as sitting down at the table without distractions to become aware of your satiety and appetite signals. 

Realistically, some people will find these easier than others. Some are born with success, some have to work hard for success. The behaviours that make you successful need to become part of your lifestyle. You will need to troubleshoot which behaviours you can stick to.

Jake with male client

Troubleshooting why you aren’t losing weight

So you’ve gotten started and you’re not sure about your progress. Fat loss (remember how earlier we said to specify it?) can be a frustrating process! Despite the frustration, we recommend having some form of weekly accountability to ensure that you’re heading along the right path. So, what happens when the scale doesn’t read how you’d expect it? I think firstly, have realistic expectations. For better or worse, your physiology is not that sensitive. Consider it a blessing that you won’t lose weight instantly. Your body has a plethora of complicated checks and balances in place to maintain homeostasis. The inverse is true (which is good) that you won’t instantly gain body fat from that night out eating pizza. Now, you might gain weight but we have to consider fluid balance, in part determined by salt and carbohydrate intake (found in pizza right?) and other factors as well as:

  1. time you weighed yourself,
  2. number of bowel movements you’ve had, and
  3. food in the intestinal tract.

These three points all determine someone’s current weight on the scale.

If you want a more accurate reading, we suggest:

  1. weighing yourself under consistent conditions, and
  2. weight-in regularly enough (perhaps daily) to take an average.

If your weight is going down every 1-2 weeks and you’ve been consistent, you’re probably doing fine. In saying that, don’t change anything just because you didn’t see much progress in a week or two. Stay the course and continue to track. With a consistent base you can make an informed decision about what changes you need to make, if any.

Woman Measuring Waist

Conclusion

It’s easy to see how complicated weight loss can actually be. This is why we always encourage people to consider sustainable, long term strategies. We don’t have the scope in this article to cover pharmaceutical and surgical interventions but please note these are safe, well researched and highly effective when applied in the right context. During your weight loss journey, training and aiming to improve performance goals can be a fantastic way to keep you motivated and be a healthy distraction from just thinking about your physical self as just overweight or obese.  We also want to encourage people to be kind and consider how weight stigma has negatively impacted people’s lives. I think the National Obesity Prevention Strategy has some fantastic ambitions that we can all take away today. They are, All Australians:

  • live, learn, work and play in supportive healthy environments,
  • are empowered and skilled to stay as healthy as they can be, and lastly
  • have access to early intervention and primary health care.

Resources

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32969147/
  2. http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm
  3. http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33977636/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32443588/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25182101/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4803033/
  8. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/112/3/558/5835207
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30513859/
  10. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/overweight-and-obesity
  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySUrqIRaCvU

Are You Struggling to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions?

Whether or not we realise it, setting goals is part of who we are as people. Subconscious desires such as eating and sleeping motivate us to take action. Often, larger more ambitious goals require a concerted effort to actualise. With New Year’s just passed, your social media feed is probably packed full of resolution declarations. Perhaps you’ve also been thinking about your own New Year’s resolutions and how you might achieve them.

In preparing for your success knowing both your why and how matters tremendously. You may however find that your task is seemingly insurmountable. Breaking down your goal into its constituent parts and planning the direction to take makes achieving your goal more manageable. In some ways, raw information is the easy part. Plenty of resources exist to inform you about basic exercise and nutrition principles. For starters, you can check out our Nutrition Labels and Warming Up articles. Taking action is the hard part; that’s where we can help.

Today we’ll cover goal-setting theory, planning, action and reflection systems alongside using a case study to help reinforce the concepts covered. If this article motivates you to start your journey, we’d ask you to consider the following quote. We think it sums up the intention of goal-setting nicely: 

“You can’t change your destination overnight but you can change your direction.”

Jim Rohn

What is Goal Setting?

Defining Goal Setting

Goal setting seems obvious but is often addressed vaguely. Let’s try to make it more concrete. Formally introduced by British psychologist Cecil Mace in 1935, goals are known as a “specific intention” where incentives, rewards, avoiding negative outcomes, building positive self‐esteem, group loyalty, and more are weighed up against the effort of achieving this specific intention. A more modern definition exists as follows: “goal setting is the action of a person who has the confidence, commitment, motivation, and knowledge necessary to attain a goal that is specific, challenging, measurable, and relevant within a specified amount of time” [1].

Process vs Outcome Goals

It’s also important to distinguish between two categories of goals: process and outcome goals. Outcome goals, the simpler of the two, are the specific intention or end goal you’re after. That could be “run 5km in 25 minutes”. Process goals are the steps you need to take, which could be habits that facilitate the outcome. To achieve your target of running 5km in 25 minutes you probably would need to start running at least three times per week. Creating this distinction is important as you may not be able to actualise the outcome goal anytime soon but you can always start on the process which more often than not, will confer a benefit.

New Year's Resolutions – Goal Setting

SMART Goals

Thirdly, it’s important to “get SMART”. And no, I don’t mean to stream the entire Get Smart series (but that’s not a bad idea). Although not required, it’s generally considered that a good goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound or SMART [2]. We can also take this a step further and specify other variables such as support needed, resources required and identifying levels of performance where you might have a range of greater or, less-than expected outcomes rather than fixed outcome that you pass or fail. This last point refers to goal attainment scaling, first introduced in the 1960s by Kiresuk and Sherman within a mental health service. Having flexibility regarding the target is a useful motivator and helps accommodate for the confounders we can’t account for [2]. 

As you’re no doubt aware, our best laid plans don’t always work. That’s completely normal. Here’s where reflection and troubleshooting can be really productive [3]. To this end, I enjoy using Gibb’s self-reflective cycle although there are many available tools [4]. This part does not have to be in-depth or laborious but instead, offers an opportunity to work through your experience and figure out what, if anything, needs to be done differently for next time should you want further success. It involves describing, explaining your feelings, evaluating the circumstance, analysis of the information, writing a conclusion and then forming your action plan. This process may roll over into setting a new goal or re-attempting the same goal.

New Year's Resolutions – SMART Goals

Case Studies

So far we’ve looked at what goal setting is, but I think here it’s best we use a case study to help put into practice what we’ve learnt. Hopefully it helps contextualise the information presented thus far and bridges the gap between information and action. So, without further ado, meet “Jane”.

Jane wants to lose some extra COVID kilos after lockdown. She’s generally sedentary (does not meet the physical activity guidelines) and doesn’t have an extensive exercise or athletic history. By using the BMI Calculator, she’s currently overweight and by losing about 5kg, she would be smack bang in the middle of the normal weight category.

Jane consults with a personal trainer at her local gym and learns that maintaining or even building muscle is important. So, what does she do after learning this new information? She refines her “weight loss” goal and specifies it to losing 5kg of body fat. Looking at her calendar and events, it’s apparent that she’s got the next 4 months of a relatively clear schedule and decides to use that as the target time-frame. Together with her Trainer she decides on some process goals and establishes her support systems.

I want to make clear that there’s many more things she can do and that this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead it’s an example of how layering some of the potential processes contributes to the eventual outcome. You can also see how these processes are in isolation, useful and beneficial.

Let’s look at some daily, weekly and monthly processes that Jane can tap into.

Daily Processes:

  1. Adhere to a target step-count
  2. Drink 8 glasses of water
  3. Practise dietary reflection

Weekly Processes:

  1. Resistance train twice per week
  2. Weekly weigh-in
  3. Learn to cook something new
  4. Review week with her personal trainer

Monthly Processes:

  1. Plan a social gathering with a meal
  2. Review resistance training progress so far her personal trainer

In our theoretical example, after 4 months, Jane has not only hit her target, she’s actually blown past it and lost an extra 2kg! Although she’s happy with the results, she’d like to plan the next steps but before going on, reflects on what she’s just experienced.

It was clear to her that she enjoyed the experience and found it sustainable. In her evaluation, she found she was more than capable of hitting the exercise targets and is ready for more training, in particular she’d like to do more sessions in the gym. Based on the analysis of her weight loss, and specifically, her diet, she could afford to increase her calories as she overshot her weight loss target. With more resistance sessions and calories she should be able to build more muscle and better recomposition. Overall she feels confident about her progress so far and is ready to take the next step with her personal trainer.

New Year's Resolutions – TrueCoach app

Conclusion

Here at Ivy we’d encourage you not to be afraid of ambitious goals [5].

It’s always better to try than not try and as we’ve discussed earlier, you’re likely to at least make it some way towards your target which is better than not working towards it at all! Having a healthy attitude towards reflection can help you better assess your performance and make more appropriate decisions the next time you try. It isn’t a failure if you don’t give up.

If you aren’t sure where to start, we’re here to help.

Although today we’ve spent time providing structure to setting goals, I would like to provide one qualification, it doesn’t have to be rigid and ultimately, goal setting should have built-in flexibility. Sometimes you simply aren’t sure about what specific goal you’re after. That’s completely okay. As Luke Tulloch suggests, “focus on setting specific short term goals that move you towards long term outcomes”, even if you aren’t sure exactly how those outcomes look. If you take nothing else away from this, it can be hard to always see the light at the end of the tunnel and how far away it is, but you can at least take steps in the right direction, and have a flashlight to guide your way.

Resources

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31902133/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19237435/
  3. https://www.ed.ac.uk/reflection/reflectors-toolkit/reflecting-on-experience/gibbs-reflective-cycle
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/332409418_Reflective_practice_An_approach_to_developing_self-knowledge
  5. https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article-abstract/38/4/622/1856977?redirectedFrom=fulltext
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31900043/


How To Food Shop Smarter (And Save Money)

Open Fridge

Whether you’re trawling through the aisles of your local supermarket trying to figure out what to have for dinner or you’re knee-deep in the weekly online specials on your laptop, food shopping can be an expensive and confusing exercise. And with the huge range of food on offer, it’s easy to reach for the most convenient option… processed food. However, not only is it expensive, but a diet predominately made of processed foods will leave you deprived of a many essential nutrients. Instead, there’s a smarter way to shop that will save you time, money and help you keep on top of your fitness goals. Want to know how to food shop smarter? Here’s my five-step plan to a healthier shopping trolley:

Step 1: Be prepared

The best way to avoid panic food buying is to plan, plan, plan. Before you even step foot in a supermarket, spend some time creating a weekly meal (and snack) plan. It may take a while but trust me, it will save you time and money, and will help keep you healthier in the long run. It helps to break down your breakfast, lunch, and dinner options for the week, as well as morning and afternoon snacks, then you can create your shopping list accordingly. That way, you know exactly what to buy, and you’ve also avoided all the decision-making fatigue for the next week. Studies even show that meal planning can result in a healthier diet [1] and can save you money [2]. It’s a win-win situation. If you don’t have time to create a full meal plan, just having a detailed shopping list can help you avoid impulse buys [3], like that family pack of Caramello chocolate… 

Grocery List

Step 2: Understand food labels

With food packaging displaying words like “low-fat”, “no-fat”, “salt reduced” and “organic”, it can be challenging to know the best options to put in your trolley. Something that looks healthy, just because it has green packaging and says “all- natural”, can actually have more sugar in it than a box of coco puffs. The secret is all in the nutritional content. Although it may look complicated, taking the time to read and understand nutritional labels can help you identify and choose which option is healthiest [4]. Food labels can also help you avoid nasty surprises, like saturated fat, added salt and sugar. And remember, just because something is labelled “vegan”, “gluten free” and “dairy free”, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Check out the label and see for yourself whether it’s worth a place in your trolley.

Food Labels

Step 3: Consider bulk buying

If you have the room in your cupboards, bulk buying can help save you money [5], reduce food waste and lessen your environmental impact. And not only that, but you’ll always have healthy options on hand for a meal or quick snack. Food such as brown rice, wholemeal pasta, canned beans, and legumes are good staples. Tins of tuna and salmon, dried fruit, and nuts are also good to throw in the trolley. My tip? Nut butter keeps really well for a long time and is delicious. However, with all of these items, make sure you store them well to avoid creating a colony of weevils or a line of ants in your kitchen. There’s no use bulk buying if you have to throw it all out before you even cook it.

Rice, Pasta and Lentils in Jars

Step 4: Buy fresh and frozen

When it comes to fruit and vegetables, fresh can be best (especially when it’s the right season). However, frozen foods have come a long way over the past few years. In fact, studies show frozen fruit and veggies are very efficient in retaining their nutritional content and can be healthier than five-day old fresh fruit kept in the fridge [6]. For fresh fruit, try visiting your local fruit and veggie market for in-season produce. At the moment watermelons, grapes, tomatoes, capsicums, and zucchinis are good choices. Not only will they taste better, but they’ll also be cheaper. And for frozen vegetables, stock up on quality brands that are snap frozen; peas, carrots, spinach, berries, and smoothie fruits are all smart options.

Open Fridge

Step 5: Get professional advice

To become an expert on what to add to your weekly shop, consider enlisting the help of a nutritionist. Here at Ivy Training, all of our personal trainers are qualified in the field of nutrition and can provide tailored nutritional advice just for you. We understand what your body needs to become healthier and fitter and can develop strategies to help you reach your goals (in the shopping aisles and at the gym). As nutrition is such an integral part of becoming healthier and fitter, it’ll save you time and money (and help you reach your goals faster) to spend a little time planning the right meals for you. 

Professional advice

Resources

  1.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5288891/
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/priceonomics/2018/07/10/heres-how-much-money-do-you-save-by-cooking-at-home/?sh=7c9f4a0a35e5
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4430323/
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666317309923
  5. https://www.news.com.au/finance/money/costs/bulk-buying-can-halve-your-costs-and-not-just-at-supermarkets/newsstory/8c42d4780c26e4e453680caabe770396
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0889157517300418

Are Protein Shakes Healthy?

Are Protein Shakes Healthy?

If you’re trying to build strength and repair muscles, protein shakes can be a good way to fuel your body. That’s because protein is essential for our body to function well and can be found in everything from our skin and hair to our internal organs [1]. In fact, not consuming enough protein can lead to muscle loss and a range of other health issues. 

Using protein shakes can be an easy, convenient way to up your protein intake, but are protein shakes healthy? The answer is yes. Not only can you easily measure out exactly how much protein you are consuming but drinking a protein shake also avoids the need for larger meals and they can be consumed “on the go”. 

There are plant-based protein powders, such as pea, hemp, soy and brown rice, and lactose-based shakes, made from whey. The two main players are whey protein isolate (WPI) and whey protein concentrate (WPC); they both have a high nutritional content and are easily absorbed digested into the body [2]. However, while WPI and WPC both originate from the same beginnings, namely milk, there is a difference to their content. WPI goes through an extra filtration step, so the end produce contains less fat, less sugar and is overall a purer product, containing at least 90% protein [3]. 

While there is a lot of research into the benefits of protein shakes, including muscle growth, weight loss and reducing inflammation, there is some evidence that excess consumption of protein shakes can cause bloating, cramps, and nausea [4]. So, the best way to ensure you get the most benefits out of your protein shakes is to make sure you are consuming the right ones, the right way.

Here’s how to make your protein shake healthy:   

Know Your Daily Intake 

When it comes to getting healthier and taking control of your workouts, knowing how much protein you should consume verses how much you are consuming is helpful. In Australia, the current recommendation falls between 0.6g per kilo of body weight to 1.07g per kilo of body weight [5], but I believe this is insufficient for strength, hypertrophy, performance and improving body composition. I suggest my clients should be getting between 1.6g to 3.1g per kilo of body weight. The exact amount will depend on factors such as gender, age, activity levels and goals. Consuming a protein shake each day can help you hit your recommended daily intake in a convenient, measured way.

Invest in Quality Protein

The same way we should be buying fresh food and reading nutritional labels correctly, we should be choosing a high-grade protein powder with quality ingredients. The first step is to ask your personal trainer for their recommendation of brands to try. Their assessment of your protein intake is also important. It pays to do your research and trial a few brands before you buy. When you are deciding which protein powder is best for you, choose a brand with as few ingredients as possible, little-to-no added sugar and a good reputation. Some brands come in a range of flavours, which can be delicious, but they do limit how you use them. Before you invest in a product, think about how you will most often consume it. Protein powders can be expensive, so you want to make you get best one for you.

Consume it Correctly

There is a misconception among gym-goers that drinking a protein shake an hour after a workout is important. However, there isn’t enough research to back that claim up. While there is some evidence suggesting that consuming protein post-workout is beneficial [6], I believe it’s more important to have a sufficient amount of protein in each meal instead. To further optimise protein intake, I encourage my clients to time their meal frequency to every 3-5 hours for optimal MPS (Muscle Protein Synthesis). The combination of these two things assists with better muscle growth, recovery/repair, and satiety.

Maintain a Healthy Diet  

Along with choosing a quality product and consuming the correct amount of protein for your diet, it’s important to have a healthy diet as well. Pure protein shakes are designed to be a supplement and are best used in conjunction with a well-rounded diet. I encourage clients to have an overall healthy diet with mainly single ingredient foods, such as animal protein, fruit, vegetables. I also encourage my clients to view whey protein (and therefore protein shakes) like any other source of protein. So, when you’re planning your meals for the week, aim to include roughly 80% whole foods and 20% soul foods. These are foods you enjoy and are considered somewhat a “treat”, that might contain processed ingredients. 

Resources

  1. https://www.webmd.com/diet/benefits-protein#1
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9405716/ 
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263371#types 
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-health-benefits-of-whey-protein#TOC_TITLE_HDR_12 
  5. https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/protein
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142015/ 

5 Apps That Will Make You Healthier

5 Apps That Will Make You Healthier

Following Friday’s announcement that Greater Sydney’s lockdown has been extended until the end of September, we need to find ways to keep up our healthy habits from home. A daily walk or run is vital for our fitness as well as our mental health, so make sure you are getting out for your daily dose of vitamin D outdoors [1]. I also recommend doing some strength training at least twice per week. You can read my previous blog for home-based strength training exercises. Ivy Training also offers Tailored Nutrition Consultations to support you to come out of this lockdown looking and feeling great for summer. But have you ever thought about downloading some apps that will make you healthier?

While we are all stuck at home, our phones can actually be our biggest source of connection and motivation in more ways than one, and they can also help us stay mentally and physically healthy. We’ve researched five apps that will make you healthier, and can keep us on track every day.


Healthy App #1: Endel

Endel App Logo

Maintaining productivity, managing anxiety, and sleeping well can be challenging at the best of times. During a pandemic, it can seem impossible. Luckily, the Endel app has designed soundscapes (backed by neuroscience) to boost productivity, improve sleep and reduce stress. Pick from a series of scenarios, including “deep work”, “self-care”, and “sleep”. Then, the app will play sounds to create the optimal environment for you. It’s no wonder that Endel was the Apple Watch App of the year for 2020 given how well the app works, and the fact that it’s backed by science. If you’re going to download any of these apps that will make you healthier, let this one be it.


Healthy App #2: Down Dog

Down Dog App Logo

Yoga is a great way to supplement your normal fitness regime; it helps with flexibility, relaxation and muscle health [2]. It can also be practised in as little as 15 minutes. To help find the right yoga sequence for you, the Down Dog app has been designed to generate a yoga class for the length of time you have available. Once you’ve selected your time, the app will produce a video class, with thorough instructions, so you can get the most out of the poses. You can also personalise your sessions by selecting your yogi level (from beginner to advanced), your preferred music style and your choice of narrator. The app also offers meditation, prenatal yoga, and barre classes.


Healthy App #3: UV Lens

UV Lens App Logo

This free app designed in New Zealand to help you stay safe in the sun. UV Lens provides you with forecasts of UV intensity that are updated throughout the day to warn you when UV levels are at their highest. That way, you can avoid exercising outside during those times, or you can make sure you wear extra sunscreen and a hat. The app is also customisable to your personal skin type. This means you can understand how long you can safely be in the sun and avoid getting burnt. Genius.


Healthy App #4: WaterMinder

WaterMinder App Logo

Our bodies are composed of about 60% water [3], so if staying hydrated is an issue for you, this app will motivate you to drink more water throughout the day. It’s simple to use and compatible with your Apple Watch, so logging your water intake is super quick. The app will also send you a gentle reminder if it’s been a while since your last glass. Having good hydration habits can also help control your calorie intake and will assist in keeping your skin looking good [4]. In addition, you can set your own hydration goals and track your progress. It’s an easy way to ensure you’re looking and feeling your best by the time summer comes.


Healthy App #5: Streaks

Steaks App Logo

This Australian-designed app has been created to support making and breaking habits. For example, it’s been used to help quit smoking and reduce drinking. You can track up to 12 tasks you want to complete each day. Meaning you can encourage yourself towards positive habits (such as exercising more), while at the same time tracking the habits you want to see less of (such as Netflix and Doritos). Streaks works on the “don’t break the chain” philosophy. You’re rewarded for your “streaks”, the number of days in a row you complete (or avoid) each habit. Depending on the settings you choose, Streaks can also integrate data from other apps, including Health and Sleep apps, to save you time checking everything off. This is one of our favourite apps that will make you healthier with your habits.

Resources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1402378/
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-benefits-of-yoga
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-percentage-of-the-human-body-is-
    water
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-health-benefits-of-water

Making Sense of Nutrition Labels

Food Labels

Do you need help making sense of nutrition labels?

Making sense of nutrition labels can be overwhelming. However, having basic knowledge of nutrition labels can help you to understand what matter when making healthier choices. It can also help to determine what to filter out.

If you’re in Australia, it’s mandated by law that all manufactured foods include a nutrition information panel and ingredients list [1]. This panel is a useful tool for taking control of your health. But sometimes everything else on the label overshadows what’s on the panel.

Some products have terms and information used for marketing, which can be easily misinterpreted. In fact, research shows that simply adding health claims on packaging can lead people to think they’re healthier than the same product without the claims [2]. Remember, just because a product makes certain nutrition claims doesn’t mean it is healthy [3].

When reading nutritional labels, it’s important to relate them to your individual nutritional needs. Some labels list nutrients as a percentage of daily nutrient intake as “daily value” or RDI (Recommended Daily Intake). The Recommended Daily Intake is based on what an average adult needs (at an 8700 kJ or 2080 calories)[4]. Treat the percentage values as general advice only. They are not specific to your own individual dietary requirements or goals.

When making decisions about processed foods, there are 5 key points you should prioritise.

1. Serving Size

The serving size is listed in a standardised unit, such as grams, and tells you how much the food business has determined a serving of a product should be [5]. The recommendations on the packaging might be more or less than your own serving size. It is also very easy to assume that one packet equals one serve, but this is not always the case.  Especially with individually packaged items.

2. Energy

Every nutrition label will contain a unit of energy. It’s listed as Kilojoules (kJ) or Calories (kcal) per serve and usually per 100g. You can use the “per 100g” column to compare the nutrition data to different products. The amount of energy is a direct calculation from the macronutrient content, found further down the label.

3. Macronutrients

Macronutrients are nutrients that your body needs in larger amounts in order to function properly. These are protein, carbohydrates and fat and each is important as it is used by the body for a different purpose [6]. Daily requirements of these nutrients will vary between individuals and will be dependent on a number of factors. These factors include gender, age, weight, activity level and current body composition goal.

4. Fibre

Fibre is a central component of a healthy diet. It is important for keeping your intestinal tract healthy and will reduce your risk of chronic disease. Despite this, as much as two-thirds of Australians don’t hit their RDI of fibre [7]. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advises an adequate intake of 30g for adult males and 25g for adult females. This adequate intake is just that – adequate. Consider it to be your minimum target. While NHMRC has no set upper level of intake of fibre, if too much is consumed without enough water, it can cause abdominal discomfort or constipation [8]. We recommend capping your fibre intake at around 50-60g per day.

5. Ingredients

As far as body composition goes, the list of ingredients isn’t as important as you may think. You will find a list of ingredients on the label, in order from largest to smallest in quantity. This makes it easy to spot foods that might be high in saturated fat, or have added salt or sugars. The ingredients list is particularly useful for people with food intolerances or allergies. 

If you pay attention to the above five areas when making food choices, you will make healthier choices.

What about the Health Star Rating?

The Health Star Rating system provides nutritional information at a glance. It rates packaged foods between 0.5 and 5 stars, based on ingredients that increase the risk of obesity and contribute to other chronic diseases [9]. The system is voluntary, and is not without its critics. 

With the Health Star Rating, negative nutritional attributes can cancel or balance out positive ones. What does this mean? A healthy ingredient can be added to increase the Health Star Rating, even if there’s a high sugar content. The rating is also calculated on an “as prepared” basis, which means it takes into account the nutritional value of what it is eaten with. For example, Milo came under fire after it displayed a 4.5-star rating. This rating was based on consuming 3 teaspoons of powder with skim milk, not just on the Milo alone, which would have only earned a 1.5 star rating [10].

Other terms you will find on food labels

Terms associated with improved health can be helpful. However, be careful as they could mislead you into thinking unhealthy or processed foods are good for you. Some such terms are [11]:

Light: the product has either been processed to reduce the calorie or fat content, or it has been watered down.

Natural: this simply means the manufacturer worked with a natural source at some point, like apples or rice.

No added sugar: some products might have no added sugar because they are naturally high in sugar.

Low fat: other ingredients such as sugar have been added to compensate for the lower fat content.

Fruit-flavoured: many processed foods refer to a natural flavour, such as a fruit, but might not actually contain any fruit.

Feeling overwhelmed by nutrition labels?

If taking in all this labelling information still seems like a lot for your weekly grocery shop, there is a way around it – eat more whole foods! To conclude, the key to a healthy diet is consuming a balanced diet with a variety of nutrient-rich foods, and the easiest way to do this is by eating mainly unprocessed foods.

If you would like nutritional advice tailored to your personal requirements and goals, book in a consultation today.

References

[1] www.healthdirect.gov.au/how-to-read-food-labels

[2] www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-read-food-labels#look-on-the-back

[3] www.healthdirect.gov.au/how-to-read-food-labels

[4] www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/userguide/Documents/Userguide_Prescribed%20Nutrition%20Information%20Nov%2013%20Dec%202013.pdf

[5] www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/labelling/panels/pages/default.aspx

[6] www.avitahealth.org/health-library/macronutrients-a-simple-guide-to-macros/

[7] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5986479/

[8] www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/fibre-in-food#:~:text=Benefits%20of%20fibre,-Dietary%20fibre%20is&text=Most%20Australians%20do%20not%20consume,g%20of%20fibre%20each%20day

[9] www.healthdirect.gov.au/how-to-read-food-labels

[10] www.theconversation.com/why-the-australasian-health-star-rating-needs-major-changes-to-make-it-work-114581

[11] www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-read-food-labels#misleading-claims

Grill’d Low Carb SuperBun

What’s all the fuss about Grilld’s Low Carb SuperBun?

It’s no secret that I am in a long-term relationship with Grill’d Healthy Burgers. You will find me there on a weekly basis after a training session, ordering either a Sweet Chilli Chicken or Simon Says Burger. Delicious!

There’s a number of things that I love about Grill’d. Their burgers are 100% natural, they source their ingredients from local Australian suppliers, they publish their nutritional information, and each burger is made to order. They also cater to everyone. Whether you have a gluten intolerance, an allergy, or prefer to eat vegan – there is something on the menu for you. However, I’ve noticed on my weekly ventures to Grill’d Burgers that more people are ordering the “Low Carb SuperBun”. According to Grill’d Burgers, the Low Carb SuperBun is “…made from all natural quality ingredients including almond meal, free range eggs, coconut cream, tapioca and honey. [The Low Carb SuperBun has] less carbs than a single sushi roll!” [1] Whilst the ingredient list for the Low Carb SuperBun makes it lower in carbohydrates than a sushi roll, it also makes it higher in fat than a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. [2]

Let’s look at a comparison of the nutrition data between the Sweet Chilli Chicken Burger on a Traditional Bun versus the Low Carb SuperBun. [3]

Sweet Chilli Chicken on Traditional Bun

Sweet Chilli Chicken on Low Carb SuperBun

What’s the difference?

A Sweet Chilli Chicken Burger on a Low Carb SuperBun contains 37.4g of fat. To put this number into context, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommend that total dietary fat intake should be between 20-35% of a person’s total energy intake to reduce the risk of chronic disease. [4] The average adult needs  8700 kilojoules (or the equivalent to 2000 calories) a day to maintain a healthy weight. [5] If we take the NHMRC’s dietary fat recommendation, and base it on a 2000 calorie diet, the average adult should be consuming between 55-78g of fat each day.

If you’re ordering a Sweet Chilli Chicken Burger on the Low Carb SuperBun, you are eating you way well into your dietary fat recommendation for the day… and that’s if you’re not ordering any chips on the side! We also haven’t mentioned that the Sweet Chilli Chicken Burger is one of Grilld’s lower fat options. If you order the Almighty on the Low Carb SuperBun, that will put you at 63.3g for the burger alone.

It’s likely that consumers are ordering the Low Carb SuperBun because they believe that it’s the healthier alternative. It’s also likely that the same consumers that are ordering the Low Carb SuperBun are unaware that it is more calorie dense than all other bread varieties available at Grill’d Burgers, and choosing the Low Carb SuperBun adds an extra 21.6g of fat in comparison to the Traditional Bun. What’s our take on it? We prefer to stick to the Traditional Bun, Panini Bun or Gluten Free Bun varieties. Unless you’re on a low carbohydrate and high fat diet for medical reasons, we suggest that you choose the same.

Want to make better food choices?

If you want to make better food choices when you’re out and about, check out our Macro-Friendly Takeaway Guide. It’s free to download.

References

 [1] www.grilld.com.au/about-old/be-good/love-our-buns

[2] www.mcdonalds.com.au/menu/quarter-pounder®

[3] www.grilld.com.au/nutrition

[4] www.nrv.gov.au/chronic-disease/summary

[5] www.healthdirect.gov.au/kilojoules

Flexible Dieting Explained

What is flexible dieting?

“Diet” can almost seem like a dirty word. It can conjure up images of giving up eating out, getting takeaway or indulging in your favourite foods. But what if that wasn’t the case? Welcome to the world of flexible dieting.

Flexible dieting is a method of tracking your dietary intake which can be used to lose fat, gain muscle, or simply make sure you are meeting your nutritional needs. 

In a nutshell, it sees your nutritional needs broken down into macronutrient targets for each day. From there, you are free to eat whatever you want, provided it fits those goals. It includes a calorie goal but provides a more targeted approach than simply counting calories. It is also advisable to track other micronutrients such as fibre, water, and other vitamins and minerals to ensure your body is getting what it needs for optimal function.

What are the benefits?

Flexible dieting is just that – flexible.

Unlike other diets which may limit you to certain foods (regardless of whether you enjoy them or not), flexible dieting gives you the freedom to make your own decisions and allows for the occasional treat. It allows you to still go out and socialise, without bringing along your pre-prepped meal. This means that you can have your pizza (or at least a portion of it) and eat it, too.

It is adjustable. You have the ability to adjust your macronutrient targets (thus controlling your calorie intake) when your progress stalls or when your goal changes. You can take control of your diet and results.

The combination of the above benefits make flexible dieting more sustainable. Unlike overly restrictive fad diets, flexible dieting can be maintained for the long-term and adjusted when certain goals are met. Research also shows that those who follow programs that allow greater flexibility in food choices are more successful at keeping weight off over time. The translation? Sustainable lifestyle changes for lasting results.

What are macronutrients?

Macronutrients are the nutritional component that are required in a large amount (hence the prefix, “macro”). Each macronutrient has a caloric value, and plays an important role in energy levels, metabolism and body functioning. Having a balanced macronutrient intake is essential for maintaining good health. 

Macronutrients provide your body with energy which is measured in the form of calories. Knowing how energy dense each is can help you understand how to use them to achieve your goals:

1. Protein – 4 calories per gram

2. Carbohydrates – 4 calories per gram

3. Fat – 9 calories per gram

4. Alcohol – 7 calories per gram

Alcohol is sometimes referred to as the fourth macronutrient because it has a calorie value, not because it is required in large amounts – contrary to popular belief. It has an energy value of 7 calories per gram (without mentioning the extra calories from mixers) but does not provide the body with any nutrients. In addition, when you consume alcohol it inhibits your ability to absorb other nutrients.  This means if you don’t account for alcohol in your calories, your daily intake (and your belly) can quickly balloon out, without you realising why. 

What is the difference between tracking macros and counting calories?

Your daily calorie intake is a calculation of how much energy your body needs to achieve your goal, whether that’s lose weight, gain muscle or maintain. However, your body needs more than just a set number of calories to function, it needs nutrients. Each macronutrient is processed and used differently in the body, which is why it is important to reach the right balance of macronutrients so your body has everything it needs to achieve your goal, and perform daily functions.

Macronutrients perform the following functions in the body:

Protein is made up of amino acids which are important for growing, building and repairing muscle and cell tissue and protecting your muscle mass. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body but are vital for bodily function. Therefore, they must be a part of your diet. Protein also helps you feel full and satisfied.

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, the main source of energy for your body. Simple carbohydrates are easy to break down and provide a quick burst of energy, such as sugar and fruit. Complex carbohydrates take more time for your body to break down and will give you longer-lasting energy. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that can’t be broken down and does not provide energy but helps to keep your intestinal tract healthy.

Fats are an essential nutrient and assist with three body processes – vitamin absorption, hormone regulation and brain function. There are different types of fat and the more beneficial kinds are found in fish such as salmon and tuna and plant sources including avocado and nuts – not pizza and cake.

How can macros help me achieve my goals?

Practically speaking, the right balance of macronutrients will allow you to achieve optimum results, whatever your goal. As each macronutrient serves a different purpose, an imbalance can leave you feeling tired, irritable and unwell, leading you to lose motivation and give up.

So how does this translate into real-life goals? Let’s break it down into a case study.

Case study:

Person A and Person B are both aiming to drop some fat. 2500 calories a day is a calorie deficit for both subjects. This means it is less calories than their body needs to maintain their current weight.

Person A consumes 2500 calories per day, in the form of 180g protein, 310g carbohydrates and 60g fat per day.
Person B consumes 2500 calories per day but doesn’t track their macronutrient intake.

Without the macronutrient breakdown of what Person B is consuming, for all we know, they could be consuming 80g protein, 275g carbohydrates and 120g fat. If this is correct, their body is going to struggle to retain muscle mass. This means they will still lose weight, but it will likely be muscle mass and they will still be left with excess fat. In addition, since protein helps with satiety, Person B will be left feeling less satisfied, and hungry.

Ideally, along with increasing their protein intake, Person B would also adopt a higher carbohydrate to fat ratio to fuel training sessions, boost recovery and improve overall performance. Remember, fat is still important (and essential) – it’s just not needed in copious amounts.

So, what’s next?

Ultimately, when figuring out what works for you, it comes down to personal preference and lifestyle. There are many variations to flexible dieting which can all achieve the same goal. Getting the best results for you will begin with implementing realistic targets which are in line with your preferences. At the end of the day, increasing dietary adherence (i.e. not making it too difficult and giving up) will be the overall winner.

The next step is to choose your goal and get tracking. If you are worried counting and tracking your macros sounds too cumbersome, there’s an app for that. MyFitnessPal allow you to track your calories and nutrients by either scanning barcodes, searching for them or manually entering them in.

At Ivy Training, we are all dual-certified as Personal Trainers and Nutritionists, which means we can help you set and achieve both your fitness and nutrition goals. If you would like some further guidance, we’re here to help.