Clean eating vs. Macro counting

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and festivities. I know most people are getting back into health and fitness routines, myself included. From experience, that first session back is always the hardest, so try and get it done and dusted as soon as you can and before you know it, you'll be feeling back to yourself. If training is one aspect of feeling healthy and fit, well then nutruition is the other side of the coin. 

So, today, let's talk about the difference between clean eating and macro counting. Both of these are popular nutrition methods, but let's break it down and see what they involve and if either of them are actually worthwhile. I have used both of these options for myself, as well as with clients, so I'll give you the good and the bad from my own experience. 

Clean Eating

In my opinion, clean eating refers to the removal of processed foods from the diet as much as possible. It prioritises ogranic food when available. Clean food simply means food in its natural state e.g. fruit, veg, nuts, organic meat etc. Or as close to its natural state as possible. This is a relatively simple idea, but actually finding whole, unprocessed foods can be quite challenging. 

So why would someone eat clean food? Whole, unprocessed foods tend to be rich in nutrients and low in chemicals. By eating 'clean' foods you will automatically reduce the amount of refined sugar in your diet which is always a plus. In terms of health, clean eating is great. But if your goal is fat loss, would I recommend clean eating as a way of getting lean?....Probably not! Or at least not on it's own.   

Clean eating, on its own,  doesn't really look at the calorie content of food. So although you may be eating the best quality food, loaded with health benefits you will not lose body fat if you are eating more calories than you burn. For example, eating lots of raw nuts will bring lots of nutrients and health benefits to your body, but as nuts are a calorie dense food it is very easy to over eat them and end up having a surplus of calories for the day. 

Also, from my own experience I found that when I was strictly adhering to clean eating it was far more difficult to socialise. I didn't know what was in the food in a restaurant or when I went to someone's house. It can be hard to draw the line when it comes to clean eating as there are lots of things outside our control- for instance water has chemicals added to it; but equally water in plastic bottles has chemicals added too so you end up searching for pure water in glass bottles- this level of clean eating is hard to do. From what I know it's impossible to be completely clean with what you eat and so if your expectations of clean eating are too high, then you are setting yourself up to fail. 

Macro Counting

Macro counting refers to the process of counting the amount of carbs, fats and proteins entering the body. It doesn't require food to be organic or unprocessed, although it can be. Typically, people will have calculated their own body's requirement for carbs, fats and protein. Your body's daily requirements will depend on a variety of factors including activity levels and goals. 

Macro counting is more felexible than clean eating. If example, if you want a bar of chocolate you simply account for it in your macros and you fit the rest of the day around it. You can still hit your daily goals. This flexibility is what makes counting macros so attractive to people.

By complying with your macro goals you are also hitting a certain calorie intake each day. And at the end of the day, the ONLY way to drop body fat is to eat less calories than you burn. This is a fact.  

Macro counting has a reputation for being unhealthy as people have a perception that it means that you can eat anything as long as it fit your macros - and while this is technically true, you will find that in order to feel full and satisified, you will more often choose to eat real, whole foods.

Do these two methods need to exist in isolation from each other? No, absolutely not. In fact, if you combine clean eating with macro counting you would have a pretty good recipe for success when it comes to fat loss. Of course our body needs whole, nutrient dense foods; but it also needs to be in a calorie deficit to drop body fat. And let's face it, we all need to have a take-away, crisps, chocolate and nights on the beer every now and again.

There should be no feelings of deprivation. Depriving yourself only creates a binge- purge cycle and creates a very poor head space. The whole point of being fit and healthy is to feel good and be able to live life to the fullest.  Any long term nutrition plan needs to have this level of flexibility in order to be sustainable. Ultimately, long term compliance is the greatest detemining factor of sucess in any nutrition plan. What can you see yourself doing forever? 

So, this new year, instead of saying we're giving up chocolate, sugar, carbs or whatever it may be, why don't we make healthy choices as much as we can and know that you can have anything you like AND still achieve your goals. Does it sound too good to be true?! Well, you'll be glad to know it's not and that's the beauty of counting macros. 

If you would like more information on nutrition or training please get in touch. We are here to help!

Nigel 

My top training and nutrition podcasts

As we head towards September, I know lots of you are renewing your health and fitness goals and getting remotivated after the summer months. One of the questions I've been asked loads is for some podcast recommendations - so today I'm going to go through a few of the podcasts I'd recommend, especially if you want to expand your nutriton and training knowledge.

1. Sigma Nutrition - https://sigmanutrition.com/

One of my go-to podcasts for evidence based info on all things health and lifting related. Hosted by leading Irish expert - Mr. Danny Lennon. 

2. The Strength Athlete - http://thestrengthathlete.com/

A powerlifting/strength based podcast for those who are interested. Great evidence based info on training, nutriton, technique and sports psychology. 

3. Precision Nutrition - http://www.precisionnutrition.com/

Covering a wide and intersting variety of topics, Precision Nutrition is a great podcast for expanding you nwoledge inrelation to nutrition, health and fitness. 

4. The Guru Performance - https://guruperformance.com/

Hosted by Laurent Bannock and featuring a wide variety of expert speakers on everything in sport and exercise science. Often delving into the latest science and research on a topic. 

Give any of these podcasts a listen and let me know how you get one. Also, if you've come across any podcast gems please let me know...I'm always looking to add more to my playlist.

Thanks,

Nigel

 

How to get the most from your gym experience...

Hi everyone, Coach Ev here at PFP.

Whether you’re an athlete, fitness fanatic or new to the gym life, getting the most from your experience is vital in order to keep you motivated and help you achieve your goals.

So here are my recommendations to help you get the most from your experience.

1)      Research

Gyms are not one size fits all. There are many different gyms out there to cater for various needs. Finding the right gym for you is vital for your success. Choosing the right gym can seem like a difficult task. Do some research on them. Check out their website. Make an appointment to come in and chat with the staff about your goals. Some gyms cater specifically for weight training, fitness based classes, personal training, Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting, team conditioning or even pay as you go. (FYI - PFP Gym caters for all of the aforementioned!)  The gym you choose will determine the experience you have. And this really can be the difference between you achieving your goals and giving up. Talk to the staff and get the blunt facts! Find out what each place offers and what qualifications and experience the staff have. 

 

2)      Goals

Set yourself both long and short term goals. Make sure that your goals are SMART - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and  time based. An example of poor goal setting is - 'I want to squat more', 'I want to be thin', 'I want to get fit' - none of these are SMART. How will you ever know if you have achieved your goal? You won't! Goals like these set the individual up for failure and they end up giving up. Good goal setting might sound like the following 'I want to squat 5kg more in 4 weeks time', 'I want to lose 10 lbs in 8 weeks' or 'I want to run 10km without stopping by the end of the year'. Be mindful of your goals. Think about what you really want to achieve. Be realistic. And reflect every so often to assess how you are progressing towards the goal. 

 

3)      Get yourself a diary

A great way to see real improvements is to get yourself a diary. Write in everything you eat and the times you eat at, your work schedule, training schedule and how your mood is from day to day. Yes, I know it’s quite a bit to keep track of, but you’ll clearly be able see if eating certain things impact your mood/ training/ work state. This will help to keep you motivated and it can help to determine any nutrition issues. Another benefit of a food diary is the accountability factor - seeing what you are eating in black and white can be an eye-opener for some people. The fact that you are recording everything that you eat means you are less likely to eat mindlessly throughout the day.  If writing down everything isn't your thing, there are plenty of apps that allow you to record food intake online.  

 

4)      Feedback

Don't be afraid to ask questions when training. A good coach will not only explain how to do something, but will also explain WHY you are doing it. Learn about different exercises and build your own knowledge.  From time to time, your coach may need to alter your program based on your physical capabilities. This is done to ensure that you are getting the most from your training. Be ready for your coach to correct your form - it's not a criticism! Good form is crucial to prevent injury and to make sure you are getting the most form your session. 

So, those are some of my tips when trying to get the most out of your gym experience. Any questions don’t be afraid call in and ask.

Ev Hennessy B.Sc

Personal trainer/ Strength and Conditioning Coach

 

The Great Protein Debate

Protein is gaining a lot of attention these days – so much so that marketers are desperately jumping on the bandwagon and throwing “a source of protein” on pretty much everything that you can eat – an example below shows a desperate attempt at it. (Image provided by Joseph Agu @ Elite Nutrition Coaching). 

 

Our bodies use protein to make some fundamental molecules – like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies, as well as helping build muscle and replace and repair damaged cells, meaning our bodies don’t function all that well without adequate protein.

When blood sugar levels are low, for example during and after exercise, or in between meals, a hormone called glucagon is released, which causes the liver to breakdown any stored energy, meaning glucagon can help breakdown body fat. Consuming adequate amounts of protein can help increase levels of this hormone.

Recent media reports have tried to suggest that too much protein can cause organ damage or increase cancer risks. These concerns are typically overblown and here are some recent studies to support the fact that protein does not damage organs or cause cancer.

http://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-016-0114-2   

http://www.lookgreatnaked.com/blog/new-study-on-protein-overfeeding-a-critical-analysis/

To clarify, people with certain medical conditions may not be advised to consume too much protein, but all excessive protein will do to a healthy person is give them a dose of wallet ache. This has stemmed from the fact that people with kidney issues respond well to a lower protein intake, but this leads to people taking a reverse causality approach, whereby they see that a lower protein intake helps those with kidney dysfunction, so high protein intake must have caused the kidney dysfunction, this however, is far from the truth.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17383270

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17383270    

Protein Intake recommendations

Your daily protein intake is largely dependent on your goals and activity level: Some recommendations will say that 0.5g/lb of body weight is sufficient, but this recommendation is purely based on avoiding a deficiency. Therefore, in order to get the benefits mentioned previously, you need more to thrive!

0.8 - 1g/lb body weight if your weight is stable and you don’t exercise

1.0-1.2 g/lb if your goal is fat loss and you’re physically active

1.2 - 1.5 g/lb if your goal is muscle building and you're physically active

People who are overweight or obese should calculate their daily protein intake based on their target weight as opposed to their existing body weight, as going off your current weight could result in consuming too many calories.

Gaining Weight or “Bulking”

Bulking and weight gain doesn’t require a massive increase to your protein intake, provided this intake is adequate. Muscle growth is affected by protein availability and protein elimination rates, or how fast protein is used up. Muscle tissue is constantly going through a process of breaking down and restoration – training and eating are the biggest contributors that will determine whether or not your body breaks down muscle tissue more or builds it up more – as you can probably guess, if you’re eating more food and hitting your protein intake, then you will sway towards the side of muscle building and not muscle breakdown.

The more calories the body has available to it, the more efficiently it utilizes protein because fewer amino acids are converted into glucose. This means that the added calories are contributing toward more efficient protein use, so there may not be a need to increase protein intake during a “bulking period”, once you are consuming an adequate amount in the first place.   

Moreover, since protein has a high thermic effect, (burns calories through the process of digestion) than carbs and fat, it might not be in the best interest of someone looking to put on weight to consume more protein than they need to, when the extra calories could go towards carbs or fats, which won’t burn up valuable calories in the digestion process.

Thermic Effect of Food in %

  • Protein: 20-35% of calories burned through digestion.
  • Carbohydrates: 5-10% of calories burned through digestion.
  • Fats: 0-5% of calories burned through digestion.

Sources of Protein

Protein sources do not matter much when we are just talking about protein, however, they matter in the context of the overall diet. For example, eating a high calorie protein source means a lot of calories are taken up, calories which could be directed elsewhere. If looking to lose weight, then choosing lean sources of protein can help keep calorie count low.

Protein from both plant and animal sources work just as well as each other in terms of increasing protein synthesis. The amino acid Leucine seems to be a major contributor to muscle protein synthesis – which can be found in eggs, poultry, milk, fish and meat.

Supplementation

People who cannot eat enough protein due to finances, diet preferences, or motivation often turn to supplementation to avoid eating more chicken or eggs! Others, however, seem to think that protein comes only in powder form and in a shaker bottle.

Mainstream media and supplement companies have tried to over complicate protein intakes because it helps sell products. There is only one advantage a protein shake has over protein from real whole foods and that’s convenience.  If you’re stuck for time then a protein shake is your biggest ally, although the new protein milk is a great source of protein plus other vitamins and minerals. 

Don’t feel under pressure to shell out on protein supplements or even stick to drinking them if they cause stomach discomfort (which many people complain of). Try getting your protein from whole sources of food and use the protein shakes for convenience, (if you are going to use them).  Supplementation should only be used if dietary changes cannot be made to meet your protein requirements. It is however, worth noting that consuming protein in the form of actual food can give benefits that supplementation may not be able to provide.

Summary

The debate over “optimal” protein intake is likely to continue for decades to come, as research continues to evolve, however the intakes recommended above are reasonably accurate and pose no health risks to healthy populations. Sources of protein are generally well known, however, be careful of marketers jumping on the bandwagon and read food labels to ensure you know what you are consuming. Use supplements for convenience and don’t view them as a staple. 

Thanks for reading guys - as always if you have any specific questions give us a shout.

Adam

S & C Coach

PFP GYM

My top 10 foods for micro-nutrients

When all is said and done, our health is the primary reason for eating good food.

We can get so caught up in counting macros, calories etc. that sometimes we don't think about the nutritional value of food. 

So with that in mind, I have compiled a list of MY top 10 foods (pretty hard to pick only 10!). I decided not to include any meats or fish on the list so that I could keep things simple - anyone who comes to the PFP knows how much I love my meat! The foods that I have picked are nutritional powerhouses, easily available and can be included in our daily diet. How many do you eat regularly?

1. Apples - great source of fiber, potassium and anti-oxidants. Also a good source of boron, which is a mineral with bone-building properties so aids with arthritis and osteoporosis prevention. 

2. Spinach - Low calorie and nutrient dense. High in potassium, magnesium, folate and iron among other vitamin and minerals. Can help to lower blood pressure and to keep skin and hair healthy. 

3. Onions - believed to have protective effects against stomach and esophageal cancer. Onions contain anti-oxidants and are anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibiotic - which will help to improve your immune system. The type of onion impacts on the health-promoting properties - the stronger the taste the more the potent the properties of it. 

4. Turmeric - also has natural anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Very good for supporting any liver conditions.

5. Eggs (organic) - perfect source of protein. Make sure to include the yolk as the whole egg contains all nine essential amino acids. Contains choline which is vital for heart and brain health. Eggs provide decent amounts of vitamin B2, vitamin B12 and selenium. Best eaten poached or boiled and with a soft yolk. 

6. Nuts - raw nuts of any kind provide are great sources of fiber, anti-oxidants and vitamin E. Also important for heart health. 

7. Berries - berries are great sources of anti-oxidants and help to lower cholesterol levels. Believed to have protective properties against degenerative diseases. 

8. Sauerkraut - a big favourite of mine - but make sure it is truly fermented and not just a commercially processed impostor. The process of fermenting food creates 'live cultures' which have a tonne of health benefits such as feeding the good gut bacteria. A good balance of gut bacteria will result in improved digestion, absorption of nutrients and greater immune health. Sauerkraut is high in vitamin K and C as well as iron, potassium and calcium. Cabbage in itself has strong anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties while also being high in fiber and low in calories. 

9. Avocado  - high in mono-saturated fat which is believed to reduce the risk of both diabetes and cancer as well as being important for a healthy heart. Contains lutein which is important for eyes and skin. Great source of fiber, potassium and vitamin A. 

10. Raw milk / cream - raw, organic milk and cream are one of my favourite things to eat. Besides tasting great, raw dairy is full of vitamins A and D as well as calcium.  Raw milk is also high in omega 3s. It contains lots of healthy enzymes. Find raw milk here from Crawford's Farm with a list of stockists including the Fruit and Nut in Portlaoise. Even if you are lactose intolerant you may be able to tolerate raw milk with no issues so it's worth checking out. 

So there you have it - my top 10 foods (at the moment!) for micro-nutrients. 

What would you add in  / take out? I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Nigel 

 

Counting Macros...Free PFP Talk

Just a short blog post today to give you a bit of an idea of what the Macro 101 talk will be about.

In case you haven't heard there is a FREE talk in PFP gym on Tuesday 28th June at 8:30pm - 9:30pm. The talk is open to everyone, not just PFP gym members. There will be two topics discussed on the night - Macros and Hip Mobility for increased strength.

I will be delivering the Macro talk and just want to give you a better idea of what I will be talking about on the night; so here are 3 reasons why you should count your macros -

1. To make yourself more knowledgeable about what foods have more calories / less calories, more /less protein, fats, minerals, vitamins etc. By doing this you can ultimately put yourself in a position to make better choices - knowledge is power!!

2. If you're already eating a healthy diet and have lost body fat and /or gained muscle mass and you want to take your progress (nutrition, body composition) to the next level, then counting your macros is a massive tool in helping you to do this. It's super easy - I use 'My Fitness Pal', which allows me to scan any food with a barcode and record it with all macronutrients broken down automatically  i.e. carbs, protein fats, vitamins, minerals etc. . If there's no barcode I can weigh it out and manually put the food in to the app - which the app will then break down into the macronutrients. Once I have manually put in a food /recipe it is in my app forever - this makes it easier the next time you use that food.

3. Using an app to track food makes you more accountable for your actions - you'll hesitate to eat foods that will take you over your daily macro requirements. On the other hand, if you're not tracking macros you are more likely to have for example,  3-4 biscuits with your tea because you probably haven't really got an idea of how much you've eaten already that day or of how many calories /macros you have left.

I hope that you found that interesting!! The talk on 28th June will include a lot more information including  how to break down your own macro requirements for your own goals - this has been highly requested so I am looking forward to giving people the tools to work out their own macros!!

Details for the talk are : PFP GYM - Tuesday 28th June - 8:30pm - 9:30pm - FREE

In meantime, if you have any specific questions that you want answered then let me know and I will do my best to answer them on the night.

Nigel