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

 

Fats and Immune function

In this third and final installment of the role of macro-nutrients on the immune system, we are taking a look at the role dietary fat plays in immune response and function.

Fats are powerful mediators of the immune system, and they may modulate the immuno-suppressive effects of strenuous exercise. Dietary fat plays a role in some key functions in the body, which all contribute to immune function, namely:

  •  Hormone regulation and production, especially testosterone and oestrogen
  • Transport of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K), to the liver for storage and utilisation.

Dietary fats play an important role in numerous physiological functions and therefore a low fat diet can pose health problems. Additionally, a low fat diet does not guarantee weight loss if calories aren’t appropriate.

Both the amount and type of fatty acids in the diet influence the growth and activity of immune cells. Proper functioning of the immune system depends on adequate amounts of each essential fatty acid.

Essential fatty acids such as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), are the precursors of substances that can promote or restrain inflammation. Essential fatty acids cannot be synthesized in the body and thus, must be taken in via the diet. Essential fatty acids are intricately involved in the immune response, and regulate cytokines, which are released from immune cells in response to injury, infection, or exposure to foreign substances, as previously mentioned in our protein and immunity article. Amongst the fatty acids those from fish oil (EPA and DHA) are more biologically potent than alpha linolenic acid.

Studies in athletes have shown that a low-fat diet (15% of total calories), increases inflammatory and decreases anti-inflammatory immune factors, depresses antioxidants, and negatively affects blood lipoprotein ratios. A critical analysis of a large number of studies, demonstrated that there is a number of potential benefits to consuming unsaturated fatty acids on the immune system. This analysis showed that fatty acids play an important role in immune system regulation and may therefore be classified as holding the ability to modulate immune response. http://www.nature.com/icb/journal/v78/n1/full/icb20006a.html

Increasing your omega 3 intake (specifically EPA), and decreasing your omega 6 and saturated fat intake can have positive health effects and decrease inflammation. Omega 3 sources include salmon, mackerel, eggs and red meat. Omega 6 sources include sunflower oil, corn oil and safflower oil.

 

Foods: 
• Saturated Fats: Usually solid at room temperature and are primarily from animal sources, such as, dairy and other meats.
• Unsaturated Fats: Usually liquid at room temperature and can be further divided into mono and poly unsaturated fats.
• Mono-unsaturated fatty acids include: olive oil, avocado and peanut butter. 
 

http://europepmc.org/abstract/med/10910295

https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-200232050-00004

http://advances.nutrition.org/content/6/3/293S.full

http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v56/n3s/pdf/1601478a.pdf

 

 

Why the site of your pain is not necessarily the source of your pain...

When we have pain, the usual reaction is to assume some sort of injury or issue at the site of the pain and so we normally set about getting treatment to this area in order to eliminate the pain.  

But this may not be the only answer to your problem.

Treating the site of the pain is fine, but the site is not necessarily the primary source of your discomfort. Many people don't know that a dysfunction at one joint can cause over-use at another, and eventually lead to injury.

The body is just like a stack of joints. Each joint has a specific function and if it fails to do its job, then the joint above or below must pick up the slack. This can lead to injury.

So what are the functions of our various joints? The ankle’s primary job is mobility, the knee’s function is stability, the hip is concerned with mobility, the lower back’s purpose is stability and the upper back is mobility.

If you are getting a common pain - such as knee pain, where might it be coming from? There are many potential answers to this, but it could very well be that your ankle or hips (or both!) are lacking in mobility meaning that your knee has had to compensate for this, and so resulting in knee pain. 

I regularly get asked about the difference between mobility and stability with regards to joints - mobility is the ability of the joint to move through a preferably full range of motion; stability on the other hand is the opposite. A stable joint needs to resist motion; not produce it. If your hips or upper back fail to move properly, your lower back will become mobile. So when your lower back is in pain, it can be due to a lack of range of motion in the hips or upper back.

Bottom line is that if you are in pain - STOP. Pain is a sign something is wrong and you shouldn't try to train through it. That's why I particularly DESPISE the sort of quotes bandied about below - they perpetuate the idea that you should be in pain in the gym . Let's be clear - you shouldn't be in pain. Yes, it may be uncomfortable and sore; you may feel 'the burn', but actual pain in any joint or muscle shouldn't be happening!

If an exercise hurts, then don’t do the exercise. With an appropriate gym program you can train the joints to enhance mobility and stability and to then eliminate any joint pain you may be experiencing.  

As always please get in touch if you have any questions  - I'm more than happy to help. 

Nigel

5 healthy things you can do TODAY

Sometimes it is hard to feel motivated to make healthy choices and do what's best for our bodies, especially, after things like bank holiday weekends, holidays or even just the good weather :). It's always easier to start 'tomorrow', 'next Monday', 'next month' anytime really, except today.

But I think that the more you make 'healthier' choices the easier it becomes, so here are 5 healthy things you can choose to do TODAY.

1. Drink water - after the weekend, especially if you had alcohol, or if you were just out and about in the warm weather you will need to hydrate your body. Aim for 2.5 - 3.5L per day depending on levels of activity. If you find it hard to drink water - add flavour with slices of lemon, lime, berries, oranges, cucumber, mint. Set reminders on your phone if you tend to forget.

2. Sleep - rest and recovery is just as important as exercise. You need sleep. You can't function properly without it. Sleep loss is vital for health, in particular, for fat loss. If you do not get enough sleep you will reduce your insulin sensitivity and increase inflammation in the body. Do yourself a favour and put away all electronic devices about 40min - 1 hour before sleep. Try not to watch TV. Turn off room lights - light candles if you want. Make sure your room is as dark as possible. No caffeine after late afternoon. Belly breathing before you sleep.

3. Eat protein with every meal - From talking to clients in PFP gym, I know that getting the required levels of protein into the body everyday can be hard. So try to be mindful of eating protein with every meal - eggs, meat, protein shake, dairy. Make it a priority.

4. Meditate - meditating for even a few minutes a day is a great way to counteract the stresses of daily life. There are load of apps that you can download to meditate.  Focus on breathing - breathe in through the nose, deep in to the stomach, hold for 5 sec and exhale through the mouth, pushing out every last bit air.

5. Move - move as often as you can. Stand up from the desk every 1/2 hour and take a 2 minute walk, have a stretch and move your body. Go for a walk or run, do a gym class or yoga class, go for a cycle or hike, play sport, dance - put on the music and dance at home - do whatever you enjoy but make sure that you move!

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