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

 

My top tips for gains..i.e. Hypertrophy

Your training is going to plan and you want to dial in your nutrition to make some GAINS! If your goal is to gain lean muscle mass, you'll know that getting calories in can be hard at times, especially hitting that protein target. 

  • First thing is liquid calories..easy to get in, easy to digest. Things like milk, smoothies etc. can be had on the go and don't require any planning. With your smoothie, through in a scoop of protein or two, berries /banana /avocado, nut butter, ice, use milk as your liquid to increase cals and protein. 
Image via pinterest

Image via pinterest

  • If you've no intolerances then you can up your intake of grains, especially on days when your carbs are higher.  
  • Don't leave majority of your calories until the afternoon/evening, for me it works well to spread it out throughout the day. If I leave it too late, it can impact on sleep and just leave me feeling a bit sluggish.
  • Eat protein in the morning - I find if I eat a good bit of protein in the morning then it's much easier to hit target for the day. It can happen quite easily that you don't have much protein in the morning, especially if you just have something like oats, and really it's like fighting a losing battle, on the protein front, for the rest of the day. So try include eggs, turkey rashers, protein in oats, salmon on brown bread, protein smoothie, greek yogurt etc. in your first meal. 
Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

  • Don't be too fussy about food sources, sometimes you just have to get the calories in even if it's not the most nutrient dense food. 
  • And my last tip is don't increase your calories too quickly - to reduce the chance of putting on fat tissue you need to be very controlled in your pace of increasing calories. 

Low calorie treats - my top 5!

Calories in versus calories out is the most important element when it comes to fat loss, everything else - macros, supplements, training, sleep etc. - comes after this. The bottom line is that if you eat excess calories (be it from veg, chicken, pizza, protein shakes or chocolate!) you will not lose body fat. Simple. 

So today I'm back with my own favourite low calorie treats - things that I eat that will fit in with my calories and taste great. If you're counting macros you can easily scan your treat into your tracker (e.g. MyFitnessPal) in the morning and that way you've accounted for it and you can make it fit in with your daily calories. If having a small treat everyday helps you stick to your calories/macros goals - then why not? You will still see results...so happy days!  

 

 

1. Curly Wurly

A favourite of mine coming in at only 115 calories. Especially good when they are kept in the fridge. You can easily fit this into your day if you fancy a chocolate treat at night. This definitely won't break the calorie bank. In fact, I've been known to fit 2 of these into my macros /calories on any given day. 

 

oppo ice cream.png

2. Oppo ice-cream

A recent discovery of mine - I found them in Supervalue on the Abbeyleix road in Portlaoise - and if you're an ice-cream lover then look no further. I bought the salted caramel flavour - it is 100% unreal! And I've heard good things about the other flavours too. For half a tub of the salted caramel ice-cream it was about 190 calories - compare that to something like Ben n' Jerrys or the likes. Calories wise, Oppo, are a great option to have in the freezer. 

 

 

3. Aldi Whirlz

Another ice-cream option - a bit of a pattern here! :) These come in at  49 calories each. 

4. Jelly

These jellies are only 10 calories each. Great on their own or paired with something like Glenisk yogurt. Really can help curb a sweet craving if you've no major calories left. 

 

5. Mini trifles 

These mini trifles can be just the thing to hit that sweet craving. At 145 calories, they are not too hard on the macro front either! A handy thing to have in the fridge for those days when you just need something sweet.

And there you have it..a few of my favourite low calorie treats. Any ones I left out? Send me on your recommendations if you've made any good discoveries.

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

 

 

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

It's too late to start now...

Over the past few days, I've had a few people say that they feel it's too late in the year to start working towards their fitness goals and that they'll start back in January!! 

January!! That's eight weeks away. 

Imagine the difference eight weeks of consistent training and good food choices could make. You could make great strides towards your goal in that time-frame.

But really the thing is that eating right and training shouldn't be something that we stop and start - of course there will be times when we are more dedicated than others - but if they are to be sustainable in the long-term, then your food and training choices should easily fit into your lifestyle. Get rid of all the extremes. 

My advice to anyone who is wondering whether to start a training plan now is to just do it.

  1. Make a start. I know that sounds obvious - but it's usually the hardest part.
  2. Don't jump in head first and do a complete 360 - you'll find that very difficult to maintain. Instead, start off with small changes - go to the gym twice a week, make healthier food choices.
  3. Don't eliminate any food groups - find healthier alternatives if you want, but try to avoid a situation of 'good' and 'bad' foods. Educate yourself on what is in your food.
  4. Take photos - photos will show up progress far better than the scales. 
  5. Find a type of training that you enjoy and surround yourself with like minded people.

So the conclusion is that - it's NEVER too late to start. I guarantee that you will NEVER, EVER regret taking steps to improve yourself and your health.

With Christmas just around the corner, I know that there is a pressure to look your best around this time of year. So fear not - by starting now you will be well on your way to feeling and looking your best by the time the party season begins. But not only that, but you will have the tools in place to continue on your journey and to build on the good habits that you have created.

If you've any questions about training, macros, plateaus  - anything at all - then shoot me a message and I'll get back to you. Or if you need someone to give you a good kick start then I'm happy to do that too!!

Cheers,

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!