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. 

One size fits some...

Hey everyone, Donogh here again. In this blog, I’ll talk about the importance of an individualised program to reach your goals. One of the services provided here at PFP is an assessment through Functional Movement. Based on your results and your needs we then design a program.

Image via Google

Image via Google

The aim of this is to turn your weak links into less of a weak link while also focusing on the importance of turning your strong links into even stronger links, therefore it is important to have an individualised program. We are all different, two people may have the same goals but they will have completely different strengths and weaknesses. Through the assessment we also get a picture of your lifestyle and other factors that can affect your training such as work, nutrition and sleep. Again, no two people will be the same here.

I have worked a lot with various rugby teams and I have seen first-hand a one size fits all approach, in reality it’s a one size fits some. Through the assessment we can identify where you have issues in your mobility or stability while also checking previous injuries and then implementing corrective strategies individual to you. These strategies will make your movement better, reduce your risk of injury and give you a better chance of your program being a success.

My most used phrase as a coach is “it depends”, it always depends on something. “How do I get stronger?”. It depends on what you have done before, injury history or movement quality. “How do I get fitter?”. It depends on your body composition, nutrition or sleep quality.

Once we have a snap shot of your lifestyle, movement, strengths and weaknesses we can give a very good go at designing a program specific to you. Without knowing all of that, the program’s success will depend…

Hopefully that gives you an insight into the importance of individualised training and if you have any questions call in and have a chat with any members of staff here at PFP.

Donogh

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

 

 

 

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

 

Can exercise help you beat anxiety?

We all know how good working out is for our physical health, so let's start a conversation today about the benefits of working out for your mental health. 

Image via Pinterest

Image via Pinterest

Exercise is underutilized as a method of managing and treating anxiety. It has no negative side-effects and it can be free, if you do it at home or outside.

Several studies have shown that there is a very powerful connection between exercise and anxiety. In fact, the coloration between both is so strong, that exercise on its own may be enough to drastically diminish the symptoms of anxiety. 

How can exercise do this?

1. Endorphins - the body releases endorphins when you exercise. These are your body's natural 'painkillers',  and in addition they play a massive role in regulating your mood and relaxing your mind. You know that 'feel good' feeling after a workout ? Yep! That's the endorphins. 

2. Sleep - exercise tires out the body and  can enable those who have anxiety to get a better night's sleep. A lack of sleep, or inability to sleep, makes the symptoms of anxiety worse. Exercise can release all of the excess energy in the body and mind - in fact, high intensity exercise has been shown to tire out the body and the mind simultaneously. 

3. Inactivity anxiety - a lack of exercise can lead to an excess of energy and this energy can be misplaced by the body, resulting in increased tension and stress. An increase in stress levels can exacerbate anxiety. This is very much linked with the above point on sleep. A lack activity can feed into a lack of sleep, and together both of these elements can accumulate and worsen the symptoms of anxiety. 

4. Healthy coping strategy- managing anxiety through exercise is a healthy coping strategy. Sometimes we turn to things like alcohol to manage anxiety. But the consumption of alcohol, as a coping strategy,  will usually have a negative impact on anxiety and will often lead to a worsening of symptoms. Exercise, on the other hand, is a positive means of dealing with anxiety with lots of additional benefits such as improved overall health. If you are in a gym or a group, such as a running group, the camaraderie and friendships can be an additional support in managing anxiety.

So that's it - a brief overview of how exercise can help to cope with and manage anxiety. In the long term, a regular exercise schedule can dramatically alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. If you, or someone you know, is suffering with anxiety, please do seek medial advice - medication is may sometimes be necessary, but exercise can, and should, compliment it.

As always, feel free to get in touch,

Nigel

If you need to talk to someone please phone one of the numbers below:

Aware (Depression, Bi-Polar Disorder & Anxiety)

www.aware.ie
Tel: 1800 80 48 48

National Suicide Helpline (Pieta House)
1800 247 247

Pieta House (Suicide & Self-harm)

www.pieta.ie
Tel: 01 623 5606

Grow (Mental Health support and Recovery)

www.grow.ie
Tel: 1890 474 474

IACP (Counselling & Psychotherapy)

www.iacp.ie
Tel: 01 230 3536

Shine (Supporting people effected by mental ill health)

www.shine.ie
Tel: 01 860 1620

Teenline Ireland Helpline

www.teenireland.ie
1800 833 634

For references and further info please see below :

Exercise for Mood and Anxiety, Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being, by Michael W. Otto, PhD, and Jasper A.J. Smits, PhD (Oxford University Press, 2011)

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201506/sitting-all-day-increases-your-risk-anxiety

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201504/mindfulness-the-power-thinking-about-your-thinking

http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/treatment/exercising

 

 

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