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Echo Supplements Blog

  • That's Pretty NEAT! Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis Explained

    Do you think that spending hours on the cardio machines is the only way to burn those extra calories? Think again! I've got a pretty NEAT trick for you...

    N.E.A.T. in fact stands for 'Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis' and is the total calories you burn just doing everyday activities: climbing the stairs, wiping the counter and anything which cannot be described as "volitional exercise". It represents a large proportion of your total daily energy expenditure (T.D.E.E.) and can have a real impact on your weight loss results.

    Your basal metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn throughout the day at rest is dependent on your gender, age, height, weight and body composition; however, differences in activity levels can cause total N.E.A.T. expenditure can vary by as much as 2000 kcals per day from one person to the next. People who are highly active can spend up to 3 times more calories than those who are inactive.

    What does this mean?

    If you are trying to create a calorie deficit for weight loss, whereby your total daily energy expenditure is greater than your energy intake, then being more active in general can help to burn calories without scheduling more dreaded cardio sessions. Increasing your total N.E.A.T. can also help to offset excess calories that you eat and increase the number of calories you need just to maintain your current body weight, i.e. you to eat more with little or no weight gain. A real win-win situation.

    Ways to increase you N.E.A.T.

    1. Take the stairs instead of the lift
    2. Park your car a little further away and walk the rest
    3. Clean the house
    4. Tend the garden
    5. Supermarket shopping

    This list could get very long very quickly but each entry has something key in common... JUST MOVE MORE!

    References

    Black, A.E.Coward, W.A.Cole, T.J. and Prentice, A.M. (1996). 'Human energy expenditure in affluent societies: an analysis of 574 doubly-labelled water measurements', Eur J Clin Nutr , 50, pp. 7292.

    Levine, J.A.Eberhardt, N.L. and Jensen, M.D. (1999). 'Role of nonexercise activity thermogenesis in resistance to fat gain in humans', Science, 283, pp. 212–214.

    Levine, J. A. (2007). 'Nonexercise activity thermogenesis - the liberating life-force', J Internal Medicine, 262(3), pp. 273-287.

  • Inside-Out: Biceps Anatomy

    In this "Inside Out" mini series I'll be taking a more in-depth look at specific muscles and muscle groups. These articles will share all the anatomy essentials whilst showing you some of the most effective exercises you need in your routine.

    "Sun's-out-guns-out!"

    Today is all about the biceps and the best ways there are to build them ready for a real gun show. Before we begin, let's break it down with some biology and arm anatomy...

    The biceps include three different muscles:

    • Biceps brachii (has a longer outer head and a short inner head)
    • Brachialis (lies deeper to the biceps brachii)
    • Coracobrachialis

    Together the bicep muscles work to perform elbow flexion (curling), forearm supination (turning your palm up) and shoulder flexion (raising the arm up in front).

    The question your inner "bro" is begging the answer to...

    What are the best bicep-building exercises?

    1. Vertical pulling eg. Chin-ups. Whilst primarily a back related movement, chin-ups have more biceps activation then a regular pull-up due to the supinated, or palms facing you, grip.

    2. Horizontal pulling eg. Inverted rows.  Another back building exercise but with significantly higher bicep activation than other rowing variations. For these, set up a barbell in a rack and with just your heels on the floor use the stationary bar to suspend yourself and perform a pull-up motion.

    3. Curls eg... Curls? Isolating the biceps with a variation of curls will provide the bulk of your biceps volume; try dumbbell, barbell and cable curls in different rep ranges to find what works for you.

    Making use of techniques like supersets, dropsets, forced reps and eccentric reps can increase muscle hypertrophy through causing more fatigue and metabolic stress but beware! Going balls-to-the-wall on your biceps and training to failure too frequently can hinder progress if you're arms are too sore to maintain such high volume. Find you "sweet-spot" where you can train with intensity you can sustain.

    I recommend training biceps twice a week, choosing 3 to 4 exercises with 3 to 4 sets on each. Starting with the heaviest movement (4-8 reps) before lighter movements (12-20 reps)  can help to maximise strength and volume. If you're short on time try adding supersets or dropsets for a faster biceps blast.

    References

    Snarr, R. L. and Esco, M. R. (2013). 'Comparison of electromyographic activity when performing an inverted row with and without a suspension device', Journal of Exercise Physiology, 16 (6), pp. 51-58.

    Schoenfeld, B. (2011). 'The use of specialized training techniques to maximise muscle hypertrophy', Strength and Conditioning Journal, 33 (4), pp. 60-65.

    Hather, B. M., Tesch, P.A., Buchanan, P. and Dudley, G. A. (1991). 'Influence of eccentric actions on skeletal muscle adaptations to resistance training', Acta Physiologica Scandinavica, 143 (2), pp. 177-185.

    Youdas, J. W., Amundson, C. L., Cicero, K. S., Hahn, J. J., Harezlak, D. T. and Hollman, J. H. (2010). 'Surface electromyographic activation patterns and elbow joint motion during a pull-up, chin-up or perfect pull-up rotational exercise', Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24 (12), pp. 3404-3414.

     

  • No Pain No Gain? Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness Explained

    Ever had a killer session in the gym that's still killing you the next day? And the day after that? There's nothing quite like waking up with muscles too sore to move and dragging yourself around with serious DOMS is almost a workout in itself. After all, we know it's "no pain, no gain" but what does the science say? In this post I'll be taking a deeper look into the phenomenon of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness: what causes it, what you can do to relieve it and whether you can still make your gains without it.

    What causes post-workout DOMS?

    Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness is the pain, stiffness and strength loss you feel as a result of performing an unfamiliar eccentric exercise. This could be trying a new lift, load, rep scheme or technique that you don't often include in your routine which you body hasn't yet adapted to. As discussed previously, new training stimuli and increased volume are major keys to muscle growth so if you're making any changes chances are you'll get DOMS from time to time.

    When you lift you tear your microscopic muscle fibres (it sounds painful because it is!) but what does this mean on a deeper level? The eccentric exercise, the negative portion of each repetition, causes mechanical damage to the muscle cell membrane which triggers an inflammatory response. During this inflammatory response the chemical mediator prostaglandin is produced which activates pain receptors and leukotrienes, another chemical mediator, are also produced. This consequently attracts neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, to the scene which generates free radicals and exacerbates the damage already done. The result? Inflammation, pain, swelling and pain. Pain.

    NB: It's not your muscles that cause pain, it's actually the connective tissue surrounding them. Quit moaning.

    How can you treat DOMS?

    Warming up and cooling down are key components of any workout but there are a few extra things you can do to help ease the pain:

    • Massage
    • Active recovery exercise eg. light cardio, resistance band work and yoga
    • Foam rolling
    • (Although studies present mixed findings...) Supplementation with BCAAs

    Whilst studies have shown that these methods can reduce how sore you feel there is little effect on restoring muscle function. That being said, there's no reason to avoid training if you do have DOMS provided you can still perform exercises with correct technique. No excuses!

    Can you make gains without the pain?

    Of course you can! The severity of your DOMS and the level of pain you feel is influenced by so many different factors, even your genetics, so is unique to you. The soreness you feel is therefore not a reliable way to measure your progress and is not an accurate reflection of the amount of muscle damage done. Moreover whilst muscle damage is a driver of muscle hypertrophy it is not essential; you can increase "gainage" with just enough damage but not too much so work to find that sweet spot.

    Persistence, consistency and plasticity are your real keys to success. Pain along the way is possible, not a requirement, but definitely likely. Keep pushing folks!

    References

    Andersen, L. L., Jay, K., Andersen, C. H., Sundstrup, E., Topp, R. and Behm, D. G. (2013). 'Acute effects of massage or active exercise in relieving muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial', Journal of Strength and Conditioning, 27 (12), pp. 3352-3359.

    Cheung, K., Hume, P. A. and Maxwell, L. (2003). 'Delayed onset muscle soreness', Sports Medicine, 33 (12), pp. 145-164.

    Connelly, D. A., Sayers, S. P and McHugh, M. P. (2003). 'Treatement and prevention of delayed onset muscle soreness', The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17 (1), pp. 197-208.

    Flann, K. L, LaStayo, P. C., McClain, D. A., Hazel, M and Lindstedt, S. L. (2011). 'Muscle damage and muscle remodeling: no pain no gain?', Journal of Experimental Biology, 214 (4), pp. 674-679.

    Gulick, D. T. and Kimura, I. F. (1996). 'Delayed onset muscle soreness: what is it and how do we treat it?', Journal of Sports Rehabilitation, 5 (3), pp. 234-243.

    Hilbert, J. E., Sforzo, G. A. and Swensen T. (2003). 'The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness', Br J Sports Med, 37, pp. 72-75.

    Hubal, M. J. et al. (2010). 'CCL2 and CCR2 polymorphisms are associtaed with markers of exercise-induced skeletal muscle damage', Journal of Applied Physiology, 108 (6), pp. 1651-1658.

    Matsumoto, K., Koba, T., Hamada, K, Sakurai, M., Higuchi, T and Miyata, H. (2009). 'Branched-chain amino acid supplementation atteuates muscles soreness, muscle damage and inflammation during an intense training program', Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 49 (4), pp. 424-431.

    Nosaka, K., Newton, M. and Sacco, P. (2002). 'Delayed onset muscle soreness does not reflect the magnitude of eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage', Scandanavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 12 (6), pp. 337-346.

    Nosaka, K., Mawatari, K. and Sacco, P. (2006). 'Effects of amino acid supplementation on muscle soreness', International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 16 (6), pp. 620-635.

    Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). 'The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training', Journal of Strength and Conditioning, 24 (10), pp. 2857-2872.

    Shimomura, Y. et al. (2010). 'Branched-chain amino acid supplementation before squat exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness', International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 20 (3), pp. 236-244.

    Zainuddin, Z. Nosaka, K., Newton, M. and Sacco, P. (2005). 'Effects of massage on delayed-onset muscle soreness, swelling and recovery of muscle function', Journal of Athletic Training, 40 (3), pp. 173-180.

  • Inside-Out: Abs

    In this "Inside Out" mini series I'll be taking a more in-depth look at specific muscles and muscle groups. These articles will share all the anatomy essentials whilst showing you some of the most effective exercises you need in your routine.

    Abs. Abdominals. Six pack. Eight pack. Ten pack? Whether you can see them or not everybody has a fully functioning set of abdominal muscles, they hold your internal organs in place and keep you standing upright, but among the fitness community being able to see them has become the ultimate goal. Today I’ll be stripping things down to the core to share some inside knowledge and the most effective training methods for you to try.

    The abdominal muscles are more than just a superficial six pack – they are in fact a group of four muscles which work together to perform numerous different functions such as assistance during breathing and overall body stabilisation.

    • Transversus Adbdominis. This is the deepest muscle layer in the abdomen and is responsible for stabilising the spine and maintaining internal abdominal pressure.
    • Rectus Abdominis. This is the superficial muscle layer which runs from your ribs to the pubic bone and its characteristic bumps and ridges form the idolised six pack. Contracting this muscle causes flexion of the spine and tilting of the pelvis.
    • Internal Obliques. These are a pair of muscles located on either side of the rectus abdominis and underneath the external obliques.
    • External Obliques. A pair of superficial muscles located on either side of the rectus abdominis which together with the internal obliques beneath contract to cause rotation and lateral flexion of the spine.

    This foundation of abdominal anatomy can now be applied in designing a killer core workout with a much more targeted approach to training...

    Like any muscle the abdominals must be subject to regular resistance based training to cause hypertrophy, i.e. training with progressive overload. Here weighted movements will be far more effective than simple body-weight sit ups. It is widely believed that performing compound movements like squats, deadlifts and overhead presses with a heavy load will work your abs hard enough without need for isolation however this claim is not supported by physiological studies. Relative to isolated exercises, EMG recordings show little ab activation during these lifts; it's true that you need a strong and stable core but to actually "work" your abs you need to train them directly.

    What are the best ab exercises?

    These exercises, listed in no particular order, have been shown to have some of the highest abdominal activation so are great to add to your routine.

    1. Decline crunch (progress by holding weight)
    2. Leg raise (hanging, partner assisted, lying)
    3. Cable crunch
    4. Ab rollout
    5. Cable chop

    Abs can be trained with high frequency, up to 6 times per week, so choose a couple of these exercises (or their variations) to add to each session and rotate exercises through the week. Perform 3 or 4 sets of each with 6-12 reps for those with a heavier load and 15-30 reps for those with a lighter load.

    Abs are made in the kitchen too! As any fitness freak would know, an optimal body condition cannot be achieved only from hard work in the gym, but requires just as much hard work at home with a regimented diet. You can grow the biggest abdominal muscles in the world but no-one will ever be able to see them if they’re covered by a thick layer of fat! To lose fat and finally reveal your abs you will need to diet down by creating a calorie deficit. Beware of bloating! Certain foods and excess sodium may cause you to hold water or gas in your gut which will hide your abs from view.

    Train mean, eat clean, get lean!

    References

    Hildenbrand, K. and Noble, L. (2004). 'Abdominal muscle activity while performing trunk-flexion exercises using the ab roller, abslide, fitball and conventionally performed trunk curls', Journal of Athletic Training, 39(1), pp. 37-43.

    Youdas, J. W., Guck, B.R., Hebrink, R. R., Rugotzke, J. D., Madson, T. J. and Hollman, J. H. (2008). 'An electromyographic analysis of the ab-slide exercise, abdominal crunch, supine double leg thrust, and side bridge in healthy young adults: implications for rehabilitation profressionals', Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(6), pp. 1939-1946.

    Escamilla, R. F., Babb, E., Dewitt, R., Jew, P., Kelleher, P., Burnham, T., Busch, J., D'Anna, K., Mowbray, R. and Imamura, R. T. (2006). 'Electromyographic analysis of traditional and nontraditional abdominal exercises: implications for rehabilitation and training', Physical Therapy, 85(5), pp. 656-671.

    Aspe, R. R. and Swinton, P. A. (2014). 'Electromyographic and kinetic comparison of the back squat and overhead squat', Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(10), pp. 2827-2836.

  • Meal Timing Myths Destroyed

    In this article, I will be busting some old "bro-science" myths and sharing some of the most recent research to set things straight. Today's topic: meal timing.

    MEAL TIMING MYTH #1: ANYTHING YOU EAT AFTER 6PM TURNS TO FAT

    It is widely believed that if you eat food, carbohydrates in particular, later on in the evening that it is more likely to be stored as fat because you are not able to “burn it off” during the night. The logic seems to make sense but let’s be a little bit more objective: are 100 calories at 9am still 100 calories at 9pm? Yes, they are. To gain weight/fat you must be in a significant calorie surplus each day/week for a prolonged period of time; changes in bodyweight are determined by your overall energy balance (i.e. Intake vs expenditure). So really when you eat is up to you provided that you meet your calorie and macronutrient goals.

    Interestingly, there have been some studies to show that lean (as opposed to obese) individuals who train regularly have a higher metabolic rate during sleep than at rest during the day. Perhaps drifting off into sweet food-fuelled dreams might not be as bad for you as you thought!

    MEAL TIMING MYTH #2: YOU MUST EAT EVERY 2-3 HOURS FOR A FAST METABOLISM

    Some bodybuilders swear by the 6-meals-a-day rule because they believe that eating smaller meals more often will make their metabolism faster and increase fat loss. Unfortunately, there is no evidence to support such a claim. True enough, your metabolic rate does increase when you eat: the thermic effect of food is the small number of calories that you burn just by digesting a meal. However, the number of calories burned is not related to how often you eat but is in fact directly proportional to the total calories and macronutrient ratio. It’s important to note here that protein has a greater thermic effect than the other macronutrients. Therefore, provided that your daily overall calorie and macronutrient intake are the same, the total thermic effect of food doesn’t change. Once again, the way your meals are distributed is down to personal preference.

    MEAL TIMING MYTH #3: YOU MUST EAT EVERY 2-3 HOURS TO BUILD MORE MUSCLE

    Now things get interesting. This time those thick-skulled meat-heads got it right. Whilst weight loss and weight gain is primarily determined by your overall energy balance, if you’re aiming to build as much muscle as possible then getting your protein on time might make a little difference. When you eat and digest protein, an anabolic (muscle building) response is initiated. Muscle protein synthesis reaches a peak maximum rate before returning to baseline levels around 3 hours later. In order to maintain optimal muscle building conditions you need to keep spiking muscle protein synthesis with regular protein doses throughout the day. That’s all well and good but bear in mind – this robotic diet regime might be “optimal” for maximal muscle growth but in the grand scheme of things it makes such a small difference to your body composition and if it’s not “optimal” for you personally then it won’t work for you.

    MEAL TIMING MYTH #4: YOU MUST EAT PROTEIN WITHIN 1 HOUR OF WORKING OUT

    The infamous “anabolic window” strikes fear into the very bicep of a bodybuilder and makes them sprint out of the gym to chug a post-workout protein shake or Tupperware meal before they lose their “gains”. This ridiculous rule states that you must get a protein hit within one hour after finishing your workout if you want to maximise muscle protein synthesis. Again, there is no evidence to support this claim and again, when overall daily calorie and macronutrient intakes are equal there is no significant effect on body composition. The only danger of prolonging your post-workout meal is reaching a potentially “hangry” state whereby having depleted your energy stores through exercise, hunger levels increase and consequently have a negative effect on your mood and temperament.

    Take home message: the "BEST" diet is the one which you can stick to in the long term. Overall meal timing has little effect on overall body composition so build a meal plan which both allows you to train hard but also live your every day life without restriction.

    References

    Belko, A. Z. and Barbieri, T. F. (1987). ‘Effect of meal size and frequency on the thermic effect of food’, Nutrition Research, 7(3), pp. 237-242.

    Bellisle, F., McDevitt, R. and Prentice, A. M. (1997). ‘Meal frequency and energy balance’, British Journal of Nutrition, 77(S1), pp. S57-S70.

    Cameron, J. D., Cyr, M. J., & Doucet, E. (2010). ‘Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet’, British Journal of Nutrition, 103(08), pp. 1098-1101.

    Lennon, D. (2016). Researchers point to the optimal protein does, timing and distribution to maximise muscle. Available at: https://medium.com/@dannylennon/researchers-point-to-the-optimal-protein-dose-timing-distribution-to-maximize-muscle-e95c0ab570b0 (Accessed 16 July 2017).

    Mischler I, Vermorel M, Montaurier C, Mounier R, Pialoux V, Pequignot JM, Cottet-Emard JM, Coudert J, Fellmann N. (2003). ‘Prolonged daytime exercise repeated over 4 days increases sleeping heart rate and metabolic rate’, Can J Appl Physiol, 28(4), pp. 616-29.

    Moore, D. R., Robinson, M. J., Fry, J. L., Tang, J. E., Glover, E. I., Wilkinson, S. B., ... & Phillips, S. M. (2009). ‘Ingested protein dose response of muscle and albumin protein synthesis after resistance exercise in young men’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(1), pp. 161-168.

    Norton, L. E., Wilson, G. J., Layman, D. K., Moulton, C. J., & Garlick, P. J. (2012). ‘Protein distribution affects muscle mass based on differences in postprandial muscle protein synthesis and plasma leucine in rats’, Nutrition, 9(1), P23.

    Norton, L. E., Wilson, G. J., Layman, D. K., Moulton, C. J., & Garlick, P. J. (2012). ‘Leucine content of dietary proteins is a determinant of postprandial skeletal muscle protein synthesis in adult rats’, Nutrition & Metabolism, 9(1), 1.

    Schoenfeld, B. J., Aragon, A. A., & Krieger, J. W. (2015). ‘Effects of meal frequency on weight loss and body composition: a meta-analysis’, Nutrition Reviews, 73(2), pp. 69-82.

    Zhang K, Sun M, Werner P, Kovera AJ, Albu J, Pi-Sunyer FX, Boozer CN. (2002) ‘Sleeping metabolic rate in relation to body mass index and body composition’, Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord., 26(3), pp. 376-83.

  • 4 Tips To Stay Fit When You Travel

    "Sun's out guns out!"

    Despite what the Great British weather might have you think, it's summer time again and over the next few weeks lots of lucky people will be jetting off all over the world to find some blue skies and white sands.  It's the chance to finally show off the summer body you've been working so hard for! It can be easy to fall off track when you're a few hundred miles from home but fear not -  I've got 4 tips to help you stay in top shape when you travel...

    1. No gym? No problem!

    When you're travelling, getting to the gym definitely doesn't need to be a priority but if you're itching to get moving try a quick HIIT circuit for a full body blast you can do absolutely anywhere.

    5 rounds, 5 exercises, 30 seconds on each, 30 seconds rest between round

    • 1. High knees run on spot
    • 2. Squats with kicks
    • 3. Burpees
    • 4. Spiderman crunch
    • 5. Push up with rotation

    On the other hand, if you're lucky enough to have a hotel with a gym on site then there's no excuses! Get in an early morning sweat session before everyone else is even out of bed and before the it's too hot out so you can enjoy the rest of the day stress-free.

    NOTE: Don't forget about all the extra activity you'll be doing walking, swimming, shopping, cycling or even scuba diving. Keeping yourself busy and on the move is a great way to burn calories all day long.

    2. Stay hydrated

    Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is going to be essential no matter where you are. Aiming for a minimum of 2 litres a day but ideally more will help replace the water you lose when you sweat, cool you down and prevent dehydration. Drinking more water can also help to reduce bloating caused by flights and eating foods higher in calories, carbohydrate and sodium than you might otherwise be used to.

    Can you have a cocktail? How about a beer? Enjoying an alcoholic drink is of course allowed in moderation but beware of the calorie content! Alcohol itself contains 7 calories per gram but beers, ciders and wines will have additional carbs too. If you want to do some damage control choose clear spirit shots with diet soda mixers.

    3. Don't go overboard!

    No-one expects your nutrition to be spot-on whilst you're on holiday but "everything in moderation" is the most sensible approach here. Experience the local cuisine, enjoy a few treats here and there but keep an eye on your portion sizes and make the best choices you can. Think "lean and green" to make sure you're getting good quality protein and micronutrients from fresh fruits and vegetables and remember to ask for salad dressings on the side.

    4. Dani says "relax"

    One of my favourite phrases is "fitness is a lifestyle, not your whole life". Whether you workout or not and whether you have a salad or an ice-cream the choice is yours but whatever you do make sure you have FUN! Holidays are special times to spend with your friends and family where fitness shouldn't be the top of your list. Taking a break from a strict gym and diet routine might be just the thing your central nervous system needs to reset and refresh so you're ready to go again when you get home.

    Bon voyage and remember to stay safe!

  • Progressive Overload: How to keep the gains coming

    I'm not a superstitious person in the slightest but if your workout routine has got you feeling like déjà vu then sooner or later you'll find yourself stuck in a real rut. The same lifts on the same day, at the same time, at the same weight, for the same sets and the same reps...it's all the same! You're probably getting bored of this whole "fitness" thing but actually I don't blame you.

    Progress is change. If nothing is changing about what you're lifting, what you're eating or what you're doing each day then you are not making progress. Persistence and consistency is key but there needs to be CHALLENGE to drive that change, that progress.

    Today I'd like to add a third word to my motto. Persistence, consistency and PLASTICITY. Plasticity is your ability to change shape, to mould and adapt to the world that changes around you.

    Let's bring this idea into the gym: Whenever you increase the intensity of a workout, lift something heavier or try something new your body is forced to adapt to this new training stimulus. Your muscles fibres are initially broken down but are rebuilt bigger and stronger. Your brain, your central nervous system, learns to recruit more muscle fibres and motor units to make you perform the exercise stronger and more efficiently next time.

    That's great! We're getting bigger, stronger and it feels easier and easier every session. BUT! Here's the catch: studies have shown that after initial hypertrophy occurs, performing the same exercise at the same weight for the same reps and the same sets again and again actually doesn't use as many muscle fibres as it did as the first time.

    So what now? You need to program yourself for PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD.

    Progressive overload is the gradual increase of exercise induced stress on your brain and body. The aim is to session by session or week by week increase your training volume (weight x reps x sets) or increase the general intensity (eg. shorter rest periods, more time under tension, duration, endurance...). Making sure that you're always pushing yourself to progress like this is what will force you to adapt and grow with every workout whilst avoiding plateaus.

    If I have one top tip for you to take home today: TRACK YOUR PROGRESS. Progressive overload is essential to reaching your strength and physique goals but you'll never get there if you don't know where you're going. Keeping a note of the exercises, weights, sets and reps you do will give you a record to look back on and set targets for next time.

    If it doesn't challenge you then it doesn't change you!

    References

    Ebbeling, C.B. and Clarkson, P. M. (1989). 'Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage and Adaptation', Sports Medicine, 7(4), pp. 207-234

    Kraemer, W. J. and Ratamess, N. A. (2004). 'Fundamentals of Resistance Training: Progression and Exercise Prescription', American College of Sports Medicine, 36(4), pp. 674-688

    Sale, D. G. (1988). 'Neural adaptation to resistance training', Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 20(5), pp. 135-145

  • 5 Reasons Why You're Not Recovering After Your Workout

    In the fitness world there seems to be an "all or nothing" attitude.

    "Go hard or go home"

    "No pain no gain"

    "Team no days off"

    Motivating maybe but they also say "you can have too much of a good thing". Going balls-to-the-walls in the gym every day will leave you feeling beaten up, battered and sore. No-one can afford an injury and so in this article I'll be telling you why you're not recovering after your workouts and what you need to be doing.

    1. FORM COMES FIRST

    It seems trivial but it's imperative that you perform all of your exercises with correct form. DOMS and dull aches are common and completely normal but any persistent pains may be a sign that you're not doing something right. If in doubt, ask a personal trainer, a more knowledgeable lifter or consult a video online to help you get that technique right before you start racking up the plates.

    2. COOL IT DOWN

    Properly warming and up and cooling down is something you can't neglect! Active recovery after your workout like some light cardio and foam rolling will help your body temperature to adjust more gradually and remove the lactate accumulated in your blood during lifting. A short low intensity cardio session and stretching are things you might like to include on your rest days too to promote recovery.

     

    3. RE-HYDRATE

    When you exercise you sweat to cool yourself down so by the end of your session your body will find itself in a water deficit. Staying hydrated during and after your workout is important to keep things running smoothly. However when I say "stay hydrated" I don't just mean chugging water - re-hydration is replacing the electrolytes or salts you lose as well as water.  Choose a drink with extra electrolytes or add a pinch of salt to your post workout meal. Grenade Defend BCAAs have an added electrolyte blend of powdered coconut water, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate and magnesium citrate to keep you covered.

    4. RE-FEED

    Any type of resistance based training causes microscopic tears to your muscle fibres that must be repaired in order for them to grow back bigger and stronger and it's your post-workout meal that is going to give them the nutrients they need. Carbohydrates will replenish your glycogen stores and protein will help you to achieve a positive nitrogen balance to kick start anabolic reactions. In a severe calorie deficit or restrictive diet recovery is more difficult.

    5. REST

    Last but certainly not least, possibly the most important one of all, you need to REST! Taking at least one rest day from lifting per week if not more and making sure you are getting enough sleep each night is key. During rest your central nervous system can deload the stress of training and during sleep your body gets its hormones back in balance. Cortisol controls stress levels, leptin and ghrelin are linked to appetite and growth hormone helps you make those gains!

    Fitness is a jigsaw: training, nutrition, rest and recovery are all the little pieces that fit together perfectly. If just one piece is missing you'll never finish the picture and you'll never get the results you want. Don't forget to take care of yourself too!

    References

    Hausswirth, C. and Le Meur, Y. (2011). 'Physiological and nutritional aspects of post-exercise recovery',  Sports Medicine, 41(10), pp. 861-882

    Pearcey,  G. E. P. et al (2015). 'Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures', Journal of Athletic Training, 50(1), pp. 5 -13.

    Reilly, T. and Ekblom, B. (2005). 'The use of recovery methods post-exercise', Journal of Sports Science, 23(6),  pp. 619-627

  • Meet The Macronutrients Part 3: Fats

    In this mini series of articles, I will be giving an overview of each of the three macronutrients that form the base of every balanced diet: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Each have an important role to play in maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle so having some good nutrition know-how is the key to hitting your fitness goals.

    We’ve already covered protein in part 1, we've covered carbohydrates in part 2, and last but certainly not least today we're focusing on FAT.

    1. What are fats?

    Fats, also called lipids, are complex molecules with long tails of hydrocarbon chains. The structure of these chains determines whether the fat is saturated or unsaturated and consequently how they are digested and used by our bodies. Some polyunsaturated fatty acids are "essential" , for example Omega 3, and this means that they can't be made by our body and need to come from the foods we eat or by supplementation.

    2. Does eating fat make you fat?

    Absolutely not! Fat provides 9 calories per gram which makes it the most energy dense of all the macronutrients and eating even "small" size servings can still pack a hefty calorie punch. Fats should represent 20-35% of your total daily calories.  However, weight loss and weight gain is based on your overall energy balance i.e. the calories you eat and the calories you burn. Therefore decreasing the amount of fat in your diet is an effective way to decrease your total calorie intake but it is not the only factor to consider.

    3. What are the best sources of fat?

    Saturated fats found in meat, dairy and processed foods should be minimised; The healthiest sources of unsaturated fats come from whole foods like egg yolks, nuts, oily fish and avocado and these can contribute to lower cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. As always, enjoy each in moderation.

    References

    German, J. B. and Dillard, C. J. (2004). 'Saturated fats: what dietary intake?',  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 80(3), pp. 550-559.

    Gibney, M. J., Lanham-New, S. A., Cassidy, A. and Vorster, H. H. (2009). Introduction to human nutrition. 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell.

    Mozaffarian, D., Micha, R. and Wallace S. (2010). 'Effects on coronary heart disease of increasing polyunsaturated fat in place of saturated fat: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials', Public Library of Science [Online]. Available at: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000252 (Accessed: 12 June 2017).

    Shepherd, J., Packard, C. J., Grundy, S. M., Yehurun, D., Gotto Jr, A. M. and Taunton, O. D. (1980). 'Effects of saturated and polyunsaturated fat diets on the chemical composition and metabolism f low density lipoproteins in man', The Journal of Lipid Research, 21, pp. 91-99.

     

  • Meet The Macronutrients Part 2: Carbohydrates

    In this mini series of articles, I will be giving an overview of each of the three macronutrients that form the base of every balanced diet: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Each have an important role to play in maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle so having some good nutrition know-how is the key to hitting your fitness goals.

    We’ve already covered protein in part 1 (which you can read again here) but now it’s time to shift focus to the next macronutrient on the list: Carbohydrates.

    1. What are carbohydrates?

    Let’s start with what they are NOT. Carbohydrates are not the devil and not the fat-gaining-fear-mongering macronutrient that society deems them to be. Let’s break it down: “carbo – hydrate”. Carbohydrate is the umbrella term for all molecules made of just carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, 3 elements on the periodic table, not so terrifying now! These molecules are further classified by their size: small simple sugars like glucose and fructose; longer carbohydrate chains are called oligosaccharides; and the larger, more complex carbohydrates are polysaccharides like glycogen and starch. Each gram of carbohydrates provides 4 calories.

    2. Why do we need carbohydrates?

    Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body, they regulate blood glucose levels and are essential components in the synthesis of other molecules like DNA. The amount of carbohydrates we need in our diet is highly variable but not getting enough has been shown to decrease performance in strength training due to muscle glycogen depletion.

    3. Are all carbohydrates created equal?

    Consuming a variety of carbohydrates – sugars, starches and fibre – is the key to every balanced diet and maintaining good health.  Whilst weight gain and weight loss is first and foremost down to your overall energy balance (i.e. calories in vs calories out) it’s still important to choose quality sources. Whole grains,  fruits, vegetable and pulses provide additional fibre, vitamins and minerals; processed foods are less satiating and are lower in micronutrients. Therefore, these refined foods should represent a smaller portion of our daily diet but do not need to be eliminated completely. Everything in moderation!

    References

    Gibney, M. J., Lanham-New, S. A., Cassidy, A. and Vorster, H. H. (2009). Introduction to human nutrition. 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell.

    MacDougall, J. D., Ray, S., Sale, D. G., McCarntney, N., Lee, P. and Garner, S. (1999). ‘Muscle substrate utilization and lactate production’, Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 24(3), pp. 2019-215.

    Haff, G. G., Koch, A. J., Potteiger, J. A., Kuphal, K. E., Magee, L. M., Green, S. B. and Jakcic, J. J. (2000). ‘Carbohydrate supplementation attenuates glycogen loss during acute bouts of resistance exercise’, International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 10(3), pp. 326-339.

    Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (2017). Carbohydrates. Available at https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates, (Accessed: 09 June 2017).

     

     

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