Are New Years resolutions any use?

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There is no doubt that after a few weeks of stuffing yourself, lazing about and not training, most people feel unfit, unhealthy and a little bit fatter and less muscular! What better time is there to help motivate you back into the gym or the gym for the first time, than January. This year, I've decided to list my favourite tips that play a big part in helping you achieve your goals and make you feel super healthy. I hope they help make this year your fittest.

Training sensibly
You need to train regularly, at least 3 days a week, i.e. Mon, Wed, Fri. Training only twice is not really going to let you see much benefit. If you can manage an extra few days doing cardio, cycling, walking, etc… you'll be able to lose fat and get fitter even quicker. You must incorporate weights into your training routine, whatever your goal, weight training builds a tight, toned and attractive physique (male or female) that burns fatter quicker and easier. Adjust your lifestyle to ensure you can go to the gym or train when you plan. Once you get into the habit of missing training, you're not going to notice any changes.

Regular small meals
To put your body in a state of positive nitrogen balance (constant recovery and repair) your body needs small amounts of carbohydrates and protein every 3 hours, even if you are dieting. This will create a fast metabolism and constant energy throughout the day. By eating only 1-2 meals daily, your body's metabolism slows down and you'll burn up valuable muscle tissue for energy and nutrients.

Get enough sleep
For optimum recovery your body requires a minimum of 7-8 hours sleep every night. During deep sleep (REM) your body releases growth hormone, which dramatically helps recovery and ensures optimum testosterone levels. Did you know that a famous research study took a group of men and subjected them to increasingly reduced levels of sleep? Those with 6 hours of sleep, had 25% less testosterone and those with 4 hours of sleep for a few days had the same levels of testosterone as a castrated male! So, if you can't wake up in the morning without an alarm clock, you're not getting enough sleep. Expect your training and results to suffer!

Drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana
Lowers testosterone for up to 72 hours and increases estrogen levels. If you want better results from your training, reduce or stop your intake of these substances. To your body, Alcohol is a useless nutrient, that is a poor energy provider and is easily stored as fat - hence the 'beer belly'. Alcohol also lowers protein synthesis by 42% and reduces recovery, performance and dehydrates you. Did you know that each pint of beer has 250 calories, the same as a chocolate bar? Makes you think what happens to all those calories, when you have 10 plus pints on the weekend?

Supplements are not magic pills
Supplements can't replace the work of hard training; supplements are not magic pills and only provide the support your body needs, once you have stimulated it with intense training. Regular training is required for consistent results, a minimum of 3 times a week is essential. Protein powders are the building blocks of muscle. If you don't consume enough quality protein on training and rest days, your lean muscle, strength, recovery and performance will dramatically suffer or you just won't make the gains you want. Research shows us we need 1.5-2 gms of protein per kg of bodyweight, i.e. (an 80kg person needs 120-160gms of protein per day) A quality protein powder, such as Promax or Progain (a weight gainer) will achieve these goals for you.

Stick to complex carbohydrates, not simple sugars
Simple sugars (cola, soft drinks, cakes, biscuits, sugar, sweets, etc…) raise blood sugar levels excessively; this causes the hormone insulin to be secreted, causing the excess sugar in your blood to be stored as fat. Complex carbs eaten in moderation and smaller portions than normal (Pasta, rice (both preferably brown), porridge oats, cereals, vegetables, etc..) provide sustained energy and are least likely to convert to body fat.

Bread fanatic?
If you're like me, you may love bread. For some people eating toast, munching on bread, rolls and having 5 slices with butter before a meal at a restaurant is just a way of life. But it's also a way to pack on that belly fat bit by bit each month until you wondered what happened. Try really cutting down on bread this year. Limit yourself to just 2 pieces of toast and a low calorie spread at breakfast (marmite?) and tell the waiter to remove the bread when you go out to dinner – your waist will thank you.

Have you a lactose intolerance?
Dairy products have considerable research showing their detrimental effects on health. Dairy products contain lactose which is a milk sugar that your body finds very hard to digest after around 4 years of age. Lactose causes increased stomach upsets, flatulence, mucus, nasal problems, spots, fatigue and general side effects. Reducing your intake of milk, cheese, yoghurts, etc… will benefit your health dramatically. Many protein powder or high protein diets can cause high intakes of skimmed milk powders, so if you want to eat extra protein whilst feeling healthy and not suffering from wind or stomach upsets, stick to a whey protein only like Promax, fish and lean meats.

Avoid Trans-fats
Avoid margarine. Yes, once the requirement for healthy living is now deemed not healthy at all. Nearly all margarines contain specially heated fats, known as trans-fat. These inhibit the enzymes which break down bodyfat in the body, resulting in increased fat storage. Research has shown them to cause far greater abdominal fat! If you want to use such a spread on your toast, then use butter it's healthier and cheaper.

Be aware of dried fruit
Most dried fruit has been preserved in sulphur to help keep them a bright appealing colour, but which can also cause constipation and stomach upsets. The fructose (fruit sugar) has also converted to glucose and therefore apart from the fibre benefits are nothing more than highly concentrated sugar snacks, which increase calories and fat storage.

Be aware of too much caffeine - coffee and cola
Caffeine products before a training session can be great before to boost energy, such as a Red Bull or a product called Viper Extreme, but regular 'hits' during the day can quickly cause anxiety and a kind of nervous energy. Caffeine in high amounts can be quite addictive, with people suffering headaches when coming off for a few days. If you like a strong coffee, save this for first thing in the morning (with some food!), followed by decaf during the day. If you must have cola, try a decaf diet version, as the normal versions have considerable sugar in them- not good for your waist. Caffeine also impairs the absorption of many nutrients including; iron and zinc, which means that high coffee consumption can hinder your performance and energy levels. On a good note, new research shows that people drinking several cups of black tea during the day were less stressed and had lower cortisol levels (the muscle wasting hormone), which is very beneficial to anyone building muscle. Those drinking several cups of Green tea will benefit from its highly researched fat burning effects, whilst those drinking peppermint tea found it very effective for any digestive issues, nausea, etc…

Fat doesn't make you fat
A myth spread by the food industry is that high fat foods, make you fat, which is just not true. Too many calories, whether its carbs, protein or fat – will put on excess weight. Obviously you can eat more food, if it has less fat in it, i.e.: two grilled chicken breasts, contains the same calories as one bread crumbed fried version. However, fat is an essential nutrient for maintaining health and good hormone production. Some healthy fats, such as essential fatty acids (EFA's) are effective fat burners, whilst healthy fats, such as Omega 3 & 6 can reduce cholesterol and maintain a healthy heart. You could also start taking a well research healthy fat called CLA which has interesting research showing how it can help build lean muscle, whilst reducing body fat. One bit of advice – just lay off the doner kebabs, fish & chips and greasy pizzas – that's bad fat!

Reduce or avoid fruit juices
Freshly squeezed fruit juices, smoothies or even concentrated bottled versions taken after training are enjoyable and contains useful sugars (carbs) to replace lost glycogen from your hard worked muscles and aid recovery. But once they've been sitting for a few weeks in their cartons, they convert to simple sugars and become nothing more than plain sugar with a bit of flavouring and colouring, drank during the day as a so called 'healthy drink' is highly effective at getting fat. I know many people that regularly consume fruit juices thinking they are healthy, not being aware that the continued high calorie, high sugar content is what is preventing them from losing weight.

Headache?
If all this new years resolution advice and actions is giving you a headache- here's a great tip. New research has shown that those suffering from migraines or painful headaches, found considerable relief, comparative to the OTC drug acetaminophen, when applying peppermint oil and ethanol (peppermint extract) to their foreheads.

Following the above tips in conjunction with a good diet and training routine will dramatically aid your physique goals and health this year – enjoy.

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David   |.
Some fantastic ideas to get back on track! I find it really hard to get back
into eating right and routine - but I don't think I'm on my own, thanks.
Chris AKA Cy   |.
Hi I'd like to wish all of you a Happy and HEALTHY NEW YEAR. To add to the bread
item, I find I am almost addicted to it. Eating bread however makes me feel
bloated and lethargic, and sometimes constipated. The bread I do eat is always
Wholemeal with added Linseed and whole grains so it is supposed to be healthy.
I am 60 in a few days time and find getting good sleep a problem, I get up for
the loo 6 or more time a night, so this affects the way I feel when I go to the
gym. Is there anyone out there with similar problems and have they found a
solution?
polly   |.
I am currently studying diet and nutrition at university and was pleased to find
your article follows the scientific principles of weight loss and a healthy diet
that we are being taught. Honest and to the point,without any 'miracle' answers!
Kev   |.
Chris, i had the same problem regarding the sleep issues, i always get at least
8 hours sleep but was up several times during the night for loo stops etc, i
generally go to the gym in the evenings where im probably consuming at least 2
litres of water which doesnt help the cause but i found taking flaxseed oil
before i go to bed makes me sleep like a baby for a constant 8 hours with no
toilet breaks! its also an essential fatty acid as well! its a win-win!
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