We hear a lot about calories but what exactly is a calorie?

‘A calorie is a unit to measure heat.’ It is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree.

As you know I like to calorie count but it is not 100% accurate. Errors occur that are out of our control.

Calories can be measured in two ways:

1) Bomb calorimeter (measures calories in food)

2) Direct calorimeter (measures calories in humans)

Bomb calorimeter
Bomb calorimeter is a small oven-like box submerged in water. Food is placed in the oven and is electrified. While the food is burning up the heat of the water is increased and recorded.

This is not the most accurate test though for 2 reasons:

1) The human body doesn’t perform as consistently as the bomb calorimeter for a number of reasons. We could burn these calories slower or faster depending on our state i.e. Netflix and chill vs heavy resistance training.

2) Food companies are responsible for reporting how these foods perform. They report each individual component, and this is where the problem occurs – they don’t measure the calories directly but instead estimate them. All these small errors (estimates) can lead to bigger ones in total calories of the product.

Direct calorimeter
This testing involves a human inside the calorimeter rather than a food product (this calorimeter is about the size of a bedroom). The person could be in it from a few hours to a few days. The amount of heat produced from the body is measured directly.

This style of testing helps to create data which scientists use to formulate the average heat produced of a particular age, gender etc. while performing a particular test i.e. running, sleeping.

An issue with this though is that your metabolic rate could be different from the outside world compared to when you are in the calorimeter. This could be due to feeling anxious, nervous or tired, to name a few variables, which would effect results.

This is a very geeky post but it’s good to know what an actual calorie is and how foods get their calorie contents.

What’s the holdup?

Everyone has weaknesses. It can be ill health or some kind of injury. Some are more serious than others but nonetheless, some can affect our lives every day while other ones only affect us if we let it.

I work with a number of clients who have ill health or an old injury. If you saw them train though you probably couldn’t tell they had any issues. Why? Because the workouts are planned around these weaknesses, plus they have the right attitude. They could have an excuse not to do something but instead, they get the job done.

If you have an issue holding you back then you have to train smart. You might have to modify an exercise to suit you or maybe have to slow down at certain points during the session because of the issue playing up.

I have my own issues which I am prepared to deal with when I train. I have asthma and tendonitis in both my knees but thankfully these don’t really affect me. I have a plan in place to cope with these issues if they do arise and my training session can change depending on these issues, but it doesn’t affect the efficiency of the session.

The point of this post is that no one is perfect. We all have our own problems but usually, the excuses and your mindset hold you back more than the issue itself.

You can be of mixed emotions going to your first session, especially when it’s in a private setting.

First time clients usually worry about not being able to do something or think they have to try to impress me.

Truth is, you shouldn’t worry about any of it!

Your first session with me is an ice breaker as such. We try to find common ground to help improve your experience. Throughout the first session I assess your ability in a number of areas, such as range of motion in certain areas and any weaknesses that you might have.

This session is personalised depending on your consultation, plus you get a slightly longer recovery time so you can ask any questions you might have (usually concerning calories).

So if you are thinking of going to a personal trainer, go for it. You should know by the consultation if it’s the right match for you. Since I have started personal training I have never had anyone not come back after the first session.

So get out of your comfort zone and go for it!!!

1) Probably one that everyone falls for is the hype of supplements. Supplements are the last part of the jigsaw but smart advertising makes you feel like you must take x, y and z to get results. My wallet took a battering.

2) I wish I’d had a more structured programme to follow rather than jumping from one thing to another. Being consistent is key – don’t ditch your workout just because someone says something different. Get a book or use your phone to record your workouts and weights etc.

3) Having low confidence and thinking everyone is judging you in the gym. I remember feeling like this and I have clients that come to me with the same fear. Truth is they aren’t! Everyone is in the gym for the same reason, to improve themselves. Put the work in, don’t worry about the weight you are lifting, just focus on technique.

4) Don’t be scared to ask for help. Honestly the majority of people in the gym will be more than willing to help as they were probably in your position. This is also a big time saver.

5) I wish I’d had more knowledge about nutrition. Knowing what I do now, I would do things completely differently. You cannot out train a bad diet. You need a good understanding of calories and macronutrients to begin with. My advice is to buy a basic nutrition book to help improve your knowledge.

Hopefully you found this helpful.

1) This is your journey and no one else’s, so do not try and compare yourself to someone else. Everyone has different starting points and you don’t know what is/isn’t happening in their lives.

2) Do not panic if you go off track and overeat. No one’s perfect, do not beat yourself up about it. The journey is not all high fives and smiles, just focus on getting back on track.

3) Get your friends and family behind you. Let them know how important it is for you.

4) Reflect on where you started. You might not hit your targets every week. Some weeks your weight might stay the same. You will probably agree that you are in a better place that week than you were in previous weeks.

5) One size does not fit all. If you have a plan stick to it, do not jump from one thing to another as it over complicates everything. If a friend tells you that you need to do what they are doing and drink the stuff that they are drinking, I recommend that you turn and run.

Remember it’s all about you, it might sound selfish but sometimes you have to look after yourself before you can help others!

1) Create a calorie deficit
You will not lose weight without a calorie deficit. Create the deficit with a reduction of calories or by an increase in exercise.

2) Create a support group (family/friends)
Try to involve a family member or friend in losing weight with you. Creates competition and accountability, plus you have someone to give you a well needed kick when required.

3) Make just one change at a time
Take your time and don’t overwhelm yourself. You want to make the biggest change to your body with the least effort, plus you will have plenty of room for improvement when you start to plateau.

4) Increase exercise
Increase exercise by 30 mins a day if possible. This does not need to be in 1 block, you can spread it over 6 blocks of 5 minutes if you want.

5) Find a type of exercise you like
This can take a bit of trial and error but it’s great to know what you like and dislike. You might love HIIT training and weight training but dislike spin classes. If so, concentrate on your likes as it will keep motivation high.

6) Experiment with “healthy” foods
I promise just because it’s green it doesn’t mean it’s going to taste like grass. You can get more greens into your diet via smoothies or by mixing them into your sauces. Word of warning though, it is easier to over consume calories in liquid form.

7) Have ‘go to’ foods for snacks/meals
This is basically a back up plan for when life isn’t running as smoothly as we thought it might. My back ups are usually rice, mince and sugarsnaps for a meal and a protein bar as a snack.

8) Meal Prep
Simple but effective. Prep 3 days in advance, it takes away decision making i.e. What to have for lunch?

9) Increase water intake
Please don’t drown yourself. Take your time with this one, don’t just jump up to drinking 3-4 litres of water a day. If you only drink half a litre then progress up to 1 litre, then to 1.5 litres and so on.

10) Don’t confuse thirst with hunger
If you feel like having a snack have a glass of water beforehand to see if it cures your hunger.

11) Plan guilt free meals/snacks
Plan ahead of time e.g. if you are going out for a meal then you can reduce portion size of breakfast or lunch to keep everything in check. This also keeps you in a positive mindset so you don’t think you are cheating on your diet.

12) Portion control
This is essential if you are not measuring out your food. Use the hand measuring approach to keep it quick and simple.

13) Keep a food diary
Makes you more self-aware of what you eat. Refreshing your memory of what you had today might put you off your next snack. If you have had a great week of eating you can look back on it so you can replicate it for weeks ahead.

14) Use multiple assessment tools
Don’t just rely on scales as they can be unreliable for a number of reasons, check this article for reasons why:http://jmcchealthandfitness.co…
I recommend before photos, skin-fold callipers and measurements.

15) Create a shopping list
This is a money saver and stops those impulse buys. We have all been there when our eye catches Oreo thins for 54p (just me?). Create the shopping list on your phone so you can re-use it.

16) Avoid shopping on an empty stomach
This is where poor decision making comes into play. Buying more items then we need, meaning more foods on our shelves that can lead to over eating and more temptation.

17) Improve quality of sleep (avoids poor decision making)
If we are tired we are more likely to take shortcuts and make poor decisions. One major one is skipping the gym because we’re too tired. So get some quality sleep and try and remove blue LEDS from your room as it can affect you getting to sleep.

18) Create simple but achievable goals
Keep the goals simple! Use the classic SMART principle:
Specific,
Measurable,
Attainable,
Realistic,
Tangible.

19) Go back to basics
Sometimes we over analyse one small aspect and forget to look at the bigger picture. The first step is always to check that your calories are in check, from that assess macro-nutrients i.e. protein, carbs and fats. If these are both in check then you can start to dive into the more complex issues.

20) Don’t give up! (Especially if weight loss plateaus)
Fat loss isn’t easy, it can take time. Frustration usually creeps in when the weight doesn’t move on the scales. Don’t give up, assess your week and be honest with yourself. You didn’t put on all that weight overnight so don’t expect to lose it overnight.

Don’t be scared to add variety to your workouts, whether it be one you have created on your own or if you are following one that you got online. If you are doing the same thing over and over for months on end then variety will help to give you a new lease of life on the gym floor. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change, just simply adding a new stimulus to your workout can make it feel completely different.

Experiment with different pieces of equipment and become accustomed to them (this doesn’t mean have a workout set up that just involves jumping from one resistance machine to another though). Try adding resistance bands to your workout i.e. with dumbell press or even a resistance band on its own can be a game changer (just ask some of my clients).
The majority of gyms now have suspension training which adds another dimension to the gym floor. Rather than finishing a session with press ups you might want to try and add suspension press ups (if you have never tried them before then I suggest you add them to the beginning of the workout).

Here are some additional aspects you might want to consider to change things up a bit:
Rep range

  • Sets
  • Tempo of movement
  • Isometric holds
  • Attachments
  • Resistance Machines
  • Free weights
  • Other equipment (as mentioned above)

Basically, you don’t have to do fancy workouts to get great results but sometimes adding something new to your workout can help with continuous progression.

If you have a certain social media platform I’m sure recently you have seen the trend of comparing meals against each other, usually a healthy option vs an unhealthy option where calories, proteins, fats, and carbs are compared.

These posts are very interesting and they do promote a more flexible diet approach which I am all for, but there is an aspect that is not covered in these posts. Yes, you could eat the unhealthy meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and still fit in your macros but what effect would it have on you?

Would you start to feel lethargic?

Would your performance suffer?

Would you lack energy?

Would they make you feel fulfilled? Ease Hunger?

Would you be getting all your required vitamins/ minerals?

Could they be replaced with less caloric foods such as a piece of fruit?

Be mindful of what you eat and what effect it might have on your body. Of course, you can have the bad option occasionally but consistency is key.

Here are some quick tips you should consider when using a calorie counting app:

1) You might underestimate the amount of food you are consuming, this could be due to selecting an item with the wrong nutritional value. These apps have human error as the majority of foods inserted into the database are done by the general public. So the food will have the calories inserted but the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) are left blank. Do not use these items, double check every item has the nutritional values inserted.

2) Keep track of the calories that you are trying to stick to, some phones will calculate your exercise and give you extra calories without warning you. This can play havoc if you have been given specific calories that take into account your exercise.

3) If you are only starting or if your diet needs to be reassessed, ensure that you are taking everything into account. People seem to overlook oils that they are cooking with, depending on the product you use this could be making all the difference especially at the end of the day when you have reached your fat target without considering them.

4) Do not get hung up on a certain aspect of your diet and lose focus on the bigger picture. Here is my ranking in order of importance: 1) Calories 2) Protein 3) Fats 4) Carbohydrates 5) Fibre.

5) You have to put in manually the amount of food you are having per meal so kitchen scales are essential. When you are more aware of portion control you will be able to estimate food quantities more accurately. The majority of products when scanned will have a serving size of 100g so you can work around that.

I purchased a Fitbit about a month ago and I am completely addicted to it.

Why am I addicted to it?

It’s like a game. I’m not saying it has the addiction levels of Football Manager for example but having goals to hit amps up the experience for me. I was listening to a podcast by Jamie Alderton and he describes that most things are like playing a game, which is very true. I have been going on extra walks to try and get more steps in or to try and burn more calories.

Competing against myself amused me for the first two weeks then I was invited into a Weekend Warrior where you compete against other people, the winner is the person with the most steps walked during the weekend. This was awesome and added a whole new level as I love competing and forced me to up my game. The Weekend Warrior then turned into Workweek Hustle which is still going strong and guess what I still haven’t won it.

If you know people with a Fitbit and you are very competitive then I think it could be a worthy investment plus the tracking of sleep as well is mind blowing. On a final note, I am heading to Rome for 3 days and I don’t know if I’m more excited to see the place or see how many steps I can get in.