12 Easy Steps for those Holiday Abs

holday-abs

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi everyone, spring has arrived and summer is on it’s way, bringing with it the promise of warm weather to come. We all know what happens when the weather warms up here or abroad. People have to put on the dreaded bathing suits.

Are you ready to bare it all on the beach? If not, no worries, there is still time. Follow these 12 steps to get your holiday abs ready:

Step One: Do Some Burpees. Can burpees really help flatten your abs? You bet. Incorporate a few minutes of burpees into your workouts to burn extra calories and tighten your core.

Here’s how to do a burpee: 1) Stand with feet shoulder width apart. 2) Drop to a squat with your hands on the ground. 3) Kick feet back while lowering into a push-up. 4) Return to squat position. 5) Jump up with arms overhead.

Step Two: Reduce Sodium. Did you know that salt causes water retention? Puffy skin is not going to make your abs look great in a bathing suit!

Take the time to pay attention to the sodium content of your food. Limit salt intake by not eating packaged foods and by putting down the salt shaker. Your six pack will thank you.

Step Three: Pick Up A Medicine Ball. Challenging the muscles of your core with resistance is a proven way to create a tighter midsection. The medicine ball is a wonderful tool to provide such resistance.

Do a sit-up holding a medicine ball at your chest then throw it to a partner as you raise your chest toward your knees; or hold a medicine ball with arms straight up in the air as you do crunches.

Step Four: Load Up On Fiber. Wonder how fiber could help you shed pounds and look great on the beach? It’s actually quite simple.

High fiber foods are nutrient dense and low in calories. This means that you’ll feel full from fewer calories, encouraging weight loss. Try these high fiber favorites: spinach, raspberries, pear (with skin), artichoke, peas, apples (with skin), broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and carrots. Check out the high-fiber recipe for pasta salad below.

Step Five: Crank Out Some V-Sits. One of the most problematic areas for women, when it comes to baring it all in a bathing suit, are the sides of your waist, or obliques. This is partly because the sides of your abs are not challenged with traditional crunches and sit-ups.

Enter the oblique V-Sits. Target that problematic, muffin-top area with this effective move. 1) Lie on your side with legs straight and hands behind your head. 2) Raise your arms and legs simultaneously, while exhaling and squeezing your obliques. 3) Repeat on the other side.

Step Six: Eat Lots Of Lean Protein. Don’t be afraid to eat when you are on the get-great-abs-quickly plan. It is really important that you are nourishing your body with quality, lean protein in order to develop that six-pack.

Lean protein helps support muscle growth while controlling blood sugar – all important factors when it come to washboard abs. Good sources of protein include: chicken breast, ground turkey, egg whites, and grilled fish.

Step Seven: Do Some Hanging Leg Raises. Now it’s time to target your lower abs, which are also a problem area for most. Traditional crunches and sit-ups neglect to strengthen and tighten the lower part of your abs, so a focused effort is required.

Hanging Leg Raises are one of the most effective ways to strengthen your abdominals. 1) Hang from pull-up bar with legs fully extended. 2) Exhale and drive your knees up toward your chest. 3) Inhale as you slowly lower your legs back down.

Step Eight: Stop Eating Sugar. If you only did this step, and skipped all the rest, your abs would look significantly flatter by summer. I can’t emphasize enough how quickly sugar will cover your hard earned stomach muscles with a soft layer of fat.

Yes, sugar tastes good, but indulging in it causes your body to store layers of fat. Enjoy fresh fruit, rather than refined sugar. Once you stop eating sugar your body will no longer crave it, so don’t give in to the initial cravings.

Step Nine: Do Some Mountain Climbers. Here’s an exercise that is intensely cardiovascular while also working your core. Add these to your routine to really whittle down your waistline.

Here’s how to do a Mountain Climber: 1) Get into push-up position. 2) Exhale as you alternately drive your knees in toward your chest, keeping your back flat.

Step Ten: Pass On The Grains. Sure, whole grains are being touted as essential to a healthy diet, but the truth is that you’ll do just fine without them for a while. Even the heartiest wholegrain bread will encourage fat storage, so put down the breadbasket as you prepare for beach season.

Grains are full of insulin-spiking carbohydrates – the perfect combination for fattening you up. Learn to love grain-free meals that center around lean meats and vegetables.

Step Eleven: Do Some Sprints. High intensity bursts of cardio are a proven way to burn away layers of fat, so incorporate sprints into your exercise routine. If you haven’t run for a while, take it easy as you start, and gradually increase the intensity of your sprints.

Run 60-90 second sprints in between resistance training sets to really kick your fat burning mechanism into high gear.

Step Twelve: Start A Professional Fitness Program. You wouldn’t try to file corporate tax returns without the assistance of your CPA, so why would you attempt to transform your body without the help of a professional? I’m here to get you into your ideal, fit body in the shortest amount of time possible. It’s what I do, and I’m good at it.

Contact me about my tummy flattening programs that will get you those washboard abs that you’re wishing for. Call or email today to get started.

Blueberries can cut your risk of diabetes

Blueberries cut risk of diabetes

I hope you’ve got off to a great start with your 2014 diet and fitness goals (of course that’s assuming you had some!). What actually constitutes a healthy diet can seem a bit of a minefield with plenty of contradicting advice and conflicting studies telling us that something is both good and bad for us.

One of the many diet related health risks we keep hearing about is type 2 diabetes. The statistics show that the modern diet is putting both children and adults at a much greater risk of developing diabetes than in previous generations. In Britain alone there are more than 3 million sufferers.

With this is mind it would be good to know if there are any foods that can help ward off diabetes. A team of researchers at Harvard University recently addressed this very question. They looked at three large studies which gathered data on 187,000 US nurses over a 12 year period. They were asked about their eating habits every 4 years and 6.5 percent of them developed diabetes over the course of the study. The analysis of the studies threw up some very interesting results on the health giving power of consuming fresh whole fruit.

in summary people on the study who ate three servings a week of:

1) Blueberries – had a 26% lower chance of developing diabetes.

2) Grapes – had a 12% reduced risk

3) Prunes – had a 11% reduced risk

4) Apples and Pears – had a 7% reduced risk

5) Bananas, Plums, Peaches, Apricots – had a slight reduction in risk

Even more enlightening and very much consistent with the recent health warning on increased sugar consumption in our diet, regularly drinking 3 servings of fruit juice a week actually increased the risk of diabetes by 8 per cent.

So what useful tips can you take from this. Basically I would recommend that you avoid fruit juice and eat whole fruits if you want to reduce your diabetes risk.

For example replacing three servings a week of fruit juice with three servings of blackberries would cut your risk of developing diabetes by 34%. Not a bad trade I think you’d agree!

Catch up soon.

Cheers

Jon

How to Get Fat Eating Subway

Did you know you can get fat eating Subway? It’s been over 10 years since Jared Fogle captured the world’s attention by losing over 200 pounds eating only at Subway. Here’s a recap of his famous story: Back in March of 1998 Jared was a college student with a problem. He weighed a staggering 425 pounds. That was a lot of weight for anyone to handle, let alone a busy college student. So one day Jared made the decision to change his life. He knew that his diet would need to change drastically, but also wanted to keep things simple so he could stick with it. A Subway restaurant near his apartment caught his eye. Sandwiches were healthier than burgers, right? His simple plan was to eat the same thing everyday:

  • Breakfast – coffee
  • Lunch – “I ate the 6-inch turkey, tons of vegetables, including hot peppers and a bit of spicy mustard.” He left off the mayonnaise and cheese and had a bag of Baked Lays® potato chips and a diet soft drink
  • Dinner – Footlong veggie sub – again no mayonnaise or cheese.

You probably know the rest of the story. His Subway diet, along with exercise, got Jared to drop over 200 pounds. He then became a spokesperson for Subway, sharing his story and inspiring millions of people. And suddenly Subway became synonymous with healthy eating. Have you looked at a Subway napkin? It lists 7 of their lighter sandwiches. Then at the bottom it compares these sandwiches to the Big Mac and the Whopper, burgers that hold 31 and 40 grams of fat, respectively. The Subway meal is much healthier, right? Well, yes and no. Go back to your napkin and read the small print. The 7 sandwiches listed are calculated with only bread, veggies and meat. So if you add cheese, mayonnaise, or oil (as most people do) then you need to recalculate the numbers. I’ve done the maths for you, with a 6″ Roasted Chicken Breast sandwich.

Menu Item Fat Calories
6″ Sandwich (bread, veggies and meat) 6 342
Cheddar Cheese (2 slices) 5 60
1 Tbl Mayonnaise 12 110
1 Tbl Oil 15 135
Totals: 38g Fat 647 Cal

Let’s not forget the side items that most people add to their meal…

Menu Item Fat Calories
Wild Rice with Chicken Soup 11 210
1oz Bag of SunChips 6 140
Chocolate Chip cookie 10 210
Totals: 65g Fat 1,207 Cal

Wow, just like that your ‘healthy’ Subway meal has 1,200 calories and 65 grams of fat! Sure, you probably don’t get all of the extras when you eat at Subway but that’s not the point. The point that I’d like you to take away from this is that you shouldn’t classify any restaurant as ‘healthy’. You could gain weight eating anywhere, just like you could lose weight eating anywhere. Jared’s weight loss happened when he drastically cut calories and started to exercise. He could have done this at any restaurant. In fact, last year a woman from Virginia claimed to have lost 75 pounds by eating exclusively at Starbucks. Your weight loss success all comes down to choices. Each day you make choices that directly influence your weight. Do you get mayonnaise on your sandwich? Will one cookie hurt? Will one missed workout really make a difference? You decide. At some point you reach your breaking point. For Jared it was 425 pounds. For you it might be when you buy the next size up. Or when you feel new aches and pains. Or when your doctor sits you down to have the talk. I know that sooner or later you will decide that you are worth it. You’ll decide that your health is important. You’ll decide that you deserve to look great. And you’ll dig down deep to do what it takes to achieve amazing results. I’m here to help you when you’re ready. Call or email today to get started on a fitness plan that will change your body and your life…just like Jared.

The Skinny on Childhood Obesity: Four Sweet Tips by Dr Lustig

Staying on the subject of  childhood obesity from my previous post there is a great video online by Dr Robert Lustig – Pediatric Endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco. In the video “The skinny on obesity” Dr. Lustig offers four excellent and useful tips to help you and your kids steer clear of excess sugar and overeating. Even if you don’t have kids, these healthy tips are for you too.

How to make your home safe for you and your child:

  1. Get rid of every sugar beverage in your house including fruit juice. There is no such thing as a good sugar beverage. Encourage your child to drink water when at home.
  2. Eat fibre rich carbohydrates to slow digestion and absorption thereby keeping insulin levels down.
  3. Wait 20 mins before allowing second portions. This is the time it takes for the brain to get the satiety signal.
  4. Buy your screen time with activity. If you are outside for an 30 minutes you can have 30 minutes of TV. If you ride your bike for an hour you get an hour of facebook time. No activity no screen time.

Here’s the words from the man himself….

 

Child Obesity

With the birth of my first child only 3 months away I am almost beside myself with excitement and of course not a little apprehension. The responsibility of being a father and parent is certain to be the most wonderful but challenging journey of my life.

Working in the fitness industry gives me an extra awareness of the impact of poor role models, bad diet and lack of exercise on the weight and health of our young children. A recently published national report stated there has been a four-fold increase in the number of children and teenagers admitted to hospital for obesity-related conditions in the last decade, with rates of obesity surgery also increasing, especially amongst teenage girls. Doctors say the UK has the highest rate of child obesity in Western Europe.

Childhood obesity has been linked with serious illnesses during childhood and an increased risk of developing conditions, such as type-2 diabetes, asthma and breathing difficulties during sleep. Furthermore national surveys in England suggest about 3 in 10, two-to-fifteen year-olds are overweight, while 14-20% are obese.

The upshot is we have a very serious problem that presents a huge child health risk and a massive burden on our health service. I recently had an enquiry from a concerned parent looking for personal training for their overweight son of only 11 years (which I politely turned down as I am not an expert in pre-adolescent fitness). Now whatever your thoughts are on the rights and wrongs of personal training for children (not discounting the expense!) there is definitely something amiss in the education and advice being given to many children about how best to be healthy.

So returning to my forthcoming fatherhood I feel a strong sense of responsibility to give my baby the healthiest diet possible. Obviously initially that will be out of my hands until solid food comes into play but what then?

The plan is to research the healthiest, whole food derived organic baby food in the market that doesn’t contain nasty food additives, flavourings and nutrient empty sugars or sugar alternatives such as high fructose corn syrup – that’s assuming such a thing exists. The main thing is to try and avoid giving my child an early sweet tooth so nutritious food doesn’t taste bland in comparison.

Within a few months of starting solid foods I’ll try and encourage a daily diet that includes a variety of whole foods each day such as meats, whole grains, vegetables (avoiding nitrates), fruits, eggs and fish. Generally, meats and vegetables contain more nutrients per serving than fruits or whole grains so more of the former would be preferable.

Of course this will all depend on my little one’s taste buds and inclination. I am sure my best intentions will go out the window the day I discover the only foods that will stop my baby crying are chocolate and Ice cream. But until that day I’m staying steadfastly optimistic!

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) safe or dangerous?

HIIT

This week I want to talk about high intensity interval training (HIIT) and look at it’s benefits and potential risks.

The Question of Body Fat?

I often ask my new clients, “who has less body fat, a Sprinter or a Marathon runner?” The answer I receive is almost always “a Marathon runner of course.”

The correct answer, however, is a sprinter. You can understand why they get it wrong, since they’ve been told over and over again that in order to burn fat you have to do continuous aerobic cardio work at a low to moderate intensity. This is in evidence at most gyms where the treadmill enthusiasts spend hours aimlessly running at low speeds but never seem to get any thinner. On the contrary sprinters do almost zero continuous aerobic work, yet they have less body-fat. How is this possible?

The reason is rooted in the intense nature of their training. The higher the intensity (i.e. “Intensity” is the percentage of the Maximum Heart Rate, not the intensity of effort) the more calories per minute burned during the workout. In addition (and more important,) caloric expenditure is increased for 24-48 hours post workout giving an amazing ‘after-burn’ effect.

Raising the Intensity of Your Training

The way for individuals to raise the intensity of their training is to do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Interval Training alternates bouts of high-intensity exercise with that of low to moderate-intensity exercise. Recent studies have shown that Interval Training is more effective for fat loss while improving both Aerobic and Anaerobic fitness. HIIT causes metabolic adaptations that enable you to use more fat as fuel under a variety of conditions. This will improve your athletic endurance as well as your fat-burning potential. HIIT also appears to limit muscle loss that can occur with weight loss, in comparison to traditional steady-state cardio exercise.

This is a winning formula whichever way you look at it, and is the reason many highly qualified fitness professionals, including myself, regularly incorporate HIIT in our clients training programmes at the appropriate time.

But is HIIT dangerous?

This would appear to be the case if you believe everything that the BBC’s Political Editor Andrew Marr has been saying in the press. In a recent interview he said the reason he suffered a massive stroke was due to a bout of high intensity interval training he did one evening on the rowing machine at his gym. This caused him to tear the carotid artery in his neck leading to an overnight brain bleed and his subsequent stroke. Now I have nothing against Andrew Marr personally and I certainly wish him well in his recovery, however I do feel he has jumped to an ill-informed conclusion and scared people unnecessarily.

Why do I think this? Well delving below the surface the facts just don’t support his view. Firstly he had two minor strokes, or “funny turns” as he called them, in the previous 6 months, which he had ignored. And while there are often no warning signs before a stroke, many strokes are preceded by these mini-ones called transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs). One in ten people who have a TIA will go on to have a much bigger stroke within 90 days if left untreated. So he was definitely already at risk even before he climbed on the rowing machine.

Secondly he admitted to being under a huge amount of stress and overworking in the lead up to the final stroke which may well have led to high blood pressure, a well-known risk factor for a stroke.

Thirdly there is no empirical evidence to support Marr’s view. This view is backed up by Exercise Scientist Professor Jamie Timmons of Loughborough University in a recent interview. He has studied the benefits of high intensity interval training in great detail – including lower cholesterol, stabilised blood sugar and regulated blood pressure if done regularly – and he says there is no evidence it can be harmful. “The fact that Marr had a stroke is extremely unfortunate but I see no evidence that it can be explained by the fact that he underwent short bouts of high-intensity exercise. While the two events may have broadly coincided, there is not a shred of evidence that they were causally linked”.

This is further supported by Peta Bee the health and fitness correspondent of the Times “Although the intense effort while rowing may have led him to tearing the carotid artery which takes blood into the brain, studies have shown that in susceptible people, even the slightest vigorous activity – such as sneezing or laughing – can trigger a rise in blood pressure that leads to a ruptured aneuryism. Marr, having had two previous minor strokes was treading a thin line”.

So it would be fair say that in Andrew Marr’s – very public case – the interval training was more than likely the straw that broke the camel’s back but not the underlying cause. He was, I might add, a regular gym goer and runner who was accustomed to training hard and by his own admission was in good shape physically. This would not normally place him in a high risk bracket for high intensity interval training. However, it must be emphasised that HIIT is a very demanding form of exercise and should only be used by people who are physically and cardiovascularly capable.

My Guidelines for safe HIIT

1) If you have any cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure or other health concerns (such as previous strokes) that limit your ability to exercise at very intense levels, or if you are relatively new to aerobic exercise or not already in good shape, HIIT is not for you.

2) Ensure you are at a good level of fitness before attempting HIIT. By this I mean you should be able to jog, swim or cycle continuously for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity (70-80% of your estimated maximum heart rate) without exhausting yourself or having problems.

3) Because HIIT is physically demanding, it’s important to gradually build up your interval training program so that your body adapts to the intensity. If you are unsure how do to this consult with a registered exercise professional.

4) Always warm up and cool down for at least ten minutes before and after each HIIT session.

5) Wear a heart rate monitor and never let your pulse rate exceed 95% of your maximum heart rate (estimated at 220 minus your age). This would be 162 bpm for a 50 year old. If your heart rate does not drop back down to about 70% of your max during recovery intervals, you may need to shorten your work intervals and/or lengthen your recovery intervals.

6) If you experience any chest pain or breathing difficulties during your HIIT workout, cool down immediately. (Don’t just stop or else blood can pool in your extremities and lightheadedness or faintness can occur

I hope you found this informative.

Cheers

How to resist sugar cravings

sugar cravings

This week I want to talk about how to resist sugar cravings, and more specifically share two very different recent personal experiences.

Sugar Craving No.1 – health

The first happened a few weeks ago when I woke up one morning feeling unwell. A few hours after eating breakfast I still felt distinctly off colour and realised that my porridge was still sitting heavy in my stomach. This feeling of fullness continued all the way to mid-afternoon and my appetite was non-existent. Over the next few days my symptoms started to recede and I gradually recovered my appetite and starting eating again. On day 4 I was feeling about 90% back to normal and then it happened…

I was driving to a client with no time to spare and I had an unbelievable urge to eat some chocolate. It was so strong that I couldn’t ignore it and did something I never ever do and pulled in at a corner shop and bought a Snickers Duo Bar.

Now for me this was a seismic event as I never buy chocolate and I haven’t bought a Snickers bar in well over 5 years (and that’s the honest truth). But boy did I love every one of the 511 calories in that chocolate bar. It was utter heaven. So what the blazes happened you may ask (as I did) well I can only assume that it was my body crying out for energy after a week of limited calories. It made me desire the most energy dense food it could make me think of. With the benefit of hindsight I can now see that the intense craving was for my own health. At the time I didn’t think at all, I just reacted.

Sugar Craving No.2 – pleasure

This leads me on to my second craving experience a few weeks later. My wife, Ali and I decided as a treat to bake a delicious coffee and walnut cake to enjoy after a long weekend walk. The plan was to have a slice with a cup of tea and the following day to gift the rest of the cake to my wife’s parents. Part one of our plan went very smoothly, as you can imagine. However the next morning in a rush to get off on time we forgot the cake and it was left sitting on the kitchen worktop as we drove off to Derbyshire!

Now I consider myself to be very self disciplined when it comes to my diet and I try and practice what I preach. That means no biscuits, cakes, puddings or sweets for at least 5 days out of 7 each week. However my main weapon is never to allow temptation in the house. I am lucky in this respect as Ali supports me most of the way and we don’t have kids to buy it for.

Anyway back to the damn cake…now more than happy to sit on the worktop under cling film taunting me with thoughts of “go on, you know you want a piece”. But I resisted and managed to hold off for a whole day thinking “I can beat this”. Wrong!

The next day I came back from a run in the freezing cold and couldn’t resist tucking into a large slice with a cup of tea. Afterwards feeling a little disappointed with myself, I consoled myself with the fact that I had burnt some calories on the run and that maybe it could be classed as a score draw. However worse was to come the next day when I came home for lunch, between clients, and ate a very healthy tuna salad. This would normally suffice but yet again the cake won, and whilst making a cup of tea I made the mistake of looking at it and before I knew it I had popped a substantial slice on my plate!

So what have I learned?

1) Food Cravings however they occur can be incredibly hard to resist. The urge almost possesses you and throws all rational thoughts out the window. And that’s even if you are normally a rock of self-control like me.

2) Some cravings are for your own benefit and you should listen to them. For example if your diet has been lacking in vegetables for a number of days then you may find that you have a desire for healthy green vegetables even if they are not your usual favourite. This is your body’s way of telling you that it is lacking certain nutrients. Cravings could also be because you have not been consuming enough calories due to an over strict diet or illness. In this case your body is urging you to eat calorie dense foods full of quick release energy,

3) Some cravings are nothing to do with your body’s nutrient requirements and more to do with boredom, mood, and dare I say it gluttony. So these are the cravings you should fight, the problem is that any clarity of thinking usually comes in hindsight when it’s all too late.

So what’s the solution?

I’m no expert (as you can see!) but personally I think the best way to resist sugar cravings is to remove temptation i.e. do not have them in the house in the first place. If you have a stash I would throw them in the bin or give them away.

If you can’t bring yourself to chuck them, or you have kids, then make sure you put them out of site and preferably in a place that requires an effort to get to. This could be a locked cupboard or a high shelf that requires a chair to reach. This should at least make you consciously think about what you are doing before you do it.

If treats can be grabbed quickly it can almost be a sub-conscious, automatic response just to grab a handful and stuff them into your mouth. So in summary you need to bring the craving into your consciousness and analyse it before acting or not acting upon it.

Cheers

Jon

How much sugar is in your fizzy drink?

Sugar in fizzy drinks

This week I want to talk about fizzy drinks and why you should definitely avoid them if you care about your health.

It appears that not only are fizzy drinks empty calories as they contain no protein, fibre or micronutrients they also contain an obscene amount of sugar in the form of fructose. Take a look at the top 4 offenders taken from an article in the Times newspaper last week:

1. Fanta (330ml can) – 9.6 teaspoons of sugar

2. 7Up (330ml can) – 8.6 teaspoons of sugar

3. Coca-Cola (330ml can) – 8.3 teaspoons of sugar

4. Sprite – (330ml can) – 8.25 teaspoons of sugar

This is a serious amount of sugar and calories to consume in one, easy serving. Even if you’re partial to a little sugar in your cup of tea, I’ve yet to meet a tradesman who puts nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar in their cuppa!

With an ever increasing number of type 2 diabetics being diagnosed amongst adults and scarily now children as well, cutting your sugar intake is a very sensible strategy. So if you want to stay slim and healthy then I would strongly advise that you do yourself a favour and stick to water, milk, tea or coffee.

Intermittent Fasting

The Diet everyone is talking about…

This week I want to talk about the new diet craze called Intermittent Fasting. If you haven’t heard about it, then one can only assume that you’ve been locked away in a safe house for the last 6 months!

All the fuss started when BBC2 aired a Horizon documentary in August last year which followed the doctor and broadcaster Michael Mosley on an intermittent fasting diet for 6 weeks – where he lost a stone, dropped his body fat by 25%, improved his cholesterol and reduced his blood glucose readings (from a borderline pre-diabetic position). This was pretty impressive stuff and it was backed up by research in America which had demonstrated equally impressive results over a number of trials. The subsequent interest was so phenomenal that Michael Mosley has just published a book on it called the ‘Fast Diet’, that has been flying off the shelves.

Is it just another fad diet?

Many diets have their time in the sun only as a result of desperate people making desperate choices to lose weight quickly. Most of these diets do help you lose weight but it’s mainly due to calorie restriction and malnourishment which only works until you start eating normal size meals again. The net result being you pile all the weight back on and usually more due to a metabolism that has slowed down to a snails pace from constant starvation.

The difference with the intermittent fasting approach is that it appears to be grounded in good science and is a diet that you could actually embrace as an ongoing lifestyle choice as opposed to the normal 6 week hellathon that you can’t wait to finish.

So how does it work?

The most popular version of the diet is termed the 5:2 approach which requires a normal eating approach (I’ll come back to this) for 5 days a week, interspersed with 2 non-consecutive ‘fasting days’ of 600 calories a day for men and 500 calories for women. The theory being that during the 24hr fasting days the body burns all of your body’s stored energy in the muscles and liver and then has to start burning your fat stores for energy – bingo you lose fat! However the genius in this approach is that the very next day you eat normally so your body has no need to fall into full ‘starvation mode’ where it slows everything down to conserve vital energy. This ensures your normal metabolic rate is maintained, one of the key factors in achieving fat loss and keeping it off.

Is it easy to do 2 fasting days a week?

In one word.. no! Trying to survive on 75% or less of your habitual daily calories is certainly a challenge for most. However much of the research suggests that once people have managed their first ‘fast’ day successfully, subsequent fast days appear to be easier both mentally and physically to successfully complete. It must also be said that managing just 2 days a week, however extreme, will for many be significantly easier that managing 5,6 or 7 days on a fad diet. Like anything this type of diet will appeal more to some than others, but the excellent results it can give are very persuasive.

What about the other 5 days?

Now in my opinion here’s the rub… just because you’ve been good for 2 days a week doesn’t give you free licence to eat whatever you want on the other 5 days. Eating copious amounts of processed and high sugar foods will undoubtedly negatively impact a lot of the health and fat loss benefits derived from the fasting days. To ensure against this I would recommend a ‘clean’ real food diet for the 5 non-fasting days. For more details of what this entails take a look at ‘The Real Food Challenge’ below.

Conclusion?

To sum up, I do believe there are a lot of health and weight loss benefits in following an intermittent fasting diet, but not in isolation. It needs to be layered onto a healthy ‘real food’ lifestyle and if used this way can be a very useful strategy for weight management and improved health.

Have a good, healthy week!

Cheers

Jon