Coping with the Festivities

‘Tis the season to be jolly, spend time with your loved ones, unwrap gifts and most importantly take a few days off counting macros and eat to your hearts content. Well that is what I, like most, will be doing this Christmas holiday (mostly due to the fact that I’m trying to follow a lean bulk for the next few months). However, this festive period may also mark the start of a cutting or dieting phase for some as they look to get in shape and lean in time for the summer holidays. After all, it is much more realistic to start now than to start in the late weeks of May.

For these (unlucky) few, especially for those doing it for the first time, these holidays may seem quite disastrous. But alas, fear not, for Santa Manivannan has you covered. Here a three strategies you can use to help you get through this and future holidays without beating yourself upa few days later about the extra weight you’ve put on.

1. Prepare Beforehand

Arguably the most obvious and simplest strategy is to prepare for the massive cheat day(s) that lies ahead by preparing your diet or overall calorie intake/expenditure the day before. This can vary from consuming a set amount less than normal or working out and being more active than normal (often via a few extra minutes doing cardio). Then when it comes to the day itself, you can sit back and enjoy the meal with the feeling that you’ve “earnt” it. However, the biggest problem with this is, if you’re like me, you tend to overestimate things and while this may seem like a good thing, you can often end up losing quite a bit of muscle with the fat by being in an extreme calorie deficit.

2. Cook Yourself

One for the culinary experts. If you are in control of your food and what/how much you consume, what’s stopping you from being able to continue dieting whilst pigging out on a traditional turkey?! However, be warned, what’s to say your guests are enjoying the vegetables and the lack of a Christmas pudding with custard as much as you are.

3. Let it Go

My personal favourite. In my honest opinion, one or two days of letting yourself go and enjoying the company of family and friends every now and then will not set you back too much. As great an impact bodybuilding and fitness may have on me, there is no point stressing out over counting macros when the time could have been spent enjoying yourself with loved ones. And if the added weight will affect you mentally, the consequences can be dealt with the few days after.

So there you have it, my own two cents on dieting down during the holidays. Now obviously there are a number of factors that would come into play, for example whether or not you’ve had experience dieting down before and how long you’re holiday/cheat day was planned for. Having tried two out of the three above options (unfortunately my family, along with a few friends, don’t trust my expert cooking), I definitely know which I prefer, and as I write this post, I weigh currently three kilos over my lean bulk target for this week!

Happy Holidays and may the grind continue soon after!

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Dieting Tips and Tricks: Vol. 2 Meal Timing

Dieting. Arguably the most dreaded word associated with bodybuilding and fitness. So many people want to lose the pounds but are unwilling to give up the juicy hamburger and fries pick-up after work. Nor the curry from the local Indian takeout that has become a Saturday night staple in our diet. Nor the tub of ice cream you’re probably gorging on as you read this! But don’t fret, for I was in this situation too! The biggest issue I faced when it came to starting my diet last January was misinformation. It’s often all too easy to get caught up with the pseudoscience constantly floating around the gym. Claims such as “Aim for 6-8 meals a day” and “chicken, spinach and rice only man” are all too common. You know they sound way too authoritarian, but why would you ever doubt anything that comes out of a personal trainer’s mouth? Or even the “knowledge” passed down from the biggest guy at the gym, whom you’re sure takes something else along with those “10,000 calories a day”. I for sure am definitely not going to claim that I know everything regarding nutrition, but here’s my take on dieting and its associated myths.

6-8 MEALS A DAY

I, myself, as I’m sure a lot of you guys reading this have all been told at one point that in order to lose weight (and even gain mass) it’s ideal to have small meals 6-8 times a day, every 2-3 hours. As a food lover, sure that is something I would be willing to do, but as a University student with a packed timetable, on top of finding time to workout, running a blog page and recently getting a job, it seems way too much of an inconvenience. And that’s even considering taking time to prepare meals beforehand. So what’s the logic behind this claim?

THE THERMOGENIC EFFECT

If you look online or even go the extra mile and look through published articles, you’ll find many long-winded explanations and definitions, but in short it is the amount of calories “spent” digesting the meals we consume. The basis of having 6-8 meals a day is that having more meals per day means burning more calories actually digesting the food. But the major flaw in this is that the thermogenic effect works as a proportion of what we consume, with it mostly just being around 10% of a person’s total calorie consumption (does vary between carbohydrates, fats and proteins calorie sources). If you’re lost, do not worry, it makes more sense using an example.

Let’s say we compare two wannabe Ronnie Colemans. one who follows the 6 meals a day rule and the other who just eats whenever he wants, often having just 3 meals a day. If we assume they both have the same amount of calories each day, for example around 3000 calories with person A splitting it into 6* 500 meals a day and B splitting it into 3* 1000 meals…

Person A uses up 50 calories a meal (10% of 500), which adds up to 300 meals a day (50*6)

Person B uses up 100 calories a meal (10% of 1000), which adds up to 300 meals a day (100*3)

SO WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

At the end of the day, the amount of calories you have (and if you want to get into the fine detail, the sources of those calories) are what ultimately decide the calories expenditure on its digestion. In terms of meal timing and frequency, pick whatever suits you. For me, I like to stick to having three meals; a shake and a cup of coffee before my workout, a bowl of oatmeal and a banana after a day of lectures and a final HEAVY meal whilst I sit back and kick it with my TV at the end of the day. The great thing about this is you will be able to not compromise much in terms of living your life and carrying out whatever activities you desire whilst still enjoying the same amount of weight lost (for those of you cutting/dieting) as the deluded/misinformed Joe who swears by the “6-8” rule. WIN!

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Bodybuilding on a Budget

Economics and Bodybuilding. As polar as they may seem, the reality is the two are a lot more closely linked than first thought. The costs do not just start and end with the monthly gym membership fee. The world of supplements, maintaining nutrition and the “compulsory” tight-fitting gym apparel amount to financial pain for the unlucky ones. As a student, I too was in that situation; in my second year at university, it was not rare to see the weekly grocery shop amount to over £100. To put that into perspective, it matched the grocery shop for the other four members that make up my family! To be honest, it would not surprise me too much to think of bodybuilding as one of the most expensive sporting hobbies.

Yet whilst looking at the demographics of you, my blog readers, the vast majority fall within the same age category as myself. And to those who don’t: “Every little helps”. Since second year to today, I have managed to cut my expenses on bodybuilding to just over £100 a month! And that covers supplements, grocery shops and my £20 gym membership. So since sharing is caring, I have decided to pass on some tips and tricks on saving the pounds that hopefully you can utilise.

Stick to the essentials

In a sport like bodybuilding it is often easy to get overwhelmed at first on choosing the “essentials”. Supplement companies, like any other company, will use any technique possible to get you to purchase their product, from sponsoring influential bodybuilding athletes to marketing products based on information from a proportionally small number of scientific studies. The truth is they’re SUPPLEMENT companies for a reason; the products they provide often are not needed and have minimal (if any) effect on your progress. Having fallen for this trap, I have gone from purchasing all types of products with fancy names to just using multivitamins, whey protein and creatine. In fact, out of the three, creatine can be argued as being the most beneficial and I only take the other two simply due to convenience. I could decide to get my proteins wholly from chicken and my vitamins from just fruit and vegetables, but in accordance with a packed timetable, that’s near impossible.

Likewise, many people get caught up with brand image. I can not begin to count the number of times I’ve been asked by friends to decide between two brands and name the differences. The difference that may exist between a top of the range brand to a slightly cheaper one, like Myprotein, will be have been claimed to significantly enhance performance, but in reality this is far from true. You can almost guarantee that if a supermarket chain was to make their own value brand of protein shake, I’d be one of the first in line to get them. Besides, the purpose of buying the shake was to provide a source of protein, so why pay an extortionate amount more for the micronutrients, which you’d be able to obtain from multivitamin tablets and food sources for a fraction of the cost?!

Look around

You would have thought that by saving up on the money previously spent on nights out in first year, my finances would have been much better off after getting involved in bodybuilding. But with such an expensive weekly shop, a large proportion of my student loan was gone by the end of term. But by looking elsewhere outside conventional supermarkets I have managed to live well off what was my weekly budget to what is now my monthly budget, with minimal changes in my diet and way of eating. A couple of months ago, I came across Muscle Food via a YouTube ad ( http://www.musclefood.com/hidden/?code=JM80618 ). And boy am I glad I did! Now imagine being able to get 5kg of chicken for just £25 and then on top being offered free delivery for orders over £75! Unfortunately for my flat mates, the fridge has been fully stocked up! Best thing is the quality matches, if not trumps, that of the well-known supermarkets.

These are just some of the ways I have managed to reduce my budget spent on bodybuilding. At the end of the day, bodybuilding is just a hobby for me, as it is for many of you, and should not be something that we have to hustle on the streets over, just to afford that extra month of membership at your local gym. I hope there’s a couple of pointers and lessons I have learnt and shared, that hopefully can help you guys in the future!


It’s only been a month since I started this fitness blog but since then I’ve already achieved posts getting up to 400 views each with blog readers coming from a wide variety of backgrounds (from the US to India).

This has not gone unnoticed and I have recently become affiliated with the aforementioned MuscleFood: an online store that specialises in providing domestic and exotic meats, from chicken breasts to crocodile meat, for low prices! Ideal for students like myself.

As a token of appreciation and to as a way of saying thank you for the continued support, I have managed to hook up a reference code, that once used gets you freebies (either chicken breasts, protein break, horse steaks, etc.) from Muscle Food on top of their already low prices.

Check them out if you want (www.musclefood.com) and use code: JM80618 before you check out to enjoy the benefits!


 

Dieting Tips and Tricks: Vol.1 IIFYM – the right answer?

Dieting. Arguably the most dreaded word associated with bodybuilding and fitness. So many people want to lose the pounds but are unwilling to give up the juicy hamburger and fries pick-up after work. Nor the curry from the local Indian takeout that has become a Saturday night staple in our diet. Nor the tub of ice cream you’re probably gorging on as you read this! But don’t fret, for I was in this situation too! The biggest issue I faced when it came to starting my diet last January was misinformation. It’s often all too easy to get caught up with the pseudoscience constantly floating around the gym. Claims such as “clean eating is the way forward” and “chicken, spinach and rice only man” are all too common. You know they sound way too authoritarian, but why would you ever doubt anything that comes out of a personal trainer’s mouth? Or even the “knowledge” passed down from the biggest guy at the gym, whom you’re sure takes something else along with those “10,000 calories a day”. I for sure am definitely not going to claim that I know everything regarding nutrition, but here’s my take on dieting and its associated myths.

“Clean” eating

Arguably the biggest myth concerning dieting, many fall into the trap of thinking that as long as they stick to their “chicken, brown rice and spinach everyday” rule they can expect to get “shredded” within weeks. Thank god this isn’t the case! Flavourless, tasteless and simply boring to consume, this doesn’t guarantee results. At the end of the day, a calories is a calorie regardless of its source. You’re just as unlikely to lose weight over-consuming unseasoned chicken, brown rice and steamed vegetables as you are overconsuming those heavenly Jaffa cakes.

Furthermore, labelling foods as “clean” or “dirty” can be highly subjective. For example, in the 1980s foods that had high fat content were considered “dirty”. Think about that for a minute. Sure that includes the fry-ups and whatnot, but the likes of olive oil and avocado are equally as likely to fall into this category. And if you think these beliefs are out-of-date take a look at some of the food products at your local supermarket from the likes of WeightWatchers strongly advertising their “fat-free” products. We require fats as much as carbohydrates and protein to function, from organ protection to hormone control (no fat, no party). Processed foods also should be avoided according to this method, yet many who preach this can be seen downing a post-workout whey protein shake, which at its core is processed milk-protein.

Likewise, as pointed out by leading nutritionist Alan Aragon, categorizing individual items fails to assess the broader picture. Consider gym bro A; caught in the gym toilets sneakily scoffing his face down with Pop Tarts. Does that make his way of eating “dirty”? Would that still be the case once you realise it was just one pre-workout meal in a day that mostly consists of eating just unseasoned chicken and vegetables? Though not.

IIFYM: the middle finger to Dieting

Within the past few years, a new “revelation” has come to the fore of dieting and bodybuilding: If It Fits Your Macros or IIFYM for short. What originated as a rebellious stand from a few bodybuilders sick of constantly eating the same flavourless food, has now been taken up by numerous athletes, researches and average Joes.

So what is a Macro? A macro, short for macronutrient, can be one of the following: Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats. IIFYM is based on the fact that as long as your food intake fits into your macronutrient and total calorie targets, you’ll be able to eat whatever you want and thus enjoy more freedom in food choices. The science behind it makes sense; Proteins have 4 calories per gram, Carbohydrates have 4 calories and Fats have 9 – REGARDLESS of the source. Therefore, you’re just as likely to lose weight eating a total of 200 calories from pizza and chips as you are eating rice and peas!

However, like with many things that start off well (Communism, the Transformers and Saw franchises being prime examples), what initially was developed to prevent gym bros from quivering in their boots about having a single “dirty” meal, blew up to a diet-destroying monster with it not being t0o common these days for diets of gym enthusiasts to consider of just fast food and ready meals.

The Middle Ground

The problem most individuals have on this matter is that they only see it in black or weight, without acknowledging the grey area in between. Pop tarts OR steamed vegetables. Angelina Jolie OR Scarlett Johansson. Why not both? As appealing as IIFYM may seem, clean eating also has its benefits. By consuming that unseasoned chicken and vegetables as opposed to that 16″ Mighty Meaty pizza, we’re taking in more of something that hasn’t been talked about thus far: micronutrients. For a few months of my cut, I too had fallen to having a fast food diet and although I was still progressing my weight loss, my workouts, energy levels and overall well-being noticably suffered.

The answer? The “wise man” Alan Aragon himself promotes a 10-20% mix of IIFYM into Clean Eating and while it may seem foolish to argue with someone as established, I may even say go for a higher mix if desired, having done so for my own cut. At the end of the day, point stands; track your macros and calorie intake, eat healthy but also enjoy life a bit! After all, what’s the point of getting those washboard abs if you can’t go out to a meal and show them off?

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Image courtesy of [Simon Howden] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net