500 Calorie Daily Burnout update!

500 Calorie Daily Burnout update!

However, my muscles are a bit stiff, I am feeling tired, and a few times I have felt a bit ill (but still done it anyway!). The importance of eating right, sleeping well, and stretching has been crucial to sustaining this. I often struggle when I do not get an early ish night, or if I don’t eat well. Hydration is another key factor. I sweat so much during the burnout that I am having to drink plenty of water to stay cool and hydrated.

To be honest, training this way is giving me a real sense of commitment, achievement, and it’s helping me learn how to stay truly competitive with myself, and it’s also shown me just how hard I really need to work during the time I have dedicated to training. It has already changed my training habits entirely, and I know believe that I have simply not been training hard enough during the time I have set to train. I now have new boundaries and I am able to push myself much further than I thought I could – every single day as well!

I will be taking a rest day on Saturday (yes I know, this will ruin the challenge a bit!), but I won’t have access to my X Trainer whilst away. I will be doing it tomorrow before I go, and when I come back on Sunday night I will also do the challenge, so I will literally only be resting once which is this Saturday. To be honest, I wouldn’t set this challenge to anyone without a rest day or two. Recovery has been an issue but it’s not prevented me from doing the challenge so far. 

One of the questions has been answered for sure. Is it possible to burn 500 calories in less than 20 minutes? Yes, absolutely! I have achieved this within 15 days! If I can do it, then anyone can do it! My cardio is certainly been a neglected area of my fitness over the years, as I much prefer resistance training. So I know that anyone else in a similar boat can achieve this. I have had to use strategies such as:

  • Starting with Ta Ba Ta for 10 minutes, and then 10 minutes consistent pace
  • Starting with consistent pace for 10 minutes, then Ta Ba Ta 
  • Increasing/changing Ta Ba Ta sprint time (i.e. 40 seconds sprint, 20 seconds rest)
  • Warming up before doing the challenge (sometimes I have tried to do it without a warm up – something I have stopped doing and I do not advise. It doesn’t help at all. Always warm up)

 

I am doing this on top of my usual resistance training too, so I am most likely (most definitely) burning more than 500 calories a day. This challenge was not intended to replace your usual workouts, but to add to it. 

500 Day 16 result

500 Day 16 result

Do I believe this is sustainable? Certainly not every single day without a rest. But many athletes or serious competitors out there are training 5-6 times a day and are burning a lot of calories too. This differs in that you are working as hard as you possibly can at a consistent rate for 20+ minutes, which is a huge demand and stress on your body.

With each day I just find it hard to believe I can push myself any harder. But clearly I am getting stronger because from somewhere I am developing the strength to better each time. As long as I can maintain burning 25 calories or more each minute then I know I am on target to make 500 calories in 20 minutes. Here are my times so far:
 

 

 

 

Day | Time

1     00:28:29

2     00:24:58

3     00:24:13

4     00:21:02

5     00:21:13

6     00:21:29

7     00:21:12

8     00:21:35

9     00:20:56

10   00:20:53

11   00:20:30

12   00:21:31

13   00:20:49

14   00:21:49  <— felt really ill here!

15   00:21:44

16   00:19:55

17   00:19:49


Day 14 and Day 15 I really had nothing to give! But the main thing here that I am absolutely loving is that I have a daily target which I can set for myself, which I can work hard it, and which I can see is making my training far more effective. Whatever you are currently training for, I highly recommend setting targets, work hard to achieve new PB’s (personal bests), record your results (very important), and especially if you’re looking to lose weight or change your appearance (i.e. going for 6 pack abs) then do record your progress by taking pictures! Keep a daily record of your progress – this has been the one thing that has kept me going more than everything else.

More updates to follow soon! 

500 Calorie Daily Burnout update!

500 Calorie Challenge! Day 1

Follow this blog or join my mailing list (email me dan.johnston@stapt.co.uk and I’ll add you, or enter your email address in the footer on my website).

Can it be done? How hard will it be?

 

So the challenge (or more accurately, the research) is:

30 Days, 500 calories burnt every day through 1 session of exercise.

 

Questions I am looking to answer:

  • Can it be done?
  • What are the positive and negative impacts on health?
  • Will I become more tired or more energetic?
  • Will my appetite increase?
  • How long will burning 500 calories in one go take?
  • What is the shortest time I can burn 500 calories in?
  • What does it feel like to burn 500 calories in one go?
  • Can I do it after my usual workouts? (as a finisher?)
  • Could I sustain this for longer than 30 days every day?

 

I started my research this morning into burning 500 calories a day in one go, every day, no rest days, and here’s how the first session went.

After starting work at 5.15 am this morning, I planned to do my first 500 calories at 7:30 am. I’ll happily admit, my cardio fitness isn’t the greatest. I am much more of a strength and muscle endurance type of person (lot’s of body weight, heavy weights, using pull up bars – anything with interesting and challenging movement).

About 10 minutes in and my mind was telling me “it’s time to give up now, this is going to be too hard”. Which is absolutely crazy! I knew my body had more so there was no way I was going to stop at 10 minutes. So I had to put a real effort to switch my state from giving up to giving it a go!

I could definitely feel the effects of an easter diet, and I’m a little bit…well say we say…shy…at the thought of posting my shirtless photo on day 1 at the moment (I’ll be keeping a visual diary and taking a photo each day before each workout.)
To my surprise it didn’t feel or hurt as much as I thought it would, and it certainly was not outside of my comfort zone, nor my ability. At the moment I definitely feel like I could do this every day – but it’s only day 1 so best not get carried away! Let’s wait til the stress on the legs and mind start to kick in first before I get too cocky!

The outcome of this morning was that I managed to burn 300 calories in under 17 minutes, and burnt 500 calories in 28 minutes and 29 seconds. So that is now my minimum standard and my time to beat tomorrow.

I’ll post my update in the weekly email and keep sending a few of these updates throughout. I’m also keeping a health log (which I use with all my clients) to track my health too (heart rates, blood pressure etc…) I’ll send out the results each week so you can see the effects this research/challenge is having on my whole body.

As for my diet, I will be keeping it clean. Lot’s of vegetables, balanced out with protein, and a small amount of carbs. Personally, I am not a big carb fan anyway – pasta is not a favourite of mine. I’ll be cutting out breads and baking goods, and keeping chocolate consumption under control (maybe a little bit at the weekends – chocolate is my weakness!)

Comfort Eating. Why do we do it?

Comfort Eating. Why do we do it?

For example, have you ever heard of the chemical Monosodium Glutamate? Better known by its more common name, MSG (look for the E number E621). As well as being a major additive in many foods, it is also used in laboratories to fatten up rats for experimentation. MSG causes high levels excitation and is often referred to as an excitotoxin. It is found in so many foods, and is purposefully added to foods such as soups, seasonings, snacks, fast foods, ready meals, and many more, in order to trigger your sense of craving for other foods which provide excessive stimulation (such as those high in sugar, or caffeine, or salt)
This is scary stuff! I highly recommend you read the book ‘Brandwashed’ which also covers this point.

So how can we fight back against brand and supermarket marketers (who are equally as bad with their own in store own brand products)? We know what we are craving, and why we are craving it (to literally get our fix of such substances), but what else is influencing us to buy these foods in the first place (other than knowing they taste good).

Many of the foods we crave are often described as rewards, treats, celebrations (literally!), or as something we deserve. You will frequently see marketing that describes certain food in such ways as “go on, treat yourself” or “you deserve a reward”. Coincidently, when we reward ourselves, our brains release a powerful neurotransmitter called Dopamine. In our brains, dopamine is translated as pleasure, creating a powerful feeling of satisfaction which we crave and become addicted to. During periods of the day when we have not received a reward for some time, we begin to crave a dopamine hit and start searching for ways to obtain this satisfaction associated with rewards. The more frequently we reward ourselves, the greater the need for a greater reward.
In food terms, something as innocent as yoghurt can (and many do) contain chemicals and sugars, and literally feed your reward system, giving you that release of dopamine you’ve been waiting for. If you have a relatively healthy diet and then start to reward yourself with something as innocent (hint) as yoghurt, you’re going to release dopamine into your system as a result. This in turn is going to influence you to seek out and crave sweeter foods. Perhaps you have the same problem with salt and you seek out crisps as a reward too. The fun, rewarding, celebratory slogan “once you pop you just can’t stop” soon becomes a real problem. If you look back to where your addictions started, for many during times of stress or lack of stimulation, you may be able to identify what foods initially caused the problem, and what foods you began to go after from there on.

For me I recognised this problem in bread and other baked products. I also loved bread based meals such as pizza, burgers, sandwiches (hungry yet?), and sweet baked goods. Unfortunately, these very products were feeding my cravings, and helping me towards a diet which was entirely reactive to the cravings I had to fulfil. Even when I was not hungry I would impulsively buy Burger Kings (I used to live a few yards away from a Burger King at University), cakes, doughnuts, you get the idea. Crisps and chocolate then became the norm (notice how ‘meal deals’ are always a sandwich, packet of crisps, some sort of chocolate, and bottle of fruit juice from concentrate or a fruit smoothie…supermarkets know how to get you hooked!) But it wasn’t the bread itself I was addicted to…it was their unlabelled ingredients. Bakers of ‘fresh’ bread and baked goods in the UK do not have to fully label their products with the ingredients used. The Real Bread Campaign gives us an overview of what bakers and retailers are not required to do for us consumers (www.sustainweb.org/realbread/bread_labelling):

  • Bakers and retailers are not required to provide customers with full lists of ingredients and any additives they use in making unwrapped loaves – e.g. those from supermarket in-store bakeries.
  • The use of so-called processing aids can go completely undeclared, even on the ingredient and additive lists of wrapped loaves.
  • There are no legal definitions for terms commonly used in loaf marketing, including ‘fresh’ (or ‘freshly baked’), ‘sourdough’, ‘wholegrain’, ‘artisan’ and ‘craft.’

 

Shocked? We literally live in a world where avoiding additives or addictive substances is near impossible! It’s no wonder we crave such bad foods or comfort eat, or even let these foods become a part of our everyday diet! Once these foods are in your everyday diet the supermarkets know you will literally be buying the sweeter, saltier, more appealing foods which are ridiculously high in these addictive substances.The messages throughout online food stores and in the supermarkets themselves are telling us it’s ok to buy and enjoy more, and more, and more.

How do we stop? If you really concerned then your first point of call should be a GP (I always recommend this) as they can help guide you towards resources and even dieticians. Never attempt to dramatically or suddenly change your diet without GP guidance. For me, I took steps to keep bad foods out of sight and out of mind. I avoided the baked goods aisle and I wouldn’t allow any bad foods into my kitchen. I made rules for myself such as eating those foods only at weekends, which I soon reduced to a new rule which is now ‘eating those foods only at birthdays and celebrations, and I’m on my way to reducing this even further’. By reducing my intake of bad foods I naturally reduce the cravings and my addictions slowly break down. They become less frequent and I haven’t caused myself any additional stress from drastically changing my diet. My approach to food is much less reactive.

I also started to explore fresh vegetables, fruits and healthy fats. I realised that my taste buds could only recognise severely strong flavours, and I would find vegetables to be bland, which they shouldn’t be! They have so much flavour but we can barely recognise it as it’s not what we’re used to.
Also, I looked for different ways to reward myself other than food, which is how I got into exercise and why I continued playing sports. I loved playing (and still do) rugby! I found Calisthenics to be challenging and rewarding, especially when I could perform the more complex movements due to my hard work paying off. Re-wiring your dopamine reward system to respond to a healthy stimulus is a key way to avoid comfort eating or treating yourself regularly with bad foods. It’s strange to say it but I now crave fresh raw foods like vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, nut and seeds because my body has got used to wanting the nutrients. I become more irritated when I am a bit dehydrated, as opposed to needing a cup of coffee. It may sound a bit mad or even ridiculous, but I want to encourage you to remove addictive foods and seek out a healthier diet. Find other foods, healthier foods to reward yourself with. Work out which healthy foods are your favourite and work from there (find recipes that use them for example). Reward yourself in a different way and fulfil your bodies cravings for a dopamine hit with a healthy reward, something you enjoy.

It’s not going to be easy but nothing worth having ever is! If you’re looking for a way to reward yourself with exercise then I urge you to try out Calisthenics, which can be done without any equipment and can be performed anywhere, anytime, by yourself or in groups. Yes, I’ll even plug my own classes but they are good fun and they could help you get started on your journey towards a stronger version of you.

If you have any questions then leave comment or email me at dan.johnston@stapt.co.uk

For next weeks blog article I’ll be writing about one of my biggest problems which is sleep and a feeling of constant tiredness. I really do struggle to get out of bed in the morning, and although I’m not as bad as I used to be, I still often feel constantly tired.

Why are low carb diets bad for you?

Why are low carb diets bad for you?

I suffered headaches, nausea, severe tiredness and a real lack of energy, and it affected my mood and motivation. These are usually the symptoms of drastic diet changes, so any action to change your diet should be done slowly, and you should take thoroughly researched steps to plan for it (including speaking to a GP). We are also very much in a carb and sugar cutting phase in modern nutritional beliefs, where as before we were in a fat cutting phase, and of course the salt reduction phase and MSG cutting phase (and others). To be honest we should just stop listening to the clever marketers who trigger these phases and who work them to their advantage, selling us more low fat this and low sugar that. Let’s just have an ‘eat less bad food altogether’ phase! 

Last week I wrote about how there is no “fat burning zone” but how we can use the ratios in which our bodies use fuel to our advantage. After about 20 minutes of exercise our bodies will start using fat as the primary source of fuel BUT our bodies will still use carbs (just less of them). Why doesn’t the body switch off the need for carbs altogether? Why does the body seemingly want to preserve our carb stores? 

The simple answer is that our bodies use carbs to function. Our brains use glucose as a primary fuel, as do our other organs. Our bodies are naturally engineered to ensure the brain functions efficiently, and our bodies take drastic measures to protect the brain and ensure it has the fuel to function. For example, when our brains are not receiving enough oxygen and blood flow is restricted then we can become dizzy and even faint. Why? To lower the head and increase the blood flow back to what the brain needs it to be. This is a pretty drastic but entirely necessary survival function our bodies perform to protect our brains. 

The brain does not use fats as a source of energy because fatty acids cannot cross the blood brain barrier. Therefore our brains need a supply of glucose to function effectively. If the brain is not receiving glucose then our bodies will begin to break down fat into ketones. Ketones are what is used as fuel when glucose is not available. Firstly, understand that using ketones as fuel is not bad. Low carb diets increase ketone levels in the blood and this is perfectly fine (our ketone levels increase when we sleep, and sleep doesn’t harm us). Ketones are not the primary fuel source though, and a high level of ketones in the blood causes an increase in acidity which causes a number of health problems (for the sake of preventing this blog from becoming a text book I won’t go into it, but if you’re interested then research the terms acidosis and Ketoacidosis).

Just quickly though, acidosis is not a good thing. It is an increase in blood acidity and therefore in other body tissues such as muscles, organs, and bones, impairs their function. For example, increased acidity in the blood can lead to weakened bones because your bones will release calcium carbonate to help buffer against the acidity levels in the blood. This happens because your body will always try to maintain a pH level of 7.4, and anything either side of this (acidosis or alkalosis) has side effects. This is why a balanced diet should be a priority over a high carb or low carb or no carb diet. Too much or too little carbs cause shifts in our bodies pH levels which is simply not good for us.

As I mentioned, ketones themselves are not bad for us. In fact there is plenty of research which suggests that a ketogenic diet is perfectly healthy (note that I wrote ketogenic diet NOT ketoacidosis – two very different things!) But to keep your pH levels neutral in a ketogenic diet, you would need to plan a more alkaline based diet and seek out foods which will help buffer against the increases in acidity. Leafy greens, edible algae (spirulina, chlorella), lemons, and other fruit and veg (Google Alkaline Foods) will increase your blood alkaline levels. Since many of the foods we eat (meat, dairy, eggs, chocolate, cakes, alcohol) and the by products of bodily processes causes increase in acidity, a diet plan which aims to balance out the pH levels can only be a good thing. Though you can go the other way and become too alkaline so amongst all this biomedical jargon, if you haven’t come to this conclusion already, it is always best to have a balanced highly nutritious diet!

It’s pretty clear that there isn’t actually a definitive answer as to whether having a glucose fueled diet is better than a ketone diet. Both have their benefits and both have their pitfalls. 
What you have to ask yourself is this – do you want to live on a ketone based diet? Do you really want to take on a diet that, although may induce weight loss, can actually lead you down a slippery slope towards other health problems? 

Also bear in mind that a ketone based diet will have very little grains, legumes, fruits and many vegetables, fibre, or dairy, and certainly no pasta or rice. So that means you are cutting out an awful lot of nutrients. Minerals and vitamins are very restricted in a ketogenic diet, as is fibre. You also get a lot of fluids from these foods so you are cutting down on your water intake by removing these foods. You’re pretty much left with foods that are predominantly fat and protein, which is a highly acidic diet. You’ll still have leafy greens of course too, and you can balance out the acidity with low/no carb alkaline foods. Personally, I go for a low sugar diet and keep the carbs because I do not believe that reducing my healthy sources of carbs (I LOVE fruit!) is of any benefit to me. I don’t over indulge and I don’t eat too much fruit either. I keep it balanced. 


My blog this week may not have given you a definitive answer into which diet is better, carb or ketone, but I hope I have given you enough info to make your own choices and start you on a journey into researching what is right for you. One thing I do want you to take away is this. The ketone diet is often criticised as being a diet low in vitamins and minerals. Funny enough, all companies which sell multivitamins and similar supplements are fully aware of this. They will most likely blog about the benefits of ketogenic diets (in fact I challenge you to find me an article written by a supplement company, or by a company which endorses supplements, that writes about the pitfalls of Ketogenic Diets). 
They’re also very aware that we have an innate fear of ill health which causes us to self-medicate our diets through supplementation. This is why we buy their products as we believe, due to their clever marketing, that we need them to be healthier. Now with the Ketogenic diet they have a real excuse to pump us with their marketing nonsense and convince us to buy their £10 bottle of 30 multivitamin pills, which coincides nicely with one pill for every day of the month, practically making us monthly subscribers. But no matter what we will always fall for this because, well hey, more vitamins and more nutrients taken quickly without the hassle of shopping or preparing vegetables is beneficial for us right?

The supplement companies are the same clever marketers who know how our brains work, and why we do things such as comfort eating, or create addictions for ourselves to foods high in sugar or salt or even coffee. 



What can you do about it? Can you break away from comfort eating or daily food addictions? 
Find out in next weeks blog!

My views on Fat Burning. Stop believing these 3 fat burning myths!

My views on Fat Burning. Stop believing these 3 fat burning myths!

It just made me wonder. Are supplement companies just feeding us these drinks and pills without informing us what is in them? Even worse, are we just taking them without questioning or researching into what these ingredients are? Last week I spoke about how artificial sweeteners can worsen our sugar cravings, and I recently wrote a blog post titled “All Killer, No Filler” where I rant on further about supplements and why I only take supplements suitable and acceptable for Raw Vegans.

Anyway, fat burning myths! Fat is an excellent energy source and good fats are incredibly healthy for you. Sugar (carbs) are good in moderation and like fats are also needed for fuel. But the main difference between sugar and fat is that sugar really has one purpose – to provide fuel for energy.

Fat on the other hand is different. Fats are used by our bodies for insulation, fuel, shock absorption, protection, and form many major cellular and biochemical structures in our body. Hormones are made of fat. If we remove fat from our diet completely then we are hindering of bodies natural signalling system. Nerve tissue (neurons, specifically axons) are covered in myelin sheath, a protective layer which is made of fat. Myelin sheath provides our nerves with the insulation it needs for electrical impulses to quickly reach their destinations (our muscles). I am sure you all know this, but the point I am getting at (before I go into fat myth busters) is this – fats are essential to a healthy life style. Source healthy fats (avocado, coconut, nuts, olive oil), avoid bad fats (trans fats, saturated fats, butters, most cooking oils such as vegetable or seed oils). Keep your hormones in check and give them the nutrients they need. Same goes for the nervous system – you’ll need both systems working as efficiently as possible to help improve your health, and get the most out of your training.
Just think about how much your hormonal and nervous system will benefit from a diet that regularly receives good healthy fats.

 

Here are my fat burning myths:

1. The body turns off one fuel system and then turns on another

The body uses both fat and carbs at the same time, just in different ratios. Why is this important? Because this is often explained poorly by many who sell fitness programmes. The claim is that there is a fat burning zone. Whilst our bodies do switch primary fuel sources from carbs to fat, both are always at work. Our bodies also need to preserve carbs as we only have a limited supply. When the body knows it needs to preserve carbs, the ratio will change in favour of fat for energy.

2. Low-intensity exercise will burn more fat than high-intensity exercise

Again, looking at the fat to carb fuel ratio, at a low intensity your body will use more fat than carbs, but not will solely burn fat alone. At low intensity our bodies will preserve our carb stores as carbs are required for everyday bodily function. However, the question is how do you define your low-intensity exercise? Would you regard a walk as low intensity? a jog? The important thing here is that low intensity workouts will not burn many calories, high-intensity workouts will. Therefore even though low intensity favours the use of fats in the fat to carb ratio, the overall amount of fat used for fuel will be pretty low (but still more than the carbs used in the low-intensity activity) – want to burn more fat? then burn more calories and perform high-intensity workouts.

3. Exercising for longer than 15-20 minutes burns more fat

This myth boils down to the calories you are actually burning. If you go for a jog for 30-40 minutes then I will surely burn fat (and carbs!). But if I go for a run for 15-20 minutes and perform sprints as part of that workout, I will burn more calories than a 30-40 minute jog (I will most likely have to do a few good sprints though). If I am planning to make fat burning effective for my workout then I need to make sure I am burning more calories during a 20-minute workout than I would for a 40-minute workout. Not easy, but with hard work and dedication it is more than do able. This is why HIIT training and Ta-Ba-Ta training is very effective because it focuses on the calories within a short time frame, not the fuel source.

I’m not saying that we must count calories – we all know when too much is too much. What I am saying is that when it comes to our food, go for the quality of the nutrition and keep the carbs in moderation. In other words make sure the calories you are taking in are high quality calories. When we exercise let’s aim to burn a high number of calories in a shorter amount of time.