Here we are folks, incredibly less than a week away from Christmas!
Work Christmas parties are well underway and family and friends get togethers are happening on a daily basis.
So you're thinking, 'right, so he surely isn't going to try to advise people to eat well over the festive period!?' and you're right, I'm not. Well not completely. This is a time to let your hair down a bit. Have the beer, eat the sweets, have second helpings at the dinner table. At the end of the day, a week off plan over the period of a year isn't going to make a difference to your long term goals. Even professional athletes will be 'taking it easy' over Christmas.
But that doesn't mean you have to eat the full box of celebrations on your own, in a single sitting! What I would say though, would be to definitely make conscious decisions around your eating around this period, and don't feel guilty about it. Consciously eat the mince pie and savour every bit of it. Eat it slowly and mindfully, and then move on.
Mindlessly eating everything in your path at this time of the year is where a lot of people undo their good work. This is an emotional problem that people have with their food. The guilt will quickly set in after this and eating can spiral out of control as a more negative mindset takes hold. This will probably lead to some kind of 'quick fix diet' in early January. That is not what we are about
We don't want you to eat grilled chicken and steamed broccoli every day. We don't want you to eat cardboard like crackers with fresh air for breakfast. Who actually enjoys eating like that? We want you to eat foods you enjoy, foods that are sustainable, and foods that support your training and fitness goals in the long term. And at Christmas, that just happens to be mince pies, turkey, and possibly some wine.…enjoy it while it lasts folks, and keep and eye out for what we have in store for the new year!
It is also the most enjoyable exercise plan in the world, ever…..
Why do we say that? Regardless of the huge physiological benefits which CrossFit can deliver such as improved strength, stamina, endurance, reduced body fat etc etc ( the list goes on and on and on…) one of CrossFit’s major strengths ( no pun intended) is adherence.
In other words you will actually go.
You could obtain the most thorough and detailed exercise program created personally for you by the most qualified, experienced fitness expert on the planet but if you don’t go to the gym and follow it to the letter then it is worthless. Typically you may last 2/3 weeks and then as boredom sets in you will either jump to a new, shiny program or worse, just stop completely.
In fact, that’s how the traditional gym model works. It is totally reliant on members NOT showing up. If you are a large gym chain or government fitness centre with 3000+ members, what happens if all it’s members show up on a Monday? Chaos.
But don’t worry, that will never happen as the success of their volume based, budget priced business model is completely reliant on absentee members. That’s why we see all the January memes and jokes about getting a space on a treadmill.
CrossFit gyms are different, we want and need you to attend for both us and you to be successful.
With CrossFit you show up.
When you just start you will usually have made friends after a few weeks and also seen some initial results and progress. Your Coach knows your name, knows what you are good at and what you need to work on. ( As will your friends!!)
This community environment with everyone doing the same workout under the guidance of a Coach ensures a level of accountability that will keep you coming back.
You measure your progress through recording your lifts & workout times so you know you are making progress without guesswork and with our constantly varied style of programming we ensure that boredom won't set in.
After you CrossFit for any significant period of time, it is virtually impossible to return to any other style of training or class unless you happen to have the motivation levels of Tony Robbins.
Which is highly unlikely, otherwise you wouldn’t have tried CrossFit in the first place.
In the words of one of CrossFit’s most famous competitors Samantha Briggs:
"When you have worked hard all day this is your own time when you should be having fun and getting fit. Exercise shouldn’t feel like a chore. It should be fun. This is your release."
With CrossFit you show up, have a laugh, get fitter and be happy. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.
In the first of our 'Client Stories' features, we caught up with Brenda Murray. Brenda has been a member of the 7:30pm crew for some time now though she is know to drop in to a few other time slots every now and again.
What made you join CrossFit Antrim?
I wanted to loose weight as I was always tired and felt very uncomfortable, I seen CrossFit as an opportunity for me and wanted to attempt this as I wanted to get a healthier lifestyle and increase my fitness.
I found myself very stubborn and always wanted to show people that I can do it, I also wanted to show myself that I can't beat anything that comes at me.
I found it as a challenge for me to step over the door into a whole new different surrounding. A very nervous day for me but I overcome the nerves and got signed up for the onramp. Once I done this I felt totally different as I knew I was ready for this challenge ahead.
I completed the onramp and enjoyed every part of this as it was something different, learning different movements etc, I then decided that I would like some PT sessions as I felt this would help me gain more confidence when being in the CrossFit class.
I completed the PT sessions and I found myself ready for the classes and from that point to now I have enjoyed my journey but this is a journey I am not ready to stop.
What were your first impressions of CrossFit Antrim?
My first impressions of CrossFit Antrim was that I felt I wouldn't be able to do any of the movements during my onramp, but to my surprise I beat this and was capable of doing all.
I love the whole concept of this as this is not just your normal boring running on a treadmill, CrossFit is totally different from anything I have ever done before.
Another impression of CrossFit Antrim/Magherafelt would have to be down to the coaches and staff, each one of them are all very helpful and are always close at hand during the classes etc.
Even outside of the gym I would generally receive text messages, these just being your normal check up message to see how I was getting on with the PT sessions.
With being in a gym like Crossfit I find it great as I have met and became great friends with alot of folk. I believe this is what a gym is all about meeting people and having everyone there to help each other out.
Why have you stayed?
This is easy......I love it, love how it makes me feel, love how my body has changed since I joined up (even though that was a nervous day), I find myself being more positive in thinking about my health and not having to worry as much as I previously did.
Another reason as to why I have stayed would be down to the CrossFit family - I love them all, every coach, staff, members in both Antrim and Magherafelt they have been a big part of me staying.
You feel welcomed every morning or evening depending on the class you have booked into, you feel accepted as everyone else.
During each class it's all team work in the strength parts, but down to your workout if you are the last person to finish other members come over and encourage you to keep going until you have all the reps completed and also the coaches would be over to encourage you also.
The coaches and the friends I have made are another main factor as to why I have stayed with CrossFit, you really are a valued part of CrossFit Antrim and I am please to be part of an amazing CrossFit family.
What is your next fitness goal?
My next goal in CFA would be to get my double unders, to get these would be a massive goal for me and eventually get my pull ups.
Another goal or goals I would like to keep on achieving would be to do more or the announced workouts in "RX" form and also increase my PB's.
I was once told that I was not allowed to lift anything heavier than 2.5kg, but with being in CFA I have proved people (doctors) wrong and here is some of my PB's I have achieved during my year in CFA.
~Back Squat 55kg
~Front Squat 50kg
I would love to beat my above PB's and achieve more!
I have vowed to keep going and achieve more, I feel getting PB's make you feel great and give you a positive thinking as I previously mentioned "I can do it"
What changes have you noticed to your health and fitness since joining?
Some folk may be aware of this and some may not, but I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2015. A very big shock to me, my husband and both families and including my friends. I never smoked, never consumed alcohol and understood I was healthy.
During the time of my treatment I gained a lot of weight (which I couldn't help) but my treatment ended in December'15.
My doctors recommended that I was to get fit and loose body fat to minimise the risk of it coming back.
This is why I plucked up the courage and being nervous stepped over the door of CFA and spoke with MT and signed up in July'16.
From being diagnosed up to present the doctors are very happy with my progress and have also noted the determination I have shown.
Would you recommend CFA to a friend?
I have mentioned CrossFit to my family and friends in numerous occasions about getting them on board and getting fit and healthy.
I would love to see a lot more of my friends in CrossFit as I am proud of how far I have come from day 1 to now.
I enjoy doing CrossFit and especially everyone in here. This has been the longest I have ever stuck at a gym as I love it.
This is not like anywhere else where you are left to work at it yourself.
With CFA you have the help from everyone around you.
CrossFit has changed my life in a very big and positive way. It is so much fun and incredibly supportive and motivating place to be.
As I said at the start "I can do it" and I am proof of that.
Have you ever found yourself in a position where you know you are training consistently, but you are just not making the strength gains you should be? Or your endurance is lagging behind a little? Maybe you have retested a workout and the result wasn't quite what you had hoped? These are all fairly common occurrences with amateur athletes and the common ground here is generally fuel. What we put into our bodies will determine what we get out of them. An extreme example, maybe, but if you put diesel into a petrol car, and then try to break the land speed record, what do you think will happen? Not much!
The same applies to an athlete. If you constantly fill yourself up with poor quality food, with no consistent ratio of the macronutrient content, the likelihood is, that your metabolic system will be working at a rate that is nowhere near its true potential. This has a number of knock on effects.
Tiredness - excessive amounts of any food, never mind junk food can leave us feeling lethargic, tired, even moody. When our blood sugar level spikes, the inflammatory reaction in our cells actually prevents us from absorbing energy and therefore burning it efficiently. This leaves us in a constant state of tiredness and hormone imbalance. The main culprits here would be foods high in sugar. Artificial sweeteners are also guilty (That's a topic for another day!)
Weight gain - even if you are training every day and becoming stronger, if you are consistently making poor food choices, the chances are, that you will continue to gain fat. There are a few reasons for this, but put simply, your body is unable to efficiently use the calories from processed foods. Going a step further from the first point, if you have excess calories in your system, and your cells are unable to absorb and use them, they will simply turn into fat.
Both of these have a direct link to your athletic performance. When you are tired or lethargic, it is both physically and mentally challenging to get the best out of your workout. If you don't feel particularly good on your way into the gym, chances are, you won't feel great during your session either. The same thing applies to weight gain. If you are carrying a little extra bodyfat, and you are aware that it's down to poor decision making at the dinner table, it can be difficult to perform at your best. This can be quite a tough place to be, particularly around this time of year, when the mornings are dark, the weather is cold and the people around you are generally eating and drinking for comfort.
So what are your options? Quite a few actually. Taking a bit of time out for yourself and working out some small improvements to your diet would be a great place to start! sometimes a small change has a big impact. Maybe you could reassess the amount of water you are drinking. Or take a look at the amount of protein you are consuming throughout the day, and whether it is enough to support your training.
The end goal for you would be to get yourself into what we call 'The Zone'. The is when your body goes into the perfect hormonal balance which allows for the most efficient rate of fat burning and muscle growth. and guess what? - It is determined by the amount of food we eat, its quality and its ratio of macronutrient content. If you can get into this zone, you will see good things happen pretty quickly.
We place a lot of emphasis on our cool downs. They don’t take long and introducing this habit at an early stage in your child’s fitness development will ensure they continue to do it the rest of their lives.
Cool downs don’t take long, they gradually lower your heart rate rather than a sudden drop and may also reduce the likelihood of Delayed Muscle Soreness (DOMs) ie that dull ache the next day or even the day after....
Lastly, and of equal importance in our opinion, are the psychological benefits of a cool down. We can reflect on the session, review what the kids have learned and have a laugh. These 5 minutes will help develop friendships and build a sense of camaraderie and community. They have all completed a workout together, endorphins are high and life is usually good.
PS: This applies equally to our adult athletes!
The term 'Weight loss' is a very broad term and is often misunderstood by people wanting to 'lose weight'. The proper term is actually 'Fat Loss', which is a much more accurate description of what it is we are trying to achieve. Generally, no matter what our fitness goals are, we want to decrease the amount of fat stored on our bodies, and that is usually not a bad thing. But there is a problem. People are obsessed with the word 'weight' or the term 'weight loss' and as a result, stand in tears on the bathroom scales every other morning, looking at the pointer indicating that nothing has changed in the last 7 days. Folks, for the most part, the bathroom scales DO NOT give you an accurate indication of how you are progressing through your fat loss goals. And here's why;
Are you into weightlifting? Crossfit by any chance? Feel yourself getting stronger? well if this is the case, you have definitely increased your lean mass. (your lean mass is the percentage of your body that isn't made up of fat!) This means that you will have gained muscle and increased your bone density. And what is the result of both of these gains? yes - heavier on the bathroom scales!! However, so many people still get caught up with the emotional attachment of what the scales say, and automatically assume that because the scales still say the same, they are failing with their fatloss goals and are going nowhere fast.
There are other factors that affect the reading om the scales also, like the time of day you weigh yourself, how hydrated you are, and whether or not you have eaten. Our hormone balance, particularly in woman, can affect how much water we retain, and this can vary from day to day, which will change our overall bodyweight. So considering these factors, we are going to move the bathroom scales to the bottom of the list of indicators as to how we are progressing with our fatloss targets and our overall fitness levels. Here are a few indicators that will give you a much better idea of how you are getting on.
Bodyfat Percentage - If measured correctly, this is a very useful tool to indicate how much fat is actually stored on the body and can be monitored over a long period over time. Although it is difficult to gauge an exact percentage, it generally remains consistent with each person, so will provide relevant, progressive data for each person. So if the option is there folks, have you bodyfat tested instead of your bodyweight on the scales!
Energy Levels - Made some positive lifestyle changes recently? Maybe cut out some unhealthy eating habits or started a new strength or running program? But they aren't working working because you've weighed yourself every 7 minutes since you've started? If you notice that your energy levels have increased, then it most definitely is working! Think back to before you started - you hated the sound of your alarm, couldn't function after 3pm without caffeine and slept on the sofa from 8pm onwards after eating your bodyweight in toast. Now you are bouncing out of bed, prepping food and planning your evening activities. Fatloss is definitely happeneing, regardless what the scales say!
Your Wardrobe - Are your clothes starting to feel a bit looser? Maybe your gym shorts are looking decidedly baggy, or better still, the new suit you bought 3 months ago is so ridiculously big and baggy that you couldn't possibly wear it in public? If that is the case, then you really are making the progress you were hoping, even though the scales don't agree.
There are a fair few other 'side effects' of fat loss that also 'outweigh' the importance of the reading on the scales. These include better sleeping patterns, positive mindsets, clearer thinking and feeling fuller and more satisfied after meals! experienced or noticed any of these feelings recently?
So on a scale of one to rubbish, how helpful is it to measure your body weight on a regular basis? You decide.......
Anyone here partial to the odd spud with their dinner? Yep, thought so. If you're reading this, you've probably also heard or read that ordinary white potatoes are absolutely terrible things and that you will face certain death if you eat more than one portion a month? And you've probably also heard that sweet potato is a very healthy food with loads of positives and is much better for you than the ordinary white potato, so you should eat as much of these as your stomach can hold down? Folks...don't be fooled.
The nutritional breakdown of both varieties of potato are almost EXACTLY the same. Basically, the only real differences are the colour, the taste, and some of the micronutrients that they contain (vitamins and minerals). They both fall into the 'starchy carb' bracket, in that they both contain mainly carbohydrates and provide us with very limited amounts of protein and almost zero dietary fat. So how come the white potato is vilified and the sweet potato is revered? I actually have no idea. But I do know that I like both and use them regularly and include both in my meals, sometimes even together!
Before we get carried away though, there are a few things to consider when using potatoes. There is a lot of good quality nutrients contained in and around the skin area of a potato, so they best way to consume them is with the skin on, or at least cook them with the skin still intact. The cooking method is also going to affect the quality of the nutrients available. The level of processing is also going to affect this - the more processed any food is, the less nutritional value available, and the more harmful it is! And then of course, the quantity consumed. This is the money ball. if you go over on the quantity side of things on a regular basis, it doesn't matter whether you eat sweet potato fries, baked white potato, sweet potato mash, or cheese and onion crisps - you will start gaining fat.
So remember your plate method - 1/2 plate non-starchy veg, 1/4 plate protien, 1/4 starchy carbohydrate (yes, this can be any variety of potato)
If you have a look at the chart below, which i have 'borrowed' from Precision Nutrition, it will give you some idea of the similarities between the two, and also what the best cooking options are. I will just like to point out, before I finish, that sweet potato fries are exactly the same as eating normal white potato chips!! Sorry to ruin the fun!
Fire away with any questions folks! - as you have been doing anyway......
Today, we are going to take the focus away from how we train and fuel our bodies and hone in on something just as important - our sleep.
So, you may now ask - 'what does sleep have to do with my health?'
Quite a lot, in a lot of different ways. In fact, you could write a volume of books on the topic. Thankfully, I don't have that kind of time on my hands, so yo're safe for now.
Seriously though, your sleeping habits are very important, and if you get them right, or even close, then you will see a change for the better. The question is, though, what is right? And the answer isn't just straightforward. So before we dig a bit deeper into that, we'll take a look at what happens when our sleeping patterns are not quite what they should be.
Tiredness - Stating the obvious! if we don't get the correct amount of sleep, the first knock on effect is tiredness during the day. This can kick in at any time during the day and can leave us feeling very sluggish, lethargic and just not feeling 100%. It can also bring about symptoms like 'brain fog' which affects our memory and concentration levels - not very desirable!
Inflammation - Repeated lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep can lead to chronic inflammation in our joints and muscle cells. as a result, this can lead to various longer term problems, such as joint pain, lack of flexibility, slower recovery from injury and even weight gain.
Cravings - Ever wake up in the morning after a very poor nights sleep, grab a sugary coffee and skip your breakfast because you don't have the energy, time or desire to make it? What do you do next? you go to the nearest shop, buy a sausage roll, a bar of chocolate and a can of fizzy drink. Why? because your body needs energy from somewhere, you have brain fog and this seems like the easiest option.
So lets ask what this has to do with our sleeping pattern? Why do we eat rubbish when we don't sleep well? Why do we have sore knees, elbows, etc, just because we only got 4 hours sleep for the last 3 nights? Hormone response is your answer. And three particular hormones are responsible for the lot.
Ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a hormone that signals hunger. When we are sleep deprived, our body's secretion of ghrelin overrides that of leptin - an appetite supressant - to such an extent, that we eat lots, and lots of anything we can get our hands on. Disaster
Couple that with the steroid hormone, Cortisol, and we have an even bigger problem. Cortisol is a control hormone that acts within our immune system, however, there are problems when the levels are too high. And when are the levels too high? when we are sleep deprived! When the levels of cortisol are higher than normal, our inflammation levels rise, with the result being pains and aches. All sound familiar?
New studies have shown that it doesn't stop there either, and that poor sleep can result in some bigger, more serious problems. Some of the latest results have actually shown evidence that backs up theories that an insufficient sleeping pattern over a period of time has links to some cancers, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and dementia. So lets try and use this as a wake up call (sorry, couldn't resist) to hopefully organise ourselves a little better so that we have enough time to sleep.
how much sleep do we need? That really all depends on our activity levels and our environment, however we would recommend 8 full hours per night, and at the very worst, no less than 7! If that means an hour less on facebook.....or netflix....or whatever you do, then so be it, you will be better off in the long run!
PS. Anyone that would like advice on how to get to sleep in a busy, crowded public place, contact Gerard Magee!
Our all too familiar, cold, dark autumn mornings are closing in fast. Soon the evenings will be dark too. The idea of comfort eating sounds appealing doesn't it? Well, you can. There is often a misconception that 'comfort eating' involves eating large amounts of junkfood in one sitting. Unfortunately, this is true in a lot of cases, but it doesn't have to be. There are plenty of menu options when it comes to warm 'comforting' meals that will still support our training and fat loss goals.
This recipe below is just one example of that, and straight out of my own book! It is based on the zone diet and will provide you with a 4 block meal. If you are familiar with the zone diet, feel free to tweak the quantities to support your own goals, and if not, stick to the quantities stated and you won't be far off the mark!
Ground Beef Chilli - Serves 6
800g lean minced beef
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
400g tinned tomatoes
1 -2 Teaspoons hot chilli powder (depending on taste)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 medium onions, finely chopped
salt & pepper
- Heat the oil in the pan, add the onions and the garlic. after 2 mins, add the beef and cook until browned
-Add a sprinkle of basil, oregano and salt & pepper
- Add the chilli powder, turmeric and ground cumin and stir for 3 - 5 mins
- Pour in the tinned tomatoes and stir well. cook for 5 mins before covering. Allow to simmer for 1-2hrs and stir occasionally
Serve with 1/2 cup of brown rice and 2 cups of green veg per person. This is also a great option if you don't want to share - simply box up the extra servings and put them in the fridge or freezer for later in the week. Enjoy!
PS. whoever posts the nicest looking picture gets to host come dine with me next week.....
One of the most intense battles in the history of nutrition...........
There is conflicting information coming from all directions regarding the quantity of food we devour, and the quality of said food. Some say that we should eat only food from unprocessed, 'healthy' sources, and to eat as much of this food as we want, with no limits. Others say 'eat whatever you want, as long as it's not too much'.
So who is right?
Well, a bit of both actually. See, here's the thing. It doesnt matter what kind of food we eat, or where it comes from, if we consume more calories than we expend as energy, the only possible outcome is weight gain. So for that reason, the quality argument is fundamentally flawed. The simple fact is that all food, no matter what the macro content is, contains a certain amount of calories. If the 'healthy' foods are therefore consumed in excess of our expenditure, we have a problem - fat gain.
So what about the quantity then? A little bit more complex but the argument is basically correct.
We already know how difficult it can be to control our portion sizes and almost impossible to accurately work out how many calories a certain meal contains.
Can anyone tell me how exactly many calories they burn in a day? (without looking at your fitbit Erina)
So the argument of 'eat what you like, just not too much' is right in theory, the problem is, that with us mere mortals that don't have access to the fancy technology, we have no idea what 'too much' is.
So how do we overcome the obstacles? its all about balance. Trying to control our food intake from poor quality food choices is a dangerous game. For example, when we put birthday cake in our mouths, a few things happen. Firstly, we usually get a sugar rush for a few minutes, due to a spike in our blood sugar, caused by the fast release of sugar from the processed carbohydrate in the food. Then, when the sugar high wears off, we often feel tired, lethargic, maybe even a little bloated. Our brain then decides that more energy is needed. That piece of cake was nice, wasn't it? So you'll have another...and so on and so forth. Suddenly you've eaten double what you had planned. It takes a serious amount of self discipline to control your food intake, whilst consuming whatever foods you like.
On the other hand, a delicious plate of roast chicken, sweet potato and green veg - all 'healthy' unprocessed foods - will be hard to resist. It will also be difficult not to overeat if this is placed in front of you, particularly if there are extras. Same thing as the cake applies. If the serving is too large, the chances are, your calories in, will be more than your calories out. The end result - weight gain
Ideally, if we can strike a balance between the two, we won't be far off the right track. If we get used to eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods that come from natural, local sources, we will be half way there. The other half of the deal will be controlling the amount of food we consume. Whole foods are generally going to support our overall health and fitness a great deal better than our friends over in the biscuit aisle, or in the pizza freezer. There are a number of reasons for this, but most of these are for another day. The main reason that we are going to look at - and it's good news - is that good quality food makes us feel more satisfied. When we eat lots of green veg with our meat, or whatever else, our brain gets a message from our stomach that says 'stop, I'm full!' And we generally do.
So the key is to control both our food sources and our quantities. Meet somewhere in the middle. We would recommend that you use your (smallish) plate as a guide.
- 1/4 of your plate protein (Meat, fish, eggs.....)
- 1/4 of your plate starchy veg (potato, rice,bread....yes, bread!)
- 1/2 of your plate green veg (broccoli, spinach etc....)
So Quantity V Quality? Why not have both. If you follow this general guide 3 times a day and have a couple of small protein based snacks throughout the day, you will be on the right track. This of course, can be tailored for the individual depending on their goals, but again, that is a new topic altogether!
Happy eating...and stay tuned, I promise there will be some recipes in the pipeline!
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