Nutrition Archives - Jamie Mac Fitness

Category Archives for "Nutrition"

Metabolic Adaptation

| Nutrition

metabolic adaptation:

is it the reason for your weight-loss struggles?

metabolic adaptation

It’s natural for us as humans to strive for instant gratification. Rapid results. This is no better exemplified when it comes to our desire to improve our bodies, whether in the form of fat loss, muscle gain or both.

Unfortunately, seeking immediate gratification within this context is the exact reason you’re not getting or better yet, MAINTAINING the result you’re looking for.

And you’re not alone. 95% of people who lose weight initially will gain it all back within 3 years. Of those, 1/3-2/3’s will regain MORE weight than they lost.

What’s even more unfortunate is that for many, this happens despite actively trying to maintain or extend their weight loss. With the staggering 95% stat, you may have or are currently experiencing this. You’re not sitting on your ass. You’re trying. But no matter how little you think you’re eating or how often you’re training, your weight stays the same or increases. 
Why is this the case?

metabolic adaptation

It’s natural for us as humans to strive for instant gratification. Rapid results. This is no better exemplified when it comes to our desire to improve our bodies, whether in the form of fat loss, muscle gain or both.

Unfortunately, seeking immediate gratification within this context is the exact reason you’re not getting or better yet, MAINTAINING the result you’re looking for.

And you’re not alone. 95% of people who lose weight initially will gain it all back within 3 years. Of those, 1/3-2/3’s will regain MORE weight than they lost.

What’s even more unfortunate is that for many, this happens despite actively trying to maintain or extend their weight loss. With the staggering 95% stat, you may have or are currently experiencing this. You’re not sitting on your ass. You’re trying. But no matter how little you think you’re eating or how often you’re training, your weight stays the same or increases.
Why is this the case?

metabolic adaptation

When energy input is lowered and weight loss occurs, our bodies set off adaptations specifically designed to put a halt to further weight loss. These adaptations can include:

  1. Less calories burned at rest simply due to you carrying around less body weight.
  2. Decreased energy output, both through exercise activity (decreased energy and strength) and non-exercise activity (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis), which is all energy expended for anything you do when you’re not sleeping or exercising (walking, doing the dishes, cooking, or even fidgeting). Consciously or subconsciously these will lower when dieting, especially when calories are very low.
  3. Hunger hormones increase in an effort to make you eat more.

As you can imagine, these adaptations directly oppose your weight loss goals. Further, the hormonal changes make it difficult to retain lean mass, threaten energy levels and general mood state (you’ll be much easily irritable!).

The effects of these adaptations don’t just stop there. Even after you’ve lost weight, these adaptations persist as you try to maintain your new body weight. These adaptations, which have decreased your metabolic rate and increased your hunger, also set you up for a huge rebound and more difficulty with future weight loss.

Further, research has shown that the majority of the weight gained in this period is preferentially stored as fat and the addition of new fat cells may occur. This can lead to body fat overshooting – regaining more fat than initially lost during the diet.

The point of this post is to put real context to the notion of striving for SUSTAINABLE progress as oppose to rapid results. If I can teach you one thing, it’s to see through the bullshit of all the big nutrition companies or fitness “coaches” that promise to have you lose 20 pounds in two weeks or any other ridiculous timeline. They care about one thing and one thing only, and it’s certainly not you. It’s green and ends in a Y....if that wasn't already obvious.

Get out of the yo-yo dieting death trap. Your body and overall well-being will thank you.

Leave me a comment or drop me an email if you’re ready to be apart of the 5% who lose the weight and keep it off for good!

8 Tips/Strategies for Dieting During The Holidays

| Nutrition

8 tips/tricks for dieting (flexibly) during the holidays

The holiday season is great. At least when it comes to having fun with family and friends, eating delicious food, relaxing, taking some time off work, and enjoying the festivities.

It isn’t so great for your diet though.

Unless you’re a very rare breed who is able and happy to stick to any type of diet without issue, the holidays make dieting seriously tough. Christmas is one day, but we all know the holiday season stretches out for at least a month and a half with all of the Xmas parties, New Years festivities and get-togethers. This means 6-8 weeks where you’re faced with treats and temptations on the regular.

As somebody who follows flexible dieting principles, I don’t restrict myself from most Christmas foods, and wouldn’t ask my clients to either (unless they choose not to).

That said, with so much tasty food at your fingertips, it’s impossible to make everything fit your macros, even if you’re bulking and/or on pretty high daily calories. For those on a cutting/weight loss diet and/or lower macros, it can be a nightmare.

You’re faced with a decision.

Do you stay strong, stick religiously to your daily nutritional targets, have a few small servings of something festive you enjoy each day, but potentially feel like you missed out on all the fun? Or, do you adjust your goals and expectations to strive for maintenance instead of continual fat loss, and get back on the horse in the New Year?

Only you can make that call, but if it’s the latter, you’ll need to prepare yourself for a few weeks in the new year making up for lost time.

In any case, dieting and enjoying your holidays don’t and shouldn’t be exclusive of one another. By incorporating a few tips, tricks, and strategies you can limit (and even avoid) any damage that could result should you completely jump off the boat.

Here they are:

1. forget macros

Forget worrying about hitting your macros, and instead simply shoot for total calorie intake and a minimum protein target. While it may not be optimal, calories are king, so you’ll still lose fat being in a deficit. Additionally, lowering your protein intake a little will give you more room for carbs and fats = more treats.

For instance, if your current macros are set so that protein is at 1 gram per pound, and you’re eating: 200g protein 200g carbs 60g fat

This works out to 2140 calories. So, you could shoot for that same number while lowering protein to around 0.8 grams per pound or 160 grams. This would free up 1500 calories to be filled with a combination of fats and carbs in whatever preference you choose.


2. Pull Macros

The holiday season is all about picking your battles. Most people will stick to their diet on typical days, splurge on days with events/parties, and then jump right back on their usual diet the next day. Don’t get me wrong, this is much better than simply saying fu*k it for the whole festive season, however, doing this will still likely put you in a calorie surplus at the end of the week/month when its all said and done. Instead, reduce macros in the days leading up and/or after those bigger calorie days to keep things fairly even. For instance, if your current macros are the same as the example above and you have one Xmas party on the weekend you could reduce macros (mainly from carbs and fats) for 3 days leading up thus freeing up a good chunk of calories for said event. Here you may drop your calories from 2140 to 1840 from Wednesday to Friday, giving you 3040 festive calories to play with on Saturday.


3. eat high volume/fibre foods

Staying full with nutrient dense/low calorie foods should be the name of the game throughout the holidays. Festive foods generally aren’t comprised of very many nutrients, so when you can get them in, get them in! Instead of eating a burger and fries for lunch, mix up a deadly chicken and spinach salad with your favourite fibrous veggies!


4. Pick protein first

Protein is the most filling of all the macronutrients, so start with a protein source. Let’s be serious most delicious holiday foods contain little to no protein. So in addition to opting for high volume/fibre foods load up your plate with lean meats before all else. Not only will this keep you feeling full, you’ll feed your muscles in the process. Hey, it’s the season of giving right? Don’t exclude them.


5. hit weekly targets

Instead of focusing on daily macros/goals, aim for weekly instead. If your macros are 200g protein, 200g carbs, 60g fats and 2140 calories, your weekly goals would be 1400g protein, 1400g carbs, 420g fats and just shy of 15,000 calories. For even more flexibility, simply aim for 15,000 weekly calories while shooting a minimum weekly protein intake of 0.8g per pound of bodyweight (approx. 160g per day assuming you weight 200lbs).


6. employ an intermittent fasting protocol

Maybe you have a Xmas party that night or better yet it is Christmas and you have a massive feast awaiting you in the evening. Skip breakfast, have a protein shake instead and push your first meal back to lunchtime. In doing so, you’ll have decreased your feeding window and freed up more calories for the big feast.


7. mix in hIIT

If you think you’ll be going over by 400 calories on any given day, consider adding that much in through a high intensity interval based cardio session. No one wants to be doing endless amounts of cardio throughout the holiday season, but a little extra here and there will help burn off any excess intake.


8. align your goals & expectations

What are you aiming for at the moment? If you have a competition, photo shoot, or a beach holiday around the corner and want to turn a few heads in the process, then you probably do need to be fairly strict with yourself over the holidays.

If you’re in a maintenance or bulking phase though, then you can get away with extra “fun” calories without much worry.

If you have a more flexible time line with your fat loss goals, consider adjusting your goals towards maintaining rather than continuing to lose weight throughout the holidays. This way you’ll be far less likely to be disappointed when the scale doesn’t continue moving downward. In fact, a diet break may just be what you need, physically and mentally to up-regulate your hormones and increase motivation for your post holiday dieting phase.

In any case, do not let your diet dictate your holidays or feel guilty for treating yourself. At the end of the day, Christmas happens once a year and is a time to spend with the people you enjoy most. Employing the strategies above will let you do so without putting a massive dent in your fat loss goals.

If you have any questions at all, don't hesitate to ​drop a comment below or reply to this email.

Hope you have a Merry Christmas and enjoy the holiday break!

What to Expect When ‘Dieting’

| Nutrition

what to expect when 'dieting'

for level 1-3 dieters

I preach a lot about how ‘easy’ flexible dieting is.

The thing is….this does not mean it’s a complete walk in the park.

You still have to be accountable.

You still have to place some limits and restrictions on yourself.

You still need to prepare and cook the majority of your meals, track your intake, and make some intelligent food choices to ensure you’re staying the course.

That said, it’s a hell of a lot more enjoyable than following a fixed, boring meal plan or a fad diet.

The ability to eat almost anything you want is the reason why most people get the wrong impression with flexible dieting, and think that fat loss will be an absolute breeze. But it just isn’t always the case, particularly if you do have ambitions revolving around very low body fat levels.

So, let’s clear up some confusion and look at what you can expect when dieting (flexibly).


the different levels of dieting

Before we go too far, it’s important to take note of the different levels of dieting. For now, we’ll concentrate solely on a fat loss diet or a “cut” rather than talking about bulking or maintaining.

level 1 - general fat loss

This is what approximately 70-80% of people are striving for. It doesn’t involve having a ripped six-pack or aspiring to look like a cover model. It simply encompasses losing weight, feeling healthier and getting a little leaner.

What to Expect –

As a level 1 dieter, you shouldn’t really have to suffer and struggle too much.

Sure, there may be times when you’re a little hungry, or have to make a tough choice when you’re out with your friends – do you have your usual large cheeseburger with fries and a couple of pints or do you opt for a sirloin steak with a salad, or even the burger but hold the fries and have a couple of spiced rum and diet cokes instead?

On the whole though, all you need here is a little calorie restriction, and the willpower to make a few sensible food choices to aid satiety and help you better hit your macros.

Happiness, energy levels and motivation generally shouldn’t dip. In fact, as you see results, and improve your diet, you’ll probably even feel better than you did before.

level 2 - getting 'lean'

About 10-20% of people want to take things a step further. They want visible abs and probably want to turn a few heads with their shirt off. This will likely require males to drop down to 8-10% body fat and females to 12-15%.

What to Expect –

Getting leaner feels great, and you’ll most likely find that seeing improvements in your physique, and getting down to the type of body fat levels that turns heads, and makes people in the gym notice you is a great driver to push on.

However, to get down to this level, your calorie levels will have to drop further (generally from carbs and fats) which may negatively impact energy levels. This is dependant on your current calorie intake, how much muscle mass you carry and how you cope with dieting in general.

Regardless, hunger is often an issue. Having said this, utilizing certain tricks like eating bigger meals, using a fasting protocol, increasing activity level/frequency instead of lowering calories when you plateau, carb cycling, etc. can all make the dieting process easier.

level 3 - shredded

Here we’re talking bodybuilding and physique competitors.

This is the extreme end of the spectrum, and requires extra willpower, dedication and discipline.

We’re talking 4-7% body fat for males, with defined muscles and a high level of vascularity.

And about 10-12% body fat for females with a six-pack, and definition in all areas.

Now that we’ve defined the levels of dieting, lets take a look at what each of them would entail…

What to Expect –

This is where some serious commitment, adherence and sacrifice will be required. Aside from VERY few people, getting down to these body fat levels is a temporary thing (bodybuilding/physique competitions). Unless you have superior genes or are on performance enhancements, sitting in the low single-digits is an undesirable place to be.

Here’s what you may find -

  • Hunger – you’ve got a choice when flexible dieting. You can hit your macros with whatever foods you want and eat things like burgers from fast food joints, donuts and pizzas (if you have the macro budget for these), but it’ll likely mean eating nothing but plain chicken and broccoli for the rest of the day.

    Or, you can eat more nutrient dense, calorie-friendly foods like veggies, lean meats, fruits, whole-grains and low-fat dairy to fit to your macros in an effort to better control hunger.

    Either way, some kind of hunger is inevitable at this level of dieting.
  • Fatigue – food is energy, so when food intake is lowered, tiredness will occur. In an effort to keep you going on a calorie restricted diet, your body will try to get you to sleep more, not to mention recovery will take much longer.
  • Lowered Energy/Gym Performance – as with the point above, fatigue means lowered energy. Because of this, energy and performance in the gym will likely be affected in a negative manner. With lowered bodyweight comes lowered muscle mass (even with optimal calorie deficits). Strength levels will decrease and so too will your calorie burn in and out of the gym.
  • Feeling Cold – less body fat equals less insulation, so expect to be wearing more layers, and taking more hot showers in the winter, especially if you live somewhere that’s cold to begin with (like here in Canada!). Life is cold at 5% body fat.
  • Food Obsessions – prepare to have food on your mind 24/7. Hunger and cravings can create unhealthy relationships with food, and you’ll likely have your post competition/event feast planned to a T well before the date.
  • Drop in Libido – as your body fat drops to these levels, your hormones (particularly testosterone) can too. This causes a drop in libido and sex drive.

does dieting have to suck?

The bottom line is that cutting only has to be as bad as you make it.

If you’re a level 1 dieter, and you hate every minute of your life, you’re likely being at least a little too extreme.

The leaner and more aggressive you want to get, however, the tougher dieting can be, and the more side effects you’ll likely have to deal with.

One final & important point though – the more times you diet, the easier it gets, as your body becomes accustomed to carrying lower levels of body fat. This is why its very important that once you’re done a dieting phase, you reverse out of this state slowly, spend a longer time at or above caloric maintenance before dieting down again as oppose to constantly yo-yoing between excessive deficits and surpluses and damaging your metabolic rate in the process. You’ll find it much easier to consistently control and improve your body composition over time if you do so.

Better yet, make it even easier by allowing me to help you. By doing so, you can eliminate the guesswork and get the body you want easier, faster, and most importantly, more enjoyably - without every feeling tied down by your diet. 

If you think we'd be a good fit shoot me an email at jamie@jamiemacfitness.com or drop a comment below.

How To Drink Alcohol Without Ruining Your Gains

| Nutrition

how to drink alcohol without Sabotaging your gains

I’m often asked , “How can I drink and not screw up my diet?”

First things first. I never say no to alcohol with any of my clients’ diets as it’s not realistic, especially if doing so would have a negative impact on their social lives. Often, the all or nothing mindset sets people up for failure, because once they have one drink, they decide, “Oh well, I’ve already screwed up so I may as well have 10.” Which combined with the ‘drunken munchies’, will certainly negatively impact progress.

Beer, shots, margaritas; they can all be ok. Following a few simple rules can help you ensure you stay on track while still indulging in a few adult pops.

But, before we get into those, here are some key points you have to understand...

  • Consistently consuming more calories than we need leads to weight gain.
  • The fat in the foods we eat will only be stored when we consume over our energy needs for the day.
  • It’s tough for the body to convert excess protein intake to fat, and only with regular overfeeding does the body convert excess carbohydrate intake into fat. However, they both contribute to the energy balance for the day, so indirectly they can lead to fat gain.
  • Alcohol does not have any fat, but it has an energy value. Many popular alcoholic drinks usually contain a combination of carbs (either from fruit as with wine, hops/wheat/barley as with beer, or sugar from carbonated drink mixers) and alcohol (more on this below).
  • Whenever anyone talks about macros they are referring to protein, carbs, and fats. However, there’s actually four macros and the fourth is alcohol. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram (whereas protein & carbs contain 4 calories per gram and fat contains 9 calories per gram).
  • Drinking can easily push us over our calorie budget for the day mainly due to the fact they are ‘empty’ calories, meaning they provide no nutrients or fibre thus do not do anything for satiety levels. In fact, they generally increase hunger levels leading to even more calories consumed from food.
  • It’s not great news for building and repairing muscle, as alcohol can dampen muscle protein synthesis, which can negatively impact the recovery process, and potentially slow down your muscle/strength gains. As for fat loss, your body sees alcohol almost like a poison. In an attempt to rid itself of these toxins, alcohol gets priority when being broken down, thus slowing the digestion of protein, carbs and fats. This halts fat oxidation, but also delays carbohydrate and protein oxidation and makes you more prone to fat storage.

But, I thought you said I could drink and not ruin my progress?

Drink in Moderation!

"Tell me something I didn't know" is probably what you were just thinking, right?

Well we're getting there but it has to be clear that going out and drowning 12 pints in one night is probably not the best idea, particularly if your goals are pretty firm and your timeline to get there is rather tight. One night of fairly excessive drinking won't kill you so long as these occasions are few and far between, and you follow the upcoming guidelines.


Moderation, though hard to define, we’ll call it when you drink 1-3 drinks.

The key in these situations is to reduce your food intake by an amount matching the calorie content of the alcohol you are drinking. The best way to do this is to reduce these calories from fats and carbs, as you need the protein for satiety and the muscle sparing properties.

If you're using a food tracking app like MyFitnessPal then you'll notice when you search for a specific alcohol, the calories will show correctly (provided you've selected a legitimate entry) however the macros given will not correctly add up to the given calorie total. Because of this, you'll need to designate those calories to carbs and/or fats and never ever protein.

If you'll only be consuming a few drinks then it shouldn't be too hard to reduce carbs and/or fats from other meals and still hit your macros. I'll go over what you can do if you drink more than in moderation after this example.

Example: You drink three bottles of beer
Remember 1g of protein and carbs contain 4 calories and 1g of fat contains 9 calories

If the calorie total for those three beers (which is actually from carbs and alcohol) comes to 450 kcal, then you’d want to reduce calories by the same amount from carbs and fats. Because fat is an essential macronutrient responsible for many hormonal functions, I always recommend reducing the majority of those calories from carbs (I like 70% from carbs and 30% from fats as a baseline). So, consider taking out ~80g of carbs (315/4) and ~15g of fat (135/9). If you’re low on carbs you can always sway the breakdown to 60/40 or even 50/50 if need be without any worry.

Now, if you have more than 4-5 drinks you'll likely have to reduce calories in other meals so much so that it could be tough especially if you're someone dieting and on fairly low daily calories. So, in these cases here's what you can do.

Example: You drink 6 bottles of beer

Using the same example as above each beer contains 150 calories meaning the calorie total for those three beers (which is actually from carbs and alcohol) comes to 900 kcal. Pretty tough to pull 900 calories out of your day regardless of how many calories you're shooting for daily. So, this is when the next best option is to pull some carbs and/or fats from the day before (if this drinking was planned ahead of time), or pull some from the following two or even three days if it wasn't planned.

Let's say this social occasion came out of the blue and therefore you didn't plan for these extra 900 calories and ended up going over your daily calorie goal by that same amount. You could:

  • Reduce calories by 450 in each of the next two days. Using the 70/30 ratio in favor of carbs you'd reduce carbs by ~79g (316 calories) and fats by ~15g (135 calories) for three consecutive days.
  • Reduce calories by 300 in each of the next three days. Using the 70/30 ratio in favor of carbs you'd reduce carbs by ~52g (208 calories) and fats by ~10g (90 calories) for three consecutive days.

Although trying to hit your daily calorie and macro targets is the ideal situation, pulling calories & macros from other days and focusing more on your weekly totals is the next best option and will keep you on track far better than simply saying F it, blowing up and then going back to your usual targets. This will almost always keep you from getting the type of results you're after and/or make the process much, much longer.

Now I'm certainly not suggesting you 'drink' your calories on a regular basis. I’m just saying, you don’t have to let worries about your diet spoil your social life, if alcohol is a part of it, if it’s just occasional.

Here are some other important and helpful tips to implement to make drinking easier while staying on track:

  1. Eat your protein target for the day to preserve muscle mass (lean sources such a chicken, egg whites, casein protein), restrict carbs to veggies.
  2. Try to drink hard alcohol, dry red wines (they are lower carb), or spirits with zero-calorie mixers (I like spiced rum & Coke Zero or Diet Gingerale).
  3. If you're going out for some drinks, eat before you go. Alcohol does nothing for satiety and often increases it. Eat a big protein based meal with fibrous veggies beforehand. This will keep you feeling full throughout the outing and thus prevent you from sinking 3000 calories in chicken wings... 
If you follow those few rules and keep these things infrequent, you won’t ruin your progress. Remember, you don’t have to live like a hobbit just to get the results you’re after.

If you need more help getting absolutely shredded without having to avoid the foods/drinks/experiences you enjoy shoot me an email or drop a comment below and if we're a good match we can map out a plan just for you.

How To Properly Track Your Progress [PART 4]

| Nutrition

HOW TO PROPERLY TRACK YOUR PROGRESS [PART 4]

Make sure you've read through Parts 1-3 before reading on.

Part 1 - Tracking Tool #1
Part 2 - Tracking Tool #2
Part 3 - Tracking Tool #3

And finally, last but certainly not least...

tracking tool #4 - Subjective feelings (sleep, stress, hunger, fatigue/energy)

These factors are almost always ignored when determining progress from week to week.

Yet are extremely important pieces of data when deciding what adjustments should or should not be made moving forward.
 

RATE THE FOLLOWING ON A SCALE (0-5): 

  • Sleep Issues - (0=high quality sleep, 5=insomnia and/or constantly waking up )
  • Stress Levels - .(0=no stress at all, 5=nervous breakdown)
  • Hunger Issues - (0=no issues at all, 5=extreme hunger 24/7)
  • Fatigue/Lethargy - (0=no issues at all, 5=extremely fatigued all or most of the day)

 WHY?:

  • Sleep Quality - has a massive effect on training performance & recovery. Because of this you'll likely burn less calories and your ability to build/retain muscle mass may take a dip. So, If you are very hungry most of the time, your performance in the gym has been shitty (energy & strength), or you're feeling very lethargic but you see that your sleep quality/duration has been poor of late, you might want to reconsider adjusting your macros (or by how much) and focus on improving your sleep.
     
  • Stress - can not only negatively effect training performance, but it promotes increased water retention leading to a probable increase in weight. So, if your weight hasn't been trending downwards over the last 2-3 weeks, but your stress levels are very high (4 or 5), then increased water retention from stress may be the cause. *This is of course only viable if you've been hitting your macros fairly closely (using ranges)*.
     
  • Hunger Issues - a calorie deficit is essentially controlled starvation. so being a bit hungry from time to time is normal. But, if your hunger levels are through the roof most or all of the time then you're  likely in too large of a calorie deficit and thus should increase. Note that your food choices play a huge role in hunger/satiety so if you're not consuming high fibre/volume foods then this is the more likely cause.
    ​​​​​​​
  • Energy Levels - affect training performance and the amount of calories burned throughout the day. Not only will you burn less calories during your training sessions (if energy levels are low), but you'll also burn less through NEAT (Non-exercise activity thermogenesis) which is calories burned through every day things that are not sports or exercise related. Naturally when your energy and sleep quality are poor you'll decrease your NEAT unknowingly. If you notice that your energy levels & training sessions have been awful, it may be a sign that your calories are too low. Note that this could also be due to sleep quality.

Take 2 minutes out of your day to log your sleep, stress, hunger, and energy levels. If at the end of the week there's one or more that's consistently high it's very likely its skewing the data on the previous 3 tools.

Well, there you have it - that was the last of the 4 tracking tools you should be using to measure progress.

If you haven't been using them, start now and thank me later.


These are all used by my online clients, whether in a one on one environment, or within our 14 Week Ex-Athlete Transformation Program - The Game Changer.

Take the guessing game out and focus on the fun stuff while leaving the boring (but integral) components to me.

Inquire about 1 on 1 Online Coaching or VIP membership into the Game Changer by emailing jamie@jamiemacfitness.com

How To Properly Track Your Progress [PART 3]

| Nutrition

HOW TO PROPERLY TRACK YOUR PROGRESS [PART 3]

Make sure you've read through Parts 1 & 2 before you go Part 3.

Part 1 - Tracking Tool #1
Part 2 - Tracking Tool #2

You now know two out of the 4 main tracking tools you need to accurately track & measure your progress.

It's time for the 3rd. 

tracking tool #3 - progress pictures

Pictures are arguably the BEST way to track and measure your progress out of all 4. Why? Because they paint the clearest picture of what's going on and have the least amount of variables that can throw things off (provided you're taking them correctly & using them at the right times  -which i'm about to go over).

To ensure accuracy and consistency:

  • Take under the same lighting each time
  • Use the same camera each time
  • Wear the same or similar type clothing
  • Take from the same distance and angle each time
  • Take in the morning (it's becoming a theme huh?) before you've consumed anything and ideally after you've gone to the toilet.
  • Use the same pose each time (in each angle).

Although pictures are an invaluable tool for measuring progress, changes are often hard to see when comparing from week to week or even bi-weekly. I would not recommend putting your weekly pictures up side-by-side to compare yourself as the likely minimal visible changes could negatively impact your motivation.

However, if you have a coach (like me) to send your photos to for evaluation, then doing so every two weeks is appropriate as they'll have much more expertise in doing so.

Otherwise, I suggest taking your pictures every 4 weeks. Not only is this timeline a more accurate indicator of progress, it's very useful for motivation as you'll be much more likely to see noticeable changes.

HOW TO TAKE YOUR PHOTOS: 
  • Ideally use a tripod or get someone else to take them for you. If those are not viable options, then use the mirror selfie style (as shown below). Just make sure flash is off.
  • Take front, side, and back angles. If you're doing the selfie style the back angle will be tough. So in this case its fine to get the front and side.
  • Shed the tarp and wear boxers/briefs 
  • Use the bullet points above to ensure accuracy and consistency.

As a final note, pictures are a great way to measure your progress but only when used at the right times & in conjunction with the other tracking tools. 

Do not go putting your week to week pictures up side by side expecting to see major changes, especially if you know you'll be disappointed if you don't. 

 Instead, compare your before and after's every 4 weeks if you don't have a coach. This way you'll see positive changes in your physique, increase motivation and adherence, and be fu*king proud of what you've achieved. 

How To Properly Track Your Progress [PART 2]

| Nutrition

HOW TO PROPERLY TRACK YOUR PROGRESS [PART 2]

If you haven't already gone through Part 1 click here to do so before moving forward.
 
If you have, lets move forward with the 2nd Tracking Tool...

tracking tool #2 - measurements

Although there are more measurements that can be taken and used, below are the 5 main ones I use with all my clients that provide enough adequate data for measuring & tracking progress. 

  • Chest - standing, and measured with a breath out just above the nipple all the way around and under the arms.
  • Arm - with arm hanging to your side - measure half way down your upper arm below the shoulder (find widest point). Do one or both and remain consistent with future readings.
  • Waist - all the way around your stomach, just above the belly button
  • Hips - all the way around the largest point around your butt
  • Thigh - standing & measured around the largest part of your upper leg

As with the scale weight, I always suggest measuring in the morning when you wake up, before you consume anything, and ideally after you've gone to the toilet. Ideally, do it yourself rather than relying on a partner, as you are the only person that will ALWAYS be with you. Two different people measuring with the same tape will more than likely get a slightly different results

Frequency of measurements depend on your timeline & your goals, however I generally have clients take their measurements every two weeks. If you want to do it weekly then by all means do so.

 To ensure accuracy & consistency:

  • Use myotape or another similar brand (pictured below)
  • Take measurements in an non-flexed state 
  • Stand up straight
  • Pull the tape tight, keeping pressure against (but not pinching) the skin & ensure the tape is kept level and not angled
  • Take measurements in front of a mirror for better visibility
  • Always measure on bare skin and never over clothing

How To Properly Track Your Progress [PART 1]

| Nutrition

HOW TO PROPERLY TRACK YOUR PROGRESS [PART 1]

I'm guessing that you wake up early or haul your ass to the gym after work, and make conscious food choices because you want RESULTS and you wanted them yesterday. 
 
If you are putting in a serious amount of effort with your training and nutrition, you owe it to yourself to take the ten extra minutes each week to track your progress seriously. This will help ensure you get the results you deserve.
 
I’d go as far as to say it’s the biggest differentiator between those that are successful and those that aren’t.
 
Why?
 
Because without proper tracking data, you won’t be able to gauge whether or not you are progressing as hoped. You won’t have objective data points from which to base your decisions off of when you stall in some area, and there is a good chance that you will get stuck spinning your wheels not knowing what to tweak to get yourself back on track.

Perhaps you’ve already experienced this frustration?

Thankfully, this 4 part series  will give you everything you need to know so you can eliminate all of the guesswork and start seeing optimal and consistent gains both in the short AND  long-term.

Listen, I know you want to get shredded in the least amount of time. I mean who doesn't?

But in order to do this you MUST have the proper structure and tools in place so that you can make any necessary adjustments to your nutritional requirements. Without those, not only will you be leaving huge gains on the table, but you'll be wasting a hell of a lot of time and effort.
 
There are 4 MAIN ways to track and measure progress and are what I use with all of my clients. 

 So, lets get into the first one...

tracking tool #1 - scale weight

Firstly, a very important note is that scale weight is not always the BEST tracking tool, simply because scale weight fluctuates from day to day and even hour to hour (as indicated in the illustration below). However, when used CORRECTLY it provides us with a macro-view of what's going on. In theory, if your goal is to shed body fat and get lean, the scale weight should be trending downward over time.

In order to limit the effect that these variables have on your weight reading, ensure you do the following:

Use a Three-Day Average
Get your weight for 3 consecutive days at the end of your week block and then use the average. For ease of this example lets say your week block started on Monday - you'd weigh yourself in the morning on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then use the average weight against the average weight of the previous week.
 
*NOTE* I generally have my clients start their week blocks in the middle of the week. Why? Because weekends provide more opportunity to consume higher calories (especially carb heavier foods & higher than normal sodium) and therefore you'll more than likely be retaining more water than normal, thus giving off skewed weight data. 

Get your weight in the mornings! And ideally, after you go to the toilet.

Why?


Because of all the weight fluctuation factors illustrated in the graphic above, mornings are the best time to get consistent readings.

Remember that scale weight is not the be all end all when it comes to tracking and gauging your progress. It is to be used in conjunction with the other 3 tracking tools covered in this 4 Part Series.

Nutrition Pyramid

| Nutrition

the nutritional pyramid of importance for fat loss & muscle growth

Unfortunately, there is a whole lot of confusion and misconceptions over what actually matters when it comes to nutrition - specifically when talking about fat loss, muscle growth and overall physique goals. For a lot of people, lack of results (or ideal results) is nothing to do with a lack of effort, but instead comes down to prioritizing the wrong things and/or completely missing aspects that are absolutely critical towards success. 

I get a ton of questions from clients and followers who ask me what supplements they should take or how many meals they should eat in a day. My first question is always "What are your goals and how many calories are you consuming daily/weekly?". In most cases, they'll have no answer to the second part of the question. I'll then tell them not to worry about anything else until they've determined their energy requirements and have been consistent with them for at least a month.

It's not the sexy answer but it's the no BS answer. Without taking care of the things that matter most first, everything else is completely irrelevant.  So, lets get into the Pyramid of Importance, starting from the most important (bottom) and moving up to the less important (but still influential).

#1 - calories & energy balance

This is the most important aspect when it comes to any body composition goal and the base of the pyramid. Calories trump everything else.

If you want to lose weight, get lean and lose the belly, you must be in a calorie deficit (burning more calories than you’re consuming or consuming less calories than your body requires to maintain its weight).

If you want to gain weight, add more muscle and get stronger, then you must be in a calorie surplus (consuming more calories than you’re burning or consuming more calories than your body requires to maintain its weight).

No matter which path you decide to go down, ensure you’re progressing slow. If you’re losing or gaining lots of weight fairly rapidly, it’s probably a good idea to slow things down a bit. Generally, I recommend aiming between 0.5-2.0lbs when in a fat loss phase (the leaner you are the lower you should be on that spectrum & vice versa), and between 0.3-1.0lbs gain when in a growth phase (aiming for the lower end if you're not in a rush and/or want to keep fat gain to a minimum).

#2 - macronutrients

  • Protein -  builds/retains muscle. 0.8-1.2g of protein per pound of bodyweight is generally where you'd want to be per day, with 1g per pound being the sweet spot. Anything less and you'll be at a higher risk of muscle loss when in a deficit and anything more and you'll surpass a point of diminishing returns and be at a higher risk of being broke (haha but seriously, protein is the most expensive macronutrient and exceeding that will not have any more benefit when it comes to muscle growth - so save yourself some dough). Going higher than 1.2g/lb of bodyweight will also mean you'll have less calories leftover for carbs and fats, meaning less pizza...
  • Fats -  Fats are essential for survival. They're responsible for ensuring your hormones are functioning properly and efficiently, including testosterone production (too little and you'll very likely see your sex drive plummet and/or put forth sub-par performances in the sack...). Because of that, you MUST get a minimum per day. Aim for a minimum of 0.4g per pound of bodyweight. Generally, I recommend anywhere between 0.4-0.6g/lb of bodyweight. If you prefer a higher fat diet then go with the high-end. Having said this, those with lots of bodyfat typically do better on the mid-high side of that spectrum than those who are leaner..
  • Carbohydrates -  Carbs are the only macronutrient that we could live without. However, we're here to make gains and therefore they need to be included. They have positive impacts on hormones, are your main energy source (think gym performance), replace muscle glycogen (primary and preferred fuel source for our muscles, and allow protein to do what we want it to do - more muscle baby! The remaining calories leftover after you've set your protein and fat intake go to carbs. I will mention that carbs become more important when 'bulking' & wanting to add more muscle mass - so setting your fat intake more towards the lower end of the above spectrum is a smart play. 

For example, lets say you've determined your fat loss calories to be 2200 with 180g of protein and 60g of fat you'd have accounted for 1260 calories (refer to the table below if you're confused). That means you'd have 940 calories leftover. Therefore, your carb intake would be 235g.

  • Alcohol - WTF man you didn't say alcohol was a macronutrient?! Well, no I didn't but not because it isn't a macronutrient (because it techincally is), but because it has no positive benefit (besides turning 5's into generous 8's...wait, is that even a positive?). But seriously, alcohol is considered a macronutrient and it's calories need to be accounted for. I am not advocating for you to go on frequent benders or drink unnecessarily, however it is unrealistic to expect you to never indulge in a couple cheeky pints on a Saturday (after all, saturday's are for the boys) or better yet a couple neat bourbons. Being able to properly track these is a game changer and something most people do not do. Although alcohol has 7 calories per gram, you'll notice when tracking that the macros don't add up to the calorie amount. That is because, carbs are accounted for but alcohol is not. The remaining calories must be put towards carbs and/or fats. If you want further instruction on this, shoot me an email or message on social media.
  • Fibre - Fibre is not a macronutrient in itself and is therefore not part of the big 3. However, it is a classification of carbohydrate. We cover this here because fiber keeps us feeling fuller without adding significantly to the calorie content of foodWhy? Because it delays digestion of food. Additionally, fibre lowers blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol, and helps us stay regular. 
    However, it’s also possible to have too much, with undesirable side effects being gas, diarrhea, constipation and bloating. Keeping your fibre intake fairly consistent from day to day will keep these at bay while maintaining a leaner/harder & more consistent looking physique.
    How much you ask? 10-15g per 1000 calories is generally a good rule of thumb. For example, if your daily calorie intake is set at 2500 then your daily fibre range would be 25-38g per day. Of course, if you're someone who enjoys a higher fat diet and is thus on lower carbs, getting enough fibre could prove to be a battle. If you can't seem to get a 10g minimum per 1000 calories, adding a fibre supplement is a good idea.

#3 - micronutrients & Water

Unlike macronutrients, micronutrients are only needed in very small amounts. Nevertheless, micronutrients are essential for good health; deficiencies can cause serious health problems. They are necessary for your body's systems to function properly, from bone growth to brain function. They are primarily found in fruits and vegetables, which is why a healthy dose should be included in your diet.

Here are some key points when it comes to micronutrient intake:
  • Consume between 2-3 servings of fruit per day (1 Serving = ~50-80g)
  • Consume between 3-4 servings of vegetables per day (1 Serving = ~80-110g/day)
  • Consider supplementing with a multivitamin to cover your bases. This is certainly not mandatory but is never a bad idea especially if your fruit & veggie intake is on the lower end.

When it comes to water, there is no universal amount that one should consume on a daily basis. Factors like gender, weight, training frequency/intensity, calorie intake, climate, etc all effect how much should be consumed. Nonetheless, water plays a big role in fat loss/leanness and performance.

Water is a transporter, meaning it helps shuttle important nutrients through our bodies. Inadequate amounts will make it hard for these nutrients to reach our desired destinations. Think about muscle growth - even with adequate protein intake, there's a strong likelihood that protein won't reach our muscles if water intake is insufficient.

In addition, if water intake is too low, there's a good chance you'll actually retain more water, leading to excess bloating and inflammation. Not a good look if you're wanting to impress with your tarp off.

I generally recommend males aiming between 4-6 litres per day and females between 3-5 litres (higher end if you're bigger and/or sweat a lot from training output or climate). 

Check the color of your pee. If its clear, you're good. If it's yellow drink more. If its anything else, a doctor visit is in order..

#4 - meal Timing/Frequency

People lose their minds for any shortcut to losing weight, building muscle or getting shredded; and marketers take advantage of this to sell us on something new. Meal timing and frequency is no different. 

The truth: Getting the timing of things right has favorable effects on body composition, however, if you skip over the most impactful, foundation levels of your nutrition plan (calorie intake, the macro composition, and micronutrition) you are wasting your time, money and effort.

Any time someone presents you the nutritional importance pyramid upside-down, run for the hills.

Your goals, calorie intake, lifestyle and personal preference should all play a big role on the amount of meals you should consume on a daily basis. Generally, I suggest consuming no less than 3 protein based meals per day. Here are some points to consider:

  • Those in a calorie surplus with the primary intention of muscle growth should eat more frequently (4-6 times per day). 
  • Those in a calorie deficit with the primary intention of fat loss may eat less frequently (although not mandatory). The bigger the meals the more satiated you'll be. Eating frequently means you're likely eating small meals which may not satisfy hunger levels enough;  putting you at higher risk of overeating as a result. 3-5 meals per day is a good shout.
  • If you opt for less meals per day and are going more than 4 hours without a meal, I'd strongly consider supplementing with BCAA's (more on this upcoming), or protein powder to ensure you're not at higher risk of muscle loss (or sub-optimal muscle growth if in a growth phase).

Nutrient timing and macronutrient partitioning can also play a big role on body composition and performance (if the previous 3 points have been nailed down), especially when used around your training sessions.

As covered in Point #2, carbohydrates play important roles in energy and protein synthesis, while protein encourages muscle growth. Therefore, consuming a minimum amount of carbs and protein before/after our workouts will benefit both of those. Of course the amount will vary depending on the amount you have to work with on a daily basis. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Consume approximately 25% of your daily carbs 60-90 minutes prior to your training session
  • Consume approximately 20-25% of your daily carbs within 60 minutes of your training session (lower end if your carb intake is really low)
  • Lower fat in both of these meals as it'll slow the digestion of protein and carbs (less than 10g)
  • Consume at least 25g of protein in both of these meals

#5 - Supplements

Ahh good old supplements. As you can see from the pyramid diagram at the top, the supplement level takes up the very small point at the top. That's not a mistake. Contrary to popular belief from the general public or casual gym-goer, supplements are not required and do not make or break progress or performance. Here's the real, short & sweet low-down on suppies:

  • Supplements can benefit a good nutrition plan, but they cannot make up for a poor one.
  • Supplements are not needed to transform your physique and in many cases constitute an unnecessary expense.

Unfortunately, supplement companies have done an incredible job in leading you to believe the only way you can get ripped and shredded is by taking their supplements. "Take this fat-burner and you'll shed 5lbs in the first week!".... Don't fall for this garbage. Do your research and decide whether or not you actually NEED it. Most times, the answer will be no. 

However, there are a few supplements that are beneficial for those who have certain medical restraints and thus are unable to get enough of a specific nutrient, or advanced trainees looking for another inch. 

  • Protein Powder: as a means to hit your daily protein requirements without using it as a substitute for real food. The higher your protein requirements are, the harder it may be to hit those targets with food alone. In these cases, supplementing with protein powder is a quick & easy way to get that done.
  • BCAA's: as a means to cover your bases on occasions where you're going long periods of time without a protein based meal (over 4 hours). Don't get fooled into thinking they're something more than this. If you're someone who fasts in the morning, BCAA's are a great way to narrow the gap and reduce the potential of muscle losses.
  • Creatine Monohydrate: creatine is one of the most studied & proven supplements. It's proven to increase strength, power and recovery, while increasing muscle fullness. Although not required, it can prove beneficial by frequent gym-goers and more advanced trainees. 5g per day is fine, and up to 10g before your training sessions is a good shout.
  • Fish Oil: can reduce inflammation and improve joint health.
  • Citrulline Malate: probably the least important on the list but my personal favourite. It helps counter muscle fatigue & increases nitric oxide production - meaning insane pumps and vascularity in the gym. I take this with creatine right before/during my workouts. Again, not required by any means and really only advantageous for those who are already lean with visible abs.

Don't get fooled into buying unnecessary supplements thinking they're the one thing keeping you from your desired physique, especially if you haven't taken care of the previous 4 points in the pyramid. If you're just starting out, start from the very bottom and stay consistent with it. Only then should you move up into the next tier. Keep the focus as narrow as possible. This will increase adherence in the short and long term, while allowing you to get to where you want to be faster and much more efficiently.

If you have any questions or comments, pop them below. 

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