Friday, 25 October 2013

Fasted Cardio

Fasted Cardio is a hot topic of debate- some believe it is the best way to get rid of the stubborn fat on your body, others completely dismiss it as unhelpful for fat loss, whilst others believe it can actually be detrimental to your lean body mass (the muscle on your body) and potential muscle gains.

Fasted Cardio is the aerobic exercise you would perform first thing in the morning prior to breakfast. Now some do this completely fasted- i.e. the last meal they had was the night before, whereas others take a protein source just before (usually a protein shake and BCAA supplement tablets) in the aim of preserving muscle.

I used to do fasted cardio 1-2 years ago. I would usually do a morning 45minute spinning class at around 6.30am before going to Uni. After the class i would immediately drink a protein shake and on my way out of the gym buy a Starbucks Porridge (there was a Starbucks inside my gym). Now during that time i didn't lift weights- i was more of a cardio girl. I was not too concerned about gaining muscle, as my main priority was losing fat. I mean now i understand that ideally you want to do BOTH (achieved by lifting weights and adding in cardio to suit your goals), but anyway that was what i did. I didn't find that i was low in energy. If i was tired i would drink a coffee in a flask on the way to the gym. I had enough energy to make "personal bests" in terms of km on the spin bike. I also found that because my uni degree was so demanding, waking up early and getting my gym session done at a time where i would usually be in bed worked for me.

Now, 1-2 years later, i have reviewed a lot of the science data that is out there, and listened to a few podcasts by well respected scientists, phd/master graduates and notorious industry figures. Here are some facts I gathered:

- your glycogen stores deplete 50% just from sleeping (overnight fast). Glycogen is a fuel source, and one that will typically be used during aerobic exercise.
-Those that say fasted cardio burns the muscle is stemmed from the idea that if your glycogen level is low, the body will want to preserve it and so will use the fats as fuel instead.
-To burn fat on your body it required liberation of Fatty Acids from the fat tissues which are then transported to the muscle, liver and heart where they are oxidised for energy.
-The critics say that this fat-burning process which requires liberation and oxidation occurs over DAYS and not hours. They therefore say that just by having an overnight fast it would not lead to the body using fats as an alternate source.
-Science studies have shown that as a general rule, if you burn carbohydrates during a workout then you inevitably burn more fast in the post-exercise period. Thus over 24 hours, the ones who exercise in a fed state burn more fat than those that exercise in a fasted state.
-True fat loss boils down to diet as opposed to trying to trick the body to utilise its fat stores. You must review your macronutrient intake of protein, carbohydrates and fats during the day.
-Pre workout and Post workout are the 2 more essential meal times in terms of optimising muscle gains. To lose the pre workout window can be detrimental.
-Studies have shown a greater Nitrogen Loss when fasted. Nitrogen is a molecule which makes up Protein, and so this is evidence or potential detrimental catabolism (breaking down) of muscle.
-If you are still keen on fasted cardio, the recommendation is to keep heart rate between 60-65% max and to ideally take a protein shake or BCAA supplement tablets just before.
-Food is not going to stop you from breaking down fat. It isn't as simple as "i wont eat, then i'll exercise and then i'll lose fat". In fact, when you food there is a "thermic effect" whereby energy is used to break it down, and this creates an afterburn. The afterburn is thus higher when exercising in a fed state, leading to an overall greater caloric burn.
-If you don't have enough energy in the morning to really go hard in your exercise routine then it is not going to really be beneficial.

Hope this helps!

Monday, 21 October 2013

The Mind

We control the environment we live in, the circumstances and events we face. Some think the answer to problems is to change the circumstances, but the truth is it all lies within us. We have to change our outlook to the external events, and we evoke the positive changes that are necessary for us to live a happy, fulfilled life. Every goal made can be achieved- you have to believe it in every cell of your body. It has to be a fixed, unshakeable belief which cannot be broken down by doubt - in your mind or from other people. People have powers over other people- and what i mean by this is that we are susceptible to other people’s suggestions. Some are more than others. We have to believe so strongly, that we don’t allow doubt, fear or worry to break down the belief. We also must surround ourselves with positivity and symbols of success and accomplishment- both from thinking it and saying it to yourself over and over again, but also from people around us. Everything we hear, say, speak in turn has a knock on effect on the things we feel and how we act and view things. We can set the wheels in motion to achieve our goals just by believing that they can be achieved. Belief also comes from habitually and repetitively saying things to ourselves. Once we fully believe, and have faith and expectancy that it will come true, then it will. The mind is powerful. To be the best you have to not only believe that you can be the best, but also that you will be the best. Positive reinforcement and expectancy is paramount. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Strength Of Mind

I have become more and more engrossed with the bodybuilding and fitness industry, and with it has come watching videos of Arnold, discussing his past and how his vision lead him to set his eyes on a goal and never give up- to keep pushing when others told him he was crazy or would never achieve it- and allowed every barrier to strengthen him and fuel his desire. His life is truly inspiring, and his videos are motivating. I would truly recommend watching them all because he is a martyr for setting your eyes on a goal- WHATEVER that may be- and not giving up until you reach it. I believe that is what makes a champion. 

I started thinking about my own experience and how far I had come. One thought in particular was to do with me being an anomaly of my family- casual thought of the day. Now my great-uncle used to do bodybuilding competitions in Malta (something i didn't learn until recently), now other than that ONE RELATION, no other family member- close or distant- has a faint interest in exercise, nutrition, or having a healthy lifestyle. I come from a maltese family who believe eating in abundance is a sign of health, and gaining weight (albeit not huge amounts) is actually a good thing. My grandma on my mum side loved to cook, and was always in the kitchen setting up 3 course meals for them all, and so my mum recalls this as being the norm. All her siblings are overweight- 2 had anorexia as teens, and the other had bullimia. My dad used to be skinny, but in his 20's was diagnosed with Diabetes Type 2 and thereafter the weight has piled on. This has not been helped by his carbohydrate-laden meals, and sedentary lifestyle.  My whole extended family are sedentary- no exercise AT ALL. Me, my sister, my mum and dad live in England whilst the rest of our family live in malta so i will stick to just discussing us. 
My family  set their meals around eating carbohydrates. The portions are excessive, and it is normal for my dad (who does the cooking) to make huge amounts so that they (i don't eat his food- never have) can go back for more servings. My dad loves cooking- particularly baking and bakes loafs of bread every day including home-made pizzas. 
Now i have always been different. From a young age i took a real interest in health, and wanted to be slim and lean. I loved exercise and i liked looking a certain way. I have always been the anomaly of the house- even in my personality i can often be introverted and after a day out, i do love to have some "me time", so often at home you'll find me in my room with my macbook. Now in terms of eating habits, i have always cooked or prepared my own meals. My family are so amazingly supportive of everything that i do that they never made any comment or anything. In fact my mum would ask me to make a list of "my foods" and she would do the food shopping for "my foods". It was always obvious in the kitchen fridge or cupboard which foods were mine and which was the rest of the family's.

My main point is that despite my kitchen smelling of a bakery 24/7, or the treats that i see around the house i have never been tempted. In fact, it actually fuels my desire because i LIKE and ENJOY being different. I know that my will power is exceptionally strong- always has been. I always did what i wanted- more in a focused way rather than a spoilt-brat/princess way. During ALevels my friends would still go out to clubs etc, but for me and my goals i knew i needed 3As in my Alevels and that meant making sacrifices. I used to have comments made my friends about this but it didn't phase me. I am very all or nothing, and with my 'all' mentality comes tunnel vision 
I do believe if you want something enough, and are in-tune with what exactly is required of you and what you must sacrifice, then temptation won’t phase you. Psychology plays a huge part- i always said "i want to achieve *this* so i must do *that*" as opposed to "i can't do *this* because i have to do *that*". If you are looking for an excuse to break away from a goal- i.e. it is one you don't really care about or that was inflicted on you by your parents, friends, peer pressure etc, then the willpower you can force will only take you so far. 
When people asked me about why i was so healthy and never used to indulge, I found the easiest way to answer that was to tell people i was “brought up around health”. The truth is i wasn’t- my family sometimes resembles "fat families"- as much as i do love them, they have zero care in the world for nutrition or exercise. No one would understand why i made the decisions i did, chose to put workouts as a priority, and chose to ate the way i did, so It was a lot easier to tell that lie, because then suddenly people understood. I think the strength comes from within, because my goals are different to my family's- my vision is to do with turning my body into a personification of my mental strength. I overcame a lot of demons in my past, and each made me stronger. 
I hope this motivates at least one person to stick to their goals and find the strength within. Everyone has their struggles, and not everything comes easily- i would love to have a family that ate the way i did and would even go to the gym with me- but that is life, and you have to face whatever challenges or rocky paths are set forth. They will only build your character and strength, so embrace it and congratulate yourself on your achievements wherever you are in your journey/path towards your goal.