The Real Benefits of Weight Training for Women

SUMMARY: Increased metabolic rate, feel good vibes and decreased disease risk. What more could you wish for?


Most women, when asked about their fitness routine, will normally respond with details about their fitbit accomplishments or their cardio regimes. Which is all great, but it really isn’t the most effective way to lose fat. Weight training is. And not just for fat loss, it has a whole host of other benefits too.

Fat loss: To begin with, the most obvious. Many people still believe that cardio is the most effective way to lose body fat, which quite frankly is nothing more than a myth. A 1988 study concluded that combining weight training with caloric restriction was an effective way to lose fat, whilst also maintaining lean body mass (muscle/booty gains). 1 By increasing your strength you can feel better, live better, perform better, and open those pesky jam jars without a problem. Not only this but gaining muscle will burn more calories whilst you are at rest, and performing typical daily activities, increasing your net calorie expenditure and aiding fat loss. Basically, it increases your basal metabolic rate.

Insulin Sensitivity: Alongside the weight loss related benefits, this type of training can also help change your insulin sensitivity, something of particular relevance to Diabetics. Dynamic Strength Training improves the insulin sensitivity of overweight men who have insulin resistance (a characteristic of type 2 diabetes), meaning that it may not just help relieve the symptoms but also be an effective preventative tool for Type 2 Diabetes 2,3.

Mental Health: Weight lifting can also go a long way to fight depression. In 1987, a study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology showed that weight-training (along with aerobic exercise) could help reduce feelings of stress and low-mood, commonly linked with depression. 4 This can be attributed to the release of endorphins, or ‘feel-good’ hormones, which are released during and after an intense workout. It could also be down to the feelings of accomplishment and pride associated with repetitive lifting. So if you’re having a bad day, going to the gym and smashing out a great workout may make the world of difference.

Alongside these, a simple google search will show you that weight training has also been linked with lower blood pressure, decreased osteoporosis risk and increased general flexibility. It may well feel intimidating at first, but trust me, it’s worth the effort. Many people find it easier to start off with a trainer, who can give you a personalised workout and ease you into the world of lifting. Or if you’re brave, you can jump in yourself. There are plenty of articles and videos online which will show you correct lifting form and give you good plans to work with.

A final point to make is something which comes up all too often: ‘But won’t lifting weights make me bulky?’

It’s important to understand that serious weight lifting requires a lot of hard work and dedication. With a much lower testosterone level, it’s much harder for women to gain mass, and it would require you to follow a very strict and specific plan to ever become ‘bulky’. Basic lifting will give you a more toned appearance and more defined muscles, but isn’t going to make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. So give it a go.


References

  1. Am J Clin Nutr,January 1988, 47 no. 1 19-25
  2. ‘Effect of dynamic strength training on insulin sensitivity in men with insulin resistance’, Cas Lek Cesk.2004;143(11):762-5
  3.  ‘Effects of nonlinear resistance and aerobic interval training on cytokines and insulin resistance in sedentary men who are obese’, J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Sep;28(9):2560-8
  1. Doyne, E. J., Ossip-Klein, D. J., Bowman, E. D., Osborn, K. M., McDougall-Wilson, I. B., & Neimeyer, R. A. (1987). Running versus weight lifting in the treatment of depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55(5), 748-754.

How to lose weight (for good!)

SUMMARY: If you’ve made the decision to lose weight, well done you. But don’t succumb to pressure and other people’s goals – you are doing this for you, and you need to do it your way. Find a good plan, stick to it, and the results will come.


How to lose weight, and keep it off for good

These days everyone tries to make weight loss such a complex science. Sure, you can separate fats and carbs, eat only certain things at certain times and track your macros. But it doesn’t have to be that complicated – it can be simple. The simple formula to losing weight is burning more calories than you eat. So calories in is less than calories out. Simples.

There are numerous ways to do this, so don’t let anyone tell you that you have to stick to a particular way of life to lose weight. You don’t. The most important thing is to find a plan that works for you, and stick to it. If it doesn’t seem like something that is sustainable, then you could end up just crashing and burning, along with your weight loss dreams. It’s better to go slow and steady, than look for a quick miracle fix and be disappointed with the results.

So I’ll quickly tell you the way that works for me, tried and tested as I’ve lost three stone in the past six months. Firstly, I identified my weaknesses: I have a terrible diet and binge eat when I’m sad. Secondly, I tried to find a way to overcome these weaknesses. I started tracking my calories and instead of comfort eating, if I’m sad I go to the gym. Thirdly, I don’t hate myself for having a bad day, or a bad week. So what if I ate like shit, and didn’t work out? I’m still me, and I still love myself. I can just get started right back again when I feel okay. I don’t use this as an excuse to binge eat though; it just helps put me in the right frame of mind to keep going. Also, through tracking my calories I’ve found a lot more freedom in what I can eat. If I want a pizza, I’ll have it. If I want chocolate, I’ll have it. I just incorporate it into my daily calorie allowance.

So I eat roughly 1500 calories per day (that I track through myfitnesspal). I’ve increased my steps to at least 10,000 a day (tracking through fitbit). I lift weights 3-4 times a week, and do a HIIT session once a week. Many women are a little dubious when it comes to weights, so let me just clarify that they will not ‘make you bulky’. They build muscle, to tone your figure, and help increase basal metabolic rate (meaning the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest). I also give myself one day off my diet a week, as I find dieting very difficult. This doesn’t mean that I just eat crap, it means that if there is anything I really crave in the week then I can have it. It gives more flexibility to the diet, making it easier to stick to.

But you have to find a way that works for you. My key pieces of advice are listed below:

  1. Try to decrease your caloric intake. Online calculators can give you a very rough estimate of how many calories you use on a daily basis. Subtract 500 from that, and you have your diet.
  2. Track your calories on myfitnesspal. Sometimes portion sizes and food can be deceiving, so try and be honest with yourself.
  3. Increase your normal activity levels, by walking more steps a day. 10,000 is a good aim.
  4. Do something active at least 3-4 times a week, for 30 minutes or more.

At the end of the day, it’s a lifestyle change. These fad diets may help you shed a few pounds but as soon as you stop, you’re going to go back to how you were. Don’t let anyone tell you that weight-loss is easy, because it isn’t. It requires motivation and determination to keep you going. It’s also very important that you find the way that works for you; there’s no point going on an 800 calorie-a-day diet if you can’t live without chocolate. Find a plan that works for you, and stick with it. You might not see the results straight away, but as the weeks and months go by you will start to see sustainable changes in your body.

Good luck on your fitness journey!

How to detoxify your body (a.k.a. How your organs work)

YOU CAN’T.

SUMMARY: Unless I’m missing a key point here, people generally have a liver. And they generally have kidneys. So I’ve got some great news for you – you’re set. No expensive detox remedies needed! These cute little organs do it all for you, and the best part? It’s free! Talk about altruistic community citizens.


How do you detox your body?

Now this is a question I feel quite passionate about, and so I apologise if it comes across as a bit of a rant.

That’s because it is.

A little background first. Since getting a lot more involved in the fitness and weight loss community, I have been overcome with offers and adverts from various people, telling me that their supplements and juices will increase my health by ‘detoxing’ my body. Now as a fairly non-confrontational person, I just quietly dismiss these people as idiots, nod politely and move on with my life. But I’ve had enough, so I’m here to educate you all.

Sure, your body needs to be detoxified. That’s why evolution, the babe that she is, spent millions of years grafting to give you a beautiful and caring organ, known as the liver. Oh, and shout out to the kidneys too. Taking these pills and juices will do absolutely nothing in terms of detoxifying your body, which any scientist will happily tell you.

The liver works 24 hours, seven days a week to ensure that you remain healthy. It metabolizes drugs, and alcohol, to prevent them reaching toxic levels in the blood. It also has numerous other functions, including vitamin storage and angiotensinogen production, not quite relevant to this rant. They are pretty cool though, so feel free to look them up. 1

The kidneys are two little bean-shaped organs that are just adorable. They have numerous functions, one of which includes the removal of toxins from the blood, such Urea, Bilirubin and Ammonia. If these substances accumulated in the body, it would cause serious complications, and result in illness. That’s why the kidney has a highly sophisticated glomerular filtration system, to allow it to remove these products from the blood and excrete them in urine before they reach harmful concentrations. 2

Having a slight grasp on these basic scientific concepts will tell you all you need to know. You cannot cleanse and detoxify your body; these are normal processes which occur regardless of what juices you drink. The only benefits to SOME of these drinks are that they may contain various vitamins and minerals, which your body can use. However I would like to stress that these can easily be obtained from a balanced and healthy diet, or alternatively from a pack of multi-vitamins at a fraction of the price of a juice-cleanse.

So in conclusion, you don’t need to detox, you don’t need to cleanse, you don’t need to drink a thousand awful ingredients to remove your body of toxins. The liver and kidneys do that for you, and in fact if those organs failed then I can guarantee there is nothing that those juices can do to help you. Getting involved in this latest fad will only make you lose weight from your wallet, and won’t make you any healthier. So next time someone comes up to you and says ‘try this juice, it’s fab and detoxes your body hun’, ask them exactly what metabolic process it is trying to interfere with and what scientific evidence they have to back up their claims. Hopefully, that’ll shut them up, and give you five minutes peace to plan how to remove these money-grabbing sales monkeys from the world.

  1. (2017). Liver Function. [online] Available at: https://www.boundless.com/physiology/textbooks/boundless-anatomy-and-physiology-textbook/digestive-system-23/the-liver-1377/liver-function-1091-5068/ [Accessed 5 Jul. 2017].
  2. com. (2017). Function of the kidney. [online] Available at: http://www.kidneychat.com/function-of-the-kidney.html [Accessed 5 Jul. 2017].

The Truth About GMO’s

SUMMARY: Scientists are just trying to help. But y’all are making it pretty hard? Want less pesticides, fine. Want more food to feed the world? Fine. But you can’t protest our methods and expect those results. Read the actual evidence, stop the fear-mongering, and sort yourselves out.

What’s the truth about GMOs?

There are a lot of articles and posts on the internet today, each person expressing their own view on Genetically Modified Organisms and GM technology. It’s a big war between the scientists, and the alternative bunch of quacks. With so much screaming and arguing about, it’s difficult to really see what is going on, and what the truth behind the story is. I advise, for further information, for the reader to conduct quick searches on sites such as the British Medical Journal, and Pub Med. AVOID biased sites at all costs, stick to the evidence. Upon examining the evidence, you will be able to come up with your own mind about the safety of GMO use, but I implore you to do it based on rational thinking, not lie-based fear-mongering.

Now for those of you that still aren’t quite sure what GMOs are, I’ll provide a quick explanation. GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, are organisms which have a gene in their DNA slightly altered to give them a more desirable characteristic. In short, scientists are now able to re-create what Mother Nature has been doing for millions of years. DNA change is a simple fact of life, and there is nothing ‘un-natural’ about it.

I would like to start with saying that I have yet to see any credible evidence that GMO food is unsafe. I can understand how people, who may not be involved in the world of science, can be scared by the thoughts of people changing their food. This is why there are very strict regulations on their consumption, and government bodies such as the FDA carry out extremely extensive testing on all of the products to determine their safety. In fact GM foods are tested a whole lot more than normal food, so that’s something to consider.

I am often surprised how many people are so vocally anti-GMO. With an ever-growing population, scientists are looking for new tools for how to feed the world and reduce starvation rates. They have developed disease resistant plants, to increase crop yields 1. They can produce high quality wine, with a lower ethanol concentration, making it less damaging to the liver 2. And key to the argument, they can produce crops which require far less pesticides to grow. Since the introduction of GM crops, there has been around an 8% decrease in pesticide use3. Anti-GMO lobbyists are quite often the same as the Anti-Pesticide group, which seems to form a nice little paradox. You can’t have everything guys, scientists produce a crop which requires less pesticide use and yet you’re still not happy.

There are serious concerns about GMO use, which are actually scientifically viable. Things like genetic drift, where an infection resistant plant gives it resistance to a weed, are serious worries. However it is important to note that these are things which have been identified and scientists are working on these problems, to come up with effective solutions. Something which no doubt would be easier without the anti-GMO movement.

And a final argument which many people use is that ‘Oh but look how much money the industry is making from it. Big Pharma just wants to profit from our poor health.’ In that case, I ask you – do you think that all the organic, non-GMO companies have sprung up purely out of the goodness of their hearts? No. They haven’t. They make millions selling organic and non-GMO food. So don’t base your argument off of who earns money where – look at the evidence yourself. The scientific evidence.

If you want to learn more, this page provided by the World Health Organization is a great place to start.

http://www.who.int/foodsafety/areas_work/food-technology/faq-genetically-modified-food/en/

 

  1. Malnoy, M., Viola, R., Jung, M.-H., Koo, O.-J., Kim, S., Kim, J.-S., … Nagamangala Kanchiswamy, C. (2016). DNA-Free Genetically Edited Grapevine and Apple Protoplast Using CRISPR/Cas9 Ribonucleoproteins.Frontiers in Plant Science7, 1904. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpls.2016.01904
  2. Cuello, R. A., Flores Montero, K. J., Mercado, L. A., Combina, M., & Ciklic, I. F. (2017). Construction of low-ethanol–wine yeasts through partial deletion of theSaccharomyces cerevisiae PDC2  AMB Express7, 67. http://doi.org/10.1186/s13568-017-0369-2
  3. Brookes, G. and Barfoot, P. (2017).Environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996–2015: Impacts on pesticide use and carbon emissions. 8th ed. GM Crops and Food, pp.117-147.

Rise of the gluten free diet – for better, or for worse?

Summary: Some of you guys take cocaine and won’t eat Gluten but that’s none of my business. I’m just shouting my message for the common good. Eat a normal, balanced diet and you’ll be fine – unless you’re a Coeliac. You guys just keep doing what you do.


Rise of the gluten free diet – for better, or for worse?

In 2013, the NPD reported that around a third of adults in the US want to cut down, or completely remove the protein Gluten from their diets1. This trend has extended to the UK, where I believe at least everyone knows someone on ‘the gluten war’. The rising belief that gluten is bad for you has stimulated a dramatic increase in the Gluten-free food market, with more and more companies becoming involved in the latest diet fad. While it is true that for a certain group of people, suffering from Coeliac Disease, gluten is indeed very bad and can have a very negative effect on their health and wellbeing. However whether or not people who don’t suffer from the disease will benefit from the Gluten free diet remains to be seen.

With the increased interest in Gluten, and its effect on public health, a number of studies have been done investigating the associations between gluten and numerous diseases. In April 2017, a prospective cohort study was released examining the association between a long term intake of gluten and incidence of coronary heart disease2.

This study conducted a long term dietary analysis of a very large sample between 1986 to 2012 (or time of death/cardiovascular disease incident). The cohort was split into five subgroups, based on fifths of average gluten intake. For the study they then compared the incidence of cardiovascular disease between the highest fifth and lowest fifth group. For reference, in the highest group the average gluten consumption per day was 10.0g for men, and 7.5g for women. In the lowest group, it was 3.3g for men and 2.6g for women. They discovered that the group who consumed the lowest amount of gluten had an incidence rate of cardiovascular disease of 352 per 100,000 person years, which is actually higher than the 277 per 100,000 person years incidence rate of the fifth who consumed the highest amount of gluten. This may seem like an interesting finding however numerous complex statistical tests demonstrated that the increases in results were insignificant, meaning that they actually mean very little in a real world setting. However it does show that there is no evidence that a gluten free diet decreases risk of cardiovascular disease, as is a commonly peddled message by many gluten free advocates.

A possible reason for the slight increase in CVD in low gluten-eaters is the fact that people who religiously avoid gluten tend to have a decreased consumption of whole grains. Whole grains as a food group have been repeatedly shown to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease, so decreasing whole grain consumption could result in an increased risk of developing CVD3.

On the other hand, similar studies have shown that a gluten free diet can be an effective tool for weight-loss, which in itself has cardiovascular benefits4. This considered it is safe to say that the studies so far released are simply pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, revealing details but not the overall picture. In individuals with a healthy weight, there seems to be little benefit to undertaking a gluten free diet, and restricting the consumption of whole grains cannot be deemed a healthy plan. More studies are needed to determine the long term causal relationship between gluten free diets and overall health, not just cardiovascular disease, but for now it has been shown that completely removing gluten from your diet may not be the healthy path it seems, and eating a balanced and varied diet could instead be a better option.

 

Citations

NPD. (2013). Percentage of U.S. Adults Trying to Cut Down or Avoid Gluten in Their Diets Reaches New High in 2013, Reports NPD. Chicago.

BMJ 2017;357:j1892

BMJ 2016;353:i2716

Emilsson, L. & Semrad, C.E. Dig Dis Sci (2017). doi:10.1007/s10620-017-4649-0

 

 

Tyrannosaurus Rex – Scaled after all? / Jurassic Park was right

SUMMARY: dinosaurs are sick and if y’all don’t realize that then it’s your loss. With or without feathers they could still beat your ass and look fly as hell whilst doing it.

Tyrannosaurus Rex – Scaled after all? (//Jurassic Park was right)

One of the big questions in society today, particularly amongst dinosaur nerds like me, is: Did they have feathers?  We can’t help but wonder whether or not the beloved TV dinosaurs of our childhood were an accurate interpretation, or a pack of lies. So this post is going to examine the literature and figure out what’s what when it comes to our confused Dinosauria friends.

Theropods are a group of dinosaurs who are known to be bipedal, and groups of which are the ancestors of modern day birds. Many were carnivorous, and included such well-known dinosaurs as the Tyrannosaurus Rex and Spinosaurus. They lived during the Mesozoic period, from the Triassic to the Late Cretaceous. As the group with the closest links to birds, they are a key talking point in the debate. Other groups of dinosaurs, such as Sauropods, have no evidence linking them to feather-like structures.

In 2004, a study published in Nature described evidence of protofeathers found in primitive tyrannosaurids (ancestors of the T.Rex)1. Another study in 2012 displayed fossil images showing both juvenile and adult Ornithomimus specimens, covered in feathers 2. Feathers have also been found on several other species, including Caudipteryx, Beipiaosaurus and Compsognathus. So, with so many species of Theropods that are known to have feathers, the question seems to be answered. Dinosaurs had feathers, right?

Wrong. It’s not that simple. It turns out that feathers may have evolved over several events in history, not just from one point in time. It is, therefore, entirely possible that certain species had feathers, where as some species didn’t. It is also possible that while an ancestor may have been covered in feathers, through evolution they could have been de-selected and lost in favour of scales. It’s also entirely possible that some groups may have been partially covered in feathers.

Another study published in 2017 analysed skin fragments from Tyrannosaurus Rex, and other large tyrannosaurids, and confirmed that they indeed possessed scaly skin, with no evidence for any feather-like covering3. So, that’s it. Jurassic Park was right on this one (ha). Although it is worth mentioning that only fragments of skin have been discovered, so there may well still be feather coverings localised to specific areas. However the study goes on to provide theories for why they lost the feathers seen with their ancestors. As tyrannosaurids increased in size, they required better cooling mechanisms, which would include loss of insulating feathers from their skin. This may also have been caused by a shift towards a warmer climate.

So while the prevalence is unknown, it is clear this is not a black and white question. Some dinos did, some dinos didn’t. And while statistical analyses may help predict which species are likely to have feathery coverings, we can’t be sure until all of the fossil records are analysed. Which may take some time. So for now, just be happy in the knowledge that your T-rex toys are not too far from the truth, and as scientifically accurate works they are a perfectly acceptable collecting item for any adult.

 

  1. Xu, X., Norell, M., Kuang, X., Wang, X., Zhao, Q. and Jia, C. (2004). Basal tyrannosauroids from China and evidence for protofeathers in tyrannosauroids.Nature, 431(7009), pp.680-684.
  2. Zelenitsky, D., Therrien, F., Erickson, G., DeBuhr, C., Kobayashi, Y., Eberth, D. and Hadfield, F. (2012). Feathered Non-Avian Dinosaurs from North America Provide Insight into Wing Origins.Science, 338(6106), pp.510-514.
  3. Bell, P., Campione, N., Persons, W., Currie, P., Larson, P., Tanke, D. and Bakker, R. (2017). Tyrannosauroid integument reveals conflicting patterns of gigantism and feather evolution.Biology Letters, 13(6), p.20170092.