Last week the newspapers had a field day — it was the battle of the diet guidelines. A breakaway group of health professionals calling themselves the Public Health Collaboration (PHC) had dared to pick apart and criticise the government’s Eat Well Guidlines and produced their own alternative. Now the papers are full of one expert or another saying that the new report is based on poor science and irresponsible, while the writers of the report defend themselves by saying that the critics are all in the pay of food companies or Big Pharma. So who do we believe?
The establishment, although critical of the low-carb approach of the newcomers, believed that attack was the best form of defence and didn’t bother to scientifically defend their clearly out of date guidelines — which recommend, for example, that we avoid saturated fats (which means dairy, nuts and olive oil) and that we eat more starchy carbs (rice and pasta).
The low-fat guidelines have been largely inherited from the US. Early studies from the 1970s were based upon correlations between death in different countries and the types of food eaten, and these studies were taken as gospel truth by government diet experts around the world. Recently all of these early studies have been re-analysed and found to be fundamentally biased as well as misleading.
About one per cent of the population have a genetic mutation which means they can’t effectively process fats in their diet and do well to avoid high-fat foods; for the rest of us, however, low-fat diets offer no proven long-term benefits and new evidence in fact shows they may actually be harmful.
For many years fat was the perfect enemy for governments providing a simple public health message and the food industry was happy to go along with it since it benefited financially from low-fat alternatives with added chemicals and cheap protein from soy. But most ‘real’ food is made up of a wide variety of different fats and, if not consumed excessively, may actually be good for us.
The real test of whether fats are good or bad doesn’t come from studies on lab mice or blood samples from humans over a few weeks, or even very large observational population studies. The real test comes from large clinical trials following people for years. There are sadly very few of them, but the Spanish government funded the biggest study of its kind called the PREDIMED study based on 7,000 men and women aged 60 at risk of heart disease. They were randomly allocated to one of two diets: a medically approved low-fat diet without dairy or fatty meats or a high-fat Mediterranean diet with lots of cheese, yoghurt, nuts and extra virgin olive oil. The study was stopped early after five years because one diet group was dying more and had a third more diabetes, heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer — you guessed it: the low-fat group.
This study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013, has been largely ignored in the UK and in the most recent debate. Despite the adverse health effects of restricting fat at the expense of carbs, it seems there is no stopping the lucrative low-fat food industry. Belief in the benefits of the varied high-fat Mediterranean diet is slowly growing among the informed public, if not yet embraced by the medical profession.
So why do government and NHS experts persist in repeating false dogma about fat and skipping meals and the power of calorie-controlled diets long after their sell-by date? Well, they probably feel that if they back down and admit their mistakes they lose credibility and won’t be believed again.
What about the rebel PHC guidelines? There is certainly plenty of sensible advice in the document and good reasons for them to attack the conventional wisdom on saturated fats — which needs re-writing urgently. However, the authors appear to have become entrenched in their own anti-carb views and make the same mistakes, going a step too far and now basing their new guidelines on fragile short-term evidence of the ‘low-carb diet’ and of healthy extra fats as well as putting emphasis on the dodgy glycaemic index of foods which has never (like saturated fat intake) been convincingly linked to poor health long term.
We forget that there are many areas nearly everyone agrees on — avoid processed food, reduced refined carbs, eat more fresh fruit and veg.
Adapted from an article by Tim Spector professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, honorary consultant physician at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Foundation Hospitals and author of The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat
Research shows that as we get older skeletal muscle tissue and mass is lost because fast-twitch muscle fibres are atrophying or decreasing in size. This sarcopenia-induced alteration fundamentally affects muscular strength and functional physical capacity thereby making activities of daily living significantly more challenging, and in some cases, even dangerous.
The interplay of the ageing process per se and increasing sedentariness and gross physical inactivity combine to create the "perfect storm". This 'deadly' combination of ageing and disuse synergistically accelerates morphological and functional declines in human skeletal muscle as evidenced by substantial reductions in muscle size, strength and power.
However, scientific research has demonstrated quite categorically that exercise and in particular, resistance training, attenuates and possibly even reverses some of this decline. Resistance training changes the trajectory of functional physical capacities by significantly enhancing strength due hypertrophic changes in fast-twitch muscle fibres hypothesised to be caused by myofibrillar accretion and substantial up-regulation of neural efficiencies via improved recruitment of skeletal muscle. Both these processes lead to greater neuromuscular force development.
The benefits of resistance training and the associated adaptations cannot be over-emphasised. I have seen such exercise in older people lead to dramatic improvements that are truly life-changing. Indeed, the experience of an individual undergoing such a transformation is often amazing to watch, with many not able to fully grasp or really comprehend the many practical benefits that come about following just a couple of months of training.
If you don't want to be one of those 60 or 70 year olds who can't stand up from a chair, who gets anxious if there are stairs to climb, looks for the hand rail for support or is distrustful of negotiating uneven surfaces, then you need to seriously consider partaking in regular sessions of weight or resistance training.
At least 2 sessions per week
30-40 minutes in duration not including warm-up
Focus on working all major muscle groups primarily based on compound, multi-jointed non-machine orientated movements
4011 tempo (4 seconds on the eccentric, 0 seconds on transition, 1 seconds concentric, 1 seconds pause then repeat; if you are not sure what this mean please contact me)
60-90 seconds rest between sets
At least 48 hours between sessions for recovery
Consume 40 g whey protein post-exercise to maximise muscle protein synthesis rates
Please note: Even if you're fit and active with endurance activities such as running or cycling, it is important to remember that such exercise will not sufficiently stimulate fast-twitch muscle fibres due to the relative low muscle forces developed. The implications of this are that selective fast-twitch muscle atrophy and strength loss will still occur and functionality will be somewhat compromised. You should therefore still incorporate weight or resistance training into your lifestyle to reap the benefits that have been shown time and time again.
Disclaimer: Those interested in making changes to their exercise, lifestyle, dietary, supplement or medication regimens should consult a relevantly qualified and competent health care professional. Those who decide to apply or implement any of the information, advice, and/or recommendations on this website do so knowingly and at their own risk. The owner and any contributors to this site accept no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any harm caused, real or imagined, from the use or distribution of information found at RJM Performance.co.uk. Please leave this site immediately if you, the reader, find any of these conditions not acceptable.
To lose weight there has to be a calorie deficit, calories in vs. calories out, move more eat less. There are hundreds if not thousands of studies demonstrating that it is all about calories.
The types of calories we ingest DO affect the body differently, not just for health and performance, but also in terms of thermic effect and absorption. Nevertheless, in regards to weight loss, it still always comes down to calories in vs. calories out. We do know that quality affects quantity. When you consume a high quality diet, not only do you get all the nutrients you need for health and performance, but it’s also more satiating, meaning you need to consume fewer calories in order to feel satisfied. Adherence is what matters when it comes to a calorie controlled diet. If you can’t stick to it, it doesn’t matter if it’s the healthiest and most satiating diet in the world. This is where low carb comes in, its simple with few rules, just cut out the junk and refined, heavily processed empty calories. Its satisfying, due to the higher quality of foods consumed.
The carbohydrate restriction creates a de facto restriction of many problematic treat foods and empty calories and so calories are reduced and weight is lost.
This is a big part of how low carb diets work for weight loss.
There is another aspect to this, however, and that involves an increased protein intake.Protein is the most satiating of macronutrients. It also gives a slight metabolic boost because of its higher thermic effect. Digestion burns calories, and protein burns about twice as many calories while being digested than carbohydrates do. (FYI, fat has a very low thermic effect.) But with protein, it’s more about the fact that it does a pretty good job of filling you up (as long as it’s in solid form and not some weight loss shake).
The reality is that low carb diets can work because of their simplicity, but in the interest of keeping it simple, which seems to be one of low carb’s most valuable aspects, I’ll recommend that you add just one word to such an eating strategy: “refined.” Focus on eating a low refined carbohydrate diet.
If something has been highly processed, it is more likely to be higher in calories, lower in nutritional value, lower in satiety and higher in taste reward so as to promote overconsumption. That’s a food that is worth limiting.
Many of us think we have to make a large overhaul to our lifestyles in order to achieve a healthier body. To some, this might be as scary or seem as unrealistic as holding onto a boa constrictor!
The simple truth is that we do not have to change everything to become healthier; we just need to get started. Getting started can certainly begin with small steps. These small steps, should be one’s we are confident we can accomplish.
To begin, let’s take a look at some healthy behaviors:
Behaviors of Healthy People
Eat vegetables with every meal
Eat fruit with every meal
Walk 10,000 steps a day
Sit no more than 50 minutes each hour
No second helpings of food
Limit alcohol consumption
Reduce television and screen time
Do not perform other activities (reading, watching television) while eating
Drink 8 glasses of water per day
Eat in one place (not in front of the television)
Sleep for 8 hours per night
Limit premade food (fast food, frozen dinners)
You might already be doing a few of these behaviors, however, there may be a handful that you are not currently doing.
To change four or five behaviors at once would be a very challenging task. However, doing one or two behaviors at a time might not be as overwhelmingly challenging.
The first step in this process would be to pick out one or two behaviors you think that you can do.
For example you may pick the first behavior; eat vegetables with every meal. From there you would want to quantify the amount (1/2 cup, 1 cup, 1 serving) and frequency (1 meal per day, 2 meals per day, 3 meals per day) based on what you are confident you can do. From there, plan a strategy to achieve the goal (this can be done with the help of a coach). For example you may say:
“I will eat 1 cup of vegetables with every meal. I will do this by having sliced cucumbers at breakfast, baby carrots with lunch, and then a cooked vegetable such as broccoli with every dinner.”
Examples of other plans based on the behaviors listed above may include:
“I will do structured exercise one time per week for 30 minutes. I will do this by going to the gym and using the stationary bicycle.”
“I will walk 10,000 steps two days per week. I will do this by taking a long walk at the park on both days of the weekend.”
Notice that you can make any of these behaviors as challenging as you would like. The key is to feel very confident that you can accomplish each task.
Once a behavior such as cycling for 30 minutes becomes easier and less of a challenge you can incorporate another day or cycle for a longer time period. Once any of these behaviors feels like it has become engrained in your daily routine or feels like it comes as second nature pick a new healthy behavior.
Confidence is a key component to beginning any health related behavior. Choose activities you are confident that you can do. The best place to start is always now and with activities you know you can do; remember the path to living a healthier lifestyle is a step by step process.