The Atkins Diet is probably remembered as one of the first real dietary 'fads' in the early 2000s. Based around pushing the body into a state of ketosis, the diet was met with both overwhelming praise and harsh criticism, with some commenting that it allowed them to lose weight, whilst others claimed it was nothing more than a way for companies to make money from branded foods.
Nevertheless, to this day the Atkins Diet is still practiced by those who consider it a viable and quick way to shed pounds. But with a few decades of research and observation, new information about the diet is backed up by scientific data. In it, the research shows that there are some quite severe side effects associated with the Atkins Diet. Primarily, any low carb diet (so not just Atkins) can cause electrolyte imbalances, constipation, kidney problems and blood sugar levels that are so low they can be considered dangerous. Furthermore, the Atkins Diet company, credited with 'mainstreaming' the diet, have been criticized for selling what are essentially generic chocolate bars, granola and other processed foods under the 'health food' moniker. Other users have reported an unhealthy level of fat in the body as the diet does not restrict fat intake.
However, other users have reported positive effects; those with diabetes have experienced low blood sugar, and others have remarked that their caloric intake as dropped, which has in turn helped shed the pounds. A similarly reported result for many was that once they had dropped to a manageable weight, it was much easier to remain at that point thanks to the controlled food plan the Atkins Diet required.
Ultimately, the Atkins Diet will remain a somewhat divisive issue. Almost twenty years after it ballooned in popularity, it has its critics and its proponents in equal measure. For those who have an underlying health condition, the Atkins Diet, like any other diet, should be run by a medical professional first. But for those wishing to give it a try, a sensible 'easing in' means the diet can be tried with relative safety.
This is a hard one. If there was some magic cure that allowed us to work out just the right level of calories needed to reach our goals, then we would all be walking around in our ideal bodies. But calorie counting is more than simply skipping meals or eating high fat content meals, especially when going for muscle gain.
The key for muscle growth is to work out your current caloric intake and, as long as it is a healthy diet, increase it by 10%. With this, the caveat here is that you are not already overweight or eating a poor diet. One must also remember that the body burns energy, so if you are already active, you’ll need to keep this in mind; if you drop your exercise, you’re going to build up body fat, and if you step it up, you’ll not see any noticeable increase. Start by working out your ‘maintenance calories’; the current intake that has you where you are now. For men, it’s your current weight in pounds multiplied by 11, and for women, by 10. The next multiplication is key and depends on current exercise levels:
• Little to no exercise – no multiplication
• Light exercise or training 1 to 3 days a week – multiply by 1.1
• Moderate exercise twice or more a week – multiply by 1.2
• Heavy exercise three or more days a week – multiply by 1.4
• Working out twice or more a day – multiply by 1.6
The end result is your maintenance calories. You then add on your 10% to set your caloric target for the day. Remember, though, that this is not an exact science. If you’re exceptionally slim, you may need to up the intake slightly but taper off if a layer of fat forms. Similarly, those who are already bulky can sometimes get away with a 5% increase.
As with anything, sensibility is key; don’t go piling in chicken and steak all day to get the calories up. Eat a balanced diet, but one that contains plenty of protein for muscle growth. You should notice muscle growth before too long.
The recent covid pandemic and its resulting lockdowns, limits on social gatherings and general isolating nature has left many people who were once brimming with confidence, left with virtually none. Whether it was through the comfort of being by oneself in the home, or the lack of human interaction, the loss of confidence has been felt by many.
And with good reason. As humans, we rely on repeated learned behaviours. Meeting people every day and taking human contact for granted is one of the key steps for building and maintaining confidence. So to suddenly go from all we have known to being completely grounded for months or longer has essentially forced a great reset. But there are ways to get this confidence back.
It doesn’t have to start with running back out into the big wide world. Whilst many people took to video calling for work, very few used it for maintaining contact with family and friends, opting instead to use social media and messaging. Video calling still requires many of those old social norms that lead to confidence; eye contact, holding meaningful conversation and actually opening up to people, as well as active listening and picking up on cues. If you’re not having the same amount of in person contact as you were pre-covid, this is an excellent way to help get your confidence back on track.
But simply getting back into pre-covid daily tasks is a confidence builder. Using an ATM, actually speaking to real staff instead of self-service machines or going to the counter at the petrol station are all little steps that help get back to normality. And that’s all we can hope for…a return to normality.
The world is going to be irreversibly changed once everything gets ‘back to normal’ and there will be others who are also feeling less confident than they were pre-covid. Whatever you are feeling, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Everyone is taking baby steps to get back in the right direction, and it is only by giving everyone breathing space that we can all return to our normal levels of confidence.
Being on holiday whilst trying to maintain some sort of diet can sound like an absolute nightmare, and it is definitely true that following a healthy meal plan is difficult, not just because you are away from home, but because you are surrounded by all manner of amazing and different foods, especially when you are in a different part of the world. Being in a beach front restaurant, for instance, and faced with locally cooked meats, roasted vegetables and all manner of sugary cocktails is going to be tempting for even the most disciplined of dieters. However, there are some ways that we can enjoy a holiday whilst also sticking to some semblance of a diet.
Let's make one thing clear. Unless you are in the same country that you live in, or at least can get to supermarkets with the same wide variety of foods that you enjoy at home (such as a Brit in the USA or Canada, for instance) it's going to be very difficult. Discipline, therefore, is key.
Most restauranteurs and hotel chefs are keen to simply mass cook food (like buffets) or churn out dishes on an assembly line, so asking about nutritional content is going to be a long and arduous process; be ready for it. When faced with fatty, processed hotel and restaurant meals, it may sound like a no-brainer, but knowing what is and what isn't healthy is going to need to become committed to memory. If you are on a points-based diet or something based around excluding certain ingredients, do not be afraid to ask staff what healthy options they have; you might not always get a straight answer, but most of the time you will end up with a healthier option.
Shopping at supermarkets and street markets are also a great way to ensure you get a natural, balanced diet as much as possible; fresh fruit and vegetables are often in good supply in tropical and sunny locations, and, as most of them grow locally they are incredibly cheap
We're hardly reinventing the wheel here, but this should simply serve as a lesson to continue your habits wherever you are in the world.
One of the main issues a lot of people face when trying to lose weight is that it often has a massive price tag attached. This can come in many forms; gym membership, fitness equipment, physical trainers, and all manner of branded food and drink that is either part of a fitness plan, or contains better quality ingredients. Often, it's cheaper and more convenient to not even try. But fear not, there are some really cost effective and proven ways to lose weight on a budget.
Firstly, do not underestimate the power of oats. They are super cheap, and not only are they versatile, they contribute to a full feeling and also actively strip the heart of cholesterol, meaning they chip away at fat both internally and externally. Try a bowl of porridge or oatmeal in the morning, topped with some fresh fruit, and you have a cheap, weight loss friendly breakfast.
Eggs are also cheap and do a great job of making the body feel full. However, these need to be eaten and enjoyed in moderation as too many eggs will have the opposite effect (and also make toilet trips more infrequent and uncomfortable.) Boiled eggs, in particular, are great for inducing a feeling of fullness whilst getting in some healthy fats.
One of the most overlooked ways people lose weight is to scour supermarkets for reduced or damaged fruit and veg that comes with a lower price tag. Fresh food can be expensive at full price, but if you allow yourself to be at the mercy of whatever is slightly past its best (but still saleable) you can make all manner of salads, soups and smoothies. The only thing better than a meal full of healthy greens is knowing you got it at 10% of the price.
Losing weight doesn't have to cost any more than usual, and as we have seen, it is perfectly possible to cook or prepare weight loss friendly food at a fraction of the store price. You may need to get creative, but it will be your waistline that shrinks, and not your bank balance.
We have all seen someone running with their arm in a sling or hobbling along with a quite visible injury and furthermore, we have probably all thought how brave they were. Whilst a break or a sprain is not necessarily the end of the road for training, it most certainly should be something that puts the brakes on your usual pace.
Too many athletes and amateurs will break or sprain an ankle, then get back on the horse as soon as the cast is off (or as soon as they think they are healed!) Nine times out of ten, they are simply slowing down repair cycle and actually probably doing lasting harm to the body. So many cases of arthritis are due, in some part, to physical activity whilst recovering from an injury.
The easiest thing to do when we have a break or sprain is to consider that quadrant of the body out of action for the foreseeable future. If it is an ankle, leg or any other lower limb, consider this a golden opportunity to work solely on your upper body in the gym and, as time goes on, gradually get into the habit of gentle swimming...non-impact training is the only safe way to exercise broken limbs. If it is the back or upper half, then look at swapping out your usual routine for some lower body aerobic exercise. Just be careful not to exacerbate the back by hitting a rowing machine full pelt, for instance.
This should really be a case of exercising (excuse the pun) common sense, but nonetheless, too many professionals and amateurs refuse to acknowledge the limitations and just create more problems. Worse still, many unscrupulous personal trainers or gym employees will not look at the damage case in front of them and will actually encourage them to engage in potentially dangerous exercise. As a rule of thumb, if the injury is the upper half, avoid weights altogether... your back, shoulders, neck and arms are all intrinsically linked and will all suffer. If it’s the lower half, enjoy the chance you've been given to get into lower half aerobic training.
There is a lot of information out there on what foods help lose weight, but for those who want to build some muscle mass, it's a little more complicated. There has to be a gentle balancing act between getting just the right amount of fats (and making sure they're the right kind!) and also getting the right nutrients to both ensure that muscle is gained, but also that fat isn't starting to pile on as well.
Boiled and lean meats are possibly one of the best foods for muscle gain. Chicken, turkey, ham and the like are all high in protein and carbohydrates, but the key is to ensure that cooking techniques do not either retain fat (such as with roasting) or, indeed, add more fats (such as frying.) If boiled meat sounds a little bland, grilling is also an option.
Lean beef, however, is the real weight gain powerhouse. It's ultimately more beneficial than any kind of poultry; just be sure that it is indeed 'lean'. Beef is also incredibly fattening.
Tuna, salmon and other oily fish are also brilliant. They contain good fats as well as vital acids that have been shown to encourage weight gain. Just be sure to enjoy them in moderation; mercury content is quite high in some fish and can have detrimental effects. Furthermore, too much oily fish can have a diuretic effect.
Other foods vital for weight gain are eggs (healthy fats, vitamin B and choline) as well as cottage cheese (healthy fats and casein protein, which is a slow burning protein ideally suited to exercise) oatmeal and natural grains (healthy fats, fibre and carbohydrate) and fruit and vegetables (iron, fibre and pretty much every vitamin and mineral that muscle builders need.)
Most of these foods feature prominently in a lot of diets, but in conjunction with weightlifting and other strenuous exercise, they release all manner of beneficial nutrients to build muscle over fat. There really is no need to go hunting for supplements; everything you need for a healthy, muscular body is available, plentifully and cheaply, on supermarket shelves.
There are hundreds of diets out there which either claim to promote general well-being or go one further and claim to actively burn off fat. You could take the easy road and go vegetarian or vegan, but what diets are out there that allow us to actively burn fat whilst enjoying our favourite food?
The Atkins Diet was, for years, lauded as the number one way to lose fat. However, it has since been shown to have some pretty major pitfalls, namely that the high amount of protein in a low-carbohydrate diet could lead to joint pain and gout, and hypercalcuria, which leads to kidney stones, hypocalcemia and osteoporosis.
The 'Whole 30' diet has been shown as nothing more than a fad, in that it is unnecessarily restrictive and is little more than a detox plan. Furthermore, most of the plan is not conducive to weight loss.
In terms of what is backed by scientific fact and has shown results, the Keto diet is probably the closest thing one can hope to get to a successful weight loss based program. Not only has it been shown to aid weight loss due to the restriction on certain foods, the theory of inducing ketosis is rooted in scientific research and has been shown to aid weight loss. Furthermore, the keto diet has been shown to have a positive effect on diabetes and heart disease, two conditions which are often exacerbated by being overweight. All in all, the keto diet has been shown to prove more reliable than any other fads or pseudo-science based diets.
Of course, the easiest thing many people will say is to simply eat a balanced diet and not actively seek out something which is being lauded as the next big thing. For many of us, a balanced diet may not burn enough excess weight off, hence, we find ourselves moving towards something which is geared exclusively towards that goal. Additionally, as previously mentioned, vegetarianism and veganism are excellent for weight loss, but are too restrictive for some. Don't write off other diets either... in amongst the fads there are some genuinely good ways to lose weight!
With vegan diets making headlines in recent years, it is easy to assume that the traditional vegetarian diet is all but gone. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. Whilst not as extreme as veganism, there are still many who follow a specifically vegetarian diet thanks to its health and ethical benefits.
One of the main differences between the vegetarian and vegan diet is that vegetarianism still allows for dairy and other by-products. Cheese, milk, eggs and honey are just some of the things that separate these two diets. In fact, dairy is one of the main reasons that vegetarians admit they could not turn vegan! There is also the fact that dairy provides many much-needed nutrients; a healthy dose of fats (in moderation) as well as calcium and a range of vitamins and minerals. These can be obtained through a vegan diet but are much harder to actively incorporate into food and drink.
A typical, healthy vegetarian diet makes full use of a mix of fruit, vegetables, legumes and dairy (although some vegetarians favour dairy more than others.) Green vegetables, balanced out with root veg, give vegetarians their dose of iron, protein and carbohydrate, whilst citrus fruits give an added kick of fibre, as well as various essential vitamins and naturally occurring sugars. Other fruits such as berries (including avocados!) provide natural fats and fibres, and legumes, nuts and pulses, whilst best enjoyed in moderation, complement this already varied diet by throwing in extra fat, fibre and carbohydrate.
The above is incredibly conducive to weight loss, increased energy levels and stripping the body of excess cholesterol, but it also can be incredibly cost-effective (buying veg is always cheaper...cheaper still if you grow it yourself!) and it also follows many more ethical guidelines than a meat-based diet. It can be harder to ensure that many nutrients typically found in meat and fish are incorporated into a vegetarian diet, but once you have found your 'jam' and know which foods to actively include in place of meat, fish and excess dairy, this is possibly one of the healthiest diets out there.
The female body is a perfectly tuned machine, much like its male counterpart. Included in that perfect synergy is the hormonal system. It's what gives us healthy hair, skin and nails and a balanced body shape, what gives us our sex drive and, ultimately, the ability to bear children. The responsibility to keep our hormones balanced is a hard one to bear; we can eat, drink and supplement our nutrients with naturally occurring hormones, but ultimately our bodies, not us, decide if and when an imbalance is going to occur. Thankfully, there are some things we can do to proactively manage hormonal balance.
Firstly, get enough protein in during mealtimes. Protein replaces amino acids, which the body often cannot get on its own. Balance a meal with healthy fats as well; healthy fats control appetite and also stop insulin levels from spiking or dropping, both of which can cause hormonal imbalances.
The next step is to exercise, and make sure you do it regularly and to an extent that makes the body actually work. This, once again, controls insulin sensitivity and resistance, and in a range of studies, showed that hormonal levels balanced out and led to healthy weight loss.
Stress is also another cause of hormonal imbalance; you may notice how a lot of people who are stressed or anxious either lose or gain weight to a noticeable degree. This is partially because stress is intrinsically linked to appetite, but also because stress can trigger a mental response that, over time, can block hormones such as serotonin and melatonin. In addition, other hormones in the body, such as oestrogen and insulin, have been adversely affected in test conditions when hammered with constant, excessive amounts of stress and anxiety.
It's like anything that the body is tasked with producing and regulating. Under normal conditions, the body can take stress, anxiety and dietary indiscretions. But in today's day and age, we are faced with a lot of adverse stressors and 'easy options' with food, which, for a woman, presents an easy way out once in a while. And that's fine...once in a while!
There is a lot of advice online about what foods to eat when you're travelling abroad if you have a specific dietary requirement. This is all well and good if you follow that diet out of choice; however, for someone with an intolerance, it can often be an absolute nightmare. It often becomes a case of eating potato chips and biscuits in the hotel room whilst the rest of the group stuff their faces and enjoy all the local cuisine.
The only real way to circumvent this issue is to do tons of research. A lot of food intolerant travellers will get themselves stressed out weeks or months before, but it can actually be a great way to build excitement for the holiday. Instead of scrambling around on the night looking for anywhere that will serve food that won't immediately make you feel ill, you can spend time finding out about the best restaurants, the most authentic local foods, and even restaurants that specialise in food intolerances (these are popping up more and more in the West and in developing countries!)
You don't even need to have your holiday defined by a meal plan, and it doesn't mean you have to make the holiday all about you (as many food intolerance sufferers worry they are doing, in groups!) If you are a solo traveller, excellent. You know where to go and what you can eat, and there's nobody else to worry about. But in groups, try finding places that factor in intolerances alongside regular menu dishes. Speak to friends beforehand and establish what places they are and aren't willing to eat at. On the night, you can head out, knowing that the restaurant, cafe or street food stand is going to have something for everyone.
The key is to get into a mindset where the preplanning becomes a fun quest, and a way to find out more about local cuisine, rather than a dark cloud threatening to ruin the entire trip and force you to spend half your time feeling sick in the hotel room. Let it complement your trip, not dominate it.
There is a lot of talk about what to eat and drink before a marathon, and that's great. A good diet is key to keeping the body on top of its game. But there is also a lot of sabotage, most of it unintentional, by people who consume the right food and drink but then also go and ruin it with poor nutrition. It's like emptying the car's oil tank and then filling it with used, dirty oil instead of cleaning it out. Here are some definite no-no's.
Tea and coffee in the immediate day or two before any marathon are bad news. Granted, exercise requires the occasional energy kick, and caffeine sometimes does the job better than anything else, but getting that sweet caffeine before a marathon ought to be done via other means. Energy drinks (in strict moderation!) should be the preference. Tea and coffee have a diuretic and laxative effect; not only will you lose precious fluids and dehydrate quicker during practice and the marathon itself, you run the risk of an embarrassing situation mid-run.
Dairy should also be avoided before marathons. We all know the pain of aching bones and joints after a workout; this is because lactic acid is building around areas that have seen a lot of work. Adding dairy to a pre-marathon diet is going to send lactic acid levels skyrocketing, bringing the burn on more quickly and with way more aggression than before. It's also going to contribute to a 'gunky' feeling of excess mucus; not great when you need to clear your nose and throat during the run.
Oily, fatty foods are the biggest problem. Your body will require way more energy to burn this off, meaning you feel drained quicker, but fatty foods often 'float' in the gut and exercise will bring it back up with a vengeance.
This not to say, of course, that these foods are all bad. A bit of cheese is great for getting calcium and fat, and coffee and tea have antioxidant properties. But in the lead up to a marathon, keep it lean and carby.