health

Hippiescience - what is it and where does it come from?

I think anyone who's been working out long enough has come across the term 'broscience' and their fair share of broscientists. These are people who make wild claims about the effectiveness of certain workouts or nutrition programmes without any evidence whatsoever other than their own anecdotes.

Unfortunately, anyone who has been involved in the vegan health and fitness scene will also have to contend with broscience's raw fruitarian sidekick. For lack of a better term, let's call this 'hippiescience'.

What is hippiescience?

Hippiescience is a form of pseudoscience that is particularly prevalent within health and fitness, and is mostly commonly encountered in vegan communities, but is also espoused in other niche fitness movements.

Hippiescience is a pervasive force that's, at best, embarrassing for the vegan health and fitness movement, and, at worst, downright damaging to people's abilities to live a healthy lifestyle.

Like broscience, there’s little to no real science to back most hippiescience up. Instead, it consists of extremist health claims about the body’s nutritional needs (such as claims that protein is pretty much unimportant, or that any supplement other than spirulina is evil) and what constitutes healthy eating.

Wander the forums of vegan fitness communities, and whilst the vast majority of people are trying to have intelligent discussions about nutritional needs and exercise, there'll be at least a handful of people spouting unfounded statements about yoga, detoxing, fruit, superfoods, RDAs of protein being 20 grams, or even worse (read: crystals and antivaccine).

hippiescience

How does pseudoscience begin?

Fitness communities and ‘expertise’

Fitness communities aren't made up of nutritionists, trainers, athletes, doctors and experts. In an ideal world there would be an abundance of them in any community, ready to educate and advise. But actually, fitness communities only have a sprinkling of those folk in them, and the vast majority of people tend to be your everyday person who doesn't work in the industry of health, fitness, and wellbeing. These are people who range from being extremely unhealthy and are looking for advice on how to get on track to a healthier lifestyle, to those for whom fitness is like a second job to them and meticulously track their workout and nutrition routines. Most people are somewhere in the middle. And there's a wildly varying degree of knowledge from person to person.

Thus, besides the minority of qualified professionals, the newbies will look for people they can aspire to: the unhealthy, overweight, and struggling, will look to the fit, healthy, and seemingly knowledgeable. The former are people who may be at a particularly vulnerable point in their lives, and are lost when it comes to their health, and will take others' word as gospel when it comes to advice.

Distilling research

To add to this problem is the issue of research going into many fitness topics being limited or even non-existent, and that which does exist may be mired with bias and problems, as highlighted in our recent article on HMB. All too often though this research, problematic as it may be, will be snapped up, stripped of 99% of its content, and stuck on someone’s blog with the claim that this is the ultimate exercise to lose weight, and that that is all you need to eat to grow chunky biceps.

Whilst peer-reviewed research papers allude to the myriad of errors that might plague the research, or point to what could be done better, Joe Bloggs’… well, blog, doesn’t point to any of that and just dives straight in with ‘this research shows that adding this weird chemical supplement to your diet is the BEST way to gain muscle’ without any consideration for the errors at hand for the unwitting fitness public to read up on.

How does pseudoscience, and particularly hippiescience prevail?

There are a series of social and psychological problems that lead to the spread of pseudoscience, some unique to veganism, some not. We'll look at five key reasons here. Most aren't malevolent or greedy but are still harmful. Some are motivated by greed, however, so let's look at that first...

1. You can get away with it on the internet

Mycotoxins... Mycotoxins tho.

Mycotoxins... Mycotoxins tho.

The internet is a haven for liars. It protects anonymity, and thus allows anyone to say anything without being at any real risk. At most they’ll get challenged on their claims, and they’ll disappear to a new comment thread or forum article to spread their smatterings elsewhere. Anyone can claim anything, and everyone has an equal voice. It’s both the great opportunity and the great danger of the internet. Disingenuous comments will be shared, and sooner or later the truth is entirely concealed. This is furthered by the use of Photoshop to edit together images.

This can happen for a multitude of reasons, including downright maliciousness. Most commonly though there’s commercial gain to be had. Whaddya know, the person making these wild claims is also peddling some overpriced product, and furthering bogus claims to support it is just part of their marketing activities.

A recent case in point (although actually targeted at the paleo crowd rather than vegans) is Bulletproof Coffee – a company which made wild and unsubstantiated claims about harmful mycotoxins in coffee. Good marketing to the paleo community, and the coffee was getting snapped up for about four times the price of a normal bag of high quality coffee. Only a few years later have the claims about mycotoxins been debunked, but I have little doubt that people are still buying this stuff by the kilo.

2. Community confusion and groupthink

Linked to this is the problem of group dynamics. Much of our society is built on the idea that the majority are correct. Democracy, you may wanna cover your ears for a mo…

Unfortunately, due to the psychological phenomenon of ‘groupthink’ we are far more likely to allow erroneous claims to go unchallenged, especially when such a claim is being spouted by numerous members of a community. It’s natural for most of us to actually avoid conflict, and allow those claims to go on.

Thus, in our natural desire to move towards cohesiveness, more and more people will get swallowed up into the erroneous points of view, and before long, factually incorrect information is being spread as the truth and going totally unchallenged.

As the group dynamic grows, so too does the difficulty of nipping it in the bud. With regards to hippiescience, perhaps this is most prevalent with the antivaccine movement: a vast but entirely irrational body, which completely ignores the decades of research disproving its beliefs. Because the group is so large it has become difficult to break it, despite scientific refutation of pretty much every single claim.

3. Protection of views

Despite our inherent desire to avoid conflict, we are also incredibly defensive of our views. Even when we are disproved by rational science, we cling to our original remarks, occasionally altering them to fit the elements that were disproven. When’s the last time you enjoyed being wrong? Exactly. This is a result of cognitive dissonance – we find it difficult to reconcile the fact that we’d hold irrational beliefs, but rather than altering ourselves, we try to alter others.

Discussing fruit with a hippiescientist is like discussing evolution with a creationist.

Discussing fruit with a hippiescientist is like discussing evolution with a creationist.

I recently walked smackbang into some hippiescience in action on the Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness Facebook page. A girl on there asked if it was ok to use frozen fruit and veg for her smoothies, as she couldn’t afford fresh. One respondent claimed fresh ‘is always best,’ but I pointed to some studies showing that frozen is actually more nutritious, based on nutrients being ‘locked in’ (rather than being leeched from the produce over the days it gets shipped to the supermarket), and due to it being allowed to properly ripen (most ‘fresh’ produce, is actually picked before its ripe to allow for shipping time).

To this one comment, I received a wall text with several different wild claims including one about frozen fruits inhibiting the absorption of vitamins and minerals, one saying that we require water in the fruit to enhance absorption, and told that I could ‘believe’ what I wanted to ‘believe.’

Others jumped in to back up my point and link to further rational, scientific evidence. To which came the response that we cannot trust scientists, as they all have an agenda.

The common backup argument of the hippiescientist is that scientists are all funded by big corporations, and when this argument is dug out of its box it’s time to walk away. It's the hippiescientist equivalent of Godwin's Law. There’s very little reasoning to be done here. The hippiescientist here went on to claim that all food should be eaten raw, and despite people stating that they could not digest some raw food, she told them to just keep going until the ‘digestive system heals itself from the lifetime of eating meat, dairy, and grains’. Again, this could actively hurt people, and thus it’s fair to judge this behaviour as morally reprehensible.

4. Desperate to promote veganism

Admitting we need B12 isn't admitting the defeat of veganism. 

Admitting we need B12 isn't admitting the defeat of veganism. 

This commonly occurs in vegan fitness communities when people deny all nutritional facts that have come before and approach healthy eating with a clean slate. Shrugging off protein and B12 as either not necessary or simple to attain by just eating fruits and veggies seems tempting at first – after all, if we can easily get our nutritional needs from those sources alone then veganism is a no brainer, right?

Well, sadly that’s not the way the body works. Yes, you can survive on a fairly low level of protein. But studies on protein for athletes have been done to death, and consistently show that, at an absolute bare minimum, we need 1g per kg per day. As for B12, there are two decent sources: animal products, and a pill. To deny all this isn’t going to turn more people towards veganism; it’s actually going to hurt the movement. It makes vegans look like idiots who’ve got very little nutritional knowledge.

Instead we should be promoting a varied and nutritious diet with good levels of protein, and supporting vegan protein companies and those working towards providing good alternatives to animal protein, such as Beyond Meat and Muufri. I met Patrik Baboumian a couple of years ago, who is arguably the world’s strongest vegan. He gets approximately 200-300g of protein per day.

This image is regularly shared on social media. Broccoli vs beef for protein. Firstly, that's a fairly inaccurate estimation of the protein content - beef typically contains about 15g per 100 calories. Secondly, basing this on calories presents an misleading picture. You'd need to be eating a ridiculous amount of broccoli to hit your RDA of protein from that alone.

This image is regularly shared on social media. Broccoli vs beef for protein. Firstly, that's a fairly inaccurate estimation of the protein content - beef typically contains about 15g per 100 calories. Secondly, basing this on calories presents an misleading picture. You'd need to be eating a ridiculous amount of broccoli to hit your RDA of protein from that alone.

Hell, even if a head of broccoli did have your RDA of protein in it, we have to face facts – people don’t eat meat for health reasons, but because it tastes good. The hippiescientist can talk until the (free-roaming companion animal) cows come home about how you can get your RDA of everything from cucumber skin, but in all honesty it wouldn’t make a difference even if you could. If you want to further veganism, both from a nutritional standpoint and as an ideological movement, then support the companies making strides into the animal protein alternatives out there.

5. Most people just want to help

Perhaps the biggest reason for the spread of hippiescience is an entirely innocent one – people genuinely just want to help. They may have read some hippiescience elsewhere, or tried something that worked for them, and will then pass it on to others looking for guidance. As mentioned above, most people aren’t experts, and they only know what they’ve read elsewhere in vegan health and fitness communities.

The problem is that giving the wrong advice is only going to exacerbate people’s health issues, and cause them problems later on. Offering some advice is fine, but it’s best if it comes from someone in the know. Wherever possible, recommend people see a vegan-friendly nutritionist for the best advice. Speaking of which, I guess this is an apt time for me to say I am not a nutritional expert myself, so take everything I’ve said with a pinch of (low-sodium, iodine enriched) salt. Yes, even the thing about not being able to get all your vitamins from cucumber skins… you never know.

How to change it?

Stay educated – keep reading up on nutrition if you’re going to advise people. I don’t mean blogs, and I certainly don’t mean exclusively vegan groups where there’s a clear agenda. I mean scientific and evidence-based approaches. Examine is a good place to start.

Educate others – when you know, share the knowledge. Link to sources wherever possible. Invite people to read the studies, or at least the abstracts. And don’t spread hippiescience.

Support vegan nutrition companies – there are a ton of brilliant companies out there producing vegan nutritional supplements, protein powders, animal-protein replacements and more. They need our money if they’re going to thrive though.

Challenge hippiescience – if you see blatent hippiescience, don’t be afraid to challenge it. Especially if it’s being recommended to someone who seems to be new to veganism and is looking for advice.

Yoga, spirulina, and raw foods all have their place - I've equally seen people jump too far the other way and rubbish anything commonly espoused by hippiescientists. Actually, yoga, 'superfoods' and raw eating are all awesome, and there's scientific evidence to prove it, but aren't the be all and end all to balanced healthy lifestyles.

Live by example – at the end of the day, even common nutritional pillars aren’t applicable to everyone. Yes, there may be people out there for whom certain hippiescience mainstays have worked. But the best thing to do is find what works for you, and build on it. Tell people it worked for you, but just remember to include the caveat that you’re not an expert. That said, I’ll never wear a crystal. Sorry.

Is HMB about to be the biggest supplement you’ve never heard of?

A new study published this week in the European Journal of Applied Physiology has pointed to HMB as being hugely beneficial in lean muscle growth, with subjects putting on upwards of 5kg of lean muscle over a 12 week period. This was placed alongside a placebo group, whose respective gains were minimal.

HMB, or beta-Hydroxy beta-methylbutyric acid (try saying that three times fast), is a component of leucine, an amino acid frequently encountered in another popular supplement, BCAAs. Whilst the human body synthesises a small amount, studies have previously shown a beneficial effect with regards to muscle gain and in maintenance of muscle tissue too if taken in higher doses.

However, none have laid such wild claims as the latest study. All participants were initially tested for their one-rep maxes on various lifts, as well as their peak power output. Body composition was also measured. All participants were men, who had previously trained with weights.

Over the following 12 weeks a resistance training programme was set up, basically involving 3 workouts per week, and one group was supplemented with 3g of HMB per day (taken at 3 intervals), whilst the placebo group went without.

After the 12 week programme, participants were again assessed. Their lifts had shot up by about 18%, whilst the placebo group saw increases of only 6%. They lost body fat and increased muscle mass. In addition, their level of ‘perceived recovery’ (a subjective measure of feeling recovered from the workout) was much better than the placebo group.

So, should we all be rushing out to buy HMB immediately? Probably not. This is an initial study, and these findings should be treated as such. It needs to be applied on a much larger scale. This is most obvious in the number of subjects used – 24 people. This is an incredibly small sample size and thus even minor errors are going to be magnified, making this study difficult to generalise to the wider athletic community.

Perhaps even more worrying is the little sentence under the Conflict of Interest area of the study. It’s funding comes from Metabolic Technologies Inc. – a supplier of HMB supplements. And three of the contributors to the study are on the payroll for MTI.

Without further evidence, it is difficult to recommend HMB from this study alone. It's cheap though, so try it for yourself.

Without further evidence, it is difficult to recommend HMB from this study alone. It's cheap though, so try it for yourself.

This has not been the first time the benefits of HMB have been potentially exaggerated. Many of the initial studies on its benefits were performed by Steve Nissen – the very same guy who initially discovered HMB and patented it. Many studies that have been performed from more, shall we say, objective sources have found minor benefits from HMB but nothing to write home about.

Where does this leave us then? A great resource for sifting through the truths and the exaggerated truths of HMB is Examine, who have a clear and concise page on HMB. As always though it often comes down to the simple question: does it work for you? HMB is a relatively cheap supplement and giving it an initial go will cost you a few bucks. Not all manufacturers list theirs as vegan, but there are some out there. Perhaps it's worth giving it a try.

David Haye's vegan protein review

David Haye and Love Health Supplements kindly set us a batch of his new vegan protein to trial, so here's the True Icon take on it. 

Choices, choices

Choices, choices

As we've already covered previously, David recently made the shift to a vegan diet on an ethical basis. In his transition he began marketing some vegan, plant-based protein powders. These are available from his Hayemaker Store.

The details

The shakes come in two different flavours - mint chocolate chip and rich chocolate. They are a blend of yellow pea protein, brown rice protein, and quinoa protein. In addition, the blend includes BCAAs, green tea extract, digestive enzymes, and Himalayan rock salt (which helps to combat muscular cramp). The sweetness comes from stevia too, as opposed to the ubiquitous unnatural sweeteners I've seen included in other powders.

From this alone, I think you can see the level of effort that has gone into preparing this product. This is a far cry from the vegan standard of murky, unmixable, and unsavoury pea protein powders which are available elsewhere. Everything that has gone into the Hayemaker's protein powder is designed to maximise your athletic performance.

Perhaps most interesting is the protein blend itself though. Pea and rice? Yep, had it before. But the quinoa protein is a very welcome addition. Quinoa is a complete protein source, but is shamefully underused in plant-based powders. Also, you won't find any soy here either. Whilst the jury's out on soy (and I for one eat a lot of the stuff), this blend avoids it and thus avoids any controversy.

The taste

I call this one the 'serious and sweaty' pose

I call this one the 'serious and sweaty' pose

We got the opportunity to try both the mint choc chip and rich chocolate flavours of the shakes, and rest assured they're both awesome.

I tried mint choc chip first. For this, I mixed it straight with almond milk. Mint choc chip is always a less versatile flavour in my opinion, and I tend to prefer it without anything else mixed into the shake. The mint flavour can sometimes clash a bit with any fruit I throw in, but in hindsight a few fruits such as apples may have worked well.

Nevertheless, the mint choc chip flavour was great on its own. It was very rich and relatively creamy for a non-dairy shake. It had some earthy undertones, which were most likely a result of the quinoa. The Himalayan rock salt gave it a slightly salty taste which added to the overall flavour. It was a great shake though, and whilst I don't tend to go in for mint choc chip flavours myself I could see myself making a protein hot chocolate with this powder.

With the rich chocolate flavour I tasted a little on its own and mixed the rest with a few bananas and quinoa flakes in a smoothie. On its own the rich chocolate was very palatable, and I could have been convinced it wasn't even a protein powder but a dessert drink. It was even better in the smoothie though. The sweetness of the bananas and the touch of saltiness from the Himalayan rock salt were an incredible combo. The result was a thick, smooth, caramel-like taste.

Effectiveness

Honestly, from just two shakes, it's impossible to tell really. What I can say is that neither shake left me feeling bloated, and both actually felt energising which is a quality that's quite rare in a shake. As such, these would make great pre-workout supplements as well as post-workout. Based on the ingredients I'd trust that this would be a very effective shake to use in the long run in conjunction with a solid workout routine though.

Verdict

All in all, this is a fantastic product. At £39.99 for an 800g tub it's on the pricey side. But you are paying a premium price for a premium protein powder. This product isn't about fancy flavours (although it is delicious), nor is it about just a protein supplement. It's been formulated from the ground-up by David Haye and the team at Love Health to be the gold standard in plant-based nutritional supplements for vegan athletes, and to this end it succeeds.

You can buy David Haye's vegan protein from the Hayemaker online store.

Tasty tasty brotein

Tasty tasty brotein

 

Just What Is 'True Icon' Anyway?

 

Welcome to my long overdue explanation of what True Icon means to me. When Rob and I started the site we agreed we’d each write what the site was about and what it meant to us as our first posts.

Well, Rob stuck to our promise while I wrote my post months ago and subsequently scrapped it. I’m a perfectionist who eventually, grudgingly, settles for less than perfect; this time in the form of a stream of conscious blast of blogging.

So what does True Icon mean to me? When Rob first came up with the name and the tag “Become the Icon” it grew on me over the space of the next 5 minutes to encompass a lot of what I wanted the site to be. I’m not sure if it came endowed with meaning that took me 5 minutes to understand (It’s a strong possibility) or if I subscribed my own meaning to it. At this point it probably doesn’t matter.

So what is it? In short, we want True Icon sell ethical and stylish clothes. Both Rob and I have been vegan for a number of years and we’ve found ethical ‘fashion’ to be at best highly suspect. We’re hoping to provide organic, fair trade and fashionable clothing for both men and women as soon as possible. As you can probably tell from the state of the site at the moment, neither of us our web designers; we’re working on the shop functionality and going over every aspect of our products to make sure they’re as ethical as they can possibly be.

In the meantime, we’re throwing out material on anything and everything that we care about. Loosely broken into categories:

Culture: be that books, games, music, films or what have you. It’s a broad title but if it’s good enough for the Guardian, it’s good enough for me.

Fitness: We’re both fitness obsessed and we think everyone should be. Expect posts on workouts, diets, Martial Arts and how to generally make yourself into a superhero.

Essays: In which we cover topics in depth that we have been thinking about recently. This is a bit of a “File as Misc.” section.

Food: Always vegan. Nearly always healthy, fitness focused, quick and convenient. Apart from the odd indulgence including Oreo Ice Cream and Raw Food Vegan Snickers (both coming soon!). Check out the True Icon Rule of 7 for an explanation of the types of food we cook.

Technology: It has a larger and larger part in all our lives and almost everyone is fascinated by some part of it – we fall under the category of ‘almost everyone’, so here it is.

Fashion: Last but by no means least. We’ll cover brands and products we back as well as debates around just what exactly ethical fashion is anyway.

The link in all this is that we will cover things from an ethical standpoint. So if you’re an ethical dude or dudette, or you’d like to be, you’re in the right place

Finally getting onto the subject of the name, it’s easier to approach from our tagline “Become the Icon”.

I’ve heard a lot of vegan jokes over the years. But my favourite?

How do you know if someone is vegan?

Don’t worry. They’ll tell you.

It’s genius.

We’ve all met the preachy vegan types. They’re so stoked with themselves and their attitude to life.

“Would you like a crisp Mark?”

“Umm... no thanks. I take my crisps cruelty free.”

This is a slight exaggeration and in reality things are a little more nuanced. But no matter what way you look at it, no matter what type of vegan you are - it’s so very, very true.

It’s true about any ethical or moral choice. I wouldn’t be vegan if I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. And if I think it’s the right thing to do it would follow that I want others to be vegan as well.  And what better way to get people to be vegan than telling them about it, right?

But there are different ways to let people know.


1)   You can bombard them with facts.

Facts about why meat is bad, why diary is bad, why animal testing is bad. Facts about how these things damage the environment, global society and perhaps even your health.

Facts about how bee’s numbers are critically low, how we’re over fishing to the brink of disaster, how inefficient beef production is. Ad infinitum, ad infinitum, ad infinitum.

The reaction is unlikely to be a favourable one. It’s a bit like telling someone their hair is crap and that you don’t like their music taste and then asking them to buy your latest record. It’s not going to work.


Option two then.


2)   You can set an example.

Live your life to its fullest and live it ethically. Be an informed, healthy, attractive individual.

People might comment on your food, your clothes, your energy levels or physique. At this point, if you like, you can mention you’re vegan or vegetarian or that your clothes are fair-trade, ethical and just downright awesome in every way.

They’ve asked, so let them know. Let them know that being vegan is one of the best things you’ve ever done for you.

Over time they’ll see how you live your life and they’ll start to see that maybe they could make some changes. Maybe how you live will work for them too.

I’ve seen this with so many of my friends, family memebers and collegues. They come to making ethical choices in their own time and in their own way. They might not go vegan but they might shop more locally, eat less meat or avoid animal tested products.

Anyone with an ethical conscience wants immediate change. And it can happen. We will fight for it with pen and with fire, with protest and with boycott.

But first we need to set an example of how life can be.

That’s what True Icon means to me. I hope to set an example of just how easy and enjoyable it is to live a compassionate and considerate lifestyle. Most importantly, I hope you’ll join me.


________________________________________________________________________________


If you’ve read this far – major props. Please get in touch with us and let us know how we can make the site better and what you’d like us to cover. We’d love to hear from you.


Cheers, Kai

Kai@trueicon.co.uk & Rob@Trueicon.co.uk

How to Lose Weight on a Vegan Diet

How do I lose weight on a vegan diet?

Losing weight on a vegan diet is the same as losing weight on any other. You must ensure that your body is using more calories than you are consuming. There are two ways to do this:

1) Eat fewer calories

2) Exercise

Ideally, you’ll be using a combination of these.

How much weight should I lose a week?

Try to lose between 1 and 2 pounds per week. Any more than this can be unhealthy and unsustainable.

Remember that losing weight isn’t a race.

You’re looking to make life long lifestyle changes. If you lose 20 pounds in three weeks you will find it difficult to return to a healthy eating routine once you reach your target weight.

Slow and steady weight loss also encroaches less on your daily routine and quality of life. It will mean you can afford the odd treat and it abates the temptation to binge.

How many calories do I need to cut?

As a rough guide you need to cut 3,500 calories a week from your calorie intake to lose a pound of body fat.

Remember that this can be done by eating less, exercising or both.

If you were to diet alone, you need to cut 500 calories a day.

If you are exercising as a part of your weight loss plan you can afford to eat a little more on work out days.

On rest days, eat less.

What are some good vegan food options?

Within reason you can eat anything you like.

You could eat 1,500 calories of peanut butter and call it a day – but it’s not recommended.

Instead, look to eat a healthy range of foods including carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein.

Many people believe that carbohydrates will fill you up. But it’s better to fill up on protein sources like lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh and seitan. Your body takes longer to digest these – so you stay fuller for longer.

Carbs: Try to avoid ‘simple carbs’ like white rice and white pasta. Brown rice and quinoa are your best friends.

Proteins: The whole range of vegan protein sources are open to you. Lentils, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, seitan – you name it.

Fats: Fat is an important part of our diet so don’t cut it out completely. If you’re using nuts and seeds for protein you’ll be getting some healthy fats in the mix anyway. Other great sources include avocados, coconut oil and coconut milk.

Is cardio important?

It really depends on your goals.

You’ll hear a lot of body builders slate cardio in the belief that it burns calories that could be used to gain muscle.

Ignore them.

Cardio has many benefits including a lower resting heart rate, calorie burning and improved day -to-day fitness.

Cardio will help you cut calories from your diet and improve your ability to run for that bus, climb those stairs or whatever other obstacles get in your way from day to day.

Pick an exercise you like or that fits with your goals. Running, cycling, jump-rope, swimming are all great options.

If you decide to gain muscle, you can continue your cardio routine alongside weights and simply eat more to create a calorie surplus or you can cut the cardio. The choice it yours – it’s your life and your goal you’re aiming for.

If you really, really hate cardio and you’re prepared to make up the calorie burning potential with weights and calorie control then feel free to avoid it.

 

Steady State or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?

Both.

Steady state cardio is great for endurance and like any form of exercise will help burn calories. It does however take a while with runs upwards of 1.5 hours not unheard of for those who enjoy it.

As a starting goal, try to aim for half an hour of steady state cardio as a minimum.

Walk, run, swim, it doesn’t matter - just keep your heart rate above resting.

HIIT on the other hand has been linked to increased calorie burning throughout the day. It also takes half the time of steady state cardio.

Try to incorporate one or two HIIT sessions a week into your routine. For a great home HIIT routine, try burpees for 30/60/90 seconds with 30 seconds rest in-between each set.

By using both you’ll be working towards great overall practical fitness.

Should I use a weights routine?

Unquestionably, yes.

If you have to choose between cardio and weights – pick weights. It’s been proven to help with weight loss more than cardio alone.

Whether you are male or female a weights routine will help you lose weight and unless your diet is geared towards it – won’t make you a beefcake.

Weight lifting increases your overall strength, balance and fitness and raises the heart rate, burning calories in the process.

Muscle is a calorie-burning machine. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn resting or working out.

Weight lifting will also decrease the chance of excess skin after weight loss, the muscle will help pad out where the fat used to be.

What’s the best exercise to help me lose weight?

The one you enjoy the most.

If you’re a runner, run. If you’re a boxer/martial artist, train and jump-rope. If you’re a swimmer, swim. If you’re a cyclist, ride.

Enjoy it, keep doing it, lose weight.

What about low carb/low fat diets?

Try to avoid fad diets.

Low fat or low carb diets are very popular. There are anecdotes across the web telling how they help you lose weight fast.

This might be true but remember you are looking to make a change for life.

Are you prepared to avoid high fat foods and carbs for the rest of your life? Your diet shouldn’t cause you any undue effort or hassle. Low fat and low carb diets can mean skipping meals you like and lead to feelings of guilt on occasions when you cave. Quite often it’s not worth it.

Our body is designed to make use of carbs, fats and proteins in different ways. Each plays an important part in our health and wellbeing so make sure you incorporate them in your diet.

Some studies have shown that low fat versions of food make us feel less full, meaning we eat more of them. Great for companies marketing low fat foods but bad news for you.

Will leangains/keto/paleo help me reach my goals?

These diets have proven results and many avid followers but they aren’t for everyone.

If your diet doesn’t fit around your lifestyle, if it leaves you craving things you can’t have, causes guilt when/if you cave or makes you constantly worry about what you’re eating then it’s not worth it.

The reason these diets work is because they all incorporate calorie deficits to their weight loss programs.

The most important thing in weight loss is using more calories than you consume. All else is tributary. Including whatever diet your friend or that blogger swears by.

Is the Body Mass Index (BMI) useful?

No.

The BMI chart is made redundant the moment you start using a weight routine because muscle weighs more than fat. Some of the healthiest people you know will be considered ‘overweight’ by the BMI chart.

Don’t beat yourself up over chart results, take photos, keep and eye on your reflection and if you want to be fastidious measure your waist, hips, arm and leg circumference regularly.

I’m in a calorie deficit but I’m not losing weight, what's going on?

First and foremost, check you are in a deficit.

Start counting calories. It’s tedious but if you aren’t losing weight by guesswork alone it might be needed. Some people are surprised by just how much they’re eating.

If you are in a calorie deficit – don’t cut it further immediately.

Stick with your deficit for a month or two. It can be frustrating to weigh yourself weekly only to find you’ve stayed the same weight or even gained some but there are good reasons why this could happen.

You may be gaining muscle while losing weight. This is known as ‘recomping’ and it’s quite common when you start a new routine.

You may notice noticeable changes in your appearance but no weight loss – this is why photos and keeping a keen eye on the mirror can be useful.

You may also be experiencing water retention. If you’re regularly feeling bloated, noticing indents on your ankles when you take your socks off or gaining weight rapidly over night you’re probably experiencing this.

Don't worry, water weight will drop off and often comes with a huge drop in weight and measurement.