Carbs, water retention, hormones, bloating… there are several factors that can affect how confident we’re feeling in our bodies. And with more scientific theories and fad diets out there than a deep-fried Mars bar has calories, it can be difficult and confusing to find the approach that works for you when it comes to creating the body you want and deserve.
With that summer body in mind, we spoke to nutrition and fitness expert Phil Learney, a renowned Strength and Conditioning coach – and the founder of exercise apparel brand BAA Clothing – with almost 20 years experience. Based at Ultimate Performance in Mayfair, London, Phil’s bespoke training is famous for his intelligent, observational and results-driven approach. Here, he gives us the low-down on some of the most bewildering fitness myths out there…
Don’t avoid carbs and fats
You should never stop eating carbs, just reduce your intake. The leaner somebody is, the more they can eat carbs. Lot’s of people take them out completely because logic says, ‘If I eat them I get big’ and it’s the same with fats. Most of the Western population eats too many carbs, but you don’t need to cut them out completely – just restrict them and raise your protein and unsaturated fat intake.
Change your eating habits slowly
If your diet has been on the wrong side of healthy for a while, it will take some time to change behavioural habits. If you go straight to eating just chicken and broccoli when you really crave a pizza, it’s going to make you feel miserable and more likely to give up. So with my clients, I tell them to swap pizza for a burger. By giving them something to start with that is manageable, I’m not taking away all their little pleasures but they will still achieve a lower calorie intake then before and start to lose weight.
Don’t starve yourself
Your body isn’t stupid. If you severely restrict calories from Monday to Friday and then go wild at the weekend, what do you think will happen? It’s going to accrue the extra calories on a weekend and store them. When you go on an extreme diet, your body will slow down and go into starvation and preservation mode and store everything.
Surprise your body, see results
People think they are losing weight on a low-carb, low-fat diet but it’s really just about the basic equation of ‘calories in’ and ‘calories out’. But if we keep our body in a calorie deficit on a daily basis, the hormones slow down. We can’t therefore chronically diet, we must do it only for three or four days at a time. Wave slightly under and then slightly over your recommended daily intake, as this keeps you healthy. If you diet and do the same thing over and over again, your body gets used to it. But if you spend some days in a calorie deficit and some days out, it will maintain hormone levels and a suitable metabolic rate.
Change up your exercise
If you go spinning every night of the week, at first you will burn lots of calories – but then your body gets used to it and gradually you’ll burn a little bit less. Then you get to a maintenance calorie burning mode every time, so to burn more fuel, you need to either cycle harder or longer. With weights, do more repetitions rather than using heavier dumbbells.