« February 2010 | Main | April 2010 »

3 posts from March 2010


Calorie Cycling

Calorie Cycling, also known as “Calorie Shifting” or “Zigzag Dieting”, is a system used to limit fat loss plateaus when on a calorie controlled diet. It is not a diet in itself but a method of manipulating your metabolism to avoid homeostasis (the body shutting down to prevent weight loss) and muscle catabolism (the body breaking down lean muscle mass for fuel).

Although clinical research on the effectiveness of Calorie Cycling is limited, people who use it report greater overall fat loss with less frequent plateaus and less lean muscle loss.

The Theory Behind Calorie Cycling

Calorie Cycling aims to limit the body’s natural tendency toward self preservation, by tricking it into thinking that it’s not actually on a diet at all.

Because fat loss relies on a total calorie deficit over time, rather than a consistent daily deficit, it’s possible to alternate days of calorie-deficits with days of calorie-surpluses and still loose body fat. While your initial fat loss may be less dramatic than with a sustained calorie deficit, ultimately you will achieve better and longer lasting results.

Psychologically certain people find Calorie Cycling easier to adhere also, which is another added bonus. Cycling their calorie intake makes them feel as though they are getting “cheat days”, and timing these higher calorie days with their training days means that they have plenty of energy when they need it most.

Example of a Calorie Cycling Diet for Weight Loss

Calorie Cycling works on basic mathematics. Firstly you need to determine how many calories you should be eating to maintain your current weight, how many kilograms of fat you want to lose, and your intended workout schedule and intensity. Once you have determined these things, it’s simply a matter of working out how you are going to stagger your calories across the week and still achieve the necessary deficit by the end. For example:

A 30 year old male who weighs 82kgs, is 183cm tall and trains three days a week needs to eat approximately 2500 calories per day (or 17,500 per week) to maintain their current weight. To lose 0.5kg of fat each week they need to create a weekly deficit of 3,500 calories (05.kg of fat contains roughly 3,500 calories), which means they need to total about 14,000 calories for the week (17,500 - 3,500 = 14,000 calories).

A traditional diet for this scenario would look like this:

Monday: 1998
Tuesday: 1998
Wednesday: 1998
Thursday: 1998
Friday: 1998
Saturday: 1998
Sunday: 1998

Total for week: 13,986

Calorie intake is the same each day resulting in a 3500 calorie deficit at the end of the week and, theoretically, a 0.5kg fat loss. The problem is that they may also experience a drop in metabolism, due to homeostasis & catabolism, which causes a plateau that can only be rectified with a further calorie deficit or increase in activity level.

The same scenario on a Calorie Cycling diet might look like this:

Monday: 1998
Tuesday: 1599
Wednesday: 2398
Thursday: 1998
Friday: 1799
Saturday: 2198
Sunday: 1998

Total for the week: 13,998

You still end the week with a 3,500 calorie deficit but you achieve this by cycling your calories up and down each day, rather than keeping them at a steady daily rate. Your body has no idea that you are restricting your calorie intake so you are less likely to go into homeostasis, you are matching your high calorie days with your training days so you are less likely to dip into your lean muscle mass as a fuel source, your metabolism stays elevated as a result, and your total fat loss over time is greater


The Four Stages of Motivation

Andrew McCombe


Motivation is possibly the biggest determining factor when it comes to achieving your goals. That is why it is so important to be clear on the underlying values and feelings that your goals will give you before you embark on achieving them. If they are very clear and you feel 100% committed to their achievement then nothing will get in the way of your success. But there may be times when you feel a little flat and it is at these times that you will need the support of both internal and external motivation to keep going.


Motivation can be:


External: Rewards, prizes and recognition.

Internal: Challenge and accomplishment.


Motivation is very important, especially when you maybe about to embark on something that has the potential to change your life, such as a training program at the gym, a new career, or having a family etc. When learning any new skill, or adopting any new behaviour, there are four stages that you will need motivation for, they are:


1)    The Discomfort Stage

2)    The Results Stage

3)    The Pleasure Stage

4)    The Maintenance Stage


I will use exercise as an example to demonstrate each of these stages of motivation.


The Discomfort Stage

When you first start doing exercise, it seems like hard work. Your body tires quickly, you feel short of breath easily, your muscles are often sore the next day and of course it will be difficult to find the time to workout.


The good news is that this stage doesn’t last forever. In most cases, between four and six weeks are required before the next stage is reached. The length of time depends on your initial fitness level, your program and your ability to train regularly.


During this stage, motivation often needs to come from outside; a personal trainer, a life coach or a structured program can be particularly helpful.


The Results Stage

During this stage, the time and effort that you have put into your exercise program begins to pay off; much of the discomfort of doing exercise is over and you even find yourself feeling good after each session. More importantly, you will feel the rewards of your effort – you will feel fitter, begin to see changes in your body shape and you may discover that you have more energy.


Motivation becomes much easier, as there are now positive benefits to balance the short term pain or inconvenience of exercise. Some external motivation is still helpful though as it is easy at this stage to skip a session and lose momentum.


The Pleasure Stage

As the name suggests, during this stage your exercise program becomes a pleasurable experience. The physical rewards are still realised, but the main motivators are now psychological – a person in this stage wants to exercise.


When you reach the pleasure stage, you don’t like to miss a session, in fact studies have shown that regular, long-term exercisers show withdrawal symptoms if they miss a session.


Needless to say, when you have reached this stage, motivation is not a problem. Reward yourself for your efforts.


The Maintenance Stage

Although you are well into your training routine and things are going great, it is important at this stage to maintain long term motivation. If you continue to perform the same program for too long you may become bored or your physical results may plateau. It is important to add variety to your workouts and mix up your training sessions, try a group class one day, a boxing session the next to provide you with added stimulus and to spark further results and motivation.


The FITT Principle of Training

Think of The FITT principle as a set of rules that must be adhered to in order to benefit from any form of fitness training program.

These rules relate to the Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time (FITT) of exercise...

These four principles of fitness training are applicable to individuals exercising at low to moderate training levels and may be used to establish guidelines for both cardiovascular and resistance training.

The FITT principle is used to guide the development of unique and bespoke fitness plans that cater for an individual's specific needs.


Following any form of fitness training, the body goes through a process of rebuild and repair to replenish its energy reserves consumed by the exercise.

The frequency of exercise is a fine balance between providing just enough stress for the body to adapt to and allowing enough time for healing and adaptation to occur...

1. Cardiovascular Training
The guidelines for cardiovascular training (also called aerobic conditioning) is a minimum of three sessions per week and ideally five or six sessions per week.

Experts suggest that little or no benefit is attained over and above this amount. Of course athletes often fall outside the suggested guidelines but even elite performers must give themselves time to rest.

2. Resistance Training
The frequency of
resistance training is dependent upon the particular individual and format of the program. For example, a program that works every body part every session should be completed 3-4 days a week with a day's rest between sessions.

On the other hand, a program that focuses on just one or two body parts per session, in theory you could be completed as frequently as six days per week. Many bodybuilders follow such a routine.

Remember though, each time you complete a strenuous strength training session (regardless of the body part) you are taxing your body as a whole - including all the physiological systems and major organs.


The second rule in the FITT principle relates to intensity. It defines the amount of effort that should be invested in a training program or any one session.

Like the first FITT principle - frequency - there must be a balance between finding enough intensity to overload the body (so it can adapt) but not so much that it causes overtraining.

Heart rate can be used to measure the intensity of cardiovascular training. Workload is used to define the intensity of resistance training.

1. Cardiovascular Training
Heart rate is the primary measure of intensity in
aerobic endurance training. Ideally before you start an aerobic training program a target heart rate zone should first be determined. The target heart rate zone is a function of both your fitness level and age. Here's a quick method for determining your target heart rate...

Heart Rate & Maximum Heart Rate
Heart rate is measured as beats per minute (bpm). Heart rate can be monitored and measured by taking your pulse at the wrist, arm or neck. An approximation of maximum heart rate (MHR) can also be calculated as follows: MHR = 220 - age.

Target Heart Rate
For beginners a target heart rate zone of 50-70 percent of their maximum of heart rate is a good place to start. So if, for example, you are 40 years old that gives you a predicted maximum heart rate of 180 (220 - 40). Multiply 180 by 50% and 70% and your reach a target zone of 90bpm - 126bpm.

For fitter, more advanced individuals, a target heart rate zone of 70-85 percent of their maximum of heart rate may be more appropriate. Staying with the example above, that 40 year old now has a heart rate zone of 126bpm - 153bpm.

There are limitations with heart rate and the heart rate reserve method, while no means flawless, may be a more accurate way to determine exercise intensity.

2. Resistance Training
For resistance training, workload is the primary measure of intensity. Workload can have three components:

1. The amount of weight lifted during an exercise
2. The number of repetitions completed for a particular exercise
3. The length of time to complete all exercises in a set or total training session

So, you can increase workload by lifting heavier weights. Or you could increase the number of repetitions with the same weight. Finally, you could lift the same weight for the same number of repetitions but decrease the rest time between sets.

However, only increase the intensity using one of the above parameters. Do not increase weight and decrease rest time in the same session for example.


The third component in the FITT principle dictates what type or kind of exercise you should choose to achieve the appropriate training response...

Cardiovascular Training
Using the FITT principle, the best type of exercise to tax or improve the cardiovascular system should be continuous in nature and make use of large muscle groups. Examples include running, walking, swimming, dancing, cycling, aerobics classes, circuit training, cycling etc.

Resistance Training
This is fairly obvious too. The best form of exercise to stress the neuromuscular system is resistance training. But resistance training does not necessarily mean lifting weights.
Resistance bands could be used as an alternative or perhaps a circuit training session that only incorporates bodyweight exercises.



The final component in the FITT principle of training is time - or how long you should be exercising for. Is longer better?

Cardiovascular Training
Individuals with lower fitness levels should aim to maintain their heart rate within the target heart rate zone for a minimum of 20-30 minutes. This can increase to as much as 45-60 minutes as fitness levels increase.

Beyond the 45-60 minute mark there are diminished returns. For all that extra effort, the associated benefits are minimal.

This also applies to many athletes. Beyond a certain point they run the risk of overtraining and injury. There are exceptions however - typically the ultra-long distance endurance athletes.

In terms of the duration of the program as a whole, research suggests a minimum of 6 weeks is required to see noticeable improvement and as much as a year or more before a peak in fitness is reached.

Resistance Training
The common consensus for the duration of resistance training session is no longer than 45-60 minutes. Again, intensity has a say and particularly grueling strength sessions may last as little as 20 - 30 minutes.

Perhaps the most important principle of training (that ironically doesn't have its own letter in the FITT principle) is rest. Exercising too frequently and too intensely hinders the body's ability to recover and adapt. As a rule of thumb, the harder you train, the more recovery you should allow for. Unfortunately many athletes don't have that luxury!

Sports Training Principles

The FITT principle is designed more for the general population than athletes.

Sport-specific training should be governed by a more in-depth set of principles. These include:

·    Specificity

·    Overload

·    Adaptation

·    Progression

·    Reversibility

·    Variation

For a more detailed and specific training program, you should employ the services of a registered Personal Trainer.