10 Top Healthy Christmas Gifts For Physical & Mental Wellbeing

Tis the season to be jolly, overindulge and enjoy yourself. But how about giving the gift of wellbeing this Christmas? Or adding one of these to your own letter to Santa?

New workout gear: putting on workouts clothes you feel good in is proven to boost your motivation, so rather than that old pair of leggings again, how about some new gear that you feel great in? High street chains offer great ranges as well as your usually sporting suspects like Nike, Reebok, Adidas etc.

DNA testing: this might sound scary but training in line with your genetic potential (your inherited traits) gives you a 30 % boost in performance. Add in stats about what’s currently going on in your body and get the full picture. Vitagen-X offer a comprehensive range of DNA, blood and hormonal test. Get £50 off with the code XMAS38N

Online training & nutrition: fancy training at home, as you travel, in fact, anytime, anywhere? The 38N Academy offers a range of real time workout videos, nutritional advice, recipes, mindset workshops and even live weekly workouts, all for under £30 a month. Grab 3 months membership for £69 here or email us to gift 3 months to a loved one.

Hypnotherapy: hypnotherapy doesn’t have to be about overcoming a phobia or giving up smoking (though it’s great for both), it can be about healing past trauma, overcoming blocks, lowering stress, increasing confidence and a whole lot more. We’re big fans of the direct to the root of the problem approach hypnosis offers, and the effective results. We’re also big fans of Zoe Clews Associates on Harley Street as our go to.

Body composition monitors: ditch the scales! Yes controversial advice, but we coach our clients to focus on the fit of their clothes, how they feel, and their body composition. Why? muscle is denser than fat, as we get fitter we add muscle and drop fat, so we can often become heavier while looking and feeling better as we “lean down”. Bonus result, your metabolic rate increases. A decent set of Tanita body composition monitors for you to track body fat as opposed to body weight is where it’s at.

One-to-one coaching: sometimes we all need that little bit of extra help. Wherever you feel you need help in your life, why not reach out to a coach. We offer 6 week packages that not only address training and nutrition with bespoke solutions for both, but will help you set and work towards life goals as well as body goals.

A fitness kickstart holiday: having a holiday to look forward to will boost your mood, it will help you focus on your body goals, why not get an even bigger boost with a fitness holiday? We specialise in empowering our clients for sustainable change for life – which is why we’ve won awards and rave reviews. We’ve got options from 3 nights up to 6 nights in Marbella and Ibiza for 2019. Go on treat yourself.

Some quality supplements: there are loads of supplements out there. If you’re training then we’d always recommend topping up your protein with a good quality protein blend. There are lots of good ones out there (also lots of really bad ones – be careful). One of the best we’ve tried is Pure Blend Co – all natural ingredients, low sugar, no nasties. Bulkpowders also do a great range of products at great prices.

A kettlebell: weird choice? Not at all – a kettlebell (or better still 2 or 3) will open up a whole new world of resistance exercises you can do at home. Cheap, will last for years and will get you results when used as part of a programme. The only bit of kit we recommend for our at home transformational programmes like Ibiza Beach Body, as it’s so versatile. You can pick them up at pretty much all sports stores these days.

A hand blender: we start our day with a power smoothie (our clients get to learn our secret recipe and they love it) – protein, low GI carbs, anti-oxidants – it keeps you full to lunch time, doesn’t spike your blood sugar levels and is a great way to start the day. Nutribullet, or similar is perfect.

Making Sense Of Nutrition: Your Guide To Macros

Making a commitment to have healthier eating habits is a tough one. Knowing how to implement that commitment may be even harder. Where do you start? What foods should you eat, and which ones should you stay away from? These are all questions you should answer before going out to the grocery store.

We need nutrients to survive. We need vitamins, minerals and calories everyday. There are two types of nutrients. Micronutrients are our vitamins and minerals and macronutrients are where our calories come from. The three types of macronutrients are fat, carbohydrates and proteins.

Many people think that all fats are bad and recently started thinking all carbohydrates are bad too. Of course we can’t exist on a protein only diet, nor would it be enjoyable, and let’s not forget that food sustains us, so a meal should be a celebration. Knowing what to eat and in what proportion is the key to a healthy body composition, and will allow you to eat flexibly and sustain results over the long term.

Protein comes primarily from lean red meats, poultry and fish sources, it’s also present to a less extent in edible plants and nuts. Protein is essential for the repair and building of muscles, so having good sources of protein in your diet is important.

Fats are also very important. Without fat, our body wouldn’t be able to utilise some of the vitamins we consume. Fat is found in our cell walls and make up a big part of hormones. Fats you should avoid in quantity are saturated fats that come in meat, milk and dairy products. Trans fats should also be avoided. Every one should consume good (unsaturated fats) that come from plant sources such as nuts and olives, and also oily fish. Omega 3, 6 & 9 play many important roles in the body, and you should note that omega’s in fish are more bio-available to us than those in nuts and seeds, though both are a good healthy source.

Finally carbohydrates… With the recent popularising of ketogenic, low and no fat diets, plus negative publicity recently, you might be afraid to eat any carbohydrates. However carbohydrates are our main fuel source. Our brain can’t use anything else to power itself with and our muscles will work the best on it. Don’t deprive yourself of it. Carbohydrates that you should stay away from are simple sugars that are found in sweets, cakes, fizzy drinks and many snacks. Good carbohydrates such as whole wheats and fruits will stabilise your insulin levels, keep you energized throughout the day and avoid sugar highs and lows.

One way we can do this is by knowing the Glycemic Index of foods. You may have heard about the glycemic index and wondered what it is all about. The glycemic index is a ranking of carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. It compares foods gram for gram of carbohydrate.

Carbohydrates that breakdown quickly during digestion have the highest glycemic indexes. The blood glucose response is fast and high. This mean insulin spike and over time this can lead to increased insulin resistance, increased body fat, and in some cases Type 2 Diabetes. Carbohydrates that break down slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the blood stream, have low glycemic indexes.

Foods with a high glycemic index convert into sugar very quickly, with negative physical effects. Foods with a low glycemic index turn into sugar gradually, helping maintain your body’s chemical balance. In general, foods with a low index are preferable.

Glycemic Load measures the amount of sugar a food actually releases in the body. Foods with a low glycemic load usually have a low glycemic index, yet still have a low glycemic load. Other foods have both a high index and a high load. You should avoid high load foods as a regular part of your meal plan.

When you choose carbohydrate foods, check both their glycemic index and glycemic load. Detailed tables with this information are widely available. Use the chart below to get started.

High Glycemic Index

# Fruits and Vegetables

* Corn
* Cranberry juice
* Orange juice*
* Raisins

# Starches

* Bagel
* Bread (white)
* Refined cereal
* Granola
* Muffin
* Pasta
* Potato
* Pretzel
* Rice
* Tortilla (flour)

Medium Glycemic Index

Fruits and Vegetables

French Fries
Pita Bread

Low Glycemic Index

Fruits and Vegetables

* Apple*
* Asparagus*
* Broccoli*
* Brussels sprout*
* Cauliflower*
* Celery*
* Cherry*
* Cucumber*
* Grapefruit*
* Green Bean*
* Green pepper*
* Kiwi*
* Lettuce*
* Onion*
* Orange*
* Peach*
* Plum*
* Spinach*
* Strawberry*
* Tomato*
* Courgette*

* Low glycemic load foods.

Simply eating more fruits and vegetables is not the answer – they must be the right fruits and vegetables. Starchy vegetables such as peas or lentils (200 to 250 calories per cup) are healthy, but they contain more calories than you may want. If you need to eat more to satisfy your hunger, add low glycemic load vegetables. For example, spinach and asparagus are better choices than higher calorie corn and peas. A cup of spinach topped with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce has only about 90 calories, but it gives you nutrients from two colour groups.

Why Not Brown and Beige?

When considering which foods to enjoy sparingly, also use colour as a guideline. Many brown and beige carbohydrates, like pasta, beans and potatoes, while healthy, also tend to be high in calories.

So how to apply this?

  • First up know your calorie target for your body goals.
  • Next know your optimum macro ratio for your goals (your ratio of proteins, carbohydrates and fats)
  • Ensure your fat target is made up of healthy fats
  • Ensure your carbohydrate target is made up of low GI carbs
  • You don’t need to ensure every meal is bang on your target – looks to hit your macros over the day.
  • If you have a blow out – just get your macros to balance over the next couple of days
  • Monitor for 21 days and check the results

If you’d like to know more about this flexible nutrition approach why not join our Academy here, where you can use our macro calculator to work out your individual ratios, download meal planners, templates and have access to hundreds of recipes with macros included. Plus training, mindset and a private facebook group with live workouts, Q&As and more.

To Breakfast Or Not?

Intermittent Fasting has become one of the most talked about nutritional protocols recently, but it has left some people confused. Here’s our Intermittent Fasting 101:

Intermittent Fasting is a nutritional protocol that basically has you fasting for a prescribed period of time, then eating for a prescribed period of time. There are two main approaches:

5/2 – the 5/2 gained popularity as it is easy to follow, and does yield short term body fat reduction results. In a nutshell, you eat what you want for 5 days (note with both these approaches having a good diet with calorie and macro targets will increase their effectiveness) then you fast  with 500 calories a day for women, 600 a day for men, for 2 days. Sounds good right? And reasonably achievable? We don’t like this approach for a few reasons: people think they can actually eat what they want  – gorging on cheeseburgers and fries (or similar) for 5 days then eating nothing for 2 is not a healthy way to live. At all. Training on fasting days is challenging to say the least and and even the proponents don’t recommend it for anyone with eating disorders due to the literal “feast and famine” approach. You have to think whether this is actually a healthy approach is supporting your body, mind and spirit…

The other protocol is the 16/8 or 14/10 – in this approach you fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 (for women it’s recommended to fast for 14 hours and eat for 10). That might sound hard, but its not really (we’ve done it) – your fasting time is when you are asleep – if you think about it most of you are probably already fasting somewhere between 8 to 10 hours. If you have dinner at 7pm and then breakfast around 7:30am that’s a 12 hour fast, so pushing breakfast back or dinner forward isn’t too tricky.

We actually like this approach because you get to eat a normal balanced diet, you can train around it, it’s not that hard, and it gets results in reducing body fat. However, the caveat is that you have to stick to it, and for most of us organising meals, social life (remember a fast means no alcohol so kiss those evening drinks goodbye) around a diet like this over the long term is problematic.

We favour it as a 2 – 4 week fat loss approach, supported by followed on fasted HIIT – which is actually how we live our lives and what we use as the cornerstone of our training to keep body fat down (despite wine and pizza binges!).

So our approach is to eat a healthy diet in a normal time frame. We have our dinner between 6 – 7pm depending on our day. We’ll train fasted around 6:30/7am (a short but intense HIIT session), then have our high protein breakfast straight after.

You can see that there’s already around a 12 hour fast in there – but with this approach we don’t stress about it. Late meal out? No probs, routine stays the same. It’s the best of both worlds. We’ll explain the science below, but first, the question of breakfast…

Let’s look at one aspect of this trend we’re being asked about a lot – we’ve always been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and increasingly clients have heard about intermittent fasting and are asking us if that has changed?

It hasn’t changed BUT complex area. Eating breakfast will kick start the Krebb cycle which in turn fires the metabolism. As stated above Intermittent Fasting on the 16/8 – 14/10 protcol above works as long as you stick to it – but a lot of people find it a little too hard to work around their lives, social engagements etc.

If your lifestyle will allow 14-16 hours of fasting 6 days a week then this approach works but for most people its not realistic over the long term.

So, an effective solution is fasted HIIT first thing. You’ve probably fasted for 8 – 12 hours (while sleeping) so your glucose and glycogen levels are low – by training at intensity you burn through those reserves and tap into body fat as fuel. It is super important though that you then re-fuel straight after – why? If you have no fuel in you after training your body – now primed for protein synthesis but having no source – will go into a catabolic state – breaking down muscle tissue in a bid to get protein. This is why a protein rich meal (like a shake) is super important after training.

If you were to train at intensity and not eat for sometime afterwards the initial result will be weight loss (muscle, and fat, but more muscle), followed by fat gain as your body tries to compensate by storing more energy reserves for next time it has to exert and has no fuel.

Where people go wrong and are mislead is training hard and not eating enough – we want a slight calorie deficit for fat loss, but slight, through the day, and after hard training when the body is primed for synthesis, you want to refuel immediately.

Don’t think of it as skipping breakfast – you’re having breakfast post training. If it is a none HIIT day, have breakfast – at the time that feels right for you.

Where breakfast has got a bad name is that in less than the last 80 years it’s gone from being quite a protein and fat rich meal (bacon, eggs etc) to high sugar (cereals, baked goods, lattes etc) – which spike insulin and sets off the insulin roller coaster for the rest of the day.

What we eat first thing plays a big roll in our insulin response for the rest of the day – our goal is to be more insulin sensitive so we better process food for energy and stay stable through the day. So high protein, low GI Carbs (like oats) small amounts of high GI (fruit) as the fibre in the oats will help prevent insulin spikes.

Short answer – yes breakfast is a must – timing of it depending on your body goals, workouts and nutrition protocols is what is different

Protein Bars – Good, Bad Or Ugly?

Protein bars have been around for some time now, but there are more and more entering the market. Go into any WHSmith or supermarket and there’s literally dozens to choose from. So are they really ‘healthy’? The answer is it depends. They’re both good and bad. So below we’ve broken it down for you and provided some advice on what to look out for.

So let’s start with the good.

  • They’re a great convenient ‘snack’ if the alternative is a McDonalds Drive Thru!
  • Protein helps repair and grow muscle tissue, keeps you fuller for longer and stabilises blood sugar levels
  • Many protein bars are low in carbs. High carb bars will spike your insulin levels and leave you feeling hungry faster than protein, so choose the low carb options
  • Some protein bars have a great mix of added nutrients – so can be perfect as a top up

OK – now the bad.

  • Some have such high calorie and sugar content, you might as well eat a Snickers bar! Some have as much as 30 grams of sugar and 400 calories!
  • Like anything, eat too many of them and you’ll gain weight/fat. Just because they’re deemed as healthy, it doesn’t mean you can eat three a day!
  • Some bars have an insane amount of ingredients. The more ingredients, the less ‘good for you’ they are. The rule of thumb is that the first 5 ingredients make up the bulk of any product – so read the label and pay attention

Our advice…

  • DO NOT use protein bars as a meal replacement. There is no substitute for a balanced diet
  • If you do need a protein fix, a protein shake will always be a cleaner option
  • Eat the bars in moderation!
  • And finally, this is what to look for in your protein bar:
    • Minimum of 5 grams of protein per bar
    • Low in sugar – preferably less than 8 grams per bar
    • Low carb – less than 20 grams
    • NO sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners
    • Low calorie – between 150-300 if possible

We’d love to know – what do you think about protein bars? Do you eat them and what’s your favourite brand?

Hit The Booze Without Messing Up Fat Loss

We’re asked a lot about alcohol and training. A lot. Sadly we can’t tell you that alcohol isn’t going to screw with your body goals – it is. Heck, we love a drink (or three), but we know it messes with our body composition, our energy levels and our training (sometimes our heads too…). We’re realistic, a lot of people enjoy a drink, BUT, there are things you can do to minimise the effect of alcohol on your body goals.

A client recently asked me if they should cut back their food if they knew they were going out drinking. A bit of a controversial area this – the answer is yes and no… you may want to dial back your food calories a very small amount (and particularly your carbs and fats) if you know you’re going drinking, BUT, if you’re planning a monster session, obviously, eat! Please don’t try to negate all the booze you’re going to drink by eating nothing! This is not a good strategy.

So let’s just look at the science before I get into the ‘hows’.

Here’s a recap on the body’s energy system in simple terms: when we’re in calorie surplus excess energy is stored as body fat. Alcohol is high in calories, so drinking is going to increase your calorie intake.

Those booze calories are almost all carbohydrate calories as there’s a lot of sugar in alcohol. It’s also toxic to your body. Acetate, a by product is prioritised by the body for metabolism – meaning alcohol becomes a preferred energy source for your body so the toxin can be eliminated faster.

Interesting, but what does that mean in simple terms? Well it means that you won’t burn any other energy until the alcohol calories are burned off. Meaning that if you’re in calorie surplus, (which you most likely are if you’re drinking and eating normally) you’ll store some fat as the alcohol has been prioritised as an energy source.

So what to do? All in the name of helping you we’ve battled our way through some drinking sessions to bring you some guidelines…! Tough job!

First up, drink in moderation, which means 1 to 3 drinks. At this amount you can SLIGHTLY dial down your food calorie and particularly carb intake to compensate.

Secondly, try not to do it regularly. Alcohol is what some would term an empty calorie – you’re getting energy but not a lot else (other than some fun and maybe a little headache the next day!)

Plus the downsides – like a fuzzy head, lack of energy the next day, and craving for starchy, sugary, fatty food (fry up anyone?) due to hormone disruption as your body detoxes – means that regularly drinking will play against anyone aiming to lose body fat or who’s trying to add lean muscle.

If you know you’re going to drink a lot one night, or you’ve got a week/weekend of hard drinking (hen/stag do) then there’s no getting round that your calorie targets are out the window (probably along with common sense and dignity). BUT, there are things you can do to help your long term body goals.

Aim to eat a lot of protein – the body doesn’t convert protein to fat as readily as fat or carbs, plus you’ll help preserve muscle mass and feel more full, which might(!) make you drink less.

Get your carb intake from fresh veggies (you’ll need all the vits you can get) and stay away from refined, starchy and heavy carbs (you’ll be getting a stack of carbs from the booze).

Keep your fat intake lower than normal. Remember the body will use the alcohol calories first for energy, so if your fat intake is already low, you’re less likely to store body fat than if your fat intake is high. Sadly that means you need to put down that bag of pork scratchings…

Drink wise, avoid beers, lagers, cocktails and aim for dry wines, champagne or cava – nature brut is the driest, meaning the least sugar and calories. Spirits wise go for clear spirits, so gin or vodka, with low or zero calorie mixers like soda water or low calorie tonic – your head will thank you too.

As for the morning after, well that’s the subject for another post…

Your round when I see you 😉

An Introduction To Training Supplements

Your fitness lifestyle has been progressing just as you planned. You’re feeling better, looking better, and you’re in the best shape of your life. Now that you have a good fitness base, you have started thinking about adding some nutritional supplements to your diet.

The good news is that this decision could be just the boost you’ve been looking for to help your reach your peak fitness potential. The bad news is that it can be extremely confusing in the beginning. Let’s simplify the process with this basic introduction to supplements.

What Are Nutritional Supplements?
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the term nutritional, or dietary, supplement refers to a product that is intended for digestion that contains a dietary ingredient such as vitamins, herbs, minerals, amino acids, extracts, or concentrates.

That sounds simple enough. However, the confusion begins when you try to determine exactly which one of these supplements is right for you. Do you want to increase muscle mass, lose weight, increase energy, increase endurance, or gain weight? Well, there’s a supplement for that.

Before you go out and buy a nutritional supplement that may, or may not, be what you need, take a look at some of these commons supplements that flood that market.

You don’t need flashy brands – we get our supplements online from the very un-flashily named Bulk Powders good quality, cheap and delivered to your door – they also do a great range in food and snacks (we love the protein pancakes as a weekend breakfast treat!)

Whey Protein Powder
Whey is a byproduct of milk that is used in protein powders. Perfect for post-workout nutrition, whey protein comes in a variety of flavors and can provide you with the following health benefits:

  • Promotes lean muscle mass
  • Increases muscle strength
  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Decrease stress
  • Increase bone mineral density
  • Improve immune function

We use Pure Whey 90

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s)
BCAA’s are another popular supplement for gaining, and maintaining, muscle mass. BCAA’s can be consumed during and post-workout to increase protein synthesis. This may make it an ideal choice to pair it with whey protein powder.

BCAA’s may also provide some of the following health benefits:

  • Improving exercise performance
  • Promoting faster recovery from workouts
  • Reduced muscle soreness from training

You can buy powdered BCAAs in neutral flavour (not so great tasting), or flavoured – we go for the Berry!

Creatine Monohydrate
One of the most scrutinized and clinically tested supplements on the market, creatine monohydrate is most likely a name that you have heard before. Creatine has been proven to be safe and its low-cost and long shelf life make it one of the most popular supplements out there.

Consuming creatine before and/or after workouts will increase its effectiveness. It’s a good choice if you’re looking for any of the following benefits:

  • Increased energy
  • Increases cell volumization (muscle size)
  • Improved strength
  • Improved muscle endurance
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Improved cognitive function

Pre-workout supplements have seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the last 15 years. Now you hear individuals state that they can’t train without it. As the name proclaims, this is a supplement that is meant to be consumed before you begin exercising.

Be sure to follow the directions carefully and properly asses your tolerance. Pre-workouts are a stimulant based supplement that will give you an instant shot of energy when used correctly. When used incorrectly, it can cause jitters and a severe loss of concentration.

Using a pre-workout supplement can provide the following benefits:

  • Increased energy
  • Increased alertness
  • Enhanced cognitive function
  • Increased vascularity
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Enhanced mood

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to nutritional supplements. I quick internet search will reveal hundreds more, ranging from arginine pills to zinc capsules. This introduction is just to give you the basics and get you headed in the right direction.

Be sure to do your research and always follow the provided instructions. If you have committed to a fitness goal, there’s definitely a nutritional supplement to help you achieve it.