By Nick Mitchell

“If I had a penny for every time..”

It’s amazing, every week I have at least two women approach me with a sometimes desperate mix of frustration, resignation and incredulity in their eyes. They don’t eat junk food, they don’t eat after 7pm, they religiously attend 4 cardio classes and at least 1 pilates sessions week in week out, and yet their weight never budges. The lumps and bumps they are not especially fond of refuse to disappear, and every single time they relax and have a weekend of eating like a “regular person” they somehow pile on the pounds! These women are not fat, they are normal shaped people who want to tone up and improve themselves, but they feel they are on weight gain treadmill on which they must keep running just to stay as they are. Many really do think that their bodies and metabolisms are lost causes. When I tell them that this is by no means the case, and that very rapidly and with intelligent planning we can reset the metabolic rate, the change in body language and demeanour is remarkable. No one can ever doubt that our bodies are wonderfully adaptive organisms – feed it too much and it gets fat for instance. But we also adapt in positive ways, and with what we at Ultimate Performance Personal Training call “educated effort” it is possible to bring about remarkable transformations in the body that impact upon every area of a person’s life.

One step forward, two steps back.

“I am always dieting and I never change!”

“I constantly do all the right things, and I never lose weight!”

“I am so careful with my food, but if I even so much as look at a cream cake I gain 2 lbs!”

So many women are locked into cycles of dieting that do nothing for their bodies except to shunt their metabolic rates into virtual hibernation, and yet they are too scared or misinformed to do anything about it, and make a change. It was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Now which one of us is smart enough to disagree with Einstein?

The traditional view of counting calories for weight loss has, especially amongst females, caused an epidemic of sluggish metabolisms and incredibly frustrated dieters. Eating like a bird and spending hours on the stairmaster will have just two guaranteed outcomes. In the short term, if food intake is reduced and cardiovascular exercise increased, there will be weight loss. However, in the medium term, if food intake is kept at that reduced, and often quite painful and socially limiting, level and cardio is used as the exclusive means of exercise, the metabolism will slow right down, fat loss itself will grind to a halt, and any deviation from the norm will pile on the pounds. This is the point at which I so often hear a knock at my door.

Your furnace is broken, but we can fix it.

In brief layman’s terms, what happens is that many women erroneously force their bodies into mimicking a reaction to the effects of famine. Our metabolisms shut down during periods of starvation in order to protect us from food deprivation, and continued restriction of the wrong calories, poor exercise choice, and the ravages of the 21st century lifestyle all contribute into turning off the metabolic furnace that isn’t releasing enough heat, and all of the “fuel” is being hoarded as body fat.

The solution to this increasingly common problem is elegant in its simplicity. We must stoke up the furnace into fat burning mode, and then keep it there so that you can get on with your life in a happy and healthy manner and not always be looking over your shoulder dreading the repercussions of last night’s pizza.

So without further ado, here is the Metabolic Rejuvenation Plan.

Effective Exercise

Let’s get this out of the way first, because making the correct exercise choices is where many women can most often make the biggest and most rapid improvements to their metabolisms. A great coach once told me that the biggest mistake women make with their fitness programmes is to not train like men. We must have all seen this countless times in every gym across the land – the men head for the weights area, the women for the cardio machines. And guess what, 6 months later the men may well have toned up a bit, but the women almost always look the same. Remember Einstein’s earlier definition of insanity?

Aerobic exercise will burn fat whilst you are doing it. It also is good for the heart and the overall cardiovascular system, and when performed correctly can release endorphins that literally make us buzz right through our workouts. However, it has a definite dark side when done to excess or to the exclusion of other forms of exercise, namely resistance training. Any woman who wants to focus on toning up should realise that aerobics do very little for your muscles, in fact an excess of aerobics can cause muscle loss, and it is muscles and the shape they impart that give you the much sought after “tone”. How do you think top models achieve their sleek, supple, yet firm bodies? Yes, they tend to be naturally slim and all have long limbs, but I will let you into a little secret here, especially as they push past the ancient (written with tongue firmly in cheek) age of 25 years they can be found in the gym stretching, contracting and squeezing their muscles.

personal training a fashion model

Nick Mitchell training a very “unbulky” model

If that wasn’t enough to convince you to take up a new Metabolic Rejuvenation Plan, I always make my clients aware that muscles are even more crucial than simply imparting a toned look. A healthy level of muscle is absolutely imperative to the maintenance of a speedy and efficient metabolism, and in my experience, this is a crucial factor ignored by far too many women. This is a factor that becomes increasingly significant with age (for both sexes), as hundreds of studies have demonstrated that age related muscle loss is the significant factor in the slowing down of the metabolic rate as we grow older. Decreasing activity levels have shown after the age of 30, we lose an average of 5-10lbs of lean body mass (muscle) for every decade that follows. Muscle is metabolically active tissue, so as well as carrying your skeleton through space, it also burns calories just to maintain itself. Therefore a loss of muscle tissue is absolutely crippling to the metabolism. The average person who does nothing about this loses 25% of their lean body mass by the age of 65. To put that into real terms, this equates to a daily drop in metabolic rate of 500 calories, which puts a severe dent into the ability to stay in shape.

However, it is not all doom and gloom as we age, and the take home lesson here for a Metabolic Rejuvenation Plan for young and old alike is that it is imperative to preserve, and sometimes even build, muscle in order to maintain an efficient calorie burning furnace. Research has proven the negative signs of aging are real, but it has also proven that they can be prevented, and even in some ways reversed! Studies of over 60s who do the right things via their exercise and diets have shown that they have only a 0.36% metabolic drop per decade versus the norm of 5-7%. An hour or two of the right exercise every week and you have one of the so called secrets of youth and beauty at your very fingertips.

All that is needed is to undertake a modest 2-3 times a week resistance training programme, where your major muscles are worked for a 45 minute period and to work with weights that present a minor, but not insurmountable, challenge for sets of 10-15 repetitions. And just to allay any fears that weight training will make you bulky, rather than point to a number of my willowy, svelte and professionally beautiful female clients as my example for further evidence of how smart, forward thinking agents always ensure their girls are in tip top health and condition), just ask yourself how many men you know who go to the gym have big muscles. Not a lot I bet, and yet they have the one thing that is vital to muscle growth that all women lack – testosterone. Without it, you simply cannot grow big muscles. So get off that treadmill and start lifting a little weight. Your body (and your mirror) will love you for it.

The Right Foods on a Metabolic Rejuvenation Plan

I love living in the West. A few years ago I spent some time living in Eastern Europe, and although it has so much to offer as a region, I eventually came back home. And would you believe that one of the things I missed the most during travels was English supermarkets and the wide array of foods they sell! I am a fully paid up fan of Marks & Spencer low fat ready meals and can’t get enough of loaves of soft, white English bread. But boy, can these foods make you fat. Yes, even the so called diet products.

Now you have had the anecdote, let us discuss the science. OK, not the science itself but the hormone insulin, and how controlling it has become the bane of western civilisation. With obesity levels at epidemic proportions, I don’t view this as an exaggeration at all.

Insulin controls how the body deals with carbohydrates. It “disposes” of these carbohydrates by feeding them to your muscles or putting them in storage, as fat. Unfortunately, modern man with his canny ways of making money and mass production has found a way to inadvertently thwart this system. In the past, I would never have missed my lovely white bread – all flour was coarse and unrefined and made products that digested slowly, causing a gradual release of insulin to cope with the equally gradual absorption of carbohydrates. Now we have ultra refined grains and flour so fine that it can actually float in the air!

The body absorbs these refined carbohydrates as quickly as it would a tablespoon of sugar, which means that the body is forced to release waves of insulin to dispose of the large influx of carbohydrates. These surges of insulin, repeated over and over again, lead to a condition called insulin resistance. The cells that normally respond to insulin get desensitized. The pancreas — which produces insulin — has to “shout” louder and louder for the cells that handle insulin to “hear.” The pancreas has to produce more and more insulin to metabolize all that rapidly assimilated carbohydrate.

To make matters worse, these large surges of insulin tend to overshoot the mark, and more is released than is needed. As such, it then causes temporary low blood sugar (insulin takes sugar out of the blood and puts it in storage, remember), which sends your brain a signal that it’s time to eat again. One Mars bar is never enough, is it?

If this happens to the body enough times, hyperinsulinemia can develop. In short, that means your body has higher-than-normal levels of insulin flowing through it. This condition is related to high cholesterol, fatigue, anxiety, heart disease, cirrhosis, kidney problems, depression, and immune suppression, along with increased body fat storage and reduced burning of body fat. So in addition to ruining your health, these repeated surges of insulin ruin your metabolism.

Do you ever wonder why you never had the mid-afternoon crash, or wanted to nap after a big meal when you were a teenager? The young are not insulin resistant, we only become that way after years of poor nutritional choices and lazy lifestyle habits. And the more insulin resistant you are the more likely you are to carry too much fat no matter how hard you diet and exercise.

Clearly, carbohydrate control is definitely in order, and that involves knowing which type of carbohydrates to eat at what times. The difficulty with this is that it’s the most appetizing carbohydrates that do the most damage. We need to avoid processed foods, so if it’s packaged in a box or cellophane, best to give it a miss, and all refined starches such as white bread and pasta. Please don’t ask me where a croissant or a pain au chocolat fit into this.

It’s all about being sensible, applying common sense, and focusing on natural products in their rawest form. I rarely prescribe excessively low carbohydrate diets as they are very hard to stick to in the real world, and anything that makes you feel unduly sluggish and lacks fruit and vegetables isn’t a long term solution in my book.

Additionally, too few carbohydrates can lead to mood swings, uncontrollable cravings, and the loss of muscle tissue, the very last thing we want when attempting to repair a slow metabolism. The Metabolic Rejuvenation Plan advocates moderate carbohydrate intake, but of equal importance we need to focus on the timing of carbohydrate intake. Indeed this is part of the premise of the excellent book “Nutrient Timing” (John Ivy & Robert Portman), in which they give compelling evidence that the right balance of nutrients, taken at key points during the day, is the correct way forward for anyone seeking to maximise their fat burning energy system.

To learn more about how to construct your own unique Metabolic Rejuvenation plan using weight training please contact us today!