Friday, 13 July 2018

Carbohydrates - Should you cut them out?

Over the years I have all too often heard people say that they intend to cut carbohydrates from their diet to lose weight. This is generally a bad idea, whoever you are. From a nutritional perspective, what we should be more concerned with is the type of carbohydrate we consume and how much we have. After all, in your diet you should be consuming more carbohydrates than any other macro nutrient so it makes no sense at all to try and cut them out. 

So, what are carbohydrates and what do they do?
Carbohydrates are organic compounds occurring in foods and living tissues including sugars, starch, and cellulose. Once consumed, carbs are broken down and stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. Glycogen stores MUST be replenished every day to survive so quite literally don’t go starving yourself to death! As you exercise, your body uses up more glycogen and as a result, you need to replace the depleted stores by taking on board more carbs.                                                                                           
About a fifth of the body’s glycogen is stored in the liver and helps maintain blood sugar, an extremely important job! The other four fifths is stored in muscle cells and is used as energy fuel for physical activity. For someone who leads a relatively sedentary lifestyle or who trains at a low intensity for less than one hour per day, I would recommend 3-6 grams of carbohydrate per kg of body weight each day. (Serious athletes will require 7-12 grams per kg of body weight).  In both scenarios, this will be enough to fuel the body but prevent an excess fat gain. As activity levels and therefore energy requirements increase so does the carbohydrate requirement. Still think it’s a good idea to cut out carbs?!

So you can gain some perspective on the energy value in food I have listed the following average calories per gram in macro nutrients.

Carbohydrate = 4 calories
Protein = 4 calories
Fat = 9 calories
Alcohol = 7 calories (empty calories right?!)

Now, when it comes to (and I hate the word) “dieting”, yes it can be beneficial to reduce your carbohydrate intake if it is clearly too high. Another more precise approach I recommend is changing the type or source of your carbs which I will explain in a minute... 
Firstly a fun fact:

Did you know that for every gram of glycogen there are 3 grams of water attached to it? So in other words, suddenly reducing your carb intake will result in a loss of 3 grams of water for every one gram of carbohydrate. This means when you weigh yourself you have lost predominantly water weight and not body fat.   

Good Carbs vs bad carbs

Many of you would have heard of good and bad carbohydrates and categorising them can make it easier to distinguish which ones are healthy or unhealthy.

Simple = sugars (generally less healthy)
Complex = starches and fibers (generally good)

I would urge you not to rely solely on simple vs complex carbs when planning your food consumption as these ideas are a little dated and can be misleading. For example some foods such as biscuits, cakes and bananas contain both complex and simple carbs and natural sugars are healthier for you than processed ones.
A modern and very effective method to decipher the effects different foods will have on your blood sugar levels and therefore weight control and health is the Glycaemic index.

Glycaemic index

The glycaemic index ranks foods between 0 and 100 depending on their immediate effect on blood sugar levels (how quickly the body digests them and converts them into glucose). It is considered better to stick to low GI foods as these have less of an impact on your blood sugar and insulin levels therefore controlling and maintaining balanced levels. They take longer to break down and digest. High GI foods however will quickly spike blood sugar levels potentially leading to hyperglycemia. This is followed by a rapid dip in the blood sugars, causing light headedness, sickness, headache and irritation! For diabetics these symptoms can be much more severe and very dangerous.

Low GI = GI 0 – 55: Most fruits, pasta, grains, peas, beans, brown rice

Medium GI = GI 56 – 69: Rye crackers, cereals, couscous

High GI = GI 70 – 100: White bread, rice, cakes, sweet pastries 

Low GI foods help manage food cravings therefore promoting weight loss. They prevent energy dips, feelings of irritation and general hangriness!! They are also ideal for athletes as they improve endurance and delay fatigue. By contrast High GI foods have been linked to heart disease, diabetes and a wide variety of different cancers.

If you would like more information on healthy eating choices or an in depth diet analysis and eating plan please email me on

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Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Exercise for mental health and brain function

Why do you hit the gym or go out running? Is it to improve cardiovascular fitness, build muscle, and of course let’s not forget, get an amazing beach body? Probably yes I’m guessing, but have you considered the above the neck inter-cranial benefits? There is a wealth of evidence backing up the theory that exercise increases brain function and helps fight the ever more publicised battle with mental health issues.

Firstly, keeping active can reduce stress (and I can vouch for that!)

Feeling stressed out or not coping well with work or life in general? Something as simple as leaving the office for a 40 minute walk in the fresh air at lunch can make all the difference. Working up a sweat increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress therefore can help manage physical and mental stress and can reduce anxiety sensitivity. Over the years I have trained many clients who pop in to my gym during their lunch break for a quick workout. Likewise I have clients I visit at home, breaking up their work day. They all report the same thing: To get away from their desk and get their body moving (and brain working) does them wonders! W hat’s more is clients constantly feed back to me that they are much more productive and indeed, creative at work after sessions! Unfortunately none have agreed to give me a percentage of their earnings... Yet!                   

The natural high!

Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. I’ve had countless personal training clients who suffer from clinical depression. (BEFORE meeting me before you ask!) After just a couple of weeks training they all, without fail, back up what all the research indicates. They report alleviated symptoms of depression and anxiety. My advice, pencil in some “me time” where you can go for a bike ride, hit the gym, go for a swim or whatever you fancy. Anything that gets you out of your home or work environment, where you can just shut off to the world and release your inner beast!  If that sounds awful to you remember, just 30 minutes 3-5 times a week can instantly boost your mood.


Even at a basic level, knowing you have exercised makes you feel good about yourself. You have done something that benefits you and you’re in control. That’s empowering! Immediately after exercise you can feel your muscles tighten and let’s face it, in a sick and twisted sort of way it feels great to sweat and ache because you’ve pushed yourself! Of course as the weeks go by you will see a physical difference in the mirror. You will stand straighter, walk a little taller and even gain a little bounce in your step. People notice these things will start commenting on how well you look (trust me, they will). This will enhance your self-image and further boost your confidence no end. As the function of your body improves you will find you can achieve more with your body and your quality of life will improve, therefore opening up more possibilities to do things you never would have had the confidence to do before.

The Great Outdoors

Not only one of my favourite films starring the greats Dan Aykroyd and John Candy but a super way getting closer to nature. A place, I believe as a species we are really meant to be. Fresh air, sunshine (vitamin D), wildlife, natural beauty all do amazing things for our state of mind. Becoming dwarfed by nature can help one put their worries and being into perspective. There are so many physical activities you can do outside. Figure out what floats your boat and give it a go. A few suggestions: Team sports, canoeing, hiking, mountain biking.  

Keep the brain active with exercise

Something many people don’t realise is that exercise can be (and it’s my philosophy that it should be) taxing on the brain. Challenging the neuromuscular system (brain connecting with the body through millions of nerve endings and muscle fibres) will not only improve the bodies balance and coordination but also the brains ability to send such messages to the body. The great thing is, like a muscle, the brain responds well to being workout out. You feel tired but satisfied! It’s a sad fact but in later years, our brains deteriorate. Aging and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s kill off brain cells, causing the loss of many important brain functions in the process. While exercise and a healthy diet won’t cure Alzheimer’s, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that begins at middle age. Exercise boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning. So in summary, exercise improves brain functions, better connects brain and body, speeds connection time between brain and body, improves memory and helps maintain healthy brain cells in later life! Exercise not sounding too bad now right?!


Using up all that excess energy and tension in the gym can be extremely tiring.  Many of my clients have reported improved sleeping patters due to regular exercise. As a result they are happier the following day and cope better with whatever life throws their way.

Addiction control

The brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to any form of pleasure. So when a person becomes dependant on drugs or alcohol (or anything else that gives you a perceived feeling of pleasure) you become addicted to the dopamine. Exercise can be a great distraction. Keeping occupied with exercise, doing something you know will benefit you, can help you forget your cravings for a short while. Working out creates a new focus which hopefully becomes a prioritised alternative to substance or alcohol abuse.

Inspire others to feel good about themselves

Over the years I have trained many different people of different shapes, sizes, ages, back grounds and abilities. You name them, I’ve trained them! What I have found is it’s not just the slim, well-toned “gym rats” that inspire others. It’s the older generation striving to improve their strength and mobility. It’s the overweight individuals slogging through sessions to make themselves healthier. It’s the athletes who offer help and support to beginners which inspire and give them something to aspire to. It’s those who (irrespective of physical appearance) are scared to enter the gym, feel intimidated or have anxiety yet still force themselves to do so. You are all amazing! I also have to mention the support groups that organically form without intention in the gym / class / sports / activity environment.  I believe these groups are fundamentally important in maintaining good mental health. Exercise breaks down social barriers and friends are made over the common bond of exercise and wellbeing. These are friends that can empathise with you and encourage you on your journey.  They are there to pick you up when your mood or motivation dips and make you feel good again. The truth is that anyone who is putting themselves out there and working towards a healthier lifestyle will be inspiring someone else, whether they know it or not. So my advice is not to worry about what you may look like when exercising. You are an inspiration for deciding your own course taking action. That is something to feel positive about.

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Monday, 18 June 2018

Food: Use your brain

When it comes to the very basics of nutrition and the foods you put into your body, there is no excuse for ignorance in modern society. Whatever you are doing, be it scrolling through social media, watching TV, listening to the radio, reading an article or even chatting, you are never too far from the topic of “dieting” or weight control. I would even go as far as saying (and excuse the pun) it’s rammed down our throats.

The ideas and dietary research found on the previously mentioned media platforms can provide some sound information and with a small amount of common sense applied, it is possible to make simple, easy improvements to your diet. However, many of these eating plans and methods can be confusing, misleading or in most cases, inappropriate.
I often find the advice given in the media to be very weighted towards its own purpose. By that I mean the primary parameters of the subject (the person and / or the particular “diet” being promoted or examined) are extremely narrow and rarely apply to the wider public. Yet they are advertised as the answer to all our weight loss problems. The parameters are seemingly manufactured to relinquish the desired results under a strictly controlled set of environments which wouldn't be practical for the every day person going about their routine. I do not believe in fad diets, crazy eating regimes, starvation or water only detoxes. Nor for that matter do I believe in the vast majority of gimmicks advertised on infomercials and celeb fashion magazines.
I put my trust in proven good honest hard exercise and sensible food choices containing the correct balance of:

Macro nutrients: Carbohydrates, proteins, fats
Micro nutrients: Vitamins and minerals

It goes without saying that anyone dedicated to making a significant change to their nutritional intake and individuals with unusual requirements (medical conditions, athletes) should seek professional guidance from a qualified nutritionist but for those going it alone I strongly recommend not getting hung up on special diets that you may hear about, but instead focus your energy on getting the basic principles of healthy eating right first.

10 basic tips:

Consume natural and varied whole foods

Try to eat 5 or even 6 small meals per day 

Dink plenty of water throughout the day

Take on nutrients from a wide source of foods. A good guideline is to include fruits, vegetable and salad items of different colours

Don’t eat large meals late at night

Avoid processed, fried and fast foods

Chew your food properly. It is the first stage of digestion!

Stop eating when you are full

Where possible prepare and cook your own foods from scratch

Reduce salt intake

I would never suggest totally cutting out treats as I think that can make for a boring existence but perhaps limit yourself to once or twice a week. The key word is moderation.

This is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce. If you would like further information on healthy eating or you would like to know how much of which foods and when you should be eating them to meet your personal nutritional requirements, please me at email

Thank you for taking the time to read.

Monday, 11 April 2016


Asthma is a respiratory condition that is characterised by an increased sensitivity of the airways resulting in the air passages, principally the bronchioles, narrowing for a period of time.

There are a variety of potential ‘triggers’ that can induce an "asthma attack”

·         Infection
·         Dust
·         Air pollution
·         Pollens and air-borne allergens
·         Specific foods
·         Drugs
·         Exercise

Most people who suffer from asthma know what their triggers are and very few suffer from all the above.  Usually suffers have the potential for Broncho-constriction with exercise, however the response and severity can vary greatly from person to person.  

If you do suffer from asthma and are looking to get involved in exercise, I highly recommend that before you join a gym, you recall and record any times you have had an exercised induced episode.  
Include where you were, time of year, weather conditions, what you were doing on these occasions and detail as much information as possible. Include any past experiences with daily activities.

When you decide to begin exercise, consult a trainer and share with them all related information and experiences.  This will allow your trainer to reduce the risk of inducing similar events by eliminating likely contributing factors.

To reduce the risk of developing exercise induced asthma

·        -  Intermittent physical activity 
·         - Work out in warm moist air
·         - Swimming (trigger dependent)
·         - Low to moderate intensity exercise
·         - Exercise in clean fresh air with low pollution and pollen in the environment
·         - Always have your fast acting bronchodilator in your possession when you exercise
·         - Make gains in physical conditioning
·         - Always listen to your body and be patient with progress – It WILL work!

Exercise guidelines for asthma

Goal: Improve cardio respiratory conditioning (breathe easier and more efficiently)

What to do: Weight training - work large muscle groups, low resistance and conditioning based. 15-20 reps, 2-4 sets.
Cardio vascular (walking cycling, swimming, rowing, jogging, running) Start with 5 minutes and build up to 20-30 minutes working intermittently depending on your fitness levels.

How often?: 3-5 times per week – time of day may be trigger dependant.

Intensity: Low- moderate and then after time progress to high (trigger dependant)

You may also find Tai Chi useful in regulating controlled breathing through exercise.

I hope this has been useful.

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Thursday, 29 October 2015

Weight Loss: Lean or Fat? ... Be Patient

One of the most common reasons people join a gym is to lose weight. I have spoken about fad dieting and the media / fashion industry (pressure to be sickly and stick thin) before so wont dwell on my feeling toward that too much here. What I do want to focus on is the process and resulting psychology of weight loss.

When clients, friends and family ask me how to lose weight they look disbelieving and dejected at me when I say you should aim to loose between 1-2lbs per week. They expect (because media and fads dictates) to lose 7 or 8 lbs per week. It rarely works like that in truth. Rapid weight loss is routinely followed by rapid weight gain. I strongly suggest to them that they exercise patience and trust in the process of losing weight for the long term. Unfortunately many still find it difficult to foresee the end game and therefore become demotivated and depressed. People need to understand that weight is made up of more than just fat therefore rendering overall weight on a set of scales as only partially relevant.

For new exercise beginners, I recommend that for the first four weeks you try to look for some alternative benefits so you can to prove to yourself that you are on the right path.

1.      Clothes feel looser

2.      Feel healthier

3.      Carry yourself better – improved posture and confidence

4.      Look slimmer in mirror, new curves / others people noticing

5.      Heightened alertness and more energetic.


Of course everyone is built slightly differently. We all have different genetics, natural abilities, varying fitness levels, different sizes and body compositions so first off DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS! What works for one person may not work for you. For example a person with more body fat to loose, who has never exercised before will likely lose more fat, initially, than an experienced exerciser who is only 7lbs over weight.

If you train 3-4 times per week and eat healthy, natural and organic foods in frequent small doses you will lose weight. Your calorie expenditure will outweigh your calorie intake. You will also increase your muscle mass and therefore metabolism thus burning calories and emptying fat cells more efficiently.

All the while weight comes off people are happy. That’s great but I would like to make it clear that it can take a couple of weeks to kick start so try not to despair!  

When you join a gm or start a vigorous exercise routine your body may initially do two things

1.      Go into a survival mode – Your body panics at the sudden increase in calories being used up and expended. It can actually hold on to fat cells ensuring you don’t run out of your vital fat stores. (it goes back to early hunter gatherer days where we didn’t know where the next food source was coming from) This doesn’t necessarily happen after one workout but more after a dramatic change in lifestyle from sedentary to active. It is important to keep eating and not starve yourself, otherwise apart from making yourself very ill you will encourage your body to heighten its survival mode further, therefore making it even harder to lose weight.


2.      Slowly begin toning up. At JW CORE a large proportion of what I teach is full body functional training movements utilising as many muscles, all working together, as possible. This type of training increases healthy lean muscle and promotes strong movement patterns and posture. I am not saying my clients rapidly pack on size but the extra muscle tissue is very dense compared to that of fat…. 3 times as dense.

Many clients, for the first couple of weeks claim they have not lost weight. They feel fitter and look healthier but on the scales they are the same….. Muscle gain will slow down overall weight loss but it will increase BODY FAT loss. All the time we are sitting behind a desk at school or work, we are defying what we are evolved to do and that is living off the land and, moving around. Hence we are atrophying as a species. (loosing bone density, muscle mass, healthy tissue)


Continuing from my second point, once you have improved your muscle mass you will naturally burn more calories up, just maintaining the extra muscle volume you have acquired… even when your asleep! Weight loss while you’re sleeping, can’t be bad! You just need to be patient for it to kick in!

Give yourself four weeks for your body to acclimatise to exercise and your healthy eating plan. This time will allow for you to improve your muscle function and mass. Then if you haven’t already, you will begin losing weight.

Remember weight is only one piece of the puzzle. I personally recommend you pay more attention to your shape, how you feel and your clothes sizes and fitting. Get out of the old mentality of weighing yourself every day. Weigh yourself once a week maximum. Give yourself a pat on the back if you have lost 1-2lb. When you repeat that for 6 months and you will have lost 2-3 ½ stones and that is significant. You will have better lean tissue and essentially you will have actually built up a permanent habit / lifestyle, meaning the chance of putting the weight back on is dramatically decreased.

In conclusion

·        Build muscle mass to loose fat.

·        Don’t panic if you haven’t lost weight in the first 4 weeks. See it as your body stabilising so be patient.  

·        Understand the difference between lean weight and body fat weight.

·        Avoid becoming depressed if you haven’t lost weight on the scales – think long term.

·        Look for other improvements and differences rather than depending on scales.


I hope you find this article useful.


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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

An Exercise in Fluidity

Question: What do Roger Federer. Pele and Mohamed Ali all have in common apart from being masters of their chosen sport?

Answer: They all have or had an unrivalled grace and fluidity about their movements.

Another question: How many times have you known Roger Federer to be injured?

Answer: Not many. A smooth, flowing manor allows for a much gentler, body-friendly execution of technique without losing power or accuracy. Take Rafael Nadal. He is one of te greatest tennis players off all time – arguably the greatest, but his high impact approach to the game has caught up with him and before his time. Too many injuries have riddled his body and sadly he is not the player he once was.

Is it mere coincidence that the world’s very greatest athletes in their respective disciplines are also the most fluent moving competitors? They all seem to have pretty long careers too.

Every day, training clients in my gym JW CORE, I endeavour to teach them how to move gracefully. This works very effectively in both gym sessions and martial arts classes. Some clients find it easy but many do not.

Teaching points:

Firstly I begin with correct starting posture. Are all the joints in strong alignment?

Secondly I instruct my client to breathe WITH the exercise, utilising all their lung capacity and especially in Martial Arts classes, their stomach. Then I will encourage them to stay relaxed.

Finally I instruct them to move as smoothly as possible maintaining an even pace and balance. Being smooth and graceful is not easy but is always worth aspiring toward. It does not necessarily equate to being slow either. Once my client has mastered the technical aspects of an exercise I will encourage them to inject appropriate pace. For example when lifting weights, be explosive but smooth. When focusing on speed and agility drills try to “glide between / over /around hurdles, cones and ladders” Keep impact to a minimum and reduce wasted movement.  Try to avoid hyper (over) extending muscles and joints especially in an uncontrolled environment.

Personally I think movement is an expression of one’s self and I can often tell a lot about a person’s character from the way they exercise in the gym.

As you exercise, be relaxed, free, smooth and graceful. Like Bruce Lee said. “Be like water my friend”


Mental Approach

Instead of focusing on the difficulty of the movement immerse yourself into it. Be at one with your body and the movement pattern. I appreciate it all sounds a bit airy fairy but I truly believe in the benefits if you give yourself over to it.

Take virtuoso guitarists like Eric Clapton and Brian May. Fast, smooth and immersed in what they are doing – expressing themselves through their music in a way unique to them. It’s the same with exercise.


Everyone is built differently and will achieve grace in motion to varying degrees with practice. Fluidity in exercise is more of a personal preference than an industry standard. I just like to see people working at it in my gym. I am convinced it is not only conducive to reducing injury but also great for physical and mental wellbeing.

Your approach to exercise is what you want to make of it at the end of the day but if it’s good enough for some of the greatest sports stars of all time is good enough for me and probably you too.


On a related side note I have an old friend who also happens to be one of the world’s premiere piano teachers. He shares a similar philosophy in his teachings to great effect. He founded the idea of “Water Pianism” - well worth a look at his website:


Thank you for reading,


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