Tag Archive | "health"


Fitter, Faster, Stronger, Leaner part 1


progressionIt’s Monday, so it must be chest day…5 sets of bench press, 3 sets of dumbbell flies, 2 sets of dips and a couple of sets of press ups to finish the workout – same workout as last week, and the week before, using the same weights you always use and the same rep scheme. Or is it cardio day? Run 3 miles in 30 minutes, just like last week and the week before. Or is it Body Pump class today? Same work out as always, same weights, same exercises, same duration? Maybe you don’t even know what you did in last week’s workouts? Do you go to the gym and do whatever your training partner suggests or just do what you feel like doing?

If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you you’re not alone. Look around the majority of gyms and health clubs and you’ll see vast numbers of people doing the same training, week in and week out. When they look in the mirror they see the same old reflexion staring right back them…their physiques or figures haven’t changed in ages, their fitness improvements have stalled and they have the same strength today as they did this time last year.

There is an old saying in exercise – “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got”.

When they started their current workout routine what they were doing will have worked. It provided overload and sufficient training stimulus to force their bodies to adapt, to change, to improve. The thing is the human body is lazy! Once it can comfortably perform the activities it is being asked to do, it ceases making adaptations and we stop getting the benefits we seek from exercise. If we don’t try to progress our workouts, the very most we can expect is to maintain our current physical condition and the worse case scenario is that we actually lose fitness as our body becomes ultra-efficient at the exercises we perform which in turn lowers the training effect of our training sessions. It takes the body 3-6 weeks to adapt to a stressor like exercise. After that, it takes a new stressor to keep the body adapting and improving.

People stay with the same exercise regime for a number of reasons – partly physical and partly psychological. Examine this list and see if any of the points relate to you and your current workout situation:-

  • You’re good at all the exercises and don’t want to be seen doing things you aren’t good at
  • The programme you are on was written by an expert so it must work.
  • Your current programme worked initially so it will work again if you stick with it long enough
  • You only know a handful of exercises and have limited knowledge of programme design
  • You are comfortable with your routine and are reluctant to change it

Whatever your reason for not changing your routine I can’t stress enough that unless you do something different from time to time you are doomed to little or no progress!!! You are literally wasting your time in the gym! So if you want to get fitter, faster, stronger or leaner we have to force our bodies to adapt and improve – and that means we have to shake up our workouts on a regular basis.

I’m often asked “does it (exercise) ever get any easier?” The answer is a resounding “NO!” To see progress in our fitness levels, there needs to be a consistent trend of increased workload/work rate. Exercise isn’t easier the fitter we get – we just develop a greater work capacity.

In the rest of this article, I want to tell you about the “training variables” you can use to keep your workouts fresh, interesting and above all productive and discuss the importance of record keeping to keep us on the road to improved performance and appearance. So, grab your shovel because we have a rut to dig our selves out of!

Progression – the key to long term progress.

Making progress in our workouts requires the manipulation of the “training variables” – the characteristics of our workouts. By making changes to one or more of the training variables on a regular basis we can keep making steady progress towards our genetic potential for physical fitness. Let’s look at each of the training variables in turn:-

Resistance Training Variables – things we can change about the way we train with weights.

  1. Number of exercises per muscle group – can be increased or decreased
  2. Number of sets per exercise and per workout – can be increased or decreased
  3. Target repetition range – higher reps/low weight = more muscular endurance specific, lower reps/greater weight = more strength specific
  4. Loading – increasing the weight used for each exercise to develop greater strength
  5. Recovery period between sets – can be lowered to increase workout density (more sets possible per workout) or to challenge recovery ability
  6. Workout frequency – train more often
  7. Workout duration – train for longer
  8. Movement speed – can be increased to promote power development or decreased to extend the duration of a given exercise (referred to as Time Under Tension or TUT)
  9. Different exercises – e.g. trading barbell bench press with dumbbell bench press
  10. Stable based exercises to unstable – e.g. from machine based exercises to free weight exercises to challenge co-ordination and balance
  11. Simple exercises to more complex ones – e.g. from single joint exercises to multi joint exercises
  12. Exercise order – change the order of exercises performed in the session and training week
  13. Training systems – employ drop sets, super sets, forced reps, pre/post exhaust etc
  14. Split routines – split body parts up differently on a regular basis e.g. legs on Monday and not chest!

Changing any one of the above variables will result in a new stimulus which our bodies will have to adapt to resulting in improvements in fitness. With so many variables to choose from some restraint needs to be exercised so as not to change too much at the same time. Rather than randomly shake our workouts up, we want to employ a couple of the exercise variables for a period of 3-6 weeks and then, once we have adapted to the new stresses of our modified work out, make use of a couple more of the variables thereafter. For example, for 3 weeks focus on increasing the amount of weight used in each exercise, then for a further 3 weeks try to perform more reps with the weight constant, and then reduce the rest intervals gradually over the next 3 weeks and so on. By making small but significant changes on a regular basis we guarantee continued improvements in our fitness levels – up to our genetic potential.

In part 2 of this series, we’ll examine the training variables we can apply to cardiovascular exercise…

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WOW – Thursdays workout 21/07/2011


Not everyone has hours and hours to spend in the gym so with that in mind here is a great 30 minute workout which will train all the major muscle groups using only body weight exercises.

Warm up by performing cardio for 5-10 minutes and follow with a couple of minutes of dynamic stretching

Perform as many laps as possible of the following circuit in 20 minutes (adjust timings according to your fitness levels)

  • 5 chin ups (Substitute body rows or lat pull downs if necessary)
  • 10 press ups (either on knees or full)
  • 15 squats

Rest when necessary but try to do as many laps as possible in the alloted time. Finish off with some light cardio to cool off and stretches.

With thanks to Crossfit www.crossfit.com

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WOW – Mondays workout 25/11/2013

Looking for a fun and challenging workout to break up your normal cardio routine? Try this…

First, warm up for a few minutes by performing some light c.v. and dynamic stretches.

Run 500 meters
No Rest
Row 500 meters

The idea is to perform each 500 meters at very close to your maximum pace and let the transition (moving from one exercise to the next) be your recovery.

Repeat the paring as many times as you like e.g. 5 time and note the time it took you to complete the workout. Try to beat this time when you do this workout again.

Make sure you do some light cardio and stretching to cool off at the end of your workout.

Selected workouts available to download from FX-sports

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Women, weight & weight training part 3

LadyTrainingIn the final part of this 3 part series, Patrick Dale exposes some common myths associated with resistance training…

Myth number 6)
Strength training makes muscles short and bulky – I want long slender muscles like a dancer so I do yoga instead.

I’ve heard this one so many times now that if I had a pound for every time, I’d be a rich man indeed. I had a huge argument with an ex girlfriend about this very subject…needless to say I stuck to my guns and am now single! It always amazes me how common this misconception is.

Muscles are the shape they are because of where they are attached to your skeleton. These attachment sites are referred to as Origins and Insertions. A muscle is attached to the skeleton by tendons. The point at which the tendon meets the skeleton dictates if a muscle will appear long or short. These attachment sites will not move regardless of whether you engage in vigorous weight training or endless yoga and stretching. It’s just genetics, pure and simple. Some people are blessed with long muscle bellies and short tendons, giving an appearance of long, flowing muscles, whilst other people have shorter muscle bellies and longer tendons giving the appearance of short “bunchy” muscles. There are no special exercises that will magically change the length of a muscle belly. Don’t waste precious time doing weird and wonderful movements alleged to lengthen your muscles. We can make our muscles bigger, firmer and improve their condition, but their length is predetermined – if you don’t like the length of your muscles, blame your folks, not your weight training routine. Flexibility is a completely different matter of course and stretching, whilst having little impact of how a muscle looks will effect how well it functions so stretch for muscle health…

Myth number 7)
Strength training just takes too long and I have to go too often – I don’t have time!

When I here this one, it’s safe to make the assumption that this woman has trained with a man who fancies him self as a bit of a bodybuilder and has been exposed to the multi day split system of training. With the split training system, different muscles are trained on different days e.g. Monday is legs, Tuesday is chest, Wednesday is back, Thursday is shoulders, and Friday is arms (ready for a weekend out in town wearing a T shirt 2 sizes too small!). This type of training is fine for bodybuilders but for the majority of exercisers it requires way too much time in the gym.

The average exerciser should seldom adopt a split training programme and instead stick to whole body weight training sessions where the body is exercised as a single synergistic unit. Whole body training is time efficient, easy to plan and requires only 2-3 hours of gym time a week, leaving lots of time to do other things.

By using exercises which are deemed to be “compound” i.e. there is movement at more than on joint, we can work multiple muscle groups at the same time. By way of an example, to work the lower body effectively using isolation exercises (an exercise where movement is limited to one joint only) you would have to perform 6 exercises … leg extensions, leg curls, hip extensions, hip adductions, hip abductions and calf raises. Or, we could just do squats. Weight training really can be that simple and straight forward.

It is possible to train the entire body using just 6 exercises and still have time to perform some cardio or core work and be finished in an hour or less. Organise the 6 exercises into a circuit and you have an amazingly effective fat burning/cardio workout in the time it takes the average male trainer to do his guns workout!

So ladies, leave those split routines to the bodybuilders. Smart woman do whole body workouts.

Myth 8 )
I can’t strength train because I have back/knees/shoulder pain.

Which came first – the chicken or the egg? It’s the same for this myth. Is your back/knee/shoulder pain because you don’t weight train? Once a doctor has given the all clear and confirmed that any pain is not due to musculoskeletal or neurological injury, it’s not uncommon to find that after a few weeks of corrective weight training chronic aches and pains start to disappear. The body is an amazing machine – far more complex than any automobile. To run at optimum efficiency, it needs to have all its parts working in balance. By balance, I mean our muscles (which are generally arranged in opposing pairs on either side of a skeletal joint) need to be equally toned. If muscles on one side of a joint are stronger than those found on the opposite side, a dysfunctional joint will develop and pain may well be the result. Many of our day to day tasks are unidirectional requiring the use of muscles on one side of a joint only. This means that within a pair, one muscle maybe stronger than the muscle that opposes it.

With prescribed weight training exercises, we can rebalance the muscles on either side of a joint and return that joint to full function. Strengthening the lower back can cure lower back pain, strengthening the muscles of the thigh (the quadriceps and hamstrings) can prevent knee pain, strengthening the muscles of the upper back can improve posture and prevent neck pain.

Some time ago, I had an email personal training client. The deal was I would write a programme and the client would take it to her local gym and the resident instructor would then teach her the exercises. This client was suffering from some lower back pain which had been attributed to muscle weakness so we agreed that she needed to improve the strength of her back and I prescribed dead lifts. The instructor, on hearing about the clients’ bad back removed the dead lifts from her programme and replaced this great exercise with the leg curl machine. Needless to say, when I heard about this I was aggrieved! What the instructor failed to realise was the client had 3 growing children who regularly needed to be picked up and carried and she needed to prepare her back for the rigours of this frequent occurrence and the fact the kids were getting heavier all the time! She NEEDED to dead lift! Weak muscles shouldn’t be favoured or ignored but challenged so that they cease to be weak.

I’m sure many more myths are still yet to be busted so if you know of any others please feel free to drop me a line so I can expose them to the world! I’m sure you can now see, weight training is an essential form of exercise suitable for almost everyone – young and old, male and female. The huge benefits that can be gained from lifting weights (improved strength, bone density, muscle tone, joint stability, posture, fitness etc) far out weight any perceived risks so I strongly urge you to take up weight training and reap the rewards. You body will thank you for it!

Patrick Dale


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Woman FreeWeight

Women, weight & weight training part 2

Woman FreeWeightMore exercise myths exposed in part 2 of this 3 part series…

Myth number 3)
To tone up I need to do lots of reps with a light weight.

The lovely Jane Fonda did wonders by getting people exercising, but she also set us back years by promoting “the burn” and super-high reps for toning and inch loss. That burning you feel when you are exercising is not fat melting away, it is Lactic Acid being produced by your muscles as they run out of oxygen. Lactic acid does not cause spot reduction of body fat. If super high reps caused spot reduction of body fat, people who eat lots and often would have thin faces from all that chewing!!! Spot reduction is a super-sized myth! Fat stores will disappear globally, not locally. It’s cruel but it’s the truth.


Someone once asked me “what’s the best exercise to make my stomach thinner?” I replied “Push your self away from the dining table sooner”. Probably not the answer they were seeking, but it’s a painful truth very few exercisers/dieters ever grasp.

The best (in fact only) was to improve the condition of a muscle or muscle group is to overload it – in other words ask it to do more work than usual. This means work it harder, not longer. Think about it. You do 30 side leg lifts to tone your glutes (your butt). When that gets easier, you do 35, then 40 and so on. After a few months you are doing 5 sets of 50 per leg and your entire exercise routine consists of nothing but side lying leg lifts because that’s all you have time for. Sounds like madness doesn’t it? Surely, it would be better to increase the workload, overload the muscles more and not have to spend an hour on the same exercise? To improve the condition of a muscle, it must be exposed to progressive overload i.e. asked to do more than it’s used to on a regular basis. Only then will it we see the adaptation (increase in tone) we are seeking.

A rep count of 20 or less is best in terms of effect and training time economy. Any higher than that and really it’s just a waste of your valuable time. This 20 rep rule applies to all muscle groups, including abdominals. Super high reps do nothing but waste time. Find ways to make exercises harder rather than do hundreds of unnecessarily time wasting reps.

Myth number 4)
Free weights for men, machines for women.

This is one of those old, sexual stereotypes from the ‘70’s that is only slowly going away. Old fashioned gyms used to be the reserve of manly men, but that stopped in the ‘80s when commercial gyms came into being. The thing is, in many cases, the free weights area is still kind of off limits to women. Why is this? Do the men intimidate the women with all their unnecessary grunting? Is it because the exercises seem “too manly”? Are women concerned that they might get big muscles like the guys? (We’ve covered this now). Is it really the smell??? (Can’t help with that one – too many protein shakes are the probable culprit there I think). Whatever the reason, the free weight area contains some of the best tools a girl can use to give her the body she always dreamed of.

It’s interesting to note that some exercises and machines are deemed to be male or female when the reality is that our bodies are so similar, that pretty much all exercises are beneficial to both sexes. That being said, some exercises considered very “masculine” are virtually essential for any woman wanting to work on the traditional female “problem areas” of the hips, butt and thighs. I refer to the squat, dead lift, stiff legged dead lift and to a lesser extent the lunge and high step up. With enough weight, these exercise will give most guys the “killer wheels” they’re after, but with moderate loading and a rep count of 15-20, they will carve any woman an awesome lower body in much less time than endless sets of hip abduction, hip adduction or standing leg curls.

Any woman who wants a good lower body should learn to squat and dead lift. Period.

Myth number 5)
Muscle turns to fat when you stop training – I don’t want that to happen to me!

Go back to our water and oil in a glass image from part one in this series. Is it possible to turn water into oil or visa versa? The answer of course is no (Unless you can perform magic – then you’d probably just transform yourself into a super-model anyway!) The same is true of muscle and fat. They are biologically different and cannot turn into each other. However, it is possible to reduce fat stores and increase muscle mass thus giving the appearance of one turning into the other.

Because muscle is biologically active, it needs energy (calories from food) to sustain it. However, if our subject stops exercising for an extended period without reducing their calorific (food) intake, their muscles will shrink (correctly termed atrophy) and their fat stores will grow (hypertrophy) again giving the impression of one turning into the other. The easiest was to avoid this happening is to a) don’t stop training and b) if you do have to stop training for an extended period e.g. illness or vacation, try to reduce your food intake so that the excess energy that would usually be used up by your exercise wont be stored as fat.

In part 3, we’ll expose a few more myths and make you the master (or mistress) of the weight room.


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women curls

Women, weight & weight training part 1

women curlsI have just returned from my daily trip to the gym. While I was there, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. The gym I use is a big, open plan, well equipped room but it seemed there was an invisible force field around the weight training area that only the female clientele could see. The whole time I was there, not a single member of the gentler sex came into the weight training area. Luckily for me, the force field didn’t prevent me from going into the cardio area and asking a few ladies why they didn’t come over to the other side of the gym. Their responses ranged from “I don’t want big muscles” to “cardio is best for weight loss” to “it smells really bad over that side!”



After speaking to a few more women (in the name of science obviously) I realised there was an awful lot of misinformation, confusion and outright lies being spread about resistance training so in this series of articles, I intend to dispel a few of those old myths and start a petition to get more woman lifting weights!

Myth number 1)
Strength training will cause big, bulky muscles and make woman look masculine.

Most women do not have the genetic potential to develop big muscles. They lack sufficient amounts of the male hormone testosterone to develop the kind of muscle mass seen in men. The dominant female hormone, oestrogen, is not responsible for muscle growth, unlike male testosterone. The only way for the majority of women to develop large “male like” muscles would be for them it ingest/inject extraneous testosterone to override their normal hormonal functions. Clearly, this is not a common practice and is only really seen in the sport of bodybuilding and other pursuits where developing maximal strength is necessary.

Myth number 2)
To lose weight, I need to do lots of cardio.

Imagine a glass. In your mind fill this glass with three parts water and one part olive oil. As you know, water and oil don’t readily mix so the oil will float on top of the water. This glass represents your total body weight; the water represents your lean tissue (muscle, bones and internal organs) and the oil representing your body fat. Most exercisers are only concerned with what they weigh, not what that weight is made up of (correctly termed body composition). Using our glass analogy it would be easy to pour off either liquid and reduce the contents of the glass, however, the reality is we want to keep the water (lean body tissue) and ditch the oil (fat). Getting rid of muscle and keeping fat is just pure madness, but with someone who exclusively uses cardio exercise for weight management, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Cardiovascular exercise is essential for our health – it keeps the heart, lungs and circulatory system in tip-top condition, and also burns energy (calories) when we’re doing it. However, because your body is the master adapter and responds to the stress you put upon it, it will do everything it can to make cardiovascular exercise easier. The body lays down new capillaries to aid in oxygen delivery and lactic acid removal, grows bigger/more cells called mitochondria to produce more energy giving ATP, makes the heart bigger and stronger and improves the function of the lungs to increase the efficiency of the cardiovascular system, and rids it self of any extra muscle not actively used in the chosen cardiovascular activity. Think about it. Muscle is vascular – it needs oxygen to survive. Even when you are running, the muscles of your upper body still need large amounts of oxygen. To increase the amount of oxygen available for the running muscles in the legs, it makes sense from a survival perspective to get rid of some of the redundant muscle mass of the upper body. It’s like trimming unnecessary weight off of a car chassis to give greater performance.

This is all well and good for runners wanting to run faster or further, but for someone who wants to control their body fat and look good, this is about the worst possible thing you can do. Muscle needs fuel (food). Less muscle = less food required. We call the daily amount of energy you need your Basal Metabolic Rate – or BMR for short. The resulting loss of muscle mass lowers your BMR resulting in an energy surplus which will most likely turn into fat when that energy is not used. A two pound loss of muscle will result in a approximate 70 kcal drop in daily energy requirements. This means our aerobic loving exerciser will lose muscle, gain fat and look worse than they did before starting their exercise regime.

What is the best way to maintain/gain lean tissue I hear you ask? The answer is “Lift weights”. It’s a simple case of use it or lose it. The body will maintain/increase its muscle mass if that muscle is being called on regularly to perform work.

A small increase in muscle mass will result in a higher daily BMR which means our exerciser will need more energy on a daily basis, and if they are under eating, that extra energy will have to come from body fat stores.

So, the take home message is that a combination of cardio and weight training is best for fat loss. Weight loss can occur when we lose muscle but the reality is that it’s the fat we need to lose, and keep the muscle.

In the next part of this series more myths will get busted!

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WOW – Mondays Workout 18/11/2013


Sprinting is an excellent conditioning exercise for all of the muscles in the lower body and, in addition, when performed as an interval training session, sprinting is a tremendous fat burner. Not every one has access to a running track though but to make sure everyone can enjoy the benefits of sprint training we have devised the following workout which is called “Broken 100s”.

Broken 100s

Find about 25 meters of flat ground e.g. a quiet car park, a playing field or similar.

Place markers at 5 meters, 10 meters, 15 meters and 20 meters away from your starting point


Run out to the first marker as fast as you can and then back to the start before running straight out to the seconds marker and back, then to the third marker and back and finally the fourth marker and back, This totals 100 meters.

Selected workouts available to download from FX-Sport

Rest for 60-120 seconds before repeating for 4-6 sets

For a real challenge, try to perform 1 broken 100 every minute for 10 minutes or every 90 seconds for 15 minutes…the faster you run the more rest you get!

As with all exercise, make sure you warm up thoroughly before performing this session, paying special attention to your hamstrings.

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Fish oils

Fat Facts Part 3

Fish oilsPolyunsaturated fats
This type of oil (e.g. sunflower oil) has lots of missing hydrogen molecules and therefore lots of bends in its chemical chain making it very VERY reactive. These oils are so reactive that when we eat them they are used almost exclusively for reactions in our bodies and very rarely for energy. Polyunsaturated fats are usually described as “Essential Fatty Acids” or EFA for short. They are often sold as supplements and are vital for the health of our hearts, nervous systems, joints and brains – in fat pretty much the entire body will benefit from regular consumption of EFA. The reason polyunsaturated oils are considered so healthy is because of all the fats, they are the most reactive.


No sooner have we eaten them they are whizzing around our bodies doing a myriad of useful functions. However, this reactivity is a double edged sword. Polyunsaturated fats are very easily damaged by heat, light and oxygen and should NEVER be heated. Heating polyunsaturated fats creates trans fats which are the true “bad boy” of the fat gang (more about trans fats in a moment). They should be consumed raw, in their cold pressed extra virgin form only and stored in a dark glass airtight bottle. They have a life span of around 4-8 weeks so should not be stored (even correctly) for longer than this to preserve their healthful properties.

As a side note – EFA are excellent anti-inflammatories. They can reduce the pain of some arthritic conditions very effectively. Cod liver oil has long been associated with healthy joints and is a great example of polyunsaturated oils doing an essential job. Around 30 – 40 % of our daily fat intake should be made up of polyunsaturated fats.

Trans fats
These nasty little critters are responsible for pretty much everything that saturated fats are wrongly blamed for. From heart disease to clogged arteries to the weak £ and global warming - it’s not saturated fats at fault but trans fats. (Okay – maybe the last two aren’t down to trans fats but it would be handy if we could blame them on something!)

Trans fats are “bent” unsaturated fats which have been straightened out artificially which causes great confusion in our body’s cells. In chemistry shape matters. Square pegs fit into square holes, round pegs into round holes. Trans fats are treated by the body as one thing when in fact they are something completely different. They end up going places they shouldn’t and block the healthy fats from doing their job. It’s as though a square peg has been jammed into a round hole and this means other fats consumed a) can’t do their healthy job and b) are now surplus to requirements and more likely to be stored around our middles.

Trans fats should be avoided at all costs. They’re not hard to dodge if you follow these simple guidelines…

  • Don’t cook with polyunsaturated fats – use saturated fat or monounsaturated oils instead
  • Avoid overheating monounsaturated fats – they do rancid easily
  • Cut down on processed and takeaway foods – they often contain “hidden” trans fats
  • Switch back to butter from margarine – there are no trans fats in butter!
  • Avoid any food which has the word “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” listed on it’s ingredients
  • Cut back on shop-bought pies and pastries – home made is best
  • Keep your oils in dark glass airtight bottles
  • Only buy extra virgin cold pressed oils.

So – to recap…never never NEVER (!!!) cook with polyunsaturated fats! Remember – saturated fats e.g. butter and lard are great for all types of cooking, monounsaturated fats e.g. olive oil are okay for short cooking times/lower temperatures but polyunsaturated fats, whilst healthy if consumed raw, are turned into trans fats at even low temperatures so don’t cook with them at all.

I hope from this you can see that not all fats are bad and that some are even very good for us so enjoy your fats (in moderation of course!) and could someone pass me the butter dish please?!

Patrick Dale

Read part 1 here http://www.ultra-fitmagazine.co.uk/?p=503
Read part 2 here http://www.ultra-fitmagazine.co.uk/?p=1120

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Fat Facts Part 2

olioPart 1 of this series can be found here http://www.ultra-fitmagazine.co.uk/?p=503

Monounsaturated fats
This type of fat is missing some of its hydrogen molecules and has a single bend in its chemical chain. This means that, unlike saturated fat which is solid, straight and inert, monounsaturated fats are more reactive and liquid at room temperature. The body can use monounsaturated fats for energy but also for important chemical reactions in the body. They are good for our hearts, our hair and skin and our overall health.


This reactivity is good because we can use monounsaturated fats for a host of healthy processes in our bodies but this reactivity also means monounsaturated fats can “go bad” and cause us more harm than good if they are over-heated, exposed to too much light or oxygen or processed too aggressively. For example, the extraction method used when producing olive oil (the most common monounsaturated oil) can greatly affect its healthful properties. Extra virgin cold pressed olive oil is the Rolls Royce of oils. It comes from the first pressing of the olives (hence “extra virgin”) with out the application of heat (hence “cold pressed”) or solvents. This makes it very healthy. Anything other than extra virgin cold pressed olive oil will have been heated to high temperatures, had solvents used to increase oil yield and come from a second or third pressing of the olives. All these factors mean our once healthy olive oil is now no longer good for us and may, in fact, be very bad for.

To preserve the healthy characteristics of monounsaturated oils (e.g. olive oil) it is important not to over heat them (stir frying is okay, long cooking times/high temperatures however will damage the oil), stick to extra virgin cold pressed oils where possible and make sure oils are stored in an airtight dark glass container away from direct sunlight.

Olive oil is really best kept as a condiment and consumed raw but because it is only mildly reactive, it’s okay to cook with it but only for short periods/lower temperatures. Saturated fats are better suited for longer cooking times and higher temperatures as heat doesn’t affect them negatively. About 30% of our daily fat intake should be made up from monounsaturated fats.

In the last in this series, we’ll take a look at polyunsaturated fats and trans fats.

Patrick Dale

Part 1 of this series can be found here http://www.ultra-fitmagazine.co.uk/?p=503
Part 3 or this series can be found here http://www.ultra-fitmagazine.co.uk/?p=1126

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Fat Facts Part 1

fats-oilsFat is probably the most contentious issue in nutrition. Are they as bad for us as we are led to believe? Are they really responsible for the often poor standard of health seen in the majority of the western world? Should we embrace the “low fat lifestyle”? The problem is that there is a huge amount of freely available information around, especially compared to pre-internet times, and much of it is a) out of date, b) incorrect, c) written by people with no formal training or qualifications or d) written using such technical language that for most of us it makes no sense!

In this article, I’d like to shed some light on the seemingly complicated and controversial world of fats so that you can make informed choices about which ones to eat and which ones to avoid.

Fats are classified according to their level of hydrogen content. All this actually means is that fats that are said to be saturated are packed to the gunnels with hydrogen molecules and fats that are deemed unsaturated are missing some hydrogen molecules. The amount of hydrogen molecules present in a fat  dictates how a fat looks, tastes and when we eat it. Fat should make up around 20 – 30% of our daily food consumption. Very low fat diets are actually quite unhealthy as we need a daily dose of fat for our body’s to perform at their best. Very low fat diets are also strongly linked to skin and hair problems, low birth weight babies, lowered testosterone levels in men, reduced brain function, impaired learning ability, lowered intelligence and eye problems.

Let’s take a look at the four main classifications of dietary fats…

Saturated fats
As mentioned before, these fats are saturated with hydrogen molecules which make them very solid structures – they are often solid at room temperature e.g. butter and lard. They are chemically inert which means they don’t react much when exposed to heat, light, oxygen or chemicals. Saturated fats are found mostly in animal products i.e. beef and dairy (milk, cheese, butter) as well as palm oil and coconut oil and our bodies tend to use saturated fats for energy or energy storage. (Look down at your tummy – THAT’S saturated fat!!!)

Saturated fats are considered as the “bad boys” of the fat family but really this isn’t the case. The worst thing we can say about saturated fats is they can make you fat if consumed in excess as they are very calorie dense. Being over -fat is associated with a host of negative health concerns but it’s not the consumption of saturated fats that’s the problem. Being over-fat can be caused by over consumption of carbohydrates or even protein. Eating fat can make you fat and being fat can be a health problem but let’s not shoot the messenger! Some saturated fat in the diet is not just fine but is actually essential.

The body mostly uses saturated fat for energy and if it doesn’t need the energy it will store the fat around your body for later – often in places we’d prefer to be fat free like our stomachs, legs and bums.  As mentioned  saturated fats are inert, so they don’t undergo any chemical changes when we eat them. Saturated fats don’t clog our arteries, won’t cause heart attacks and are actually vital for mineral and vitamin absorption e.g. putting butter on your Sunday roast vegetables means the veggies become even better for you! Saturated fats are ideal for cooking as they don’t turn rancid when heated (more on this later).

Speaking of saturated fats, how many of us have been told by “experts” to switch from butter to margarine to improve our health?

Speaking of saturated fats, how many of us have been told by “experts” to switch from butter to margarine to improve our health? This is a huge myth that I’d like to lay to rest right now. As we know, butter is made from cows’ milk. Very little is added so it’s safe to say that butter is a natural food. It consists mostly of saturated fat so is deemed by some as unhealthy, but look closer at the alternative – margarine. Prior to the invention of refrigerators margarine didn’t exist. It was invented solely because butter doesn’t spread when cold. Margarine is a man-made food, more chemical than natural, contains all sorts of additives, like E numbers, emulsifiers, acidity regulators, colours, artificial flavours, stabilisers etc. It’s basically a chemistry set in a plastic pot. Butter on the other hand has no artificial ingredients, contains vitamins and minerals, is rich in CLA which is an “anti cancer” super-fat and also contains something called Wulzen Factor X, which is a substance which prevents calcification of deposits in our arteries! So, in short, butter = good, margarine = bad. Even the so-called wonder-margarines that promise improvements are heart health are no better for you than good old natural butter. Do like your grandparents did and eat butter in moderation – your heart and your taste buds will thank you for it! Incidentally, some cultures revere butter and actually prescribe it as a medicinal health food. It is given to soon-to-be mothers, growing children, the elderly and the sick as a cure all. Food for thought!

Here’s a little experiment to try which will hopefully show you that butter is best…buy some margarine and some butter. Leave them both out side by side on your kitchen worktop for a few days. After a while, you’ll see the butter discolours very slightly (the outer surface oxidises) but will pretty much stay unchanged. No fungus will grow on it (butter has anti microbial properties which can enhance gut health), it won’t go off and except for maybe a few fly foot prints (!) it will be completely unchanged. The margarine however will most likely have begun to separate, discolour noticeably, have fungus and bacteria growing on it, begin to smell bad and actually go off. Don’t eat it! The butter will be quite safe for consumption but the margarine won’t do you any good at all.

In part 2, we’ll be taking a look at unsaturated fats…

Patrick Dale

Part 2 or this series can be found here http://www.ultra-fitmagazine.co.uk/?p=1120
Part 3 of this series can be fund here http://www.ultra-fitmagazine.co.uk/?p=1126

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