Hollyoaks eating disorder storyline

I thought it was time hop off this blog business and join the Youtube hype…

Please watch this video where I discuss this program

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And I discuss the storyline involving this man

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Please click on a link to the video below

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Is the male fitness industry a cause of eating disorders?

Let’s be blunt and honest here. The male fitness industry has become to men what the female modelling world is to young girls. Right now that probably sounds like a sexist comment because for years many women have felt an explicit amount of expectation to look and conform to a certain physical stereotype based on a perceived perception of what is attractive.

But what if I said a sub section of men were beginning to feel the same way and what if I said that I can see that sub section growing on a daily basis. It is no secret that men are continuously getting vainer and while some are quick to dismiss those men just as being vain and narcissistic, to say that is the only reason is moronic.

I’ve gone from loving to hating the fitness industry but now I’ve learnt to accept it for what it is. An industry riddled with lies, false expectations, fake standards and designed to take as much money from you as possible. You don’t need a meal plan, you don’t need a workout program and the supplements… oh my fucking God, you certainly don’t need those.

So before I slate and destroy nearly all aspects I have to sate the positives. Any industry that encourages young men to get off their games console and get exercising is beneficial; we’re helping the health of the younger generation and taking on obesity. Weight lifting has health benefits which aren’t even discussed, two of which include reducing the risk of diabetes and cancer; most of these are due to the elevation of insulin sensitivity in your muscles. Of course that’s a tangent and one better suited to a more scientific post which I will write one day. But beside that the UK is full of people who moan about everything in their life but rather than face up and try and change, they take the easy and lazy way out of it. At least the fitness culture discourages that.

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Bostin Lloyd, famous for detailing every drug and the dosages he used prior to competing. It was an hour long video…

For all the charlatans in the industry there are some decent people, Dave Tate from Elite FTS and Eric Helms from 3DMJ are two names that instantly spring to mind. Guys who have been in the industry for a while, are passionate about what they do and want to pass on their knowledge. I also have to give respect to Bostin Lloyd who in his ‘Untold Truth’ video detailed every drug he used prior to competing and the injury he obtained in his tricep from all the heavy injecting. Bostin aside, most drug users in the industry lie about it, some even from their own family.

So let’s tackle the drug element and why it changes the fitness indutry

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Rob Riches, ‘Natural Fitness Model’.. Most fitness models are on multiple performance enhancing drugs

We saw when fitness model Rob Riches failed his drugs test last summer that a guy who had made a career out of being a lifetime natural physique competitor had fooled us all. He failed his drug test for Anavar, an oral steroid, with mild side effects, high price tag and huge effects. Often used as the finishing drug by both male and female competitors, Anavar is a drug for those wanting those photoshopped aesthetics. It has a powerful hardening effect, meaning that a user looks dried out, firm and very vascular.  It aids that aesthetic look that you’ll see in all those gym motivation images and is a likely drug for any stripper of fitness competitor.

Of course what practical significance does that have to the average male wanting bigger arms and a sixpack? Huge.  First of all he’s comparing and working himself against an unobtainable standard. Genetic factors aside, and no one can deny that genetics do play a part, how will his everyday perception of himself change?

First of all he’ll feel fat. He’s offset his physique against a guy whose dieted his way down to what medically would be classified as an anorexic level of body fat (a fitness model will usually step on stage at a bodyfat percentage of 5-6%) . To be brutally honest even an inshape male would look fat when compared to that.  Some fitness gurus even promote the idea that unless you can see your abs, you are fat, a similar comment to telling a girl that unless she can squeeze into a size 6 dress she’s over weight. The reality of course is that a male can have a slight belly and love handles and still be in a healthy bodyfat range. In fact compared to the side effects of being insanely ripped, it’s probably a lot healthier. Again, scientific post.

Of course you can see the appeal of being ripped. Clothes fit better, your jawline becomes prominent and more importantly the media projects that it is what girls deem to be attractive.

What happens when a guy becomes neurotic and obsessed with the goal? In frequent cases behavioural patterns of an eating disorder begin to start. A minor version of that could be only eating food that you have prepared, carrying all your food everywhere in containers, only eating food where you’ve tracked the calories or setting an alarm every 3 hours to make sure you eat bang on a specific time. I myself have a minor version of this, tracking all meals on mobile phone APP Myfitness Pal, of course some say that I am taking care of myself and offer their respect for having the discipline to stick to it. However the simple truth is my life would be a lot easier if I didn’t live by calorie and macronutrient restrictions.

However in some cases this can be worse. I heard a couple of stories surrounding Christmas. The first was of a guy who after enjoying his Xmas dinner carried out four hours of fasted cardio the next morning and ate less than 500 calories the next day. Of course physiologically that doesn’t seem a bad decision, and those on following a 5:2 style diet wouldn’t see this as being too abnormal. However if the calorie reduction comes from a feeling of guilt or the desire to feel in control of one’s diet then you’re looking at a similar behavioural trait to that of anorexia. You’re also looking at an eating style that could create a serious binging-starvation cycle, whereby the male overdoes it and then starves himself the next day.

The next story I heard was of a young guy who went back to his parents for Xmas dinner. He had a great day, ate too much and drank too much. In the evening he went to his parent’s bathroom, stuck two fingers down his throat and made himself sick. By any definition that’s bulimia and a very harsh reflection of the fact that those who take their fitness seriously feel that they can’t enjoy their food and drink.  It’s also a reflection of the intense and neurotic behaviour that seems to accompany serious fitness goals.

I have another two points I want to make here: Firstly an everyday lifter with no aspirations to step on stage or be on the front cover of a magazine shouldn’t feel anything like that amount of pressure. His girlfriend is likely to be the only person who sees him naked regularly and no relationship should be based around looks so much that she’d leave him for the sake of his lower abs not being visible. So this pressure to look a certain way is going to be based solely around self-perception, and the question that has to be asked is why does he feel that way?

Secondly you see these fitness competitors and think that it’s their diet knowledge, their training ability or their lifestyles that helps them look a certain way and that if you match that you’ll be able to emulate the status of their physique. Well besides the fact that they will more than likely be in the genetic elite, it is fairly commonly accepted that when a physique competitor starts dieting they don’t make wholesale changes to their diets- they do one thing- change the drugs they are on or up the doses.

Of course drugs are somewhat of a taboo, people have a very dated idea of what a drug using athlete looks like. The puffy faced, acenified look has gone. If anybody wants to see the good looking side of drugs then look at Zyzz who built his physique using a combination of testosterone, tren, T3 and clenbuterol.

So by that notion people think these drugs are only used by professional bodybuilders or that huge, bald guy that you see in the gym dripping in sweat whilst grinding out a huge deadlift. This could not be further from the truth. Contrary to popular belief, while performance enhancing drugs are illegal to sell without a license, they are not illegal to use in the UK. Factor in that while the justice system will come down hard on any user or dealer of street drugs huge amounts of people have no trouble obtaining these drugs and using them.

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Bostin Lloyd’s arm. A reflection of heavey drug abuse

So it has to be noted that a new sub sector of eating disorders is arriving, this involves every day in shape young males popping high doses of fat burning drugs (Clen being the most likely suspect)often after an eating binge to compensate for the huge amount of calories they have taken in. This is similar to the binge purge eating cycle of bulimia. This time using the drugs to remove the excess food taken in.  Of course the reality is that using a drug is at most going to burn off 300 calories so this isn’t going to do a lot to offset a huge eating binge. The other side of the coin is that clen is such a powerful stimulant that a dosage should be increased gradually for risk of damage to blood pressure, heart rate exceeding the normal or altering to a blood vessel. These users are not increasing their dosage gradually, they are using a dangerous dosage far exceeding the normal.  Again it’s the same cycle based around guilt, over indulgence and a momentary loss of focus something that are all part of the human mind.

Something that makes this all the worse is the human minds ability to doctor a self-perception. Most people have this perception that men don’t have these self-image problems, if they want the bigger physique they just go to the gym and the issue will be resolved. The reality is that those men who train are the hardest on themselves and begin to have a worse and worse perception of themselves , but because these standards are projected by the fitness culture to be so normal and so obtainable, the male in question is far more likely to think it’s an issue with his training, diet or worse still his dedication than question the natural attainability of his goal physique anyway. This becomes so threatening because the male fitness culture is so built around extremities. Just as female models continue to get taller, male fitness models continue to get bigger, just as female models get skinner, male fitness models continue to get more and more ripped.

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Nick Wright. A prime of example of what a real natural bodybuilder looks like. Note firstly he has less muscle than a fitness model and secondly how unimpressive his physique looks when compared against it. This natural look does not sell supplements

But realty doesn’t sell products and aiming to sell a protein power with a catchphrase like- ‘ This product will help you gain muscle as much as a tin of tuna’  or aiming to sell a natural fat burner with the product of description –‘This product is a range of stimulates which may contribute to your daily activity level’. I lost interest in any new supplements a long while ago purely because of the impossible benefits that they claim to have.

It is undeniable that every industry has its darker side and if you peel away at the surface you will eventually find it but the male fitness industry is going through somewhat of a boom at present and I really don’t see it changing for a long while and people seem very unaware/ disillusioned to what it really is like.

It isn’t the industry that projects health and wellbeing like it claims and it certainly doesn’t build the confidence of those involved in all cases. It does instead consistently take the money of those who buy the supplements, read the magazines and fail to get much from their gym membership, however I think most people are probably aware of this. For me it’s the lies, false standards and neurotic behavioural traits that make it worst of all.

That being said am I glad I got into it? Yes. Am I being hypocritical? Yes, come October I’ll be on stage at the Miami Pro UK championships meaning that I am full heartedly taking part in the industry I have just slammed. However what makes it different for me is that I am realistic about my average genetics, I haven’t followed a ridiculous diet plan and my prep won’t consume, crush and destroy every other aspect of my life.

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My training goals

My goal for the remainder of 2013 is simple. I want to get myself as ready for competing as I can.

This isn’t something I’ve thought about lightly, quite the opposite in fact. I’ve studied and read detailed reviews of pre-contest diets, detailed accounts of pre-contest experiences and have a firm understanding of what the task involves.

That established I had to decide the category and style of event I wanted to compete in, a very simple decision.

Genetically I will never have skeletal frame to be huge, surprisingly and not disappointingly that rules out natural bodybuilding. Powerlifting is equally out of the equation. Firstly because strength isn’t part of my target, sure a one rep max on a lift looks and often sounds impressive but in practice it means very little. The whole: ‘How much you bench question?’ isn’t interesting to me and while I’m strong in relation to the average commercial gym user that’s come from pure persistence rather than plucking out the right ticket in the genetic lottery

Those two competitions ruled out and with minimal sporting ability, I’m left with fitness modelling. A hugely ambitious, but not unreachable goal.

What does that mean from a training perspective? Firstly it means that I have a deadline of next April. This is when the next Miami Pro event takes place (although not in Miami), an event for natural bodybuilders, muscle models, bikini models, figure models and fitness models.

I want to compete as an under 75kg (11 stone 8) fitness model. Currently at 81 kgs, I weigh a far margin over that, meaning that I will have to diet down at some point. However, the question is when. A year simply is neither required, nor beneficial. I think based around current stats and bodyfat levels 5 months is a sensible time to allow.

So I’m left with 7 extra months. 7 months isn’t time for a dramatic body transformation but it is enough time to make some noticeable improvements. Although it may sound counter intuitive I’m going to spend the time putting on some weight.

 I’d love to go on a real ‘dreamer bulk’, aiming to put on a tonne of weight and believing it all to be muscle. However that isn’t plausible, and putting on a noticeable amount of fat will move me further away from my goals. So I will use what I consider to be the most sensible approach when it comes to growing. I eat a gram of protein for every lb of body weight (176g),  0.35 grams of fat for every lb of body weight (roughly 65g), while the rest of my food intake will come from carbs. I then take a daily weight and record a weekly average. If my weight doesn’t increase then I increase carb intake, if my weight increases by too high a margin then I decrease my carb intake. I want to see a 0.25g increase on my scale weight, any less and I’m not maximizing on my training and anymore I’m gaining pure fat.

In a dream scenario by the end of the year and based on Lyle McDonald’s genetic potential article I will have gained 7 pounds of muscle, leaving me with four months to get as lean as I physically can. However I’m not naive enough to think that with genetic factors involved that that is an absolute certainty.

Training wise I’ve evaluated several options. Firstly I ruled out a conventional bodybuilding split routine as research appears to indicate that protein synthesis is only elevated in natural lifters for a maximum of 48 hours. I’ve tinkered around with full bodies for around 4 months and had some success but I felt that, after watching an Eric Helmes video, that volume was lacking slightly. This left me with an upper or lower. I toyed with the idea of Lyle McDonald’s generic bulking routine and Layne Norton’s PHAT. However I’ve gone with PHAT after reading numerous studies on the benefits of strategically overreaching for a brief time, which PHAT definitely has small elements of. Also Lyle is becoming a little bit of a joke at the moment after his fallout with Martin Berkhan.

All of this sounds fairly simple, but there are of course things which go hand in hand with these types of goals. Lifestyle is the first.

I’ve looked at and examined both sides of the coin in the flexible dieting vs  ‘clean’ eating debate. I watched Alberto Nunez from 3DMJ discuss flexible dieting and he made a very compelling argument for it and after seeing the shape that some competitors have got into using it, I certainly have some intention to use it. Despite this I enjoy ‘clean eating’ so the majority of foods will made be up of the conventional bodybuilding options. That aside, fitness goals come second to career goals and overall happiness so flexible dieting will be used when required.

I’ve been lean before, I know that when your dieting to be truly lean most aspects of your life suck. I’ve read U.D. 2.0 by Lyle and he’s detailed the reasons. Still, I’m prepared for it and have no illusions than one breezes their way down sub beach level leanness.    

 I’m not a big drinker, simply because I don’t really enjoy or like the taste, so minus a pre planned boy’s holiday in June I don’t envisage any alcohol really being drunk.

On a final note this isn’t an obsessive target. It’s fairly commonly accepted that those who are attracted to bodybuilding tend to be those who need to find balance in their life. Well this is the most balanced my life has been, after graduating from Uni and getting a job I enjoy, I can say that training supplements my life. I watched Cohn Wolfe (natural bodybuilder) doing a Q&A and he said that he still gets excited before lifting, well I can safely say that I’m in the same boat, I even find talking about it exciting.

I’m not setting myself a target weight or bodyfat %, other than being below 75kg when it comes to competing time. My goal is simple: Get to competition shape or as close as possible and continue to enjoy training. 

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Motivation and Fat Loss

The other day I was asked how I stay motivated when it comes to both training and nutrition. I couldn’t give an answer on the spot but after careful consideration I have a fair idea.

It’s an interesting topic. It’s commonly known that most diets fail and although less commonly discussed even successful dieters tend to pile on a mound of weight even after a successful diet. Hormonal effects and body fat set points (two huge factors when dieting) aside it will be a matter of will power and self control where diets fail.

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Kerry Katona is a prime example of a celeb who can’t maintain her weight

Let’s determine what fat actually is. The correct term for fat is adipose tissue. Of course you have different forms of this tissue. For the sake of ease I won’t define them as it isn’t really relative to everyday life unless you’re burning that last piece of stubborn bodyfat. Your body is concerned with maintaining a constant form of homeostasis, in other words staying the same weight. However it has no problem storing fat as its primary goal is of course to keep you alive.

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This man’s body has a huge amount of love for him

What do calories actually mean? Firstly they are a unit of energy and beyond tying in with macronutrient quantities (protein 4 cals p/gram, carbs 4 cals p/gram and fat 9 9cals p/gram) they actually mean something more. Take a 180 pound male with 10% body fat (fairly impressive stats). 162 pounds of his body is made up of lean tissue (muscle, organs etc), while the remaining 18 pounds are pure and utter fat. A pound of fat is made up of 3500 calories. So our 180 pound male is carrying 63000 ‘spare’ calories on him ready to protecting him during a food famine, which is of course what the human body will see dieting as.

On a side note here lies the problem with using BMI. It allows no distinction beyond lean mass and fat mass.

It’s been proven and proven over and over again that total body weight (it is now commonly accepted that fat is metabolically active) is the biggest determinant in calorie expenditure. In other words purely from a fat burning perspective, two people of the same weight, with a similar body composition will shift the same amount of calories

The physiological factors of dieting defined were left with the psychological factors to work with.

Team 3DMJ, experts at taking lean guys and turning them completely shredded

Team 3DMJ, experts at taking lean guys and turning them completely shredded

A great place to start is to summarize a quote made by 3DMJ coach Eric Helmes(who is stunningly knowledgeable on everything to do with this topic.). He refers to nutritional guru Lyle McDonald’s books. Eric questions why so many people own U.D. 2.0 (A cyclical ketogenic  diet book designed to help athletes get super lean), The Stubborn Body Fat Solution (a collection of intense protocols designed to remove the last bit of fat) and Rapid Fat Loss (a circa 800 calorie a day diet designed to shift 12-20 pounds of scale weight in 10 days) yet they don’t own ‘A Guide to Flexible Dieting’. As someone who has read them all I can say safely say that 95% of people should be reading ‘A Guide to Flexible Dieting’ and none of the others mentioned. This proves something I’ve expected for a long time, when it comes to dieting people adopt a masochistic attitude, opting for a gung-ho approach before a terrible rebound takes place and their left even further away from their result than they were previously.

Here’s a great example. Low-Carb dieting is pointless, we know protein is insulinogenic so why do people still persist that low-carb dieting is intelligent? All that’s each achieved is the removal of 80% of food choices, a decrease in mood and a rapid rise in short term hunger. It is true that carbohydrates are the only non essential macronutrient because the body can muster energy from protein and fat via glucogenessis. However for the lack of benefit it offers your simply making a morale crunching mountain out of a mole hill.

This masochism has made things so hard that motivation has been destroyed before it’s even really begun.

Rowan Row an under 75kg Fitness model who competes at 3% body fat, anything less and he'd be dead

Rowan Row an under 75kg Fitness model who competes at 3% body fat, anything less and he’d be dead. It doesn’t get more masochistic than that

This however brings me to a side point. Why do fitness models get so lean?  Perhaps it’s because they love the masochism. Think about it, weight training is the stimulus to muscular growth. Firstly weight training provides a unique form of pain, one that myself and many others have grown to love, but perhaps more interestingly in order to trigger growth a muscle must be damaged more than it was in past workouts so it can grow (the process known to those who lift as progressive overload). Doesn’t the idea of deliberately damaging a muscle in order to make it grow sound masochistic in its own right?  I think so, and for those who love that masochistic feeling it’s enough to keep motivation consistent.

What about interest? I’ve grown to become hugely interested in the topic of fat loss in a way I never could quite become in muscle growth.  You lift weights and eat a caloric surplus (not so much that you gain a noticeable amount of fat) and growth will occur (admittedly that’s only a very broad outline of the principles.) But fat loss, that’s a different kettle of fish (a very big kettle) and a topic where the more we begin to learn the more we realise we don’t know. Perhaps it’s my interest in the topic which is why I can happily put up with a few lifestyle changes, dropping a few food choices and at times boring cardio sessions. For others I certainly appreciate that this is isn’t optimal and I think that’s completely understandable. Lower calorie foods certainly aren’t preferable for taste but for some it’s what goes alongside them. Of course you’re going to think ‘fuck this’ to your diet when you’re with friends on a night out or for a meal or even when you feel completely unfulfilled from a day spent at work.

Here the concept of flexible dieting can play a key role, the idea of disregarding a food based around the stigma of whether it can be placed in the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ category and choosing it entirely based around its macronutrient profile. That has certainly made my life a lot more bearable. Of course even the concept of calculating food intake based around macronutrient content as opposed to calories may prove to be so much effort.

Cohn Wolfe. Natural bodybuilder, getting lean eating pizza

Cohn Wolfe. Natural bodybuilder and flexible dieter, getting lean eating pizza

Time for a rant. Much of what is projected in the media is utter shit. And that’s being polite. What makes it so much worse is that it completely contradicts itself. One week the media projects that you have eat every 2-3 hours in order to ‘stoke the metabolic flame’ (what a load of garbage) and lose weight then the next week the same media source will project that intermittent fasting (eating for 8 hours a day and fasting for 14) is the magical way to lose weight. Firstly how can someone be expected to stay so motivated when the information so vastly contradicts itself, it causes unnecessary confusion, the last thing needed when going through the ordeal of dieting. We shouldn’t be stuck in the 80’s with our nutritional ideas, the debate over the importance of meal frequency is dead, it simply doesn’t matter. The thermic effect of food dismisses any idea that there’s any importance on food intake timing. What does this mean to a dieter? Stop stressing in the unimportant details, your just making your life harder and therefore your motivations gone.

Oh and on a side note weight loss can and will come down to calories in vs calories out. Diets that tell you to remove certain food groups and not count calories are inadvertently tricking you as their just a variation of the same thing. Look at the Paleo diet, of course you’ll lose weight on that, your depriving yourself of about 80% of food choices and the calories that they could provide.

Another side note (I know, another) when people adopt a diet like this they can often form an obsessive alignment with it. What happens when the alignment goes? Human nature means that you want what you can’t have, and your right back to eating the foods that piled on the pounds in the first place.

Tying in with an earlier point is the idea that a diet is all or nothing. You’ve been there I’m sure. You’ve eaten perfectly everyday for the past week, maybe your train was delayed and you fancied a chocolate bar whilst you wait, maybe you had an argument with your boyfriend and ate a bowl of ice cream. What do you do? You feel guilty and eat 5 more chocolate bars when you get in or you finish the whole tub of ice-cream. Psychologically you feel so bad and you stop your diet. Why? One chocolate bar doesn’t wreck your diet.  However, yet due to the all or nothing mentality which goes hand in hand with dieters, they think it does. You can’t be motivated every moment of the day for something which is vastly unimportant in relation to overall life happiness (extreme obesity aside of course).

And that’s it. That’s motivation in a nutshell. Nothing revolutionary really. Balance, realism, perspective and intelligence seem to be the key themes here. I will note that for those who are already lean and wish to be leaner (myself included) then things do begin to become more complicated, however most diet books or diets are written for overweight people wanting to be average.

So on a final note if your diet is making you miserably unhappy or simply just isn’t working for you then I’d encourage you take a step back and everything. If you’re unhappy I’d encourage you to find a balance, if it isn’t working then I’d suggest revising your approach thinking of your happiness first.

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Why I won’t be having a Nandos with some of the Arsenal team

Arsenal are not a club in crisis.  Arsenal are a club run by a stubborn, egotistical, economically obsessed megalomaniac.

For all his brilliance and his financial success, the time to judge Wenger is over. We aren’t where we should be. In fact, each year we move further away from achieving our goals.

I had a nightmare watching the game on Saturday. My television was playing up and at 2.45 after I flicked over from Jeff Stelling and the Soccer Saturday team I knew desperate actions had to be taken. I hadn’t missed a game all season and I wasn’t going to start now, I went online straight away. Eventually I found a live stream. The picture quality was reminiscent of an old VHS and the sound quality similar to that of a cassette being played on an old and broken tape player. Despite that the game was visible and the crowd and commentary were audible. Sadly when you hear that Gervinho is to start up front you wish that this wasn’t the case.

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Gervinho upfront? Bloody unbelievable Jeff!

Gervinho isn’t a bad player. He just isn’t the ‘false 9’ that Wenger is intent on him being. He doesn’t have the intelligence to drop deep and carve space open for his team mates, nor does he have the space to effortlessly pick out a team mate with a perfectly weighted through ball. To be fair too Wenger when you look at fellow attackers in the Premiership there aren’t many others who can. Suarez, Aguero and Van Persie would perhaps be the only candidates capable of playing the role.

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I had a friend who used to ask his barber for an Alan Shearer, he’s yet to ask for A Gervinho

This is perhaps what makes Wenger’s Gervinho selection more infuriating. Lukas Podolski is a centre forward, or an inside forward at a stretch if he must start down the left. He will never surge down the by line and whip in a deadly cross.  He is instead an explosive player with decent finishing ability. Gervinho is a sub-par winger at best, whose first instinct is to cut inside and onto the defenders weaker foot, an instinct wasted when playing centrally. Wenger’s unwillingness to tactically change is as baffling as it is apparent that Gervinho is the not the next Henry.

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Ramsey should not be made Wenger’s Scapegoat

While playing Aaron Ramsey on the right wing may provide the team with ‘balance’ it sadly provides little else. Football fans are famously quick to judge and turn based around current form. Prior to the Ryan Shawcross tackle, Ramsey was a bright young player with footballing intelligence beyond his years. It is unfair to criticise him when it is so apparent that he is being played out of position. It is the ‘balance’ that is Ramsey’s biggest problem. He lacks the physicality to be an effective ball winner, the finesse to be the perfect playmaker or the flair to be a game changer. He is a jack of many trades but a master of none. So where does Wenger play him? In a position where he is expected to track back and the win the ball, pick out the perfect pass and get past the opposing full back. You don’t need to even have Football Manager on your CV to realise that Wenger is demanding too much.

I’m concerned for the future of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Does Wenger rate him? I’m unconvinced. Chamberlain obviously provides everything that Ramsey can’t provide but yet is rarely ever selected, and if you believe the papers that an offer for Wilfred Zaha is on the cards then it seems that the club are prepared to offer circa or upwards of 10 million for an even younger model. On top of that Wenger is notoriously persistent with far from exceptional players, just look at Denilson and Diaby and consider that two seasons ago Nicklas Bendtner was consistently given a run a out wide even though it was apparent to the whole footballing world that he shouldn’t be there. So why is Chamberlain receiving opposite treatment and being shunted to the bench?

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He does at least get the girls going

The same could be said for Olivier Giroud. He has the swagger and the physicality to provide Arsenal with something that we haven’t seen before. I have no doubt that he’ll come good, be it at Arsenal or somewhere else, but even the best target man in the world needs support. Giroud is excellent at playing with his back to goal, but when on the end of a long pass, there’s often no one there to knock the ball down too. He’s left isolated with little in the way of options time and time again. Mouranne Fellaini is arguably the best offensive player in the air but his job made is made easier by constant overlapping runs from full-back Leighton Baines, the hard work of Steven Pienaar and the forward option of Nikica Jelavic.

I’m concerned. Podolski is always one of the first to be substituted and Giroud the first to be rotated. Does Wenger rate either of his two new additions?

It is safe to say to that Wenger has time for his other addition Santi Cazorla. Sadly so does every other player in the premiership. You stop Cazorla, you stop Arsenal. Whilst he was far from unknown when he arrived in the Premiership, I don’t think people realised just how good he is. So when Cazorla is man-marked out of the game, who can Arsenal look to? Mikel Arteta is one of the most underrated players in the league, but the reason he stays so underrated and at times goes so unnoticed is because he sits deep and doesn’t give the ball away, he provides shape rather than impact. Jack Wilshire has returned to the team as a man but to expect miracles and magic so soon after such a long time out is foolish. Sadly for Arsenal, at only 5ft6, Cazorla isn’t one of the hardest players to man mark.

This is perhaps one of Arsenal’s problems. We have too much of the same thing. Wilshire at 5ft7 and Arteta at 5ft9 are barely taller than Cazorla. Factor in 5ft7 Arshavin and 5ft9 Rosicky and you have the Premierships smallest midfield. Of course you can’t rule out a player just because he is below average height, look at the Barcelona team. However the Premiership is a more physical league than La Liga and physical midfielders such as Yaya Toure, Fellaini and Sandro do have more than a little value to a top side.

Of course Arsenal do have their own version. Abou Diaby. A man who gets injured more frequently than I go to the toilet after a whole chicken and bottomless drink at Nandos. In the victory over Liverpool at the start of the season he not only resembled Yaya in peak form but verged on being unplayable. Sadly since then unplayable is exactly what he’s been, this time due to injury. You can’t help but wonder how good Diaby could be. Sadly it is this that Wenger is clinging on to, and the dream that he’ll be able to play a season uninjured.

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No Abou. Until you manage more than 30 games in a season you can’t come to Nandos with me

Wenger’s track record for unearthing players is well known. You could create a title challenging side with them. Sadly we never will. If you believe rumours then after being left out of the 2013 calendar then Walcott is the next in a long line of players to leave. Gael Clichy, Robin Van Persie and Samir Nasri are examples of players who left due to a failure to reach a contractual agreement. How can you expect to mount a title challenge when key players keep departing? The answer is simple: you can’t. Of course as outsider there is no way of knowing what truly goes on, but it seems ludicrous that after only ten good times Carl Jenkinson has his contract nearly quadrupled, yet the club wouldn’t break the bank to renew Premier League top goal scorer Van Persie’s contract.

Wenger’s perseverance can be commendable. After all last season proved he was right to wait so long for Van Persie. However his over reliance on players can be deadly. For all his effort Tomas Rosicky didn’t deserve a new contract and a pay-rise for the six good games he played last season. I have little doubt as well that expecting a then 18 year old Jack Wilshire to play over 50 games in a season contributed to the severity of his injury.

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No Tomas. 6 good games last season doesn’t mean I will buy you half a chicken

So where do Arsenal go now? The financial prowess and budget of the club is a constant source of discussion in the media. We can all dream of a Falcao and an Edison Cavani arriving but it isn’t likely. Wenger’s track record of recent transfer communicates for itself. We tracked Eden Hazard for several years only to end up with up with his then Lille teammate Gervinho, and similarly the ‘Golden Boy’ of German Football Mario Gotze was long linked with us, until we ended up with less known and far from ready Thomas Eisfeld.

Of course there have been many other world class players that Wenger missed out on. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Claude Makalele, Xabi Alonso are names in a long list. You also can’t help but imagine what could have happened had we landed Cristiano Ronaldo for 4 million.

It’s apparent that ‘Project Youth’ is no more. We’ve long lost its poster boy Cesc Fabregas. Wenger is now seeking readymade talent. I’ve said for several years that Arsenal suffer with a ‘three players concept’. We are always three players short and Wenger has the knack of signing appropriate players three years late. In my opinion we need a full-back, a goal-scoring threat from midfield and a striker. The problem is, who? It seems even the press are struggling to delve up potential targets. The latest rumour is the soon to be out of contract Frank lampard, rumoured former goal-keeping target Pepe Reina and a whole host of names from the French and Dutch league. Atletico’s Adrian Lopez seems the most likely addition in my eyes. He can play on the right, meaning a potential Theo replacement and he can play centrally a place where we are very short of options. He also fits into the category of being relatively unknown and by today’s financial standards, fairly cheap. The problem is Arsenal fans want more. Sadly their unlikely to get it. With the exception of the Andrey Arshavin signing in 2009, Wenger is even more economically prudent in January. Luke Freeman anybody?

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You can now see the combover and the fringe in action for Stevanage

This isn’t a crisis. On top form our players are some of the most threatening in the league. Few would argue that Backary Sagna is the best right back in the league, that Cazorla isn’t one the most technically gifted players the Premiership has ever seen, that Vermaelen isn’t the best ball playing centre back in the Premiership and that Arteta’s pass completion ratio isn’t outstanding.

Arsenal seem to be in a state of permanent state of transition and whether Arsene truly knows best remains to be seen.

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Why your not losing weight

Why you’re not losing weight…

Our country’s obsession with losing weight

fat-person-sit-up

See… Everyone’s trying

I see it everywhere I go. Try as hard as we can, everyone has a body issue or something that they’d like to change about themselves. For that person it feels like the biggest issue in the world, yet to others it is barely apparent.

If I had to choose one issue which is always on the tip of everybody’s tongue and the cause of so much body related insecurity then it would of course be weight, and most people’s perception that they have too much of it.

I rarely use Twitter purely because the egotistical bullshit you read on there becomes irritating after a matter of minutes, I don’t care what shoes you’ve just bought or what you’ve just eaten for dinner. However every time I’m on there I’ll see some form of reference to bodyweight.

Jessica Ennis

Ok. So she is pretty much the perfect woman

Cast your mind back to August 2012 and the Saturday when Jessica Ennis took home gold in the heptathlon. She’d been preparing for the event for years and nothing meant more to her than that gold medal, she wins and for every congratulatory tweet, there’s another referring to her stomach definition. Every time a film is released there’s usually just as much hype for the body composition of the leading star as there is for the movie itself. We’re a month off Christmas, a time for coats and scarves and yet people are still fixated on achieving their dream bikini body.

father Christmas

I wonder if Father Christmas was obsessed with having a beach body

People throw condescending and critical adjectives at people who they perceive to be bigger than average and there is no doubt that fatter individuals are quicker to receive judgement.

So despite such as huge obsession with something that on paper is perfectly achievable and we’re so driven to achieve are people so vastly unsatisfied with their result?

Well that’s what I’m going to discuss in this series of articles. I’ll go into the science of weight loss, techniques of weight loss and because in my opinion it is the most important part to weight loss, I’ll discuss the mental and life style battle to achieving success.

It is the latter which I’ll discuss now.

Part I: Lifestyle takes on diet

Let’s start by admitting a hard fact here. Dieting can have a negative effect on several aspects of an individual’s lifestyle. Look at simple facts; take away meals, dinners out and nights out all have two units of currency when fat loss is concerned: money and calories.

It is perhaps for that reason alone that most people fall into the ‘life’s too short’ category.’ They are perfectly justified to think that. We live in a financially hard time where barely anyone is exempt from work related stress and as a result every moment of spare time should be enjoyed and lived to the fullest, and for most, food and alcohol will coincide with that enjoyment.

For anyone who works a 40 hour week, the weekends and their time off become hugely important to them, and a time to let a little loose. Calorie restriction can and most likely will subtract some of that enjoyment from their weekends and the much hyped weekend plans and exuberance can become little more than just a couple of days away from work and the chance to have a lie in.  Add into that knowing your friends are living their social life while you’re depriving yourself of your favourite meal or alcoholic beverage and you’re completely vindicated in your decision to decide not to pay too much attention to your diet. After all physical aesthetics come and go but happy memories last a life time.

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It could be this keeping you fat

At least that’s one side of the argument.

You’re the only person responsible for what goes into your body but sadly your probably the person who finds the changes hardest to track, as a result a prolonged period of time with a collection of nights out and dinners out can make most people look far from their best and I can safely say now nothing makes you fat or puts weight on quite as alcohol does. You see it all the time, girls who for the first 18 or 19 years of their life barely put on any weight suddenly discover clubbing and alcohol and before they realise it, they’ve gained fat round their cheek, thighs, bum and stomach and young men with barely an ounce of muscle or weight on them accompanied by an ever expanding belly.

The long term result of this only gets worse. You are of course far more likely to burn fat when you’re young so sadly if you’re putting weight on before negative effects occur on your metabolism then you face a long and hard battle ahead which will get a lot harder the older you become.

Some will be lucky enough to never have to choose between an exuberant social life and a slim physique but for most a balance will have to be found.

However the biggest problem occurs for people who strive for both and moan that they are not achieving their desired physique. I’m talking to those people dieting for 4-5 days of the week then blowing out at the weekend and in essence cancelling out the midweek hard work. The sad thing is the lack of comprehension as to why they’ve kept the same amount of fat for the past 6 months. Is it not obvious that the Jager Bomb you’re drinking has to go somewhere? Or the bottle of wine you drink every Friday after you finish work will have a negative effect. Sadly to some it is not, and come the weekly or monthly weigh in when the weight hasn’t changed a sense of despondency comes, made worse by the dieter believing due to their dieting they have deprived themselves and been unfairly done by.

Part II: Peoples relationship with food and exercise

I speak to a lot of girls who have a gym membership. Do they have a clue what they’re doing? No.  Do they want to want to know? Not really. Whilst all exercise is good exercise and should not be criticised, the difference between that and optimal exercise is certainly noticeable. So why do you never see girls performing high intensity interval training? Because it’s harder, requires more mental strength and the bravery to do something which contrasts with the usual 30-60 jog or steady state routine that they usually carry out whilst moaning that they hate the gym. If you’re in the gym and not giving 100% then you are seriously selling yourself short.

Please don't follow this mans example

Please don’t follow this mans example

It is naive however to expect an average gym user to have more than a small amount of knowledge. That after all takes years to obtain, and to learn what works for you as an individual takes even longer. All exercise is positive and research suggests that without regular exercise the metabolic rate can drop by up to 20% every ten years, you only have to look around to notice that, factor that in and it is in your own interest not to be making excuses to not exercise.

Of course sadly it isn’t that simple. We work long days which for some contain mentally taxing tasks meaning that fatigue has accumulated even before stepping foot in a gym and unless it becomes a real hobby or interest exercise is a chore. You’ve just worked an 8 hour day; do you really want to put yourself through another hour of boredom? Of course you don’t and focusing on exercise to improve physical appearance definitely detracts from the enjoyment of your evening, places another burden and is yet another thing to take time away from your unwinding time.

Everybody has a craving for something. I read a statement by fitness model and spokeswomen for bodybuilding.com Jamie Eason who believes that when your taste buds die(generally every 7-10 days) exchanging the chocolate you crave for a healthy salad can kill the craving for the chocolate. An interesting idea and you only have to look at her physique to see that it’s worked for her. But for everyone else?  Perhaps not essential. Food is one of the main senses and like the others can provide a sense of pleasure. You wouldn’t turn a song off that you liked, nor would you deliberately stop wearing a perfume that smelt nice. So why starve yourself of a taste that you love?

Jamie Eason.. a prime example of female perfection

Jamie Eason.. a prime example of female perfection

Think about your day and like it or not food can pick your mood up and looking forward to something tasty at lunch can serve as a means of motivation to get yourself through your boring morning and offer you something to look forward to. Food is a cheap, and in most cases a relatively harmless pleasure, contrast that with calorie restriction which for most becomes a hindrance and it is very easy to see which is the more appealing and mentally easier option is.

I’ve not referred to macronutrient sensitivity or affects food has on blood sugar purely because I don’t think people consider them but speaking from personal experience and accounts by others I think it’s fair to say that the foods we most crave are probably the ones which have the most negative effect on our body. Ever noticed that the least active people are usually the ones craving carbs? Or that those with an endomorphic body type (round face and naturally chubby) have the highest carb intake even though they’re the least tolerant to them. Plus isn’t it ironic that often the times we most crave sugar or something sweet is when we’re at our most sedentary?

Both sides of that factored in its worth noting that sometimes standing up to your cravings can be of more benefit than you realise.

Part III Limiting beliefs and self confidence

Weight loss can be become such a burden for some that it becomes a battle and at the slightest hiccup a limiting belief begins. Something like “I’ll always be fat, all my family are” or “I’ll never be a size 8”. Whilst you’re allowed to believe that, the only person you’re holding back is yourself. I spent years of my life being told I’d never put on an ounce of muscle or obtain a decent physique, have I reached my dream physique? Nowhere near, but I look a lot better than I did before I even tried.

You’ll have to take on a limiting belief. My remedy is to use it as a motivation. If I want to put on size I surround myself with bigger guys, watch bodybuilders train on YouTube and read articles based purely on growing. If I’m dieting then I’ll watch fitness model competitions, movies with super shredded actors in and try to find all the ways you can make healthy salad taste perfection.

Yes this really was my phone background at one point

Yes this really was my phone background at one point

The result of this is simple. I stop looking for excuses. Anyone can make excuses for their body shape, but it takes a truly dedicated individual to adapt to them.

Of course a sense of realism will help with that. I’m a little over 6 foot and weighed 9 stone before I ever lifted, I’m never going to look like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson but my self-motivation allowed me to make huge changes. If you’re 5’11 with naturally big hips, you’re never going to look like Cheryl Cole, but grab the fat currently round your hips and imagine how good you’d look without that, that’s a doable goal, so stop limiting yourself with an incorrect belief, or worse still stop hiding behind it.

That being said,  one of the hardest parts is to accept that you are the way you are. Most people are probably a couple of inches shorter than they’d like to be or a dress size higher than they like to believe in some shops. One of the keys to successful weight loss is cultivating the ability of ‘outcome based decision making’. In order to be able to do that you have to understand where you are starting from in the first place.

Part IV Dealing with unrealistic pressure

Like most fitness models I believe that a goal without a deadline is just a dream. Most average people when they diet pluck a target amount of weight they want to lose out of the air. An instantly silly idea firstly because you probably no idea how much fat you actually have or you’ve chosen a weight based around how you feel at that moment. Think about it, you’re likely to choose to start a diet on a ‘fat day’ and a day when you dislike what you see in the mirror, doubtlessly the amount of weight you want to lose is going to be far higher than the amount you’d chose to lose on a day when you feel slim and attractive.

Weight loss is never likely to be linear so accept that you’ll have days when you feel disheartened. Understand that it’s not that your incapable of losing weight you’ve just come to a stumbling block which everyone faces when attempting to transform their body. If you have the knowledge then adjust your macros or exercise regime, if you don’t then simply stay strong and resist the urge to go on a deflated eating or drinking binge. Understanding your progress will stop you placing an unrealistic pressure on yourself that will lead to disenchantment and consequently the failure to reach your goal.

I’d also advise some people to stop reading articles or watching instructional videos because advice will rarely be consistent, much of the people giving it will be genetically advantaged and they lead a lifestyle that allows them to be that body obsessed. As an example I watched a YouTube fitness guy who declared that even on Christmas Day he will be sticking to his carbs/protein and fat ratio although he understood that for others you social and family life may have to take priority over your nutritional values at Christmas. It’s unrealistic to follow advice from some of the people as their eating plans are so regimented and so precise that it’s almost like a voluntary eating disorder.

That being said, I get bored around the hype for celebrities and how much better their shape is than the average person. Firstly it is almost irrelevant when you consider the difference that lighting makes, correct lighting can not only make a person look slimmer but their proportions look exceptional.  Secondly because they were not born with better genetics than you, if they look better it’s because they’ve worked with a nutritionist or a trainer not because they’re celebrity, very few people have genetics which are predisposed to creating a perfect body.

channing-tatum-shirtless-running

He may be one of the best looking men in the world but even Channing Tatum doesn’t have the greatest genetics

Finally you will slip up. Cravings get stronger when you’re in a caloric deficit, that’s a fact. Unless you have a very important deadline or are completely capable of disengaging with food then you will give in. Most people will be able to get away with an occasional cheat meal. The only time I don’t cheat is when I’m looking to get really shredded (below 8% body fat) but for most that’s an unrealistic, unhealthy and pointless aspiration.

Final Word

Everything you do can push you further towards your goal, just as everything can push you further away from it. If you’re finding yourself eating something and having to justify it to yourself then the chances are you shouldn’t be eating it. Stop seeking the perfect diet; just because Cheryl Cole ate a certain way doesn’t make it the perfect diet approach. There is no perfect diet, just a best diet for you. If you know you’re going to cheat then find a diet which allows you to do so. Paleo, Atkins, Carb Cycling and Ketosis are all superb diets for fat loss, are any of them perfect? No. So what do you do? Find the one most appropriate to your lifestyle. We all have a thirst for knowledge, the trouble is that when it comes to a field like this there’s too much information about and as a result you create as mishmash approach to dieting which sets you back several steps.

Focus on progression. I can tell you it’s the only way to really track success and it is the most satisfying. You see girls walking into the gym wearing a freshly purchased pair of Hollister tracksuit bottoms. They step on a CV machine with no purpose other than doing what they think is working. Your workout should focus on linear and gradual progression if you want it to push you any closer to your goal physique.

Next I’ll delve into the science and I can guarantee hardly any of you have considered leptin, set-points and nutrient partitioning.

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Bulking and Cutting

So I recently stumbled on and found a hilarious forum post on bodybuilding.com. This can be seen at http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=113113651. Without question one of the worst bulks I’ve ever seen. What makes it so much worse is the progress he believes himself to have made and the positive comments from many people on the forum.

This made several thoughts spring to my mind, all of which critical of the ‘bulking’ and ‘cutting’ style diet approach.

For those of you who have no idea what a ‘bulking’ and ‘cutting’ style diet approach is then you clearly have never spoken to a guy who lifts weights seriously before. It is considered to be the only way to build muscle and the only way to reveal an impressive set of 6 packs abs.

Bulking refers to a prolonged period of eating above maintenance calories with the intention of gaining weight. During this period he should aim to gain predominantly muscle but accept that he will gain some body fat. Cutting refers to a period of dieting after the bulk where this body fat is lost, his new muscle is revealed along with a 6 pack.

I have some personal experience of both bulking and cutting, both of which have brought me some result but predominantly I have always been left a touch disappointed.

Sadly the results aren’t always positive

Let’s discuss bulking first of all…

Common wisdom has it that if you want to build muscle you have to eat more calories than your body is burning. If you take an average man who burns 2500 calories on an average day, then he should be aiming to eat 3000 calories on an average day. On a training day he should be eating perhaps 200-300 more to compensate for the calories burned during his exercise. Most trainees aim to eat an excess of 3500 calories per week as that in theory equals a pound of weight gain. Many shoot for more in the hope of gaining more muscle in a quicker period of time. General consensus is that the bulk of these calories should come from low GI carbs, lean quality proteins and healthy fats.

And then cutting…

Cutting is the process where the fat gained during the bulk is dropped as an individual aims to reach sub 10% body fat and reveal a set of washboard abs. He eats below his maintenance amount of calories and his training goals shift from gaining muscle to maintaining the strength and size gained during the bulking cycle.

Not everyone reaches this

It all sounds fairly logical and fairly simple when you read it. I certainly took it to be the only way to reach my aesthetic and training goals. However after a brief period of eating in a more normal and structured way and carrying out extensive research it appears that there is a growing culture of men out there who like myself are beginning to see that perhaps bulking and cutting is not the best way to do it anymore.

So what are my problems with bulking and cutting?

Well the first is so glaringly obvious that I am amazed people don’t constantly question it. The body has limitations. Let me say it again, the body has limitations. An individual gaining 8 pounds of muscle in his first year of training is not uncommon, however after that his gains will slow down a lot more and by his third year of training an increase in lean body mass of 3 -5 pounds would be considered very good, whilst 2-3 would be considered acceptable. Is it really intellegent to follow a diet approach which aims to put on a pound of weight a week when even at best an individual shouldn’t expect to reach anything close to that in muscle gains?

On top of that many when their gains begin to slow down assume that they are not consuming enough calories to gain muscle, so what do they do? They eat even more, resulting in more fat gain and a physique which begins to look less and less attractive.

One school of thought is that an individual should set himself a goal weight and then aim to put on 25 pounds more on top of that, so that when it comes to cutting and dieting down he’ll be ripped at his target weight. Does it make sense to try and outreach your body’s limitations and ‘balloon’ in scale weight and appearance in the process? I certainly don’t think so.

There are some ridiculous diet approaches out there. One of which is the ‘GOMAD diet’. Originally designed for young American athletes who wanted to improve their squat and bench press to improve their ability to play American football, ‘GOMAD’ is an abbreviation of the words gallon of milk a day. If wishing to follow the GOMAD diet then you simply on top of your already excess amount of calories drink a whole a whole gallon of full fat milk. Yet again an over the top approach to gain an impossible amount of muscle.

Whether you eat ‘clean’ whilst on your bulk or ‘dirty’, excess calories will still produce the same result: fat, whether they come from sweetcorn or beef.

Overeating can lead to negative results even for a bodybuilder

Your body is of course a fat storing machine, not a muscle building one, despite what people want to believe.

Another criticism that I have with bulking is that people ‘major in the minor’. On the internet and in fitness magazines there is a bunch of material about training but very little about diet. Most trainers have an average physique because they spend all their time stressing about whether to do lateral raises instead of front dumbbell raises ,rather than paying any attention to their diet and huge quantities of food that they are flippantly shoving in their mouth. Why do I refer to this as majoring in the minor? Simply because diet will have a far greater impact on the way you look than what you do for forty minutes in the gym. I’d go as far as to say that 85% of training success will come down to your diet.

Supplements are something which go hand in hand with a bulk and something which in my opinion when used in conjunction with bulk often provide a false ‘placebo’ effect. More and more supplements seem to be emerging, each of which targets a new ‘niche’ which will allegedly help an individual put on pounds of quality muscle.

If taken seriously you could probably reach a supplement bill of £300-£400 a month. Why? Because you need whey protein immediately post workout to help with broken down muscle tissue and casein protein prior to sleep to help your body recover. You’ll also definitely need beta-alanine as a pre workout enhancer, ZMA to help reach your hormonal peak and l-arganine to enhance your growth hormone levels pre-workout. If your really struggling to meet your calorie quota than you need a weight gain shake packed with more protein than your body can process and dextrose, one of the fastest releasing and most likely to turn to fat sugars.

A pointless supplement for most of the under 30s who take it

Make no mistake, supplements have a use and a purpose. Whey protein does provide a quick and rapidly absorbed form of protein, creatine can help many improve the quality of their workouts and BCAA’s do help with preventing the body reaching a catabolic state.

But please avoid anything that is processed, high on calories and promises huge gains. Just because Rob Riches is on the front cover, it doesn’t mean that the weight gain shake you are about to spend £90 on will put you any closer to reaching your goal body. I fell completely guilty to this at one point in my training career. For a period of about 6 months I used a product called NLarge, a very intense weight gainer that was recommended to me when I said I was having problems gaining weight. I used the recommended amount of servings, causing me to take in an extra 1200 calories a day, much of which was coming from maltodextrin, a carbohydrate based powder used in most weight gainers. On reflection a horrendous decision when considering what I was already eating. I also experimented with several other weight gaining powders including Met-RX Size Up and Boditronics Mass Attack.

Supplement companies love to market supplements with power phrases. Whilst these arn’t direct lies they give the user a false sense of optimism. Purely because the supplement you are consuming states that it promotes ‘lean muscle gains’ doesn’t mean that the calories in the shake aren’t contributing to your expanding waist line, giving you anything but lean muscle gains.

Many trainers, particular younger guys, approach their training in a naive manner. Some believing that by training biceps and chest five times a week in accordance with their calorie surplus the results will be a huge a chest and enviable set of biceps. Whilst the body can grown in separate phases this will plateau fairly quickly as general belief has it that in order to gain an inch of upper arm size the body must gain 20 pounds on a whole..

Some however go the other way, focusing on strength programmes which focus on the squat and the deadlift. This doesn’t always produce a flattering result. The legs tend to grow faster than most other body parts, so programmes such as 5x5s can for some lead to a rather unbalanced physique with large hamstrings, quads and glutes whilst the upper body lags behind and looks underdeveloped by contrast.

Lastly, when bulking it is a real challenge to track your progress. The human mind is incredibly adept at altering your own self image based around what you want to see. Christian Thiabaudeau refers to the ‘lean threshold’ and in my opinion is completely spot on. He states that there is a point where a man starts to look lean (around 10% body fat) and a point where a man starts to look fat (18% body fat) while in between these two stages he’s going to look predominantly the same. He follows this for a year, and suddenly reaches the ‘fat point’ and becomes upset by what he sees looking back at him in  the mirror. Everyday proceeding that he had people tell him he’s got bigger, he’s seen his lifts increasing in the gym, his weight creep up on the scales and felt his tee-shirts getting tighter, of course he’s going to believe that is caused by all the muscle he gained. The reality however was completely different. His muscle looked fuller from storing more glycogen (an active individual tends to store 40g per 100g muscle tissue), his tee-shirts began to feel tighter because he’d began to store fat in his lower chest (a common place where men store upper body fat) and his scale weight had gone up because for every 0.25 pounds of muscle tissue his body was producing a pound of fat accompanied it.

So what’s next? The cutting cycle of course. After some serious over eating (many s have even force fed themselves at time, myself included) he’s reached his goal weight and most likely he’s got a holiday planned for 2-3 months away.

This brings me to another limitation in the bulking and cutting style approach. Even with a good diet and excellent training, bulking and cutting will only allow a trainer to look at their best for a short period of time each year, maybe in some cases only a few weeks. When your bulking, while you’ll look noticeably bigger (notice I said bigger and not muscular) you’ll always be carrying some excess fat on your body and while you’re cutting, though you’ll have less body fat, your muscles will look a fair amount smaller. The result of this will probably yield a period of a few weeks where you look how you hoped you would, however the rest of the time you’ll most likely spend your time feeling too fat or too scrawny. To me it seems highly illogical to follow a diet strategy where you’ll only feel and look at your prime for such a short period of time.

On top of that after dieting it takes up to several months for the skin to tighten and a muscle to look impressive, so an individual may never look at their prime whilst bulking and cutting, as for however low his body fat is, his muscles will lack that ‘hard’ look which is so aesthetically impressive.

Just as you gain fat when you bulk, you can lose muscle when you cut. It is in fact highly probable that you will. Calorie restriction can force your body to become catabolic and consume your hard earned muscle tissue for fuel. The result of this, much of the muscle you gained during your bulk has gone. So in essence you’re only a little bit better off than you were before you started. This happened to me and for that reason alone I question this dieting approach.

Sorry mate, your bulk went wrong

On top of that during your bulk you’ll most likely to add fat to your stubborn areas, which for men is around the bottom of the stomach where the 6 pack is hidden. Sadly this is the hardest area to lose the fat from. Fat is essentially just stored energy and all those unused calories that you’ve consumed will have to be stored somewhere. The result of this can be mean a harsh period of intense dieting, with many men having to cut their calories down to around 1300 per day to remove this fat. Make no mistake, weight training and intense cardio are brutal in such a strong caloriic deficit and such a little amount of food definitely causes a decrease in mood.

What if there was another alternative? Of course the debate as to whether body re-composition (the process of gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time) is even possible. Certainly basic body facts would counteract this idea. The body DOES need a calorie surplus to gain weight and DOES need a calorie deficit to lose fat. Of course as steroids continue to evolve and develop people are achieving far more than their genetics allowed, but what for the natural trainer who has the dedication and the knowledge to achieve something fairly special with his physique? I can only encourage him to look into cycling his calorie intake, whilst he may never achieve a dramatic transformation, surely it is better than spending three quarters of the year with a chubby face and a belly?

On a final note it seems ironic that whilst were in a society which seems so focused on being thin that there is a huge and growing culture of men wanting to put on an excessive amount of weight? And isn’t it even more ironic that these men have become the envy of slimmer men?

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What I’ve learnt from weight training over the years…

After around 2 months of lifting, not that you can even tell

Let’s cut to the chase. Weight training is hard for most of us.

For some, and by some I mean very few, it comes easily. Very easily in fact. You know those guys who only have to hold a dumbbell for their whole body to grow. As you can tell by the above picture of me, I was not one of them. For these guys the less attention they pay to their diet, the better they seem to look. The less intelligent their training becomes, the more they seem to grow.

It’s easy to feel a pang of jealousy towards them. Just as it is easy for the size 12 girl who can’t squeeze into the size 10 dress no matter how hard she tries to object to her best friend who stays a size 6 all year round living on Maltesers.

However as I’ve got older, whilst still feeling a touch of envy, I’ve began to see flaws in the way I’ve done things myself.  Whilst the training I’ve done was never close to pointless, it was never flawless, and for us less genetically gifted folk things will at times have to be near on faultless.

Let me start with in my opinion the most important thing of all and something that, perhaps rather naively it’s taken me a long time to figure out.

You should train and diet for your body type. It sounds so basic and so simple, but yet constantly I see people in the gym doing the complete and utter reverse of this.

In order to delve into this more I need to explain my past training history.

Before lifting I was skinny, and by that I mean grotesquely skinny. I had veins running all down my forearms and not in the cool way you get after an intense lifting day, nope this was in a horrible ‘get the kid a good meal kind of way’. Despite this I was never lucky enough to have the permanently flat stomach that usually accompanies most ecto body types. Nope, I think I was born with stubborn body fat before I even gave training and nutrition a second thought.

I joined the gym at 17 and I was given a machine based workout. I can’t really remember huge amounts of it, other than surprisingly, it was leg press for legs, chest press for chest and despite weighing close to 9 stone, it was assisted pull ups for my back.

I won’t hide or deny it, I was weak. Upon my first attempt at a dumbbell chest press I struggled to move the 6kg dumbbells for a set of 10, a weight that I see many women move for sets of 15 to merely ‘tone’ their chest.  Despite the lack of manliness in the strength department (believe me when I say that wasn’t even my worse lift) I carried on, gradually progressing and gradually beginning to look less like a child needing sponsorship for food.

Anyone who has ever lifted for a while knows all about the newbie gains. That wonderful period of lifting where, whatever you do, you progress. Sadly after what I’d estimate to be around 6 months mine had massively finished. In fact I remember on the same day I received my A-Level results, I was beginning to get weaker.

Despite this abrupt halt in progress I carried on. This time more out of a naive optimism that things would magically change and suddenly I’d look worthy of being on the front cover of a fitness magazine.

They didn’t and by the time I was 19 I knew I was going to have to alter my methods to reach my goals. From being in the gym and being around bigger guys I began to harbour this ridiculous belief and desire that I would one day become as big as them, something I have only recently let go of.

I addressed my diet and like so many before me I fell into the category of being someone who wasn’t eating enough. The result of this was a prolonged period of 6 months which consisted of constant over eating and binging as I strived to put on every ounce of muscle my body would allow. I followed a 4 day split. I remember it now even though it was back in 2008. Chest on a Monday, back on a Tuesday, legs on a Thursday and shoulders on a Friday. It was at this point that I made two very detrimental errors with my training. Firstly, I followed a strength training programme, which yielded good results for a couple of months for far too long. I should have changed it but I stuck with it, and the results became less than favourable. My lifts stalled and sadly so did all of my positive physical changes. Next I made the mistake of not considering the incompatibility of several units of alcohol each week with an already pre-existing and already excessive caloric surplus. I got fat and began to carry a permanent beer belly and round face and looked like a skinny person who had over done it at Christmas all year round. I didn’t notice and like so many others assumed all scale weight was positive weight.

Just as my arms are beginning to grow, the bodyfat round my face and body is massively growing

Around February 2009, God chucked me a somewhat harsh favour: Glandular fever. For around five weeks I was unable to eat anything. As a result I began to consume all my calories from fat free yoghurt, milk and whey protein. In the harshest of ways I’d just inadvertently carried out my first cutting cycle. Gone was the beer belly and in its place was a flat and toned stomach. I’d lost approaching eighteen pounds in five weeks.

Sadly I was straight back to shoving calories down my mouth believing that the eighteen pounds I had lost was all muscle. This time I was training without the alcohol as I was happy in a relationship at this point and didn’t feel the urge to go out and drink anything like as much. I stupidly went back to the same strength training cycle again. Sadly again I got fat and gained no strength. Despite this I carried on with the same method for well over a year.

I wish now that I’d had the honesty to confess to myself the mediocrity of my results, re-evaluated my goals and changed my methods. I’d also made the cardinal mistake of carrying out all my workouts without a structured plan, doing whatever I felt like upon stepping in the gym. If I thought my shoulders looked small I’d hit them with sets of 10, only to go back to sets of 3-5 the next session. Whilst my focus had increased, my efforts had become more and more misguided and I’d began to slip into bad habits.

So what did this period of training teach me? First of all I was lusting after a goal that was near on unachievable for me. No amount of calories could ever have got  me as big as I wanted to be. Letting to go of that ‘dream’ has released a whole host of insecurities that I had and has completely liberated me. Over the recent months I’ve began to focus on training for my body type. I believe myself to fall into a 60/20/20 ratio body type. Predominantly I’m an ectomorph, but like most endomorphs I’m slightly carb sensitive with a strong tendency to storing fat in stubborn areas but like many mesomorphs I wasn’t born with the worst shoulders in the world.

Understanding your bodytype is key to success

I’ve learnt that aesthetically my body responds far better to higher rep work. Whilst working around my 5rm got me stronger, my muscles always looked rather flat and unimpressive. Of course a balance of both would yield the best results, but for my body type I would advocate 60% of the year focusing on higher rep work and 40% on lower rep work. For an individual with fairly broad shoulders, develop them and turn them into your best feature. I see too many guys throw shoulder work in on the end of their chest day or leg day, worse still many prioritize isolation work such as curls and believe that shrugs are more important than their overall shoulder development. When I introduced a shoulder day my frame improved and my physique began to look far bigger than it is. 1.6 to 1 is considered to be the perfect male shoulder to waist ratio. I’m currently a little better than that and plan to take it one step further. Why’s that? My chest will probably never get over the 42” mark and my arms probably never over the 15” mark that they are currently at now. Develop my shoulders and these lagging and struggling to grow body parts cease to look noticeable as my v-taper continues to become better and better developed.

I also learnt that much of what is preached is little more than ‘broscience’. I followed the six small meals a day regime for years. It did little to enhance my gains. I was hardly surprised to find that the belief that it sped up your metabolism and improved protein absorption was based far more on belief than actual scientific study. And despite what supplement companies want you to believe you don’t lose muscle if you go longer than three hours without protein. When following this eating pattern I found myself constantly thinking of where the next meal was going to come from and limiting the freedom of my life by sticking to set meal times. Whilst I don’t see it as the holy grail of dieting as many do, I now follow an intermittent fasting approach, eating from 6pm till 11pm and fasting in the previous hours while at work. This means that I save a huge amount of money on food and means that I can focus on other things. I also adjust my eating window around my social life, which gives me a freedom I didn’t have before.

The Hodgetwins transformed their physiques with intermittent fasting

You must always remember the reason you started lifting and your training must always reflect this. For me it started because I was deprived of confidence in how I looked. Now it’s a part of who I am, having a lean and aesthetic physique compliments everything about me, from my personality through to my dress sense. However for a brief period in time I lost sight of that goal. I followed programmes like Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, a fantastic programme but one which was not conducive and never will be conducive to my goals. Such a training programme is sure to increase a 1rm but will offer little in the way of physical change.

Jim Wendler, not quite a body I want to emulate

Now I like to keep my training intense, alternating in cycles between strength and size work. I only wish while I had been in such a caloric surplus that I had done this because I know that my physique would be a little better.

Something to always remember and something I forgot a countless amount of times is that the free weights area in any gym is a bubble where due to the nature of testosterone most men are competing with each other. The result of this, sacrifices on form are made, people lock out when lifting and in my opinion most importantly people sacrifice ‘time under tension’. TUT is by far one of the most proven factors in muscle hypertrophy so why many people drop weights on the negative and carry out sets lasting around or shorter than twenty seconds now seems counter intuitive to me. If it’s a set geared towards strength I now always shoot for a 3-4 second negative, if it’s hypertrophy then I’ll aim for a set to last 45-60 seconds. The only time I’ll pay less attention is when I’m cutting because due to the caloric deficit maintaining strength should remain the main focus.

The final thing I’ve noticed and this is something that most have a hard time accepting and dealing with. You’ll probably never reach the level you want. In my opinion if you take the average ten men who join the gym hoping to build what they consider a faultless body, 1 will reach the level that they want, achieving an enviable and muscular physique fairly easily, 3 persevere for a few months, maybe even a year before giving up and using a false excuse for why they failed.  The next three put it to the backburner, using their membership less than frequently because for them it will never become very important. The next one or two look to some form of enhancement to reach their goals, be it HGH or steroids. The final category is where I place myself, for them training becomes a way of life and a genuine interest. They enjoy it but will never ever be completely fulfilled from it. Why’s that? No matter how hard you train you can always be bigger, stronger or leaner. No matter how good your diet is, there will always be room for mass improvement. For them every % of what they do matters, it’s a struggle and sacrifices will be made but you can be damn sure that they’ll enjoy trying to get it right.

What about the future? I’m on the cusp of something very special and crucially I know what that is. Gone are the days of long bulking and cutting cycles. I’m currently in the process of getting myself leaner than I have ever been. For the first time I’m using sprint training and cardio has gone from being my worst enemy to a useful tool.

As I am now. A little over two stone heavier than I was when I first began and bodyfat now below 10%

I also now have something that I didn’t have before. After a few years of training and paying attention to my nutrition I know now exactly what works for me. This is far better than the countless advice I took from bodybuilding articles and forums and other people I know who lift. I’m 5% off achieving a physique I’m very happy with and most importantly and for the first time,I know what I need to do to take me there.

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Where is the British Gentleman?

So I felt it was time to write this post because I had a sudden realisation.

As I look around and carry out my weekly check of what impresses me and what doesn’t in the contemporary world, I notice that most contemporary fashions for men have come from predominantly low culture. Shaved heads, piercings, tattoos and muscles are all things that are not commonly associated with  British Heritage. Quite the opposite in fact, shaved heads were once sported by hooligans and those in the armed forces, piercings were exclusive to alternative individuals , tattoos were even used in the Nazi Regime to serve as a means of identification and muscles were almost exclusive to the body-building stage rather than the commerical gyms that you see so commonly now.

Does that mean that all of these things look bad? David Beckham sported a shaved head for years and in a recent H&M campaign a great array of tattoos; he couldn’t look further from a hooligan. It would be hypocritical for me to even judge or condemn muscles as I take a great deal of pride in training frequently.

But this did make me think. It made me wonder what has come to our recent fashions that our ancestors would be proud to wear and as you observe current fashion the answer will remain to be not a lot.

In fact as I listen to Lloyd’s number 3 UK hit ‘Dedication to my ex’ I hear him declare that he misses ‘that pussy’ throughout the whole sing. He also states that she said ‘her pussy’ was his and that ‘that pussy gone ‘n’ changed’. It also can’t be said that this is the only chauvinistic or derogatory song to have achieved chart success, with many others referring to women in a similar fashion.

Again you have to consider that this music is charting well so it can’t offended many people, however people are becoming increasingly promiscuous and as man do begin to view women as an object perhaps the British Gentleman does begin to become less common…

So does he have a role in UK culture today?

Well every side has a counter argument. I believe that tattoos and in particular a full sleeve  are most commonly worn by young men  who take a great interest in their grooming and clothing regime, and you rarely see those guys without female attention. Shaved heads are often opted for by men who are beginning to suffer with male pattern baldness, or men who do not have sufficient enough interest in their appearance for a hairstyle, and while muscles can be intimidating to others their can be no denying that clothes fit and look better. In facet Heat Magazine has a ‘Torso Weekly’ feature which shows a young athletic male shirtless. Heat magazine can be only be described as the furthest thing away from a body-building magazine!

So these things have become such a strong part of popular culture that they can not be branded as low culture any more.   However, I believe that many would love to see a revival in the British gentleman, the Savile Row culture if you will.

Fashion powerhouse Dolce & Gabbana have focused strongly on the gentleman. Using ‘Light Blue’ fragrance model David Gandy to discuss what he believes a gentleman to be…

Whilst ‘The One Sport’ model Adam Senn discusses his belief that sport has increased his gentleman like qualities.

I firmly believe that if the country was full of men with these beliefs that it would be a far classier place to live in.

Sorry guys, your just not what were after

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A new portfolio shot

I believe anyone can look good in a photo studio and then heavily edit it with Photoshop. So here is a completely natural shot of taken whilst working on the start up of my new business MultiMe PR (multimepr.com). I can’t wait to get back into the studio!

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