Does Red Meat Cause Cancer?

Recently articles were published seemingly everywhere stating that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had categorised processed meat as carcinogenic (causes cancer) and that red meat in general ‘probably causes cancer’.

The WHO has processed meat in the same category as smoking in relation to cancer risk…. The study which was put forward specifically mentioned colon cancer risk went up by 18% in people who ate 50g of processed red meat (2 slices of bacon) a day compared to none.

So firstly I want to bring you back to this 18% figure. This number is a term called ‘relative risk’ which means that the cancer risk between the two studied groups (non processed meat and 50g processed meat) increased by 18%. Actually the figures are an increase in cancer risk from 5.5% to 6.5%. 6.5 is ~18% greater than 5.5 and VOILA, the 18% figure begins floating around.

Let’s put this into context. Processed meat which has an 18% relative risk increase in cancer is categorised in the same group as smoking. Now the relative risk increase for smokers compared to non smokers around 2000%. If we used the same control group number of 5.5% then a 2500% relative risk increase would become 115%. Compare that figure to 6.5% and it is incredible that the WHO can even begin comparing processed meat to smoking in relation to cancer risk.

Three more quick points I want to make:

Firstly there are some confounding variables (factors which the researchers can’t control which may have an impact on the results) which could be at play here. People who eat higher quantities of processed meat are also more likely to be obese, eat ing in a calorie surplus, inactive, smokers… Therefore you cannot put this increase in risk solely down to processed meat when there are so many confounding variables in play which are also associated with a higher risk in cancer.

Secondly red meat should not be associated at all given the risk is clearly even less. Red meat is extremely nutritious providing iron (very important for young women), zinc and many B vitamins. Red meat is a very important component of your diet.

Thirdly this is not to say there are no issues with processed red meat. Burning your red meat when cooking can cause Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). These chemicals have been found to cause an increased cancer risk through interactions with DNA. The simple thing to do is cut off any charred meat and this can be avoided.

Health is not an ‘on’ ‘off’ switch, nor should any single food or lifestyle choice be considered outside the lifestyle as a whole.

Take home points:
– Relative risk of processed meat is 18% compared with over 2000% for smoking.
– Processed meat consumption associated with obesity, inactivity, smoking and other risk factors.
– Red meat is very nutritious and can be an important component of ones diet.
– Remove charred section of meat!

Does Red Meat Cause Cancer?

Royal Marines Training Plan

At present I am training to complete the pre-selection tests for the Royal Marines with the hope of starting basic training as a Royal Marines Officer in September 2016.  The following post is one which I recently posted on a Royal Marines forum demonstrating my approach to achieving the fitness levels required to be a Royal Marine Commando/Officer with the hope of helping in their preparation in becoming a Royal Marine.

Firstly I will start by demonstrating a standard weekly plan which will aim to cover all areas in which a marine is required to perform well e.g. swimming, bleep test, body weight exercises, running etc. I will also add notes giving information on how to adjust this plan for your needs.

Secondly I will go into some further details which have mostly been highlighted in the training recommendations made by the navy however which are not elaborated on. This includes:
Training Frequency – How much is optimal without over-training
Rest days – Frequency and importance
Food Choices – Calorie and Nutrient recommendations, potential supplements etc
Sleep – How much and importance

1) Exercise plan:

People who train habitually (structured, continuous training) have be found to show more improved performance than those who do not. With this in mind I recommend you get yourself a plan to follow.

Please note that the following is an example for an individual who is very fit. If you are just starting training and cannot achieve the given distances then start lower and work your way up!

Week Plan

Monday – Medium Intensity

A.M. Long Run (8+ Miles)

P.M. Heavy Gym *see HEAVY GYM workout details below

Tuesday – Rest Day

Wednesday – Hard Day 1

A.M./P.M Bleep Test Best Effort

Thursday – Low Intensity Day

A.M. Medium run (4-8 Miles @ ~80% usual pace)
Swim (25-50 Lengths Breast Stroke at a steady speed)

P.M. Light Gym * see LIGHT GYM workout details below

Friday – Rest Day

Saturday – Hard day 2

a.m. PJFT Best Effort

p.m. Body Weight Circuit * See BODY WEIGHT CIRCUIT details below

Sunday – Rest day

Workout Details:

Heavy Gym (2 minutes rest between sets):
Week 1: Week 2:
Squat/Leg Press – 4 sets 4-6 reps Deadlift – 4 sets 4-6 reps
Bench Press – 4 sets 4-6 reps Military Press – 4 sets 4-6 reps
Barbell Row – 3 sets 6-8 reps Weighted Chin Up – 3 sets 6-8 reps
Barbell Bridges – 3 sets 6-10 reps Barbell Bridges – 3 sets 6-10 reps
Pull Up – 3 sets @ 90% max reps Pull Up – 3 sets @ 90% max reps
Marine Press up – 3 sets @ 90% Marine Press up – 3 sets @ 90%

Light Gym (1 minute rest between sets):
Week 1:         ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~       Week 2:
Barbell Lunges – 3 sets 15-20 reps ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Barbell Squat – 3 sets 15-20 reps
Dorsal raises – 3 sets 15-20 reps ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Plank – 3 sets 30+ Seconds
Optional 1 – 3 sets 15-20 reps ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Optional 1 – 3 sets 15-20 reps
Optional 2 – 3 sets 6-10 reps ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Optional 2 – 3 sets 15-20 reps
Pull Up – 3 sets @ 90% max reps ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Pull Up – 3 sets @ 90% max reps
Marine Press up – 3 sets @ 90% ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Marine Press up – 3 sets @ 90%
Sit Ups – 3 sets – reps in 1 min ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Sit Ups – 3 sets – reps in 1 min

Body Weight Circuit (best time):
3-5 rounds 10 reps of each exercise
1 round consists of:
Military Push Ups
Pull Ups
Chest Dips
Hanging leg raises
Shoulder Push Ups
Squat Jumps

2) Adapting The Plan To Your Needs

Provided you give yourself the appropriate time to prepare this programme should be sufficient for anyone looking to achieve the fitness required for the Royal Marines. If however you are like me and you struggle with an aspect of the training (for me it’s running) or you have very little time to prepare then i suggest you adapt the programme to focus on your weak areas.

Bad at running but have good strength: Take out the Heavy Gym day and replace with a running session.

Bad strength but a good runner: Take out the Saturday PJFT running session and replace with a gym workout with emphasis upon pull ups, press ups, sit-ups (a variation of the Light Gym session would be good).

This is very basic but it will help do the trick.

3) Further Details

Rest Days/Recovery/Sleep:
Rest days are essential, especially when you are training frequently at high intensities and with a lot of volume (quantity of exercise being performed). Rest days will maximise your recovery, keep hormone levels normal (testosterone, cortisol, thyroid etc) which are negatively effected when you over-train. This will ensure your performance is optimal throughout your training!

Note that the rest days in the plan provided are BEFORE the hardest training days and AFTER the days where you train twice! This is important for the reasons stated above!

If bored/restless then go on a 30 minute walk on rest days but no more – not even press ups/pull ups at home. Rest mean rest!!

Aim to get around 8 hours of good quality sleep every night.

Training Frequency:
I recommend you train no more than 2 days in a row without a rest day, especially if you are training near a maximum intensity (failure) on those days or if you are training twice a day. This is in order to prevent hormone imbalances (as mentioned in the previous section) and therefore insure your best performance consistently.

Food Choices:
General advice:
The majority (90%) of your foods should come from health food sources. Plenty of good carbs (potato, pasta, rice, lentils), protein (eggs, fish, red and white meat, milk) and fats (nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, butter, nut butters, cheese).

Keep protein and carb intake fairly high in order to maximise your recovery and performance.

Do not restrict yourself too much from ‘junk food’ though especially if you are feeling stressed from the training or your lifestyle as this will just add to that feeling. Just ensure you are eating mainly healthy food.

Before and After Workout Meals:
Eat good quality sources of protein and carbohydrates 1-2 hours before your workout. I like to have a coffee pre-workout to keep myself focused.

Again, good quality protein and carbs within 1 hour after your workout finishes (this improves recovery time and muscle protein development than if you wait longer).

– Whey Protein (normal stuff not Mass Gainer or Diet options). Have a scoop after your workouts and also one before you go to sleep.
– Cod Liver Oil (2 a day) Provides healthy sources of fat
– Multivitamin. Nothing fancy just a bog standard brand (e.g. ASDA, tesco etc). The difference between cheap and expensive ones is not worth the money.

****Advice On Changing Your Weight****:
When you are exercising a lot you should not try to diet too hard as this will seriously mess up your hormones, performance and when you eventually start to eat everything you see (because you will fail a hard diet with this type of training) you will put on A LOT of fat quickly.

If you wish to lose weight then I advise you track your weight for a week twice a day whilst doing your training programme. If your weight is decreasing then don’t change anything. If it is not going down then you should eat SLIGHTLY less. Your protein requirement INCREASES when you are losing weight in order to maintain muscle mass so I recommend cutting down on carbohydrates and fat depending on which is the most disproportionate high.

if you wish to gain weight then you must eat more food, it is that simple. I saw one person recommend drinking a gallon of milk a day (GOMAD) but this is bad advice as that is 4000 calories of milk a day on top of what you are already eating which is way too excessive. However drinking more milk itself is not a bad suggestion. Also i recommend trying to increase calories with healthy food sources mainly consisting of protein and good carbohydrate sources and not from saturated fat sources. NOTE – saturated fat is not bad when consumed in moderation so I am not saying avoid it, just do not overly consume it especially as a large source of calories when trying to gain weight.

Royal Marines Training Plan

Client #1 Progress Picture

Pleased to show my first clients progress from after 25 days of working with him.  The pictures are 40 days separate however I started training him 25 days prior to the ‘after’ picture.

Tom wanted a more rapid fat loss approach and so we went through the details, his lifestyle, how much time he had etc and ended up with the results you can see here.  We were even able to accommodate Tom going out and socialising during the weekends.

Not only did Tom manage to achieve a lean physique but he also saw improvements in strength and other goals.  These are demonstrated by his 5 rep max deadlift increasing from 140 kg to 160 kg and his max muscle ups increasing from 7 to 9 reps.

I look forward to showing you more of my clients progress in the future.

Tommy Progression

Client #1 Progress Picture

Building a Basic Nutrition Plan

Before getting into anything I want to say that a diet shouldn’t be short term in the sense that when you eventually stop you go straight back to your original weight. If you can achieve your desired goal then you should strive to maintain that by altering your diet according to your new weight, activity levels etc.

1) Determine Your Calories

You cannot lose weight by eating more calories then you burn, whilst alternatively you cannot gain weight if you eat less calories then you burn in a day.

The general guidelines which typically work best are:

Weight loss = 11-13 kcal/lb bodyweight
Maintenance = 14-16 kcals/lb bodyweight
Gain Weight/Muscle – 17-19 kcals/lb bodyweight

Remember these guidelines are not tailored for you specifically. For example, a very active individual may begin to lose weight at 13 kcals/lb or higher whereas a very inactive individual may need to go as low as 8 or 9 kcal/lb before they start to lose weight. Be smart and keep a track of your progress.

2) Set Protein Requirement

** When in a calorie deficit protein intake becomes more important in order to prevent muscle protein breakdown. The greater a calorie deficit the greater the protein requirement. Furthermore the leaner you become the more protein you require too.**

protein recommendation: 0.8-1.5 grams/lb total body weight.

If you are overweight and exercise infrequently then go towards the lower end. If you are lean and dieting to lose more fat then opt for the upper end.

If you are looking to gain weight/muscle then protein requirement is reduced, however I tend to recommend 1 gram/lb for most people, particularly if using a small calorie surplus.

1.5g/lb of protein is a LOT of protein by the way so I recommend adding protein shakes in between, or with, meals to hit those higher figures.

3) Fat & Carbohydrate Requirement

Fat & Carbs make up the remaining calories however how you wish to approach this is really up to you. If you train better on higher carb diet (most do) then go for higher carbs hwoever some few people train well on higher fat intakes.

A good Fat recommendation is the following:

0.45 – 1 grams/lb bodyweight.

Go towards the lower end if you are looking to lose weight (simply because its less calories, not because fat makes you fat…).

The rest of your calories can be made up of carbs.

5) Food choice and timing

Firstly variety is key! I usually recommend the larger part of food intake coming from fresh, whole food which isn’t pre-packaged or processed. A variety of food will provide all the nutrition you require. However of course this isn’t always practical and convenient for some families/people so just make the best of your situation.

Secondly is meal composition. You should aim to have a good quality source of protein, fat and protein in each meal.

Thirdly, in order to get the most anabolic effect from your workouts make sure you eat a meal within 45 minutes of finishing your workout. Also a meal 1-2 hours before workout would be beneficial. These meals should consist of a large portion of your carbohydrate intake and also contain good quality sources of protein (30g minimum to maximise muscle protein synthesis).

Finally, meal frequency doesn’t really matter unless you are training towards a specific goal. SEE PICTURE ADDED.

6) Faster Is Not Always Better

Trying to get big fast means you will also put on a lot more fat. There is a limit to how much muscle you can put on at a time. The same is true when trying to lose fat. Give yourself too big a calorie deficit and you will face problems including muscle loss, disrupted hormones such as elevated cortisol, water retention and you will be more likely to fail any diet you are on.

The calorie recommendations given in point 1) are based around a 20% difference from your maintenance levels. This is a good figure to go by.

Key Points:

1) Set a Calorie intake (estimate):

Weight loss = 11-13 kcal/lb
Maintenance = 14-16 kcals/lb
Gain Weight/Muscle – 17-19 kcals/lb

2) Protein Intake = 0.8-1.5g/lb

3) Fat Intake = 0.45-1g/lb

4) Carbohydrate Intake = the rest

5) Nutrient timing:
– Majority of carbs around exercise
– 30g carbs and 30g protein within 45 minutes of finishing a workout (liquid meals can beneficial)

6) be aware that trying to change weight too fast can result in issues so try to be moderate/relaxed in your approach.

Building a Basic Nutrition Plan

Exercise Repetitions For Optimal Muscle Growth

So first of all we must consider what exactly causes muscle growth. Their are two main factors which are involved in muscle growth. The first,and most significant factor, is the progression of tension overload within the muscle. This basically means that developing high levels of muscle tension is the key factor in triggering muscle growth. The second factor is fatigue which, whilst less significant, also provides a contributing role in muscle growth.

Now that we have established these factors we can now progress to finding which repetition range will provide the most optimal combination of progressive tension and fatigue in a given muscle.

Whilst some muscle (particularly some leg muscles) will not recruit 100% of muscle fibers typically most will, or at least they will get very close to doing so (contrary to some peoples belief). In fact lifting weights at around 85% of maximum output will provide full muscle fiber recruitment. When lifting weights beyond 85% another method called rate coding comes into play. To put it simply rate coding is the electrical signal sent to the working muscle. The heavier the weight the greater the electrical signal and the greater the contractile strength.

Now how does this add up with our two factors for muscle growth?

Firstly we want to make sure that the muscle tension is sufficient such that it provides maximum muscle fiber recruitment. This mean that the optimal weight lifted would be around 85% of your 1 rep max (1RM).

Secondly we want to use a weight that will provide maximum muscle fatigue. If you are lifting around 95% of your 1RM then you will probably manage around 2 repetitions whereas lifting at 85% will allow anywhere from 4-8 repetitions (some people find they can lift more especially during lower body work). Working at around 85% 1RM should allow for continually good performance than working at 95% 1RM and will provide more volume and fatigue for an equal number of sets.

In conclusion I’d just like to add that lifting at other rep ranges can still be useful however they are not optimal for this scenario. Also maximal muscle fiber recruitment can be found at lower weight intensities (e.g. 70% 1RM) however this will occur only during the last couple of repetitions.

Take home points:
– Progressively increase weight being lifted over to keep gaining muscle mass
– 5-8 reps optimal for muscle growth (approx. 85% 1RM)
– Other rep ranges can still be useful as assistance

Exercise Repetitions For Optimal Muscle Growth

Tips For A Successful Gym Plan

1) Rep range = 30-60 reps per muscle group

Current research has shown this to be the ideal rep range for muscle hypertrophy. This means the 3 sets of 10 reps of bicep curls is at the lower end of that rep range (30 total reps). If you did 5 sets of 5 reps of weighted chin-ups/pull-ups before that then you have done enough for the day. If you cannot provide adequate muscle stimulus from that rep range then you are doing something wrong.

2) Training Frequency

A lot of people will go to the gym 5/6x each week and training one body part for a full hour. Whilst this may mean you have put in a good workout for that body part this is not optimal for long-term growth. Many people following this plan will find that the weight they can shift on the bar stalls, they just don’t get any bigger and their weight stays the same (though that ultimately comes down to the diet).

This is why upper/lower splits (4 days per week training) and full body workouts (2-3 days training) can be popular and effective. In a one hour session you can still hit the ideal rep range for your targeted muscle groups and also train those muscle groups more frequently over the week. Moreover you are gaining extra days for rest, even if you also do further training for sports outside of the gym.

3) Rest Days and Deload Weeks

More is not always better. Over training is common among people who don’t include rest days and deload weeks in their training plans. Implementing these strategies helps maintain hormonal balance, improve recovery and improve adherence to both training and any dietary strategies you may have.

Incorporating a rest day after every 2 consecutive training days and a deload week every 4-6 weeks would be my recommendation. This will greatly improve your long-term results.

4) Training To Get DOMS

DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is the pain/stiffness you feel after training – usually the next day. I read a great article a month or so ago about how many people will train towards getting DOMS not realising that they are impairing their ability to recover or grow. A lot of people think that getting DOMS means they have put in a ‘good’ training session. In reality this is a sign you are over training the muscle and are working it beyond an sensible limit. Take the deltoid (shoulder) for example. This is a notoriously hard muscle to get DOMS in and many people will think that their workout is not sufficient because of this.

Feeling ‘slight DOMS’ is a usual effect from training however just because you may not feel DOMS does not mean you have put in a bad workout.

5) Progressive Overload

Perhaps the most important point. Progressive overload is progressively increasing the weight you are lifting in an exercise – I will add here that this should be with good form. Many people go to the gym and lift the same weight every session and wonder why they are not getting bigger or stronger when they are simply providing the same muscle stimulus over and over.

Always try to have a progressive plan. This doesn’t mean chuck extra weight on every single session, nor does it mean dropping your weight and working back up towards it. When you reach the higher end of a rep range you have set (e.g. 8-12 reps) then increase the weight slightly and work towards that higher rep range again, and so on.

Quick note- There was more I was thinking of adding such as rep ranges for strength vs hypertrophy, planning towards goals etc but this post was getting lengthy at best and people should know that stuff already. Hope this helps.

Take Home Points:
1) Ideal rep range = 30-60 reps
2) Train each body part at least once every 5 days
3) Rest days after every 2 consecutive training days is ideal
Deload week every 4-6 weeks
4) Do not train towards DOMS
5) Progressive overload = muscle gain

Tips For A Successful Gym Plan

Why does your diet fail you?

There are two main factors which cause dieters to fail their diets:

  1. Having an absolute/abstinence style approach to dieting
  2. Only having a short-term plan for your diet

The first and, in my opinion, most important issue is that most dieters attempt to be far to rigid in their approach. The problem with this approach is that any slip tends to lead to a complete failure and ultimately results in dieters giving up or restarting the diet all over only to fail again. We’ve all been there when you have 1 cookie and end up inhaling whatever sugary treat you can find within 100 yards of you. By expecting perfection you are doomed to fail.

The second issue is focusing only on the short-term. Many people take the approach that the harder they diet, the faster they will lose weight/fat when in reality the amount of fat that can be lost is limited. More (or in this case less) is not always better. Furthermore if an individual manages to reach their goal weight they often revert back to their original exercise and diet habits and regain all that was lost – the body is really good at piling on calories as fat after dieting and if you return to old eating habits you will just watch as the weight comes flying back.

The studies of the most successful dieters found that they were able to maintain several consistent behavioral patterns of which a major one is: to keep weight off by maintaining diet and exercise habits in the long-term.

The goal of dieting is not to starve yourself and be miserable. Make smaller changes to your diet, give yourself one or two free meals or even a free day during the week to keep yourself sane (this doesn’t mean an excuse to binge though), start an exercise plan that you can maintain long-term and make sure you are eating food you enjoy. If you trip up then just be flexible, put that down as a free day and carry on as usual.

Why does your diet fail you?

Starting a successful fat loss diet

Moving on from yesterday’s post i’m going to set out the fundamentals behind starting a fat loss diet. Before we go into anything though I want to mention that context is everything and everyone will be different in setting a diet up in this regard. This is simply a very standard approach to figuring what works best for you.

The graph below is a good representation of how someone should approach any diet, however for clarity the following criteria should be followed for a fat loss diet (in order of importance:

– Set a calorie deficit
– Set protein intake
– Set fat intake
– Everything else depends

First, and most importantly, is to set a calorie deficit. If you are not in a calorie deficit you will not lose fat – simple. Some of you may have read pieces by people claiming ‘a calorie isn’t a calorie’ and other such nonsense but at the end of the day even humans are subject to the laws of thermodynamics. A good starting point for creating a calorie deficit is to set a calorie intake of 10-12 cals/lb total body weight. These figures have been used for years and basically create a deficit of around 20% from maintenance. Whether you use the upper or lower end of that depends completely on context (e.g. activity levels, how fast you wish to lose fat/weight and much more).

The next most important aspect of a fat loss diet is setting your protein intake. One of the problems people face when dieting in a calorie deficit is that muscle mass is also lost. However some bright spark found that increasing dietary protein was the best way to limit body (muscle) protein loss. There are other reasons to increase protein intake which I will quickly mention and they are; protein is the most filling macronutrient and protein requires more energy to digest than both fat and carbohydrate. So, getting straight to the point of an appropriate guideline for protein intake… 1-1.5 grams/lb total body weight is a good standard to use. Leaner athletes should use the upper ends whilst more overweight/sedentary individuals should go towards the lower end. Very obese/sedentary individuals can go as low as 0.7 g/lb as increasing beyond that doesn’t show any physiological advantage.

Dietary fat is the next important factor for a number of reasons. Firstly it is important to hit your requirement for essential fatty acids w-3 and w-6, however this is a low amount which can easily be made, especially if supplementing with fish oil capsules. Secondly lowering dietary fat too far can be detrimental as it increases hunger, particularly between meals as dietary fat slows gastric (stomach) emptying, and ultimately reduces adherence to the diet. I recommend setting dietary fat at around 20-25% of calories. Meals containing 10-14 grams of fat are a good guideline however this changes depending upon meal frequency. Again context is important but this is a suitable generic guideline.

This brings us to ‘everything else’. Once you’ve set your calorie intake then by subtracting protein (4 cals/g) and fat (9 cals/g) you can work out what’s left for carbohydrates (4 cals/g). The bulk of your carb intake should surround any workouts performed and carb intake will change depending upon activity levels. However not all of these remaining calories have to go on carbs. If your diet that day takes you slightly higher on fats or proteins or you simply prefer or train better on a lower carb diet then that’s fine so long as you don’t go over you calorie target.

But there you have it, a basic starter for fat loss diets.

Starting a successful fat loss diet

Main Principles vs Minor Details when Dieting/Training

Whilst thinking about topics I’d like to write about I decided I may as well progress in a manner which I would like people to apply to their training/dieting, and perhaps even in life generally.

How often have you planned to do something and never got round to doing it because you’ve focused so hard on the small details – on making it perfect? I can relate to this wholeheartedly with my approach to dieting/training but also to many other projects I have taken on.

Bringing this back to dieting and training, many people spend so much time looking for the perfect diet strategy or training programme (which i may add does not exist – all approaches have pros and cons) to achieve their goal that they end up constantly changing their minds or end up doing nothing at all.

I will briefly add that the minor details may be important in some few athletes who are at such an advanced stage that they need the minor details to make further improvements – the main point being they are following the main principles very well already. However for the great majority of people, whether beginner or well trained individual, it is focusing on the main principles that will achieve the best results.

In summary starting a programme is better than doing nothing at all. Get the fundamental principles in order and go from there. Do not sacrifice the basics for minor details and you will be on your way to reaching your goals.

Main Principles vs Minor Details when Dieting/Training