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