Below you will find the essentials to Online Coaching to get you started straight away. If you’d like to read more information on each subject, to understand why we give these recommendations, feel free to click through to the individual pages.
This list of equipment is not exhaustive, nor is all of it essential. We've categorised our suggestions:
'Essential': things that you'll need daily / weekly to complete the coaching
'Optional': items that aren't strictly necessary but mind come in useful
You'll need one to take your weekly measurements for check-in.
We recommend this lightweight, reliable scale - very compact and great for travel as well as every day use.
You'll be tracking your intake, so you'll need some kitchen scales to weigh out a lot of your food.
If you don't have somebody to take your weekly check-in photos for you, it's worth investing in a tripod so that you're able to take consistent progress photos. This will also be useful should you need to film any of your training for feedback from us.
We find it's often handy to have your own at home in case you don't have time to stay at the gym to foam roll.
For tight spots and knots that are hard to reach with a foam roller.
An essential for warming up and assisted chin-ups / dips.
If you struggle to engage your glutes, including some activation drills incorporating a resistance band / hip circle is advisable.
The low resistance rubber variety are best for activation.
A fabric or one of the thicker rubber hip circles are much more durable and a great addition to hip thrust / glute bridge variations to increase glute engagement.
These are an option if you find yourself limited by your grip rather than your strength in deadlift variations and rowing / pulling movements.
Basic fabric straps come very cheap.
Versa Gripps are the best we've tried if you're willing to invest.
We can't personally vouch for these Versa Gripp dupes but they're a cheaper option.
Some people find straps intrusive and / or distracting. This aids grip without the extra fuss of straps, but is really only suitable for deadlifts rather than rowing / pulling movements, and you'll have to be wary of use in commercial gyms; they don't love the mess.
Travel-size is a bit more discrete, and easy to carry around.
Used properly, a belt will support your spine by making it more stable under heavy loads. This is because of the intra-abdominal pressure your abdominal muscles generate while pressing against the belt when you brace for a lift. This in turn enables you to squat / deadlift with more weight, because your spine is more stable.
Start off with a velcro-belt and learn how to effectively brace into that before investing in a leather belt.
This is a useful investment if you travel frequently or are often without a gym. It's surprisingly challenging and a more effective alternative than a bodyweight / resistance band circuit.
This is a vital part of our coaching and we would not achieve such great results with our clients if we didn't have this system in place. Your feedback allows us to modify your plan according to your needs, therefore ensuring that you continue making progress. The onus is on YOU to get this information over to us. We will not send out reminders or chase you.
On your check-in day we will need you to provide a summary of how the past week has been overall. Include any and all details you feel relevant, even if it falls outside of the headers outlined in the questionnaire.
Remember, this is a collaborative effort - your plan changes and evolves based on how your body responds. The more detailed the information you give us, the better we able we are to assess your progress and make the necessary adjustments to help you advance towards your goals.
Check-in day is Sunday
We will expect your check-in in our inbox before the end of the day, UK time.
Providing it is there by the end of the day, everything will be hunky-dory and we will respond to your check-in the following day with any feedback or adjustments.
If your check-in is late, our feedback will also be late as we have dedicated times to process and respond to check-ins.
If you can't check-in on the designated day for any reason, just let us know in advance. Usually it’s best to send over the check-in a day or two early for us to review when we process all check-ins.
If the check in is late, simply send it over when you can. Bear in mind however that it may take us longer to reply, due to our set check-in days.
Meal Timing & Distribution
Your meal timing will largely be dictated by your personal preference. You don't need to eat breakfast if you're not hungry and you CAN eat carbohydrates after 6pm, total calories and macros are much more important than the time you eat them.
There are, however, a few best practices that you should take into account if you can:
- Aim to have a serving of 30-40g of protein 3-5 times per day, spread throughout the day.
- Have your largest meals when your appetite is the highest.
- Try to position the majority (50-75%) of your carbohydrate intake in the meals pre and post-workout, when you are going to be the most active.
If you're injured, the most important thing is to not train through it, and let your coach know as soon as possible
There's no one-size-fits-all response regarding injuries - if you're unlucky enough to pick up an injury, we'll deal with it on a case-by-case basis.
Almost always, we'll prescribe additional rest day(s) in order to allow for recovery. If you're dieting whilst you get injured, we may also increase calories depending on the severity of the injury and on your situation.
If it's a relatively severe, long-term injury, we may also need to alter your programming on a longer-term basis.
If it's a temporary niggle rather than a long-term injury, we may adjust your training split, your exercise selection and / or your load in the short-term whilst you recover.
We use your measurements along with your progress photos to measure your progress. This is because the scale, though a reliable indicator of progress over the long-term, can be an unreliable short-term measure of progress. We can expect to see day-to-day fluctuations in your scale weight which are not reflective of your progress. As such, it's useful to have several metrics to indicate whether or not things are moving in the right direction.
You'll need to take your circumference measurements as follows each week to be recorded on the 'Measurements' tab of your Data Collection spreadsheet:
Measure around the widest point of your chest, arms, hips and thighs to achieve the most consistent results. Your waist should be measured at the smallest point.
Weigh-ins are just one variable we can measure and shouldn’t always be considered a true indication of progress. The way we like to do this is by evaluating daily trends over the week. Weigh yourself daily, nude, after you’ve been to the toilet (if you need to go!), before you eat or drink anything, right after waking up. This will give very consistent conditions under which we track your weight.
Don't worry about fluctuations in weight
The scale will fluctuate depending on fluids, sodium, carbohydrate intake, activity levels, and hormonal activity. Feel free to provide observations and thoughts, but don't stress the fluctuations, they are for us to interpret alongside the rest of the information you'll provide. Obviously, you will need to get a digital scale if you don't already have one. Log in your daily weigh-ins in the excel spreadsheet report.
Tracking your Intake
To track food, we recommend MyFitnessPal which is free to sign up for and use at www.myfitnesspal.com. The MyFitnessPal app is available to download for the majority of smartphones, which makes tracking easier and more convenient.
Make sure you use a digital food scale whenever possible to have control over your intake. We prefer to weigh rather than measure, as weight is far more accurate than volume, but it is entirely up to you how accurate you wish to be. The main point is that you are tracking accurately and controlling portion sizes. All food and drink containing calories should be tracked. This includes vegetables, oils, butter, and sauces. Weigh and track meat raw before you cook it whenever possible. There are no 'off-limits' foods - it's up to you to use your calorie allowance sensibly to ensure you're getting enough micronutrition and feeling adequately full.
We recommend you get at least 3-5 servings of fruit/veg per day. We recommend at least 90% of your intake is comprised of whole, unprocessed foods.
Be sure to TRIPLE check that the food you have tracked on MyFitnessPal matches the nutrition label as there are often multiple incorrect entries for each food.
- Use a food scale or other measuring devices (measuring cups, spoons etc.) if you have them, the more accurate the better.
- Include whether the food is cooked or raw.
- Record combination foods separately (e.g. hot dog, bun, mustard).
- For packaged items, use the label as a guide to determine quantities. For example, if you use half a tin of beans that is 400g, record it as 200g.
- Include ALL drinks.
- Include brands where possible
Here is a great resource for help with tracking on MyFitnessPal:
Each training block lasts for 6 weeks. After the final session on the 5th week there will be a link to fill out a training review.
This is your opportunity to feed back on the current training cycle and let us know your likes/dislikes as well as what you would like to include in your next training block.
We ask that this is completed BEFORE you start your last week of training as this will allow us a full week to write up your new training programme. If your training review is late, there will be a delay with your new training block and your current training block will be extended by a week to bridge the gap.
Google Sheets Help
If your app has crashed, try the following steps:
- Turn your phone off and on again.
- Clear your phones cache and make sure all other apps are closed.
- Uninstall then reinstall the app.
- Make sure your phone AND the app are updated to the latest version.
Warming up is essential to reduce the risk of injury and ensure maximum muscle engagement. Traditionally, warming up would be 5 minutes on the treadmill, which does a great job increasing blood flow and body temperature but nothing for engaging specific muscles. One of the best ways to warm up is simply to perform warm up sets; the same movements you will be doing but with lighter weights.
Note: Make sure you are performing warm up sets as if it was your working weight.
We would recommend performing at least 2 warm up sets for each exercise. The more technical the movement or heavier the weight, the more warm up sets you will likely have to do.
We want to make sure we are warming up enough but not to the point of fatigue. To mitigate this, we can reduce the amount of reps we do as we get closer to the working weight.
Here is an example, where 100kg for 6 reps is the working weight:
Notice how the closer you get to the working weight, the lower the reps and lower the jumps in weight. This is to make sure you are comfortable with the weight but not so much that it will affect your performance for the working sets. There is no right or wrong way nor a specific formula for warming up. You may find you need more warm up sets on certain movements than others to get in the "groove". Either way, make sure you are suitable warm and able to activate the required muscle for the movements before each exercise.
Progressive overload is required, regardless of your goal in order to progress. If you want to get better you need to be doing more (or be better) over time. Progressive overload can come in several forms:
- Doing more weight for the same reps
- Doing more reps with the same weight
- Doing more sets with the same weight and reps
- Performing a movement with better ROM or form
Here is an example:
They key really is to be better than you were before. When you first start out, progression is going to come pretty easily and pretty quickly, you’ll be able to progress in both weight and reps from session to session.
Over the course of a training career the time it takes to progress will increase. It will go from every session to every week to every month to every training cycle (6-12 weeks) and potentially even longer than that after a good few years of lifting.
Double Progression Model
The Double Progression Model is named as such because you are progressing via either reps or weight. It is the simplest and most effective form of progression, particularly in the beginner stages of a programme. You should use this progression model for as long as possible.
Here is an example of a Double Progression Model in the 6-8 rep range:
Notice how once you get to the top of the rep range, 8 in this example, the following week you increase the weight and start at the bottom of the rep range again.
You may only be able to increase by 1 rep on 1 set, as long as you are doing more than previous weeks then you are still making progress.
Intermediate Progression Model
Once you have exhausted the above progression model you can move on to the intermediate progression model. Progress is much slower but you are still progressing week on week. You should look to implement this on barbell exercises that are becoming more difficult to progress such as barbell pressing, barbell rowing, deadlifting and squatting. In the Intermediate Progressions model, there is an inverse relationship between weight and reps meaning as the weight increases, the reps decrease.
As the weeks progress, you want to increase weight by the smallest increment and dropping a rep.
Once you reach the bottom of the rep range, you’ll then want to drop the weight and increase the reps back up in the opposite fashion.
In this example, you’ll see that in Week 4, you’re doing the same weight in Week 2, but for an extra rep and similar when looking at Week 5 compared to Week 3. It is more like a wave of progress as opposed to linear.
Here is an example of an Intermediate Progression Model using the 6-8 rep range:
The first rule of rest times is to allow yourself enough rest in order to perform the exercise at the required intensity.
In other words, if you take too short a rest and it begins to affect your performance, then it may be worthwhile taking slightly longer.
Rest times should typically be determined by 3 things:
- The technicality and overall fatigue of an exercise.
- The rep ranges you are working with.
- The amount of time you have to train.
Starting with the first, the more technical an exercise and more overall fatigue it produces on the body, the longer your rest times should be. Examples of this would be big compound movements such as:
- Olympic Lifts
These movements require a lot more muscle activation and cause a greater stress on the body, so for these exercises we typically recommend anywhere from 2-5 minutes’ rest.
Isolation exercises on the other hand will cause a lot less fatigue so will typically require less rest. We recommend anywhere from 30-90 seconds’ rest.
Another point to consider is the rep range you are working with. Typically, lower rep ranges (thus higher intensity work) will require longer rest times. This is due to the muscle fibres and energy systems being used.
Think of it like a marathon runner and a sprinter. A marathon runner is able to sustain a moderate pace for a long period of time, similar to higher rep training. Compared to a sprinter that is going all out for a shorter period of time. In order for them to perform the same again, they will need more rest.
Lastly, and possibly most importantly, your rest times will likely be dictated by how much time you have to train. Ideally you would stick to the recommendations above but life is not always ideal in which case you need to take as much rest as you can.
No matter what rest times you are able to do or prefer to do, try to keep them consistent each workout. You don’t need to get anal about it but the difference between 1 minute one week and 5 minutes the next is going to make a huge difference to performance and may skew your progress.
For your convenience, you have recommended rest times for each exercise on your Training Spreadsheet. This should be used as a guide - if you need to take longer rest times in order to sustain performance across all sets, then do so. If you need significantly less rest than we've recommended, then it might be the case that the intensity is too low, and you could push yourself a little harder.
A super set refers to exercises that are performed one after the other, often in an attempt to either save time or get more work done within a session.
Supersets are programmed for you when suitable and are usually exercises that don’t overlap and are ANTAGNOIST exercises. This means that they are opposite muscle groups. Here are some examples:
- Chest & Back
- Quads & Hamstrings
- Biceps & Triceps
If you find it difficult to compete programmed supersets for whatever reason (equipment location, business of the gym) then feel free to ignore the supersets and perform straight sets instead. Just make sure you stick with either supersets or straight sets for the duration of the programme to ensure consistent performance.
Super sets can be performed a few ways.
- No rest:
2. Rest between sets:
3. Rest between exercises:
We would, however, discourage you from supersetting some of the larger, more technical exercises such as squats and deadlifts as there is too much muscle overlap which will affect performance.
Drop sets are sets that are often taken to failure after the programmed working sets have been completed. Drop sets will be programmed for you with appropriate exercises.
The way you would perform a drop set is to complete your programmed working sets then as soon as you finish the final working set, you drop the weight by an arbitrary amount and try to complete as many reps as possible. You will repeat this process 2-3 times, dropping the weight each time.
Training to failure and incorporating drop sets has been shown in some research to be beneficial. However, this comes with the caveat that it may affect future training sessions. If you are training to failure to regularly, it could cause so much damage that subsequent sessions are affected.
Let's say you were to perform a drop set on leg extensions and had squats the following day. If you cause too much damage on your quads by drop setting, you could potentially affect the performance of your squats which could arguably be more beneficial for strength and physique/figure development.
If you feel you are able to adequately recover from drop sets then by all means go ahead, but make sure you are tracking the affect it has, is any, on subsequent sessions.
Drop Sets should only be performed at the END of the workout using isolation exercises, some examples being:
- Bicep Curls
- Chest Flys
- Calf Raises
- Leg Extensions
- Leg Curls
Where super sets are 2 exercises, giant sets are 3 or more exercises and thus have a lot of similarities to supersets in terms of considerations / caveats. There are typically only a few combinations we would recommend using as a giant set which are:
- Bicep Isolation, Tricep Isolation, Shoulder Isolation
- Quad Isolation, Hamstring Isolation, Calves, Abs
Again, this biggest consideration when implementing Giant Sets is muscle overlap and fatigue. Even in the first combination, you may find your shoulders fatigue very quickly as they are used to a minor degree in bicep and tricep exercises for stabilisation.
We will indicate which, if any, movements are appropriate for a Giant Set. If you decide to use Giant Sets for other exercises, make sure you are:
A.) Only using Giant Sets for your isolations (NOT your compound movements like squats, deadlifts etc).
B.) Either doing them every week OR on the odd occasion when you are pushed for time to keep performance consistent.
Unless otherwise specified, tempo should remain consistent across exercises. Whilst many will give time recommendations such as 3 seconds down, 2 seconds up etc. we’re not convinced having to count whilst you are performing reps is going to allow you to put all your effort into lifting the weight.
Instead, when you are lifting the weight with gravity, you should do so in a controlled manner. This is also known as the eccentric portion of the lift. When you are lifting the weight against gravity, you should also lift in a controlled manner but with as much force as possible. This is known as the concentric portion of the lift.
Cardio: HIIT vs LISS
With regard to cardio in your programme, unless otherwise stated the method you choose is up to you and will depend on personal preference and/or time availability.
HIIT burns calories in a shorter time frame, so may be appropriate if you are time-poor.
LISS takes longer to burn calories, but is less taxing thus easier to recover from.
Cardio: Tracking Calories Burned
You can either use the calorie calculator on the machine you are using, a fitness watch or an online calculator. MyFitnessPal has an online calculator which allows you to search for the type of exercise and enter the minutes performed:
You can then transfer this data into the cardio column on your spreadsheet.
There are many other online calculators too that you may prefer which is fine, all of which may be a little inaccurate - this is fine, it's what we call a consistent inconsistency. Just make sure you are staying consistent with whatever you use to track calories burned.
When writing your training programme, we are giving you what we believe to be the best exercises for your development.
However, there may be instances whereby you may not be able to perform an exercise, whether that be through injury, lack of equipment or you simply don’t like the exercise.
We’ve given you the option to change an exercise “like for like” on the spreadsheet using drop down boxes as seen below. Please bear in mind this should only be changed before you start the programme.
If you need to change an exercise in the middle of your training block then let us know but other than that, you should be performing the same exercises for the duration of the 6 week block.
Cardio: spacing it throughout the week
Unless otherwise specified, we have given you a cardio requirement to complete for the week - it's up to you how you split this up throughout the week.
We typically recommend keeping cardio sessions between 100-500 calories if possible. Less than 100 calories and you're hardly breaking a sweat, more than 500 calories and you have the potential of causing a lot of stress to your body which may affect subsequent resistance training sessions.
Some people will prefer to do cardio little and often, others will prefer to burn more calories per session and do less sessions. Whichever you choose is entirely up to you - you may want to experiment with both and see which you prefer. As long as you are burning the required calories by the end of the week.
Obviously there are going to be certain sports or events that will require you to burn more calories than this such as football or training for a specific run or event. If this is the case then just be aware that you will need to manage recovery a little better and make sure to modify your training around when you feel fresh.
Cardio: when to do it
Cardio should ideally not be performed directly before a resistance training session. It's much easier to muddle through cardio after you've hit the weights but much harder to do it the other way around, at least not without significantly affecting training performance.
For most people, completing cardio immediately after resistance training allows for the greatest efficiency as you simply need to extend your workouts as opposed to having separate cardio sessions. However, if you find it more manageable to split up cardio and resistance training sessions then by all means.
There is currently no evidence to suggest that fasted (empty stomach) is any more beneficial than fed (eating before) cardio.
The theory behind the idea that fasted is superior to fed cardio is that because you are in a fasted state, you will burn more fat for energy compared to eating before. What actually matters is fat oxidation over a longer period (24 hours, 7 days etc). In other words, just because you’re burning more stored fat during 30 mins of fasted cardio, doesn’t mean you burn more fat over a longer period. You will perhaps in that short window, but it's still calories in vs calories out, and it evens out over the course of the day.
A 2018 pilot study actually showed ingestion of protein prior to cardio go increase post-exercise energy expenditure, and saw no significant differences in fat oxidation compared to not eating anything at all.
However, some people simply prefer doing cardio as soon as they wake up, which is fine. If your goal is to get to extreme levels of conditioning and/or maximise muscle retention, we'd recommend having some form of protein before or during in the form of a protein shake or BCAA's. If not, make sure to eat soon after.
High-Rep vs. Low-Rep
From a hypertrophy (muscle building) standpoint: providing total volume is matched, your results will be similar performing both high and low reps.
However, if strength is the goal, performing low reps does typically improve overall strength more so than higher reps.
If your goal is pure hypertrophy, you should do the rep ranges that you enjoy the most and allow you to work to your maximum capacity. For all round strength and physique improvement then a mix of lower and higher reps is usually best, which is what we suggest for most people.
Rest Time Between Training Days
The only thing we typically recommend it to not train muscle groups back to back. So don’t do a chest workout the day after doing a chest workout.
Now bear in mind there is always going to be some overlap; deadlifts work your upper back but that doesn’t mean you can’t train your upper back the next day. we’d just avoid train the muscle groups directly one day after the other.
We’d also recommend splitting the week up if possible. For example, if you have a 4 day per week programme, don’t do all 4 days in a row. Some weeks you may have to in order complete your programmed sessions - in which case, go ahead - but avoid it where possible in order to allow adequate recovery between sessions, which this in turn allows for better training performance.
Strength / Muscle Imbalances
One of the greatest benefits of unilateral training (one side) is that it allows you to work on muscle imbalances and strength imbalances (which are very common and totally normal).
We recommend starting with the weaker side first, allowing your weaker side to dictate the weight / reps.
For example, if you were doing a lunge and you could lift 8kg on your left side but 10kg on your right side. You would use 8kg until you are ready to increase the weight on both sides.
Same with reps - if you can complete 8 on your left but 10 on your right - complete the same number of reps each side until your weak side catches up.
Training when Unwell
Our general rule-of-thumb is that if it's an illness from the neck-down - don't train until you're feeling recovered.
If you feel completely run down then your intuition should be telling you anyway that you need to skip the gym or any sort of training in favour of rest. Your body will be using all of its resources to fight the virus/illness so you don’t want to do anything to disrupt that. If you try to push through, more often than not you hamper recovery and end up being unwell for longer - which results in longer spent not training effectively, if at all.
How do you know when you're well enough to train again?
If you’re unsure whether you're ready to train again post-illness the best thing to do is go into the gym, warm up and do your first working set. If it feels okay then carry on. If it feels unusually difficult then call it a day and perhaps utilise that time to do some stretching or foam rolling, knowing that you're not quite ready yet to get back to training. Give it another day or so and try again.
Muscle Soreness and Heavy Weigh-ins
A high weigh in following a tough training session is caused by an increase in water retention caused by muscle damage/trauma.
When you train hard, you’re effectively breaking down muscle tissue and creating swelling. If you’ve ever sprained your wrist or ankle you would have seen the amount of swelling caused. This swelling is usually created by an increase in blood flow to the area to aid in repair. Blood is mostly made of water, so after a hard training session, whilst you may have burnt calories, the increased water retention will mask any fat loss (if fat loss is your goal).
Eating back calories burned during cardio
If you’re using MyFitnessPal as your tracking app for both training and nutrition then you’ll see that when you add in exercise, it will automatically add extra calories to your day.
This makes no sense to us unless you are looking to maintain your weight.
If you are looking to lose weight, the cardio we have prescribed will be factored in to your weekly calorie deficit so don’t be tempted to eat back those extra calories on MyFitnessPal, just stick to the calories/macros which have been set for you.
By all means use the MyFitnessPal exercise calculator to calculate your calorie burn but don’t actually track it on MyFitnessPal, track it on your spreadsheet.
Hitting your macros
The best way we’ve found to describe hitting your nutritional targets is to think of it as like a budget but for your food. You have a set allowance each day to “spend” on food and that is largely up to you but the last thing you want is to be IN DEBT!
The majority of your intake should be made up of whole, unprocessed foods. Think Animal proteins, fresh fruit and vegetables. However, there should also be some discretionary calories to allow for treats and goodies too. In the same way that the majority of your income is going to go on a mortgage, rent, bills and necessities, you will also spend some of your money on things you WANT to buy.
Here is an example of how you should be spending your calories:
You’ll then have to break it down even further into protein carbs and fats.
If you’ve never tracked your food intake before, it may take a little while to hit your targets exactly but we’ll get more onto that later. As long as you know which foods are high in their corresponding macronutrients you shouldn’t go far wrong and be able to create a good base for your daily food intake and get relatively close to your targets.
Sources of Protein
This is not an extensive or DO/DON’T eat foods list but simply to give you an idea of what foods you could eat to hit your macronutrient targets:
Sources of Carbohydrate
This is not an extensive or DO/DON’T eat foods list but simply to give you an idea of what foods you could eat to hit your macronutrient targets:
Sources of Fat
This is not an extensive or DO/DON’T eat foods list but simply to give you an idea of what foods you could eat to hit your macronutrient targets:
Food Volume / Calorie Density
Something to consider for both fat loss and muscle gain is calorie density and food volume. 100g of peanut butter is A LOT more calories than 100g of tomatoes, for example.
For those seeking fat loss, you will be doing yourself a favour by seeking out foods that offer a low calorie per gram. Conversely, if your goal is muscle gain and you struggle to eat enough food, you’ll want to seek out foods that offer a higher amount of calories per gram.
Good / In Moderation / Limit Intake
|Low Calorie Density||High Calorie Density|
|High Nutrient Density||Vegetables
Natural Dairy Products
Fattier Cuts of Meat/Fish
|Low Nutrient Density||Low Fat Dairy
Sugar Free Jelly
We love eating out, at least 3-4 times a month, even when we’re dieting.
Eating out can massively hinder your progress if you’re not careful but there are several ways you mitigate the damage and allow for meals out and social events.
There is one thing we like to remind people, particularly when you aren’t able to prepare your food:
Chefs don’t care about your fitness goals
Unless it is a very specific health food restaurant who go out their way to list the nutritional information (and even then there is going to be some disparity) most chefs don’t care about how much oil they are putting in a pan or dressing they are putting on your food. All they care about is that the food tastes good and you are leaving satisfied which often means loading up your food with calorie dense dressings, oils and butters.
Yes, even if you ask for food without, there will likely still be some in there somewhere!
Here are a few ways you can approach eating out. Whatever you choose, the accuracy still won’t be 100% and the method you choose will largely depend on your goal and margin for error. A bikini or physique competitor will need to be more careful then somebody who has a lot more weight to lose and / or isn't looking to get competition lean.
Choose “Trackable” Restaurants
There are several chain restaurants that list the calories and macronutrients on their website and MyFitnessPal. Whilst they aren’t going to be as accurate as tracking the food you make, they offer a rough ballpark figure. Even so, we would recommend coming in the lower end of your targets for the day when you are eating out to allow for a margin of error on the restaurants part. Here are just a few examples:
- Pizza Express
- Ask Italian
We’d recommend taking a look at the menu, tracking the food you are planning on eating in advance and working the rest of the day around that. If you do it the other way round you may potentially overshoot your calories. Remember you can borrow calories from the days subsequent / prior to allow for a higher-calorie day if need be.
When we're eating out and looking to be accurate, we usually suggest adding 10-20% on what you think it might be, to allow for extra oil, miscalculation or varying portion sizes.
As mentioned above, probably not suitable for those who have extreme goals but every now and then, you may be in a situation whereby the nutritional information isn’t available to you. In this circumstance, with prior experience, you can “guesstimate” the calories/macros for the food you ate. There are a couple of ways of doing this:
More Accurate: You could track the food and guess the weight in MyFitnessPal
For example, you could go out for a steak then track a steak in MyFitnessPal and roughly guess what you think the weight and calories/macros were. You can do this for all the food/drinks you eat.
Less Accurate: You could track an arbitrary number for the entire meal
For example, you may look at a plate and guess the whole plate as being roughly 50g Protein, 100g Carbs and 30g Fat. You can enter these into MyFitnessPal by searching for the corresponding macronutrients.
Either way, this isn’t the most accurate way of doing things and should ideally be reserved for times when fat loss isn’t the goal or situations where there are no other options. It is however, better than not tracking at all as it at least vies us some data to work with. Even if you are out be a few hundred calories, it’s better to know a rough ballpark figure than wondering whether you ate 100 calories over or 1000!
Not Track At All
There are going to be times when you simply don’t want to track. Be it because you have been in a fat loss phase for a long time, you are at a special event that is food orientated or you are simply fed up.
This is definitely an option providing you understand the consequences. You may stall or even reverse fat loss if fat loss is your goal and you may put on unwanted extra body fat if muscle gain is your goal.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with not tracking and we will not make you feel guilty. There are times in life where tracking is simply not necessary or not appropriate!
Studies have shown that even registered dietitians, when being monitored, still don’t track 100% accurately. It is absolutely essential that at every opportunity you track with as much accuracy as possible.
We cannot stress enough, if you don’t track accurately, you will not see results.
You may hear stories of people eating 800-1000 calories a day and still not losing weight. That’s because they are almost definitely not eating 800-1000 calories a day!
Every study that has ever been conducted, whereby food was weighed, measured and controlled and given to subjects with the intention of creating a caloric deficit lost weight. End of.
If you are not seeing results, we either need to make a change or review your tracking accuracy.
There are a tonne of reasons you can expect to see day-to-day weight fluctuations, the most common of which we've listed below.
Remember your weigh-ins are to give us an idea of patterns over time - it's the averages, not the day in isolation that we're looking at.
If, having read the below, you think you're likely to see a high weigh-in and that's likely to bother you - don't worry about weighing in. If it's going to negatively impact your mood, we'd rather you skip weighing in until you're likely to get a 'true' reading.
Note: ideally we'd love 4+ weigh-ins per week to give us data to work with, but please discuss with your coach if you have concerns about this.
Most commonly found in table salt, sodium is an important mineral and electrolyte that helps to maintain water balance within cells as well as the function of nerve impulses and muscles in the body. This is why, when you cramp, it’s usually because your electrolyte balance is out of whack.
Sodium’s function also explains why it may affect your scale weight. If you’ve ever had a really salty meal (or gone a bit mad with the soy sauce), it will more than likely cause you to hold on to more water a.k.a water retention, which will reflect on the scales the next day.
Remember that most restaurant food is fairly salty, so you can expect a higher weigh-in after a meal out even if your calories were in-check.
Glycogen is the storage form of carbohydrates within the liver and muscle cells. The more carbohydrates you eat, the more glycogen your body will store.
Glycogen molecules are also bound to 3-4 parts water, meaning for every 1g of stored carbohydrate, your body will also store 3-4g water.
To put it into more simple terms:
More carbohydrates = More glycogen storage = More water storage = More weight.
So as with sodium, if you find yourself having a particularly carb heavy day or carb heavy meal, unless your body burns the carbs off straight away, you’ll be holding on to more water.
This also explains why many people see rapid weight loss in the initial phase of fad diets. As you are eating less carbs, you’ll be depleting your glycogen stores and thus depleting water stores.
Life stress is inevitable; arguments with the other half, pressure at work, taking kids to school and having to pay the bills …. Oh and having to find time to go to the gym 3-4 times a week too. Couple that with a calorie restricted diet and your stress levels will more than likely be through the roof.
High stress leads to high cortisol (stress hormone) and high cortisol has the potential to cause water retention and mask fat loss.
Cortisol isn’t all bad and is in fact necessary for many metabolic processes, it’s when cortisol is too high for too long that it can become an issue and result in a “puffy” look.
Most of the time this is only short term and it’s usually best to just wait it out but for those of you with very high stress levels, on low calories, doing a ton of exercise and still not losing weight, it may be the cortisol and may be worth taking a little break.
Note: As cortisol is so difficult to track, many people use it as an excuse for not losing weight. They use cortisol as an excuse for their lack of effort or 'secret eating'. Make sure you’re being honest with yourself before you blame the cortisol and stress!
Have you ever done a really intense workout and woken up heavier the next day? You’d think with the amount of calories you burnt you’d wake up lighter, right?
Not always the case, and it’s mainly down to the inflammation caused by such a hard workout.
When you train, you’re breaking down muscle fibres which need to be repaired. During this process your muscles become swollen and inflamed as blood rushes to the area carrying nutrients. What is blood mostly made up of? Water. Thus causing localised water retention in the muscles which can cause a temporary increase in weight.
To put it into perspective, remember a time when you’ve fallen over and sprained your ankle or wrist and it blows up like a balloon. This is inflammation and is similar to what happens to your muscles when you train.
Food volume refers to the amount of food you are eating, in terms of size and weight. If you find your weight has gone up or down, ask yourself how much physical food you actually consumed.
200 calories of Kiwi looks very different to 200 calories of peanut butter:
What’s going to fill you up more?
As Kiwi (and fruits/vegetables in general) contain a lot of water, for the same amount of calories as peanut butter, it weighs a lot more. So if you switch from eating high calorie, low volume foods such as peanut butter to low calorie, high volume foods such as lettuce, you may notice that your weight stays the same, more so due to the weight of the food itself.
You could easily fill your daily calorie allowance with just 500g of food OR 5kg of food and this will change on a daily basis.
The same goes for liquid calories and why many liquid and “shake” diets are successful. You are not only massively reducing your calorie intake but also massively reducing the amount of food passing through your gut which can easily reduce your weight by a few pounds.
Note: Providing you are eating the right amounts, don’t avoid low calorie, high volume foods for fear of weight gain. Food volume is just something to consider if you notice a significant weight gain or weight loss.
Following on from food volume and somewhat related, fibre also has the ability to dictate how fast food passes through the gut as different types of fibre speed it up or slow it down.
Insoluble fibre such as celery, cucumber, broccoli and many other dark leafy vegetables add bulk to the stool and helps food to move faster through the digestive system.
Soluble fibre from foods such as oats, beans, lentils and psyllium husks slows gastric emptying by absorbing water and forming a gel.
Soluble fibre is great for helping you feel full on a diet and highly recommended for gut health but big fluctuations in fibre intake and/or fibre type can translate to the scales the next day.
If you usually finish eating at 7pm but end up eating at 10pm one night, you're likely going to observe a higher weigh-in the following morning.
This is because the food is still in your gut - and that weighs something!
This makes no difference to body composition - just something to bear in mind if you decide to switch your meal timings either as a one-off or permanently.
Needless to say, this applies to our female clients only.
It's common to see scale weight fluctuate around your cycle - generally in the week leading to and the week of. Individual response varies wildly - some will observe absolutely no difference, others will deal with water retention leading to significantly higher weigh-ins (we've seen as much as 5lbs!). It's important that you realise that provided your intake is as it should be, any scale increase you might see is a result of water, not fat. The best thing is to ride the wave, wait patiently for the water to drop off once your period has finished, and for us to monitor the patterns so that we can predict fluctuations and take them in our stride (as irritating as they may be!)
In very simple terms, increased creatine will “suck” water into the muscles and this is exactly why you may have heard the horror stories of creatine causing water retention.
Yes, it absolutely does but in the muscle cell, which is a good thing for those looking to maximise muscle size and strength.
Weight can jump up by as much as 2-3kg whilst supplementing with creatine but will soon flat line providing you are supplementing regularly.
Note: Only applicable to those who have been prescribed a refeed day.
What is a refeed day?
A question we’re often asked. Technically, a refeed day is a day, typically at or around maintenance calories, that is utilised during fat loss phases to help reduce some of the effects of dieting.
If you've ever been through a fat loss phase you will already be aware of these effects: lack of energy, reduced training performance and hunger.
Traditionally, refeed days are a day of extra carbohydrates (and calories) which help to mitigate some of these effects, if only for a short while. The reason that we typically only increase carbohydrates is that these are going to have the largest acute impact on the effects of dieting. As carbohydrates are our bodies preferred source of energy, they will not only give you more instant energy but also improve performance for a short while. We usually recommend people have a refeed on the day of or the day before their hardest weights session for this very reason.
Think of it as a mental and physical min-break from dieting. You'll be able to eat a bit more food, fit in a few more treats into your diet and be able to go out for social events with a few more calories to spare.
What should I eat to hit my carbohydrate target?
It's likely that you've gotten into a bit of a routine of hitting your targets during the week before you're thrown off with an extra 100g of carbohydrates. The easy way to tackle this would be to have carbohydrate rich foods with minimal protein and fat such as rice, potatoes, cereals, juices etc. but we appreciate that's not always viable.
We always recommend tracking refeed days in advance if you can so you know roughly what you are going to eat and can hit your targets relatively accurately.
What if I overshoot my protein or fats?
Ideally, you'd hit your targets as instructed but in some occasions (particularly social events) this may not be possible, in which case protein and calories are the most important. As long as you are hitting your protein target as a minimum and hitting your calorie target then you're all good. If that means overshooting on your protein and fats then that's fine, you'll just need to eat a few less carbs.
Do I have to have a refeed day?
If you would prefer a linear intake (same intake every week) then that's totally cool to. Some people prefer it this way as they can get into a routine, whereas others prefer a day of a bit more food. Whatever your preference just let us know, there is no right or wrong way and both ways work!
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram but is metabolised differently in the body. Alcohol can't actually be converted to fat but because the body sees it as a toxin - as such, we we have no capacity to store alcohol. Instead, it is utilised as energy before any of the other macronutrients. In other words, your body priorities burning off alcohol in place of the other macronutrients. Alcohol will be used as energy before protein, carbs or fats.
With that being said, the rule of thermodynamics still applies so providing you aren't overshooting your calorie targets and still getting in your protein, essential fats and other micronutrients, you can still get away with having alcohol. Bear in mind though that alcohol does have negative effects on muscle protein synthesis, hydration status and performance. It's probably worth not making it a very frequent habit.
However, if you do plan on having a few drinks, here's how you would go about it:
- Roughly calculate how much alcohol you will drink (or better yet "limit" yourself to a certain amount) and work out how many calories this equates to.
- Take those calories away from your daily carbohydrate target and/or fat target, but make sure not to go below 20% of your calories from fat.
- Make sure you are hitting your protein and calorie targets for the day.
You’ll notice that carbohydrates take the biggest hit as protein and fats are more essential for the body but in order to not drop carbs too low, a little bit has been taken from fat too. This way you are still able to hit protein and calorie targets but are simply taking the alcohol calories away from the carbohydrates and/or fats.
If you are going on a complete bender then we would simply recommend trying to have as few carbs as possible that day (whilst still getting in some fruit and veg) and not dropping fat too low.
What if I go over my expected alcohol amount?
It's with all good intentions that we go out and calculate exactly what we're going to drink but hey, we all know what alcohol does to us. What started as a couple of vodka sodas can quickly turn into a round of jaeger bombs and a jug of mojito.
Hopefully, you would have allowed a good chunk of calories from carbs and fats to allow for any overindulgence but if you didn't, simply take it off the next day(s).
Meal Frequency and Macro Distribution
It is a common misconception that eating little and often increases your metabolism. Several studies have shown that the frequency (how often) and quantity (how much) of your meals makes an insignificant difference. Therefore, the meal frequency and quantity you choose should be dependent on personal preference.
Just bear in mind how meal frequency is going to affect overall hunger and satiety. For example, if your goal is fat loss and you are eating 6 meals a day, they are likely going to be very small meals. You may actually be better off reducing your meal frequency to 3/4 meals a day so that each meal is slightly larger and therefore likely to leave you more satisfied.
On the flip side, if your goal is weight gain and you are only eating 2/3 meals per day, you may find it difficult to eat the calories required in each meal because you'll get full too quickly. In this case, you may actually want to increase your meal frequency so you are able to eat smaller and more manageable meals.
New research is emerging that suggests that whilst total daily protein intake is still the most important, spreading protein evenly throughout the day may be more beneficial by maximising muscle protein synthesis. Think of it like "switching on" muscle repair and rebuild, multiple times per day.
In simple terms, aim for 30-40g of protein 3-5 times per day. Make sure you are getting a significant source of protein at breakfast, lunch and dinner and you should be set!
Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred source of energy, meaning it is easily accessible and the most likely to be used during exercise. Therefore, it makes sense to sandwich (no pun intended!) our training sessions with carbohydrates, making sure we get a good bulk of our intake around when we are the most active.
We typically recommend at least 50% of your daily intake to be in the 1-2 hours pre and post-exercise.
There is currently little evidence regarding fat distribution and what may or may not be best so our typical recommendation would be to either spread fat evenly throughout the day or have it in the meals that are lower in carbs to balance out calories and improve satiety.
When you eat carbohydrates, a couple of things happen: they are either stored as glycogen within the muscles or float around the bloodstream ready to be used for instant energy.
When you weight train, you will be using both the carbohydrates in the bloodstream and glycogen from the muscles you are working so it's important that we try and replenish that glycogen as much as possible before your next training session.
It is often touted that we need to have a large dose of carbohydrates after our workout in order to replenish glycogen as soon as possible. This isn't necessarily bad practice but ask yourself: why does it need to be replenished so quickly?
Typically , t people have at least 24 hours between their resistance training sessions so providing you are hitting your daily intake, you should adequately refill glycogen stores before your next training session.
The only time when we would recommend people make an active effort to have a good amount of carbs post workout is if they are training twice a day and need to replenish glycogen stores quickly OR they are training late at night and again early in the morning in which case it may be with having a good dose of carbs directly after your workouts.
If your training is relatively spread out though, it won't make a huge difference.
That being said, having carbohydrates pre and post training isn't going to be bad practice as your training will most likely be glycolytic (using carbs), you just don't need to worry about having a huge chunk - 25-40% of your total daily intake should suffice. If you want to have all of your carbs post training though, that's fine too! Just because you don't HAVE to do something, doesn't mean you can't.
Foods to avoid?
If you are intolerant to any foods or find that particular foods cause you to feel uncomfortable or ill, it goes without saying that those items are best avoided - you'll know what those are better than us.
Providing you follow the guidelines above, eating mostly whole foods, then the rest of your calories can come from whatever you like!
Yes, even chocolate.
Hitting your fibre intake
Fibre intake is very important to maintain a healthy digestive system but there are a couple of things you need to consider.
Firstly, you can have too little AND too much fibre. Too little and you will suffer symptoms such as cramps, constipation and bloating.
Too much and you may find yourself bloated and gassy with a similar bloated feeling (think food baby!)
Based on research, we typically recommend a minimum of 14g of fibre per 1000 calories but for ease, your recommended fiber intake based on your calories is already detailed on your Data Collection. There isn't really much research out there regarding a maximum intake as it can be quite individual but if you do find yourself suffering from the symptoms above that correlate with a much higher fibre intake than usual, then it may be worth reducing it.
If you are adjusting your fiber intake, slowly does it - don't rapidly increase or decrease your intake, tweak in gradually (5g at a time or thereabouts) to avoid an aggressive digestive reaction!
Secondly, you should note that there are 2 types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre is digestible and increases water content in the intestines to give the stool a softer texture. Insoluble fibre, on the other hand, is not digestible, these help to "bulk up" the stool and allow you to pass more regularly.
In an ideal world, you will get a mix of both which is why we recommend a balanced diet with plenty of variety of whole foods. Here are some examples of each:
Soluble Fibre Sources:
Root vegetables (carrots, potatoes etc.)
Insoluble Fibre Sources:
Skins of fruit and vegetables
Calories and Macros not adding up
Each macronutrient has a caloric value. Protein and carbohydrates both have 4 calories per gram whilst fat has 9 calories per gram.
The formula on your Data Collection will calculate the total calories based on the amount of grams of each macronutrient you have. For example, if you have 200g of protein the spreadsheet will calculate 200x4 to get 800 calories.
However, there are a few reasons why the calories may be different compared to MyFitnessPal.
1. The calories on the nutrition label don't add up.
This is often either because fibre calories aren't included or simply a rounding up/down to get a round number. Here is an example of a Quest bar:
If you were to add up the macronutrients you would get:
Fat 7g = 7x9 = 63 kcals
Carbohydrate 22g = 22x4 = 88 kcals
Protein 21g = 21x4 = 84 kcals
Total = 235 kcals
This is 55 MORE than the 180 calories listed on the bar. This is due to the fact that the calories from fibre either haven't been counted or only partially been counted. There are different rules for US and UK products so nutrition labels will vary. Because of this, we typically recommend aiming for your macros rather than total calories on MyFitnessPal.
2. The data on MFP has been entered incorrectly
One of the best things about MyFitnessPal is its vast database and ability to add your own foods. This means there is an endless amount of choice and near enough every food on the market is in the database. However, its biggest positive is also its biggest downfall. Because the majority of the data is user submitted (meaning Joe Bloggs can enter into the database) a lot of the entries have been put in incorrectly. This could be missing data or misinformation altogether.
Make sure you are double and triple checking data against nutrition labels or against other entries on the database to ensure you're not being tripped up and missing your targets due to mis-tracking on Myfitnesspal.
Overshooting your macros
Going over/under macros/calories is quite common and it's important when this happens that you consider the bigger picture.
Our bodies don't work on a 24-hour clock. If you go over/under macros, you can always make up for it the next day or the subsequent days. Let’s say you overshot your fat intake by 20g - you could make up for it over the next few day(s) as follows:
1 day = -20g fat
2 days = -10g fat each day
4 days = -5g fat each day
As long as you are rectifying it over the subsequent days and coming to an average for the week then this one-off overshooting will not make a discernible difference to your results.
Alternatively, if you moderately overshoot your fat, you can undershoot your carb intake and vice versa to hit your protein and calories as follows:
+10g fat = -23g carbs
+15g carbs = -7g fat
Bulking vs. Cutting
To clarify: the word "bulk" is refers to muscle gain and "cut" refers to fat loss. In most cases, we recommend people "cut" first then "bulk" after, for a couple of reasons:
- The leaner you are, the leaner you will stay and more likely it is that any weight gained will be muscle. This is down to something called nutrient partitioning. The easiest way to explain this is like a gravitational pull. When you are leaner and have more muscle, the food you eat is more likely to be stored as energy within the muscles. Similarly, when you have more fat, the food you eat is more likely to be stored as fat in the fat cells. This is very oversimplified but one of the main reasons leaner people STAY lean and fatter people get, well.... fatter (for want of a better term)
- It's easier to see progress and weight distribution. If you are carrying more fat and you put on weight, it's much more difficult to see whether that extra weight is going on as muscle or fat. If you have little definition, you'll simply get 'bigger' without knowing exactly what tissue you are adding, muscle or adipose (fat). Whereas, when you are leaner and have good (visible) muscle definition, you can physically see when you start to lose definition. A small amount of fat gain are inevitable when looking to build muscle but you will have a much better idea of the magnitude of each when you are leaner. If you notice a disproportionate amount of fat is being gained then you can make immediate adjustments.
Carbs after dark?
No - there is no cut-off time for carbohydrates.
When you eat carbohydrates, they are either used instantly or stored within the muscles or liver as glycogen. If you eat carbohydrates at night, they will typically be stored in the muscles as glycogen to be used the next time you are active. It is only during times of extreme calorie surplus that carbohydrates are converted to fat.
How much protein powder is too much?
Protein Powder is an excellent and relatively inexpensive source of protein.
Most are derived from dairy and have higher biological values than some less processed protein sources.
We would recommend consuming a variety of protein sources, as different protein sources have varying amino acid profiles, but for the most part, there is no minimum or maximum we would recommend for protein powder.
It's entirely context dependent; some people don’t need to supplement their protein intake with protein powder as they will get from their food intake. Others might struggle to hit their protein intake from food alone (vegetarians or vegans, for example), and might have upwards of 50% of their protein intake from supplements.
Either is okay and your intake of protein powder should be determined by how much you need to feasibly hit your protein target.
We don’t put a limit on sugar intake for a couple of reasons:
- Because we don’t want to discourage people from eating whole foods. Fruit, for example, is almost solely sugar but that certainly doesn't make it a 'bad' food. On the contrary, it'd be 'bad' if you were avoiding fruit altogether!
- Sugar is not inherently 'bad'. A lot of high-calorie, hyper-palatable foods might be high in sugar (and are often also high in fat). This means they're easy to over-consume, which is perhaps what has given sugar it's bad rep. But, there's nothing inherently fattening about sugar in isolation - in fact, there's research demonstrating that high-sucrose and low-sucrose diets are equally as effective when macronutrient / total caloric intake are matched, and further found no adverse effects of sugar on metabolism or behaviour. Read: total caloric intake is more important than the amount of sugar consumed for body composition.
If in doubt: Eat like an adult. If you’re following the principles of eating mostly whole foods and getting the minimum fibre recommended then sugar intake shouldn’t be an issue. One of the reasons we set a minimum fibre intake is to help control sugar intake (as well as maintaining a healthy digestive system). The reason being that fibre helps to control blood sugar by slowing down the digestion of nutrients.
If you want to track sugar however - that is fine!
What if I can’t hit my macros?
“a thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it.”
You may want to read that again and note the word “added” as that is exactly what a supplement should be seen as. It is something that is added and not replaced by.
Supplements should be used to enhance performance or health where the diet can’t. To get the effective dose of creatine, for example, would require you to consume serious quantities of red meat. So much so that you’d likely either go broke, or go WAY over your calories in order to meet the requirements. In which case, supplementing is almost always the best option.
Supplementation should not be as a substitute for a whole food based, balanced diet. A balanced diet and adequate sleep will give you the majority of the results you want, and supplements are not essential. However, if you have the funds to spare, a carefully selected stack of supplements might give you an additional edge to maximise your potential.
As per instructions
Time of Day:
A low dosage multivitamin should be seen to “cover the bases”. As mentioned above, the majority of your micronutrient intake (i.e. vitamins and minerals) should ideally come from the diet.
If you tend to not have a varied diet or don’t get a variety of fruit and vegetables, then a multivitamin may help to eliminate or at least reduce any deficiencies.
3 – 5g per day, every day (no need to load or cycle)
Time of Day:
Any, preferably with food but without caffeine
Creatine is one of the few supplements that has been shown to be effective in almost all randomised controlled studies, most notably in strength and power output.
It can cause intracellular water retention, so be mindful of that if fat loss is the goal and you begin supplementing with creatine, it’s not fat you are gaining - it's water retention!
There are many different types of creatine but nothing has been shown to be any more effective than standard creatine monohydrate. This often happens to be the cheapest, so save your money!
Read more about creatine concerns here.
1-2000iu per day, every day
Time of Day:
Vitamin D is a fat soluble, essential nutrient that is required for human survival. We typically synthesise Vitamin D3 from the sun so if you live in a country with a poorer climate or work in an office most of the day, it may be worth supplementing with Vitamin D3.
Vitamin D3 has been shown to improve cognition, immune health, bone health and general wellbeing.
2-3g EPA/DHA per day (higher quality will have higher EPA/DHA)
Time of Day:
As with a multivitamin, fish oils aren’t necessary providing you are eating enough oily fish in your diet. If you don’t like fish or perhaps don’t eat it often, supplementing with fish oil can help you achieve the effective dose.
Fish Oil has been shown to help reduce triglycerides and also has the potential to lower blood pressure for those with high blood pressure.
3-5mg per kg bodyweight
Time of Day:
30-90 minutes pre workout/competition, reduce intake 6 hours before bed.
Caffeine has been show to improve alertness, power output and aerobic capacity so is therefore one of the best supplements to acutely affect performance.
Caffeine can be taken in traditional form such as coffee / energy drinks / preworkout, but alternatively in capsule form. Beware of caffeine tolerance though as your body can get used to habitual intakes at which point the performance benefits diminish. Also be wary of taking caffeine too close to bed as it may affect sleep quality (and the detrimental effect of poor sleep on performance outweighs the benefits of taking caffeine).
BCAA stands for "Branched Chain Amino Acids”, or more specifically the amino acids leucine, iso-leucine and valine. Think of this as like "pure" protein. This sounds amazing right?! Pure protein?! That must be so much more effective.
Not so fast.
You see, the majority of protein sources - so, foods such as chicken, beef fish, dairy etc. - contain all of the essential amino acids INCLUDING leucine, iso-leucine and valine. So, you are in fact getting the BCAA's when you're eating whole foods. Which really begs the question: why would you take a supplement containing BCAA's when you are getting them already?
Providing your protein intake is adequate and your protein quality is sufficient (whole foods and/or good quality protein powders) then there really is little reason to be taking BCAA's.
There are, however, a couple of scenarios whereby we would recommend supplementing with BCAAs:
- If you train first thing in the morning and physically can't stomach any food or a protein shake before training. In which case, BCAA capsules before training or BCAA drink during training may be a good idea. It would still be more beneficial to take a good quality protein shake pre-training though as this will contain all the BCAAs as well as the other amino acids. In this case, we would recommend anywhere from 10-20g of BCAAs.
- If you are vegetarian or vegan and want to maximise muscle protein synthesis. Many vegan and vegetarian protein sources contain a weaker amino acid profile, typically being lower in the BCAAs. Therefore, there may be credence to supplement with BCAAs alongside meals to level out the amino acid profile. In this case, we would recommend anywhere from 3-5g of BCAAs to be taken with each meal.
It's incredibly important to prioritise sleep, especially when you're dieting; Research suggests that a lack of sleep negatively impacts fatloss and muscle retention.
You should be aiming for 7-9 hours per night.
We find it helpful to address your sleep hygiene - this is your routine around bedtime. Maybe you have a shower, read a book, meditate - but try to come up with a routine that helps you wind down, and stick to that as closely as possible night-to-night.
Research has indicated increasing day time light exposure improves sleep by encouraging a natural increase in serotonin and melatonin. With this in mind, try to get outside during the day (particularly during the winter months when we tend to wake up in darkness and leave work in darkness) in order to improve your circadian rhythm.
It's probably a good idea to limit caffeine intake from late afternoon - we generally suggest capping it at around 3pm if you're struggling with sleep.
Finally, limit blue light exposure into the evening - install a blue light filter on your phone, no TV / screen time an hour before bed.
Here is a list of our top research-backed supplements. We've found stacking ZMA (Magnesium) and Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate Capsules to improve sleep quality / quantity, but results will inevitably vary from person-to-person.
Click on the name of each supplement to read more information on the research and dosage details:
Our general recommendation is 1l for every 23kg bodyweight.
If you're already drinking this or more, then there's no need to make any drastic change.
If you're drinking less than this and find yourself regularly feeling dehydrated, then try gradually increasing your intake. Don't make any drastic changes - going from 1l to 3l per day will be challenging and probably uncomfortable, so try incremental increases across a few weeks rather than days.
Squash, tea, coffee, fizzy all count toward your water intake - just try not to have your entire water intake come from americanos and diet coke...
Sharing your Myfitnesspal Diary with us
On occasion, it might be useful for us to look over your tracking - either to double-check accuracy, or to make suggestions to make meeting your targets easier.
If you'd like us to check your Myfitnesspal diary, here's how you share it with us:
1. Go to Home
2. Click Settings
3. Click Diary Settings
4. Scroll Down to Diary Sharing
5. Set Diary sharing to Public (nobody can see your diary unless you share the link with them, don't worry!)
6. Send over the link which should look something like this: www.myfitnesspal.com/