Breaking through Plateaus

Breaking through Plateaus

WHY MAKE A PROGRAM?

You’ve heard that programs work, but why follow one? Following a program in the gym can have numerous benefits, including:

  • Preventing under/over training
  • Creating goals
  • Providing structure when you’re feeling un-motivated
  • Clearly tracking progress (which is the main driver of muscle growth)

And this is just to name a few.

 

HOW TO MAKE ONE THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all program, which is why you need to ask yourself some questions before creating one for yourself.

 

WHAT IS YOUR GOAL?

You need to have a clear idea of what you’d like to achieve over the duration of your program. Your goals will inform how often you workout and what kind of exercises you do. If building muscle is your primary goal, you might reduce your training frequency and make your workouts longer.

 

HOW OFTEN WILL YOU TRAIN?

This is to determine your level of commitment that you’re willing to offer towards your training goals. Everyone has varying levels of lifestyle, work and family obligations that they need to consider which is why it’s important that you make an honest assessment of your personal situation and make a firm commitment to the minimum number of days per week that you can train. If you’re tossing up between four and five days, go with four. It’s better to make a program that will work given your minimum time availability.

 

Once you’ve decided how many days a week you commit to per week, you can start to organise your training split.

 

WHAT EXERCISES AND MOVEMENTS SHOULD YOU DO?

With so many different excercises that can be chosen, it can feel like an overwhelming decision to choose which ones to include in your program. The selection of exercises will depend on your goals. Assuming your goal is tobuild muscle, you definitely want to include compound movements as the basis for your training sessions.

Compound movements are the foundational exercises that use multiple joints and lots of muscle mass.  The main movement patterns are pushes (e.g. bench press), pulls (e.g. pullup), hinges (e.g. deadlift) and squats (e.g. barbell squat).

These exercises should consume the majority of your time and effort during your workouts.

If compound movements are the cake, then accessory movements are the icing. These are generally single-joint exercises such as bicep curls and leg extensions that you can do after your compound movements to add some extra stimulus.

 

HOW SHOULD I TRACK PROGRESSION
DURING MY PROGRAM?

Progression can be measured in the
following ways:

• Increasing the amount of weight
you’re lifting

• Completing more repetitions at a
given weight

• Improving the quality of your
repetitions

Keep in mind that it’s easier to progress
these facets while in a caloric surplus –
progress will be slower if you’re in a caloric
deficit for fat loss.

 

I FEEL LIKE I CAN HANDLE MORE – CAN I
ADD SOME EXTRA SETS?

You can absolutely increase the volume, as long as it doesn’t impede your ability to recover or harm the strength in your lifts. However, keep in mind that there’s a limit to how much extra volume is beneficial – if you’re consistently completing 20+ sets a week on a muscle you’re training twice per week, consider lowering the volume and increasing the frequency and intensity (eg. Instead doing 18 sets over three sessions with higher intensity).

HOW MUCH CARDIO SHOULD I DO?

This depends on your focus – cardio has a plethora of mental and physical benefits, but if your main goal is to gain muscle then cardio shouldn’t be emphasised. We’d suggest having one low-intensity steady state session (LISS) a week and one high-intensity interval session (HIIT). If you prefer to keep your food intake maximised, you can add in an extra 1 – 2 sessions of cardio as necessary. But if you don’t enjoy cardio and would rather have less sessions, make sure your food intake isn’t too high (if your goal is to lose fat). An example of a LISS session would be to perform a form of cardio at an intensity that gets your heart rate up to around 128 – 140 BPM until you’ve burned the desired number of calories. An example of a HIIT session would be as follows:

• 5 minute warmup
• 20 second sprint
• 40 second power walk
• Repeat the sprint and power walk one
after the other ten times
• 2-3 minute cool down jog
This is just a guideline – HIIT just needs to have
something with maximal intensity followed by
a cool-down exercise.

HOW DO I ORGANISE MY TRAINING
DAYS AND REST DAYS?

The organisation of your rest and training days are flexible – what’s important is that you consistently reach the weekly training volume of the program and get enough rest to maintain it. We’d advise to prioritise your weaker muscles at the start of your rotation – for example, in an upper/lower split, it’d be a good idea to start your rotation with a lower body session if that’s your weaker muscle group. In terms of rest days, if you’re a beginner or an intermediate it’s advised to have at least one whole day without any lifting or cardio.

 

HOW OFTEN SHOULD ABS BE TRAINED?

Abs recover quickly, so around three times a week is recommended. It’s a good idea to train abs on days that you have plenty of energy at the end of your workout.

HOW LONG SHOULD I FOLLOW MY PROGRAM?

Like with most programs – stick to it as long as you’re making progress. This will vary greatly from individual to individual, so monitor your progress and stick to it until you feel like you’re plateauing.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M ACTUALLY
MAKING PROGRESS?

The easiest way to know if you’re making progress is through the numbers in your logbook and the mirror. The scale is an important tool, but if your goal is fat-loss, the change is visual – so gauge both what you see on the scale and in the mirror. In a good caloric deficit, weight loss for men should be around 450-900 grams per week and 200-250 grams per week for women.

SHOULD I HAVE DELOAD WEEKS?

After weeks of consistent, heavy training, it’s common to experience a few consecutive days of feeling weak, exhausted and unmotivated. If this occurs, you can have a few days off, or take a deload week. Central nervous system recovery, reduced risk of injury and mental and physical recovery are the main benefits of a de-load. To do a de-load, simply follow the program as you were but with 50-60% less weight on each exercise and half the sets. You can alternatively just not train for a few days – but any more than 5-6 days without training isn’t advised. Generally speaking, de-loads are required more often when following a program during a caloric deficit. Monitor how you’re feeling and don’t push yourself too hard if you’re overly fatigued.

 

That’s a lot of information to digest – constructing and following your own program is a process that takes time to learn. You’ll make mistakes along the way and learn from them – the main thing is consistency. A poor program followed properly is better than a proper program followed poorly.

Happy training!

Breaking through Plateaus

Breaking through Plateaus

WHY MAKE A PROGRAM? You've heard that programs work, but why follow one? Following a program in the gym can have numerous benefits, including: Preventing under/over training Creating goals Providing structure when you're feeling un-motivated Clearly tracking progress...

Nutrition: The Cold, Hard Facts

Nutrition: The Cold, Hard Facts

INTRODUCTION To gain an overview and grasp the essential principles to a diet that will let you achieve your desired body composition goal, the basic fundamentals of nutrition will be laid out in this nutrition overview. As a diet can be set up in a variety of ways to...

Programming: How to do it properly

Programming: How to do it properly

WHY MAKE A PROGRAM? You've heard that programs work, but why follow one? Following a program in the gym can have numerous benefits, including: Preventing under/over training Creating goals Providing structure when you're feeling un-motivated Clearly tracking progress...

Restrictions Update December 7th 2020

Restrictions Update 7th of December   Restrictions have been eased yet again! Here are the details.   What's Changing What's continuing You have 24/7 Access Again! While inside the gym, mask wearing is advised but not compulsory Overall club capacity has...

November 23rd Restrictions Update

Restrictions Update 23rd of November   It's been great seeing your beautiful faces in the club for these last two weeks! With yesterday's update, we're glad to announce that restrictions on gyms are being eased again. Here are the changes:   What's Changing...

Dukes Gym Reopening on 9th Of November

Barbells are back! We cannot wait to see each and every one of you in our clubs. However, there are a few changes that we have to make in order for us to create a safe and fair space for all of you, while adhering to tighter restrictions on gyms this time round. So...

Specialty Bars

Specialty Bars

Dead-Lift Bar The dead-lift bar is only for dead-lifting! It is longer than your normal bars but is thinner in diameter, weighing in 20KG. Due to it being thin, you can wrap your whole palm around the bar, giving you a stronger grip. This bar is more flexible, which...

Programming: How to do it properly

Programming: How to do it properly

WHY MAKE A PROGRAM?

You’ve heard that programs work, but why follow one? Following a program in the gym can have numerous benefits, including:

  • Preventing under/over training
  • Creating goals
  • Providing structure when you’re feeling un-motivated
  • Clearly tracking progress (which is the main driver of muscle growth)

And this is just to name a few.

 

HOW TO MAKE ONE THAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all program, which is why you need to ask yourself some questions before creating one for yourself.

 

WHAT IS YOUR GOAL?

You need to have a clear idea of what you’d like to achieve over the duration of your program. Your goals will inform how often you workout and what kind of exercises you do. If building muscle is your primary goal, you might reduce your training frequency and make your workouts longer.

 

HOW OFTEN WILL YOU TRAIN?

This is to determine your level of commitment that you’re willing to offer towards your training goals. Everyone has varying levels of lifestyle, work and family obligations that they need to consider which is why it’s important that you make an honest assessment of your personal situation and make a firm commitment to the minimum number of days per week that you can train. If you’re tossing up between four and five days, go with four. It’s better to make a program that will work given your minimum time availability.

 

Once you’ve decided how many days a week you commit to per week, you can start to organise your training split.

 

WHAT EXERCISES AND MOVEMENTS SHOULD YOU DO?

With so many different excercises that can be chosen, it can feel like an overwhelming decision to choose which ones to include in your program. The selection of exercises will depend on your goals. Assuming your goal is tobuild muscle, you definitely want to include compound movements as the basis for your training sessions.

Compound movements are the foundational exercises that use multiple joints and lots of muscle mass.  The main movement patterns are pushes (e.g. bench press), pulls (e.g. pullup), hinges (e.g. deadlift) and squats (e.g. barbell squat).

These exercises should consume the majority of your time and effort during your workouts.

If compound movements are the cake, then accessory movements are the icing. These are generally single-joint exercises such as bicep curls and leg extensions that you can do after your compound movements to add some extra stimulus.

 

HOW SHOULD I TRACK PROGRESSION
DURING MY PROGRAM?

Progression can be measured in the
following ways:

• Increasing the amount of weight
you’re lifting

• Completing more repetitions at a
given weight

• Improving the quality of your
repetitions

Keep in mind that it’s easier to progress
these facets while in a caloric surplus –
progress will be slower if you’re in a caloric
deficit for fat loss.

 

I FEEL LIKE I CAN HANDLE MORE – CAN I
ADD SOME EXTRA SETS?

You can absolutely increase the volume, as long as it doesn’t impede your ability to recover or harm the strength in your lifts. However, keep in mind that there’s a limit to how much extra volume is beneficial – if you’re consistently completing 20+ sets a week on a muscle you’re training twice per week, consider lowering the volume and increasing the frequency and intensity (eg. Instead doing 18 sets over three sessions with higher intensity).

HOW MUCH CARDIO SHOULD I DO?

This depends on your focus – cardio has a plethora of mental and physical benefits, but if your main goal is to gain muscle then cardio shouldn’t be emphasised. We’d suggest having one low-intensity steady state session (LISS) a week and one high-intensity interval session (HIIT). If you prefer to keep your food intake maximised, you can add in an extra 1 – 2 sessions of cardio as necessary. But if you don’t enjoy cardio and would rather have less sessions, make sure your food intake isn’t too high (if your goal is to lose fat). An example of a LISS session would be to perform a form of cardio at an intensity that gets your heart rate up to around 128 – 140 BPM until you’ve burned the desired number of calories. An example of a HIIT session would be as follows:

• 5 minute warmup
• 20 second sprint
• 40 second power walk
• Repeat the sprint and power walk one
after the other ten times
• 2-3 minute cool down jog
This is just a guideline – HIIT just needs to have
something with maximal intensity followed by
a cool-down exercise.

HOW DO I ORGANISE MY TRAINING
DAYS AND REST DAYS?

The organisation of your rest and training days are flexible – what’s important is that you consistently reach the weekly training volume of the program and get enough rest to maintain it. We’d advise to prioritise your weaker muscles at the start of your rotation – for example, in an upper/lower split, it’d be a good idea to start your rotation with a lower body session if that’s your weaker muscle group. In terms of rest days, if you’re a beginner or an intermediate it’s advised to have at least one whole day without any lifting or cardio.

 

HOW OFTEN SHOULD ABS BE TRAINED?

Abs recover quickly, so around three times a week is recommended. It’s a good idea to train abs on days that you have plenty of energy at the end of your workout.

HOW LONG SHOULD I FOLLOW MY PROGRAM?

Like with most programs – stick to it as long as you’re making progress. This will vary greatly from individual to individual, so monitor your progress and stick to it until you feel like you’re plateauing.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M ACTUALLY
MAKING PROGRESS?

The easiest way to know if you’re making progress is through the numbers in your logbook and the mirror. The scale is an important tool, but if your goal is fat-loss, the change is visual – so gauge both what you see on the scale and in the mirror. In a good caloric deficit, weight loss for men should be around 450-900 grams per week and 200-250 grams per week for women.

SHOULD I HAVE DELOAD WEEKS?

After weeks of consistent, heavy training, it’s common to experience a few consecutive days of feeling weak, exhausted and unmotivated. If this occurs, you can have a few days off, or take a deload week. Central nervous system recovery, reduced risk of injury and mental and physical recovery are the main benefits of a de-load. To do a de-load, simply follow the program as you were but with 50-60% less weight on each exercise and half the sets. You can alternatively just not train for a few days – but any more than 5-6 days without training isn’t advised. Generally speaking, de-loads are required more often when following a program during a caloric deficit. Monitor how you’re feeling and don’t push yourself too hard if you’re overly fatigued.

 

That’s a lot of information to digest – constructing and following your own program is a process that takes time to learn. You’ll make mistakes along the way and learn from them – the main thing is consistency. A poor program followed properly is better than a proper program followed poorly.

Happy training!

Breaking through Plateaus

Breaking through Plateaus

WHY MAKE A PROGRAM? You've heard that programs work, but why follow one? Following a program in the gym can have numerous benefits, including: Preventing under/over training Creating goals Providing structure when you're feeling un-motivated Clearly tracking progress...

Nutrition: The Cold, Hard Facts

Nutrition: The Cold, Hard Facts

INTRODUCTION To gain an overview and grasp the essential principles to a diet that will let you achieve your desired body composition goal, the basic fundamentals of nutrition will be laid out in this nutrition overview. As a diet can be set up in a variety of ways to...

Programming: How to do it properly

Programming: How to do it properly

WHY MAKE A PROGRAM? You've heard that programs work, but why follow one? Following a program in the gym can have numerous benefits, including: Preventing under/over training Creating goals Providing structure when you're feeling un-motivated Clearly tracking progress...

Restrictions Update December 7th 2020

Restrictions Update 7th of December   Restrictions have been eased yet again! Here are the details.   What's Changing What's continuing You have 24/7 Access Again! While inside the gym, mask wearing is advised but not compulsory Overall club capacity has...

November 23rd Restrictions Update

Restrictions Update 23rd of November   It's been great seeing your beautiful faces in the club for these last two weeks! With yesterday's update, we're glad to announce that restrictions on gyms are being eased again. Here are the changes:   What's Changing...

Dukes Gym Reopening on 9th Of November

Barbells are back! We cannot wait to see each and every one of you in our clubs. However, there are a few changes that we have to make in order for us to create a safe and fair space for all of you, while adhering to tighter restrictions on gyms this time round. So...

Specialty Bars

Specialty Bars

Dead-Lift Bar The dead-lift bar is only for dead-lifting! It is longer than your normal bars but is thinner in diameter, weighing in 20KG. Due to it being thin, you can wrap your whole palm around the bar, giving you a stronger grip. This bar is more flexible, which...

Specialty Bars

Specialty Bars

Dead-Lift Bar

The dead-lift bar is only for dead-lifting! It is longer than your normal bars but is thinner in diameter, weighing in 20KG. Due to it being thin, you can wrap your whole palm around the bar, giving you a stronger grip. This bar is more flexible, which enables you to get into the optimal starting position by pulling the “slack” out of it. The flex in the bar will help with moving heavy loads off the ground faster and a shorter range of motion from floor to lockout. Given its name, please note that this bar should not be used for squatting or benching at any given time.

Squat Bar

The Squat bar is specialised for heavy squatting. It is longer in length and thicker in diameter. This allows the bar to stay rigid when there is a lot of weight loaded on it, preventing it from bending too much which can affect the quality of the squat. Be mindful when loading your weights as it weighs 25KG, which is heavier than your typical barbell.

Power Bar

The power bar is considered the universal bar. It is commonly used for squatting, benching and deadlifting in the sport of powerlifting. The bar weighs 20KG, it is rigid, stiff and can withstand a lot of weight on it.

Safety Squat Bar

When squatting with the safety squat bar, your spine position will be more vertical. It looks more like a front squat or a high-bar back squat. This positioning minimizes shear forces on the lower back and allows for improved range of motion through the hips, knees, and ankles. The Dukes safety squat bar weighs 16KG.

Could Your Hormones be Impacting Your Results?

Could Your Hormones be Impacting Your Results?

Have you ever started a fitness journey and started to see some incredible results, only to hit a harsh plateau with no explanation? Or perhaps you’ve made all the changes required to prime your body for weight loss, yet no results? Believe it or not, your hormones play a significant role in either supporting and accelerating your goals, or hindering them. And the latter is much more common than you may realise.

 

So, the question must be asked: How much do you really understand about your hormones? What they do and how they influence your metabolism? The role they play in progressing or stunting your fat loss or muscle growth? Let’s be honest, the answer is most likely very few of us. So, let’s take a closer look at three key hormones that affect both men and women: Cortisol, Human Growth Hormone, and Thyroid Hormones.

 

But first, what on earth are hormones? According to the Hormone Health Network, hormones are chemical substances that act as messengers to signal reactions within your body to carry out functions to cells and/or tissues. As such, hormones impact many different processes in your body, including growth, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction and mood.

Cortisol

You don’t have to be a hormone expert to have heard of the word ‘cortisol’. Whether it’s through Facebook or media publications, ‘stress’ has become the hottest buzzword of this decade, and for a legitimate reason. Did you know – According to the World Health Organisation, stress is the health epidemic of the 21st century!

Yet, despite the negative rap it gets, cortisol is extremely important to survival and is certainly not as bad as it’s made out to be. Wondering why? Cortisol is essentially nature’s built-in alarm system and is best known for controlling your body’s fight or flight instinct. Cortisol works with parts of your brain to influence your mood, motivation, and fear.

 

But, what exactly is cortisol? Cortisol is a hormone (also known as the stress hormone), which is generally released during times of stress. However, cortisol is not only known for stress. As most of the cells in your body have cortisol receptors, it plays an important role in various functions (You and Your Hormones, 2019). As such, cortisol helps to:

  • Regulate your metabolism
  • Influence memory formation
  • Act as an anti-inflammatory
  • Control salt and water balance
  • Support the growth of a foetus during pregnancy

 

How does Cortisol work?

 

Your hypothalamus and pituitary gland (which are both located in your brain) can detect if the correct level of cortisol is in your brain. If the level is too high or low, your brain will generally make adjustments to the number of hormones it’s producing. As a result, your adrenal glands adapt and adjust the amount of cortisol they release, accordingly.

 

Likewise, your cortisol receptors may have different hormone requirements each day, meaning what and how they receive these hormones may vary daily. For example – If your body is highly stressed or perceives a threat, cortisol may adjust or stop other functions that interfere, such as your digestive or reproductive systems, your immune system, or even your growth processes.

 

What happens when you produce too much or too little Cortisol?

 

If your body is producing too much cortisol, you may experience the following symptoms¹:

  • Chronic conditions – ie high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis
  • Weight gain (particularly around the face and abdomen) – Cortisol increases appetite and sends signals to the body to store fat.
  • Mood swings – Generally shown as anxiety, depression or irritability
  • Impaired brain function – Cortisol interferes with memory, resulting in brain fog
  • Infections – When cortisol is high, it can impact and compromise your immune system, which makes you more susceptible to infection and illness.

 

If your body’s producing too little cortisol, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Ongoing tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Weakened muscles
  • Mood changes

 

Note: Without treatment, having too much or too little cortisol are potentially life-threatening conditions and should be treated immediately. If you suspect you fall into either of these categories, we urge you to seek medical attention.

 

Human Growth Hormone

Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is a small protein produced in part of the brain (known as the ‘pituitary gland’) every few hours and more frequently during sleep, particularly our non-REM sleep (Better Health Channel 2019). HGH is responsible for stimulating growth by travelling to all tissues in the body via the bloodstream.

But, how important is HGH? Well, to put it straight – A lack of HGH is suggested to cause slower growth in children and also hinder health and fitness progress for adults (Health Direct 2018). In fact, did you know that growth hormone plays an important role in influencing your height, and helping build your bones and muscles? When secreted, HGH is responsible for stimulating smaller protein hormones that help the following actions and reactions occur in the body:

  • The growth and/or maintenance of muscle and bone
  • Enhanced tissue repair and skin/injury healing
  • The breakdown of fatty acids in the adipose tissue to be used for ATP production
  • The regulation of glucose to be used as energy and reserved for times of shortage

There’s no denying that HGH is vital to your overall health and day-to-day functionality, and when it comes to reaching your health and fitness goals, it can either progress your results or hinder them. For instance, according to Better Health Channel, those with growth hormone deficiency may experience a variety of symptoms, including poor bone density, reduced muscle mass, fatigue, depression, poor memory, and increased body fat around the waist.

What can you do to promote the secretion of HGH? Try incorporating the following tips:

  • Get serious about your sleep – Non-rapid eye movement sleep, more commonly known as deep sleep, is important for secreting healthy levels of HGH. Try aim for 6-9 hours of sleep per night, if possible.
  • Prioritise exercise and lower stress – Try to minimise the amount of stress in your life, and incorporate more exercise to maintain healthy HGH levels (but not too much).
  • Keep an eye on other hormones – Other hormones may also play a role in stimulating HGH levels, including insulin, oestrogen, and cortisol. We recommend that you consult your health professional to assess your hormones, should you have concerns or queries.

Additionally, it’s important to be aware that sleep deprivation, a lack of protein and amino acids, an unhealthy amount of fatty acids in your diet, hypothyroidism and obesity can also decrease the production of HGH in your body.

If you’re looking for a fantastic amino acid supplement to enhance your intake of aminos, our go-to is Evolve Damage Control. Whether you want to boost muscle protein synthesis and prevent muscle breakdown or accelerate recovery and enhance performance, Damage Control contains the innovative PeptoPro formula and world-renowned Ajinomoto Aminos to bring you the ultimate full-spectrum EAA protein accelerator.

T4/T3 (Thyroid Hormones)

Ever heard of Triiodothyronine and Thyroxine? Despite what looks like random letters jumbled together, these two words are also known as T3 and T4 and are referred to as your thyroid hormones. Let’s take a closer look at how T3 and T4 work and how they can impact your results!

But first, what are they? To understand what T3 and T4 are, it’s important to first understand what the thyroid gland is. The thyroid gland is a small gland located in the front of your neck that is primarily responsible for taking iodine (which is found in various food sources) and converting it into the thyroid hormones: T4 and T3.

Once released into the bloodstream and transported throughout the body, T3 and T4 regulate and operate your metabolism, which as we know, is essentially the conversion of nutrients into energy.  Every cell in the body relies on thyroid hormones to regulate their metabolism. As such, ensuring a healthy balance is of utmost importance (Sargis 2018).

Hyperthyroidism – Hyperthyroidism is a condition whereby your thyroid gland produces too much T3 and T4, resulting in your metabolism working too fast, and thus, converting your nutrients into energy too fast. According to the Better Health Channel, hyperthyroidism can result in:

  • Excessive weight loss
  • Muscle depletion
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Hair loss
  • Anxiety
  • Irregular menstrual cycle for women

Hypothyroidism – Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is much more common and essentially means your body isn’t producing enough T3 and T4, for various reasons (including iodine deficiency, or potentially an autoimmune disease). According to Healthy WA, Hypothyroidism can potentially result in the following symptoms:

  • Unexplainable weight gain
  • Fluid retention
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation

So, how can you help maintain the right T3 and T4 balance? Well, this is certainly a question for your health professional, as every person is unique and requires unique care. However, if your iodine levels are too low, that’s a great place to start. Try incorporating the following iodine-rich foods into your diet:

  • Tuna and salmon
  • Oysters and other shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Sea vegetables like seaweed, nori, kelp, etc.

 

Let’s recap: From unexplainable weight loss and weight gain, depression, ongoing fatigue, reduced muscle mass, poor memory and more, there’s no denying that a hormonal imbalance can have a detrimental impact on your ability to lose weight, gain muscle, muster up the motivation to make health a priority, and ultimately, reach your goals.

As hormones are vital to memory formation, muscle and bone growth, metabolism, tissue repair and more, it’s no secret that maintaining the right balance of hormones is the key to optimal health, functionality, and results. Just remember, everything we do affects our hormones, which in turn, affects everything we do. So, how much do you really know about your hormones? If you feel you may be struggling with any of the symptoms above, put your health first and visit your local healthcare professional for a checkup!

References:

 

Better Health Channel 2018, Growth Hormone, Better Health Vic, viewed 9 September 2019, <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/growth-hormone

 

Better Health Channel 2011, Thyroid – Hyperthyroidism, Better Health Channel, viewed on September 11 2019, <https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/thyroid-hyperthyroidism>

Health Direct 2018, Human Growth Hormone, Health Direct, viewed on 6 September 2019,<https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/human-growth-hormone>

Hormone Health Network 2019, Your Health and Hormones, viewed 9 September 2019, <https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones>

 

Sargis, R 2018, How Your Thyroid Works, Endocrineweb, viewed on 10 September 2019, <https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-your-thyroid-works>

¹ Thorpe, M 2017, 11 Natural Ways to Lower Your Cortisol Levels, Healthline, viewed on 10 September 2019, <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-lower-cortisol#section1>

 You and Your Hormones 2019, Cortisol, viewed 6 September 2019, <https://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol/

 

 

 

 

5 Stress Management Strategies for Improved Fat Loss

5 Stress Management Strategies for Improved Fat Loss

 

5 Stress Management Strategies for Improved Fat Loss

 

There’s no denying how prevalent stress is in today’s society. In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, stress has been classified as the health epidemic of the 21st century. Whether it’s work-related stress, financial struggles, relationship troubles, or even physical stress placed on our body during an intense workout, it’s no secret that stress can present itself in many different forms!

 

Yet, contrary to popular belief, stress is not entirely bad. Stress is technically our most important survival mechanism… after all, it’s what helped keep our hunter-gatherer ancestors alive thousands of years ago. Likewise, in today’s day and age, stress is also extremely beneficial for helping us meet those work deadlines, train harder and lift heavier, and check the road before crossing for any potential threats. So, what’s the downside? In today’s society, most of us are struggling to find the ‘off button’ for stress, which is having a detrimental impact on our physical and mental health…and in many cases, our ability to lose weight!

 

First things first, how on earth does stress impact weight? During periods of heightened tension, the stress hormone, cortisol, rises. As a result of this, increased cortisol may also cause higher insulin levels and drop blood sugar, causing you to crave sugary and fatty foods. The result? Well, when we’re stressed, we’ll often eat the wrong types of food in excess!

 

With that in mind, here are our top five tips for stress management:

 

Tip 1: Exercise
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to combat stress, while simultaneously working on your physical health. As ironic as it might sound, putting physical stress on your body, by way of exercise, can relieve mental stress.

 

Did you know that people who exercise regularly are less likely to experience anxiety, as opposed to those who don’t exercise? And here’s why:

  • Sleep – Exercising regularly can help to improve the quality of your sleep, due to the way it physically exhausts your body. As stress and anxiety are known to negatively impact sleep quality, this can help to alleviate the symptoms.
  • Endorphins – Did you know that exercise helps to release endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood and act as natural painkillers? Additionally, exercise is also suggested to lower the body’s stress hormones over a prolonged period, including cortisol.
  • Confidence – Who doesn’t feel better after breaking a sweat? When you exercise regularly, you’re likely to feel more confident and comfortable in your skin, which ultimately enhances mental wellbeing and reduces stress.

 

Whether you’re new to exercise or a gym veteran, the best way to find a sustainable and enjoyable exercise routine is to base it around something you love. Love to run? Start your day with a morning jog. Love feeling refreshed? Try hitting the pool for a few laps. Not much into traditional sports? Why not join your local yoga or pilates class. Love strength training? Head to Dukes Gym!

 

 

Tip 2: Get your sleep right

When you’re experiencing stress, you’re more likely to lay awake at night restless and unable to get a good night’s sleep. However, the lack of sleep also causes stress, which means it’s a never-ending cycle. The cherry on top? When we lack sleep, we crave a quick source of energy, such as sugary treats, which often leads us further away from our health and fitness goals. Not to mention, a lack of sleep may also interfere with key appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin.

 

So, how can you improve your stress by improving your sleep cycle?

  • Two to four hours before bed – Avoid any intense exercise that will make you alert and buzzing. Also, avoid large meals that will keep you up at night while your body works hard to digest everything.
  • One hour before bed – Reduce the amount of artificial light surrounding you by dimming your lights or putting a lamp on. Also, switch your screens to night mode. This will help to increase melatonin, which helps to get you into a sleepy state.
  • 30 minutes before bed – Switch off all electronic devices and screens. If you need your phone alarm for the morning, simply switch your phone to aeroplane mode to minimise any distractions that may disrupt your sleep!

 

 

Tip 3: Take time out for yourself

Do you often get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and forget to take time out for yourself? Whether it’s the mental stresses associated with work deadlines and pressure, the physical stress of exercise, or the mental and physical stress of raising little ones, there are many reasons why we just sometimes don’t find the time to put ourselves first. However, the downside is, without our ‘me time’, our happiness, motivation, and potential for success greatly diminish.

 

When you subject yourself to extreme pressure and stress day-after-day, without taking time out to recuperate, you are not only preventing yourself from performing at your highest level, you’re also exposing yourself to a greater risk of illness and disease. Truth be told – your body will not perform or look the way we want it to if you’re constantly subjecting yourself to physical and mental stress. Not long after the mental symptoms kick in, the physical symptoms will start to show!

Try incorporating the following ‘me time’ tips into your weekly schedule:

  • Recovery time – Dedicate one day a week or a month to ‘recovery time’. This should be time spent relaxing and unwinding. For instance – Get a massage, go to the movies alone, read a book, listen to a podcast… whatever it is you love doing to unwind, make it a staple in your routine!
  • Learn new skills – We spend so much time bettering our skill set to progress in our careers, but how much time do we really spend improving our skills to better ourselves as people? For most of us, the answer will be: never. So, we urge you to find a skill you’d like to learn – whether it be photography, drawing, running, a language – and commit to it for six months. Never underestimate how important learning is and how much it can influence our mental health!
  • Change up your routine – It’s easy to become stagnant in your routine and your attitude when you do the same things at the same time every day. Whether it’s your workouts or your downtime, try switching things up to keep your routine fresh and exciting.

 

Tip 4: Run your own race

There’s no denying that social media is an extremely effective and beneficial tool for helping us to connect with new and old friends, discover new places to eat, and unwind while laughing at the never-ending stream of memes. However, in today’s society, the downside of social media is starting to outweigh the positives: It’s starting to replace one-on-one human interaction. I mean, let’s be real – receiving a like on Facebook or Instagram just isn’t the same as catching up with friends in real life. The enjoyment is fleeting!

 

Believe it or not, stress can present itself in several ways, and it’s not always just work, finance or relationship-related. More often than not, it stems from confidence and self-worth. As such, comparing your progress to what others post on social media can be very damaging. With the advent of Photoshop, FaceTune and Instagram filters, social media gives us an unrealistic expectation of how our lives should be, or, how underwhelming our gym progress might appear to be in comparison to your social media buddies.

 

However, in actual fact – seeing the progress of others should inspire you, not demotivate or irritate you. If social media is having a negative effect on you, switch off and focus on your own progress…after all, everyone is running their own race and it’s probably time you did the same. Better still, those 30 minutes you spent scrolling aimlessly through your feed could’ve been much better spent working towards your goals, meditating, reading or just simply unwinding.

 

 

 Tip 5: Incorporate supplements

Do you feel like you’ve tried just about everything and are still unable to reduce the stress from your life? Perhaps it’s time to call on the help of a friend. Yep, we’re talking about supplementation!

 

If you’re looking for the right solution to enhance energy, improve wellness and reduce stress, it’s important to find one that won’t leave you feeling scattered and run down once it wears off. So, what do we recommend? * drum roll * Project U Vitality!

 

Just like all things in life, maintaining optimal vitality requires ongoing maintenance of your internal health. Thanks to Project U Vitality, ensuring your body has all the goodness required to boost your brain functionality and overall health, just got that much easier.

 

So, what can you expect from this formula?

Simply put, Vitality is designed to stimulate brain function, support gut health, boost energy, enhance mood and lower cortisol!

 

Project U Vitality contains Apple Cider Vinegar to aid digestion, support gut health and act as a natural antibacterial and antioxidant. As well as Lemon Balm to also support digestive health and to help increase GABA in the body, which may have a calming effect strong enough to help lower cortisol levels and reduce anxiety. Additionally, Moringa Leaf Powder is rich in antioxidant properties and natural anti-inflammatory benefits, and Reishi Mushrooms boast powerful immune-boosting and mood-enhancing properties.

 

This impressive formula doesn’t stop there. To supercharge Vitality, a combination of powerful nootropic and brain-boosting ingredients have been added. Huperzine A has been added to help boost memory and neuro function, Cognizin Citicoline to reduce age-related memory impairment and boost attention, and Tyrosine to improve alertness and mental performance. Lastly, the key ingredient, Lion’s Mane, has been added to help relieve symptoms of anxiety, boost immune health, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, and to help speed up recovery from nervous system damage.

Is Cardio Best for Weight Loss?

Is Cardio Best for Weight Loss?

Cardio, Weights, Diet… What’s the Best for Losing Fat?

 

The topic of weights vs cardio has been an age-old debate with the common misconception that lifting weights will make you bulky and big and a lot of cardio will cause you to strip high amounts of fat. However, nutrition plays a pivotal role in fat loss, using exercise as a tool will assist fat loss further and there are both pros and cons of choosing either cardio or weights.

 

 

Nutrition: Calories in Vs Calories Out

t An alternative to being in a caloric deficit is to calculate your maintenance calories which is the amount you need to consume per day in order to maintain your weight after doing physical activities whether sport, occupational or leisure.  Here is a link that will assist you with calculating your calories (https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/macronutcal.htm). To avoid dropping your calories and constantly being hungry, you can utilise weights or cardio as a tool to increase your energy expenditure. This will also result in weight loss, as you will exert more energy than you consume, without starving yourself.

Cardio: Weight Loss Benefits

So why should you choose cardio? Cardio exercises are great as it is an easy way to burn calories in a single session, you can do then anywhere without needing any equipment and it is also proven to improve your cardiovascular system. On average, you will be able to burn up to 250 calories in a single session. However, there are many factors that contribute to how much you will actually burn. These factors include; age – as the older you are the fewer calories you can expect to burn, workout intensity – the higher the intensity, the faster your heart rate and the more calories you will expect to burn, overall daily activity – the more sedentary you are, the fewer calories you will burn. You will not need any specific equipment in order to do most cardiovascular exercises. Such examples are running, jogging or bodyweight circuits. These are great to do at the park, the beach and even better if you have a dog to go on runs with. The main benefit of doing cardio exercises is that they will improve your cardiovascular health. You will improve your cardiac output – the amount of blood pumped around your body per beat, which is the product of your stroke volume and heart rate. Having a greater cardiac output will result in a higher amount of oxygenated blood available to your working muscles and thus greater potential output.

Although there are many benefits in doing cardio, there are also negatives. Cardio exercises will not help in building or retaining muscle mass. Long durations will put a lot of strain on your joints and ligaments, especially in your legs and most steady state activities usually require the lower body thus you will be neglecting your upper half. Due to the nature of most of the exercises, you will not be putting direct load or stress on the muscles, which will not stimulate them to grow as effective as lifting weights will. Steady state cardiovascular exercises will put your body in a catabolic state, which means the loss of your hard-earned muscles. Long durations of cardio will strain and put stress on the joints and ligaments. Take running for example, it requires the understanding of biomechanics and correct running motion, in order to ensure you can run effectively and efficiently. The most common injury is knee pain which can set you back for a long period of time. In addition, most steady state activities require the use of the lower body, which means you will be neglecting your upper body. This is not ideal as it your body will be disproportioned and therefore a lack of upper body strength, which can affect everyday life tasks.

Weights: Better for Maintaining Muscle?

Weights on the other hand is the best option if you are looking to maintain/build muscle mass as you can actively target specific muscles and there is much more scope to add variations to your routine. Due to the nature of lifting weights, you can directly put load on and target specific muscles selectively for them to grow. Lifting weights stimulates the muscle fibres, causing them to tear during your workout and then rebuild bigger and stronger during your recovery due to a cellular process to form new muscle protein strands. This process will allow you to recruit more motor units and lift heavier over time. You will also improve your posture as you will be able to activate muscle such as your erector spinae and upper back to be more upright. One major benefit of weight training, especially with the older population is to maintain their bone density. Due to the risk of arthritis, it is important to ensure that your joints, ligaments and bones are strong and healthy for as long as possible. Weight training will develop and strengthen them which will be very beneficial in the long run. With a heap of exercises to choose from, you can add many variations to your routine, which will ensure you’ll enjoy your training. Unlike cardio exercises which is limited to only a few options. You can also do circuits or HIIT training with weights to improve your cardiovascular system.

As we are a gym that is strength/weight focused, it is inevitable that we will be biased towards lifting weights. However, if we had to pick some drawbacks, it would be investing time to learn the right form and technique and correct programming will be vital to ensure maximum gains. Learning the right technique will take some time as it is crucial to ensure you prevent injury. Similar to running, understanding the movement pattern and biomechanics of the exercises is important as you will be able to hit the correct muscles or lift the most amount of weight efficiently.

The take home message is that fat loss only comes from a caloric deficit and this can be achieved with the help of steady state exercise and weights. Cardio will help burn a substantial number of calories in a single session, but you will look like you don’t train. Weights on the other hand may take longer to achieve fat loss, but if you want to get a lean and toned physique, this is definitely the more effective option, and you will look like you go to the gym.

Happy training!

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