The Benefits of Butter

Kerrygold grassfed butter

Kerrygold grassfed butter

When people ask me for nutritional advice, the one thing that I seem to have the most problem convincing them to include in their diet is butter. It’s demonised by a lot of the weight loss companies that would rather sell you crappy, highly processed and sugary drinks and snacks, rather then have you eat something that can not only improve the condition of your skin, hair and joints but also helps your body absorb vitamins and nutrients.

The theory that fat makes you fat is pretty sound. And it’s not completely at fault – trans fats that you find in processed foods can make you fat, miserable and poison your body in a number of unhealthy ways.

But good fat is an incredible thing to include in your diet. Symptoms of dietary fat deficiency include feeling cold, cravings, dryness of the skin and eyes, joint problems, fatigue and tiredness. Butter contains traces of magnesium, chromium, copper and zinc  which are all essential for normal body functions, along with a good mixture of Omega 3 & 6 which helps with brain function and the aforementioned skin health.

Good quality grass-fed butter also contains CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), which is a compound that  has been shown to help provide protection against various forms of cancer and helps the body to store muscle instead of fat.

Another reason that butter gets a bad press (aside from the assumption that it just makes you fat) is that it can raise cholesterol. This is true, but it raises good cholesterol (HDL) and helps to lower your bad cholesterol (LDL). HDL is known as good cholesterol as it seems to help to protect against heart attacks. Low levels of this type of cholesterol can increase heart disease risk. As mentions in this article:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/AboutCholesterol/Good-vs-Bad-Cholesterol_UCM_305561_Article.jsp

‘Medical experts think that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the        liver, where it’s passed from the body. Some experts believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque, slowing its build-up.’

I could go into a lot of technical information about the benefits of butter but I like to try and keep things easy to follow and to understand. However, there is plenty of scientific/medical/nutritional date on the web and in various medical journeys that is there form those who won’t to go and read up more about it.

A quick word regarding margarine – this is what most people have when trying to lose weight but it’s one of the last things you should be eating. Highly processed and can cause inflammation, it’s also high in trans fats which as I’ve already mentioned are fats you want to avoid. I don’t want to waste too much time talking about this as it’s junk, but you shouldn’t be eating it. Take a look at the ingredients – are they really things you want to be putting into your body?

Flora Pro-Active Light

Flora Pro-Active Light

This had been my first blog in over a year, but I’m hoping to do this more often. I see a lot of people making bad food choices and want to try and help people understand what their eating and what effects it has on their body. I include myself in this, so I’m hoping that by helping others I can also help myself.

If there’s any food you would like me to write about, then please feel free to contact me.

Take care and eat well,

Dan

How I increased my deadlift by 30kg in 2 months

Using a barbell will give you far greater gains then using endless machines

Pick up a copy of a men’s fitness or health magazine, and you’ll see the latest workout to help you gain 10lbs of muscle, show your abs etc etc. The problem is, if these really work then why would we need to buy the magazine the following month? You know why – for the new latest workout that will really, really help you gain 10lbs in muscle, show your abs…The truth is, a lot of these workouts are based on isolation exercises, where you only use a small amount of muscle. However, switch to compound moves and you’ll be using multiple muscles which will lead to an overall increase in muscle mass, which in turn will give you a greater resting metabolic rate. To make this simpler, this means you’ll be burning more calories when your sitting on the sofa watching TV.An example of this is the bicep curl: when doing this, your only really using your bicep (which every guy wishes was that little big bigger). But, change to a chin-up and aside from the bicep, you will also be using the muscle in your lats, forearms and upper & outer back amongst others. When you read it like that, it makes sense doesn’t it?Basic compound moves are something that anyone with even a slight interest in building muscle should be doing. Some people say it’s hard or that it worries them, but all your doing is picking heavy stuff off the floor – what could be simpler?For a few years I was doing the magazine routines, thinking it would would turn me into the guy on the front cover – which it didn’t! My eating wasn’t great either but my workout was a case of picking up a few weights and also doing some long boring cardio sessions. After a few years I started to become frustrated (this in itself was bad enough, the alarm bells should’ve started going off in my head much sooner). But the magazines did mention compound moves quite often. So, it started to look like compound moves were the way to go.

I started to do some Google searches on routines that would build muscle. There was a lot of rubbish about but then I came to a programme and website called Stronglifts which was run by a guy called Mehdi. It was based on heavy compound moves where you would increase the weight by a few kg each workout. I thought you would just do a load of compound moves (deadlift, squat, bench, press, clean amongst others) each and every gym session, but this would quickly lead to burnout for the average person.

Stronglifts was a routine where you did 3 compound moves per exercise for 5 reps, over 5 sets. There was workout A and workout B:

Workout A:
Squat 5×5, Bench Press 5×5, Barbell Row 5×5

Workout B:
Squat 5×5, Overhead Press 5×5, Deadlift 5×1

I enjoyed the workout’s as it was easy to follow and I was starting to lift some serious weight. But something still didn’t feel right and despite following the routine exactly, I wasn’t making the gains that a lot of other people on the routine were making. Also, a lot of the users on the Stronglifts forum seemed to have a problem with Mehdi. I did feel some of he’s member e-mails were quite blunt (which isn’t always a bad thing in training) and that he didn’t to seem to like any form of criticism. But he’s routine is free to download and like I said, lots of people have made some great gains on it, so it is well worth checking out. However, in the past year or so, he has made the forum on he’s website open to paying members only. This is a shame as there used to be some good people who were willing to offer help and advice. But I guess free information doesn’t generate an income. The guy even closed down the Facebook page, which was also a shame. Mehdi always claimed that the site would be free as he made money from he’s own business and training clients.

http://stronglifts.com/

When I had been searching on Google, I had seen Starting Strength come up a few times and the name Mark Rippetoe. Joe Weider was another name that came up a lot regarding workout routines and he’s incredible well respected. However, I have yet to try any of he’s routines so don’t feel I should really comment. But he is certainly worth reading up on and is something I’ll check out another time. If you want to have a look for yourself though, just Google ‘Joe Weider 5/3/1′.

So, I decided to try Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength. Like Stronglifts it consists of two workouts comprised of compound moves but with a few minor changes:

Workout A:
Squat 5×3, Bench 5×3, Deadlift 5×1

Workout B
Squat 5×3, Press 5×3, Clean 3×5

This had a similar approach to Stronglifts, in that you added weight every workout. But to me, the difference was that Mark Rippetoe seemed more approachable and the forum users seemed more open to answering questions and giving advice. There also seemed to be a greater amount of respect for Mark to as a coach. Here was someone who had obviously been there, done it, got the t-shirt. Before starting the programme it’s worth reading he’s book, which is now on it’s third edition:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Starting-Strength-Basic-Barbell-Training/dp/0982522738/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1343203235&sr=8-2I started the programme last year. In the first 2 months I added 30kg to my deadlift and 30kg to the Zercher squat (there’s a reason why I’m currently doing these rather then back squats but that’s for another time). My powerclean has also increased by 15kg. These’s may not be the huge numbers that other’s have managed to increase, but it’s a big improvement for me. I did find though that I struggled to make big gains on the bench (only 10kg) and overhead press (only a dreadful 5kg). I’ve tried deloading a few times, which is recommend when you stall on a weight more then 3 times and this has seemed to help.But more importantly, I was enjoying the programme. I was also keeping an excel sheet of my weights and it’s great to be able to look at it and see the improvements. It’s not so good seeing where you haven’t made as good gains, but this in turn can help to motivate you to push on. I have also added bodyweight dips and chin-ups’ to some sessions.There are different level’s of Starting Strength but I’ve only done the basic. But it’s really worth checking out. You can either do a Google search for ‘Mark Rippetoe Starting Strength’ for lots of success stories and information about it, or you can go direct to the official website.http://startingstrength.com/

As I said, I do enjoy the Starting Strength programme and I did it for several months. It’s an excellent programme not just for starters, but also for people who want to get back to basics and lift some heavy weight.

Talk soon,Dan

A brief introduction to Paleo

So what is Paleo? The basic and simple idea behind it is to try and replicate what our ancestors eat thousands of years ago, in a time before mass agriculture introduced firstly grains and then years later high processed foods full of sugar and other nasties.  It’s no surprise that relatively recent medical conditions including obesity and diabetes have increased as we more highly processed and sugary foods, and away from the health meat,fish, fats and vegtables and berries that our ancestors eat.

The thinking behind this is that our bodies were never designed to digest the everyday foods that you see so regularly in your local supermarket. When shopping it’s best to try and stick to the sides of the supermarket, as this is normally where the fresh foods are kept – fresh fruit, fresh veg and fresh meats. Go deeper into the supermarket and it’s normally made up of the packaged and processed foods that actually do us far more bad then good. There’s also another rule that if your Nan doesn’t know what it is, then you probably shouldn’t eat it. Cheese strings anyone?

Free-ranged bacon, organic eggs and spinach, cooked in bacon fat and olive oil.

One misconception of Paleo is that you don’t have any carbs – this isn’t true. You get good healthy carbs from lots of (mostly leafy) veg and a little fruit. You don’t need all those carbs that come in cakes, biscuits, fatty pastry foods, bread and most processed foods, that are also full of sugar. Have you ever heard of essential carbohydrates? Exactly.  Unless your a high-performance athlete, then you really don’t need more then a 100grams of carbs a day – most people could get away with about 50grams but it’s worth playing around this is, to see what works best for you. Anything over 150grams for the average person and this will be converted into fat. Speaking of which, good healthy forms of fat will provide you with all the energy you need. Your body may take a while to get into fat-burning mode but once it does, you’ll soon be lean and health.
I’ll be discussing fat as energy in a later post, but for now check out this great post on Mark’s Daily Apple about why a high-fat diet is healthy.
The following guide is taken from a once very helpful and well written website called Wellnut, written and run by a guy called Steve Adams. Unfortunately the site doesn’t seem to be up any more, but here he breaks done what you can and shouldn’t eat:
“Paleo:

  • Plants:  vegetables; almost any edible plant that grows on this green earth.
  • Animals:  MEAT! This includes beef, chicken, pork (including bacon), fish, and eggs (yes, there’s more to this list).
  • Nuts:  almonds, walnuts, macadamias, etc. No, this doesn’t include peanuts (they’re a legume).
  • Seeds:  sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc….chew away!
  • Oils:  Olive oil, coconut oil, fish oil, among others.

Non-Paleo:

  • Grains (bread, pasta, rice, and all their derivatives)
  • Sugar
  • Processed food
  • Dairy (although this one is more of a grey area, and much less important than the other points) “

Steve’s website is well worth checking out as it gives lots of good introduction advice, as well as some awesome success story’s. My particular favourite is Success Story 3 featuring ‘The Unconquerable Dave’.

Google ‘Paleo success stories’ and take a look yourself at how eating this way has helped thousands of people lose weight, feel fitter and healthier and has helped cure a lot of illnesses. Maybe it can help you? One thing to remember though, is that what works for one person doesn’t always work for another. But try it for 30 days and if you don’t feel or notice any difference, then what have you lost?

Some cool sites to check out are:

Unhappy & unhealthy – Why I had to do something about my weight.


So what makes you want to lose weight? It can be a different trigger for each of us. Horrified by a photo of yourself, an upcoming holiday, feeling unhappy? There’s hundreds and each is just as important to one person as it is the next.

My reason was through unhappiness. I’ve always been big (big built as friends and family would kindly say), more so when I was younger. Then during secondary school I lost a bit of puppy fat from playing Rugby and general P.E. lessons at school. But I was still quite chubby.

I got bigger during Sixth Form but I was lucky in that the fat didn’t show too much (for whatever reason) as much as it did on other people. Eventually though it was clear that my stomach was getting bigger – I tried to walk round with my belly sucked in but this was impossible to do for longer then a few minutes. But trust me, I tried!

I had a paper round that gave me an hour of walking everyday but that was pretty much it, as far as exercise was concerned. I know I wasn’t in great shape and started to go jogging with a few mates a few times a month, but then this stopped too.

I got a job at The British Library in November 1998 but my bad and lazy eating habits carried on. Lunch would normally be a white bread sandwich or large roll with crisps and a cake, plus whatever I could get for snacks. I was becoming more and more unfit, sweating even from just walking from one side of a reading room to the next. The tube during the Summer was horrible – I would be standing there with the sweat pouring of me. Not a pretty sight to say the least, and no surprise that I was single.

The big moment for me was around Christmas 2003. It was Boxing Day and I had just come back from an Arsenal game. Some family were round and my mum had laid out loads of food – which I was more then happy to eat, and trust me it was a lot. The following day I weighed myself and I was 20st. The following day I went to Boots and had my body fat reading taken, which was over 30%. I think I’ve force myself to forget the exact reading…

It was a massive shock but I stupidly didn’t do anything about it, I just carried on.

Then not long after that, I had what I call my very own ‘Lost Weekend’. John Lennon fans will know all about this, except mine involved food and not drugs and alcohol…

Feeling sorry for myself and very unhappy I just went crazy. With no exaggeration, that weekend I eat:

2-3 boxes of Magnum Ice Creams
2-3 Boxes of Coco Pops cereal with milk
Some family sized Jam Swiss Rolls
A whole Black Forest Gateau
34 multi-pack of Walkers crisps
Box of Chocolate Swiss Rolls
Pork Pies
Scotch Eggs

All this and more, plus the normal meals my mum was making for dinner, and whatever I was making myself for breakfast and lunch.

On the Monday morning I understandably felt dreadful – no energy, feeling even more depressed and down then ever. I just sat looking at this massive belly looking back, I hated the sight of me in the mirror.

And with that I just thought to myself “you’ve got to sort yourself out, this is crazy”, and that’s what I did.

I started by cutting out all the crap – which as you can see wasn’t exactly hard to do. Anyone dropping that amount of processed food would lose weight fast. I also joined a gym and did some jogging. The biggest thing was that my sister was doing Weight Watchers, so I started that too. It was easy enough as she had the books already and was cooking Weight Watcher meals for her, me and my mum.

I managed to lose 4 stone in 6 months, which was a fantastic feeling. I had some horrible sugar crashes at the start but these soon levelled out. Then my sister and mum turned Vegan, so I carried on doing Weight Watchers by myself. I lost a bit more weight – at my lowest I weighed 14.4st. I was slimmer but didn’t have much muscle.

In terms of gym work and training, it was based on whatever routine was in that month’s Men’s Fitness magazine. I didn’t really know what I was doing and it wasn’t until a few years later that I started to learn about compound moves and how these used for far better training results – I’ll go into that in another post.

As for my diet, I eventually stopped doing Weight Watchers as I got fed up with counting points. But if someone did want to lose a certain amount of weight, then it’s not for everyone but it worked for me. I’m now more careful with what I eat. I used to be a crisp monster but stopped eating these nearly two years ago. I don’t miss them at all and certainly don’t miss the oil on my fingers and insides! I don’t go near any soft drinks and try to stay away from processed foods. I do use protein powder from myprotein.com, but normally for after the gym and sometimes as a quick snack.

I’ve still got a bit of a spare tyre which I’m trying to shift, hence me experimenting eating the Paleo way. I’ll talk more about this in an upcoming blog post. What I will say is that aside from cutting out most of the processed foods that used to form a big part of my diet ( I still enjoy some chocolate or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as part of a treat meal), I’ve also cut grains from my diet and this has made an even bigger difference to my overall health. I used to have migraines on a regular basis, but these have gone down to maybe one every 3-4 months. I look and feel leaner and my face isn’t as bloated either. If I eat bread or pasta now, I find myself feeling bloated with a 30 minutes, and hungry again soon after. I feel at my best when I keep my diet simple and clean: good meats and fats, fish, leafy veg, some Greek yoghurt and berries. I also use myprotein True Whey protein powder before and after a gym session.

So there’s my weight story. I feel so much better then what I did. I keep an old picture of me at my desk (the one which is towards the top of this very blog) to stop me snacking on crisps, chocolate and other processed junk. Saying that, I will sometimes treat myself to dark chocolate – but only a small bit, obviously…!

Lots of people say it’s too hard to lose weight or that they don’t have the time. If they are that serious about it, then all they need is some time and effort. If I can do it, then anyone can.

Talk soon,

Dan