Saturday, 31 December 2011

What to Expect from The Big Outdoors Group Exercise Class

You maybe nervous coming along to your first Outdoor group exercise class with PB Fitness, but there is no need to be. Everyone is really fun and friendly, making it the perfect place to meet new friends.

On arrival I will meet you on the corner of Crossfield and Ward Avenue, with old and new members around who will start chatting to you and explaining what you can expect in the session. Normally within a couple of minutes of arriving most new members are wondering what they had to be nervous about. I will then take your keys and any other valuables that you would like me to look after.

The sessions will take place across the whole of Northwood Park for 45 minutes. Another thing people worry about is their fitness levels. Please don't worry that you will only be able to get half way through the session. Everyone is working to their full potential no matter how fit or unfit you are. Lots of people are worried that they are not fit enough and say that they are going to get fit somewhere else and come back, but the whole point of it is that PB Fitness will get you fit.

People are also worried about what to wear. All we wear is old tracksuit bottoms or leggings, florescent jacket for the winter, a beanie hat and gloves for the winter too, as we will still be doing press ups on the ground. Anything that you would wear doing the gardening or don't mind getting a little dirty.

The Big Outdoors Group Exercise Class was set up to train in a different environment, away from the gym in the great outdoors, which leads to mental, physical and welfare benefits. One very important thing to remember is that it is not a boot camp. You are not given a bib and called a number, I will get to know your name and you are never shouted out. We exercise in a fun and friendly environment with a mix of resistance exercise, cardiovascular exercise, as well as individual and team games.

I am really looking forward to seeing you at a session soon, the members are really looking forward to meeting you too. All you have to do is take a deep breathe, print out the voucher off the website ( to get your first session for half price. Then come and do something totally out of the blue, that you have never done before, totally different from a gym class, because I can guarantee you are going to have a fantastic time and we are looking forward to seeing you in the park soon.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Should You Use Protein Supplements?

One of the regular questions I get asked by clients is should I take protein supplements? The information below should enable you to make your own decision whether you think protein supplements are good for you or not.

What is Protein used for In the Body?

Protein is essential for the growth, maintenance and repair of body tissue. Protein is a part of every living cell and some tissues, like skin, muscle, tendons, ligaments, hair and the core of bones and teeth are predominantly made up of protein. However, in addition to this structural role, proteins perform an enormous variety of physiological functions inside the body:
  • All enzymes are proteins. Enzymes control both the rate and the pattern of all chemical reactions that take place in the body, including the digestion of food and the extraction of energy from it.
  • Some hormones are made up of protein. These are chemical messengers that alter the normal physiological activity of cells within the body and cover a wide range of functions, for example insulin is a hormone that controls blood glucose (sugar) levels.
  • Antibodies are proteins. These are produced by white blood cells and move directly into the bloodstream to fight infection.
  • Although not a primary source of energy, protein does provide us with 4kcal per gram
It may seem logical that because of the importance of protein in our body, we would need to consume a lot of it on a daily basis. However Protein only needs to make up between 10-15% of your total calories.

Sources of Protein

Protein is plentiful in the British diet. Meat and dairy products will provide a good supply of protein; a significant amount will also come from nuts, grains, cereal and pulses.

Protein Requirements

Unless there is insufficient carbohydrate stores, protein will not be used for energy production.  Add to this the fact that protein turnover within the body is continual and that there is usually a large pool of amino acids available for protein synthesis, you can see that dietary protein needs on a daily basis are really quite small.

Protein needs per day = 0.8g per kg body weight per day. This is equivalent to 10 –15% of total calories. This guideline is an estimate for a healthy, sedentary adult and would be sufficient for the majority of the UK adult population. (Ref: DH1991).

This requirement applies to people who maintain a desirable body weight and composition. Individuals who have a relatively high amount of body fat need to work out their needs based on their desirable weight, as research has shown that fat tissue has a lower rate of protein synthesis than lean tissue. Because of this, strength training athletes who have a large amount of muscle mass and a low percentage body fat may have higher requirements. The consensus opinion from various research studies would estimate this to be about: 

Do We Need Protein Supplementation?

Most sources clearly state that a normal balanced diet provides adequate protein for most people, even body builders, and that the wide spread use of protein/amino acid supplements is a complete waste of time and money, and may compromise health status. Protein based supplements are not a substitute for a poorly planned diet. However, there are certain circumstances when they may be useful:

  • Strength and power based athletes with a large build, or those on very heavy training schedules (a strength athlete weighing 80kg may need as much as 144g a day)

  • An athlete on a calorie restricted or fat loss programme, if they simply cannot consume enough protein from food alone with their calorie allowance.
  • Vegetarian athletes: A well planned vegetarian diet may still meet the protein requirements of athletes though this may be harder to achieve; low fat dairy products are relatively rich in protein but plant sources are generally lower so it is essential to eat the right combination of plant based proteins
Many protein-based supplements are engineered to be meal replacements for athletes so may actually contain a better nutritional combination than a protein only supplement.

Health Risks of Excessive Protein Intakes

There are no health or performance benefits in taking in more protein than we actually need. Many studies have been performed in this area, but as yet the evidence is not conclusive as to the damage caused by high protein intakes.

The body will use its required amount of protein in relation to the demands put on it. The remainder can then do one of the following:
  • May contribute to reduced bone density by increasing urinary calcium excretion.              
  • The nitrogen-containing element of protein is converted to urea in the liver and excreted in the urine.
  • High protein intakes have been shown to be dangerous for individuals with kidney and liver disease and may lead to problems following long term over consumption.
  • A high protein intake can lead to the accumulation of ammonia in the blood that is toxic, particularly to brain cells.
  • Excess protein (if it contributes to more energy than the body needs) is stored in the body as fat and this can lead to obesity.
  • A high protein intake from animal products is associated with high intakes of saturated fat and therefore, increased cholesterol. In turn this may lead to the development of Coronary Heart Disease. 
If you like eating meat there is no need to worry if your protein consumption is a little higher than needed every now and again. However, if you consistently consume considerably more than 10–15% of your total calorie intake as protein, you could increase your health risks.  

(Information sourced from YMCAfit)

Healthy Eating Guidelines

What does a Balance diet consist of?
  • 50-60% Carbohydrates
  • 30-35% Fats
  • 10-15% Proteins

The ‘eatwell plate’ is based on the healthy eating guidelines as stated above and the eight tips for healthy eating, as follows:

1.     Base your meals on starchy foods
2.     Eat lots of fruit and vegetables
3.     Eat more fish
4.     Cut down on saturated fat and sugar
5.     Try to eat less salt – no more than 6g a day
6.     Get active and try to be a healthy weight
7.      Drink plenty of water
8.      Don’t skip breakfast

Using the Food Plate

We can see that the food plate is split into five food groups:

1.   Bread, cereals and potatoes
2.   Fruit and vegetables 
3.   Meat, fish and alternatives 
4.   Milk and dairy foods
5.   Foods containing fat and sugar

Quality of Food

Bread, Cereals and potatoes (6-11 Servings)

This food group occupies a large section of the food plate, indicating that we should be obtaining a high percentage of our energy from this food group. This does not mean we can eat any amount of food from this group; it is crucial to note that there are ‘good’ choices and ‘bad’ choices in all the food groups.

We should be aiming to consume a variety of high ‘quality’ grains and cereals in this food group and not just the usual bread, pasta and rice; consider the sources of carbohydrates. When making food choices in this food group try following these simple rules:

  • Choose unrefined carbohydrates – whole grains and fibre-rich.
  • Avoid over consumption of refined carbohydrates – white bread and products made from refined flour, pasta, white rice and refined breakfast cereals.
  • Add variety to your diet by including grains such as barley, millet, spelt, quinoa, whole grain rice and pasta.
  • Try to include a variety of starchy vegetables as an alternative to potatoes e.g. sweet potato, yams, squash and pumpkin.
Fruit and Vegetables (3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit)

This food group also occupies a large section of the food plate. In fact, it indicates that we should be consuming this food group in the same proportion as the bread and cereal group.

A general guideline for this food group is that we should be consuming at least five portions of fruit and vegetables per day. This food group does not provide us with a great deal of energy, but is essential to provide us with a rich supply of vitamins, minerals and fibre. If we are consuming over this recommendation of five portions per day, this should not be seen as a problem, unless we are consuming a high volume of fruit and vegetables and not a lot from other food groups. This can lead to a deficiency in energy and other essential nutrients (namely protein and fat).

When making choices in this food group consider the following:
  • Include a variety of fruits and vegetables  
  • Include brightly coloured fruits and vegetables
  • Include green leafy vegetables
  •  Fruit juice and dried fruit can be included but should not replace whole fruit and vegetable
  • Try something new
Meat, Fish and Alternatives (2-3 servings)

This food group occupies a smaller section of the food plate compared to the fruit and vegetable group and the grains and cereals group. This group will provide you with energy and protein as well as essential vitamins, minerals and fats.

As with all the food groups, we can make ‘good’ and ‘bad’ choices in relation to the ‘quality’ of the food we choose. Good choices will ensure we obtain a good supply of essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Making bad choices will provide a high percentage of saturated fats

When making food choices in this group consider the following:

Include a variety of foods from non-animal sources such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, soya products, nuts and seeds
Include fish, especially oily fish, a few times per week
Limit the amount of meat and meat products and opt for leaner cuts of meat  

Dairy Products (2-3 servings)

As with the group above, this group is required in a smaller proportion than fruit and vegetables or the grains and cereals group. It will provide energy, protein, fats, vitamins and minerals. Potentially, this group can provide a high proportion of saturated fat.

Therefore, when making food choices it may be beneficial to consider the following:

  • Include some lower fat alternatives (it is important to read the food label as some lower fat options are high in sugar)
  • Be aware of portion sizes as these foods can be rich in energy as well as fat
  • Individuals who do not consume dairy products may increase their intake of foods from other groups to obtain the essential nutrients they may be missing out on e.g. nuts, seeds, pulses, whole grains, brightly coloured and green leafy vegetables
Foods Containing Fats and Sugars (Include Sparingly)

This food group occupies the smallest section of the plate. It is not recommended that we need to consume food from this group, as we will obtain all the essential nutrients we require from the other food groups.

This section includes foods rich in additional fats and sugars such as crisps, confectionary, cakes, biscuits, pastry; and additional fats and sugar we may add to our diet e.g. butter, margarine, oil for cooking sugar in our tea, sugary drinks.
As with all the food groups we can make ‘good’ and ‘bad’ choices in relation to the ‘quality’ of the food in this group.

Following these guidelines will help you to make ‘good’ choices:
  • Avoid or limit the amount of foods you consume that are high in additional fats and sugars.  
  • As outlined above they are rich in saturated fats, trans fats, refined carbohydrates and sugar
  • Choose snacks rich in seeds, dried fruits and nuts. They will provide you with energy and are rich in essential nutrients
  • When cooking use vegetable oils, but use them sparingly
  • Limit the amount of saturated fat you use e.g. butter
  • Be aware that some vegetable oil spreads may be high in trans fats, therefore limit consumption of them
(Information sourced from YMCAfit)

Monday, 12 December 2011

What Is Functional Training?

Functional exercises focus on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in an idealised posture created by a gym machine. In many respects, functional strength training should be thought of in terms of a movement continuum. As humans, we perform a wide range of movement activities, such as walking, jogging, running, sprinting, jumping, lifting, pushing, pulling, bending, twisting, turning, standing, starting, stopping, climbing and lunging. All of these activities involve smooth, rhythmic motions in the three cardinal planes of movement-sagital, frontal and transverse.

Functional strength training involves performing work against resistance in such a manner that the improvements in strength directly enhance the performance of movements so that activities of daily living are easier to perform.

For example at the gym yesterday you bench-pressed more then you ever have done before. Today you go to lift your suitcase for your holiday and put your back out. Why? The likelihood is that you are not paying enough attention to functional fitness. You may be toned, tight and ready for the beach, but are you ready to lift your baby out of their car seat or put a heavy box onto a shelf?

Muscles need to work together; normal weight training isolates muscle groups, meaning that these isolated muscle groups don’t learn how to work with each other. The key to functional exercise is integration. It’s all about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them.

Unlike conventional weight training with functional training you don’t train to failure as you will be training to fail, you train till your form/technique is no longer perfect.

What are the benefits of functional training?

Functional training may lead to better muscular balance and joint stability. This could also lead to possibly decreasing the number of injuries sustained during exercise or sport. The benefits may arise from the use of training that emphasis’s the body's natural ability to move in six degrees of freedom. This in turns compares to fixed resistance machines. Although fixed resistance machines appears to be safer to use, they restrict movements to a single plane of motion, which is an unnatural form of movement for the body and may potentially lead to faulty movement patterns or injury.

What type of equipment is functional?

Functional training may lead to better muscular balance and joint stability. This could also lead to possibly decreasing the number of injuries sustained during exercise or sport. The benefits may arise from the use of training that emphasis’s the body's natural ability to move in six degrees of freedom. This in turns compares to fixed resistance machines. Although fixed resistance machines appears to be safer to use, they restrict movements to a single plane of motion, which is an unnatural form of movement for the body and may potentially lead to faulty movement patterns or injury.

Standard resistance training machines are of limited use for functional training – their fixed patterns rarely mimic natural movements, and they focus the effort on a single muscle group, rather than engaging the stabilising and peripheral muscles.

Some of the equipment that we use at PB Fitness include:

  • Medicine balls
  • Kettlebells
  • Dumbells
  • Cable Machines
  • Resistance Bands
  • TRX Suspension Training
  • Core balls
  • Bosu balls
  • Stability discs
This equipment means that your workout will be fun, exciting and full of variety. Why not come and try a class for yourself.