Category

Nutrition

800 gram Challenge

Fruits and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Fibre for a healthy guy = happy and healthier you.

The power of the nutrients can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.

Even though we know the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables, 72% of the UK population don’t meet the NHS daily recommended portion of fruits and vegetables. Let’s change that!

We at CFLDN have decided to give fruit and vegetables a little nudge into the spotlight.

Lead by our Nutrition coach,  Juan @juanthecoach and inspired by the 800gmschallenge created by EC Synkowsky, we are going to start a 12 day nutrition challenge where there are no restrictions, no food is off limits, the only thing you need to do is add 800gms of fruit and vegetables to your daily intake.

This challenge is free to do and if you know someone that can benefit from this please tag us.

Kick off will be the 1st of February, don’t worry if you don’t have a scale you can still take part in this. Get in touch with Juan juan@crossfitlondonuk.com for any Q’s.

Grab that wonky potato or wobbly carrot and join us in promoting a plant revolution!

When it comes to nutrition and healthy eating or your relationship with food, Crossfit London has your back

Stress

How you manage stress is crucial.

If you ignore it and continue to eat rubbish, blot out your pain by booze, and continue to do “stupid stuff” (just for another hit of adrenaline), eventually it will drag you down.

Most chronic conditions have a stress connection. Stress rips relationships apart!

For now start thinking about what are the good things you can do to relieve stress, and what are the things that make your stress even worse.

Here is a handy infographic to nudge you along

If you want help managing your stress, see what we can do at Crossfit London to help you. Why not  get in contact

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Emotions and Food.

Every year some people attend a few food-based education sessions, sign up for a few exercise classes, turn over a new leaf, and voila a few months later they are at a healthy target weight. According to the obesity statistics, about 50% of the population are able to maintain a healthy weight, and a physique they are  (presumably) comfortable with, without ever seeing a trainer or a weight loss expert. Some people so it seems,  have a natural gift to maintain a balance between food and activity.

For others, this balance is an impossibility. Seemingly simple healthy eating rules are to some, a stress-inducing nightmare.  Sometimes emotions can be controlled for a short-term celebrity diet. For many, this denial results in unwanted weight gain!

To be utterly clear, about 50% of the population needs no emotional food or eating support what so ever.    If you simply need some hints on the mechanics, there is  lots of weight-loss advice out there, from weighing to calorie counting.  The mechanics that successful weight managers use are here. . If you want  support in working out your macros, it’s here at our nutrition service

These methods and hints work brilliantly as long as you haven’t made an emotional connection with food.

If you have an emotional connection, the science says that methods like calorie counting will send your stress levels through the roof.

The moment you see food as a reward, a comforter, a stress reliever or central to family life,  most unsupported attempts to control how what, or when you eat will magnify the stress you feel. In many cases, your current relationship with food is the only thing that keeps you together.

Thankfully in between the numerous: “It’s the food stupid” diets, there have been great strides taken to understand some people underlying emotion/food issues.

The conclusions are clear. Until you work out how to change your body image,  recognise and properly deal with your emotions, acclimatise to change and normalise your eating,  food will continue to dominate, rule, and ruin your life. To help we will now be running a monthly free 5-day “food and emotions challenge” Hopefully with a better, snappier, name (but no promises)!

Over the 5 days, you take part in some interesting behavior and mindset challenges and join in thought-provoking online discussions ( possibly by zoom, more likely to be in the Crossfit London Facebook group join here ) At the end of the challenge you’ll have some interesting ideas to either continue a self researched journey or chat to our team and see if you’d like some more support!

Here is how to get involved.

Step 1: Identify if you are an emotional eater

complete this  questionnaire and we will  tell you if your eating is emotionally driven

The Emotional Eating Questionnaire

If you know you have an emotional issue with food and find the questionnaire idea daunting/ or don’t like the one we are currently using, we can add you to the challenge without it! just drop us an email and say “add me to the  emotions/food challenge”)

(If you have problems with the questionnaire link email me and I’ll send it to you directly)

Once you’ve submitted the questionnaire we will tell you if you have issues that the challenge will help with.

Step 2: If we think the challenge will work for you, we will send you the background to the challenge and some basic tasks to help you prepare for it.

Step 3 whilst it’s not clear at the time of writing if we will use Zoom or  a Facebook group for our daily discussions, it’s as well to join the Facebook group asap here 

Step 4 each day of the challenge you’ll be sent some interesting tasks by email to make you think about things as varied as your body image, your emotions,  your social flexibility. We will discuss the results, issues, problems either on zoom or in the Facebook group later that day.

The first challenge will start on Monday 1st Feb ( We thought we’d leave some space between then and the nonsense of new years resolutions. This gives you time to jump into a 7 days celeb starvation diet, and remind yourself how awful and destructive they are before you start!).

 

 

The muscle up: because its good to have a standard

Pretty well anyone, who isn’t quite ill, can jog a bit!

It’s actually, not that difficult with a bit of basic training to get almost anyone into a simplistic exercise class. I was forced to teach basic circuit classes in 1998 as part of my initial introduction into the world of fitness teaching, and its theory was to keep it really simple and really basic “as long as their heart is elevated it’s a great workout”.

It is quite correct that basic aerobic fitness is a useful thing and that it helps bring down some of the crippling costs of the NHS. However, to make fitness “walk off the street”accessible the powers that be decided to trash the moves. It didn’t matter if you couldn’t squat, or a push-up. If you could do a ‘half jack” and elevate your heart rate you were fit!

Trashing fitness standards leaves you weak and vulnerable in what is after all a very harsh world.

Jogging and spinning on a bike does not train you to pull your family from a burning house, or pick up your children and run with them to the hospital. An emphasis on specialism produces awesome endurance runners who cannot haul their luggage and superbly strong strongmen who would collapse after jogging a mile.  At Crossfit London we look for the middle road; unfortunately, it’s a hard road.

Many people embark on fitness regimes that consist of a muddled mix of sports-specific rehabilitation and bodybuilding drills. If you are injured – you need rehabilitation drills If you are developing your golf putt – you need sports-specific drills. If you like posing on a stage wearing fake tan and teeny weenie panties – body-building drills are for you.

Of course, all training should have an aesthetic output: your body should express what it can do. Is there any point in having a Cadillac chassis with a lawnmower engine? (Actually, some people think there is: and they are so very, very special)

We think it’s second-rate to embark on a core conditioning and training regime without a clear idea of what you are going to achieve. Immature goals such as ‘reducing my 10k time by four minutes’, or ‘upping my deadlift by 8%’, – while seemingly precise and accurate – are distractingly narrow for the fundamental ‘underpinning’ training that most people need (that said, we can easily get you those targets too).

We simply aim to generally prepare you for all types of challenges, by measuring and designing training against three standards.

Crossfit fitness standard 1

There are ten recognised general physical skills. They are:

■ Endurance (cardio/respiratory) ■ Stamina (the ability to effectively use energy) ■ Strength ■ Flexibility ■ Power ■ Speed ■ Coordination ■ Agility ■ Balance ■ Accuracy

You are as fit as you are competent in each of these ten skills. A regime only develops fitness if it improves each of these skills.

Improvements in endurance, stamina, strength, and flexibility come about through training. Training improves performance through physical changes.

Improvements in coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy come about through practice – which improves the nervous system.

Power and speed are adaptations of both training and practice.

Use this standard the next time you go for a spin class ( how strong, flexible, powerful and coordinated does sitting on your ass on a bike really make you?)

Crossfit fitness standard 2

We think your training should prepare you for real life. The implication here is that fitness requires an ability to perform well at all tasks (even unfamiliar ones) combined in infinitely varying combinations. In practice, this encourages you to put aside any prior notions of sets, rest periods, reps, exercises, order of exercises, routines, etc. Nature frequently provides largely unforeseeable challenges; train for that by striving to ‘mix stuff up’.

In practice you turn up to training a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect.

It helps build will and bravery.

Crossfit fitness standard 3

Whoever invented the human body was a bit of a ‘worry puss’– they felt that one energy system just wasn’t safe enough. Rather like the householder who has a real fireplace, electric storage heaters, and gas central heating. Some would call that greedy, but a cautious person would call it prudent.

The human body has three energy systems. One for fast reactive movement (diving under a car to save your three-year-old toddler), a slower, more extended, but still, a pretty snappy system (for running 350 metres, then diving under a car to save your three-year-old toddler). Finally, there is the long term ‘trickle’ energy system (the one you use while shoe shopping, running 5k, miles away from any toddlers).

For people who have little experience of toddlers, these ‘metabolic engines’ are known

as: the phosphagen pathway, the glycolytic pathway, and the oxidative pathway.

■ The first, the phosphagen, dominates the highest-powered activities (100 metre sprint), those that last less than about ten seconds.

■ The second pathway, the glycolytic, dominates moderate-powered activities, those that last up to several minutes (400-800 metre run).

■ The third pathway, the oxidative, dominates low-powered activities, those that last in excess of several minutes (5k run, walking, shopping).

Total fitness – the fitness that Crossfit promotes and develops – requires competency and training in each of these three pathways or engines. Balancing the effects of these three pathways largely determines the how and why of the metabolic conditioning (or ‘cardio’) that we do at Crossfit. Favoring one or two to the exclusion of the others, and not recognising the impact of excessive training in the oxidative pathway, are arguably the two most common faults in fitness training.

As an overriding principle, Crossfit views the needs of an Olympic athlete and that of our grandparents as differing by degree not kind. One is looking for functional dominance the other for functional competence. Competence and dominance manifest through identical physiological mechanisms.

At CrossFit London we scale load and intensity; we don’t change programs.

In objective terms, this could mean trying and failing to master  skills like the muscle up

The muscle-up is simply a visible test. Do you really have strong arms and a  tight core? Do you have the will power to train for a move that’s genuinely hard? The advantage of a bicep curl* is that on day 1 you can do it, albeit empty-handed. All you have to do is add weight. Day 1 there’s no chance that most people can muscle up. But here is the thing. We are basically a school for adults. We teach you the functional physical literacy that you were deprived of. We have drills galore to help you learn, like this one, and expert trainers to support you.(* BTW, it’s ok, you get to do some bicep curls too!!)

We have some training drills on our facebook group if you fancy checking it out. If you want to come and train, drop us a line

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Remembrance weekend 7th/8th November 2020

It is a Crossfit London tradition to stage a special workout on Remembrance day ( this year 8th November)

This year we will be doing something slightly different. Whilst the arrangements are not set in stone, the challenge for that weekend will be to workout every hour, on the hour for 24 hours.

This is inspired by the run 1 mile every hour on the hour for 24 hours challenge.

Whilst there will be lots of detailed arrangements, we thought you’d like an advanced warning of this challenge so you can have some thinking time of how you will do it.

At its most basic level, you can simply, from home, run (walk) one mile (1k, 400m?) every hour, on the hour starting at either 9, 10 or 11 am on Saturday 7th November. This means you will have either 1 or 2 hours after the challenge ends to get breakfast, shower, and get to a memorial near you for the 11 am silence.

If running isn’t for you You may fancy 100 burpees every hour on the hour., or 20 squats, of 10 minutes of cindy, Whatever. Obviously, please don’t disturb your neighbours and make sure its Covid safe!!

In our original plan, we had hoped to open the gym, but with the 2nd lockdown, you’ll do this as a personal thing!

You may fancy 100 burpees every hour on the hour.  Obviously, where ever you do this, don’t disturb your neighbours and make sure its Covid safe!!

 

For now, that’s a date for your diary!

 

Can you be fit and fat?

The  answer to this  seemingly obvious question is  often confused by trying to define what  fat and fit means. Over the years the measurement of fat and indeed its distribution has raised some interesting  questions. I’m very aware of the muscular athletic awesome looking Crossfit athlete who comes back from their annual medical having been told they are obese according to their BMI. These are people, who when their body fat is checked(using callipers or some sort of science fiction machine) are down into the enviable category!. The next interesting “quickie” fat measure came when the discussion of abdominal obesity became fashionable The waist to hip ratio measurement was quick and easy and it certainly measured the tummy fat that showed. Today, we should all be about visceral fat. But, It’s a hard thing to measure without a CT scan . The problem with visceral fat (the fat inside your visceral cavity, or around your organs) , is that skinny people can have visceral fat and that people with a big tummy don’t necessarily have visceral fat. It can sometimes be all subcutaneous! Basically we can  have obvious fat and/or visceral fat. Now we need to ask what is healthy or what is metabolically unhealthy. According to Ortega (2012) .  If you crave the “metabolically unhealthy” crown, you must have one or more of these readings
  • high blood pressure (≥130/85 mmHg)
  • high blood triglycerides (≥150 mg/dL)
  • low HDL “good” cholesterol (<40 and 50 mg/dL in men and women, respectively)
  • high fasting blood sugar level (≥100 mg/dL)
Since the NHS actually started recording  the prevalence of obesity it was correlated with high blood pressure, high triglycerides, low good cholesterol and poor blood sugar. So it was quickly assumed that any overweight person would have these metabolically unhealthy markers. It wasn’t difficult to imagine the step to saying obesity causes them. However, this is a great example that causation doesn’t necessarily mean causation.  Is it possible to be visibly overweight ( I know that’s terribly subjective, but work with me) but still have metabolically healthy readings ( good blood pressure, good  blood sugar). Ortega et al wrote ”The intriguing metabolically healthy but obese phenotype: cardiovascular prognosis and role of fitness ”  They ran some tests using BMI and the 4 health markers and noted (i) metabolically healthy but obese individuals have a higher fitness level than their metabolically abnormal and obese peers; (ii) after accounting for fitness, metabolically healthy but obese phenotype is a benign condition, in terms of cardiovascular disease and mortality. this led to these conclusions (i) Higher fitness should be considered a characteristic of metabolically healthy but obese phenotype. (ii) Once fitness is accounted for, the metabolically healthy but obese phenotype is a benign condition, with a better prognosis for mortality and morbidity than metabolically abnormal obese individuals.
  • “Metabolically healthy” obese participants had a better baseline fitness level on the treadmill test compared with “metabolically abnormal” obese participants (adjusting for age, sex, examination year, smoking and alcohol consumption, and when using either BMI or body fat percentage to define obesity). The difference was the same for men and women.
  • “Metabolically abnormal” obese participants had significantly increased risk of dying from any cause during follow-up compared with “metabolically healthy” obese participants (adjusting for confounders and using either BMI or body fat percentage to define obesity).
  • When looking at cardiovascular disease outcomes, “metabolically abnormal” obese participants only had increased risk of a fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular disease event compared with “metabolically healthy” obese participants when using body fat percentage to define obesity. There was no difference in risk when using standard BMI definitions.
  • “Metabolically healthy” obese participants had no difference in risk of dying from any cause, or of fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular disease events compared with “metabolically healthy” normal-weight or fat participants.
On a narrow set of  health criteria and dubious “obesity’ assessments it’s quite possible to argue that you can be fat and fit!  However, over the years more concern has been raised about where your fat is . Research has indicated,visceral fat may be doing something  far more nasty. “Visceral Fat Adipokine Secretion Is Associated With Systemic Inflammation in Obese Humans” 2007 concluded “that visceral fat is an important site for IL-6 secretion ( an inflammation causing thing) and provide a potential mechanistic link between visceral fat and systemic inflammation in people with abdominal obesity”. So there is an interesting line of experiments that indicate that visceral fat could be there, releasing nasty stuff. The interesting thing is that you can be quite skinny and still have visceral fat and you can be obese and have no visceral fat. So based on current evidence and where you fat is  you can be both  visibly fat and fit and skinny and ill! Thanks to Andrewstemler.com for this article

Intensity Versus Volume

It’s something that’s not always recognised, but, Crossfit thrives on intensity, not volume. The secret is “ keep workouts  short and intense” and  “be impressed with intensity, not volume”.

There are those who passionately believe that the core method, and indeed most classes should be just 60 minutes that include a warm up and cool down and one workout.

Crossfit staff seminar trainer James Hobart  discussed his views in the Crossfit Journal,  on the volume v intensity  debate. It’s  an issue often raised on the Crossfit level 1 and 2 trainer course. Clearly volume has a siren call. To be an elite crossfitter you need to be able to do multiple workouts, therefore, so the argument goes, the more the better.

Before you accept this at face value, there are some factors you need to consider:

If an elite athlete adds more volume to their regime, it’s built on rock solid mechanics and ability.  So the argument goes, if you are scaling your workouts, extra workouts are not the answer.  Specific strength  and skill building  solves that. “Increased rehearsal of poor movement patterns and shoddy mechanics is a losers gambit”. The winners get to those extra  skill/strength classes,  : the ones that  fix your issues. Volume is not the cure. Effective coaching and teaching is!

Volume isn’t necessary if the goal is simply getting fitter. On a long term, athletes will  continue to build work capacity across broad times and modal domains with a single  daily dose of “constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity”

Never the less, many effective athletes do add volume. Here are their secrets: No matter what extra work or volume you add, you still go “balls to the wall “ in your core Crossfit workout. You  must  still end up on the floor having a physical and mental break down at the end of that  5-20 minute workout. HOWEVER  If you you are doing your workout of the day, and you are reigning back (only say working at 60% intensity)  because you know you have 3 more workouts, a bicep session, some Zumba and a 5k run planned, that’s where it goes wrong.

You don’t need harder workouts, you need to go harder in your workouts,” Games veteran Tommy Hackenbruck quipped on Instagram.

If you really want to boost your performance, here are some  clues. Work your mobility until you move like a supple leopard.  Fix your injuries. Learn how to  eat well.  Get enough sleep, and work with our strength and gymnastic  expert coaches  to get the  skills and strength you need.

Above all, hit the workout hard!

This said, every body at Crossfit London recognises that our met-con classes  fill a need. London life can be super stressful, so for some its great to loose your self among friends in an hours sweat festival. It just happens, thank god,  that our hour sweat festivals are really, really good!

 

Why Vegans Are Healthier

I’ve neglected this topic for quite a while, but like a combustion engine, the steam is starting to arise as we see diet tribes form, and an abundance of misinformation spouted from our vegan friends. Now, my issue isn’t with vegans themselves, I sincerely respect ones decision not to contribute to suffering and all of the ethical reasons behind avoiding animal products.

 

And I get it, the images of veganism are appealing. Eating closer to nature, fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, fermented this, activated that, on top of that you get to call yourself “plant based” which just feels awesome. Then you’re not eating those “dead caucuses,” those “rotting animals.” Throw on top of this the tribe that will take you in, and the reinforcement from the newsgrab that says that “study says vegans live 10 years longer than meat eaters” or virtually any line from What the Health.
That last part is the reason for this article. No, it’s not about the many health benefits of eating meat, it’s instead about the headlines surrounding health in general, and a phenomenon in research known as the healthy user bias.  
What is it?
The healthy user bias is a term used in research to explain that people who engage in one behaviour that is perceived as healthy are more likely to engage in other behaviours that are healthy. For example, those who are exercise and more likely to eat healthily. Conversely, those who smoke cigarettes are more likely to drink alcohol.
Another example is with a vegetarian diet. Typically, vegetarians are going to be more health – conscious… They drink less alcohol, are unlikely to smoke, and exercise more (14). You see this in real life as well…  One doesn’t just “go” vegetarian, it’s usually thrown in with a yoga membership and some more health conscious decisions. Now, throw a population based study of over 10,000 people together, and the vegetarians are likely going to come up much healthier than their meat eating mates. So was it the kale? Was it the yoga? Was it the positive emotions that went along with avoiding meat? We don’t really know.

 

But that doesn’t stop the headlines of course… Check this one out:

“Vegans Live Longer Than Those Who Eat Meat or Eggs, Research finds” (that’s an actual headline)

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 2.51.43 pm

What we perceive: Meat bad, vegan good.Now, digging past the headline we find that this study documented 130, 000 people over 30 years, and divided them up into meat eating and non – meat eating groups. The results of the study found that meat eaters had higher death rates than non meat eaters, so the conclusion that the media drew is that red meat causes an early death, and veggies cause a long life.

 

Now right here, the damage is done. The brain loves confirmation bias, and even when you know there’s probably more to the story, the message has gotten through and we start to form those connections between meat and disease. 

 

 

What there’s no discussion of is the healthy user bias. There’s no mention of vegan folk being more likely to exercise, get eight hours of sleep, and eat non processed foods. There’s also no mention of meat eaters being MORE likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and eat more processed foods. It doesn’t make the study obsolete, but there should be questions asked rather than conclusions made.

 

So the question then becomes, “how do we control these variables and really work out if a vegan diet really does lead to longer lifespans?” Well, it’s difficult, but researchers really do try to minimise the effect of the healthy user bias. 

 

One savvy study looked at people who shopped at health food stores. And I’m not talking about the joint where old mate gets his pre workout from, I’m talking about the ones with “organic, free range, and bio dynamic” splattered around the place. The same meat and non meat eaters were divided up, and this time there was no significant difference in all cause mortality between vegetarian and omnivore groups. Does this mean an all meat diet is healthier? No, it just means that we need to keep experimenting and asking questions.

 

So what can we agree on?

There’s so much divide and tribalism in nutrition, but most things would be agreed upon by all parties. Here’s what we can do to be a healthy user:

 

Avoid processed meats. Despite many studies weighing them equally, we can all agree that hot dogs from the supermarket are not in the same category as a grass fed steak. Processed meats are low in nutrients, high in calories, and seem to have correlations with certain cancers (though this is not settled).
Avoid char grilling your meats. When we char the hell out of our steak, we’re not only losing out on taste, we’re also cooking up some unhealthy chemicals. Heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are formed when we overdo out meats, and they seem to change DNA that can cause cancer. More on that here.

 

Eat vegetables at every meal. This is a great goal to have. There are some exceptions with certain microbiome conditions, but on the whole, eating vegetables gives you a stack of vitamins, minerals and a whole bunch of funky compounds that are super healthy.

 

Eat a variety of high quality meats: It gets a bad wrap, but meat is actually packed with quality nutrients. CoQ10, zinc, b vitamins, choline, and certain amino acids are all things you can ONLY find in sufficient quantities in meat. This is without mentioning the protein factor, which shows up time and time again as one of the most important factors in keeping healthy. 

 

Avoid Big Agriculture and Eat Local: Local is the new organic. It’s like organic but without the fancy tagline. I recommend buying meat from farmers you know and trust. You’re supporting a thriving, sustainable practice and getting a whole lotta health to go with it.

 

Sun, Sleep and Socialisation: No topic of health deserves mention without considering the three S’s…. It’s like Paleo 2.0. These three factors will help you feel better than any diet will, so let’s get our priorities right before we start dividing ourselves.

Thank you for reading.

*Disclaimer: This post is for information purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose or treat any disease. Always seek help from a medical professional whenever you undergo any dietary change.

References:

Burkert et al. The association between eating behaviours and various health parameters. 
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0088278&type=printable 
Baines, Powers, Brown. (2007). How does the health and well-being of young Australian vegetarian and semi-vegetarian women compare with non-vegetarians?https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17411462/

Key et al. (1996). Dietary habits and mortality in 11,000 vegetarians and health conscious people: results of a 17 year follow up. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8842068

Burn Fat When You Want?! The Magic of Metabolic Flexibility

We love flexibility, and we humans are particularly good at it. Noah el Harari (he wrote Sapiens), credits flexibility and adaptability as the reason we’re still here, and you speak to anyone in the current day and there’s a serious desire to have a flexible life, without rigidity or structure.

It’s defined as the ability to be easily modified, or the willingness to change or compromise – don’t we all want these. But what about flexibility in the body? No, I’m not talking about being able to do a back bend, I’m talking about the ability to shift between fuel sources depending on the situation – this is the modern phenomenon of metabolic flexibility. Yes, this does means that you can burn fat when you want!

So what is it?

Cell defines metabolic flexibility as “the ability of an organism to respond or adapt according to changes in metabolic or energy demand as well as the prevailing conditions or activity.” Goodpaster (2017).

Though the sexier definition comes from Dr Mike T Nelson, who states that “Metabolic Flexibility enables you to (1) transition between fats and carbohydrates so you can burn more fat when you’re not exercising; and (2) use carbohydrates when you are exercising to fuel that activity and perform at a higher level.”

Forget bulletproof coffee, this sounds like the ultimate “biohack.”

Not only does Metabolic Flexibility have huge effects on looking better naked, but it can drastically improve one’s overall heath and quality of life. In fact, our ability to be metabolically flexible has strong links with mitochondrial function, insulin sensitivity and oxygen utilisation (Goodpaster, 2017). It’s not a new concept either, metabolic flexibility has played a crucial role in our survival, as we would have frequent periods of fasting and indulging, forcing the body to go through physiological change to create a more robust human – you could easily argue that we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have metabolic flexibility.

Kelley et al. (2002) sums it up well:
“Due to possible discontinuities in both the supply and demand for energy, humans need a clear capacity to use lipid and carbohydrate fuels and transition between them.(1)” 

So let’s look at someone who’s metabolically flexible. These guys are more likely to be lean, active and can go long periods without food. Part of this is being used to using fat as a fuel source and not having huge peaks and troughs in energy that’s dictated by how log ago their last top up of sugar was. There have been correlations with those who undergo intermittent fasting and a ketogenic diet being more metabolically flexible, but then there is solid research on hunter – gatherer communities who live mostly on carbohydrates demonstrating a good level of metabolic flexibility as well. So this topic goes beyond macros and into about lifestyle, genetics and the microbiome.

On the other hand, let’s look at someone who is “metabolically inflexible.” This person is probably overweight, inactive and might kill someone if they don’t have access to a bagel. Why? Well, their energy peaks and slumps throughout the day as they move from each sweet treat to the next…. These folk are “sugar burners” Many of these folk are victims to the modern food system that’s littered with refined carbohydrates, and are supported by it as well (it’s like an abusive relationship). “A little Hungry? Great! Have this delicious cheap sweet thing then come back in two hours for another.”

As we know, this leads to huge blood sugar fluctuations, overconsumption of nutrient poor and calorie rich food, obesity and dietary related disease. These guys have a really tough time burning fat and getting lean, as they’re running on sugar. Once sugar depletes, there’s a serious craving for more sugar.

Okay Steve, I’m sold, how do I become more metabolically flexible?!

How to get more metabolically flexible.

  1. Exercise:

Shocker I know, but if we move our bodies, we become healthier. Which exercises make me more metabolically flexible you ask? Well, it seems that constant movement (not being a desk jockey) with high intense resistance training is a great combo. So go for that morning walk and follow it up with a weights session, and throw SOME higher intensity stuff in there….

 

2. Cut down on refined carbs:

Breads, bagels, pastas, sweets, they’re all going to halt your ability to become a “fat burner.” Why? Well the body is likely going to be using these as fuel first, kind of like paper on a fire, but we’re continuing to top up on paper (or bagels) then your body doesn’t have an opportunity to access fat stores for energy.

3. Sleep:

The most important one on the list, a bad night of sleep is the best way to become sugar dependent – Noticed how good all that junk food looks after a night of bad sleep? The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that ONE night of shortened sleep led to insulin levels that looked like that of a type 2 diabetic in healthy people. Good luck saying “no” to cake at the office in this situation.

 

4. Follow time restricted eating:

The whole intermittent fasting phenomenon follows similar principles of metabolic flexibility. Giving your guts some time between meals and eating in a window (8 hours seems to be opimum) has shown to improve hunger swings, fat burning capacity and metabolic flexibility (Obesity Society). An easy way to do this is having your first meal at 10am and your last meal at 6pm.

5. Chill out

Most of the points above are redundant if we don’t consider the impact of stress on the system. The father of this topic, Dr. Robert Sapolsky has studied the impact of stress and it’s impact on homeostasis at length. His findings show that chronic, prolonged stress alters insulin levels, blood sugar levels, frontal lobe function (responsible for decision making), and has a direct impact on our ability to burn fat.

 

Concluding, the phenomenon of metabolic flexibility is a key health marker and has a significant impact on our ability to not only look better naked, but to build a more resilient body that’s resistant to dietary related diseases. As always, it takes a holistic approach to achieve this level of health, taking into account fitness, nutrition and lifestyle factors.

Want to get more metabolically flexible? Book your free consult today. 

 

*Disclaimer: This post is for information purposes only, and is not designed to diagnose or treat any disease. Always seek help from a medical professional whenever you undergo any dietary change.

 

References:

Donga et al. (2010) A single night of partial sleep deprivation induces insulin resistance in healthy subjects. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Volume 95, Issue 6, 1 June 2010, Pages 2963–2968

Freese et al. (2017) The sedentary revolution: Have we lost our metabolic flexibility. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5710317/

Goodpaster, B., & Sparks, L (2017) Metabolic Flexibility in Health and Disease. Cell Metabolism. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2017.04.015

Kelley, D.E., He, J.,  Menshikova, E.V., Ritov, V.B. (2002) Dysfunction of mitochondria in human skeletal muscle in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 51(10).

Moro. (2016) Effects of eight weeks of time – restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance trained males. Journal of Translational Medicine 

CrossFit Hacks

10 Life-Hacks for the CrossFit Addict


If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’re already neck-deep in the CrossFit Kool-Aid, so I won’t waste your time explaining the whole ‘CrossFit’ thing to you. But that means you’re all too aware that life can be a struggle for the CrossFitter about town. Tearing your hands. Having to explain what CrossFit is every time you mention it (which is frequently). Getting out of bed after Annie. Walking up stairs after Cindy. Having to turn down an invitation to thirsty Thursday  because it’s Fran tomorrow and you need to beat your PR.

Life is tough.

Here are 10 life-hacks to make your day, inside and outside of the gym, a little bit easier. These aren’t wishy-washy ‘eat clean’, ‘trust the process’, ‘take a rest day’, ‘work on your weaknesses’ type hacks. We all know them, and we know we ignore them. These are real-life, genuinely applicable hacks to make your CrossFit lives easier.


#1 Accessory Successory

More accessories means better CrossFit. You perform better with knee sleeves, wrist wraps and headbands on. You just do. You’re sure of it because of that one winter when your knee hurt a bit and now you need knee sleeves for every WOD. Unfortunately, CrossFit makes you sweat. Sweat breeds bacteria. Bacteria smells like ass. Ergo, your accessories smell like ass.

The solution: don’t put on a special cold-wash cycle for these little things. Take off your knee sleeves, wrist-wraps and other fabric accoutrements in the shower, pour some shower gel on them and give ’em a stomp. They’ll be dry and smelling sweet by the next day ready to wear again.


#2 On your knees

Speaking of knee sleeves, they have another purpose other than smelling like death and protecting from imaginary injuries.

Got a lunging WOD coming up? While the rest of the class bumbles around getting a mat – which they will then repeatedly trip on throughout the workout – slip on a pair of thick, cheap sleeves and your knees will be nice and protected wherever you may lunge.

Rocktape currently has a sale on their KneeCaps (true as at 26th Aug 2018) and are selling them for £12.99 per pair (not per sleeve as is often the case).


#3 Fail to prepare (your nutrition), prepare to fail!

(Get ready! Shameless self-promotion coming up)

Most of us do CrossFit because we want to look good naked. Unfortunately the hard part isn’t the WOD, it’s the other 23 hours of the day. If you’re not fuelling properly, you’re not going to get the results you want.

If only there was some sort of shop, cafe or ‘refuelling bar’ right in the gym. Oh wait, there is!

You can get NOCCO, coffee and various protein-infused treats at SE11 and CFL, or in the Shake It bar at CFL you can pre-order your shakes before the workout and pick them up on your way out (after you’ve taken your knee-sleeves for a shower).

Even if you don’t buy something from the gym, eat something. Anything.


#4 Don’t hang your WOD from the end of your rope

Have you ever been mid-way through a WOD only for the fastener to come off your skipping rope and ruin what was bound to be a white-board-topping time? If not, odds are you’ve seen it happen to someone else and watched them scrabble around on the floor trying to find their little rope screw fastener thingy.

Are you planning on growing any taller? No? Then you don’t need your rope to be adjustable anymore. Superglue down the plastic nubbins at end of your rope and you’ll never have to worry about it coming apart again.


#5 Peeing clearly

We workout, we sweat, we lose fluids, we drink more. But even before you did CrossFit, odds are you weren’t drinking enough water. Now that you are, the likelihood is that your water deficit is even greater.

While you’re at work, have a 2 litre bottle of water sitting on your desk as a constant reminder to drink. That two litre bottle needs to be empty by the end of the day. When it is, fill it back up, pop it in the fridge, and it’ll be ready for tomorrow.

Or better yet, buy our exclusive CFLDN water bottle and be the envy of your friends and super-hydrated at the same time.


#6 Hipster Hair Hack

A few years ago this hack would have been aimed almost exclusively at the ladies, but with the rise of the man-bun, this is no longer the case.

If you have long hair, you’ve likely had your ponytail come loose during a WOD, or got it caught under a bar bringing it down onto your back, or even been stupid enough to trap yourself under a foam roller. Don’t be that guy (or gal).

Leave a few spare hairbands around your water bottle, so that you’re never caught short during your next hair-related emergency.

Man-bun don’t look so silly no more, do it?


#7 You call that a knife? This is a knife!

Thick, hard calluses tear.

Thin, soft ones don’t.

Torn hands = no CrossFit.

You do the maths.

‘Corn and callus knife’ available at Boots to shave down those thick bits o’ nasty skin.

Make sure to replace the blade frequently and don’t be too aggressive with it! It’s still a knife.


#8 Double deadlift hack

I heard once that more injuries in the gym come from loading and unloading bars with careless form, than they do from the actual lift. That may or may not be true, but the next time you load a bar consider what your spine looks like vs how it looks when you perform the deadlift.

Love them or hate them, at some point you’re going to have to pick up a heavy thing at the gym. Whenever deadlifts roll around, first thing you should do is pick a spot by the plate stack. Save yourself time shlepping plates back and forth by loading up right next to the stacks.

Next hack: loading and unloading. You only have two hands to lift the bar off the floor and slide new plates on at the same time, which gets tricky as things get heavier. Don’t bother buying a deadlift jack; save yourself some time and money and grab a 0.5kg plate. Roll your loaded bar onto that plate and it will raise the bar a few millimetres off the floor, and enough that a plate will slide on or off with ease.


#9 Get a grip

Are you using a hook grip yet? No? You’re an idiot.

You know those CrossFit fail videos where someone wrenches a bar off the floor, only for their hands to slip and then they fall on their ass? Odds are they weren’t using a hook grip. There’s not an elite-level CrossFitter or Olympic Lifter in the world who doesn’t use this grip. You should be using it too.

If you’re not using it yet, here’s how to start:

Every time you pick up an empty bar and the class starts doing drills, do it with a hook-grip (see picture). Then go back to your normal grip when you add weight. It will hurt, but it won’t hurt forever. Do this for a few weeks and eventually the hook-grip will feel like second nature and your regular grip will feel weird.

But it won’t happen until you do it. Start light. Stick with it.


#10 He ain’t heavy, I do CrossFit

I’m sorry to tell you, you’ve been doing partner-carries all wrong. Forget piggy-backing. Piggy-backs are for babies and pigs (presumably).

Check out this video which explains the Fireman’s carry.

(Recognise the gym? That’s what Malcolm Place looked like in 2011!)