Category Archives: Nutrition

Can 3 minutes of exercise a day make children fitter?


In a recent module of study for the ISSN diploma in sports nutrition, I came across some really interesting research into how effective High Intensity Training can be for training adults to improve their aerobic fitness. Basically you sprint really hard for a short period and you rest for a while before repeating the process a number of times. Research has shown that people can get really fit as a result. It is very effective for people short on time and whilst hard, it can be fun to participate in.

It got me thinking; maybe I could do something similar in school. As I am a primary school teacher based in the north inner city of Dublin, l thought why not use the poor children as test guinea pigs! Irish teachers have very busy schedules trying to accommodate the many subject areas into the week but I figured I could manage to fit the experiment into the timetable as it was not very time intensive.

My 5th class boys were delighted to engage in this science project with them as the test subjects.

Our objective was to see if we could improve fitness levels in the space of four weeks by exercising for only three minutes a day, five days a week. This amounted to only 15 minutes a week and 60 minutes in total.

The Test

Initially we needed to get a baseline measure for our aerobic fitness levels. I decided to do a beep test. Children had to run 20m shuttles whilst listening to a beep. The children should have reached the line before the beep. When they pulled out or failed to hit the line before the beep, their score was recorded. I also weighed each student just to see if the daily exercise had any effect on their weight. The children were also asked to give up drinking fizzy drinks as part of the challenge. Parents were encouraged to monitor this and initial a record sheet as they attempted to resist the lure of the sugary beverage. As part of the challenge, they were allowed one day off per week to enjoy an occasional treat and to encourage compliance!

To validate the test, I needed a control group. Another class were summoned to fulfil his role. They were the going to do the pre and post-test but would not do any of the training or dietary measures.

We did the fitness tests on the 7th of January, on the first week after Christmas. The results varied greatly. Some of the scores in the test were scary as they were shockingly low. Many of the kids languished in the lowest category for their own age group and if they were pitted against the norms for 65 year olds or older, amazingly a few were still in the ‘least fit’ for that age group. It was clearly obvious that the children with the most sedentary lives were displaying the dangerous low levels of aerobic fitness. This would obviously potentially pose huge problems to their health as they get older.

The Training

We started the training on Monday the 11th of January

Every morning for four weeks at 10.05 we would go down to the yard. The boys would run up and down for 30 seconds and then take a break for 30 seconds. Six bouts of 30 second running were completed each day. The effort was varied. Some boys loved the challenge whilst others found it very difficult.

After a few days, the boys were saying how they felt better after they ran and ‘felt faster’ and ‘fitter’. They still found it difficult as the mornings were quite cold but they persevered. They were getting a break from the class room and were happy to get their extra exercise on yard.

On the 8th February we did the retest. We did the same protocol as before. The boys did the beep test and we measured their weight. I also did the test on the other class to see how they performed compared to their initial test.

The Results

Training group: improved their aerobic fitness by 19%.

Control group: improved their aerobic fitness by 12%.

Training group: average weight reduced by 0.01 kg

Control group: average weight increased by 0.6 kg


Both groups hugely increased their fitness levels, but the training group improved by a massive 19% due in many respects to the 3 minutes of exercise a day. The 12% increase seen by the control group was also quite a jump with no ‘formal training’. This is probably due to the fact that the initial test was done immediately post-Christmas. Both groups would probably not have done much activity over this period and were naturally going to be more active in the January period (resuming football training, walking to school etc), thus an increase was always likely.

The weight loss seen by the training group was interesting also. It was good to see that the short amounts of exercise and an emphasis on drinking water and milk resulted in slight weight loss. The objective was not to see if we could lose a lot of weight as the children are growing and increasing weight naturally but it was good to see that some of the kids who were a bit overweight for their height managed to lose some all the same.

Overall, the challenge was a great success. We clearly saw that with only three minutes of exercise a day for four weeks, the children’s fitness levels improved by 7% over the control group. Imagine what each child could do in a few months.

The important message is that short bursts of intense exercise can make a massive impact on aerobic fitness and health levels. Never use lack of time as a reason not to exercise. This applies also to adults as well as children.

I hope to continue and refine this training protocol so I look forward to see how I can improve the training regime and ensure that it is as fun as possible as well as being an effective training tool.

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Filed under Disease prevention, Exercise, Nutrition, Obesity, Uncategorized

Eating for health vs Eating to lose weight

Is there a difference between eating for health and eating to lose weight?

If you have been eating junk food on a regular basis, changing your diet to one based predominantly on whole natural foods will be a great move and will more than likely result in weight loss and improved body shape. Hunger should be regulated and overconsumption of hyper palatable calorific foods will be less likely to happen.

This will definitely improve your health and aid your fitness and performance goals.

There still are many people though who seem to eat a whole natural ‘healthy’ diet, consuming plenty of nutritious foods but are struggling to lose weight.

Unfortunately they are simply consuming too many calories. Unless you are eating at a calorie deficit you will not lose weight.

You can eat a diet full of nutritious foods but if you overconsume you will not lose weight.

In the picture below is a small lunchbox of Irish Muesli with some seed mixture. Muesli is a nutritious food especially when mixed with some nuts and seeds and dried fruit.
This lunchbox of food has approximately 700 calories and another 100 when you add in milk. 800 calories.

From MyFitnessPal App
100g of Irish Muesli Lifeforce = 400 calories
1 tablespoon Milled Linseed = 75 calories
80 g grapes = 50 calories
50 g raspberries = 25 calories
Seed mix 25g (pumpkin, sunflower)  = 155 calories

Healthy foods can still be very high in calories.
Nuts and seeds are very healthy and full of nutritious fats but be aware of overconsumption.

An average 65kg lady who is on her feet most of the day and exercises 3 times a week should be eating around 1800 calories to lose weight. This meal would be nearly half their total for the day.

Take home message: Be aware that overconsuming healthy but high calorie foods such as nuts, seeds and muesli can be detrimental to your weight loss goals.

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FAQ about the PH Fitness Class

corrie 2x2ft (1)

A hypotetical conversation with Claire (35) from Stoneybatter. (Yes, I made up a person and made up a conversation)

Hi Philip, I just saw this flyer about your class and I was wondering who the class is catered towards?

Well Claire, it’s nice to meet you. We cater for men and women who aren’t happy with how they currently look and feel. Most of our clients are female between 25 and 40 who want to lose some weight, tone up and feel better about their fitness and health. We can provide a road map to help them get from where they currently are to where they would like to be. The class environment is great for people as it provides a social outlet as well as a fitness class.

Oh right that’s great. Unfortunately though I haven’t done much exercise recently, will the class be too hard for me?

We cater for all fitness levels. All exercises have regressions and progressions that allow people with different abilities to get a great workout. Many members have started with no experience of resistance training but have quickly learned the basics and are progressing at a great rate.

What is resistance training? That sounds hard?

No need to worry, resistance training is a super form of exercise. It means using resistance to challenge the muscles to get stronger and develop shape. It can take many forms such as bodyweight exercises, lifting weights, cable pulls etc. We try to concentrate on the main human movements such as push, pull, hinge and squat.

Won’t that make me big and bulky? I want to lose weight!

No, it absolutely won’t make you big and bulky Claire. That is a major myth amongst many women. Resistance training is the most effective training method to help women and men improve body composition. By building muscle, your body does many wonderful things that help turn you into a fat burning machine. Your metabolism increases, you burn more calories at rest and your new found strength will catapult your fitness and health to new levels.

Also women cannot build as much muscle as men because of hormonal differences so instead of having big bulky body, you are more likely to achieve toned and slender physique.

Great, sounds like just what I need. But what type of class can I expect?

It is a class that emphasises strength through a variety of basic human movements. Stand-alone strength exercises are followed by a resistance circuit that will really work the heart and lungs giving a strong cardio hit. We want our clients to be the strongest version of themselves.

We place a strong emphasis on learning proper form and technique. We also pay particular attention to mobility, if a person has restricted movement, we will make sure they perform various exercises throughout the session that will tackle particular issues.


I’m tired just hearing all that, are you sure that won’t kill me! Did I mention I haven’t done any exercise in ages?

There is no need to fear Claire, we are well aware some people may have absolutely no experience in doing any exercise or have done very little in many years like yourself. It takes courage to start a new regime. Everyone will work at a level that is suitable for them. Your body may be sore after the first few sessions as you adapt to the new stresses but our intention is not to flog people with incredibly tough workouts. We hope that everyone works from a level where they feel challenged to improve and progress in a sustained and fun environment.

Cool, that’s reassuring, thanks Philip, is there anything else that I will need to know before I sign up? 

Yes, there is a strong nutrition component. I encourage all clients to keep a food diary. Research has shown that people who keep regular food diaries are far more successful at maintaining healthy body weight or losing weight in the first place. We also give people nutrition advice and a template to help them improve their lifestyle habits to ensure progress can be achieved.

Remind me again, where and when do the classes take place? 

Oh yes, the classes are run in the hall in St Paul’s CBS primary school. It is located on North Brunswick Street around the corner from Smithfield square. They currently run every Monday and Wednesday at 7pm.

How much are the classes?

It’s ten euro for a pay as you go class and 50 euro for a block of four weeks. People can sign up whenever they like.

Don’t forget, the first class is free of charge so you can come and try out before you buy a four week block.

Brilliant, do the classes run the whole year? 

There will be some breaks, classes will not run on bank holiday Mondays, over the Christmas, Easter holidays and during August. We find that people like this break and are away on holidays at these times of the year. We follow the primary school calendar to some degree.

Ok thanks Philip for all that information. I am really looking forward to getting started. Do I need to bring anything for my first class on Monday?

Just come wearing comfortable workout gear but bring a bottle of water and a can do attitude. The first class is free of charge so if you want to join you can pay starting from next Monday on.

Super, I’ll be there, I look forward to it.

Cheers, will see you then Claire.

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Filed under Bootcamp, Exercise, Fat loss, Health, Nutrition, weight training

8 Week Fat Loss Project

You are fed up with not achieving the results you deserve.

You don’t know what to believe and who to trust in the murky world of fitness media.

You want that healthy routine of exercise and nutrition which is sustainable, enjoyable and challenging but most importantly, will produce real world fat loss results.

As part of the 8 Week Fat Loss Project, we are looking for positive, enthusiastic and energetic people to come on board to work together on this shared goal. Your current fitness level or perceived ability to exercise is not a concern, but having the right attitude and a can do approach though is what we are looking for.

Is this for you?

Is losing weight something you would like to achieve right now?

Are you prepared to make some changes in your routine so that you can properly prepare nutritious food and complete an exercise routine a few times a week?

Are you truly interested in learning the knowledge that will help you master your own body weight so that nutrition and exercise becomes a fun and enjoyable part of your life rather than a ball and chain around your neck dragging you down and causing you distress.

Are you willing to identify and tackle some negative, lifestyle habits that you may have and learn how to replace them with constructive ones which will help you achieve your goals rather than sabotage them.

Do you want to be part of a group of hard working, genuine and like minded people who are on a similar path that may be tough in parts but will be thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile.

If you answered YES to the above statements, then this course may just be the one you were looking for.

Unfortunately this course is definitely not for everyone.

It is not for you if…

You want to put on weight or get mega big – You might build some muscle on this course and that is a good thing to help you achieve the shape you desire, but the main goal is fat loss and body composition improvement.

You want to do exercise but aren’t bothered with nutrition – The nutrition aspect is key, for improving health and body composition. You cannot out exercise a bad diet.

You drink a lot of alcohol – If drinking a few times a week is a habit you can’t shift, then your priorities lie somewhere else instead of health and fat loss goals.

You can’t put aside a few minutes every day to record, plan and prepare food – People live busy lives. I totally understand this but if you cannot make time to buy healthy food, prepare the food for breakfast, lunch and dinner and record what you are eating, then maybe this is not a good time to be doing this project right now.

Ok so you think you’re a good match and want to get involved, here are the finer details.

Location: St Paul’s CBS Hall, North Brunswick Street, Dublin 7 (2 minute walk from Smithfield Square)

Map Brunner

When: Monday and Wednesday 7-8 pm

Dates: Monday 31st of August until Wednesday 21st October

Cost: 160 euros

What you get: Nutrition Seminar and individual dietary guidelines, 16 Exercise Classes, Online Forum and a Detailed Assessment Guide to monitor body changes, food intake and overall progress.

I am passionate about providing the best service possible. If you participate and are not happy with the quality of this product I will happily refund the money.

Reserve your spot by emailing

If you need any information, don’t hesitate to call or text me on 0879613012

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Filed under Exercise, Nutrition

What to eat for breakfast?

Most people would have grown up eating a breakfast of cereal with some milk, a slice of toast and a glass of orange juice. This would have been considered a healthy breakfast and would have been and still is the staple meal for many of us before we go to school or to work.

Unfortunately this type of breakfast most likely is doing more harm than good for our bodies.

The cereal depending on the quality is more than likely full of processed grains and refined sugars with minimal nutritional quality. The milk most commonly used by people is low fat, which is quite processed and has the goodness (the fat) taken out. The fruit juice is basically sugar water, since fibre in the fruit has been removed. The toast again is high glycemic carbohydrate similar to the cereal and fruit juice and contains gluten which some people cannot tolerate.

Eating foods such as these with a high glycemic index (pushes up blood sugar very quickly) in the morning can promote fat storage and can increase hunger levels later in the day.

When we consume foods with a high GI such as these, our blood sugars rises. Insulin is released by the pancreas to take these sugars away and store them until they are needed. If we have been exercising, our muscles and liver have used up their glycogen stores (energy space) and can take up these sugar easily. If more then likely, we have been resting or inactive (as more of us are in the morning!), insulin has no glycogen stores to replenish so the sugar is put into storage to be used at a later stage (fat accumulation).

Another downside of consuming foods with a high GI is it is very difficult to regulate hunger and satiety levels. After eating a high GI food, blood sugars will rise. The insulin kicks into action taking them away. After insulin has done it’s job, our blood sugars will fall and we suddenly feel hungry or crave something. Again we have a snack of a cereal bar or piece of bread to arrest our low sugar levels and suddenly they are up again. This rollercoaster of high and low sugars is very harmful to the body and can lead to fat gain and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.

What should we eat?!
It is best to eat foods that don’t cause a large spike in insulin(low GI foods), that are slowly digested and help stabilise blood sugar levels. This will help you feel full for longer, avoid cravings and make you less likely to overeat during the day. We need to get away from the idea that we should eat cereals for breakfast. This is a notion fabricated by big food companies to make us buy their products.

Protein and fats
Eggs, fish, meat, some fruits and veggies, greek yogurt and berries, nuts and seeds.

If you are used to eating the standard high carb breakfast you may find the above recommendations hard to get your head around. They may be new and difficult to adopt at first but they are extremely effective at helping to lose body fat and improve general health.

Here are some meal suggestions:
2/3 Scrambled eggs with 2 slices of bacon and half an avocado
Salmon fillet, with spinach and tomato sauted in butter
2-3 spoons greek yogurt with mixed berries and a spoon of flax seeds
2 boiled eggs, 2 sausages (80%pork), tomato and mushroom.

This is my own breakfast a few days ago…salmon with avocado, onions and baby tomato. Loads of good fats and plenty of protein.

Breakfast Pic

If you are in a rush…these can be made the night before and put in a lunch box in the fridge:
2 hard boiled eggs
Greek yogurt with blueberries and a handful of seeds
Piece of cheese/tomato wrapped in ham/turkey slices

If you have a low body fat or have exercised prior to breakfast then it is perfectly fine to include some carbohydrates in your breakfast.
Oats, sugar free museli, sweet potatoes are some good choices. These are slow releasing carbohydrates as they contain lots of fibre and will not cause high spikes in our sugar levels.

Now it is up to you.
Have a look at your current breakfast. Is it the reason why you are craving foods, why you cannot control hunger and why you are putting on weight despite eating what is ‘recommended’?

Give the recommendations above a go and I’ve no doubt your energy levels will soar!

Best of luck, thanks for reading and have a nice day!


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Filed under Breakfast, Food, Health, Nutrition

Childhood Obesity – Who is to blame?

Obesity is a huge fat problem in Ireland today. With 40% of all adults overweight and 25% classified as obese. Using your maths skills you would have worked out that around 2 out of every 3 Irish adults are above their correct weight!
Alarm bells should be ringing in your head I hope!!…this is not good. This trend is getting worse and has increased considerably since the 1990s.
How are children fairing out? Well not so good. According to the ‘Growing up in Ireland study’ 20 per cent of 9 year olds were overweight in 2011 and a further 7 per cent are obese. Again we see that 1 in every 4 children have a weight issue.

This will obviously lead to a poorer quality of life and a higher likelihood of illness and sickness.

So who is to blame?

This is a hot topic in the media at the moment, people are looking for scapegoats to pin the responsibility on. Here we look at the possible candidates.

1. Parents: the primary provider for the child. They are the ones feeding the child the food, surely it is their fault that the child is overweight? They create the environment around the child which determines how much exercise they do. Do parents do enough or take responsibility for this role? Are they limited by lack of education, certain financial strain or a particular environmental or social situation?
Could they possibly be the ones making their child obese? Can we fathom a situation where parents are knowingly poisoning their children with harmful foods by making them obese or do they just not know the difference between foods that nourish and foods that harm?
Maybe it is not just the parents fault, maybe they are just shaped by their environment and are just pawns in the bigger picture that they are struggling to control?

>cereal killers

2. Food Companies: Big Corporate food companies. McDonalds, Dominos, Coca Cola, Mars etc. etc.
Are the majority of us obese because of the big money making globo-conglomerate monsters that are everywhere in society today? The food they provide tastes good and sure if its a ‘treat’ then isn’t it fine once in a while!? Our shops and society are laden with these processed, sugar filled foods which are highly addictive. We are being constantly bombarded with flashy advertisements directed at our youth with happy people eating these shiny tasty food! Parents are told some of these foods are low in salt, low in fat, low in calories, are fortified with this that and the other and ‘should be eaten as part of a balanced diet’. Are we being brainwashed by the these companies into thinking that these foods are just part and parcel of modern life? Are we supposed to eat cereal for breakfast? Do we have to drink coke and eat popcorn at the cinema? Do we really need to drink sugar bomb sports drinks before/during/after exercise to fuel our bodies? This what the advertisements say, surely they can’t be wrong, can they?
3. Government The Government of our country.
Could they possibly be responsible for the obesity epidemic which is taking place at this current time. Is it not in their interests to have a have a healthy strong workforce of people instead of a group that fat and sick? One would think so. Most governments in the world endorse the food pyramid. We all know what it looks like, it has been drilled into us for years. We see it in school books, we see it in medical documents and on government websites. It basically says eat loads of grains and don’t eat much fats. If we were to jump into a time machine and travel back 10,000 years ago (prior to the agricultural revolution, when we started cultivating grains) into human history, we would see that humans did not eat many grains. We obviously survived for millions of years and became the strongest race on the planet without eating them but now they are considered the ‘staple’ according to our government guidelines. Our DNA has not changed that much in the last 40,000 years. At that time we ate a diet full of protein, fats, nuts and vegetables whilst now we are being told by our government to eat a diet with a predominance of refined carbohydrates in the form of pasta, rice, potatoes and bread. Why are we being told to eat these grains? Who decided that they are good for us? How did people do before Government guidelines came in? Read my blog here on traditional diets

Broccoli child
4. The Child The child themselves.
The children of our country. Are they at fault? Are they responsible for their own declining health?
Those extra sweets and chocolates they ate at the party, surely they should have shown restraint? Did they not realise that they were very bad for them !
Why didn’t they ask for a bike for Christmas instead of a Playstation 4, did they not realise that the extra exercise they could have done would have been better for their health instead of sitting inside watching a screen!
Surely they should have kicked up a fuss looking for green vegetables as they wandered the stalls in the supermarket with their mother as she was doing the shopping. Then the child would have had something better to eat for dinner!
The children today are not to blame as you may have noted from the tone of my sarcasm above. They are products of their environment. Unfortunately the environment that many children grow up in is not very conducive to health or for alleviating obesity and they are suffering as a result.

Vending machine
5. Our Environment Is the environment to blame?
We live in a world where convenience and speed has become so important. We want everything now and get aggrieved if we have to spend time working for it. The same thinking has evolved with our relationship to food. With our hectic lifestyles and busy jobs, eating has become a secondary concept. We eat to alleviate the symptoms of hunger as opposed to eating to keep us healthy and nourished. Our world has sped up and the quality of food and attention to our food has declined as a result. Some people would rather sleep in an extra half hour rather than getting up to prepare a healthy breakfast. At lunch we grab a sandwich rather than preparing a healthier alternative in advance. For dinner we may eat whatever the local chipper has to offer or get a ready meal for the microwave to cook.
Also for children the options are pretty desperate if they were looking for something to eat. At schools there may be a vending machine full of sugary food or the local chipper. The shop may have some healthy food such as fruit but the child will be instantly drawn to the tasty treats that line the counter.
We live in a society where it is acceptable to be overweight. We are normalised by the customs and habits of the people that we typically spend our time with. If all your friends eat take away, smoke cigarettes, drink fizzy drinks etc. then you will be conditioned to think that everyone does it and that it is fine. Whereas if your friends eat well, exercise, then you will judge yourself based on them. The same applies with our weight and our children’s weight. If the majority of children in our society are overweight, we tend to look at a typical overweight child as the ‘norm’, just average and therefore consider it ok and pass no heed on it. Unfortunately the ‘norm’ weight has been increasing for many years.
Child computers

6. Sedentary Lifestyle– Is an inactive lifestyle to blame?
When I was a young lad growing up, I regularly built massive big tree houses with loads of rooms, played football for a minimum of eight hours every day during the summer, wore a groove 3 inches deep in the road with all the cycling and mowed so many lawns that the mound of grass was the size of a small house!
I think we all look back at our childhood with some degree of rose tinted glass syndrome regarding our own activity levels but I think it is quite clear that children today are not exposed to or engaged in the same levels of exercise and activity that children were years ago. As a primary school teacher I regularly see children who struggle to run for a short period of time or have difficulty walking up a few flights of stairs without bursting into a sweat. I am aware that many parents have concerns for safety in their neighbourhoods and children are not free to roam as they were years ago, but does that mean that they should just leave them inside watching the television?
Although many children regularly participate in sports clubs, the research suggests that only 3 in 10 children get the recommended 1 hour of physical activity per day. Televisions, phones, computers are becoming increasingly more integral part of children’s lives and parents are allowing this to happen. Schools also are restricted in the time they can give to exercise. The curriculum guidelines suggest 1 hour of exercise per week. This will not make much dent in the 7 hours recommended per week!
Where will our children get more exercise? Is it the parents fault? Is it our society and our schools that is to blame?

So who really is to blame???

As you may have read, I think there are a combination of reasons why obesity is rising especially amongst children but realistically the parents must shoulder the responsibility. Parents have the power to change their children’s lives for the better. They are in charge of what the child eats, what the child does on a daily basis and must have the courage and conviction to make the correct decisions to enable their children lives their lives free from disease and obesity.
Unfortunately if 2/3 of adults are overweight themselves, can we realistically expect these people to be effective role models and instruct their children to make right decisions when they seem to be incapable of doing so themselves?
Lets hope so but it’s important that they know what they are doing.
Education is the key thing and although most parents want the best for their child, some are unwittingly doing damage without realising it. In part 2, I hope to present some simple steps parents can use in their lives which will help themselves and their children get back to full health and escape the dangers of obesity.

Note: I’m not a parent and I don’t pretend to suggest parenting is an easy job. This post is not intended to criticise parents but help them see how they can help their children!

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Filed under Disease prevention, Exercise, Health, Nutrition

Time to get off the low fat train!

Two trains are about to arrive at the platform, the low fat train and the full fat train. Which train do you choose?

Up until a 40 years ago there was no such thing as the low fat train and everybody travelled full fat. But since the 70’s and 80’s there has been a shift towards the low fat bandwagon. The full fat that we eat naturally in animal foods (that humans have been eating for millions of years) suddenly became the culprit for heart disease and obesity. Some studies including ‘The seven Countries Study’ which have since been disproven seemed to suggest that it was the fat and the cholesterol in our food that was causing these problems. In 1977 the ‘McGovern Committee’ in America gave the first clear guidelines to the American government that the ‘low fat, high carb’ was the way to go despite protests from others who stated that sugar was the problem not the fat. The governments of the world and many food companies soon realised that there was a lot of money to be made from this ‘low fat movement’ and within a few years fat was enemy number one and grain food were the golden child. But did everyone get healthier and leaner following the new food pyramid which promoted grains and demonised fats? 

Check out this short video on which explains how fat is not a problem.

Take a look at the chart below and see for yourself, although correlation does not prove causation it does make a good argument.   


Source: National Center for Health Statistics (US). Health, United States, 2008: With Special Feature on the Health of Young Adults. Hyattsville (MD): National Center for Health Statistics (US); 2009 Mar. Chartbook.

Nowadays we have a situation where we are being told from an early age to eat according to the government issued food pyramid. Children are being indoctrinated with the notion that fat is bad and that eating loads of bread/pasta/cereals are good. Doctors who do not get very much nutrition coaching in medical school advise patients to eat ‘healthy’- to follow the food pyramid. Unfortunately we as a nation are seeing a continued rise in obesity, cancer, diabetes and other diseases.  

When I talk about fat, I am referring to naturally occurring fats that are in all animal products. In butter, meats, eggs, dairy, fish, nuts, seeds, olive, coconut and palm oil. Processed oils and trans fats are very dangerous to the body and should not be eaten.

If you are not convinced, here are some reasons why you should full fat foods.

1. Low fat foods are full of sugar and other chemicals

When the low fat movement came out and the manufacturers decided to remove the fat from the various products, they discovered that they tasted crap. They replaced the fat with lots of sugar and flavourings and other crap to make them palatable. These made the product taste good but now the original food has became a processed piece of garbage. Low fat foods are basically foods with the goodness removed and extra rubbish put in.

2. Low fat can raise chances of getting heart disease and other autoimmune disease

Heart disease is the most common form of death in the western world. Traditional population who ate diets high in fat had near minimum levels of heart disease. Once these people were exposed to western low fat type diets, their levels of disease soared. They got obese, became diabetic and levels of heart disease rose. Read more about the work of Weston Price in my article here.

3. Low fat foods make us fat

A low fat diet is pretty much a high carb diet. Many people in this modern world live sedentary lives and have jobs and lifestyles which have a low energy output. These carbs that are consumed by the body are turned into glucose. Glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscle and liver cells and becomes available for energy whenever required. If this glycogen store does not get used up then the cells , then the additional glucose consumed cannot fit into the cells and gets put into fat storage. Alternatively consuming a diet with a higher percentage of fats can make us less likely to overeat as fat and protein consumption regulate hormones which make us feel full and reduce hunger.

4. Low fat can mean higher cholesterol

For years consumption of dietary fat and cholesterol were considered the number one cause of high cholesterol in our body. We were told to lower our intake of saturated fats in eggs, red meat and butter. We were also told to eat lots of whole grains, and eat heart healthy vegetable spreads. Again the information was wrong!

In actual fact eating more fat will lead to an increase in ‘HDL’ cholesterol which is the good cholesterol and shows an decreased risk of heart disease. Also a higher fat diet can change the particle size of ‘LDL’ cholesterol from small dense particles (which are dangerous) to dense fluffy ones (which are nice and friendly)!

5. Low fat can lead to brain disfunction

Low levels of DHA, a fat found in omega 3 fatty acids has been associated with memory loss, difficulty concentrating, Alzheimer’s disease and other mood problems.

To wrap up, we need to get back to basics regarding our fat intake. Food should be there to enjoy as nature intended. Fat is not meant to be removed from milk or yogurt, real butter is not going to make you fat, eggs will not give you high cholesterol. Stay away from anything marketed as ‘low fat’ as it is more than likely a Frankenstein food with a multitude of other crap thrown in. Eat real, unprocessed, locally produced, real, whole foods as much as possible and you will not go wrong.  

You are back standing on the platform at the train station. The man on the loudspeaker shouts out: “the low fat train will be departing Platform 2 in 5 minutes and Is stopping at Low energy, Obesity, High Triglycerides, High Cholesterol, Sickness, and Heart Disease”

“The full fat train is departing Platform 1 and is going express to Optimal Health”

…I know where I want to go!



Filed under Disease prevention, Health, Nutrition

Weston A Price and a traditional diet

Weston A Price

One of the biggest influences of my beliefs about nutrition comes from the work done by a man named Weston A Price. He was a dentist from Cleveland in America. At the beginning of the 20th century Price was getting presented with an increasing number of people with dental cavities and physical degeneration. This he considered was due to a shift in the way food was being manufactured and the type of food people were consuming. In a short space of time people were beginning to consume more refined sugars, flours and processed foods. Local agricultural practices were being replaced by larger industrialised food processing methods.

In his search for answers to best practice, Price decided to visit the most isolated and primitive communities in the world that were free from western influences to study their diet and see how this impacted the quality of their teeth and their health in general.

Price studied isolated mountain people in Switzerland, island communities in the Outer Hebrides, members of the Maasai tribe and other African peoples, native Americans, the Inuit populations, Australian Aborigines and some South American tribes.

What Price discovered and this should come as no surprise to anyone was that these populations who rigidly their unprocessed, traditional foods had exceptional levels of health.

He found that these peoples who enjoyed an unrefined, unprocessed diet consumed an incredibly higher amount of vitamins and minerals than those consuming the manufactured and processed foods. They were robust and healthy, they had wide jaws and a full set of teeth with zero to no cavities. They had strong resistance to tuberculosis which was rampant at the time and showed no signs of the modern diseases which were becoming prevalent in western societies around the world. He also noticed that when the natives began eating foods other than those they traditionally ate, thing began to go wrong.  Once strong and healthy individual exposed to manufactured sugary, flour based foods with vegetable oils were sick more often and showed far less immunity to disease. They also displayed extremely deformed teeth structure.

Difference in teeth

What was interesting was that the diets varied in terms macronutrients content, I.e. the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrate but what was critical was the fact that the all foods were unprocessed, unrefined and ‘organic’.

If milk was consumed, it was raw or cultured. Animal sources were of huge importance and the whole animal was eaten, including organ meats and bones for broth. Animals were reared in their natural habitat and not extensively farmed or given foods to fatten them, Any grains consumed were whole grains and were only used after soaking or fermenting. All fruits and vegetables were grown naturally without artificial fertiliser or herbicide and eaten in season.

Many of the diets did have large quantities of fat compared to modern diets. The Inuit people consumed up to 80 per cent of their diet from animal fat (sea mammals, fish, land animals and birds) and very little fruit and vegetables due to the nature of the harsh cold climate. This high consumption of fat might scare the hell of most of us today but these people had no cancer, obesity, heart disease, cognitive disfunction or infertility. Unfortunately since then, they have been exposed to many of the ‘great’ new manufactured foods of western society and their once successful social structure and health has begun to unravel. Diabetes and obesity is extremely common amongst modern Inuit and they are succumbing to the diseases which are prevalent in western society.

Nutrition and physical degeneration

The main message that Weston Price tried to convey in his book ‘Nutrition and Physical Degeneration’ was that a diet full of nutrient dense foods was critical to maintaining optimum health. These traditional foods were chock full of vitamins and minerals and this ensured that the bodies who consumed them were free from strong and free from illness.

Take home message: most of us do not live on an isolated island or a jungle tribe so we will be exposed to ‘bad’ foods on a regular basis. To best ensure we maximise the quality of the food we consume we can try to follow some of these principals.

1. Eat in season, organically grown, locally produced fruit and vegetables.

2. Eat beef, lamb, game, organ meats, poultry, eggs from pasture raised animals.

3. Eat full fat milk products from pasture fed cows, raw milk, yogurt, cheese.

4. Use animal fats such as butter liberally. (Not margarine or pretend butter crap!)

5. Eat whole unprocessed foods.

For a full list of recommendations you can read the Weston A Price homepage.


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10 tips for successful fat loss journeyl

We all want to have a slim, toned, sexy looking body. This is the holy grail of the fitness industry!

Our eternal quest for the perfect body is fuelled by the media who spin tales about the new potion, pill, exercise regime or superfood that will miraculously shed the body fat for us.

Unfortunately life is not that simple and in this article I present some tips you might want to adhere to if you want to lose body fat the correct way.

1. Consume less calories than you burn: To lose weight, we must take in less calories than our bodies use. It is a scientific fact. There are many ways to eat less calories. Eat smaller portions. Replace high calorie foods with lower ones. Eliminate junk food. Remove drink calories with water.


2. Keep a food diary: research has shown that people who write down everything they eat are more successful in their weight loss efforts than those who don’t. It can be tedious and time consuming but if you are serious about your weight loss efforts, it is a must.

3. Eat enough protein: Protein should be the first macronutrient on our plate. It is essential for basic bodily function, cell growth and repair, enzyme and hormone production. More importantly it is muscle sparing and reduces hunger enabling us to feel full especially when we are trying to diet. We should all be aiming to eat 1.5g to 2g per kg of bodyweight. Therefore if you weigh 60kg, you should be aiming to eat between 90g and 120g per day.

4. Resistance Training: Bodyweight exercises, weights, TRX, kettlebells are all examples. Resistance training will help build muscle. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat meaning that your body will be able to burn more calories at rest. A body with more muscle is far more efficient at burning fat and staying lean than a body with little muscle.

5. Eat enough plant foods. Plants are high in micronutrients and full of fibre. People who consume high quantities of fruits, vegetables and legumes are less likely to suffer illness and be overweight. Those who eat a plant rich diet have well regulated satiety mechanisms. The body is less likely to crave sugar and processed foods because of the high fibre and micronutrient content. Try to eat plant foods at each meal. Colourful vegetables should be consumed at lunch and dinner.

6. Carb count. It is important to look at overall carb intake especially if you have a lot of weight to lose. Your body may not be very efficient at using carbohydrates as a fuel. Someone who is very active and is lean will get away with eating a diet high in carbs but another who is sedentary and carrying a lot of fat will not be able to use those carbs efficiently and they will be more likely to be stored as fat. In this case, you may need to remove sugar and processed carbs from your diet, replace starch with vegetables and eat more healthy fat.

7. Sleep. We should all aim to get a minimum of 7-8 hours sleep per night. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause weight gain. People who do not get much sleep or get poor quality sleep will have impaired hormone function. The hormones which regulates our appetite and suppresses hunger is called leptin. This is reduced in people with poor sleep and the hormone Ghrelin which increases appetite is increased. If you sleep well on a regular basis it is shown that your hunger will be controlled and appetite will be easier to manage. So therefore get a good night sleep will help you control cravings and eat less!

Growth hormone is  also released in large amounts when you sleep. This stimulates cell regeneration and growth. This helps in muscle growth and helps increase metabolism. With a higher metabolism, you burn energy faster which leads to easier fat loss. Don’t pass any heed on your housemate who wants to stay up talking rubbish, get to sleep, your body will thank you.

8. Eat sufficient Omega 3. Studies have shown that eating foods rich in omega 3 in conjunction with exercise has been shown to increase fat loss instead of just exercise alone. Diets rich in omega 3 have also massive benefits for disease prevention and brain health also.  This can be consumed in the form of oily fish or as an omega 3 or cod liver oil supplement. If taking a supplement, aim to get a good quality supplement with over 1000mg of DHA an EPA.

9. Reduce Stress. Stress can have a huge effect on the body and reduce its ability to burn fat effectively. Stress on the body can manifest in many ways A) insomnia B) chronic infections C) inflammation D) environmental toxins E) dieting F) too much exercise.

The body releases cortisol to help battle these ‘fight or flight’ stressful situations. Over time this over production of cortisol can wreak havoc on the normal cortisol cycle. Cortisol is meant to be peak in the morning, preparing us for the day and gradually taper off and lower as the day progresses.  If the body is churning out cortisol on a long term basis it can lead to huge many dysfunctions within the body.

– reduces your ability to burn fat, makes you hungry and crave sugar, increases the rate at which you store sugar, increases your belly fat, makes your cells less sensitive to insulin…the list goes on. BASICALLY CHRONIC PROLONGED STRESS MAKES YOU FAT!

NOTE: I did not mention anything about calorie counting. If you stick to the rules mentioned above you will not need to count calories. Your hormones should be regulated and appetite under control. If you are eating the right foods, counting calories will not be a problem.

10. Organisation: Are you prepared? Did you do your shopping? Do you have fresh healthy snacks in your home, plenty of fruit and vegetables in the fridge and lots of varied sources of protein and healthy fats? Do you have kitchen basics? Are you prepared to cook nutritious meals? Do you have lunch boxes to bring into work?

Do you have good intentions but are being let down by terrible organisation in your life? You will not have success in your weight loss journey if you are not prepared. As the old saying goes, ‘fail to prepare and prepare to fail’.

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Precision Nutrition

Precision Nutrition

This week I signed up for the Precision Nutrition Level 1 certification.  It is something I have been eager to do for a while so when the date came I decided to take the plunge and get on board.

I have been following their work for quite a while and have really enjoyed their common sense yet thoroughly well researched advice. I know the certificate will be a great asset to me and my development as a personal trainer.

Although I have read many books on nutrition and completed different modules within my fitness courses, I have never done a specific nutrition course. I looked at doing various courses in Dublin and others online but the PN course stood out. It was extremely highly recommended by others who have completed the course so that was very reassuring.

I am very much looking forward to learning the trade secrets and trying them out in the real world. More knowledge and more learning, bring it on!

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