What does health mean?

Health means different things to different people: physical, nutritional, mental, emotional, spiritual, anything that the person feels is blocking them or not allowing them to move forward or progress.

tempOver the 2017/2018 Christmas and New Year period, I allowed myself some downtime to think about what health meant to me and what I felt was lacking in my life. I wasn’t sleeping, my food wasn’t on point, my training and emotions were all over the place and I wasn’t giving myself any love and attention. The way I was treating myself was mirrored in what and whom I was attracting in friendships, relationships and situations.

After working incredibly hard during 2017 I had a decent book of business, but this was to the detriment of everything else in my life. This was the energy that I was giving out, therefore it is what I was getting back.

My personal life was a wreck last year. Among the suitors I attracted, was one particularly awful one who I met at my place of work, and who I still see on an almost daily basis. I was trapped in a relationship with him for 5 months, where he at times had a terrible temper, which was aimed at me. We had an unhealthy and dysfunctional relationship, terrible rows and despite my 4 brains screaming at me to get out, especially after he was twice physically aggressive towards me in a heated argument, I stayed with him through what I can only assume was lack of self-love and self-esteem. He eventually cheated on me, most likely more than once. I was being shown the same amount of respect and love that I had been showing myself.

IMAG0054At the beginning of 2018, health for me therefore meant emotional and spiritual wellbeing. I started the year positive, determined to change the energy around me, but 4 weeks in nothing had changed and I drove myself into the ground by working long hours (including weekends), not sleeping enough and eating poorly. Whilst the extra calories helped my training, they didn’t do much for my self-esteem. When sleep deprived and low, I feel overwhelmed by things and people, and I jump straight into my hole. One of my friends picked up on this and nudged me to book a week back home so that I could reset.


What these past few weeks of turmoil have made me realise is that I have only 1 life, 1 body, 1 soul. I should be filling my time with people who care about me, activities that I enjoy doing, and not allowing anyone or anything to break through and pollute my energy. I am open and friendly, but know deep down that I have allowed into my inner circle of energy people who are not genuine with me or genuinely interested in me, even as a friend. The door is meant to swing both ways, but after being smacked in the face by it so many times over the past 12 months, I have finally decided that I need to come first. I have been making time again to meditate, which has helped a great deal with trying to balance out my energy and find myself again, after being emotionally and spiritually lost in 2017.

IMG_3430Step one: coming back to Portugal, my home, for a week, to my friends and family, and grounding myself again. I have only been here for a few days but I am feeling so much better already, after completely shutting down from work, sleeping, eating, spending time by myself, going for long walks on the beach and most of all, listening to myself. We lead such busy lives that we often don’t hear what our bodies and soul are trying to tell us. I have been able to block everything out and get back in touch with me. I have also been using a mood map to establish who and what I no longer want in my life as the feelings associated with them are negative. There is no room for negativity; only positivity and happiness.

Health for me, currently, is still my emotional and spiritual wellbeing. My 2018 starts again now, where I come first.

Bodybuilding challenge 2018

2018, Day 4 (72.9kg)

I woke up at the crack of dawn as my flight was at 8am. I had my breakfast smoothie and had my airplane snacks with me. I was quite hungry at 9am and was surprised that a protein bar was actually enough for me. When I landed I had a protein shake and blueberries, and then that was pretty much it for healthy or nutritious food as I had nothing in the fridge and had to go straight to work. I snacked on 2 protein truffles and 3 chocolate covered rice cakes as that was all I had in my locker. My body was literally screaming for a salad for dinner when I got home at 10pm.


I had my first training session this afternoon and it was shocking. It was more than just not having trained properly for 10 days. My energy levels were incredibly low. I was out of breath and struggling to lift even just an unloaded bar.



What did lift my energy, however, was training my clients. I love my job and I love my clients, so the positivity bounced off me and made me enjoy my afternoon and evening, despite being really hungry.

I did my Boditrax. I’m not too pleased with the results, but that’s the whole reason for doing this!

Bodybuilding challenge 2018

2018, Day 3 (73.1kg)


I woke up with a splitting headache and hungry again. My morning smoothie usually lasts 3 hours but it was gone in 30 minutes today. I Googled what may be causing my headaches (I assume my blood sugar may be quite low) and according to the internet I have a brain tumour or another host of terrible diseases. Great… I am putting it down to low blood sugar. Sugar is as addictive as some drugs, so my body might also simply be going through withdrawals and a detox, especially after rich food during the Christmas period.

I am quite surprised that I have lost so much weight. With any rapid weight loss like that, it is most likely water and glycogen in the muscles, as opposed to fat loss. Once I am back at the gym I will be able to do a body scan and use a Boditrax machine that will give me a breakdown of my muscle mass and body fat.

It’s only day 3 and I am finding it a little hard as I had my headache the entire day, as well as lots of hunger pangs. I had 6 small meals throughout the day and again drank some psyllium husks when I was two seconds away from stealing an ice-cream from a child.

I went out for lunch and it was quite easy to find a healthy option: grilled squid (which is naturally low in fat/carbs and high in protein), boiled veg, salad and white rice.

I am finding that it is important to have a little something to look forward to during the day – my treat today was some rice pudding. Once I have got used to this new way of eating, I am going to change my macros so that I can have 1 cheat meal during the week. That used to work very well for me before I started this same journey in 2015. It is when I moved to having a little treat everyday that I was on the slippery slope of having a little piece of chocolate or spoonful of ice-cream and then eating the whole bar/tub. I find it easier to compartmentalise and have a clean diet the entire week and then have 1 cheat meal.

I spent some time this evening prepping my food for my trip back to London. I never eat plane food, but as I am macro-counting now, I can’t dip into a packet of cashew nuts and dried mango, as I did on the way here. I have a portion of protein powder, a protein bar, blueberries, dried apple, dried pear and pumpkin seeds.

I will be having my first proper training session tomorrow afternoon, and I can’t wait! I have missed training these past 2 weeks, but my body has also welcomed the break as I was training and working a lot. My body and mind are refreshed and ready to go tomorrow!

Bodybuilding challenge 2018

2018, Day 2 (74.5kg)

I woke up with a splitting headache. I got to the end of yesterday and had only consumed 1400kcals, which is far too little for someone whose Total Daily Energy Expenditure is 2200kcals (on a day with no exercise); I was also hungry and knew that I would be focusing on that when trying to get to sleep, so I had a very light snack of 15gr oats, 5 gr pumpkin seeds and 50ml almond milk to tide me over.


Today I have been able to plan my meals a little better. I slept through my alarm this morning and felt like I had actually slept better/deeper than I usually do. I had 2 yoga classes at 9am and 11am, so by the time I got back home for lunch I was quite hungry – I usually have emergency snacks in my bag but for some reason had none with me today.


As with yesterday, I experienced a mid-afternoon hunger pang, despite having 2 rounds of afternoon snacks. I was really hungry by dinner time so I downed a glass of psyllium husks in water to fill my stomach whilst waiting for dinner to cook. It also helps that it is good for the digestive system.



I went to bed feeling hungry again, but, I just need to get used to it. I have had enough macros. My body is just getting used to eating less after consuming a lot over the Christmas and New Year period.

Bodybuilding challenge 2018

2018, Day 1 (74.9kg)

Today was the first day of 2018, which meant it was the first day of my new diet. I don’t like to use the word diet as this is not a diet; this is a way of eating that will better suit my training and fitness goals.

Progress pic 1:1:18

I haven’t weighed myself for months, and I must say I was a little horrified this morning when setting my base line on the scales. Granted this comes after a week on holiday and a month in the presence of sugary food. Whilst I was able to avoid this food during the whole month, I was unsuccessful this past week. I am a Personal Trainer and have simply used exercise as a way of burning more calories on a higher calorie day. Well, not so much when on holiday. I went from exercising every day to sleeping and resting, with little exercise in sight. Being an endomorph, I put weight on very easily. I just need to look at a biscuit and it goes straight to my thighs and backside. Not that I am making excuses, but I know that the first pics of the year and the weight on the scales this morning are not the true me. However, it was still a massive reality check.

Breakfast 1:1:18So, out came the food scales this morning as I started to weigh my food again. I tried in 2015, unsuccessfully, to follow a bodybuilding lifestyle for 9 months. This was during the recovery period after having both shoulders and both hips operated on. Not being able to do Olympic lifting, powerlifting or strongman training any longer, I needed to find something to allow me to keep training, but with very little impact on my joints. Whilst the bodybuilding training was great, the food wasn’t. I really struggled going from the type of training that required more energy to be consumed, where my size was on my side for my chosen sport, to having to count every single thing that passed my lips. I disliked dieting. I had always had a very delicate relationship with food and my body image. I started to have bulimia in the last 2 years of school and I had bulimia at University. From a young adolescent, I was always conscious of the way that I looked, and it is only in the last couple of years that I have felt truly comfortable with my body and how I feel. I love my curves and I would not want my body shape to change too much.

Snack 1:1:18I am quite competitive with myself and the fact that I failed at the bodybuilding a couple of years ago is what inspired me to make the decision last month to try again. Whilst I was previously trying to do it when I had an office job and very little support around me, I am now lucky enough to be in the fitness industry where I live in the gym, I have the support of everyone around me (I am doing this alongside one of my colleagues) and I have the benefit of being extremely active, moving around the whole time, going from client to client and getting to the end of the day wondering where the day has gone, as opposed to sitting at a desk all day watching the clock and thinking about food out of boredom.

lumch-1118.jpgSo, this is me now. Whilst I am happy with my overall body size, I would like to shed a little bit of body fat and increase my muscle mass just a little. This is not with a view to competing (anyone who knows me knows that I would most likely fall flat on my face in heels on a stage), but this is just to see if I can do it. I have tremendous amounts of respect for anyone who has the dedication and mental stamina to stick to a bodybuilding diet and lifestyle. This is my attempt to do it for a few months.

dinner-1118.jpgToday, day 1, was a little bit of a disaster as I hadn’t planned my meals well enough, so I have got to the end of the day not having eaten enough protein and having had an energy slump mid-afternoon, which brought out the dragon in me. My apologies to my family! So, tomorrow is a new day and I will make sure that I am better prepared.

Happy new-food-regiming!



Hip Arthroscopy, Training

Different Hip – Different Recovery From a Hip Arthroscopy

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????On 28th Jan 2015, I underwent my second hip arthroscopy, on the right hip, to alleviate the Femeroacetabular Impingement (FAI) due to a Cam type impingement. This is where the head of the femur isn’t round enough to be able to rotate easily in the socket. Having shown signs of recovering well and fairly quickly following the left hip arthroscopy on 22nd October 2014, my surgeon established that we could proceed without there being too much of a detrimental impact on the left hip, or the recovery process (click here to read about my left hip arthroscopy). The day before surgery, I was able to front squat “ass to grass” successfully with a loaded bar, and I was over the moon about how quickly I was able to get back to squatting again. I was still experiencing difficulties with keeping my trunk upright when back-squatting, but I was happy to have regained my front squat.


Second time around, the surgery was a very different experience. While the surgeon was the same, the hospital, anaesthetist and supporting staff were not. Therefore, it was a completely new experience. Previously, mine was the first operation of the day. However, this time, I needed to wait until 12pm, not having eaten or drunk since midnight the night before.

The operation went well: the labrum was torn and needed to be repaired, and the femoral head was successfully re-shaped. It was more straightforward than the left hip surgery as there were fewer labral tears to fix. After the first oper  ation I woke up upset and was given morphine. As a result of this, I experienced extreme nausea for the rest of the day. This time, I asked only to be given painkillers if I requested them, and warned them that it was normal for me to be upset when coming round from surgery. My right quad was numb on the surface and I had a severe burning pain down the entire leg. I had to ask for painkillers whilst in the recovery room and again when I was back in my room mid-afternoon. Unfortunately, the hospital staff were not as professional as the staff caring for me previously, which caused a high level of stress during recovery.


I have recovered much quicker this time, despite only being 14 days post-operation. I was only on crutches for the first day. I was able to walk up/down stairs unaided on the second day, and was then able to take two steps at a time on the third day. I was able to get dressed and shower by myself on the third day. I dropped something on the floor on the fourth day and was able to squat down to pick it up without any problems.

I have had numbness in my right quad since the operation but the sensation started to return from the fourth day and there has been improvement every day. I only have superficial numbness now in the area around my IT band. This could be down to the amount of time that my leg was in traction and it is highly unlikely that there will be long lasting nerve damage, so I will need to wait a little while longer to regain full sensation.

My stitches were removed on the 13th day but, unfortunately, I woke up the next day to discover that the right incision had popped open overnight. I didn’t feel anything when I woke up and only realised something was wrong when I looked at the area and then looked at my stained sheets. I made an emergency appointment to see the nurse at my GP practice and she covered the incision with steri-strips. It wasn’t possible to stitch the incision given the amount of time it had been exposed to air and possible bacteria. I was asked to monitor it overnight and return the following day. I was also asked to be as still as possible over the coming days to allow the incision to reseal.

Overall, this has been an easier recovery and a more motivating one as I am quite far ahead of where I should be on the recovery chart and am able to do some things that I couldn’t do for weeks or months after the left hip surgery. I put this down to how physically active I am, which I have managed to keep up throughout my first recovery, and to the fact that I do my physiotherapy exercises religiously every day. It takes an hour every morning, but in the longterm, this is the only opportunity I am going to have to allow my body to heal correctly and develop the right muscle groups so that I am balanced when I return to my heavy weight training.


Do Fitbit Wristbands Work?

photo 2I am currently recovering from a left hip arthroscopy, with a left shoulder arthroscopy looming up, so I have been trying to find ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle despite not being able to exercise as I have been previously used to. I have gone from doing Strongman training, Olympic lifting, kettlebell training and running, to bodybuilding training and static cycling (for the hip), so my primary concern at the moment is whether I’m exercising enough and maintaining a balanced enough diet to allow me to still keep losing body fat while maintaining muscle mass.

dashboardWhen I heard about Fitbit I was intrigued as it appealed to the busier side of me – I liked the idea of everything being done automatically over wifi, therefore requiring little effort on my part. Like most people these days, I have very little time for anything that falls outside of routine and what I’ve planned for during the day, so Fitbit sounded like quite a convenient way for me to be able to monitor my exercise, steps walked, food/water intake and sleep for the day, all in one place, and mostly automatically. I looked into it and decided to buy the Flex wristband and Aria scales.


photo 1The Aria scales were fairly easy to set-up but I had to wait a few hours for the wristband battery to charge before setting up my account fully. While Fitbit does have their own programme to monitor food, there is the option of synching it with myfitnesspal (among others), which I have been using for years and have all my meals and frequent foods saved in. Synching the two was not as straightforward as claimed by the online instructions and I needed to link/unlink the accounts multiple times before the data started to flow through.

Monitoring sleep

5h29 sleepOne of the major appeals for wanting to use Fitbit was because it is able to monitor sleep (as well as it can, for what it is). Since starting my working life I’ve been a really poor sleeper and I wanted to know just how much sleep I am getting each night. Sleep is extremely important for muscle mass growth and it affects my performance in the gym. While I can get by in the office by having coffee, my body needs the physical and mental rest for me to be able to reach my goals, especially as I am always on the go and never stop. The body and mind need the 8 hour break overnight.

There are 2 settings for sleep – normal and sensitive. The normal setting only counts you as being restless when you physically turn over in bed. I used that setting for the first night and apparently I had 6h48m sleep. Seeing as I woke up feeling like death, I gathered the setting was too kind to me, so I have been using the sensitive setting since (which counts most movements as being restless) and I believe it is painting a more accurate picture.

3h32 sleepOver the past 14 days I have had between 3h32m – 5h29m sleep a night (taking me around 45-60 minutes to fall asleep), which is not enough for there not to be added stress on the body. I have a very demanding job, I’m studying sports nutrition on the side and I also ask a lot of my body in the gym. I’m a busy person. I have to resort to caffeine to compensate for my lack of sleep. 1 cup of coffee can raise cortisol levels for up to 2 days. Cortisol is a hormone that is released in the body in response to stress. If there are elevated levels of cortisol in the body for an extensive amount of time it can lead to weight gain, lack of quality sleep, cravings, headaches, chronic fatigue, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. It can also lead to a decrease in protein synthesis, which, for someone trying to put on (or at least maintain) muscle mass, is destructive. So while I know all of this, I still normally need 3 cups of coffee and pre-workout all before 12pm to be alert and “energised” enough for my lunchtime lifting session.

Changes to lifestyle

weightAs a result of seeing how poor my sleep patterns are, I have been making some changes to my caffeine intake during the day. As my workouts are not as intense as they were pre-op (except with my trainer) I’m no longer having my pre-workout drink and I am having only 2 cups of coffee. I’ve switched to jasmine tea after 12pm (so nothing with caffeine). I’ve also started to read paper books again in bed as opposed to watching/reading something on my tablet. My tablet is not allowed to cross the threshold into my bedroom! The bright screen of a tablet suppresses the creation of melatonin and interrupts the sleep/wake cycle. It’s therefore unreasonable to expect that as soon as the lights are out that your body will relax and sleep.

lean vs fatI receive notifications to let me know how far off my 10,000 daily steps I am, when I’ve hit my target or how many I have over-achieved in the day. Appealing to the competitive side of me, I have started taking stairs instead of lifts, walking up/down escalators and going for walks at the weekends (when I typically would have had at least 1 Pyjama Day and remained on the couch) to ensure I walk at least 10,000 steps each weekend day. I am normally closer to 15,000 steps on weekdays.


bmiThere are two main things missing from the Flex wristband – both of which will be most likely solved by the Surge and Charge models which are coming out in 2015. The first limitation is that it doesn’t always recognise my gym time as an “active” time of day. While I might be killing myself doing leg presses or push-ups, because the wristband is not moving, nothing gets registered. The other limitation is that it doesn’t monitor my heart rate, therefore I still need to wear my separate heart rate monitor when exercising. Once there is a heart rate monitor on it, it will definitely recognise my doing press-ups as one of my most active times in the day! I also don’t take too much notice of the body fat percentage reading as it is not really possible to get an accurate reading by standing on scales. If you want a good reading it is best to do calliper/skinfolds testing. Fitbit has me at 34% body fat whereas calliper testing has me at 23%.

Does it work?

While some people may think the Fitbit wristbands are just a gimmick, I have actually really benefitted from my Flex wristband and Aria scales in just 2 weeks as I have made what I consider to be some very positive changes to my lifestyle as I try to resolve one of the biggest issues that I have that is preventing me from reaching my lifestyle and fitness goals: lack of sleep.

Lifestyle, Nutrition

The Benefits of Water

Water DropWe’ve all read varying pieces of advice about needing to drink 2-3 litres a day of water but have you stopped to think about why? And is this pure water, liquids in general, does water from food count? So many of us don’t drink enough water, which is more detrimental to the body than we realise. The body is like a car: if you don’t give it petrol or motor oil or wiper fluid or air in the tyres, the car will break down and stop working. The body, just like a car, needs to be provided with nutrients and water in order for it to be able to survive and work properly. It is able to live longer without food than it is without water, as hydration allows the body to be able to function properly.

Liver - Male anatomy of human organs - x-ray viewBetween 45% and 60% of the body is made up of water around (45% for children, 55% for women and 60% for men) and all of our tissues, organs and fluids have water as a main constituent. It allows the body’s organs (such as the lining of mucus membranes, the digestive tract and the bronchial tubes) to be kept moist and hydrated enough to the allow them to function without putting added pressure on other organs. If we take the kidneys as an example, their primary task is to remove waste and excess water from the body in the form of urine, as well as maintain a balance of salts and other substances in the blood. If the kidneys are not functioning properly because they are not hydrated enough, they will transfer most of their functions to the liver, which in turn will not be able to perform one of its mains tasks which is to metabolise stored fat. If there is no fat metabolisation then it means that the person in question will start to gain weight.

Water also helps to lubricate joints and membranes; it transport nutrients throughout the body; it dissolves minerals and other substances for the body to absorb; and it holds substances in colloidal suspension; it stays as a liquid over various temperatures. Water also acts as an appetite suppressant, therefore the feeling of satiety is reached quicker. If there is a higher intake of water, the person will eat less and the body will metabolise fat more efficiently.

Pouring Water From Bottle Into Glass On Blue BackgroundThere are 3 hormones that regulate fluid loss (antidiuretic hormone and aldosterone which help with slowing down fluid loss in the urine; and atrial natriuretic peptide which increases urine flow rate). Fluid intake is made up of fluids that are ingested, food that is ingested and metabolic water (resulting from metabolic reactions in the body). Water loss is made up of excretion/evaporation from the GI tract, the lungs, through the skin and the kidneys. This typically accounts for 2500 ml in water gain/loss. Exercise/illness will cause an excess of fluid excretion, therefore, replacing the water lost is important. It is also important to understand that the fluids in the body (digestive juices, mucus, saliva, blood, lymph, sweat, urine) also have an impact on regulating fluid loss as they account for varying amounts of fluid in the body.

It is important to ensure that there is not an overload of fluids at any one time, therefore allowing the body to process the fluids. This can be achieved by regular intakes of fluid throughout the day (regularly spacing out the normally recommended 2 litres a day throughout the day) to ensure the right balance in the body. Over-hydration can also impact the body by creating hyponatremia (a reduction in the salt level in the blood) resulting in an electrolyte disturbance.

When the body doesn’t receive any nutrition it goes into starvation mode and holds on to the fat that is currently in the body to allow it to feed off it to ensure its survival. The same happens with water – if the body doesn’t receive any fluids it will start to hold on to the fluids it currently has (in the extracellular spaces in the body), known as fluid retention. Fluid retention generally results in swollen feet, ankles, legs and hands. Once the body starts to receive liquids it then starts to release the water that it has been holding on to for survival. Fluid retention can also be caused by the person’s sodium intake being too high, which requires an excess of water to dilute it before it then goes to the kidneys to be processed.

Kidneys - Male anatomy of human organs - x-ray viewFluid retention also causes other organs to start to become dehydrated as the body tries to hold on to water. One very obvious sign of water retention (and therefore dehydration in that specific organ) is constipation – the colon becomes less moist (which has a direct impact on bowel movements) as the body retains the moisture in other organs. In the case of the kidneys, water retention can actually cause kidney failure as the kidneys are no longer able to remove excess water from the body in the form of urine.

The average person requires around 2 litres of water a day (and an additional 250ml for every 25lbs they are overweight by). In hot climates or during sport the requirement will be higher given the loss of fluid through sweating. Many of us can suffer mild symptoms of dehydration during the day (which include fatigue, loss of appetite, headaches, light-headedness, nausea or feeling excessively hot). You can also tell easily by the colour of your urine whether you are dehydrated – anything darker than pale yellow indicates that you need to drink more water.

There is the misconception that soft drinks or flavoured water can be counted towards the daily water intake requirement. While these will provide your body with the hydration needed, unfortunately, the amount of added sugar and chemicals that are in them will far outweigh any hydration benefits as you could be at risk of putting weight on, causing tooth decay or suffering an increase in blood sugar levels. Obesity in children is on the rise in Europe. In the UK the consumption of fizzy sugary drinks has doubled over the last 15 years and studies have shown that children and adults are missing out on essential nutrients in food because they are eating less at mealtimes following the constant consumption of fizzy drink.

abstract heart on purity waterIt’s easy to drink water throughout the day. People who know me know that I never go anywhere without a bottle of water. If I am going to meetings at work (which is here I spend most of my day nowadays) I am usually clutching my 1L bottle of still water and I periodically sip it. I always carry a bottle of water in my handbag also. If you can make 1 important change to your lifestyle, decrease your consumption of sugary drinks and replace them with water. Sparkling water with a fresh berry or a slice of lemon in the glass will satisfy your craving for taste. Your body will love you for it!

Lifestyle, Nutrition, Training

The Importance of Weight Management in Sport

Scale Weight.When discussing weight management in sport, it is important to discuss not only the physical importance of weight changes but also the mental effects they have on athletes. Weight loss is used in sport usually to qualify for a competitive weight category or to enhance performance. In order to lose body fat, the athlete needs to be expending more calories than are being consumed. This works best through a combination of diet and exercise as opposed to one or the other, and over a gradual period of time as opposed to through a quick crash diet. If we give the body time to adapt to the weight loss then there is a better chance that we will be able to maintain the weight loss, as opposed to if the weight loss is sudden, which can create secondary health issues.

Sumo wrestlerWhile a certain amount of body fat is important in order to survive, most sports require a loss of body fat in order to enhance performance. Carrying around an excess of fat can slow an athlete down (such as in explosive sports that require the athlete to move their body weight or a loaded bar quickly, as mechanical efficiency and power are reduced), it can affect their endurance (as an increase in fat can increase fatigue) and strength. One of the only sports where an increase in weight (typically body fat) is considered advantageous, is Sumo wrestling. While in most sports where being of a larger size allows for an increase in the momentum required for throwing an object or knocking an opponent over, Sumo wrestling is the only sport where the weight increase is generally fat as opposed to lean tissue; Strongman competitors, for example, are usually heavier but this is typically muscle mass as opposed to fat.

Woman holds fat fit silhouettes on a scale symbol of Diet WeightThere are 2 types of fat: essential fat and storage fat. Essential fat makes up around 3% of our body weight and is present around our organs to protect against damage, our brain tissue, cell membranes, nerve sheaths and bone marrow. Women have an additional sex-specific fat which makes up a further 5%-9% (usually around the hips and breasts) and aids with oestrogen production. As soon as a woman’s body fat starts to fall below 15%-20% there can be an impact on menstrual function. This is especially important to take into consideration with sports such as bodybuilding, where there is a requirement to have extremely low body fat percentage and hydration levels in order for the muscle bulk and fibres to be more visible. Storage fat is used as an energy reserve and is usually located subcutaneously (under the skin) and intra-abdominally (around the organs). Fat loss can occur from any area of the body and it is not possible to target one specific area for the fat to decrease as our fat utilisation patterns are based on our genetic make-up and our hormonal balance. Exercising (especially weight training) can help with increasing the muscle mass of that area but it will not affect the fat storage in that area as muscle and fat are two separate types of tissue and are non-interchangeable.

Bodybuilding fitness gym iconsBodybuilding is a good example of weight gain and weight loss in sport, as there are 2 phases that the athlete goes through in order to prepare for a competition: there is the bulking phase (also known as off-season) which lasts a couple of months (although there is no set timeframe) and then there is the cutting phase that usually happens in the months leading up to a competition where the aim is to lose body fat without jeopardising the muscle gains too much. During the bulking phase, the emphasis is on increasing the calorific intake (normally from an increase in lean meat, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats) versus expenditure so that the athlete puts weight on and more specifically muscle mass (as opposed to fat). This is the time where the athlete makes 95% of their improvements in their physique and therefore the right nutrition is required for this. While protein is usually used to build and maintain muscle mass, carbohydrates are especially important post-training as they increase the insulin levels and help the muscle to absorb the glycogen. Fats are also essential in building muscle, reducing cortisol, providing energy and increasing testosterone levels (the higher the testosterone levels, the more muscle mass; the more muscle mass, the higher the testosterone levels).

Back Of BodybuilderThe bulking phase can be a mentally difficult phase for the athlete as the emphasis is on putting muscle mass on but it is impossible to do this without putting on body fat also. This can sometimes cause the athlete to start questioning themselves and adapting their nutrition to not include as much fat or as many carbohydrates as are required to build muscle, given the visible increase in fat. If the athlete cuts too soon, they risk losing the muscle mass they have worked hard to put on. It then becomes a question of whether the athlete can cope mentally with their larger appearance whilst they wait for the cutting phase.

Bodybuilding. Man and womanDuring the cutting phase the emphasis is on reducing the body fat percentage while losing as little muscle mass as possible. While some muscle mass loss is expected, the diet is changed to decrease the carbohydrate intake and increase the protein intake (in order to save muscle mass) but having a carbohydrate-depleted diet can create a lack of energy which can also be mentally draining for the athlete who is trying to still exercise at the same level of intensity but with nowhere near the same amount of nutritional support. The cutting phase is also equally mentally challenging for the athlete, as while they look at their strongest because their muscle bulk and fibres are becoming more visible, they are actually at their weakest because their bodies are depleted of nutrition and their body fat is approaching dangerously low levels the closer they get to competition time.

Man sees other self in mirrorThis type of lifestyle can be rewarding for a short space of time after all the hard work, however, there are also health risks, both physical and mental. Constant yoyo dieting can increase heart disease, because when the athlete’s nutrition starts to normalise, the fat is usually re-deposited intra-abdominally (and therefore closer to the liver), rather than peripherally (the hips, thighs and arms); yoyo dieting can also cause a loss in lean organ tissue, which can damage the heart muscle. So while bodybuilders need to ensure that they are as lean as possible for their chosen sport, it can come with risks. It is, however, not only physical risks that can be associated with bodybuilding, but also emotional and mental issues, as the constant yoyo dieting and changing in body size can cause the athlete to start changing the way that they view themselves. This is known as body dysmorphic disorder and can be suffered by both men and women, where they are unable to see the true image of what they look like. They are not satisfied by their physical appearance and are in most cases unable to see the muscle bulk increase or body fat loss that the people around them can see. This causes them to keep pushing the boundaries and in some instances either develop an eating disorder or consider taking performance enhancing supplements to reach the next level; except that they will never reach the next level because of this disorder.

Female Resting With Intense WorkoutAny competitive sport is difficult to train for and excel in, as it is a combination of training periodization and the right nutrition that will give the athlete the tools to be able to prepare their body for competition day. Weight management plays a huge role in whether the athlete will make the necessary weight category, whether they will have enough strength to overpower their opponent, or whether their muscles will be more defined and symmetrical than the next competitor. The right nutrition can give an athlete the edge that is needed to reach the next level, however, yoyo dieting may not necessarily be the key to optimum health, given the mental and physical risks associated with it. It is therefore always preferable to manage weight in a more steady manner that allows the body to acclimatise to it and maintain the changes.

Hip Arthroscopy, Nutrition, Training

Road to Recovery After a Left Hip Arthroscopy

On Wednesday 22nd October  2014 I underwent a left hip arthroscopy because of the femoroacetabular impingement (FAI, mixed impingement) with labral tears that were diagnosed following months of pain, an MR Arthrogram and a CT scan.


hip1The operation was a success but the hours following the operation were awful because of the anaesthetic and the morphine. I was awoken from the operation in tears (I was confused and couldn’t formulate a sentence – the nurses thought I was in pain so they gave me more morphine). While patients are usually discharged after 4 hours, I had to wait 8.5 hours because of the nausea (which prevented me from having the mandatory pre-discharge physiotherapy session). The morphine had relaxed my bladder muscles therefore I wasn’t able to pass urine. Any hip pain wasn’t really that apparent – I would occasionally get some instant and sharp pains if twisted or moved into an awkward position but my main focus was trying to ease the nausea. I was sick a few times in the afternoon, which allowed my body to start getting rid of the drugs from my system; I had my physiotherapy session at 6pm and I passed urine at 7.15pm.

My surgeon came to see me mid-afternoon to explain what he had done but I was so high and nauseous I barely remember the conversation. I do remember seeing pictures of the destroyed labrum and the cartilage that had started to peel away.


hip2While I breezed through the physiotherapy exercises on the day of the op, the 1st day post-op was quite tough. I slept beautifully but woke up feeling like a bus had hit me. I couldn’t move well, I was still groggy and incredibly nauseous. My sister helped me to shower – I dropped the soap and just looked helplessly at it as I couldn’t bend down to pick it up or wash my lower body. I needed my crutches for everything, even just to shuffle a few steps, as my leg was too heavy for me to be able to lift unaided.

I managed 1 flight of stairs, with crutches, using the method the physiotherapist had taught me: bad foot down to hell, good foot up to heaven – operated leg first when walking down stairs (so that it remains straight) and non-operated leg first when walking up stairs (so that the operated leg remains straight again).

On the 2nd day post-op I was moving a lot better and felt as bright as a button when I woke up. I still had to stare at the soap when I dropped it (again) but I could walk (as opposed to shuffle) around my flat most of the day without my crutches. Putting socks and pants on was difficult because I couldn’t bend the leg or my body to reach down properly so I was glad I had someone around to help me to dress and shower.

On the 3rd day post-op I could walk and do stairs unaided. I didn’t drop the soap but I still needed some help washing and drying my ankles and feet. Overall there was significant improvement in my mobility for every day activities. The physiotherapy exercises were becoming easier so I increased the reps, modified the exercises so that my foot was hovering above the floor and I added some other exercises that I knew would help to strengthen the hip joint without fatiguing the supporting muscles too much. While rest is important I do also think that the body needs to be challenged in order to keep improving – but at no point did I feel any pain from these modifications.

On the 4th day I was finally able to wash/dry my ankles and feet unaided. I was a little concerned about some hip clicking that I had also experienced pre-surgery (due to the labrum being torn) but my physiotherapist assured me this was common as it was most likely post-op fluids and the inflammatory process happening in the joint and that it could be expected for up to 3 months post-surgery.


pregabalinI was still experiencing some nausea after 3 days and after investigating the medication I was taking, I was horrified by the list of side effects for Pregabalin (Lyrica) that I was expected to take for 2 weeks for nerve damage. I came off it after 5 days (with the surgeon’s blessing) as I had no nerve damage (I can’t fire up my left glute properly but I have a sport tens machine to help with that). I am taking Celebrex for 4 weeks to prevent bone forming in the muscles and I didn’t need painkillers for more than a couple of days.


physio exercisesWhile the improvements were quite significant initially (for every day activities such as walking, going up/down stairs, bending/squatting down to pick something up), I have seen fewer obvious improvements since then and am now primarily focusing on improving my internal and external rotation. I can squat properly (with a Swiss ball between the wall and my back), I can bridge very well and have increased the intensity by elevating my feet and using a resistance band around my knees but I can’t do bent knee fall outs without pain at the end of the movement because of my lack of rotation. I am swimming to move the hip joint more (only crawl; can’t breaststroke yet) and using the upright cycle. Any other cardio machine will put too much pressure on the hip joint with the repetitive movement.

I had my initial post-surgery physiotherapy session after 9 days and my physiotherapist was pleased with my progress as I can already do exercises from the 4-6 week post-op section of the rehab chart. I put this down to how physically active and mobile I was pre-op and the quality of my nutrition. My focus is to improve my lower body mobility as much as possible so that when I have my left shoulder arthroscopy at the end of November I will still be able to exercise my lower body whilst my upper body recovers in time for my right hip arthroscopy at the end of January 2015.


tensI have a gym bench at home and some dumbbells so I created a little upper-body circuit of seated exercises (so as to not put any pressure through the hip joint) as I am a little concerned about the effect that this no-exercising is having on my muscle mass. The tens is helping to stimulate the muscles but I’m worried about losing all of the muscle mass that I have built up over the past couple of years. Even just doing a little bit really helps to keep my motivation and positivity up as mental attitude is extremely important when recovering from surgery. It’s easy to become deflated by the lack of progress, putting weight on through inactivity, giving in to the pain – exercise helps to stimulate the blood flow, the mind and get the serotonin pumping through your body.

Not being able to exercise properly has required a mental adjustment as I used my interval training to lose body fat and my metabolic weight training to maintain muscle mass. I am now relying on my nutrition to save as much muscle mass as possible and also not put on too much body fat – my carbs are low (max. 80gr/day), my protein is high (around 220gr per day) and my fats are reasonable (max. 30gr per day). I am keeping my weekly sessions with my personal trainer as it is important to have a focus and he has weighed me every week since we started training together in order to ensure that I am on the right track. While our training over the coming months may be very different to what I’m used to given my physical limitations, there is no reason I shouldn’t be able to stay on top of my fitness and my nutrition with some discipline and a positive mindset.