Back in June 2019 when I was first diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ disease I set myself a load of goals to try and recover some of the fitness I’d lost over the previous four years of being undiagnosed and really not well. For a few months I was really focused on them but then from about October 2019 I kinda forgot to keep track and instead started worrying about things that really didn’t matter.
I’ve been so distracted by my weight that I forgot why I wanted to improve my health and fitness in the first place!
I wanted to get fitter so I could regain my ability to train on pole and aerial equipment to the level I could years ago. I set myself mini targets and looking back, some I smashed. But others, that really mattered to me I have completely ignored or avoided.
The fitter I’ve got the more obsessed I’ve become with the wrong things and I’d completely forgot about all my goals because I’ve been getting to caught up on trying to lower the number on the scales and improve the appearance of my arse, which a recent photoshoot showed me, isn’t really that bad!
But someone reminded me the other day, while I was having a mini tantrum about my thyroid playing up and my inability to lose weight, that despite all my thyroid fun and games, I’ve progressed a lot and should be pleased with myself.
Back in June last year I couldn’t even walk up the stairs without my legs shaking and one of the biggest issues was that Graves’ disease had caused me to lose almost 15kg (most of which was muscle). I realised I needed to go back and look at the goals I set myself to remind myself how far I’ve come. And to set myself a few new ones to try and get back on track and stop focusing on my weight because as I’m rebuilding myself, some of the weight I lost should be going back on. I’m slowly getting my muscles back!
The push ups, splits and inverting on the pole I managed to achieve but I’ve avoided working on the aerial equipment except to demo the most basic of basics, and even those I couldn’t do last year and can now, so still an improvement. But I need to push myself a bit more now and actually do the things I set out to do and try to stay focused on the things that actually matter to me!
I posted an image a few days ago comparing my heart rate during a workout session after having a pre workout drink to my heart rate during the same workout session without it.
I was actually pretty impressed with the difference. I’ve been struggling with fatigue for a while due to my thyroid function now being underactive due to me being over medicated for Graves’ disease and the BCAA pre-work powder from Bio-synergy really helped me maintain a higher intensity for longer.
But anyway, posting it caused a little bit of confusion for others.
I used the application ‘Polar Flow’ and the polar H7 chest strap to track my heart rate during workouts, and one of its very helpful features it to advise you what percentage of calorie expenditure is from fats. It’s a function I ignore and learned means absolutely nothing a long time a go. But the response my post got has kinda demonstrated that people are still under the impression that staying in your ‘fat burning’ zone is optimal for weight loss. Including another local fitness instructor who very kindly messaged to make me aware of my training mistake by wanting to work outside my fat loss zone, so I thought I’d write this in a hope that it will help my students, friends and family realise that the fat burning zone is total tosh.
It is true that at some exercise intensities, the human body burns a higher percentage of fat than it does at other intensities. But that doesn’t mean that staying at that intensity is the key to losing weight. And anyone that believes there is a specific fat melting margin is trying to simplify a very complex process and is ignoring the greater importance of overall calorie expenditure.
Your body mainly fuels itself by burning a mix of carbohydrates and stored fats. Generally speaking, the less active you are, the higher the percentage of that is from fats and as intensity increases the percentage of fuel from fats decreases.
It might seem like it would be much more efficient to be working at a higher fat burning percentage but the theory completely ignores the fact that weight loss or maintaining weight is purely down to total number of calories in Vs calories out. If you put in less calories than you are using then your body is forced to source that fuel from elsewhere, i.e by breaking down the fat in the body. So it doesn’t matter if that fat is burned during exercise or while you’re resting.
If the trick to fat loss was to focus on the percentage of fat used to fuel the body then it would make sense to stay still as that’s when your body is burning the highest percentage of fat compared to carbohydrates but it’s the total number of calories used that matters more!
The general consensus is that the ‘fat burning zone’ is working around 55-65% of your maximum heart rate. The truth is that working at this level will do very little to change your body composition and it will take a lot longer to burn the same number of calories as you would working at a much higher intensity and as people generally planned their work out based on time and not how many calories they want to burn, it is much more efficient to work at a higher intensity for less time.
Weight loss is totally dependent on calories in being less than calories out, and working at a higher intensity makes it much easier to do achieve that.
There is also the afterburn that needs to be taken into account, although people generally over estimate this way to much. But the harder the body is worked, the longer it takes to repair and the faster your metabolism will be while that happens.
So if any fitness instructor or personal training starts telling you that to efficiently lose weight that you need to stay in the ‘fat burning zone’, or someone is selling an exercise class that is designed to focus working in the fat melting margin, then avoid them at all costs. The fat burning zone ideas where debunked years ago so either their training is out of date or they just generally don’t know what they are talking about!
Having said all there, there is definitely a place for lower intensity training sessions. And mixing them in with higher intensity workouts will help with recovery and will help prevent over training. They’re also great for people just getting back into exercise. Just don’t be fooled that they are the key to amazing weight loss.
You see it thrown around all the time that ‘abs are made in the kitchen’ and that weight loss is ‘80% diet and only 20% exercise’. I hate both phrases. Abs aren’t made in the kitchen, they’re developed in the gym or other exercise facility, but their visibility is determined by body fat percentage and body fat percentage is purely the percentage of you body that is made up of fats. You can be underweight and still have a high body fat percentage and non visible muscle. It’s what everyone calls ‘skinny fat’.
I was skinny fat last year, after having four years off of any real exercise and training. I’d lost loads of weight and actually weighed the lowest I have since I was 17 years old. But my body fat percentage was nearly 30%, the highest it’s ever been. I was thin but I wasn’t healthy, I was still squidgy, I hated how my body looked and for the first time in my life I couldn’t do push ups, not only could I not do them on my toes, I couldn’t even do them on my knees. I’d lost weight because my thyroid had gone insane. But the same type of weight loss occurs when you lose weight by diet alone. When we restrict the calories going in, our bodies are very clever at making use of other available resources for energy and it breaks down what’s already in the body. But it’s not all from fat, you also break down lean muscle. When muscle loss happens, you also lose the subtle, metabolic boost that comes from having more metabolically active muscle tissue. And THERE IS NO MAGIC DIET THAT WILL ENSURE ALL YOUR WEIGHT LOSS IS FROM FAT. All diets will cause you to lose weight if you restrict the calories enough but none of them can cause you to purely strip the fat and get great ab definition and a sculpted ass. If you lose weight through diet alone, your body fat percentage is highly likely to stay the same and maintaining the weight loss will be almost impossible because you’ve just lost the lean muscle you had that was using more calories so your metabolism will have taken a dive and you’re to tired and unmotivated to start up any new exercise plans.
But you also can’t out exercise a bad diet! Doing the right types of exercise (I will go into what the right type of exercise is in another blog post) will help boost a lagging metabolism, build and maintain lean muscle and helps improve mental and physical health in a lot of ways but you can’t combat eating take-out almost every night and snacking on snickers and wine by going to Zumba once a week or even every night.
We have a lot of students comment that they deserve a take-out, or junk food, because they’ve just completed Metafit or done 90 minutes of kick boxing. They don’t realise that although they could have just burned off around 7-800kcals, there’s more calories than that in a big Mac and fries, not even including the soft drink or sides they might get as well, and there’s way more if they go for half a large stuffed crust pizza!
Diet and exercise are equally important in achieving a healthy, strong body. And anyone who tries to diminish the importance of either one is probably trying to sell you the other!
And if you are doing both and still not getting results, then something isn’t quite right and you may need to re-evaluate both and I’m willing to help. 🙂
I’ve decided to give supplements a go. I’ve never really used them properly before and have never really understood what the benefits are. I tried preworkout drinks in the past for fun, particularly X-Plode Hardcore, and loved the buzz and extra energy when training but hated the fact I went itchy and tingly with it so I stopped those. And since being diagnosed with Graves’ disease I’ve been really reluctant to try anything and cause the symptoms to get worse but I have been having protein meal replacement shakes for breakfast to try and increase my protein intake.
But when my thyroid function is to high or to low my recovery is shocking, my joints hurt, I get tired and I struggle maintaining my training routines. And how well I eat seems to make no difference. But over all I am aware my diet could do with more work. But I like cake.
So I did some research about supplements recommend for people with Graves’ and also tried to find out what I need to avoid or moderate. It took me a while and I’m still not convinced I’ve got all the information I need and as normal getting an appointment with my endocrinologist is impossible and getting in at the doctor’s is almost as hard. So if you have thyroid issues and are following this, please do your own research and discuss supplements with your doctor if you can. I am not an expert. I’m just trying to find things to help me!
So the first thing I found mentioned a lot was L-carnitine. Not only is it supposed to help control the production of T3 and T4 in people with hyperthyroidism, it’s also suggested it can help alleviate symptoms of fatigue! And I fatigue a lot.
Branch chain amino acids are another supplement I’ve decided to try. BCAAs aren’t safe for people who are being treated with a thyroid hormone for hypothyroidism but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that they can be harmful for people with Graves’. In fact they can assist with limiting muscle wastage, improve recovery and help prevent fatigue.
I read about a million supplement company review blogs and decide to look into Bio-synergy, a company that seemed to be highly recommend. They had a lot of options for both L-carnitine and BCAAs. I had to check through all ingredients and avoid products with iodine and selenium which need to be avoided by people with hyperthyroidism.
The skinny protein from Bio-synergy includes L-carnitine. And a lot of other supplements that are supposed to help with fat loss, and as I’m having issues with slowly gaining weight, that sounded great to me.
I also decided to give pre workout drinks another go and found one that includes BCAAs, The BCAA Powder,w which also includes caffeine and taurine to give you a boost.
I’m only on day three of trying these so I’m not yet sure how effective they are but the preworkout has definitely helped when training, tastes vile but I haven’t gone tingly or itchy yet. So far I’ve only tried it before Metafit, and for that it really helped me push it and work at a higher intensity for longer, and I intend to try it before a weights session over the next week. The skinny protein shakes are nice, not as thick as the myprotein shake I’m used to but it tastes pretty good and they seem to fill me up for longer than the myprotein ones.
I’ve not felt as tired or as achy since starting them but I’m not sure how much of that is in my head! So I guess time will tell. I’m not yet totally convinced of their benefits and I’d prefer to get everything I need from my diet. But I’m lazy and as I said before, I like cake, so fingers crossed these help keep me going until my thyroid function is actually under some sort of control.
During January and February, at Freestyle Fitness we usually have an influx of new students. We try to steer most of them to the beginner courses, but for many the beginner courses just don’t suit them, so they attend our timetabled mixed ability classes. And that’s fine with us, beginners are welcome to any of the sessions. But the reason we try to steer them into the beginner courses is, it takes more than one class to know if pole or aerial is for you!
Taking part in pole and aerial classes as a beginner isn’t like attending a general fitness class, like Zumba or Bodypump, you’re learning a totally new skill, and while everyone can learn, not everyone ‘gets it’ straight away and it usually takes a few sessions to work out if they’re for you or not. Some beginners walk through the door and can do everything in their first class first time, but they’re the exception not the rule. For most people the movements feel unnatural and weird. The disciplines are hard and it takes more than one class to realise that all the hard work is worth it.
You get burns and bruises and can ache for days after the first session. And it isn’t until you finally master a move you’ve been struggling with for a while that you realise just how rewarding the activities are.
Don’t be put off because you’ve struggled in your first class. I can guarantee you are not the hardest student we have ever had to teach. We have had lots of people that struggle with coordination, struggle with strength, aren’t flexible and find everything so painful they spend the whole of the class complaining about it. And some of those students have gone on to become instructors or win competitions and some have just continued to attend class and have fun slowly progressing their skills. Everyone starts as a beginner and everyone progresses at their own pace. We all have different weaknesses. The people you’re watching sail through all the moves involving coordination but they may struggle with strength moves and you may be struggling now but there will be skill that comes along that you master faster and easier than any of your class mates! Focus on your progression. Appreciate the things you can do and take the time to enjoy learning.
There is no correlation between how well someone did during their first class and how advanced and skilful they become. Neither pole or aerial classes are for everyone. But it usually takes more than one session to know if they’re for you, so give it a good chance, you’ll be surprised with what your body is capable of!
The maths involved in working out how much to eat is a little bit complicated if you’re not a huge fan of numbers but I’m a complete geek and love maths. So for me, this blog post is fun.
There are a few steps involved and it’s a little bit long winded but for most people it does add up really well and works effectively so it really is worth doing and sticking to. For people like me who have crazy thyroid functions, it probably isn’t very accurate and although I still stick to these numbers, my weight loss is largely dependant on my thyroid function being somewhere within a normal range!
The first step is to work out your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the amount of energy your body would burn if you laid totally still for a day without consuming anything.
The equations I use to do this differ a bit for men and women. And I will explain below how to do the calculations for anyone wanting to know where the numbers come from but I use the Mifflin-St Jeor equation to determine BMR which has been found to be the most accurate, and you can read a little more about it’s origins, or use an existing online calculator to skip the first part of our calculation here if you would like.
To calculate your BMR you need to know your weight in kg, your height in cm and your age.
Men’s BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) + 5
Women’s BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (years) – 161
(Remember to use BODMAS when doing the equation)
So for me, I’m a 65kg, 170cms tall, 40 year old woman, the calculation would be….
BMR = 10 x 65 + 6.25 x 170 – 5 x 40 – 161 = 650 + 1062.5 – 200 – 161 = 1351.5 Basically the energy my body uses to lay still for 24 hours is approx 1350kcals.
The next thing to work out is your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). This is the total number of calories you burn every 24 hours, taking into account your lifestyle and activity level. There are lots of ways of working out your TDEE.
Wrist activity trackers being the most common but also the most inaccurate. (Probably not want you want to hear when you’ve just put on the brand new Fitbit or other fitness gimmick you’ve received for Christmas, sorry). And exercise machines are shocking at over estimating your calorie expenditure during a workout.
Fitness trackers with the chest strap to monitor your heart rate are a little more accurate at estimating your TDEE but are expensive and not really required unless you have medical issues like I do and need to monitor your heart rate.
Maths is again the best and most accurate way of doing it.
In general rather than calculate a different TDEE for each day, I just work out my average. It means some days I’ll be in a calorie deficit and others in a slight surplus but it’s easier to remember and plan if I have each day the same and it averages out pretty well.
To work out your TDEE you multiply your BMR with an activity multiplier that is dependent on your activity level. Most people severely over estimate their activity level so if your aim is weight loss, choose the multiplier for your minimum weekly activity level rather than your maximum or average, you can always make adjustments later if you are genuinely struggling to maintain the calorie restrictions. 🙂
Here’s how to work out your TDEE….
For sedentary days, days when you are not very active, you should consume around 115% of your BMR. So TDEE = BMR x 1.15
For lightly active days, where you do about 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity or about an hour or light activity, you should consume about 125% of your BMR. So TDEE = BMR x 1.25
For moderately active days, about an hour of vigorous exercise or around two hours of light exercise, you should consume around 145% of your BMR. So TDEE = BMR x 1.45
On days when you are very active and do around 90 minutes of vigorous activity or about three hours of light exercise, you should consume about 165% of your BMR. So TDEE = BMR x 1.65
And on days when you are extremely active and do around two hours of vigorous exercise or several hours of light exercise, you should consume around 185% of your BMR. So TDEE = BMR x 1.85.
Rather than calculate my TDEE each day I average my week out. And use the multiplier for moderately active as around five days per week I do at least 90 minutes of vigorous activity and some light activity and then the other two days I do around 60 minutes of light exercise.
So my TDEE = 1351.5 x 1.45 = 1960 (I’m rounding up now rather than working with lots of decimal places).
The next part of working out how many calories you should eat is totally dependent on what your goals are! If you want to maintain your weight then you need to consume roughly the same number of calories you are burning. So your calorie intake would be the same as your TDEE. For lean bulking, you’d eat slightly more. But as almost everyone that has spoken to me about diet changes recently has expressed they want to lose fat, I’m going to just focus on that.
When I’m doing fat loss plans my recommendation is to eat around 75% of your TDEE. Despite what a lot of people say, bodies don’t go into starvation mode and gain weight when we restrict calories. If you consume less calories that you use, then you will lose weight. However if you restrict calories to much, you also lose muscle, which isn’t a good thing and can have a negative effect on the body and how it looks and performs. Reducing calorie intake by about 25% has been shown to help lose fat slowly whilst still maintaining the ability to build muscle if strength training is also undertaken.
To work out the total number of calories to consume to lose fat multiply your TDEE by 0.75.
Target total calorie intake= TDEE x 0.75.
So for me my target total calorie intake is 1960 x 0.75 = 1470.
And that’s it, that’s how much I should it to lose fat. I like food and to be able to maintain a diet, I have a break at weekends. I don’t spend the whole weekend consuming everything I possibly can, I still try to make my calorie intake less than my TDEE so I’m not counteracting my efforts throughout the week, but it allows me more scope to indulge a little and accept that my diet doesn’t have to be perfect to make progress. My progress is slower because of my weekends but it’s also more sustainable for me, which is the important part!
The next thing I would work out if I was working with personal training clients is their macronutrient ratio, the proportion of their calorie intake that should come from proteins, carbohydrates and fats. But it can get very confusing to work out as its largely dependant on what your aims are, what your lifestyle is like, and what training you are doing. So I’m not prepared to go into macro nutrient ratios on here as this blog post is already long and there’s just way to many variables to take into account.
I personally work on a 40/40/20 ratio and try to get 40% of my calorific intake from proteins, 40% from carbs and 20% from fats. I struggle to hit my protein goals but it’s a target and it’s been working for me but it isn’t a one size fits all.
Also despite the obsession dieters and trainers have with macronutrient ratios, recent research suggests that, for fat loss and body composition, macronutrient ratio doesn’t have a huge impact, providing over all calorie intake is controlled. So it’s a lot more important that you are in a calorie deficit if you want to lose fat, than it is to be obsessing over macros. If you can’t achieve a calorie deficit, you will not lose fat regardless of what fancy macronutrient ratio you have in place.
I’m seeing the slogan ‘New Year, New Me’ everywhere today. It’s by people talking about turning over a new leaf and making positive changes and by people moaning about people claiming to be turning over a new leaf and making changes today!
I’ve never understood the need to wait for a specific date to make positive life changes but if it helps people prepare and helps them identify ways in which they could change their health for the better then it can’t be a bad thing.
But for me its not New year, new me, it’s a new year but I’m still old and broken and I will spend 2020 continuing to implement the same damage control I was implementing for the second half of 2019.
What today represents for me is the end of my festive break from healthy living and an influx of enquiries from potential new students that want to make healthy changes to their life and try new things in 2020.
What I have decided to do though is try to be more positive about my self and to try and regain some of the confidence I’ve lost in the last few years. The first step I’m taking is to try and reaffirm the knowledge I have of diet and exercise. I’ve offered to work with two students (for free) for the next six weeks on trying to implement the healthy living changes they want to make and Sean (my partner) and Lorna (my daughter) are jumping on board for the ride.
They all have different goals and motivations and I am going to be documenting the steps we’re taking as we go and will be explaining how I have come up with the calorie requirements for each person and posting some of the workouts I’m setting for them etc. . and anyone who wants to, is welcome to follow along to and hopefully succeed in making positive changes to their health and lifestyle during 2020. 🙂
The first step we will be taking as a group is to make a list of of our goals! Both long term and short term. And alongside those goals, to write the reason why they want to achieve them and how you think they will benefit your life. When I’m struggling to stick to meal plans or get up and train, it isn’t the goal itself that motivates me to keep going, it’s the reasons why I want to achieve them that help me get up and get on. So I think it’s really important to understand why you want to make changes and to understand how particular actions will help achieve those goals and how you will benefit long term. These goals and reasons will help to keep you motivated when your will power is wavering!
Additional to that I will be spending at least half hour with each of them taking starting photos and statistics. I didn’t bother taking starting photos and I really regret it. My body shape has changed so much more than the scales have over the last 5 months and really regret not having the photos to show that.
So the starting photos will be from front, side and back. If you’re unhappy asking anyone to help with taking photos of you half dressed, then the best way to get them is to video yourself in all three positions and then screen shot each pose after. The photos are for your own benefit, no one else has to see them. But they will help you see changes sooner. And it’s seeing changes that really helps with motivation.
The statistics I will taking are as follows: Weight Body fat percentage Chest, waist, hip, upper arm and thigh measurements.
If any students want me to do their body fat percentage then let me know, and I’ll bring the callipers to class.
I’m really excited to get started and seeing everyone’s progress.
I’ve not written much for this blog lately. Everything had been pretty much the same and I didn’t want to keep complaining and people get fed up with hearing it.
I lost a lot of motivation for everything when I couldn’t complete the trial for the new drug for Graves’ disease as I have been really struggling with carbimazole and also getting a response or help from my endocrinologist so the clinical trial did seem like my only hope to actually get real knowledgeable help.
I have known my dose for carbimazole wast to high for me for a long time but I’m not a doctor and no one was listening to me. After about 3-4 weeks being on the 10mg dose I was getting symptoms of an underactive thyroid. I was losing my hair even more, my skin was dry and constantly sore, my moods are low and despite eating a calorie controlled diet and exercising, I was still putting on weight, and by exercising I don’t mean just doing a group fitness class once a week, I’ve been weight training five times a week, doing HIIT seven times per week, pole training three times and then stretching as often as I can. And on top of that my heart rate has been lower than normal and I’ve been permanently knackered and cold!
My shockingly slow muscle recovery (another fun side effect of an underactive thyroid) has also meant I’ve been in permanent pain to so stretching properly has been almost impossible for the last two weeks.
Oh and before anyone suggests it, I haven’t been in starvation mode from doing to much and eating to little, that’s not a real thing and has been debunked by science. I have put on weight because my metabolism is non existent because my thyroid function has been restricted to much from medication. And I haven’t been overtraining, I have had adequate recovery days and have factored in deload weeks. I’ve been doing everything by the book.
So anyways, for the last couple of months I’ve been asking for my carbimazole to be reduced. I had to fight to get my blood tests and until the thyroid function tests were consistently low my endocrinologist wasn’t prepared to reduce my dose. Which I can understand. It just didn’t really work that way as I could never get hold of him to get new blood forms or to discuss my results. So its been a long drawn out process and the last few months haven’t been fun. I put in a PALS complaint two weeks ago and since then, I can’t fault the endocrine team, I’m finally getting answers.
I had a blood test last week and my endocrinologist asked me call an notify his secretary after I’d had it done so they could look out for the results. However they also told me that if they didn’t get the results by Friday evening then they were on leave for Christmas. So when I couldn’t get hold of my endocrinologist secretary on Friday evening, I assumed I would need to wait til after Christmas. And in all honesty I was really stressing out about feeling like this over Christmas
I was also worried about my results not being consistent as we have had a stressful few weeks and there were several days I had forgotten to take my medication at all and other days when I had taken it late.
But today I got a call from my local GP surgery who had received a letter from the endocrinologist requesting I reduce the dose of my carbimazole to 5mg, so I’m assuming the blood results last week showed exactly what I expected them to, that my thyroid function is still to low. And I am stupidly excited. I know it’s going to take a while for my T4 levels to increase and for my metabolism and everything else to start returning to normal but I can’t wait to start having more energy again and hopefully being in a better frame of mind over Christmas.
So the first week of the Freestyle Fitness Back to Basics Challenge is over and some of the entries have been great.
Our back to basics challenge involves us posting a basic pole or aerial move each month and students posting a 20 second combination including that move on either Instagram or Facebook. The combination can be as easy or as advanced as they want.
Everyone is more than welcome to still post 20 second combos including the week 1 moves and this is a run down of the moves included last week…
The purpose of this challenge is to encourage our students to revisit a lot of the basic moves and to use them to compliment some of the more advanced tricks and transitions they have been working on.
This month’s student challenge is focusing on basic, beginner tricks and transitions.
To often I have students say to me ‘I don’t want to do that, it’s to basic’ when we are working on choreography. But the basics can really add to a performance! Some basic, beginner moves are beautiful. They can give you some time to recover and think and sometimes they just naturally fit to the music.
Beginner moves can be combined with more advanced tricks or they can be played with a little to create something that looks unique and individual.
We have our Christmas showcase coming up so I thought December was the perfect time to appreciate the basics that a lot of you don’t do anywhere near often enough.