Anti- Oxidants.. whats all the fuss??

Anti-Oxidants…. What’s all the fuss?


At the moment you can hardly go a couple of days without hearing the words anti-oxidants either in the news, on the TV or on packaging. So this week I wanted to explain what they are and why everyone is talking about them.

So firstly, what are they?

Simply put, anti-oxidants stop and neutralise the formation of free radicles. Free radicles are unstable atoms (missing a neutron or proton) that multiply in number by breaking down healthy atoms in the body. Every day we have tens of thousands of free radicles generated in our body, which cause cell damage. The only way to stop this chain reaction is to introduce anti-oxidants.

Why are free radicles bad?

Free radicles are mainly produced through an oxidative reaction, which has a similar effect to what happens to a cut apple when it browns, or an untreated piece of metal rusting. The body dose produce free radicles naturally as a defence to fight viruses, but large numbers of these atoms cause damage to cell membranes, DNA and arteries causing conditions such as:

·         Ageing. Free radicles cause wrinkles through the loss of elasticity in our skin.

·         Eczema

·         Alzheimer’s

·         Diabetes

·         Hypertension

·         Rheumatoid Arthritis

·         Cancer. A recent study at Harvard University found that men who ate the most tomato based foods (rich in antioxidants) had a 35% lower risk of developing prostate cancer than those who ate the least amount of tomato based foods.

The formation of free radicles can be caused by stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, radiation, cigarette smoke and pollution. Over the years all these factors have increased in our lives, causing an even higher level of free radicles roaming around our body damaging our cells.


What’s so good about anti-oxidants?

Anti-oxidants are produced in plants to stop cell damage by sun light. When we eat these plants they work in exactly the same manor in our bodies by preventing cell damage. This is why many foods and supplements high in anti-oxidants are marketed as anti-ageing as they literally stop the degeneration of cells, by free radicles. Our body can produce their own anti-oxidants but need vitamins and minerals for this function to take place.


Here is a list of some of vitamins and minerals that help the body produce anti-oxidants:




Vitamin C

Citrus Fruits, Green Veg, peppers, Tomatoes, Potatoes

Vitamin E

Unrefined veg oils, egg yolks, whole grains, almonds, nuts, green leafy veg


Oysters, Ginger root, lamb, nuts, grains, eggs, peas


Grains, Meats, Fish, Brazil nuts, tuna, shellfish, diary


We can also gain anti-oxidants from our diet and the following are great sources. These foods are in order of the amount of anti-oxidants they contain starting with the highest:

dried red beans

wild blueberries

dried red kidney bean

pinto beans


whole cranberries

cooked artichoke hearts





red delicious apples

granny smith apples


sweet cherries

black plum

cooked Russet potato

dried black beans


gala apple



So in summary eating fruit and veg which are high in anti-oxidants are really really good for you! They slow down cell degeneration which can cause everything from wrinkles and loss of elasticity in your skin to Alzheimer’s, Rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.

In today’s world the majority of people have a higher level of free radicles in the body due to a poor diet, increased stress levels and being exposed to higher levels of pollutants, cigarette smoke and radiation. Unless you live in a little cottage in the Scottish highlands surrounded by a couple of cute sheep it is almost impossible to escape these factors. The main way to combat this is by eating 5-9 portions of fruit and veg per day. The other problem is the fruit and veg we typically eat have been mass produced and picked way before they are ripe and have their full nutritional value. Going organic is one of the best ways to make sure you get good quality nutritious foods. Some studies show that organic fruit and veg have 30% more nutrients than non-organic. I know organic food is more expensive so the choice is yours but you can now get organic fruit and veg boxes delivered to your door which are pretty reasonable.

 Keep a record of what fruit and veg you eat over a week to see what you and your family really eat. You may well be surprised about how little you eat and how far off the 9 a day you really are.

You will also be surprised at how your energy levels increase and how much better you will look and feel if you do consume 9 portions of fruit and veg per day- give it a go, what’s the worst that can happen!

Glycaemic Index or Glycaemic Load

I am sure many of you have heard of the term low GI/ low Glycaemic Index foods. Many people know that they are good for you but most don’t know what foods they include or why they are good for you. I will explain the reason below, but if you just want to skip all the jargon and find out what you should and shouldn’t be eating I have attached a table at the end!

The term Glycaemic Index is a ranking system which shows how quickly glucose (sugar) is released into the blood stream. It was originally devised to help diabetics regulate their blood glucose levels, but since then we have discovered that it is incredibly productive in helping with weight management and regular training.

When we eat any type of carbohydrate our body breaks it down into simple sugars. These simple sugars are essential to our bodies function, but the problem today is the type and amount of carbs we are consuming. When these simple sugars are released, Insulin is secreted to regulate the blood sugar levels by helping transport them to various parts of the body, such as organs, muscles and the brain where they are needed. When these reserves are full the remaining simple sugars are stored as fat and as I have mentioned before we have an unlimited number of fat cells, so these never get to capacity! When a large meal or a sugary food is eaten this causes a large influx of insulin to be released at once.

The only problem with the GI is that is does not take into consideration the amount of Carbohydrate is in the food. So for example watermelon and a bagel have the same GI of 72, but the bagel contains much more carbohydrate per 100g than the watermelon, so Glycaemic load is introduced. Glycaemic load is the amount of carbohydrate contained in the food, and therefore is a better indicator of how much insulin and at what rate it is released. The two tables below are a good indication of the GI and GL of foods, and the ideal is to consume low GI and low GL foods.

The other thing to take into consideration is how you are eating these carbohydrates?? Are you eating them the same time as fats? Protein? Fibre? How has the food been prepared/ cooked?

All these factors also affect the GI and GL of a food. If you want some more information please ask me at your next session and I will be happy to talk you through the details to take it to the next step, but for the time being the table below is a good start.



Gylcamic Index Range   Gylcamic Load Range  
  High   Above 85   High   20 and above
  Moderate   60-85   Moderate   11-19
  Low   Below 60   Low   10 and below


Food Index Load Food Index Load
Sugars     Grains and Grain products    
  Glucose   100   10   French Bagguette   95    15
  Sucrose (sugar)   68   7   White Bread   73   11
  Fructose   19   2   Wholemeal bread   73   10
  Honey   55   10   Wholegrain rye bread   50   6
Fruit       Chapatti   63   32
  Mango   51   8   Fruit Loaf   54   8
  Papaya   59   10   Ryvita   69   11
  Watermelon   72   4   Bagel   72   25
  Pineapple   59   7   White Spaghetti   38   18
  Strawberry   40   1   Instant Noodles   47   19
  Banana   52   12   Wholemeal Spaghetti   37   16
  Kiwi Fruit   53   6   Rice Noodles   61   23
  Grapes   46   8   Rice Crackers   91   23
  Orange   42   5   Puffed Rice Cakes   82   17
  Apple   38   6   Brown Rice   55   18
  Plum   39   5   Basmati Rice   58   22
  Pear   33   4   Long Grain White Rice   56   24
  Unsweetened Apple Juice   40   11   White Rice With Miso Soup   61   17
  Unsweetened Orange Juice   52   12   Plain Sponge Cake   46   17
  Unsweetened Pineapple Juice   46   15   Banana Cake   47   18
  Dried Apricots   32   10   Doughnut   76   17

  Puffed Rice   67   13   Baked Beans   48   7
  Cornflakes   92   24   Butter Beans   31   6
  Alpen Muesli   55   10   Chick Peas   28   8
  Kellog's Special K   84   20   Blackeye Beans   42   13
  Shredded Wheat   67   13   Haricot Beans   38   12
  Porridge Wheat   58   12   Kidney Beans   28   7
  Weetabix   74   16   Lentils   29   5
Diary Products       Soya Beans   18   1
  Ice Cream   61   8 Vegetables    
  Yoghurt   36   3   Parsnips (cooked)   97   12
  Low Fat Fruit Yoghurt   33   10   Potato (baked)   85   26
  Whole Milk   27   3   French Fries   75   22
  Skimmed Milk   32   4   Potato (new)   57   12
  Soya Milk   44   8   Yam   37   13
Beverages       Beetroot (cooked)   64   5
  Coca Cola   63   16   Sweet Corn   54   9
  Orange Fanta   68   23   Sweet Potato   61   17
  Lucozade Original   95   40   Peas   48   3
Sweets and Snacks       Carrot   74   3
  Corn Chips/ Nachos   63   17 Ready Meals and Snacks    
  Potato Crisps   54   11   Margerita Pizza   80   22
  Milk Chocolate   43   12   Spaghetti Bolognaise   52   19
  Mars Bars   65   26   Macaroni   47   23
  Snickers   55   19   Sushi   52   19
  Popcorn   72   8   Crunchy Nut Cornflakes Bar   72   19
  Peanuts   14   1   Kellog's Just Right Bar   72   17

Top 9 Myths and Misconceptions in Fitness

I hear so many of the same concerns and questions so I thought I would I just get them all out and explain why they are rubbish!
1. Muscle turns into fat
  • Muscles don’t actually turn into fat as they are very different body tissues and it is not physically possible from one to change into the other.
  • However, if you stop exercising, your muscles mass will reduce.
  • A reduction in activity, and a reduced muscle mass, which means a reduction in your metabolic rate, which can lead to weight gain and fat storage.
  • If you stop exercising and continue to eat the same amount you will put on fat. Simple science.

2. Muscle weighs more than fat

  • This is not true. 1g of fat and 1g of muscle both weigh 1g! It is just that muscle is denser. Many women freak out as they actually put on weight when they start doing exercise as their muscle mass increases, their bone density increases and their body starts to produce more blood. All of this is positive as your body is becoming strong and more efficient. (This is why number 3 is also a myth). Once you have a base layer of muscle your metabolism will increase and you will start to burn more calories even when not exercising.

3. Weighing yourself is the best way to measure your progress

  • Why do we really care how much we weigh? I take my clients weight measurements as it is always important to them, but the best way to see progress is from your body circumference measurements. Wouldn’t you prefer to lose inches from your waist and hips and physically see the difference in your body shape than be able to say how many kgs you have lost. As stated in point number 2, at the beginning you may actually start to weigh a little more, but you need to muscle mass to help burn the calories. In the long run you will weigh less but this is not always the best method to judge your efforts.

4. Sweating = Fat loss

  • It is sometimes perceived that the more you sweat the more calories you are burning or even the more unfit you are. Both of these facts are false. Sweating is just your body’s way of regulating your temperature. If you do sweat a lot during exercise make sure you drink a lot of water afterwards to replace the water lost and prevent dehydration.

5. Spot reduction

  • Unfortunately this is not true! If you do a lot of exercise for one part of your body you will not lose fat specifically from this area. The majority of women want to lose weight from their waist and hips and men from their bellies, but to lose fat we just need to do a mix of resistance and cardio training plus eating right. No short cuts unfortunately!

6. You will bulk up with resistance training

  • If you pick up a men’s magazine it is full of articles on how to bulk up. This does not just happen overnight, it takes a lot of specific work and a strict high protein diet to build large muscles. You would need to constantly tax and fatigue your muscles, while spending many hours in the gym focusing on this goal. This is one of the biggest fears of women when they start weight training, but unless you have high levels of testosterone streaming through your body, which we don’t, this will not happen! So there is no way to accidently bulk up.

7. You have to count calories for weight loss

  • There are so many horrible diets out there. It doesn’t need to be as exhausting and mundane as counting calories. As soon as you start to count the exact amount you are eating you will start to crave things you can’t have. Just eat sensibly, which means 
  • Eating natural foods from scratch such as fruit, veg and QUALITY meat.
  • Don’t eat processed food. If it has been altered by man then its not as good for you.
  • Low GI foods (see the newsletter from 2 weeks ago)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Cut out fizzy drinks
  • Do regular exercise

8. Cardio is the most important exercise for fat loss

  • No No No! You will see so many people in gym week after week pounding the treadmill, then moving onto the cross trainer and finishing off on the bike and never seeing them look or perform differently. This is because excessive cardio will strip muscle and body fat. This is definitely not the most efficient method to lose body fat. Once you begin stripping muscle tissue, your body becomes less efficient at burning body fat. Muscle is metabolically active, which simply means it stimulates the metabolism.

  • For each pound of muscle you put on your body, you will burn up to 50 additional calories per day. If you strip muscle tissue, all you accomplish is sabotaging your efforts to efficiently reduce body fat. The benefits of resistance training are huge when it comes to fat loss.

9. You can get a 6 pack from doing loads of sit ups

  • No matter how many sit ups you do in a day you will not get a 6 pack if you have a layer of fat covering the muscles! Plus, just doing sit ups will not strengthen and build all your core muscles, remember your abdominals only make up one of the muscles in the three layers of the core muscles. Last week I sent out a document on core strength which contained various core exercises that can be done at home. You need variety in your workout to build and push your muscles to develop.

Core Training and Stability

This week I wanted to talk about core strength and stability. As you will all know by now I am constantly talking about core strength and you won’t make it through a session when I haven’t got you doing a good handful of core exercises. I wanted to explain a little more about the importance and why I am continually ranting “engage your core, brace your abs or draw in the belly button”. I will also finish off with a few simple exercises you can do at home in front of the telly.

The core is made up of three layers, contrary to many who believe it is just the abs and lower back.

The three layers consist of:

  • Deep layer. These are the deep core muscles that stabilise the spine. They are made up of lots of tiny muscles that assist in the bending and flexing of the spine and help prevent injury.
  • Inner Unit.  These muscles are activated prior to the movement of our arms and legs and also act as a cylinder around the spine. They include the diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, internal obliques and the transverse abdominas.
  • Outer Muscle layer. Muscles included in this layer are your abdominals, external obliques, your lats (latissimus dorsi/ Large muscles in your back), erector spinae (the two muscles that run down either side of your spine and your gluteals (your butt). This layer contains the larger muscles and allows all our extremities and joints to be able to work together,  for example lifting the shopping bags out of the car.


So why is it so important to have a strong core??

  • 12.3 million work days are lost each year in the UK due to lower back and upper limb problems. This is hugely due to the sedentary lifestyles that so many people live. For example, so many of us spend a good 7-8 hours a day sitting in a chair supporting our backs, which disengages our core muscles. Then maybe after a day at work we will head to the gym and jump on a couple of resistance machines, such as the chest press/ shoulder press. These machines are great for working the chest/shoulder muscles but the machine takes the work load away from the rest of the body and again deactivating the core. (This is why you will never get on a resistance machine in one of my sessions). After the gym we head home and lie down on the sofa.  So unless we are consciously thinking about it, we can make it through almost the whole day without really utilising the core muscles.
  • The core supports and provides the link between the upper and lower body. So for example if you have a strong core, you will be able to lift more weight, pull harder on the rowing machine, have a better running technique and perform all exercises at a much higher level as your core will absorb the majority of the work load. On the other hand if your core is weak your arms/ legs/ neck etc will have to take on the extra weight and this is when injuries can occur.
  • Passive support. Between each vertebrae is a spinal disc and these discs provide shock absorption and support for the spine. The tiny muscles around the spine support and protect the spine from gravity compression and load baring activities. Common back conditions include prolapse disc, facet joint syndrome and bulging disc. All very nasty.
  • It reduces the size of your waist! Everyone will love this one. Your core is like a corset and strengthening the three layers of muscles works in the same way as pulling the strings tighter on the corset.


Some exercises you all can be doing at home in front of the TV:

  • Do these for 45 seconds, rest for 1 minute and then repeat twice.


  • Plank

  • Side Plank 


  • Sit Ups

  • Russian Twist. Tilt back 45 degrees and tap a ball/ weight down on either side of your hips

And then we will all look like this:

Any questions let me know.

See you at your next session


Insulin – The fat storage hormone

Insulin is a hormone which was discovered in 1921. It is produced by your pancreas and has been given the name of the ‘Fat storage hormone’. Insulin is vital for survival and ongoing health however if over produced, it lives up to its name and will create a fat storage environment within your body – less than ideal when trying to lose weight!

When you consume carbohydrates of any sort, your body will break down them down into simple sugars for your body to use for energy. Depending on which type of carbohydrates has been consumed will depend on how much insulin in produced. Insulin production is a completely healthy and is a natural process, however problems arise when too many sugary carbohydrates are consumed and your body has to produce lots of insulin to cope with the sugar rush!

If you consume the correct amount/type of carbohydrates for your body type, insulin will deliver sugar from carbohydrates into the cells, brain and muscle tissues. This provides us with energy!

On the other hand if you eat too many sugary carbohydrates, you force your body to produce high levels of insulin. Weight gain, a lack of energy and high cholesterol are common side effects. Once the muscles, liver and brain have got enough glucose from the carbohydrates consumed there is only one place for the left over to go Ð the fat cells! You have unlimited amounts of fat cells in your body for excess glucose to go. You can start to see how a diet high in sugar has disastrous effects on weight loss!

The diagram below shows how excessive insulin production promotes fat storage within your body:





What is the best way to avoid over producing insulin?


  • Follow the 40, 30, 30 guidelines!
  • Eat 3 main meals per day with 2 – 3 snacks in between your meals.
  • Consume protein with every meal (including breakfast) and snack throughout the day!

Which carbohydrates are suitable to eat without causing the body to release lots of insulin? Answer: Foods low on the glycemic index scale!

  • Quinoa
  • Porridge
  • Oat cakes
  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potato
  • Butternut squash
  • Rye bread
  • All vegetables
  • Dark skinned fruits
  • Other fruits (2 pieces per day)

Which carbohydrates are best to avoid for optimum insulin control?

  • Brown and white sugar
  • Honey
  • Bananas
  • Bread
  • Pastas
  • Cereals (Special K has a really high Glycemic Index, which means it is absorbed really quickly into your blood stream and therefore causes a high level of Insulin to be released. It is just marketed well to make you think it is healthy! Put the special K and other cereals down!)
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Corn
  • Fruits

These foods should be restricted when aiming to lose weight. If these foods make up the majority of your diet, the chances are you are over producing insulin and your body is a fat storage environment.