Maximum Fitness Articles & Advice - Page 2

Understanding the benefits of Cold Weather Training

We saved distribution of our January newsletter until the forecasters confirmed the ongoing Icelandic conditions which are around at the moment. We wrote last February a little about some of the benefits of utilising cold weather but we had just a little burst of winter then not like now.
It is likely to curtail many of the usual outdoor training activities and also social joggers. Even club and pro runners will find it difficult to get track training sessions in as most are deluged with snow. Some main roads are still useable for the extremely focused, or distance athletes, but getting progressive sessions in will prove difficult under present conditions.
But like a lots of things in life – normally the more difficult something is to do – the greater the rewards.

Outside activities in these cold conditions, can provide increased thermogenic activities as the body strives to maintain body temperature.

Provided you are continually active when exercising outdoors, it can be an excellent stimulating mechanism for protecting the body by adaptive climatic change and can strengthen the immune system

You will find that many of those individuals, who never expose themselves to the cold and live in a permanently heated environment without venturing further, will have a poorer tolerance to these conditions. No matter how fit or active you are, no one is completely immune to viruses, but those who do not acclimatise easily are likely to suffer more intensely with longer periods of discomfort.

Unusually exercising in cold conditions can produce both higher usage of muscle glycogen and also higher rates of fat metabolism. Shivering when not training or effort when you are, can empty muscle glycogen stores quicker, forcing increased fat metabolism. Insulin levels have been shown in some studies to be lower in winter and cold conditions which can also spur on fat breakdown. In other words this is an excellent time to capitalise on if you want to loose weight and improve body composition! (NB. Although great for immune and body conditioning – This may not apply to swimming in cold water as the body promotes more subcutaneous fat retention to stop heat loss through the water)

The cold weather trainingcould also make a dent in your most dangerous fat stores, as again studies have managed to show that it may be more deep internal fat stores that are subject to change (the type that surrounds and encompasses your internal organs – not the subcutaneous type under the skin). This is most linked to high blood fat levels and suppression of the protective HDL (high density lipoproteins). Deep fat is hazardous, when fat cells inside your abdominal cavity release fat into the blood stream, this fat moves directly to the liver where it can be transformed into LDL’s and VLDL’s – these are the ‘bad’ fats associated with an increase in an individuals chance of heart disease.
Athlete’s muscles have a high consumption of this fat when training and there is a consummate increase in blood concentrations of HDL’s. This is Good!

Are there any dangers to exercising in cold weather?

Poor traction can be a problem or dangerous in built up areas. If its slippery outside, excellent, grippy cross country trainers are available some with shorty spikes, these can be removed in better weather or on tarmac.
You can get too cold. This doesn’t arise from the ambient temperature and frosty air. But a combination of several factors which could include sweat accumulation (even though it may not seem so – cold air will not shut off the sweating process) and water is not a good insulator, and conducts heat away from the body. If you reduce activity or stop through fatigue or injury you can be left shivering and wrecked if some way from base or you have no decent protective covering in reserve. Also you still need to keep well hydrated – yes even in cold weather. So a little while before activity and straight after is the key. Trooping around the streets with a bottle in your hand is not necessary and spoils good running posture.

Once muscles are warm and blood flowing freely the cold makes little difference to performance, but be carefull to warm up gently and stretch well first as dynamic activity on cold muscles is not a good recipe.

Are there any special routines that be be utilised?

A 30 to 60 min bout of continuous activity is best. Interval training is good but do not allow the pace to drop too much between ‘spurts’ or stop for very long as body temperature will drop. So keep to a pace or level you know you can finish on.. Try to include several bouts of squat jumps and press ups (yes even in the snow) you can even use these as slight rest intervals if getting tired, but still keeping active – AND WARM! Unless you are out training in a frozen wasteland miles from anywhere, major health problems are unlikely.

One technique to really stoke up your fat burning abilities is to exercise late in the evening, at least an hour after dinner. Then refrain from eating anything afterwards. Get up early the next morning and have a vigorous session again before breakfast. But make sure you have your porridge after. Muscles are likely to be glycogen deprived from your evening session, then forcing fat to be metabolised at a higher rate than normal. The system is best used only when you are feeling good and well rested. (This can be applied to gym training as well)
The heart as well as muscles and other components in your body may have to work harder in colder weather; this is good if you are fit and healthy as this can provide extra suppressive stimulation. This a bit like running in sand or under increased gravity. You may be surprised at the extra reserve built up when weather conditions improve.

The bottom line is its tough but winter training can be very good for you on a number of fronts which are not all available in better conditions. A perfect time to carry out lots of endurance building, fat burning, body composition improving workouts which can lead to remarkable effects in the warmer weather.

How should gym training be affected?

Many benefits can follow through to gym training in the right conditions. If you go to a health club which is plush, warm and closeted with air conditioning and central heating you could be losing a lot of brownie points on your getting in shape ladder.

Training in an ambient temperature is always best. Hot environment when its hot and …Cold when its cold.

Of course in these conditions you cannot stop for too long and chat, pass the time of day or twiddle your thumbs for too long in-between sets. Once your set is completed, try using active stretching or other style of active rest periods – it will do you more good than you know. (If you are uncertain how to go about this why not book a 1-1 session with one of the Maximum Fitness team) You have to keep moving – that’s what gives you progress and that’s why you go to the gym.

You may notice at MAXIMUM FITNESS we keep as much as possible to ambient temperatures. Of course we have a little heating on which takes the edge off the bite of cold weather, but the gym is as it should be to enhance your efforts.

Your training routine should encompass an efficient 5-10 min efficient warm up. This can be on the treads/bike/rower. But equally, which is actually better, is a brief light warm up with free squats/leg raises/calf raise/leg swings/light non stop dumbbell work encompassing shoulder, chest and arm movements together with pulldowns. Weights must be light enough so you can move easily, non stop from one to another for 10 mins. This is especially useful to pass blood through all peripheral muscles and ensure the whole body is ready to rock at a worthwhile intensity to do some good, and avoid injury or strain from ‘cold’ muscles. If you are strength training don’t worry about losing power – or not enough energy for that heavy bench press…. That’s not going to happen. If proper warm ups threatens you this way you are sorely unfit and prone to injury, so try and get your head around this now to get your future training on track.

So all in all despite some difficulties for many – you can use nature’s torrent of cold weather to your advantage …there are many available to you now that are absent in better conditions.

Understanding Abdominal Training

Understanding Abdominal Training – A quick Nip and Tuck on those abs.

Firstly one issue needs to be made clear. The abdominal muscles are not one of the larger group of muscles, they do not demand, nor consume lots of energy. If you carry out daily amounts of 100’s of repetitions of sit ups or such like, this is neither the best way to produce a strong abdominal wall, nor to promote a visible ‘six pack’.

Also people mention ‘lower abs’ a lot. – There is no such thing! The rectus abdominal group wall inserts distally (lower) to the pubic area and proximally (upper) to base of the sternum and 5th,6th and 7th rib cartilages. The main action of rectus abdominis is to flex the spine i.e. bend forwards. These muscles are not attached to the hips so doing leg raises does not directly work ‘the lower’ abs. What happens when leg raises are incorporated as part of an abdominal training routine is that abdominal muscles have to work hard isometrically to stabilise the pelvis whilst the legs are lifted. Being able to powerfully lift the legs and stabilise the pelvis has important postural benefits and is an integral part of good abdominal training.

The muscles that lift the legs are know as the hip flexors and can be broadly divided into two categories; the one joint hip flexors made up of the illiacus and the psoas (iliopsoas) which originates from the last 5 lumber vertebrae and attaches to the top of the hip, and the 2 joint hip flexor (retus femoris) which originates on the lower part of the pelvis above the hip joint and extends just below the patella.

The one joint hip flexor just crosses the hip, the two joint hip flexor crosses both the hip and the knee. You will find it helpful to remember to extend your toes when doing leg raises as this helps to extend the two joint hip flexor and give better balance to this movement and less stress just on one joint hip flexor if toes are pulled back – and more stress placed on upper part of one joint hip flexor…. Attached to the lumber spine – hence one of the possibilities of strain in this area when leg raises are not carried out correctly.

There are a number of different muscles contained around the girdle:
Transversus abdominals, internal and external obliques, as well as intercostal margins. These muscles have to interact together when performing. Although there is a myriad of exercises as well as dozens of variations of each, it is worth noting that most of all these muscle groups are thoroughly innervated when simple basic movements are carried out like sit ups/crunches or leg raises.

The abdominal group of muscles also have to work hard isometrically when performing movements like squats and stiff leg deadlifts as well as many exercises where a substantial effort is made or weight lifted in these plains of motion. So it is worth remembering to include some of these movements within your weekly regime.

Pointing down to fat on the stomach is the first thing that 9 out of 10 people will tell me when they want to start training at maximum fitness.

These visible areas of fat are in fact generally, in most individuals far less in fat percentage terms, than what they are carrying on their back – which is hidden from sight and a long period of pour eating as well as training habits will taken hold all over the body.

Of course the tummy is most visible to the individual.

But don’t think that the fat on the tummy is the only area of concern as there are considerable deposits throughout the body. This has to be bourne in mind when looking for the structure of training to produce results that are worthwhile in abdominal training.

To achieve good results and strong, supportive and profiled abdominals, the training needs to be developed in 3 ways. Failure to observe regularity in any one of theses three aspects will mean slower or little results despite efforts in the other 2.

  1. Good aerobic or aerobic based weights strength and conditioning whole body programme carried out at least twice per week for an hour
  2. Stringent adherence to regular low fat eating pattern, reduction in alcohol, juices, soft drinks at least 5 days per week and in most cases increase in plain water intake
  3. Balanced abdominal workout carried out 3 times weekly for 20 – 30 mins i.e.:
    A spinal flexion and lift ( a full sit up movement )
    B hip flexion ( full leg raise movement )
    C partial spinal flexion ( partial sit up/crunch style movement )
    D Lateral lift ( like dumbbell side bends
    E Back extension movements… This important area is often overlooked in abdominal training and the spinal extensors and glutal muscles involved in this exercise play an important part in supporting overall ‘core’ strength as well as the abdominals working iosometrically to hold the spine level as the upper body is elevated.

Reps/combinations/rest periods of these exercises depend on your level of fitness, Strength – and to some extent enthusiasm, as if it’s going to work it’s going to hurt a little!

Whilst on the subject of pain it’s important to bear in mind that some types of abdominal training exposes the back to injury if carried out poorly. But done correctly with the right form and effort, this type of strengthening and conditioning is one of the proven methods to help support the back, and help to reduce incidences or reoccurrences of back pain in a majority of sufferers

Most of these exercises should be carried out in sets of 2 or 3 and reps of no more than 20 each set. With a minutes rest between sets. As you progress with abdominal conditioning the best way to advance this is to start combining movements by superset ting ( carrying out 2 separate movements together – one immediately followed by another ) and on from that to use ‘TRI’ (triple) sets where you combine 3 movements before taking a minute rest.

You can experiment with starting on basic single sets for a 2 week period then advance to supersets for a further 2 weeks, before finally arriving at being able to competently use ‘tri’ setting to complete the final phase of your abdominal programme. Do not start on the full programme as its far better to do a little bit well and with regularity and progress rather than too much of not enough too soon. Find the level that suits your ability and a level you can proficiently maintain. The only abdominal training that works is the one you do well- not don’t do!

This systems works very well if carried out as instructed – AND ensuring all other 2 phases outlined previously are adhered to.

If you are unsure how to perform any of the movements or to combine/how to put your routine together then book a 1-1 session with one of the maximum fitness coaches. Don’t flounder too long on your own… if things do not feel right – they probably aren’t and you need a professional eye to set you straight?

Plateau and Overtraining Syndrome

This can be an occurrence during any training regime. The plateau is one of those situations where you do not seem to make any improvements in the gym, or outside events on track, pool or other; or where progress is painfully slow. Sometimes this can be more noticeable the more advanced your training becomes.

In the early stages of training, if you are regular and disciplined, the returns for your efforts and hard work are more prominent. From the outset, if your condition was below par, fitness levels low, endurance frustrating and flexibility inadequate, it is quite likely this would show the biggest advance curve – although training would be seemingly hard, the rewards for this commitment would be straightforward.

Like many activities, training is not likely to be on a continual positive curve like this as you advance. The better you get and more results you seek the more important – and harder to find, are the right combinations of strenuous activity, rest recovery and diet.

Overtraining syndrome can be one of the precursors of plateau.

This is usually suffered by trainers or athletes who have been preparing for one or several events or continuous vigorous work in the gym without sufficient time to fully recover.

It can take between 12 – 24 hours for the bodys tissues to regenerate properly after stressful exercise. If that amount of time goes continuously unobserved, levels of fitness will plateau then start to fall off. Strength gains may be difficult to sustain and aches and strain are more likely. If warning signs are not taken into account, the second syndrome of too much of not enough takes over as individuals try hard to keep up the effort and frequency and workout sessions become a matter of just getting it done instead of getting it done well. Stopping now, resting and taking stock by looking back at the drawing board and establishing better rest periods and more progressive training techniques are vital.

What are the symptoms?

Heavy fatigue is an obvious sign followed by muscle discomfort, more residual stiffness and accompanied joint ache. There is a tendency to suffer more colds and viral infections.

Sports injuries are more likely to occur. Those affected may also experience mood swings, irritability and an increased resting heart rate. Some individuals will have disrupted sleep patterns.

There is no single test that can easily identify this syndrome, but if the symptoms persist 10 – 14 days after cessation of training and if a frequent and heavy training regime had been engaged for a continuous period of time, then it is likely the individual is suffering from overtraining syndrome.

What is the treatment?

The first simplest answer is REST. The heavier, harder and more prolonged the training has been the more important this becomes.

Secondly, you would get worthwhile COACHING ADVICE.

First Stop

At Maximum Fitness we have vast experience of excellent techniques used both in the gym and for mixed training that includes athletic and rehabilitation pursuits as well as aimed at getting the right balance to avoid injury or recover from plateau or overtraining syndrome.

Maximum Fitness can provide experienced help to steer you with appropriate training methods individually tailored to make the type of changes and improvements to reach your goals in the shortest possible time. In the short term, the improvements to some of these conditions can be quite radical, encouraging and motivating you to continue with good regularity at the gym; this motivation perpetuating better effort throughout your training regime.

Surely you have heard this one before but you need to look at your DIET.

How best to juggle your own tastes, portion sizes and daily habits with those of your athletic demands and goals can be a mind boggling maze with the amount of hard selling material thrown at innocent fitness enthusiasts or athletes on supplements by food distributors. Sometimes individuals will grasp at anything that looks like an easy fix. If the claims appear to be too good to be true and they generally are, then fortunes are spent – much to the delight of some of these companies.

At least when individuals are spending huge sums on supplements to help their training, they tend to start to more efficiently arrange their eating habits and contents….this is the saving grace as this is more likely to also exhibit substantial benefits to better recovery from plateau or overtraining syndromes.

Use The Maximum Fitness Team for Practical Dietary Training Advice.

This could save you fortunes on unnecessary products, tiein better, structure your rest periods and eating habits, and harness more fully your likely potential and performance since these parameters would be properly directed.

Using the Maximum Fitness Team is not expensive, and has consistently proven to be of great value.

Back pain Physiology

Back pain is a very common condition.One in three individuals will suffer with back pain and one in 10 will suffer from recurrent problems.

What causes back pain and who can get it?

Your spine is made up of a number of bony components called vertebra which work in unity to hold you upright and help you move. You have 24 vertebae, linked together and divided into sections which cover the neck (cervical), the rib cage area (thoracic) and lower back (lumbar) as well as a less moveable section contained within the pelvis (sacral). Between each vertebra is a ‘disc’ (a cushion type pad filled with fluid), which maintains space between the vertebra and acts as a type of shock absorber.
The whole spine is held in place by a complex system of muscles and when your back is working properly it allows you to bend and turn within a range of movement.

When you damage your back, muscles become protective and can cramp or become tight, restraining movement. This is a dilemma in most instances of back pain as this spasm can compress nerves and other sensitive structures which can make the pain worse and take longer to recover.
That’s why nowadays keeping active is encouraged and ancient recommendations of bed rest are frowned upon by professionals in a vast majority of cases.

Back pain is not usually a serious problem

in most instances , but can become more serious if caused through a disc being ruptured ( slipped disc ) where a small part of the centre of the disc is forced through the outside and puts pressure on adjacent nerves. Or there are serious bone or muscle defects.

What are the symptoms of back pain?

Back pain is pain or ache anywhere on your back. The pain can reach up into your neck (and also effect shoulders and arms) or around your midback, and into your lower back (where it can also give rise to symptoms through your bottom and legs and sometimes as low as your ankle and foot.
Pain usually lasts for a few days to sometimes a few weeks and is normally self healing. When it lasts longer than a few weeks it is known as chronic back pain.

How is it normally diagnosed and treated.
You do not normally need to go to a doctor to know you have back pain.
When you have pulled or strained something in your back the best thing to do is keep moving, carrying on with normal activities as well as you can. This helps to prevent the muscles around the spine from getting stiff and seizing up.

Because moving about may be painful, you may need to start taking pain relief medicines regularly like ibuprofen or aspirin to make this easier.

On onset of pain
applying a cold pack ( or pack frozen peas ) just in the first day or so can be helpful, thereafter applying both heat and cold alternatively over a ten minute session daily to the painful area can improve circulatory function, reduce inflammatory activity, help reduce spasm and aid towards a quicker recovery.

Persistent reoccurrences of back pain should be investigated, but a majority are caused through poor posture, muscle weakness or mobility.
Maximum Fitness have a dedicated back rehab training routine which incorporates all major postural strength/conditioning together with relevant mobilising stretches and is well worth doing regularly to aid back health or promote recovery after a back pain episode. You can book a training session with an instructor for as little as £35 and this can be very helpful in both short and long term.

What other factors can cause back pain?

There are a multitude of stresses that our back has to endure on a daily basis.
Also we were never designed to walk upright and our back favours an all fours stance in function. Maintaining an upright posture in itself is an effort for the back, but less so if good posture can be maintained. How we sit and stand regularly can have tremendous implications on our back.
Also the modern age has caused a huge change in reduced activity and created an RSI epidemic on upper limbs and neck as well as structural weakness and reduced mobility in lower limbs. Some activities in work or play can also be contributory in occurrences of back pain.

Other factors such as diseases like arthritis play a part in many causes of pain, but even in these instances regular activity is recommended.

Keeping strong and supple are the best ways to combat and prevent back pain.

When should I seek medical help?

A majority of cases heal themselves quite quickly without medical help.
But if the pain has got worse over a few days or weeks despite your attempts to reduce this you should go to your doctor for advice.

If you experience back pain together with severe pain or numbness in your limbs or other places you should see your doctor straight away..
If you get chronic back pain that lasts for more than six weeks you should get advice from your doctor about the best way to deal with this.

In addition Maximum Fitness can provide efficient help to identify causes of back pain, help to control contra-indications
(things/activities that make it worse) and help with localised massage and mobilisation therapy to reduce symptoms as well as providing direction towards activities/training that can be proactive ( help to make pain symptoms better )

Additional information on back pain can be sought from

Best ways to lose weight

…book some regular 1-1 sessions and keep up your training at Maximum Fitness

If you want to go faster… don’t forget our 1-1 service – efficient and precise, is the only in house club personal training in London and will deliver those results just a little earlier!

Our prices are set to increase next year but members can benefit from early renewal now and gain an extra week for every month still current. (ie + 25% extra ) and still at old rates.

Extra time gained on existing membership (for renewing early) can be donated to a friend or other non member and they will also receive a free 1-1 session on starting worth an additional £45. The more time you have left on your existing membership… the more you can donate.
See any staff members for details.

Maximum training efficiency

Bounce into spring with a minute!

At last the weather is abating – the daffodils nearly showing the first signs of ending their slumber.

Maybe it’s the time now to start thinking of waking up your training – upping your training efficiency and begin the metamorphosis of knocking off the excess, honing the physique and improving your fitness to boot!


Often it’s not necessarily training more often – or even doing different exercises. It’s more the way you carry this out.

Having been teaching both individuals and instructors for most of my life I have watched with amazement sometimes how long some individuals spend in the gym – and what they managed to accomplish in that time. As well as sometimes looking at them accommodating sore and stiff joints with little regard for what they ultimately started training for.

When running instructor courses we have regularly, discretely timed the actual amount of time spent exercising by an individual on a stop watch during the hour or so in the gym. On many occasions the actual time spent doing training amounted to little more than 5 minutes. You can see quite clearly then how fitness levels are not improved and no significant changes to physique of performance are obtained, despite getting to the gym regularly.

Weight training can work maybe better than most other forms of exercise at:

  • Improving strength
  • Improving joint articulating efficiency
  • Improving overall fitness
  • Reducing body fat.

If you are not getting these benefits from you training, you are either training too light or too heavy or not the right range of movement of exercises… But more likely just not doing enough when you are in the gym – spending too much time chatting and loosing focus of why you came to maximum fitness in the first place.

You can change all that swiftly and easily…..

Golden Tips…

Tip 1.

  • Warm up with very light weight circuit covering body parts you are working
  • 1 set of 15-20 reps x 5 or 6 exercises. Full range motion. No rest.
  • Add a set of 20 free squats
  • Add set 20 hanging leg raise
  • Spend couple of minutes on relevant stretching

Tip 2.
… And voila you are ready for training.

  • Start your sets on a medium to heavy weight ( no need for light warm up then)

Tip 3.
Adjust your weights so that your training can accommodate this.
Remember it’s how hard you train for all the time at the gym and for a number of weeks, not just how much you lift for a few seconds that will make all the difference.

Tip 4.

  • If you are training just for strength and power keep to straight sets with reps 6 – 10
  • If you are training for strength and condition make sure at least half of your workout includes supersets with reps 8 – 12
  • If you are solely conditioning and loosing weight ensure all routine is supersetted with reps range 10 – 15.
  • When you finish a set you should be sufficiently tired to need a 1 min rest but not so tired that you are not ready to go again after 1 min. So adjust your weights to accommodate this – otherwise its just never going to open the progress gates as easily.

Tip 5

  • Avoid and discourage people from disturbing your momentum of rhythm.
    … Imagine if you went for a run and every min or so someone stops you and you chat for a while then try to resume your run. It would greatly impede not only any progress or improvement you might make, but also the enjoyment of establishing a good momentum and getting in the training Zone.



Good Luck and … Good training.

Systematic routines for simple strength training, split training & power conditioning


Only under-rest and under-nourish,
and end up doing too much of not enough!

A simple statement but very true…

“Training for strength and/or conditioning needs to be often enough to offer stimulus for movement of change and sufficient stimulus (effort) each occasion”.

If the frequency is there but the effort is reduced* or poor it is unlikely that long rest periods would be beneficial *(such as just starting out/or specific requirements).

But if good effort is applied each visit, rest periods become an important part of a training program to:

  1. Improve condition
  2. Improve performance
  3. Reduce fatigue
  4. Reduce likely hood of injury

Simple strength training using pyramid^ up systems of 3 sets
on most compound movement i.e.

12 reps med/warm up
9 reps med/hard
6 reps hard

Allow specific rest periods min 1min
Max 90secs between sets + 3mins between exercises
Use 27 sets per work out whole body (ie 9 exercises)

5min abdominal warm up
Calf raise
hack squat (bar)
stiff leg dead lift
pull down
bench press
shoulder press
barbell curl
Triceps extension

Train 1 day on, 2 days off.

Split workout – 2 body parts
Workout 1 -Legs/shoulders/triceps
Workout 2- Chest/back/biceps
Reduce to 24 sets each workout
Train 1 day on 1 day off

Conditioning Training

Same principal for rest periods
Whole body 1 day on 2 days off
Split (2 way) 1day on 1 day off
Warm up whole body before starting workout
Do 1 set squat/bench press/pullover/pull down/clean & press
(no rest)
Then sets
2x 10/12 hard
1 min rest periods only between sets
2 min rest periods between exercises
24 sets per workout whole body
18 sets per workout 2way split
Start each workout 5 min abdominal warm up

NOTE: for advance conditioning superset minimum½ all movements.

Enjoy Your Xmas !!

…So Saturated Fat is good for you now!



SCIENTISTS recently announced that decades of nutritional advice prompting people to reduce saturated fats in their diet, opt for grilled chicken, snack on low fat cheese and reduced-fat crackers, have been misguided and that far from causing clogged arteries, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, saturated fat is, if anything, neutral rather than actively bad, if not actually beneficial to health.

The advice to cut saturated fats, lead to the production of processed foods, high in refined carbohydrates with high levels of transfats and polyunsaturated fat (soy, corn and canola) which are cheaper than the traditional fats consumed by our ancestors (butter, coconut, palm oils and animal fats- lard, tallow, suet) and now we discover causes the very conditions the medical establishment were trying to prevent. Meanwhile, rates of obesity, people living with heart disease and diabetes continue to climb.

Numerous tests have shown there is in fact a correlation between people who eat a high amount of unsaturated fat and these debilitating diseases, and that those who eat the most cholesterol and saturated fats, weighed the least and were the most physically active.

The Maximum Fitness nutritional model has always maintained that the best diet will consist of plenty of home cooked food, mainly vegetables and high protein meat and fish, a combination of oils and fats and lots of lovely grains and pulses, using fruit as snacks and additional protein and nutritional supplements for athletes and serious sports people. Once you understand where your fuel comes from and why processed food is pointless in providing energy, eating the right food becomes easy.


The Foods Standard Agency and other government bodies have told us that diets high in saturated fat can raise the level of cholesterol in the blood and having high cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. The British Heart Foundation maintains that reducing cholesterol through cutting down on butter, lard, pies, cakes and biscuits, fatty cuts of meat, sausages and bacon, cheese and cream is most likely to prevent the risk of developing diseases. It is universally recommended we should reduce fat intake to 30% of total energy and maintain a saturated fat intake at less than 7% of daily intake, (men are advised to eat no more than 30g of fat a day and women should eat no more than 20g). Today, we are accustomed to looking out for ‘saturates’ or ‘sat fat’ on the label with high saturated fat products  (more than 5g per 100g) colour coded red and low, (1.5g per 100g) colour coded green.

The experts who are calling to end 40 years of advice to cut saturated fat include Chair of Britain’s National Obesity Forum, Professor David Haslam, Paediatric Endocrinologist at the University of San Francisco, Professor Robert Lustig, Cardiologist Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Professor of Exercise and Sports Science at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Timothy Noakes, and interventional cardiology specialist registrar at Croydon University Hospital in London, Aseem Malhotra. They say the food industry has compensated for lowering saturated fat levels in food by replacing it with sugar, which also contributes to heart disease and point to evidence that in fact saturated fat has been found to be protective and that refined carbohydrates and sugar are actually the culprits.


The problem is that recommendations to eat a low-fat diet were based on short term trails that looked only at people’s cholesterol levels, not at whether they actually had heart attacks. It is also problematic to classify fats merely as saturated and unsaturated, as this fails to take note of the nuances within each category and the properties of specific essential fatty acids.

There are more than two dozen kinds of saturated fats of which palmitic, myristic, stearic and lauric are the four major types according the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The committee itself has stated that stearic acid (found in dark chocolate) should not be considered a ‘cholesterol raising’ fatty acid and yet  continues to recommend cutting back on saturated fat and doesn’t mention stearic acid. Confused? Read on!

At first glance, palmitic acid (found in palm oil, butter, and eggs) and myristic acid (found in cheese, milk, butter, and beef) increase inflammation and LDL cholesterol (low density lipo-proteins promote fat to be stored under the skin). But this rise in LDL volume is at least partly due to an increase in the size of each LDL particle in the body, which may not be as dangerous as an increase in the number of particles. These saturated fats also raise HDL in the process (high density lipoproteins scavenge for cholesterol and help transport unneeded fats back to the liver for digestion) so the net effect may be neutral, not bad. Meanwhile lauric acid found in coconut oil has been found to have anti-bacterial / anti-viral properties which support a healthy immune system and facilitate brain function.

Saturated fats play many vital roles in the body to help strengthen the immune system, promote healthy bones, provide energy and structural integrity to the cells, protect the liver, and assist the body’s metabolism of essential fatty acids. The short and medium chain fatty acids inherent in saturated fats also have important antimicrobial properties, protecting us against harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract. Dietary fats assist in lowering the glycemic index of carbohydrate foods and help to stabilize blood sugar. Most importantly, saturated fats actually have cholesterol lowering properties, contrary to the guidelines.

A Journal of the American Medical Association study recently revealed that a “low fat” diet -compared with a low glycaemic index (GI) diet (lower GI carbohydrates include pumpkin, squash and brown rice)- showed the greater drop in energy expenditure and increased insulin resistance – which is a precursor to diabetes. Scientists looked at deaths associated with each of the following eating patterns: those high in trans fat, high in saturated fat, high in sodium, low in fruits and vegetables, and low in omega-3 fatty acids (from fish). Diets high in saturated fat had the least number of cases of mortality.


The reason cutting saturated fat from your diet is a flawed eating plan is more to do with what you eat in place of it. Cooking polyunsaturated oils and to a certain extent monounsaturated oils (such as olive oil), on a high heat causes the oils to undergo a chemical change known as auto-oxidation, whereby harmful free radicals are produced that cause rancidity but saturated fats are stable and do not oxidize even at high heat cooking temperatures including deep frying. Up until the early 1980’s, restaurants and fast food establishments used saturated lard, lamb or beef tallow fat for all their sauteing and deep frying.  Today, we eat more processed meats than we have done at any other time in the course of human history and restaurants almost exclusively use polyunsaturated oils like canola, soy and corn.

The onset of atherosclerosis leading to heart disease, has now been associated with the disappearance of antimicrobial saturated fats from the food supply that once protected us against viruses and bacteria, such as tropical oils like coconut and palm, as well as animal fats like raw dairy, lard, tallow, etc and their replacement with polyunsaturated vegetable oils and refined or processed coconut oils and meat fats, which contain hydrogenated oils and transfats found in convenience items and are relatively new to the human diet.

Numerous population studies have shown that people living in countries where large quantities of coconut oil and other saturated fats are consumed, have remarkably good cardiovascular health. In 1992 researchers reviewed some of the epidemiological and experimental data regarding coconut-eating groups and noted that people living in the Pacific Islands and Asia, whose diets are naturally very high in unrefined coconut foods, show surprisingly low incidences of cardiovascular disease. Likewise the people of the Yucatan, consume high amounts of coconut as a staple food and their average metabolic rate is about 25 percent higher than people in the U.S.


Low-fat versions of packaged foods, loaded with refined carbohydrates, sugars and salt, now flood the market but the main culprits are starches, such as potatoes, refined carbohydrates and sugars—in other words, poor-quality carbohydrates. When people replace saturated fat with refined carbohydrates, they are unlikely to improve their health and may worsen it.

The advice to reduce saturated fat sometimes steers people away from foods that contain good fats that are actually healthy so we should aim to replace refined carbohydrates and processed foods in the diet. Rather than reducing saturated fat, replacing refined grains and starches with a serving of whole grains every day, scientists estimate would decrease heart-related deaths by 10 percent more; while adding an extra serving of fruits and vegetables a day would reduce heart disease mortality by 15 percent more than reducing saturated fat.


1. Do not miss meals: Over a period this has been shown to lower metabolic rate and how quickly your body uses calories.

2. Reduce fast food processed snacks and replace with fruit, nuts and raw vegetables.

3. Maintain a regular muscle toning and strengthening programme at Maximum Fitness Gym and ensure you keep your plan updated with one of our trainers. A regular weights programme provides stimulus to help your bones and joints as well as muscles to become stronger and create an ongoing regenerative effect between sessions and maintain a good ratio of HDLs to LDLs in the blood.

4. Eating fresh and nutritious food  and drinking plain water regularly helps to teach your body to process foods more efficiently and promotes efficient metabolism of nutrients. For a full set of recommendation on healthy eating see our eating plan here or ask a member of Maximum Fitness staff to give you a food diary to complete.