Friday, 23 April 2010

Is vegetarianism the way to go?

I have been reading many articles on the pros and cons of being vegetarian, and I thought I would explore these further, by taking a good look at why I am vegetarian, and the pros and cons of my own experience.

Growing up in South Africa, I wasn't always a vegetarian! But I never gave it much thought. Several years ago though, I began to take note of the incredible variety of meats we have to choose from. My own conclusion was that this was a little unnatural. In the days when we had to hunt for our food, we took what we could get. Nowadays, we can have almost any meat we choose, all at our local supermarket. The reason we have this huge variety constantly at our fingertips? Because we farm animals for food. At this point I decided to stop eating 'land' animals, as my own private protest against what I deemed unfair and unnatural. Perfectly natural to eat meat, just unnatural to set up hundreds of farms just so that Joe Public can have whatever he wants whenever he wants. I continued to consume sea animals for some time. However, once you begin to look at the ethics of something, you inevitably question the ethics of the next thing...

Deciding that I was against factory farming, because this was an unnatural existence for the animals, I had continued to eat fish because I thought the fish continued living in their natural habitat, and were subject to being hunted (by us) as they would be by any predator. It seemed a more natural choice. Then I was faced by two flies in my logic ointment. One, that fish are farmed too, and two, I began to feel an empathy for the fish too. The countless sea animals caught and killed indiscriminately by trawling (dolphins, turtles, etc), or overfishing, etc..

So I become a vegetarian. I became a vegetarian not for health reasons, but for ethical reasons. I would have done so ever at the detriment of my health, to take a stance for what I believed in. As it turns out, I can be quite healthy on a vegetarian diet. I do not exclude protein from my diet, I merely obtain it from a different, and varied, source.

People always seem to get dragged into the debate about whether a healthy/natural diet should include or exclude animal products. I will agree that a diet that includes meat is far more natural than a solely plant-based diet. Historically, we ate what we could get. Our bodies are more than capable of digesting meats, and animals are a good source of many nutrients required for our survival. Forget trying to debate whether we are 'designed' as herbivores, carnivores or omnivores. We can and do sustain ourselves quite easily on both plant-based diets and diets that include meats. Eating meat is definitely "natural" for human beings. So the question is, is it healthy? Or is a solely plant-based diet the healthy option? Meat can definitely have its place in the human diet. So long as you smart about balancing the nutrients you consume, not overconsuming, you can live a long healthy life with meat as a part of your diet. But equally you can do so on a plant-based diet. Many top athletes and even professional bodybuilders have proven that you can consistently perform at world class levels on a completely plant-based diet. One benefit I do see time and time again with a vegetarian/vegan diet is that because of the need for it, vegetarians/vegans usually consume a larger variety of food, and therefore nutrients, in their diets. Of course some vegetarians/vegans still consume a large amount of processed food and don't get enough variety and are therefore unhealthy!

The bottom line is, if you are looking at health reasons, make sure you get a balanced diet that includes all the required nutrients in the correct quantities. Stay away from processed foods as much as possible. Be aware of food intolerances. Most people do consume too many carbs, not enough protein, and not enough fruit and vegetables! Try to get a good variety of foods to ensure you are getting the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need. A healthy diet can include meat. Just be sensible about it. A healthy diet can also exclude meat, be sensible about that too, and ensure you are meeting the body's requirements for nutrients. So if health is what you base your diet on, you can include or exclude meat, and you are NOT wrong - either way!

If you choose an ethical debate, then you just need to decide how far you are willing to go for the animals, for your planet. A good expression is "doing LEAST harm". That doesn't mean doing NO harm. Get real - if you are a human being you cannot avoid harming the environment in some way. So you need to decide for yourself where you draw the line. Not eating fish (pescatarian), not eating meat (vegetarian), not consuming any animal-derived products or products that contain or are animal by-products (vegan). You can expand this thinking further into saving the environment, recycling, not purchasing products with excess packaging, not supporting unethical companies, walking or cycling instead of owning a car, not wasting electricity or water... etc.. I could go on ad infinitum! Don't ever call a pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan a hypocrite. They are doing what they CAN, in an attempt to balance the scales a little. A least they are trying to make an effort for the greater good. They have chosen to do LESS harm, and they have decided how far down that road they are willing to go. Don't ask them why they are doing it, ask yourself why you are not.

So my reasons for choosing my path are ethical, but as it turns out, I have not sacrificed my health to do so. I am quite healthy and physically capable. I will not condemn you for your dietary choices, so please respect mine. I will however always urge people to look at their lives, and do whatever they can to preserve our planet and all that is on it. Good planets are hard to find, so we should take care of this one!

More to follow...

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Danger Of Accommodating (by Mike Mahler)

Original Article Here

"I don't think you were put here to please everybody; that would be horrible. You have to have some kind of a stand and stand against something as well. If not, you're just being accommodating."
- Rocco Deluca
A few weeks ago I was talking to my friend, Harley Flanagan, about my latest kettlebell DVD on fat loss. As many of you know, Harley's the founder of the NYC hardcore band, The Cro-Mags, and is working on a new CD (which I’m financing) that'll be out soon. I've heard some of it and it rocks! But that's a story for another time, so let's get back to the conversation I had with Harley: while Harley likes my DVD, he thinks I'm missing the mainstream market with my personality and teaching style. He didn't insult my approach, just stated that it's hardcore and intimidating to a lot of people. He's probably right, but me making a soft, mainstream fitness DVD is like asking Harley to model his musical style after Justin Timberlake in order to hit the mainstream market! It is not going to happen! It means not being genuine, and when you're not genuine people pick up on it. This is a main reason why most fitness DVDs--and most music Cd's--are terrible: instead of doing what he wants to do and letting it flow authentically, the artist starts thinking about what's going to sell and how to please people. Hell, this is the main reason why most movies are forgettable: too much of a corporate cookie-cutter approach that insults the viewer. You know what's going to happen in the first ten minutes and thus drift into oblivion for the next two hours.

The problem with being accommodating is the focus gets shifted to what doesn't matter. In a recent episode of Inside the Actor's Studio, actor Matt Damon said that winning an Academy Award shouldn't be the focus of an actor--the focus should be the craft itself and doing the best job possible. The best job possible comes from being genuine, and in the moment, rather than being focused on approval from others.

The problem with always accommodating the needs of others is you stop taking risks, and begin to live your life like a spineless politician who has to take a poll before any decision. If you only take action after getting validation from others, then you'll never live fully. You're no longer a real person, but a pinball in the game of life being thrown from one side of the table to the other--not an empowering way to live, to say the least. There's a rush that comes from having the deck stacked against you and prevailing; those are the times when you discover what you're made of and are fully alive.

Many of the greatest human beings were people who refused to be quiet and accommodate the wishes of others. Gandhi refused to move from his seat on a train and as a result was literally thrown off the train. He went from being a lawyer focused on making money to becoming arguably the greatest human rights leader of all time. Gandhi learned the importance of not-accommodating in seemingly insignificant cases and used that to prepare himself for the major cases later in his life.

Being accommodating in major areas of your life comes from being accommodating in the seemingly insignificant areas. Recently, I was on a flight and got stuck in the middle of a row. Not a fun place to be, and even worse when you're seated between a couple talking over you while passing things back and forth to each other. It was irritating and disrespectful, to say the least. Finally, I suggested that I either switch seats with one of them or they respect my personal space and stop passing things over me and talking over me. While they were the ones that were being rude both of them looked at me like I was crazy. Clearly they were used to having their way. Fortunately I spotted an empty window seat in the front row and moved leaving the annoying couple pondering why someone had the audacity to question their rude and inconsiderate actions. Ah, I miss my private jet from the old days ;-)

Yes, I realize the above instance of non-accommodation is hardly dramatic. But, that's the point: it starts with the small stuff. When you accommodate others, you're a victim as a result--no matter how insignificant the situation--and you create a victim pattern. If you can't stand your ground with small stuff, you'll be crushed when major events come your way, e.g., instead of quitting a lame job and going after what you really want, you'll accommodate the boss, taking the path of least resistance. In this manner, your entire life passes you by with you wondering what happened.

From an early age we're taught to accommodate others at the expense of ourselves. Sure, some accommodation is necessary and we can't always have things our way, but letting others walk all over us and decide how we should live our lives isn't acceptable. You don't have to explain your actions to others nor get their approval. So some people aren't going to like you? Well, they weren't going to like you anyway so it's not a big deal.

It's a liberating feeling knowing you don't have to take crap from people; you can stand your ground and do what's best for you instead of living a fear-based, accommodating lifestyle. Just remember to be a non-accommodator with the small stuff and you'll automatically become a non-accommodator with the major battles.

Article written by Mike Mahler. Please check out his website at:

Saturday, 17 April 2010

A Few Home Truths... continued

As I have recently been challenged on this piece (which I welcome! Challenge everything!), I thought it best to offer a short follow up. I have been condemned for my "train with intensity" philosophy. I have been challenged that the only people getting good results are those who follow good nutritional habits and exercise with intensity - I have been told that statement is simply not true. Well I will make this as short and sweet as possible.

I agree completely that hormone imbalances exist. I agree that we can put too much stress onto our bodies (muscles, organs, minds, everything), and that both of these factors can influence our training results. So the question is how do we address the hormonal imbalances? How do we fix them? You guessed it - good, clean nutritional habits!

There are 3 factors - and only 3 to consider. Nutrition, lifestyle & exercise. Sort out your dietary habits by replacing junk food (toxins) with good, clean unprocessed foods (nutrients). Do your best to eliminate stress from your life (easier said than done, but do what you can!). Finally... train - with intensity! This doesn't mean go balls to the wall every training session every day, but training with Barbie & Ken weights and never breaking a sweat will get you NOWHERE. With exercise you need to shock your body into changing. A good trainer will understand how to put together a program to enable you to do this efficiently and effectively. Your sessions should be tough, but equally you should be able to get through them and recover.

All those who challenge my views are welcome to do so. But it is interesting to notice that what they advise comes back to those 3 simple truths - Good nutrition, stress-free lifestyle and exercise. Of course, when they are selling something they will take something simple and complicate it.

In have to add the reason why people fall into the trap of believing quacks is because they so deserately want to believe there is a magic formula. They want to believe there is a short cut to obtaining the body they desire. So when someone comes along who is selling magic formulas and short-cuts, they will, against all logic, buy into it regardless. There is no magic formula. There is no short-cut. Get on the right path and stay there, one step at a time, and you WILL reach your destination. It took time for your body to reach it's current state, it will take time to reverse it. Forget weight-loss, forget perfect pecs or thighs, focus on health, fitness, strength, range of motion & endurance as goals. Form will follow the function.

Challenge Everything - Especially Yourself.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Metabolic Typing - Fact or Fiction?

What is Metabolic typing?
Metabolic typing was introduced by William Donald Kelley, a dentist, in the 1960s. Kelley advocated basing dietary choices on the activity of one's sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (Interestingly enough, In 1970, Kelley was convicted of practicing medicine without a license, as he had diagnosed a patient with lung cancer based on a fingerstick blood test and prescribed nutritional therapy). The practice has been further developed by others including Harold Kristol and William Wolcott. Wolcott provides three general metabolic types:

•Protein types -- Protein types are fast oxidizers of parasympathetic dominant. They tend to be frequently hungry, crave fatty, salty foods, fail with low-calorie diets, and tend towards fatigue, anxiety, and nervousness. They are often lethargic or feel "wired", "on edge", with superficial energy while being tired underneath.

•Carbo types -- Carbo types are slow oxidizers or sympathetic dominant. They generally have relatively weak appetites, a high tolerance for sweets, problems with weight management, "type A" personalities, and are often dependent on caffeine.

•Mixed types -- Mixed types are neither fast or slow oxidizers, and are neither parasympathetic or sympathetic dominant. They generally have average appetites, cravings for sweets and starchy foods, relatively little trouble with weight control, and tend towards fatigue, anxiety, and nervousness.

What are the guidelines for the diet?
According to the metabolic typing diet, the three metabolic types should eat the following foods:

•Protein types should eat diets that are rich in protein, fats and oils, and high-purine proteins such as organ meats, pate, beef liver, chicken liver, and beef. Carbohydrate intake should be low.

•Carbo types should eat diets that are high in carbohydrates and low in protein, fats, and oils. They should eat light, low-purine proteins.

•Mixed types should eat a mixture of high-fat, high-purine proteins and low-fat, low-purine proteins such as cheese, eggs, yogurt, tofu, nuts. This type requires relatively equal ratios of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

Now down to business...

Some people may respond slightly differently to particular foods, experiencing higher or lower tolerances to certain foods, which occasionally draws correllations to ethnicities. But this does not change the fact that we all share the same biochemistry. We all process nutrients and react accordingly in the same fashion. Having sensetivities or preferences to foods does not mean we need different macronutrient compositions in our diets. There are plenty of other factors that may influence our nutritional needs and sensetivities, but this has nothing to do with where our great ancestors hailed from. In fact almost every factor you can think of, age, sex, medical history, etc... apart from where 10 generations ago of your family lived.

One of the biggest quacks perpetuating the myth of metabolic typing is Dr Joe Mercola. Dr Mercola's testing is not only completely unscientific and inaccurate, but rather based on how you feel when you eat certain foods. The testing for metabolic typing is purely subjective. It is like asking a smoker if they enjoy smoking, and if they feel better after having a cigarette. Most people's addiction to unhealthy foods means that the results of any metabolic test will be nonsense. In fact, the more you crave something and the worse you feel when you stop consuming it is a good sign that you are addicted to it and it is harming you, not helping. For example, most people with hypoglycemic symptoms feel better when they eat a mostly animal-based diet, yet these same people get completely well once they are off the high-protein diet they have been using to lessen their symptoms. and their body is no longer nitrogen toxic. In other words, they no longer feel ill when their withdrawal symptoms have been allowed to come to completion, and they are off the high nitrogen diet. he is appealing to that person's food preferences and addiction and not only deviating from scientific integrity here, but promoting dietary suicide to his uneducated entourage to make a buck. His opinion is without scientific foundation in both these areas, and unquestionably can lead people to a shorter lifespan. Dr. Mercola's position on saturated fat (high in cheese, butter and red meat) runs counter to thousands of medical research studies showing that saturated fat is the food factor most promoting high cholesterol levels and heart disease. Though Dr. Mercola (like Atkins) denies the saturated fat--> high cholesterol--> heart disease link. Dr. Mercola's topsy-turvy advice actually promotes the consumption of high saturated fat foods and makes ridiculous health claims for coconut oil (ninety percent saturated fat) including weight loss, detoxification, viral killing, heart disease reversing and other unsubstantiated silliness'. Good health comes from nutritional excellence, not from a jar of oil.

Metabolic typing is also refered to as Genetic Based Nutrition - suggesting that we require different diets because of different genetic make up. Our biggest genetic difference is being male or female, so by that account males and females should have vastly different diets! That fact alone shows that metabolic typing is pure fiction.

The scientific literature is clear; there is no genetic type that has immunity from such a disease-causing, high saturated fat diet-style. People can eventually develop atherosclerosis and hypertension from the low intake of unprocessed vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds. Our high intake of animal products AND processed foods and our low intake of unrefined plant food is the dietary pattern undeniably associated with these avoidable illnesses and a premature death from heart attacks or stroke.

Metabolic typing is pure fiction! Anybody saying otherwise is either uneducated or selling something.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Losing weight is nonsense!

People are obsessed with body weight. So many people want to lose weight. I still hear even educated people saying "I want to lose ...lbs" Why is that? Because people are conditioning to think that they should be a certain weight to be fit and healthy. The problem lies in the fact that there is some truth in that, just that the truth has been manipulated. The truth is, if you are fit & healthy, you will be your ideal weight. Obtaining a supposed ideal weight will not make you fit and healthy. But by pursuing health & fitness, you will achieve your ideal weight.

If I told you I could make you look 10 times better, and feel 10 times better, but you would actually have to gain some weight, what would you say? What if I told you nobody would ever know you had gained weight unless you told them, because you would look so much better? If you are a size 14, and I said I could mke you a size 12, or even a 10, but you would gain weight, would you go for it?

If you focus on your body shape and composition as a goal, who cares what the scales say? If you are smaller, more shapely, fitter, stronger and feel a whole lot better for it, isn't that what you really wanted? Or do you not care about how you look & feel, so long as the numbers go down on the scale?

Be fit, strong, healthy & confident. Do not get sucked into the "weight-loss" mentality. Throw away your bathroom scales and get a full length bedroom mirror instead. Want to look good naked, or want to lose 5lbs? Losing weight doesn't mean a change in body shape - hell, it may not even mean a change in body size either.

Focus on looking good and feeling good. I tell my clients "how you look and how you feel is what is important". Forget the scales. Forget weight loss as a goal.

Here is the truth:

For nutrition:-
It is more important to exclude the junk than finding a fancy diet plan.

For exercise:-
It is more important to push yourselves - hard - with resistence, than to look for the magic training tool or plan.

Cut out the junk food and train hard! Your body will look better for it.

Saturday, 3 April 2010


My training is exclusively with kettlebells, bodyweight movements, gorilla ropes and Indian clubs/power clubs. Some people still view what I do as a novelty. They still think that 'traditional' exercises are the way to go. Why is that? Is it because bigger gyms/training facilities have the ability to market themselves and their methods to a wider audience? I would have thought that by now the results would speak volumes, but the message still isn't sinking in. My diet gets challenged as well because I am a vegetarian. What? A vegetarian? Don't you get sick all the time? You can't possibly train on a veggie diet.. surely you need protein? You eat chicken though, don't you? How about fish? Let's put this in context: Last year I took part in a 12-week body transformation challenge. Not that I wanted or needed to change, I just rose to the challenge. My fat percentage was 8% to start with (as a result of my normal day to day training and nutrition), so I wasn't interested in weightloss. I instead decided to gain muscle. Using my OWN training methods and tools, as well as my vegetarian diet, I put the effort in. In truth, I got bored just over halfway through, but I had gained a stone (6.5kgs) and maintained my 8% bodyfat, in 7 weeks. The closest out of the rest of the group, managed to drop to 8% bodyfat, but a third of the weight loss was muscle - in 12 weeks. What about athletic performance? I can, and have, flipped tyres and dragged sleds faster than professional athletes who outweigh me by more than 50%.

So for all the doubters out there, if you think a vegetarian diet is unhealthy, or you think kettlebells are a novelty, put your money where your mouth is. Join me for a workout. So far none of you come even close to matching me physically.

"First they laugh at you, then they ignore you, then they fight you, then you win."