Top 5 Tips To Stay In Shape Over The Christmas Period!

Dear CHFI reader,

We don’t know about you, but for us the thought of the Christmas season sends us in two directions. On one hand, we are looking forward to having some time off, seeing some old friends that we haven’t had a chance to see, sleep in and switch off.

On the other hand, we tend to think ‘crap, we know what’s going to happen. You will go to this party and that party and before you know you have consumed some starchy carbs, loads of alcohol and wake up the next day feeling like crap!


It’s a dilemma…. So what to do?

Well, here are few things to make sure you can have your Christmas pudding and still have a wardrobe to fit into in January:

  1. Training does NOT stop. You must accept that if you want to party and let your hair down, you will need to earn some brownie points.  Over training yourself is a fantastic tool; you deplete the body, smash it, exhaust it and then have a nice big fat weekend of joy and love afterwards. The calories consumed will act like fuel for your metabolic fire that is burning, thus helping you become leaner – not larger!
  2. Detox!  We all go a little overboard right about now right?  Sweat the crap out, literally!  Find a health centre or high market fitness center likes ours that have an authentic infrared sauna. Sit in there for as long as you can take it (aim for full heat for 30mins), you should see the remnants of your gluttony speckled across the towel when you finish the session.
  3. Follow an 80/20 rule.  If you know you are going to be very, very bad, you need to make up for it by being very, very good.  Good 80% of the time, 20% down right dirty.  Your new year’s resolution should be at the forefront of your mind, commit yourself to a training program from the 1st of January either with a friend or for the real deal we would invest in a good personal trainer to help you undo the damage.
  4. Keep up the H2O. When we say H2O, we mean a minimum of 3 litres of water per day, no exception, no excuses. Water should be filtered and purified. If you can’t remember the last time the drink bottle hit your lips I dare say you’re not drinking enough! Sounds very simple and we know a lot of personal trainers preach this time and time again but there really are so many people who don’t even hit the 300ml per day mark, it astounds us.
  5. Just move! Even if you don’t want to go overboard with training while you are having a holiday, you should still try and do something every day.  Let yourself have a few days of couch-loafing or bum-sitting but if you are lucky enough to be at some sort of holiday destination there are loads that you can do i.e.; hire a bike, go for a bush walk, visit the local gym and do a casual class, swim in the ocean. Just about anything will do, and anything is better than nothing!

Merry Christmas from all of us at the Clean Health Fitness Institute and if you want to find out more about our industry leading personal training programs heading into the new year, please visit out testimonials section or CONTACT US here!

Train Like A Pro Part 6: Rest Periods

By Stefan Ianev, Head Of Educational Development, Clean Health Fitness Institute

Welcome to the 6th installment of train like a pro. So far we have covered exercise selection, volume, intensity, type of contraction and tempo. We have learned how to manipulate each of these variables from the beginner to advanced trainee in terms of how to optimise hypertrophic adaptations. Before we delve into this month’s topic of rest intervals let’s do a quick recap of what we have learned so far;

  1. Beginners should generally perform 1-2 exercises per body part for 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps each using a controlled tempo
  2. Intermediates should generally perform 2-3 exercise per body part for 3-4 sets of 6-12 reps each with a combination of fast and controlled tempos
  3. Advanced lifters should generally perform 3-4 exercises per body part for 4-5 sets doing anywhere between 3 to 30 reps and using a combination of fast and controlled tempos

This month’s topic of rest intervals refers to the length of period between working sets. It is an important piece of the equation and needs to be looked at in context with all the other loading parameters because it determines whether the adaptations will be primarily neural or metabolic.

It is generally accepted that longer rest periods are optimal for strength development while shorter rest periods favour hypertrophy and fat loss. This is because complete recovery is required to lift maximal loads thus favouring strength gains while metabolic stress due to incomplete recovery is a key factor for fat loss and hypertrophy.

When determining optimal rest periods for a specific goal both neural and ATP recovery need to be considered. The nervous system may take up to 3 to 4 minute to fully recover between maximal efforts. Maximal efforts are generally considered sets of 5 reps or less taken to failure. When sets are not taken to failure neural recovery is a lot faster.

In terms of ATP recovery, the initial resynthesis is very rapid then begins to taper off. For example, after 1 minute 75% of ATP is resynthesised and after 3 minutes nearly all the ATP is resynthesised. This is demonstrated in the graph below;

Rest (sec) ATP Replenished (%)
30 50
60 75
90 87
120 93
150 97
180 98.5

For maximal strength development, we already discussed that a full 3-4 minutes may be required for complete neural recovery so that already takes care of ATP recovery as well.

For hypertrophy the general recommendation is to keep rest periods down to 60 seconds or less. This is based on previous research that showed a greater growth hormonal response occurs when using shorter (1 min) vs longer (3 mins) rest periods (1).

Recent research however seems to suggest that the acute hormonal response from training may only play a minor role in the hypertrophic response (2). In fact, a recent study conducted by world leading hypertrophy researcher Brad Schoenfeld showed that longer rest periods not only led to greater strength increases but also were associated with a greater hypertrophy response (3).

We must be must be careful however when interpreting this literature as the subject were only matched for volume not volume load. Given that the longer rest periods permit the use of greater loads, the total work would be greater than when using shorter rest periods. In the real world, shorter rest periods allow for greater total volume to be performed for a given period so that could very well skew the data in favour of shorter rest periods since hypertrophy is largely a function of the volume of work performed.

Shorter rest periods are also associated with a greater metabolic response, which has been identified as one of the key factors for increasing hypertrophy (4,5). My personal recommendations for rest periods to maximize hypertrophy are as follows;

  1. For beginners, I generally recommend 60 to 90 seconds between sets unless they are very de-conditioned. Since they are generally not lifting very heavy or pushing to failure and beyond neural recovery is of far lesser concern. A moderate rest period will allow them to lift relatively heavy while also accumulating some metabolic fatigue but not to any excessive degree.
  2. For intermediates I may allow up to 2 minutes between their heaviest sets. As they are now much stronger those heavier sets start to take a much greater toll on the body in terms of both neural and metabolic fatigue. For example, squatting 120kg x 10 reps is much more demanding on the muscles, nervous system and cardiovascular system then say squatting 60kg x 10 reps.
  3. For advanced trainees, I usually limit the rest periods to 45 to 60 secs up to a maximum of 90 secs between their heaviest sets. Often advanced bodybuilders are not that much stronger than an intermediate but what sets them apart is their capacity to repeat high intensity efforts with minimal rest periods.

For example, even early on in his career the great Arnold Schwarzenegger was extremely strong because he trained more like a powerlifter using longer rest periods and maximum poundages. Later, when his physique was a lot more developed and refined he wasn’t all that much stronger but he had the capacity to repeat those heavy lifts with minimal rest periods. Arnold reported that even between his heaviest sets he only rested 1 minute and often he performed supersets, trisets and even giant sets.


A young Arnold deadlifting 710lbs at 21 years of age. Although he was very strong he didn’t have the same level of development as latter in his career when he started training with more reps and shorter rest periods.

Ronnie Coleman was another example of a highly successful bodybuilder who started out as a powerlifter. The heavy strength work with longer rest periods build his foundation of strength and mass early on but it wasn’t until later in his career when he started training with higher volume and shorter rest periods that he developed the freaky mass and conditioning that earned him 8 Mr Olympia titles. He was still freakishly strong but his strength increase wasn’t proportional to all the extra muscle mass he had accumulated from the higher density training.


The evolution of the great Ronnie Coleman. Ronnie had freakish strength from his powerlifting background even before he won his first Mr Olympia contest. However, it wasn’t until his later years that he displayed his most freakish size and muscularity even though he wasn’t that much stronger.

Another benefit of shorter rest periods aside from allowing you to do more work for a given period is an increased expression of mitochondrial enzymes. Mitochondria are the cells where energy produced therefore recovery and fat burning are both enhanced. This not only makes it much easier to get lean in the first place but also to stay lean in the off-season with very little effort. This is one reason why Arnold and the bodybuilders from the 70s who used very high volume and short rest periods did very little cardio.

That about wraps up this segment on rest periods. Tune in next month for the final installment as we look at frequency.


  1. Kraemer WJ, Marchitelli L, Gordon SE, et al. Hormonal and growth factor responses to heavy resistance exercise protocols. J Appl Physiol. Oct 1990;69(4):1442-1450.
  2. Schoenfeld BJ, Postexercise hypertrophic adaptations: a reexamination of the hormone hypothesis and its applicability to resistance training program design. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Jun;27(6):1720-30.
  3. Schoenfeld BJ, et al. Longer Interset Rest Periods Enhance Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2016 Jul;30(7):1805-12.
  4. Schoenfeld, BJ. Potential mechanisms for a role of metabolic stress in hypertrophic adaptations to resistance training. Sports Med. 43: 179-194, 2013.
  5. Schoenfeld, BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res24(10): 2857-2875, 2010

Diet Tips 101: The Cheat Meal Myth

By Stefan Ianev, Head Of Educational Development, Clean Health Fitness Institute

So, you have been dieting hard all week and busting you’re a** in gym. The weekend is just around the corner and you know its nearly time to smash out a big nasty cheat meal. After all you are feeling tired and flat as a pancake, and you know your metabolism and associated hormones are starting to tank. This is not the time to hold back now. The almighty cheat meal is just what you need to give your metabolism a boost and kick start fat loss once again!

Or is it?

There are no doubt chronic dieting leads to a decrease in metabolic rate and associated hormones such as leptin and thyroid hormone. In fact, studies have shown that leptin levels can decrease up to 39% in 4 days and up to 54% in a week (1-3). There is also a marked decrease in anabolic hormones like testosterone and IGF-1 (4-6). What this means is that not only does fat loss stall with prolonged dieting but you also start to become increasing more catabolic in muscle tissue.

Now, while studies that have looked at re-feeding over a prolonged period have shown an upregulation in metabolic rate and associated hormones (4-7), there are no studies to date to support that acute refeeding has the same effect.

In fact, it may take up to 24 hours of re-feeding just to replenish energy substrates like muscle glycogen and intramuscular triglycerides, and 48 to 72 hours minimum to up-regulate metabolic rate and anabolic hormones. As you can see a single cheat meal will have very little if any physiological benefit. The main purpose of a cheat meal is simply for psychological purposes.

Given that adherence is the single most important factor for long-term dietary success (see The Big Picture Article), this cannot be overlooked. Knowing your favourite food is just around the corner makes it much easier to follow your nutrition plan indeed.

The Rock... Enjoying a massive cheat meal to maximise his anabolism!

The Rock… Enjoying a massive cheat meal to maximise his anabolism!

The question now becomes how much and how often is it acceptable to deviate from your plan?

The most common approach is to go all-out once every 5 to 7 days with no restrictions in terms of foods and portion sizes. This was the approach that I previously used to recommend. Based on experience and the latest available scientific evidence I now believe that approach is far from ideal.

Consider that a typical cheat meal for the average person is something like pizza and ice-cream, with some beer or wine. That can easily amount to 2000 to 3000 calories in a single sitting. That is sufficient to wipe out the entire weekly deficit.

Not to mention when you have been dieting your metabolism is suppressed and your lipogenic or fat storing enzymes are up-regulated. In essence your body in an energy conserving state.

What do you think will happen when you slam down 2000 to 3000 calories in that state?

Your body will simply hold onto the excess energy in anticipation of another bout of famine. And the worst part about it is that there is no impact on metabolic rate so the next day you are right back to square one.

A much smarter approach is to only create a small calorie deficit in the first place to mitigate metabolic down regulation as I discussed previously in my article ‘The Undereating Controversy” [link article]. Cheat meals should then be factored into your daily caloric intake. As a rule of thumb, I recommend that 90% of your calories come from whole, unprocessed foods. This has the benefit of improving satiety and providing your body with vital micronutrients.

The remaining 10% of your calories can come from less healthier alternatives. How you spread that out is totally up to you. I usually prefer to spread it out over the course of the week.

For example, I normally eat 6 meals a day, which equals out to 42 meals per week. That means 4 of those meals will typically be composed of foods like pizza, chocolate or ice cream that are not normally on the menu. The caloric content of each of those meals however will be close to that of my normal meals so my weekly caloric intake does not blow out.

If you prefer having your cheat meal in one bolus dose that’s fine also. Just make sure you reduce the calories in your other meals so it evens out.

In the revolutionary iNutrition Pro software that I created, clients can redistribute calories between meals so they can plan when having a big cheat meal and control the damage, which In the end that leads to much better dietary compliance and consistency!

Now go forth and cheat guilt free!


  1. Jenkins, A.B., et al., Carbohydrate intake and short-term regulation of leptin in humans. Diabetologia, 1997. 40(3): p. 348-51.
  2. Mars M, Graaf C, Groot CP, van Rossum CT, Kok FJ. Fasting leptin and appetite responses induced by a 4-day 65%-energy-restricted diet. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Jan;30(1):122-8.
  3. Keim, N.L., J.S. Stern, and P.J. Havel, Relation between circulating leptin concentrations and appetite during a prolonged, moderate energy deficit in women. Am J Clin Nutr, 1998. 68(4): p. 794-801.
  4. Korbonits, M., et al., Metabolic and hormonal changes during the refeeding period of prolonged fasting. Eur J Endocrinol, 2007. 157(2): p. 157-66.
  5. Chan, J.L., et al., The role of falling leptin levels in the neuroendocrine and metabolic adaptation to short-term starvation in healthy men. J Clin Invest, 111(9): p. 1409-21.
  6. Friedl, K. E, Moore, R. J, Hoyt, R. W, Marchitelli, L. J, Martinez-Lopez, L. E, & Askew, E. W. (2000). Endocrine markers of semistarvation in healthy lean men in a multistressor environment. Journal of Applied Physiology, 88(5), 1820-1830.
  7. Davoodi, S. H, Ajami, M, Ayatollahi, S. A, Dowlatshahi, K, Javedan, G, & Pazoki-Toroudi, H. R. (2014). Calorie Shifting Diet Versus Calorie Restriction Diet: A Comparative Clinical Trial Study. International Journal of Preventive Medicine, 5(4), 447.

The 2 Most Important Factors for Becoming a Successful Personal Trainer

By Stefan Ianev, Head Of Educational Development

One of the very first things we try to impart on all our coaches internally, as well as students who are enrolled in our Cert 3 and Cert 4 industry leader program, and those who attend our courses is the importance of becoming a good coach instead of simply being a trainer.

A personal trainer or consultant is paid to give information and that’s pretty much where their role ends. What happens when the client already knows what they need to be doing but they are not following through? Considering adherence is the most important factor for getting results, if a trainer cannot influence their clients to take action and follow through with their plan, then they are doomed to fail.

This is where the role of a coach comes into play. A coach guides their client to take the necessary action steps and overcome obstacles in order to reach their goals. After all we are training people not robots and what often gets in the way is life.

The era of the personal trainer is dead. No longer is it enough to know what training methods to use to achieve specific goals and hope that your clients are going to stick to the plan 100%. If you want to make it in this industry today, you are going to need to evolve from simply being a trainer into a coach.

In analyzing and working with some of the best coaches around the world in the fitness industry and within the realm of personal development there are two primary traits which I have identified that are imperative for becoming a successful coach. Those two traits are as follows!

Personal training is coming to and end, the era of the fitness coach is upon us!

Personal training is coming to and end, the era of the fitness coach is upon us!

  1. Desire to help others

First and foremost, should be your genuine desire to want to work with and help people. This should come before anything else such as the financial rewards or recognition you may receive as trainer.

This not only makes the experience a lot more rewarding for the client but for yourself also since our most fulfilling needs as human beings are to connect, contribute, and grow.

This is achieved by focusing on serving the client to the best of your ability. This means putting the needs of clients before your own. There are going to be times when you will need to make recommendations to your clients that are not aligned with your best financial interests.

There have been occasions where I’ve had to refer clients to specialist and they have had to reallocate their budgets accordingly. There have been other times where clients that were overly eager wanted me to train them more often than what was appropriate for their fitness level, and I’ve had to decline.

At the end of the day the result is what counts and you have to be committed to that before anything else. It has always benefited me in the long run because when people see you are more committed to their cause above anything else they will stay with you for a long time and refer you clients.

Also for your longevity as trainer there will come a time where the financial rewards or recognition will no longer make you jump out of bed. The only thing that will keep you fulfilled in the long run is the desire to help people, connect, and grow in the process.

This is why it is very important to never lose sight of the true purpose of why you are doing this. That way you can enjoy a long and prosperous career and help many people along the way as seen in the video below from one of our students Adam who once certified got a job with us!

  1. Empathy and Adaptability

A good coach needs to be empathetic towards their client’s needs and be adaptable in their approach. A one-size fits all drill sergeant approach will not work in the long run. For long-term success one needs to be intrinsically motivated.

The drill sergeant approach actually reduces intrinsic motivation. These instructors usually blame the client for their lack of compliance when it’s actually their shortcomings as a coach. People are much more likely to stick with something and be successful at it if they want to do it instead of being forced to do it.

A good example is when my parents used to force me to study as a child. As a result, I hated it because I was being made to do it. Once I broke away from my parents and found what I was truly passionate about I developed a deep desire to learn.

Now learning is one of my absolute favourite things in the world. That’s because it’s on my terms not someone else. No one can make you do anything. The desire and motivation has to come from within.

One common trait that I have observed repeatedly amongst all clients who achieve long-term success is that they all really enjoy the process rather than simply focusing on the outcome. As a result, they achieve happily instead of stressing to achieve.

A good coach is one who has the ability to make their clients enjoy the process and the journey towards attaining their goal. They do this by asking the right questions and being adaptable in their approach by developing a plan that’s best suited to their client’s needs, lifestyle, and preferences.

This is where is becomes important for a coach to have a big tool box and know when it’s time to pull out the right tool for the job. The coach should be able to fit their plan to their client instead of the other way around.

If you are interested in becoming a certified personal trainer find out more about our cert 3 and 4 personal training programs here!

Top 5 Tips To Avoiding Burnout

By Stefan Ianev, Head Of Educational Development

Stress comes in many forms. While some stress is healthy and needed in order to make you take action and grow, too much can do the exact opposite and can be very detrimental to your health and well being. In this article I want to share with you 5 ways you can manage your stress effectively so you can be happier, healthier and avoid burning out.

  1. Keep your workouts short

Intense training causes an acute increase in cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones. Normally this a good thing as it leads to greater mobilization and utilization of fuel substrates, which allows you to train harder and burn more body fat or build more muscle.

However, if you take a highly stressed individual you are only compounding the problem because they are already in a chronically stressed state. When in a chronically stressed state the adrenals are constantly being depleted of raw material, which eventually leads to adrenal insufficiency or chronic fatigue.

One way to manage chronically elevated cortisol levels in the gym is to keep your workouts short. Past the one-hour mark cortisol levels skyrocket. For highly stressed individuals I usually limit them to three or four 45-minute sessions per week.

Do you feel like this during the work day... You are likely burnt out if so!

Do you feel like this during the work day… You are likely burnt out if so!

  1. Eat at regular times each day

One of the best ways to manage stress throughout the day is to eat at regular times. When you eat at regular times each day the body will program your hunger hormone ghrelin to be released only when it is time for a meal.

This in turn will allow you to maintain stable blood sugars, appetite, and energy throughout the day. More important than how often you eat is to eat at the same times each day so your body knows to anticipate food at that time since it has programmed your ghrelin levels accordingly.

When you miss a meal blood sugars will drop. This in turn will cause a release in cortisol to increase blood sugar. For someone already exposed to chronically elevated cortisol levels this will only further compound their problem.

For most of my client I recommend they eat 3 meals per day and consume 2 shakes in between. This makes it easy for them to maintain a regular eating schedule without any additional food preparation time.

  1. Create a morning ritual

Managing your emotions is one of the most important things you can do to manage your stress. After all stress is simply a matter of perception. Two individuals can respond completely different to the same stressor because of how they perceive it.

Having an empowering morning ritual is a great way to set yourself up with a positive outlook for the day so you are better equipped to deal with daily stressors. I recently started practicing a morning ritual that I learned from Tony Robbins, which only takes 10 minutes and has been invaluable for getting me off to a great start each day.

To perform this exercise, sit on a chair with your eyes closed and begin breathing deeply into your belly. You may play some soothing ambient music if it helps.

Start by spending about 3 minutes thinking about 3 moments in your life that you are grateful for. Next spend about 3 minutes imagining a beam of light is penetrating your body from above and rejuvenating all your cells. Finish up by spending about 3 minutes envisioning 3 three things you would like to have happen in your life as if they have already happened.

  1. Create an evening ritual

Just as it is important to have a morning ritual which sets you up positively for the day it is equally important to have an evening ritual which enables you to get a good night’s rest.

Firstly, it is important to get in the habit of going to bed at the same time every night. This will program your circadian rhythm so that you begin to feel tired at the same time each night so you can fall asleep.

About an hour before sleep I dim the lights and turn of all my electrical communication devices such as my phone and computer. This is not the time to be doing work or checking emails, as it will only make you more wired. This is time that I spend with my wife and we usually read or watch some light-hearted TV.

Five minutes before bed I take out my journal and begin to write about one experience I’ve had that day which I am grateful for. Just let your mind go free and describe the experience in as much detail as possible. This will lock in that experience in your memory bank and allow you to go to bed on a positive note instead of being stressed and wired.

  1. Schedule some down time

This may sound like it goes without saying but a lot of highly stressed individuals that I know are like that because they actually don’t know how to switch off.

They convince themselves it’s because they simply have way too much on and they can’t let their guard down even for a minute. The reality is that if you have scarcity mindset regarding time you are always going to find yourself short of time. I know because I used to be one of those individuals. The so-called stressed achiever.

By actually scheduling some downtime on a daily basis not only will you be refreshed and recharged which will allow you to enjoy your work a whole more but you will also be way more productive.

When you know you only have a set amount of time you have given yourself to complete your work, watch how all of a sudden you will start getting your work done a whole lot quicker. You will stop wasting time checking and rechecking your emails or Facebook multiple times per day and get down to business!

A recommended rest and relaxation spot if you are serious about your recovery!

A recommended rest and relaxation spot if you are serious about your recovery!