08 Jul

Train smart and specific

I was training this morning and it was one of those days where my head was just not in it. We all get them. I was tired and knew the session would not be one of my best. Nevertheless I did what I could.

I was wrestling and also performed some light cardiovascular exercises. After finishing I was chatting with my training partner who has been a wrestler for many years. We spoke at length about various exercises, approaches to training, nutrition and what to do when you feel tired and shit. We came to the agreement that it is ALWAYS good to move. Just because you don’t feel 100% does not necessarily mean that you should stay immobile all day. Rest is of course very important but so is keeping active, even if it is light activity. Walking, swimming, cycling and rowing are all great examples of exercises that can be gentler in nature than your usual workouts but are productive in their own right. It allows your body a less strenuous way to stay active. Sometimes less is more and regularly trying to work out until complete exhaustion will get you nothing but injuries and disillusionment. Training has to be smart. It should be related to your goals. Remember that if you want to look like a bodybuilder then train like one. However if you are a wrestler then you rarely need weights if at all. It can be very tempting to always train for the 6 pac look but this may not be appropriate for you and it does not necessarily equal health. Sure it looks good but many elite athletes do not possess them. What they do possess is elite levels of fitness and excellent technical skills in their chosen sport.

A boxer would lose to a marathon runner in a long distance race. A marathon runner would not be able to control their body like a gymnast and a gymnast would not be able to take a wrestler to the floor. Fitness and technical skills are specific.

So remember, when exercising make sure your workouts are applicable to your sports or to your goals as there is no point in being totally ripped if you cannot recover efficiently or getting there would be detrimental to your sport. Bodyfat has a purpose.

22 May

Five awesome foods for a grappler

The right nutrition is crucial for performance

The right nutrition is crucial for performance


1. Eggs – Full of protein, one of the few foods that contain vitamin D (contained in the yolk), contains all of the essential ammino acids. It’s also very versatile – poached (my favourite), scrambled, fried (in coconut oil), in an omelette and one of the main ingredients of Shakshuka (one of the recipes I posted). A superb food for a grappler as it will assist in recovery and will deliver nutrients.


2. Avocados – known as the alligator pear. Contain powerful carotenoids (antioxidants, the pigment which gives it its colour, similar to tomato and lycopene which gives it the red colour). It is high in good fats which are very heart healthy and anti inflammatory. Can be added to salads and it is also full of vitamins and fibre; an amazing food for an athlete.


3. Coconut – probably the only food you will need to use a hammer and a drill for. This hairy Fort Knox of a fruit is rich in a unique kind of saturated fat. Not all saturated fats are created equal. They contain medium chain triglycerides and therefore are used by the body similar to carbohydrates rather than stored as fat. Coconut oil is also great to cook with due to its high smoke point. They are anti bacterial and can even assist in losing bodyfat. Choose unrefined virgin coconut oil (1). Have coconut chunks or you can even make a small hole inside the whole fruit and then sip the coconut water inside. Coconut water is great for hydration, especially in between throws, arm locks and choke holds!


4. Kale – green vegetables are micronutrient powerhouses. Kale is great in a smoothie, stir fry or as kale chips. Consuming vegetables in its raw form is usually best. It is high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Green leafy vegetables are some of the most nutritious foods that you can eat so help yourself. It is very high in Vitamin K which contributes to bone health and blood clotting, perfect for when sparring gets a bit rough!


5. Wild salmon – contains vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids which are effective in preventing cardiovascular problems and are also anti inflammatory. As well as this it is good for your brain and contains a good amount of protein which is essential from recovering from tough sessions!


***Special mention – water – essential to life. The human body is 55% to 78% water, depending on body size (2). In order to function properly, the body requires a certain amount of water each day. This can be from the foods that you eat as well as the water that you drink. The amount of water required by an individual varies depending on a range of factors which include level of activity and temperature. Make sure to drink plenty of the stuff!


(1) Kris Gunnars . (2013). Top 10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Coconut Oil. Available: http://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coconut-oil/. Last accessed 5th feb 2014.

(2) Utz, J. (2000). What percentage of the human body is composed of water?. Available: http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/2000-05/958588306.An.r.html. Last accessed 22/05/2014.

13 May

Health made simple – a short note on nutrition

Macronutrients – provide energy and are used in large amounts

Protein – 4 calories per gram – e.g. if you eat 200g of protein per day that is 200×4 = 800 calories per day from protein

Carbohydrate – 4 calories per gram – e.g. if you eat 400g of carbs per day that is 400×4 = 1600 calories per day from carbohydrates

Fat – 9 calories per gram – e.g. if you eat 80g of fat per day that is 80×9 = 720 calories per day from fat

So calorie wise 800 (protein) + 1600 (carbs) + 720 (fat) = a total daily calorie intake of 3120.

Alcohol – some say it is a macronutrient. Some say it is not as it is not essential for life. It equates to 7 calories per gram. But then some argue that carbohydrates are not essential either. Technically they are not essential, but you definitely function better with them!

Micronutrients – smaller quantities required – are our vitamins and minerals and they are vital for health.

We must also remember water and how important it is to drink plenty of it.

11 May

Why I transformed my training

When I first began to train many years ago for me it was all about heavy weightlifting and becoming as big as possible. I stuck a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger on my wall and I looked up to him for my motivation. I got some great results, a highlight being a 220kg deadlift whilst weighing 80kg. I was loving it. But things were about to change…

I used to be so obsessed with training when I first started out, even chocolate dusting on top of a cappuccino was a ruined nutrition day (crazy I know). I used to always have my protein shake in the very time limited ‘magic window’ immediately post workout (in fact the ‘magic window’ countdown doesn’t close after one hour or whatever ultra short timeframe you’ve heard, you’ve got a lot longer so relax). Now I don’t take protein supplements or any supplements for that matter (some do have their place however and I have posted about them in the past). Results are all down to consistency and patience. The big secret is there is no big secret. Through years of studying and trial and error I’m in a much better place knowledge and experience wise. I can’t believe how much absolute bullshit there is in the health industry. My weight training days caused me injuries too and therefore I’m also much smarter with my training. Rather than trying to destroy myself every session I focus on quality and the results are fantastic; more energy, less injury, more enjoyment and better results.

Back to the big change. I started to dabble in bodyweight and gymnastic training. Then at around 15 years old I took my first step into the martial arts/fighting world. My initial training was in Krav Maga hand to hand combat. I did this for many years and eventually taught it. I learnt so much due to being very lucky with my instructors. Knife training and fighting psychology were both particularly interesting. Whilst training in this I also started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I competed, won a medal and eventually achieved my blue belt but then took a gap to train intensely in Freestyle Wrestling with the Scottish national team. The main thing that I learnt very quickly was that strength and size built from standard weightlifting was quite useless. My muscles would tire quickly and my endurance SUCKED. I would be taken down and pinned/submitted at will by grapplers lighter than myself. I became frustrated and was tempted to quit. But that thought quickly left me. I decided to COMPLETELY transform my training. No more muscle splits in the gym, no more bench pressing and no more machines (never been a fan of machines anyway even when I was weightlifting). It paid off. After months of effort I was finally pointing and even winning against those who had previously beat me with ease.

Since this overhaul I’ve never been in better condition. With the grappling most of the work is bodyweight and with a training partner. The technique and sparring aspects result in my constant progress. The self defence specific conditioning involves an element of weight training such as a barbell complex but most of the exercises are more specific such as rope climbs, sprints, pull-ups, handstands, partner lifts, etc. With the gymnastic type training muscle ups on the rings as well as balancing results in a fun filled session. The gymnastic strength circuit for example is quite different to any other circuits I’ve previously done and builds your body in a much more efficient way.

I have to say I enjoy being active significantly more than I used to. From grappling one day to bouldering the next and even climbing munros in Scotland, exercise has never been so much fun and I’m aways learning new things to keep it interesting.

I’m not saying not to lift weights! Quite the opposite in fact. Weights are excellent and I use them to help others with their goals as well as one or two things for myself. But do try new things, train in a way that will help you hit and surpass your goals. Don’t exercise aimlessly. Keep an open mind and most importantly have fun. If you’re training and nutrition becomes a chore then there’s a problem that needs addressed.

The path that I walked is convoluted, but it’s my path. It won’t suit everybody but it certainly suits me.

Have fun with your health

Have fun with your health!

03 Apr

Life lessons from martial arts

Self Defence

Self Defence

Martial arts have and always will be a huge part of my life. From my early training in Krav Maga (not a martial art as such) to my competitive training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and being thrown around by the Scottish Freestyle Wrestling team, nothing else teaches you humility quite like fighting. Learning how to fight and how to defend yourself, your family and your friends is one of the most important things you can do. Martial arts give you a purpose. They will teach you a subtle confidence which you will carry with you wherever you go. Here are some lessons you will learn from fighting:

1. Humility – “For me, the martial arts is a search for something inside. It’s not just a physical discipline.” Brandon Lee“

All that muscle that you have spent building in a gym environment? Yeah it will only get you so far when fighting somebody with superb technique. This will be your first lesson in training for performance over aesthetics. If you train in martial arts you will likely possess the aesthetics, the same cannot be said the other way around. Fighting teaches you to leave your ego elsewhere, to realise the only way to learn is to open your mind and absorb the raw art.

2. Toughness – “I swear it upon Zeus an outstanding runner cannot be the equal of an average wrestler.” – Socrates

There is a certain type of strength and pain endurance you develop from intense training in the martial arts. It is not the strength from curling a barbell; rather it is the strength from using your bodyweight in a certain way. Your strong grip is forged from training against resistance with a gi, grabbing limbs to hyperextend or to set up brutal takedowns and squeezing your fists tight as you release a cross to the face of your opponent.

3. Lifestyle – “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu, Chinese Philospher (604 BC – 531 BC)

Martial arts are a lifetime journey. Some choose to compete, some do not. What matters is that you constantly strive to improve; be it gradually going through the grading system, winning medals or simply beating an opponent who you have previously been unable to better. Life is tough; there is no getting around that. You have to work hard and deal with a lot of shit you do not like. You will do things you love, things you hate and you will meet assholes as well as amazing people. Life is about the journey.

4. Failure – “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”  Michael Jordan

In life you will fail. But failing is all part of the learning process. You will learn more from losing than you ever will from winning. It is not about the loss but about how you respond to it. This leads me to another quote I would like to share which sums this point up nicely:

“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you’re hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you  can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get it what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you!…until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life.” Rocky Balboa

5. Dedication – “The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi

Things come in and out of your life constantly, people, friends, relationships. But there is always one or two things that are constant and those things you will make phenomenal progress in due to your perseverance and dedication. Be it your academics, your martial arts, other sports, or anything else, dedicating yourself to something will only yield positivity. We all know what it is like to be a beginner and if you look at the difference between when you started something and your current level the change can be astonishing. Don’t look at how far you have to go, rather look at how far you have come.


20 Mar

My inspirations in the field of fitness and nutrition

There are many people who have inspired me in life. Here is a list of more of the more well known people, those who have inspired me in the field of fitness and nutrition (in no particular order):


Georges St Pierre (GSP) – humble but the best. An all around great athlete. The first and only fighter I have seen to combine what fighters should combine in their training…Gymnastics and Olympic Weightlifting, as well as everything else. Unrivalled work ethic.

Jordan Burroughs – one of the best Wrestler’s on the planet. Just won gold in the Olympics and works so hard. Technically awesome of course.

Roger Gracie – There are so many BJJ athletes who have inspired me but I can’t name them all or this list would never end. I had the pleasure of training with Roger who is one of the worlds best ever BJJ fighters. A fascinating guy also with a great outlook on life, which is a common theme amongst BJJ athletes.

Me and Roger Gracie

Me and Roger Gracie

Arnold Schwarzenegger – seems like an obvious one but this guy is the best bodybuilder who has ever lived. At his prime he looked huge but phenomenal. Even though he was on some form of drugs, it was nothing compared to the freaks today who are on so many drugs you would need a pharmacist to decipher them. Not just in the world of fitness, the man was a millionaire from real estate before he could speak English, married a Kennedy, conquered Hollywood and became the Governor of California, not to mention his 7 Mr Olympia titles.

Bruce Lee – another obvious one. However this man was an expert at so many things. His speed, strength and physical ability for a man of his stature was ridiculous. A martial arts legend who was way ahead of his time. Sadly missed.

Ido Portal – a movement expert who you would assume is a Gymnast (don’t call him one). What he can do with his body leaves you speechless. Handstand pressups are the norm, as are planches.

Imi Lichtenfield – the founder of Krav Maga. A, Boxer, Wrestler and a gymnast. Developed his street fighting skills battling anti-Semitic gangs. What better situation to hone your fighting skills?


Alan Aragon – Human Nutrition and Dietetics is a fascinating area of study. Alan is at the top of his game in this field and his scientifically backed advice is superb. He also makes time for you. You regularly see him interacting with various people that follow him, which many big names could learn from.

Dr Joel Fuhrman – An American Physician with a special interest in nutrition. He has a passion for helping people live a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise and consuming great, healthy food. He has loads of fantastic recipes you can try out!

Google and YouTube these guys and absorb the education.

17 Mar

Interview with Medical student

Could you please tell me a little about yourself and how you got into medicine as well as your future plans?

I moved to Scotland about a year and a half ago to study medicine, and before that I did previous degrees in Anatomy and Cell Biology, Environmental Studies, and Biomedical Ethics. For the next few years I’ll be based in Glasgow, and then hopefully I’ll do my residency or foundation years either in the UK or back in North America. We’ll see!!

What are your top tips for a healthy lifestyle?

I think to stay healthy, it’s really important to have a good mindset. It’s so easy to get caught up in stresses of life and work or school, that often we forget to re-center ourselves and get the body and mind back in touch. I also think it’s so important to eat well and be active- it’s good for the mind and body. As a student, it’s common to get carried away with studying, and partying too- whether it’s pulling all nighters, or nursing hangovers, it’s our bodies that ultimately pay the price for our behaviours. It also gets too easy and comfortable to eat unhealthy, processed, cheap, quick snacks and meals on the go as a student. Getting caught up in these habits will lead to unhealthy routines without even realizing it! My biggest tips to have a healthy lifestyle are quite simple- try take a few minutes a day to relax, and let go of all the worries and stresses you have and let your mind be still (it’s harder than you think!) Be as active as you can (even if it’s just walking to and from class), eat lots of vegetables, and avoid processed foods and soft drinks.

Are sugar and salt as dangerous as they are made out to be or is it a case of everything in moderation and excess and greed are the real issues?

Our body needs salts and sugars to function. While this is ultimately true, the problem is that in the Western diet, we consume too much of them, far more than our body needs. Salt and sugar are added to so many foods (especially processed and packaged foods) people don’t actually realize that they’re consuming huge amounts that our body actually doesn’t need. So much so that over time, these excess intakes of salt and sugar actually start to harm the body. According to medical literature and studies, excess sugar intake leads to fat, and there are strong correlations to many diseases, like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Similarly, excess salt has been strongly linked with hypertension and renal disease. I would try to limit the amount of salt and sugar I add to things I cook, and try to get my sugars from natural sources like fruit instead of sweets or baked goods.

What does your fitness and nutrition routine look like?

I am a big fan of combining yoga with high intensity interval training. I don’t really use weights or do long bouts of cardio at the gym. My routine consists of 20-30 minutes of interval running on the treadmill with 30-40 minutes of circuit training exercises on the mat (usually with modified yoga positions). I eat a lot of fat free plain greek yogurt (I mix in some fresh fruit), lots of vegetables, and meat protein. I try and avoid bread (which has probably been the hardest part of having a healthy diet, but has been really effective for weight loss). When I’m craving something sweet, I usually have peanut butter (just as a side note, it’s hard to find a good brand that’s not full of added sugars and fats- check the labels before you buy!). I usually treat myself to one ‘cheat day’ a week, which actually makes sticking to a healthy diet easier for the rest of the week.

Any further advice or information you wish to add?

I think students are scared or not sure how to eat healthy. It’s really quite easy, and can be cost effective too. There’s so many instagrams and blogs that have simple and delicious recipes. These can really inspire students to eat well, be active, and stay healthy!

12 Mar

Fish Stew


Fish stock cube
White wine
Mixed herbs

Sauté onion for 5 mins in coconut oil, then add rest of vegetables for 5. Now add the shellfish. Put fish stock cube in to mix with approx 450ml of boiling water. Mix herbs in throughout at random intervals and pour in a little white wine. Leave on low heat to simmer away and mix every so often. Total cooking time approximately 30 mins.

Fish stew

Fish stew

12 Mar

The Psychology of Eating

Everyone has a choice in what they eat. Why is it then that some choose to consume foods that they know will be detrimental to their health?

There is so much food available nowadays. We have become more lazy and impatient as a society. We used to have to chase our food down for survival. Now all we have to do is make a phonecall and we will have food delivered to us within half an hour. “Eating is a fundamentally rewarding behaviour, and is thus intrinsically linked to mood and emotions (Vögele and Gibson, 2010).”

The act of eating is much more complex than we think. When hungry your body will initiate complex workings to notify you that food is required. When you are full your body will again let you know. But it is not as simple as this. Various factors can influence and alter this. These can include people, eating when watching television, the way a food is packaged, your mood and the list goes on. This can result in overconsumption of food or the tendency to make poor choices. When I am watching a good film I love nothing more than to have some sweets or ice cream. Can I not choose something more healthy, or even not consume anything at all? Of course I can but I choose not to. Why is this? Well this is linked back to mood, mind and other factors involved. I do not think it is always as simple as a lack of willpower.

Teaching children from a young age about nutrition will lead to a lifetime of understand and good habits. But it is definitely never to late to make that change for the better!


Meule, A, Vögele, C. (2013). The Psychology of Eating. Available:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3635021/. Last accessed 27th Feb 2014.

06 Mar

Optimising Golf performance

Golf is one of the most popular sports in the world and I live in the country which is the home of it – Scotland. Golfers used to be able to get away with paying little attention to their physique and health (think John Daly smoking cigars mid round) and could rely purely on their talent for the game. However things changed when Tiger Woods came on the scene. He was well built, strong and had a ridiculous talent for the sport. He not only forced golfers to up their game significantly but to start paying attention to their health. Golfers have, like most other athletes, started to focus on their nutrition, as well as specific exercises to compliment their game. In addition they have begun to delve into the psychology of performance, ensuring that they are ready both physically and mentally.

The Old Course - St Andrews, Scotland

The Old Course – St Andrews, Scotland

Tiger Woods treats golf as a sport and as his profession. When he is not playing in a tournament he is doing some other form of conditioning aimed at improving his performance. This can include short runs, long runs, various stretches and resistance training. Let us take a step back and examine each in turn as well as apply it to you as an individual.

Golf is not a sport which requires the endurance of boxers or wrestlers, nor is it a sport which requires the flexibility of gymnasts or the VO2 max of cross country skiers. What it does require is mental endurance (for pros one tournament lasts many hours over a number of days) as well as the ability to hit the ball a significant distance in an accurate way. A suitable resistance training programme for golfers should be focused on improving balance, control and a certain level of stamina. Each side of the body should be trained unilaterally. Many exercises you see in a gym environment are simply not suitable for golfers and therefore the exercises need to be sports specific. The back, legs and core are all areas which a golfer needs to ensure are in top condition.

Good exercises for golf are as follows:

  • Swiss ball Russian twists – targeting abdominals and obliques in a similar way to a golf swing
  • Single legged (unilateral movement), back and front squats – mixture of repetitions and weight – improve leg strength resulting in increased power of swing
  • Pullups and chinups – improves back and arm muscles which will increase the power of your shots
  • Plank and side plank – works on endurance in abdominal and oblique area ensuring a stronger core overall which will aid your posture and swing
  • Medicine ball training – will improve power and functional movement
  • Kettlebells – uni lateral training
  • Swiss ball – useful for balance and abdominal training
  • Resistance bands – excellent for mimicking specific movements with slight resistance added
  • Stretching – yoga, pilates – will target areas of core not usually hit with normal exercises as well as keep you supple and injury free

However you must remember this is in addition to the rest of your training. Nothing will replace getting on the golf course and practising constantly.

Let us move onto nutrition. What you eat will also contribute massively to performance. Don’t eat enough and you run the risk of lacking in energy and focus. Eat too much and you could end up feeling uncomfortable for the duration of your round. Your nutrition will not be aimed at losing or gaining weight although either of those may occur; rather it will be aimed at fuelling performance. You must make sure you are hydrated properly.  Energy boosting snacks and bars could be of great benefit during a long round. You MUST eat or drink something which gives you energy and calories during  a round of golf. It is simply too long a time not to consume food and if you try it I GUARANTEE you will lack energy, you will become tired and you will struggle to focus. All these factors will mean you under perform. Excellent foods to include in the general diet include:

  • Eggs
  • Seeded toast
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Mixed nuts
  • Fish
  • Lean meat and poultry
  • Water
  • Certain energy drinks (not red bull type of drinks we are talking electrolyte sports drinks)
  • Peanut butter and jelly are good in sandwiches for energy

Certain supplements may also help golfers general health:

  • Vitamin D – this is an excellent supplement with various health benefits however golfers are outdoors a lot so it may be unnecessary. Save it for winter
  • Omega 3 – for cardiac and joint health

That is it all you will really need! Most supplements are a waste of time and money. As a golfer most if not all that is required by the body can be obtained through natural means.

Recovery is also something you must not overlook. Appropriate rest, sleep, foam rolling, massages, etc, will all contribute to making you a better golfer. Combine the training, nutrition and recovery and watch your game improve tenfold.

© Nicky Beach Fitness and Nutrition 2014