Protein for the win

Losing weight doesn’t mean reducing intake across the board. In fact, for many of our clients at Inspirit Retreat it means increasing one thing in particular: protein.

Quite simply, protein is essential for weight loss and toning up. It builds and tones muscle, helps you feel fuller for longer, and improves the health of your metabolism.

When you’re working out your daily calories, always start with the protein. You can make up the rest of your calorie intake from carbs and fats, and can experiment with those to find a balance you enjoy, but the protein’s non-negotiable.

Females should aim for around 0.6g of protein per pound of bodyweight, while males need to be getting 1-1.5g per pound. Roughly speaking that’s a palm-sized portion of protein with each main meal for the girls, and two palms for the guys.

The best sources of protein are good quality lean meats, fish and seafood, dairy, eggs, nuts, beans and seeds (although obviously if you’re intolerant of any of these elements, avoid them).

The good news is it can make for some tasty meals. At our retreats in Portugal breakfast usually includes either lean bacon or smoked salmon with eggs and avocado, or high protein yoghurt and local fresh fruit. Washed down with some fresh coffee or a high vitamin smoothie, a protein boost gets the day off to a great start!

Muscle magic

Most men would secretly admit they wished they had bigger muscles. But women? Not so much.

There’s a fear in some quarters that increasing muscle tissue will make you look ‘bulky’ and masculine. The good news is this is just not true, and the even better news is that having more muscle tissue means you’ll burn more energy, so it can actually help you lose weight.

The ‘bulky’ look is down to testosterone – and women only have about 10% of the level found in men, so it’s not something to worry about. Developed female muscle simply looks well toned, rather than bulging in all directions. In fact, well developed muscles can also play an important role in keeping hormones balanced.

Muscle mass is really good for your metabolism. People with higher proportions of muscle mass burn more calories than those whose levels are lower, both during exercise sessions and even on days where they do no training at all. They can eat more food. They’re also less likely to put on weight when they have time out from their exercise regime.

So here at Inspirit Retreat we include a lot of resistance training in our routines, and ensure our guests get plenty of protein in their bespoke meal plans. We want to help you on the route towards long-term wellbeing – and following it takes some muscle.

Whatever your ultimate fitness goals, we strongly recommend you try and get some resistance training in at least three times a week.

Five things not to do

Whether you want to lose weight, tone up, get fit or improve your confidence and energy, if you can make an effort to avoid these five things you’ll be well on your way…

  1. Detoxes, cleanses and restrictive diets. People who come on Inspirit Retreats are often surprised at just how much food they can eat and still see a reduction in stubborn body fat. Yes, losing weight means you need to maintain a calorie deficit, but that certainly doesn’t mean you have to eat lettuce and pine nuts all day, or put yourself through periods of extreme deprivation. It’s far better to play the long game: learn to enjoy eating real food with plenty of protein and fibre, and make it part of your life.
  2. Overdoing the cardio. Any activity is better than none, and there’s nothing wrong with running, cycling and so on – but if you’re serious about shifting body fat, then strength and resistance training should be your focus. Try and prioritize three or four resistance sessions each week, then ‘add in’ whatever cardio you enjoy – but keep it in that order. It will do wonders for your metabolism and muscle mass.
  3. Comparing yourself to others. Everyone is on their own journey. By all means get inspired by others, but their progress has nothing to do with your own. If you measure yourself against someone else’s achievements it’s a pretty sure route to frustration and failure.
  4. People who don’t support your goals. No one said putting your health and wellbeing worries behind you would be easy – you need the right network of people around you. That means spending less time with those who – consciously or unconsciously – want to sabotage your efforts. You already know who these people are. Be around people who ‘get’ you instead – a training partner or a trainer can be particularly helpful.
  5. Too much social media. Yes, we all do it. But don’t must of us have a nagging feeling that the time we spend checking (and checking, and checking…) our phones would be better used for other things? Social media is by no means all bad, but it can be a nightmare for people trying to improve areas of their lives. Just think about the health, energy and quality time you could be getting instead of starting at a screen…

Top tips for a trim tummy

One of the things we hear most often at Inspirit Retreat is “I want a flatter stomach.” That’s part of what we work on in Portugal, but there are five simple things you can start doing right now to lose that belly bulge and start looking more toned.

  1. Chew your food properly! Doing so improves the way you digest your food, which means less bloating. It also means you feel full more quickly.
  1. Track your food intake. Knowledge is power: if you’re not really sure what you’re consuming, you won’t be able to spot the patterns which will show you where you may need to make some changes. Keep an eye on how many calories you’re taking in each day. Also watch what you’re actually eating. Some people find that certain foods – dairy, gluten and some vegetables and nuts in particular – are harder to digest and may cause them issues.
  1. Look after your liver. If it’s not functioning effectively then fat is much harder to shift. You can improve the health of your liver with nutrient-dense foods, plenty of hydration and regular exercise. And you can make its life easier by cutting down on processed foods and excessive alcohol – if you do consume alcohol more than three or four times a week, your health and fat-loss are likely to plateau beyond a certain point. Stress doesn’t do your liver any favours either: supplements like milk thistle, glutathione, turmeric and artichoke can help on this front.
  1. Manage stress in general. The best way of doing this is to sleep better – both in terms of quality and duration. We find that taking zinc and magnesium half an hour before going to bed works really well, along with some deep breathing meditation. If you can start to improve your sleeping you’ll notice the results within a matter of days.
  1. Train hard and fast. Strength training and high interval cardio boost the hormones which will help you shed stubborn body fat. Effort here is never wasted.

Losing weight – how to win

Most people fail with their weight loss goals, even after extreme dieting. Often, the diets which give the biggest initial improvement actually give the greatest weight gain in the following months.

There are three common reasons why:

  1. The diet has been too restrictive, so you’re more likely to binge.
  2. The diet has been super low calorie and low protein, meaning most of the weight you lose is water and muscle. This can mess up your metabolism for months.
  3. The diet has been low fat. This is no good for your hormones, and it usually means eating more processed foods – which in turn affect your liver, your thyroids and immune system.

The good news is that you don’t have to take that path. If you’re serious about weight loss, there are some simple unflashy things you can do with your eating that really will make a big – and lasting – difference. Here’s a quick rundown…

  • Try to stay in calorie deficit – to drop weight you need a negative energy balance. But don’t go all low-calorie. Rather, stick to unprocessed foods to meet your needs, while factoring in occasional treats to keep it sustainable.
  • Drink 2 to 3 litres of water each day. A dehydrated body doesn’t work properly, and it halts stubborn fat loss.
  • Eat protein. Protein maintains muscle mass and promotes a healthy metabolism. Eggs, fish, lean meats, seafood, beans and dairy are all good sources. Women should aim for 0.6g per pound of body weight daily, men 1g per pound.
  • 12g per 1000 calories is a good target to aim for to stay healthy. That means lots of vegetables, with some fruit and grains.
  • Mixed fats are essential. Butter, coconut oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and oily fish will all boost your hormones – just keep an eye on the calorie count.
  • It’s OK to like carbs. As long as you’re mostly maintaining a calorie deficit then bread, cake and wine (in moderation…) are fine. Keep the journey an enjoyable one.
  • Resistance training is the best thing to do in the gym to lose weight. Bodyweight exercises are good for beginners, and you can move on to dumbells, kettlebells and barbells. You’ll look, move and feel better within weeks.
  • De-stress. Stress is the number one reason people hold on to fat. The place to start is by improving the quality and quantity of your sleep. Zinc and magnesium help, and it’s worth trying to stay away from screens late in the day.

We work on all of this at our retreats in Portugal. Get in touch if we can help you – and why not try these weight-loss tips today?

Accentuate the positive

Here at Inspirit Retreat we don’t believe in bootcamps or extreme diets. Sure, they might help make you fitter for a while and lose a few pounds, but what then? We meet a lot of people who are making big efforts to exercise and eat sensibly, and yet they’re still struggling with the same destructive habits and are really unhappy with their body and health.

The thing is, what’s going on in your mind is just as important – so at our retreats we spend a lot of time working on that. Three areas come up time and again.

  1. Work, food, relationships, lifestyle – and those other worries that just won’t go away – can cause huge amounts of stress, and when you’re stressed you’re facing an uphill battle when it comes to achieving and maintaining fitness. There’s no magic bullet on this one, but there are tools you can use with your mind just like there’s gym equipment for your body. We’ll help you find the right ones.
  2. Limiting self-beliefs. Most of us have them. But if we believe we’re not good enough, should be doing better, feel stupid, feel fat or whatever else, then to all intents and purposes it’s true – in our mind, at least. So the belief itself is the problem, and becomes an obstacle holding us back. At Inspirit Retreat we work with various techniques – emotional freedom therapies (EFT), hypnosis, meditation, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) etc – which can help build that all-important self-belief.
  3. No one’s pretending life is easy: we all have things that aren’t going our way. But if your thoughts are constantly leaning to the negative your health, mindset and body will pay for it. We can’t wave a wand and make problems disappear, but we do believe it’s worth focusing on what there is to be grateful for. Happy, positive people always seem to progress faster, and that’s what we try to achieve.

If you want to talk to us about any of this, you don’t have to wait till you reach the Algarve. Get in touch – we’re here to support you.

Healthy mind, healthy body

A lot of the most important changes in the body have to start in the mind. At Inspirit Retreats in Portugal, we spend a lot of time working on people’s mindsets. Bootcamps are all very well for burning off a few pounds before putting them back on again – but real, lasting change is all about new perspectives.

It’s not uncommon for people to come to us telling us ‘I have to get rid of this fat’, deep in despair at the impossibility of their situation, focusing only on how unhappy they are currently, and how much this is something they do not want.

When you feel like that, there’s no way forward. You sink into a cycle of depression, and your motivation and energy drains away.

The solution? It’s all in the mind.

There are some really helpful visualisation techniques which can start getting you towards the place you want to be, and these are something we find we use a lot in our work at Inspirit Retreats. We help our clients focus their attention on what it is they want, and give them a hand getting there – it’s amazing to see what can be achieved once goals are defined and people are in the right mindset to reach them.

You can train every day of the week and eat as cleanly and restrictively as an Olympic athlete, but if your mind is in the wrong place your body will be in the wrong place too. An Inspirit Retreat is designed to help with that.

Negative needs

“Need” can be a dangerous word. Many of our clients come to us because they “need” to lose weight. They’re obsessed with that stubborn belly fat, those flabby arms, those big hips…

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with identifying problem areas to address. But if all your “need” is focused on the problem itself, there’s no room left for what you’re going to do about it, and it’ll always feel like more of the same.

So here are a few simple things which will help.

  • Go beyond concentrating on what you don’t want, and be clear on what you do want instead. Be specific.
  • Now you can find out what it will take to get there. This includes diet, workouts and lifestyle changes. Don’t just pick the latest diet fad. Ask someone who consistently gets results: how do they do it?
  • Focus on where you’re heading. Stop talking about those negative “needs”, and start looking forward to those positive results: once you’ve started the process, there’s no reason at all you won’t get there if you believe in yourself – so look forward to it. Visualisation techniques can help with this.
  • Be consistent with your training and diet. Yes, it would be nice to say it’s all in the mind, but be sensible and practical about the daily basics too.

If you “need” (!) any advice to get you started, reach out and we’ll help point you in the right direction.

Guardian angels

Over many years of working with people looking to achieve health and fitness goals, we’ve noticed that there’s something the ones who do really well all have in common: they all have great support.

This is so important. Working towards a new you can be a lonely business, but everything – the food, the exercise, the lifestyle – is made so much easier if there are some people around who want to head the same way.

It’s one of the things that makes our residential courses in the Algarve so successful: every member of our small groups (there are never more than eight) shares similar aims and may also be grappling with some similar issues, and we see a lot of value in the mutual support guests give each other during their stay.

Of course, no two people are the same, and each guest is treated as an individual with a personally tailored programme. But the camaraderie and friendships that develop at Inspirit Retreat play a big part in the overall experience.

You need that camaraderie and friendship when you’re not on an Inspirit Retreat, too – and that’s why we always recommend that you try to find some likeminded people who’ll support you in your health and wellbeing goals.

Who they are isn’t important. They could be family, friends, colleagues, or strangers you meet at a group – what really matters is that they’ll understand and care about what you’re trying to achieve, and will always be there with that quiet word of encouragement when you need it the most.