Q&A with the experts on exercise and feeling good


You've been posting your questions on fitness, diet, and exercise on the Boots Feel Good Forum and we've chosen a range of questions for fitness expert Matt Roberts and Boots Nutritionist Vicky Pennington to answer.

The answers cover a range of topics from pre- and post-pregnancy fitness, the most efficient ways to diet, how to use exercise to shed weight, plus much more.

Matt Roberts

Matt kick-started the personal training phenomenon by opening London's first exclusive one-to-one personal training centre in 1995. Now renowned as a personal trainer to the stars, Matt is responsible for creating some of the most famous physiques in fashion, music, politics, including Tom Ford, Naomi Campbell, John Galliano, Trudi Styler, Amanda Holden and Mel C.




Questions for Matt Roberts

Q. EldonAve: How do you find a sport or exercise you enjoy?

A. Matt Roberts: It's really a matter of trial and error. Make a list of the four or five things you might like to try and give them a go. Go into them with an open mind, but also try to think of a goal that you might want to achieve with it. The motivation comes from the goal and the enjoyment comes from reaching it.

Q. elienn: I've got back to my pre-pregnancy weight through eating a healthy diet and breastfeeding. However, my tummy is still a little rounder than it was before I had a baby. As I hope to have another child, is it really worthwhile doing lots of exercise to flatten it when another pregnancy will undo all of the work? If so, what would be the best exercises to do, please?

A. Matt Roberts: It is definitely worth it. You need to get your abs and body back in full condition to be ready for it to withstand, and come out on the other side, in as good shape as you can possibly be!

Q. kayleigh39: Having lost nearly six stone, I am finding it a struggle to shift the final few pounds. What should I do?

A. Matt Roberts: Change your programme. Are you genuinely overloading? Make sure in every workout you reach five or six moments where you can't carry on any more without resting. The peaks raise your metabolism and will help you shift the last bit of weight.

Q. Hopezibah: Having suffered from arthritis since I was a child, I am very limited in what I can do in the way of excercise so it makes it extra tricky to stay fit and lose weight. Are there any ideas or tips you can give for someone with limited mobility to stay healthy?

A. Matt Roberts: I would suggest non-weight bearing exercise such as swimming would possibly help you. It puts less strain on your joints and works in a very big range of motion that will help your mobility and strengthen the muscles around each joint.

Q. sabretiggr: When there is a birth of a new child, dads also end up with less sleep and eating less healthily with less time to exercise. Any tips for dads wanting to shed a few pounds?

A. Matt Roberts: Spend just 20 minutes, every other day doing interval training, using a routine of one-minute high intensity and one-minute low. For example, walk and run, or hill run and walk down recovery. Follow this up by spending 10 minutes doing a simple routine that goes arms-legs-abs, repeated four or five times. It's a half-hour workout, which works the key parts of the body, strengthens the heart and burns fat.



Vicky Pennington

Vicky Pennington is a registered dietician and has worked as the Boots nutritionist for over 20 years. She advises on a number of nutritional topics including diet in pregnancy, feeding babies and young children, healthy eating, food ranges, weight management and vitamin and mineral supplements.




 Questions for Vicky Pennington

Q. Carovioletfizz: After seeing friends on diets who think they can eat whatever they want as long as they spend an hour at the gym, I maintain unless you are working out like an Olympic athlete every day, you really should to reduce the amount of food you eat to lose weight. Am I right?

A. Vicky Pennington: The key to success is 'everything in moderation' – the combination of healthy eating and regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight. If you increase the amount of energy (calories) you consume then you will need to increase your energy expenditure to maintain this balance, and even more so if you want to lose weight. If you moderate what you eat and maintain an active routine, you will find it easier to manage your weight. The best way to lose weight is a two-pronged attack:

1. Reduce your calorie intake
2. Increase the calories you burn by being as active as you can be in your day-to-day life

You can lose weight just by cutting calories, but you won't lose weight as quickly if you don't combine it with activity. You need a deficit of 500 calories a day to lose one pound of weight a week, which can be very difficult to sustain. If you exercise regularly, it helps you burn more calories and keep your weight in check. So think about how you can increase your activity – it doesn't have to be running marathons, but simple steps like parking further away from the office or using the stairs can all be a good place to start!

As well as being active, keeping a food diary can really help. With an online food diary-based approach, such as bootsdiets.com, you simply record everything that you and drink each day. You'll soon see where the excess calories and fat are coming from and will be able to use 'the healthy food swap' tool to make changes.

Q. SPBInDisguise: Do you agree that if you eat too few calories your body goes into 'starvation mode' and you stop losing weight? Does this happen to most/all people?

A. Vicky Pennington: Guideline Daily Amounts (or GDAs) are set at 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 calories for men. (GDAs are a guide to how many calories and nutrients people can consume each day for a healthy balanced diet). Our bodies need a certain amount of calories to maintain daily function, and therefore it is not recommended to severely
restrict your intake.

Crash dieting can slow your metabolic rate, as your body goes into starvation mode when it is deprived of food or fuel. Your body will fight to conserve what little energy it has and may even draw its energy from the lean tissue that burns fat. Which, if maintained for a long period time, could also lead to long-terms health conditions. One way to manage your diet if you're not sure about the amount of calories you're taking in is to try a weight management aid. These can help you quickly feel full keeping hunger at bay, cut out the snacks and help prevent yoyo dieting. It is an effective way to achieving a healthier lifestyle without the need to constantly diet or the inconvenience of restrictive diets.

Q. MissRee: There is so much conflicting advice out there about the best way to lose weight. I've been advised by a fitness instructor at my local gym that seriously low-carbing is the way to go but then I've read a lot online saying it can be dangerous to have a seriously high protein diet (which this effectively is). What's your advice?

A. Vicky Pennington: Again, like Carovioletfizz, the key here is moderation. A healthy diet is made up of a mixture of all food groups, including carbohydrate and protein. Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy and are important to maintaining blood sugar levels. Even fats and sugars are essential for general body function and play an important role in keeping us going. It is not healthy to remove one of these food groups from your diet, and you will undoubtedly start to crave whatever it is that you cut out. However, it is important to make sure that you moderate your intake of each food group - using GDAs is a good way to help you manage this and to make sure that you do not consume more
or less of one food group than is recommended as healthy.

Carbohydrates - or carbs - are the body's preferred energy source. They are readily broken down into glucose - the sugar in our blood. After carbohydrates, the body will draw its energy from fat. After that, it will draw on protein from our muscles. So it's important to make sure there are enough carbohydrates and some fat in your diet to protect that muscle.

And your weight loss efforts will go even further if you make a few changes to your usual routine. Look at your current eating habits - do you snack, do you eat 'ready- made' food on the go, do you feel you're always 'on a diet'? If so, shake up your regime with these pro-active measures:

  • Empty your cupboards of sugary snacks and re-stock them with unsalted nuts, seeds and dried/fresh fruits so when you are feeling peckish, you have something healthy to snack on
  • If you're short on time and usually opt for a ready meal during the week, check the labels and choose one that is lower in saturated fat, salt and calories using the traffic light colours to guide you. You could try the new Shapers evening meals can choose a great-tasting main meal and accompaniment or dessert for 500 calories or less. . And with Shapers you'll have the added benefit of knowing that the levels of saturated fat, salt and sugars have been carefully controlled. Plus Shapers do not contain hydrogenated fats, artificial flavours or artificial colours.
  • Prepare healthy home-cooked food at the weekend and freeze it so it's easy to re-heat after work.

Just as important as this physical preparation is mental preparation - set yourself a realistic goal. Rather than pledging to 'lose weight', set yourself a target and a deadline based on what your BMI should be for your height and weight. When you know your numbers, why not stick your target on your fridge to help keep you on track and then tell your friends and colleagues about your goal so they can support you along the way.

Q. Pseudonymity: Is it true that men find it more difficult than women to lose fat?

A. Vicky Pennington: Frustratingly not! People put on weight when their calorie intake gets out of sync with their calorie output. It's a balancing act and if you're taking in more calories than your body needs, you gain weight because the body is designed to store excess calories as fat.

When it comes to exercise the more lean tissue - or muscle - you have in your body, the more calories you will burn and men do have a higher amount of lean tissue in their bodies. Add to that difference in hormones, body shape and fat percentage, it can all make it harder for women to lose weight if compared to men. Women's body's have a naturally higher proportion of fat as they are naturally built to carry a child, while men are built to be 'hunter gatherers' and even though our roles today have changed, our genes haven't. Ultimately however, it is up to individual willpower – both women and men can lose fat if they commit to a healthy diet and exercise regime.



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Last updated: about 3 years ago