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  • What Makes Us Truly Happy

    9 September, 2014

    What Makes Us Truly Happy

    Part of my work includes nutritional consultations and I am often surprised by the amount of people that are either on, or being put on antidepressants. Most of these people would say they are not “depressed”, but they are just having a few current stressful issues. So why does it seem that more and more people are taking antidepressants? Are people not as happy as they used to be? Are those qualified to give such a prescription using it as the first option, rather than looking into other alternatives?

    Firstly lets look at what it truly means for us to be happy. For this we have to understand serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter.

    “Neurotransmitters are the messenger molecules produced by nerve cells to communicate and control almost every function of your body. This is the way your brain “Talks”…..these are literally the chemical messengers of mood, learning, attention, memory and overall brain function”.

    Mark Hyman – The Ultramind Solution

    The main neurotransimitters are

    Gaba – This neurotransmitter enable us to relax.
    Dopamine – The neurotransmitter responsible for our to focus.
    Acetylcholine – This neurotransmitter which allows us to learn and remember
    Serotonin – The neurotransmitter which is linked to feelings of happiness.

    Low levels of different neurotransmitters can be linked to a variety of conditions such as low levels of serotonin and depression, low levels of dopamine and attention/behaviour disorders, low gaba and anxiety disorders and low acetylcholine has been linked to alzheimers.

    Although there are lots of neurotransmitters, lets focus on serotonin and its relationship with our feelings of happiness. At the basic level serotonin controls your mood. So therefore feelings of depression can be caused by low serotonin, so a better understanding of what causes this and how we can rectify it may give an alternative to reaching immediately for the antidepressants. If we increase serotonin, we increase our mood with no prescription drugs at all. Prescription drugs look to increase your neurotransmitter activity. It just so happens that the number one drug for increasing serotonin is called prozac (I am sure you have heard of it). But surely we should be looking at the natural ways to do this first?

    How do we get more serotonin?

    Serotonin is made primarily from the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is a constituent of most protein-based foods (vegetarians be aware). It is particularly plentiful in salmon, cod, cheddar and parmesan cheese, sunflower and sesame seeds, pork, turkey, chicken and beef. So a high protein diet is key.

    What causes our serotonin to be low?

    High levels of stress (the hormone cortisol) increase the enzymes that break down serotonin. Also a high sugar diet causes inflammation in the body. When the body is inflamed it releases messenger molecules called cytokines. These breakdown tryptophan – less tryptophan – less serotonin – more depression.
    If your deficient in vitamin B6 you don’t make as much tryptophan. A B6 deficiency is often caused by stress, alcohol and medications like the birth control pill. A magnesium deficiency which is caused by stress, caffeine, sugar and alcohol also prevents the body from making serotonin.

    What can you do about it?

    Eat a diet high in protein to increase amino acid intake. Make sure you have protein at every meal (including breakfast). Avoid sugar and refined foods as this causes inflammation which leads to stress. Don’t drink too much coffee or alcohol. Supplements should include a good quality fish oil, a multivitamin that is high in folate and B vitamins and also a good magnesium supplement.

    Maybe one day when someone goes to the doctor for depression, they doctor will refer them to a nutritionist to change their diet and give them a correct supplementation protocol before giving them antidepressants?

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  • I failed as a trainer

    15 August, 2014

    Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at 07.03.48When 16 yr old Gabe came to the studio, I thought he was such a special case that I would take him on as a client. At 151kg and 16yrs of age, I knew that we had to act now or Gabe could possibly be facing a life of obesity and all the complications that come with that. At the time I would have said I did a good job – I followed my teachings, that is to set a goal (we set a goal of Sub 110kg) and constantly monitor and track our progress. You see – here is where I went wrong. Gabe didn’t like being 151kg and constantly reminding him about his weight, and the fact that he failed to meet his weight loss goal, he felt like he failed each week. This was obviously not very motivating. He was easily influenced by peers who could eat things that he couldn’t, and so he kept on eating and kept on missing his weight loss goal. I lost Gabe as a client. I don’t blame him, would you want to turn up to a place each week that highlights the very things you don’t like to think about? We were lucky that Gabe enjoyed the training and soon wanted to train with us again – Enter Marcel, our German trainer who seems to have a knack of relating well to young kids. Marcel did something that I never did – he and Gabe realised something – Gabe was strong, very strong. Finally Gabe was coming in and feeling as though he could achieve, he could be the best. Although still tracking the weight, it was the enjoyment of his training sessions with Marcel that made Gabe keep on going. However interestingly enough, when I asked him what had made the difference the second time – he said “the food”. I found this interesting as we/he always knew it was the food all along. But only when someone is ready to change are they are ready to take on our recommendations.  At Gabes top weight he was 151kg and we peaked him at 99kg just before he has gone off to an American university to begin the next chapter in his life. He has a bright future ahead of him, especially now that he knows he can achieve anything – you just have to set your mind on it.

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  • Why This Picture Makes You Skinny

    28 May, 2014


    View of Queesntown lake

    I was recently flown to Queenstown to treat someone for Muscle Activation Techniques and was put up in a great hotel with a great view, plenty of time off and the ability to take some time out. Understanding that I work pretty hard and with 2 boys aged 4 and 2 life can be a bit non stop. However as a fitness professional I like most people like to stay in shape and be a physical representation of the industry that I chose to work in. There seems to be a movement among not only the hardened fitness professional but also the 9 – 5 business man or women that more is better. We live in a crazy world where nothing stops, and unfortunately that has now moved on to us. From dropping kids off, to constantly checking Facebook/emails/phonecalls to work pressure in a tough economic environment, we are without a doubt stressed.

    What makes us different at Studio41 is our understanding of hormone cortisol, it is the hormone released by the adrenal cortex in the presence of stress. But please note that you can still be mentally relaxed and be stressed. Most of the stress that we put on ourselves is from internal drivers. A lack of sleep is probably the biggest stressor we can put on our selves. Also poor food choices that cause inflammation is another bog driver. In fact attending the Australasian College of Nutrition and Environmental Medicine earlier this year, they put foods that contained gluten and wheat (breads, pasta, cereals) on a high stress list.

    Here is the problem. Pregnenolone is used to make your sex hormones (testosterone for a male and oestrogen for a female). However pregnenolone is also used to make cortisol.  We call it the “Pregnenolone Steal” when this is being shunted along the red line in the diagram below. Being stressed will drive down your sex hormones.

    Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 09.41.49

    You can see by the picture that when you are stressed, the red line is activated. AS LONG AS YOU ARE STRESSED YOU WILL HAVE LOW SEX HORMONES. Common symptoms of males having low testosterone and females having low oestrogen are, Low Libido, Fatigue, Foggy thinking, Memory Lapses, Depressed, Sleep disturbances. As you can see, these are unfortunately pretty common. For these people adding exercise onto a system that is already stressed may actually get a worse result. Exercise is only beneficial if you are able to benefit from it.

    It has also been shown that an increased cortisol output over time leads to umbilical body fat. That is body fat on the stomach. For some reason it has more cortisol receptors on the stomach than other places. So we understand that do get someone lean it is possibly about stopping a long term stress issue. Not simply “Do More”. The irony is – sometimes we get people do less to get a result. Not more. So at Studio41 we make sure that we absolutely take an holistic approach. Because if we didn’t approach sleep, nutrition, rest and recovery how could we maximise our results? We couldn’t. 

    So at Studio41 our personal trainers see our role as helping someone to achieve their health and fitness goals. Not just to train you which I think is a very limited thought process. The outcome is important and understanding when to work hard is just important to understand as the how. 





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  • The Steps To A Successful 2016

    31 December, 2013

    People set out to achieve goals for one of two reasons, they see it as moving themselves towards something they desire (I want to earn more money), or they see it moving away from something they no longer want (I want to get fit as I hate feeling tired and sluggish). You set New Years resolutions either because you want to achieve something or are sick of living in a state of fitness and health that you are not happy with – either way your motivation can be traced to either pleasure or pain.

    The first level of goal setting is understanding the bigger picture. I call it the VISION. This is your long term goal, the thing that will drive all other behaviours. This is the thing that you have to decide first. What is it that you ultimately. Do not concentrate on what you don’t want (I want to lose that 5 pounds, I don’t want to be out of breath, I don’t want to have this fat etc.). Focus on what you do want – I want to be 60 kg, I want to be able to run and feel breathless, I want to be 18% body-fat). Then make it quantifiable. Making a goal of “I want to feel fitter” is not specific enough. People dislike making goals specific due to the fact that they increase their potential risk of failure. However if you live your life trying to avoid failure you might also find yourself avoiding success as a by product. So…..get that vision specific and within a time frame and write it down – writing anything down makes it more serious.

    “By Aug the 13th I will be 53kg and able to run 10km in under 50 mins”

    …..concentrate on it, see it, in-vision it. How do you look, feel, act when you have achieved it. Once you have got this, ask yourself why you want it. And whatever your answer is, ask yourself why you want that? Do this at least 3 – 4 times. You are discovering your “values”, what really drives you to do the things you do. Often people do not just want to lose weight. But want the things that losing the weight will give them (self esteem, increased confidence etc.). Identifying these core drivers or “values” is what will keep you going when things get difficult. Understand your vision, and why you are truly trying to achieve that vision, are your strongest allies in moving forward and achieving great success.

    Once you have this Vision in your mind – concentrate on your first OUTCOME.

    Outcomes are things you have to achieve on the way to achieving your vision. You can think of it as breaking the vision down into smaller chunks. Often thinking of something 1 year away is too far, thinking about what you need to achieve in 3 or 4 weeks is easier to concentrate on. If you want to lose 18 kg in the year (something that would be easy for us at Studio41), then it would make sense that after 4 week you have lost 1.5 kg. This would be your first “outcome”. If you do not achieve this first outcome you have a choice

    Change the goal to what you now know is more realistic or
    Change your weekly commitments to achieving the goal

    Once you break your vision down into outcomes, you only need to concentrate on your first outcome. You have to ask yourself what you have to do this week to achieve your first outcome. These are called your WEEKLY ACTIONS. Concentrate on just achieving your weekly actions should lead to achieving your first outcome. Then this will put you on track to achieving your vision. By doing the small things you will achieve the large things. One final point to remember – even though you are concentrating on achieving your weekly actions, keep in mind both your Outcomes and most importantly your Vision. Your Vision is the ‘why’ behind what you are doing and is what ultimately drives you, and gives you the reason for working so hard on your weekly actions.

    So the essence of goal setting is to put in your mind exactly what you want to have, break it down into workable chunks and then go out and start achieving. One important principle to understand is the concept of NO FAILURE ONLY FEEDBACK. To understand this is to understand that you cannot fail at anything. Workout a goal, put your outcomes in-place and work on your weekly actions. If you do not achieve your weekly actions and therefore do not reach your first outcome, a lot of people give up at this point believing that they have failed. Just take this as feedback, remember when this happens you have 2 choices,

    Change the goal to what you now know is more realistic
    Change your weekly commitment to achieving the goal

    So….change something and go again, and again, and again until you finally experience success. People put a lot of pressure on themselves to get it right the first time. This is unrealistic if you are doing something without ever having done it before. True failure is giving up in pursuit of your goal.

    So good-luck, set your goal and don’t look back until you have achieved it.

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  • Sugar – Sweet With a Bitter Aftertaste.

    1 November, 2013

    A Report from the Credit Suisse Research Institute.

    A couple of interesting points from the Credit Swiss Research Institute research paper that came with this video was.

    1. There is not one single bit of research that shows sugar is good for you.

    2. Ingesting a beverage did not change how many calories people ingested during the subsequent meal, or in the following 24 hours. When a solid food was given, the were lass calories consumed in the subsequent meal and in the following 24 hours. Suggesting that calories from liquid nutrition were somehow processed differently and therefore added on to the total calories consumed.

    3. Globally, 35% of adults are considered overweight and 12% of all adults are obese 6. The rates of obesity increased from 5% for men and 8% for women in 1980 to 10% of men and 14% of women in 2008. It is now estimated that 7 205 million men and 297 million women over the age of 20 are obese, or more than half a billion adults worldwide.

    4. The direct cost of managing obesity-related conditions has been estimated to be around USD 190 billion in the USA alone. There are also indirect costs related to issues such as increased absenteeism, increased disability and increased premature mortality that have been estimated to add as much as USD 66 billion in additional costs in the USA.

    5. The extensive lobbying power of the sugar industry is legendary (it is often referred to as the second most political commodity in the world – after oil). The industry is a huge employer across the globe (there are 15 million cane growers in China, and 350,000 beet growers in Europe). Politicians are very sensitive to protecting these businesses, and tailor regimes to do exactly that.

    6.Natural fruit juices and fruit juices derived from concentrate do not fare much better than full-calorie sodas when looking at this issue from a health perspective.

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  • Here we go…..

    3 October, 2013

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  • Why A Good Gym Is Important

    12 July, 2013

    In the current fitness world where better and bigger is better, from big logos, big brands and of course big claims, we as consumers get caught up in the marketing hype and are focuses on the wrong things. Everybody has the “best equipment”, “best trainers” and of course promotes the “best results”. We are bombarded with false images of what a gym can do. The buildings are big, equipment is in and a 24 hour access card on the door. With the message really being – good luck by yourself. No one speaks to you (unless you pay them too) and you are left with a poor program from a poorly educated fitness professional that when left to yourself does little to help you move towards your results.

    We need to change this as people deserve better. I want to create a model where the boss asks about the results the clients are getting and not about profit, believing if the members are looked after profits will take care of themselves. It is not about cutting corners at every expense. Surely it is about creating a level of service that should be expected. Where you are pushed at every level, personal training or not. Being pushed not just in the gym but also in your lifestyle, to make positive changes – making your choice gym a complete lifestyle overhall. No other gym has a gleaming proud red prowler (in the picture) and this really sets the tone of what we are creating here at Studio41 – Gym on Victoria St. A focused environment where you are pushed and for the first time a gym becomes what it should be – a life changing experience. We are not the cheapest, but you wouldn’t expect that. To have a capped membership, employed people to actively push you, more experienced owners than any other gym in New Zealand, the weekly cost is a little more and we are ok with that. Our first client has finished his first 4 weeks and he has lost 4.4% bodyfat and has put on 2 kg of muscle mass – Not many gyms can say that. Infact most gyms couldn’t say anything as they don’t measure. I am proud of the gym here on Victoria St as we have the opportunity to show the club owners who do not even exercise what a gym should be. We are not the biggest and don’t have the biggest brand, but we are the most passionate and experienced to bring you what the fitness industry is lacking – a gym with a focus on you.

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  • Why do we supply post workout shakes at Studio41?

    17 June, 2013

    “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day or is it”?

    The concept of liquid nutrition have been around for decades and was initially used within the medical field. However, over the years sport scientists, strength and conditioning coaches and sport medicine doctors have refined the concept to enhance athletic performance and alter body composition. Infact if you want to alter your body composition quickly, what you consume post workout is vitally important. I would like to say it is very complicated but its not. Here are the nuts and bolts of the cocktail.

    Not just Protein (PRO) but Whey Protein is the protein of choice as it enters the blood stream faster. This will allow it to enter the muscle and repair the damage induced by your training session. Tip: Don’t buy the big mixture tubs just buy the plain straight Whey Protein Isolate or Concentrate. The more it says on the tub the less it actually does.

    Carbohydrates (CHO) can come in powder form ie malto dextrin or dextrose which is basely a form of plain glucose. Fruits juices as in grape or berry juices can also provide quick and easy carbs. Tip: Sugar (in different forms) is not expensive, the best choice for a CHO product is called Vitargo.

    Glutamine: is an Amino Acid which has numerous functions is the body. One of which helps maintain your immune system and Gastrointestinal Tract. Tip: buy Glutamine in a plain tub and add it to your shakes in quantities specific to your needs rather than buying it included in a Protein/Carb wonder powder.

    The 10% Rule, my boss and mentor Charles Poliquin strongly believes CHO should not be include in post workout shakes until the athlete is sub 10% body fat. NB if you are wondering whether you are below 10%, chances are your not. If you can see your abs or the separation of your quads your probably there. However, if you are not is it a sign that you may not process sugar very well and in this cases no carbs are recommended but a higher glutamine shake would work best untill you shed the excess body fat.

    Guidelines: The recommendation of post workout shake can change pending the individual, the training goal and as previously stated the body fat %. However, generally the follow is a good start and %’s can change to suit tolerance and progress.

    If sub 10% CHO 1 gram per lb of bodyweight (this is the maltodextrin)

    PRO .25grams per lb of bodyweight

    ( 200lb man = 200gram of CHO and 50grams of PRO)

    If above 10% body fat PRO = .25 grams per lb of bodyweight,
    Glutamine = .25grams per lb of bodyweight
    ( 200lb man = 50 grams of glutamine and 50grams of PRO)

    N.B – Glutamine is not that easy to take in high dosages, so I recommend start with 5 grams and work up to the ratio above and within a short time you should be on to the sweet tasting CHO sub 10% shakes.

    If you find these values too high then simply reduce the dosage. Also if you are also doing a lot of aerobic work a case could be made to put CHO in your post workout shake even if you are above 10% bodyfat. Just remember to listen to your body, if you are still tired during the week due to your training, try putting the CHO in to see if it makes a difference. If you find Vitrago hard to find then Maltodextrin is an easy alternative.

    If you want to find maltodextrin in NZ, then go to We buy ours from here and is much cheaper than paying for Horleys to put it in for you.

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  • Low Carb Diets Lead to Low Energy……

    16 May, 2013

    Yeah Right…….

    At Studio41 we don’t use the traditional food pyramid (it doesnt work), however nor do we agree with paleo. We have Our own nutritional protocols that work on someones level of insulin sensitivity, For all those technical people out there, this explains nicely why some people can be initially tired on a low refined carb diet…..

    “Fats burn in the carbohydrate flame” – People typically suggest that CHO are necessary if we want to burn fat optimally. To a certain extent, they’re correct.

    The Krebs cycle is something that we use in the body to create ATP (energy). For this to function optimally, the first step in the process is the joining together of Acetyl-CoA to a compound called oxaloacetate. Without adequate oxaloacetate in the cells, acetyl-CoA doesn’t gain access to the Krebs cycle and the Krebs cycle doesn’t run properly – hence low energy. Since oxaloacetate is a by-product of CHO metabolism, without adequate CHO metabolism, oxaloacetate will be in scarce supply, acetyl-CoA will accumulate, and the Krebs cycle will slow down.

    Partly for this reason, many individuals feel more sluggish on a low-CHO diet, especially when they first decrease their CHO intake. They simply aren’t generating enough ATP through the Krebs cycle to meet their energy demands.

    Further, the liver doesn’t have enough stored glucose to ship it out to the brain and RBC’s. Everything from brain function to physical activity slow down to match this new, reduced nutrient and energy availability.

    However, this doesn’t mean that one must follow a high CHO diet, if fat supplies are abundant in the body and fat intake adequate, the body will compensate after 7-14 days to this new intake with an increased production of ketone bodies as well as an increase in Krebs cycle enzymes. As CHO intake drops off and CHO metabolism dwindles, the liver initiates a process that takes the extra acetyl-CoA that’s not being run through the Krebs cycle and converts it into ketone bodies.

    These are then shipped out to tissues such as muscles, the brain etc where they are used for energy. This adaptation is commonly referred to as ‘fat adaptation’.

    The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition – Precision Nutrition

    If you are trying a low carb diet, it is absolutely normal to be initially tired and you have to give it time (2 weeks at least). Your energy does come up but make sure you supplement with a good quality fish oil and increase your fat intake. At studio41 we find that people consume refined carbs without a thought process behind it or even logic. Often it is being disorganised or miseducation that leads to this but after a few months with us here at Studio41 our clients learn what is an adequate amount to be healthy and as lean as they want to be (unfortunately it is often a lot less than what they are consuming currently).

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  • Stopping the silliness!

    6 April, 2013

    Getting real results from the gym

    I have walked into a gym too many times here in Wellington and seen people working on those ‘problem areas’ such as the back of the arms (often using tricep kickbacks) or endless sit-ups to somehow reduce the stomach. Lets break the myth now: sit-ups do not lower body fat on the stomach and tricep kickbacks will not tone your arms, and do not contribute to a good weight loss programme.
    At Studio41 personal training studio we know that burning body fat is about keeping the heart rate high and burning calories (fat) through demanding exercises recruiting large muscle groups. Sit-ups, conversely, are a relatively easy exercise with a low heart rate. Done properly you will be strengthening your abdominals, but don’t confuse strength with body fat. The amount of body fat covering a muscle is not directly correlated to the strength of that muscle. So although there maybe a case for doing sit ups, losing bodyfat on your stomach is not one of them.
    For a fat loss programme, the maximum rest you should have is 60 seconds between exercises (I know this may be hard in a busy commercial club). The logistics of leaving your piece of equipment for another only to come back 2 minutes later to find someone sitting on it are hard. But it has to be done. Believe it or not, the difference between 60 and 75 seconds rest is significant, so make sure you are starting the next exercise promptly, not still sipping water and 30 seconds away from the next exercise. This means you are actually moving quickly with minimal time to rest (or chat to your personal trainer about your weekend) – after all you are there for results. This is one thing we pride our selves on here at Studio41. All trainers have stop watches and will stop you from talking if it means you want start your next set on time. If your personal trainer here in Wellington does not use a watch while training you come down and we will happily show you what having a trainer should be like.
    When you are lean, though, these exercises actually make sense. Now you want to show off what has been underneath all that fat all along. But if you can’t manage 10 bodyweight dips or pull-ups you don’t need to do arm exercises. You will get enough benefit from keeping your exercises on a general push and pull level, which still works the arms but uses more muscle groups and of course keeps the heart rate higher. Use the following programme and when done with the correct rest times, it is an incredibly hard workout. Note that there is a stomach exercise included, but only one in amongst all that hard work. Note – the A1 is done with the A2 and then back to the A1 again until 3 sets is done. Then the same is repeated with the B exercises and 3 exercises are done in a row for the C exercises before repeating with the C1 again.

    A1 Back squats (3 Sets of 15 – then 45 second rest)
    A2 Pull-ups using neutral grip (3 Sets of 15 – then 45 second rest)
    B1 Lying leg curls with feet neutral (3 Sets of 12 – then 45 second rest)
    B2 Flat bench presses (3 Sets of 15 – then 45 second rest)
    C1 Dips (3 Sets of 15 – then 30 second rest)
    C2 Reverse crunches (3 Sets of 20 – then 30 second rest)
    C3 Leg presses – (3 Sets of 20 – then 60 second rest before back to C1)

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Prudential Building
332 Lambton Quay
P 04 499 8516