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I saved this book all year

I bought it in January and said I’d read it at Christmas on the condition that I read all the books I said I was going to read this year. Mission accomplished.

I’m only 27 pages in and already enjoying it immensely.

Here’s the little Amazon blurb

This is no ordinary book about boxing. Dark Trade is Donald McRae’s vivid personal journey through the intense and forbidding world of the professional fight game. Tyson, Bruno, Hamed, Benn, Eubank, Watson, Jones, De La Hoya and Toney confide in him their fears and longings. Their fantastic, almost mythological stories are uncovered in new and striking detail, derived from the hundreds of hours McRae has spent in their company.With wit, compassion and lucidity, Dark Trade examines the way in which race and violence beat at the heart of our society, and asks what forces men to pursue this most brutal kind of stardom, what drives their outrageous ambition.

Anyway, enough of this, time to get lost in boxing.

(quick sidenote, I’ve been working on a boxing screenplay for oh, I don’t know, about 8 years now. I believe I may actually finish a draft I’m happy with next year.)

I love December so much my lovely blog has been neglected

That’s pretty much the reason behind so few blog posts recently. I spend the whole year writing and focusing on all the different projects I have going on and then December comes around and I just want to down tools. It obviously helps when you have friends who have the same mindset.

I’ve spent most of the last couple of weeks playing pool or in the pub or watching football or boxing or just watching films. For someone who loves sport as much as I do I blog remarkably little about it, although I’ve been meaning to write about something I – and a lot of other boxing fans – found pretty damn funny that happened during the Manny Pacquaio vs Chris Algieri fight.

And of course December is a time to start thinking about the year to come and what you hope to achieve, as well as looking back. I started this blog in January and did a post on my 2014 resolutions and its time to see how many of them I achieved and which ones fell by the wayside.

Is Christmas really next Thursday? Damn, time is flying by.

Things I’m looking forward to the most in the next couple of weeks then? More drinks with mates, including the traditional Christmas eve meet-up full of mulled wine and snowball cocktails, and of course the food. Time to indulge methinks.

Energy drinks and schoolchildren

There is a talk radio station called LBC that I sometimes listen too and recently one of the topics they covered was about a school that had banned energy drinks such as Red Bull, Monster and Relentless and subsequently seen a massive improvement in pupil behaviour.

This is something that I’ve mentioned on this blog before and also ties into other articles I’ve written elsewhere.

I’m firmly of the opinion that these kind of drinks should absolutely be banned in all schools. I’m tempted to go into how I can’t even understand why there is this culture of kids drinking energy drinks; certainly when I was in secondary school I and all of my friends had energy to burn. Children and teenagers drinking caffeine and energy drinks has always seemed absurd to me but I suppose there is an argument to be made – and I often do make it – that these sorts of things are marketed in such a way that they seem appealing regardless of whether you really want or need them and then, when you factor in the sugar and caffeine content, it’s obvious why you have repeat customers. By the same token, those sugar and caffeine quantities also explain the increase of difficult to control behaviour in children that *gasp* drops off once these drinks are taken away.

Lets be honest, teenagers don’t need the kind of cocktails contained in these things to be hyperactive and difficult to control.

I always feel a little weird when I advocate for things like tougher laws and state intervention but when it comes to things like this I do believe it should be illegal to purchase these kinds of things when you are school age. I fail to see what kind of positive impact it can have on a developing child to be bombarded with sugar and caffeine.

The counter argument of parents playing more of a role in children’s diets across the board is of course true but the simple fact is that parents can’t be there 24/7 and this plus marketing plus impressionable youngsters means collective responsibility and action must be taken in certain situations. In this case a simple bit of legislation stating it is illegal to sell certain energy drinks to under 16’s is I think sensible. I’ll just end with this little bit copied from the linked article.

 

The Food Standards Agency advises that children limit their intake of drinks that are high in caffeine – saying the drinks ‘could potentially lead to short-term effects such as increased excitability, irritability, nervousness or anxiety’. 

A study by the Energy Drink Consumption in Europe found that large amounts of caffeine can cause heart palpitations, fits and even death, as well as raising the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Heavy consumption has also been linked to a greater risk of depression, addiction and alcohol dependency. 

 

My friend asked me to send an email giving advice on changing your diet and implementing a healthier lifestyle. Here’s what I wrote

A bit of background. I’ve gone through a process of changing my diet by cutting out processed food, eating healthier and also exercising more. I’ve been implementing these changes for probably the last 2-3 years. There was a lot of false starts before I sort of put everything together and realising the importance of the diet stuff. 

I was never fat, but I went through a period (a number of years in that early twenties stage of life) where I wasn’t exercising and eating a lot of junk food. Then one day I realised I wasn’t the fit kid I used to be. I remember eating a KFC on a Saturday afternoon and for some reason it hit me that there was a big ol’ layer of fat around my belly and I was like ‘hold on, this thing used to be flat man.’ I don’t know why but that day I was like no, I have to stop.

When I went back to playing football I couldn’t believe how much sharpness I’d lost and how sluggish I was. It sounds silly but in your head you’re always the person you were at your peak. I mentally extrapolated that feeling a few decades into the future and realised the road I was on fitness, diet – and in the long run probably health wise – and decided to make a change and get back into the shape I used to be in. I’d say I’m about a third of the way through making the changes I want to make because I’m planning on going the whole way and completely changing the way my body looks, but what I will say is that I’m healthier, stronger and fitter now than I’ve ever been.

In fact, the health benefits alone are amazing. When I was a static person eating rubbish all the time, I remember clearly every winter coming down with ailments and in fact just generally having the sniffles etc. Right now, hand on heart I can’t remember the last time I was ill (not including hangovers, I’m not a saint)

Anyway, because I’ve been chatting so much about all of this my friends have been asking me about what it is I’ve been doing and I’ve explained things over and over until finally my friend asked me to just write some stuff down, hence the reason this sort of just launches into stuff because it’s a continuation of previous talks. Anyway, here’s the email, if anyone else has anything to add etc stick it in the comments.   

First of all, by now you know the dos and don’ts of diet, so you to need to just make that a fundamental part of your lifestyle. If you do that, most other things will fall into place. The diet stuff is the easiest in theory to implement – just drink water, don’t eat processed food, substitute white for brown rice, don’t eat ANY bread, crackers, cut out sugar etc – but actually hard to do at first because most of the food we eat is addictive because of sugar content.

Cutting out sugar

Sugar withdrawal is a real thing (actually there’s debate on whether it’s an actual or just a psychological thing but you WILL suffer from cutting shit out). The quickest and easiest way to do it is just cut all sugar out for a week. Cold turkey. Nothing. Including alcohol.

You’ll probably feel lousy and irritable (might even have headaches, some people have cold like symptoms depending on how dependent your system is on rubbish) for a few of those days but you’ll come out on the other side with more energy, a clearer head and just generally feeling better. Again, just drink water as much as possible. In fact, just drink water full stop, if you want to do it you’ll do it.

Hunger 

You’re going to go through a phase of feeling hungry too when you cut sugar out completely because of the effect sugar has on your system but – and this is one of the key points – you’re appetite quickly settles back into a natural rhythm. Oh yeah and food tastes better after a while too once your tastebuds get used to real food again.

It’s no great secret that we eat WAY too much food in the western world and that most of it is junk that effectively shortens your life span and effects your cognitive abilities and quality of life. Seriously, if you don’t feel like you have more energy after a while of being clean then something’s wrong.

Once you’re used to eating a basic diet consisting of things like vegetables, lean meat, fish, nuts if you’re going to snack, you’ll see just how hard it is to actually put weight on. A natural diet is perfectly in keeping with providing you all the energy you need to do everything you need to do. In fact, even without exercise you’ll probably find you’ll drop a pound or three just through not giving your body nonsense.

Watch this video

I was going back and forth trying different things for ages until I watched this video and the basic message is just choose ONE thing and do that ONE thing for a minimum of 90 days, see what happens and then you’ll know from experience if it works or not. That was basically the point I decided to go for a cutting phase properly, follow what I thought was the best advice I’d read and watched over the years and see what happens. That’s how I know that the above works and it works supremely well, because I WAS and HAVE BEEN losing fat by doing the things I’m saying and for the most part I haven’t been exercising or doing weights (I’ll get to muscle stuff) during that period. I actually purposely stopped doing exercise apart from one thing (which I mention later) just to see how my body would react and weight still fell off. I mean I’m back to my usual routine now because exercise is a part of the whole process and makes you feel better.

Intermittent Fasting

I think you’ve seen that Horizon documentary about diet and fasting.

I also heard about IF fasting from some Hodgetwin videos so I started reading up on it (read this article, all of it has sources to back up its theories).

Just a quick point, once you delve into this stuff, you quickly find out most of the stuff about metabolism, metabolic slowdown from fasting, information about muscle loss, optimum metabolic window after exercise to optimise muscle growth is all utter BULLSHIT. No surprise really in regards to anything to do with muscle because it’s a multi-billion dollar industry and everyone is trying to sell supplements for this and that.

But anyway, you can read the article and see what you think, but intermittent fasting, and fasting in general, is one of the best, most effective things I’ve introduced into my lifestyle. Most days I’ll fast a minimum of 16 hours then get my calories in during the remaining hours (you’ll quickly know how to work it out so that it fits perfectly into your lifestyle.) I’ll regularly do a 24 hour one as well – the longest I did was thirty hours because I wanted to experience first hand what happens. The thirty hour one was for different reasons and it’s true that the longer you go you do feel a sense of calm and I wanted to see about things called ketones but I think I’d have to do longer for that. Basically the longer one was more for meditation/spirituality stuff.

The 24 hour fast though is definitely recommended, even if you only do it say twice a month.

And a daily fast (anything from 14-18 hours) is brilliant. It’ll regulate your diet, your energy, your mind, everything.

Muscle  

Everything mentioned so far is essentially working with your body and I want to look into things like calisthenics and see how it would work to take the body you’ve crafted through a healthy diet, continue that and see what physique you’ll get from just body weight exercises, as opposed to forcing more calories in. From what I’ve seen, the results would be equally as impressive.

But, adding muscle has its appeal and when/if I go back to that, it will most definitely be a clean bulk, with planning. The best most consistent advice I’ve seen so far is just to add 200/300 calories over your limit a day. In two weeks, if you don’t see a difference, add a bit more and so on and so forth, which seems far more preferable to just shoving everything in your mouth that you can lay your hands on. Most importantly though is to keep everything else in check. Work with your body.

Whatever I do in regards to muscle though, I’ll be following my own advice, choosing something and sticking to it for a good length of time. That really is one of the key things. Not a couple of weeks then nothing etc.

What I would recommend though is the 300 push ups a day plan during your cut or actually just as something to keep you ticking over. I’m in the middle of the 30 day plan and it actually is having some effect.

I should really have a section on sleep

Sleep

So here it is. This is the hardest thing to do because you’re working and when you’re in a job when you get home you want a few hours to chill and not be thinking about optimum sleep times. But still, 7/8 hours a night will do wonders for any progress you’re trying to make – muscle, weight loss – and having an hour in the morning to ease yourself into the day would also be good. Again, that kind of stuff is probably the hardest thing to implement but I do notice the difference in the way my body reacts to recovery and even weight loss when I’m in bed at a decent hour. I’d go as far as to say that if for a week you were asleep by the latest 11 but optimally 10 and awake at say 6 or 7 even your back would improve. You already know your body repairs itself in sleep and seriously don’t underestimate that. Good quality sleep with everything else is again working with your body for it to work properly.

Still, jobs and health and sleep is straying into work life balance and that’s a whole other discussion.

Finally   

Yes, finally the end but first a few other little bits. If you do wanna cut weight, an hours walk in the morning on an empty stomach for some reason is stupidly effective. Heard if from lots of different sources, tried it, it works. Don’t know if you can implement that. Cardio on an empty stomach works too, just nothing longer than 30 mins.

STOP EATING EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN WHEN YOU FINISH EXERCISING.

Meals shouldn’t be bigger than 300/400 calories a time.

And then, really finally, I would recommend reading some stuff on spirituality, psychoanalysis etc. Get your mind right and the body will follow. Just cherry pick what you like, leave what you don’t and build your own philosophy (pretty much like what you should do with all of this advice once you’ve got the diet fundamentals as part of your lifestyle). Don’t be a typical man and just dismiss this last thing out of hand, give it a real open minded try.

I’d recommend The Road Less Travelled and Fire in the Heart, which I’ve only just started but I like the approach of it.

Oh, here’s a girl talking about diet. Just saw this, pretty bang on.

That’s it.

Inquisitive: Part 3

hassanizzo:

It’s that time again – here is part three of my short story. Go go go read read read!

Originally posted on River Ram Press:

By Hassan Izzo

4

Before I go any further, I feel I should clarify something and that something has to do with my childhood. You see, it was brilliant. I never wanted for anything. Mum and Dad loved me and I loved them. I never did what I did because I was a troubled child. I wasn’t trying to bring attention to myself and it certainly wasn’t a series of cries for help. Still, I wonder how much undue attention I brought on my parents from my inquisitiveness. After all, we knew everyone on first name terms down at A & E by the time I was ten. From what I can remember though, no one ever suspected anything untoward was going on at home. I guess they took one look at my parents and could plainly see there was no malevolent undercurrent to their personalities and that I was…

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