Our guide to getting in shape and feeling fit
We’ve all heard of the Dubai stone. You know, the influx of weight that slowly develops shortly after moving to the city as you begin to feel the effects of continuous nights on the tiles, a world in which fruit and vegetables don’t exist and attempting to survive on 27 minutes’ sleep every night. Is it any wonder we start to look a little frayed around the edges?
The problem is, of all the places in the world in which you could put weight on, Dubai is probably one of the worst. Why? With year-round sunshine and warm (try sizzling, in the summer months) weather, we spend much of the time wearing minimal clothing, so looking good is key.
After all, when you take your top off at the poolside brunch, you want people to be staring at you for all the right reasons. You can have the finest clothes and the smartest accessories in the world but the chances are, if you don’t look good, you won’t feel good. David Brent, the cringeworthy character played by Ricky Gervais in BBC comedy The Office, replied: “Fit body, fit mind” on being caught mid sit-up by his boss in the middle of the working day, and it’s difficult to argue with that particular sentiment, largely because it’s so true.
The fitness industry has never been in ruder health, and people have never been so obsessed with getting fit and, once achieved, staying fit.
Spend time in any normal office and you will hear the same type of conversations throughout the day. Tom in accounts beating himself up for eating a bar of chocolate during his lunch break, Sarah in HR furious with herself for going back on her promise to not drink at last night’s event.
We’ve never counted so much, either. Whether it’s calories, steps or the hours until our next spin class, everything is taken down and accounted for.
For blokes living in Dubai, putting on weight is easy. You finish work and the sun is shining so, naturally, you fancy a drink. And with so many fine establishments to sip your beverage in, well, it would be rude not to, wouldn’t it? Then, come the weekend, it’s party time. The options are endless. Brunches with unlimited food and drink, or a day at the beach club stuffing your face and sipping away until you’re no longer able to lift your bloated belly off the sunbed. Either way, the chances of you spending your Friday chewing a salad and downing a kale and beetroot smoothie are pretty much non-existent.
But while gaining weight can be achieved within minutes (that’s how it feels to us, anyway), losing the love handles is a far more difficult proposition, particularly if getting stuck into hops on a regular basis throughout the week is your idea of fun and, let’s face it, why wouldn’t it be?
Of course, the “eat less, move more” rule is an obvious guide to follow when attempting to trim down, but it’s not quite that simple. It’s more about what you eat, rather than how much. You can’t out-run a bad diet, as they say, so the nutritional side of the equation is imperative. Put simply, if you want to get in shape, you need to eat properly.
Luke Gaffney is a Nike trainer here in Dubai and he provides some insight into the importance of nutrition when you’re trying to get in shape.
“When it comes to losing weight, the most important thing is to create a calorie deficit,” explains Gaffney. “You need to be burning more calories than you’re taking in.
“Nowadays there are plenty of apps which allow you to track this information, so make the most of them and log everything, that’s massively important and will enable you to keep on top of your calorie intake.
“It doesn’t matter how much exercise you do. You could be training twice a day, seven days a week, but if you don’t create a calorie deficit it won’t make a blind bit of difference.
“You also have to eat well because while working out is obviously important, a good diet is crucial. There has to be some balance so I generally tell my clients to work towards achieving a ratio of eating well 80 percent of the time.”
Regardless of how well you’re eating, completing some form of exercise on a regular basis will undoubtedly improve your chances of losing weight. Whether it’s HIIT (high intensity interval training), the method on which Joe Wicks, AKA The Body Coach, has built his fitness empire, or something else entirely, moving matters.
In terms of exercise, though, what should you be doing, and in what way, in order to ensure you are looking your very best for that all-important pool party which is just around the corner?
“You need to start moving, and ideally the best way of doing that is to find a form of exercise which you enjoy because so many people spend their time doing something which just feels monotonous,” says Gaffney.
“Running is very good and HIIT is hugely beneficial if you want quick results. It’s also very helpful if you don’t have much time on your hands because you can get a lot done in a short space of time. However, you need to be careful when doing HIIT because you’re pushing your body to its limit at various points, so recovery is massively important.”
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you run, swim, cycle, row or walk, in terms of fat loss they will all have the same impact as long as you are completing your sessions in the right way.
So, we all love a hops, that’s pretty obvious, but given the fact it’s one of the main causes of your expanding waistline, should you really be going anywhere near the stuff when trying to lose those pounds it’s responsible for you putting on in the first place? The answer, like most things when it comes to health and fitness, is that it’s okay in moderation, but regular usage is going to cause a problem.
“The best thing to do is assess how much you drink over the course of a seven-day period and limit accordingly,” explains Gaffney. “If, for example, you’re a big drinker and you enjoy going out and having a laugh, you should probably think about cutting it down to a couple of
days a week.
“But it’s also important to remember that when it comes to drinking, it’s often the trips to fast-food restaurants at the end of a heavy night, as well as the junk food the following day when suffering with a hangover, which can cause the biggest problems.
“Some drinks are obviously worse than others and in this day and age it’s easy to choose a slightly better option, such as a low-carb hop, or a mixed drink that has fewer calories, so that’s also worth taking into account.”
Of course, the mere mention of the gym evokes images in our heads of bodybuilding world champions, and while of course nobody is suggesting you need to work yourself into a position where it becomes difficult to find shirts which fit around your bulging biceps, doing some work on the weights in the gym can certainly help when it comes to trimming down, says Gaffney.
“The more muscle mass you maintain, the more fat you burn, which is why strength training, such as using weights, can be hugely beneficial.” he says.
“When training with weights, it’s important to remember that it’s all about quality over quantity.
“Over long periods your weight training sessions should become more intense and, just like with the calories, make sure you
If you are going to the gym on a regular basis, and following the same routine, there is a chance you could quickly become bored, which in turn leads to a lack of motivation in the long term. For this reason, it’s important you introduce as much variety to your schedule as possible. Don’t simply rely on repeating the same exercises day in, day out. The body needs to be challenged. If running is your preferred method of cardio training that’s fine, but perhaps mix it up by jumping on the bike, or the rowing machine, a couple of times every week.
Those rules apply to your diet as well. Pre planning and preparing meals in advance is the best way of sticking to a strict eating plan, but there is no need to become a robot. If you eat exactly the same foods every day of the week you are certain to become bored of them, that’s just human nature. A balanced, varied food plan is the way forward, which means you should be eating plenty of lean proteins, carbohydrates and healthy fats, but all at the right time. Carbs are widely regarded as being bad for you if you want to lose weight, but brown rice and sweet potato, for example, are perfect for aiding recovery after a heavy session.
As well as the nutritional and fitness elements, one of the most important factors in ensuring you achieve your goals is making sure you are getting enough sleep. When you are exercising regularly, the body needs to recover, and the only way that will happen is if you sleep properly.
Naturally, if you’re embarking on gruelling gym sessions before most people have even opened their eyes, you will want to see some results. Preferably as quickly as possible. So, realistically, if you’re eating well, exercising regularly and limiting the drinking significantly, how quickly can you expect to trim down?
“Once again, it all comes down to the calorie deficit,” explains Gaffney. “As long as you are burning more than you’re taking on, you will start to see results.
“Initially, aim for a 500 calorie deficit. One pound of fat contains around 3,500 calories, so by creating a 500 calorie deficit each day, which amounts to 3,500 in a week, you should be able to lose 1lb of fat each week.”
So, there you have it. No more excuses, the time has come for you to whip yourself into shape and become the man you’ve always wanted to be. Temperatures are rising, and once you hit the gym, start putting the right foods into your body and, perhaps most importantly, lay off the hops, you will begin to notice the benefits of all that hard graft you’ve been putting in. This summer, it won’t just be the sunshine in Dubai that’s sizzling.
Follow Gaffney at instagram.com/luke.gaffney.training/
Dubai’s best boot camps
Boot camps are widely regarded as one of the best ways to trim down quickly, and there are plenty of options to choose from in Dubai.
A notoriously tough session, which will leave you drenched in pools of your own sweat, awaits at Barry’s, but if it’s quick results you’re after there are few better. A high-intensity, one-hour workout which combines weight training and running on the treadmill. Both tiring and enjoyable.
Where: Dubai Marina
Contact: +971 4 874 8476
Price: AED1,155 (for 10 classes)
Dubai Fit Boot Camp
Dubai Fit Boot Camps are the ultimate fat burning workouts. Strategically designed to give you the maximum results in half the time of traditional workouts. A combination of resistance training, bodyweight exercises and cardiovascular work will turn your body into a fat burning machine.
Where: Dubai Sports City
Contact: +971 4 559 5650
Price: AED700 per month (six-month membership)
Trainers will be on hand to inspire and encourage as you push yourself to the limit in a fun and social environment. Burning body fat and building stamina are the main aims, while you can also take on a six-week transformation challenge if you’re feeling confident.
Where: Various locations
Contact: +971 5 775 2510
Price: AED80 per session
Top five foods
To get in shape, you need to eat well, so chomp on these...
Great in moderation but high in calories, so try to avoid eating too many.
Loaded with antioxidants and high in fibre, as well as tasting lovely.
Perhaps not the most glamorous food, but a nutritional powerhouse. Get it down you.
A great source of lean protein and also lowers the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Full of vitamins and minerals, much healthier than the regular variety.