All Posts By

Russell Whiteford

Confused about metabolism? Here’s what you should know.

By | Fuel, Nutrition

No doubt you’ve heard of the word metabolism. Most people will be familiar with the idea that it can slow down as you age and that a slow metabolism could be the cause of some unwelcome extra KG’s. So, what is it and why is it important to know a little bit about it?

In a nut shell, metabolism is the sum of all the chemical reactions taking place in your body. We often associate it with the rate at which our bodies produce or “burn” energy for movement and normal function. This is known as catabolism, the breaking down of molecules and is just half of the metabolic equation. The other half is the anabolic side, which includes repairing tissue, producing enzymes or hormones and building new cells.

Our bodies are amazing and there are many ways we can produce energy from a combination of fuels found in our blood, stored in our muscles or packed in some unwanted places as body fat. Metabolic issues arise when there is a breakdown in a metabolic process such as one of the steps involved when converting fuel to energy.

There are a stack of possible reasons we can experience metabolic sluggishness, which could include poor dietary and lifestyle habits, organ failure, disease, or it could be a result of genetic or hereditary conditions. Hereditary fructose disorder is an example of a rare condition where an individual has a deficiency in producing a specific enzyme responsible for one small step in the metabolic process of breaking down fructose, a common type of sugar. Without being able to produce FP1 aldolase (the missing enzyme) the person is unable to completely metabolise fructose leading to a build up of certain molecules in the body which will lead to serious health issues if left undiagnosed. Thankfully most of us don’t need to spend much time worrying about hereditary metabolic issues, however there is a vital link between our dietary and lifestyle habits and our metabolism which is important to understand.

Metabolism is like a fire

I recently heard Ryan Faenle, an accomplished nutrition and body building coach, use the analogy of metabolism being akin to a fire. With a lot of high quality fuel, the fire rages on but as the fuel burns down the flames die down so you add another log to the fire to build it back up. Similarly, when you have a consistent diet and are continually adding the right type of fuel to your body your metabolism will act like the fire that regularly has a new log thrown on top. However, making a large change to the amount or type of fuel you consume will change the nature and size of the fire. Understanding this and how it impacts your body can be your biggest advantage or it could be your biggest dietary trap.

Let’s say you start a diet (purely hypothetical of course) and consciously reduce the fuel available to your body. For a time, say 2 to 3 weeks, your body will source the fuel to make up the deficit from other places such as stores of fat and muscle glycogen which will likely result in weight loss. Yay! Winning! However, due to receiving less fuel your metabolic rate may start to adjust, becoming slower as you begin to preserve your remaining fuel stores. Your body craves stability and will do everything is can to adjust to it’s environment. If you continue restricting fuel, your metabolism will continue to slow down to protect you from fading away into a skeleton. This is why perpetual dieting or constant fasting can lead to a slower metabolism and why fat burning results from “dietary restriction” alone will generally reduce over time.

Yo-yo dieting or crash diets are even worse and are one of the least effective strategies when trying to lose weight. Although being on a calorie restrictive diet may give you some initial results, as you start to reduce your levels of stored fuel not only will your metabolism slow down but you will begin to experience hunger. With a small amount of will power this can be tolerated for a while. If you continue restricting calories further you’re hunger may become intolerable and you will experience an increase in cravings particularly for energy dense foods (the sugary, high carb stuff). Indulging in the foods you’re craving will cause you to put on weight faster than you lost it and you’ll now be a step behind where you started. One step forward, two steps back!

Eating more can boost your metabolism

On the flip side, if your body starts receiving a gradual increase in fuel (you’re consuming more calories) it will begin to increase metabolic rate to break down, use, store or excrete the fuel faster as there is now more available. The flame gets bigger. This can be combined with other strategies to increase you metabolism, ensuring that while you increase your calorie intake you don’t just add it all to your hips. Building lean muscle mass is one strategy as muscle tissue is responsible for a large percentage of your metabolic rate due to it requiring a higher amount of energy to maintain and due to it making up approximately 40-50% of your total body weight. High intensity interval training is another proven method and there are also certain foods which have metabolism boosting properties that can be added into your diet plan.

Achieving sustainable body composition goals, creating the shape, ideal weight and tone you desire, usually requires a combination of strategies and tweaks over a number of cycles. There’s rarely shortcuts available in life and resetting your metabolism is no exception. A nutritious diet, proper exercise programming, healthy sleep habits and consciously living a healthier life takes a concerted effort. Boosting your metabolism and your energy expenditure efficiency requires holding a view of the bigger picture to properly plan for the phases and the challenges of your progress. Let me assure you it’s worth it. You’ll be rewarded with achieving the results that you want and creating sustainable healthy habits that you’re proud of in the process.


Need a coach to help you navigate exercise, nutrition and overall wellbeing?

If you’re not sure where to start, a coach can help you establish your baseline, map out your growth, create tailored exercise and nutrition plans and help you achieve the potential you’re capable of.

What is a Wellness Coach anyway?

By | Coaching, Wellness
It took me some time to confidently proclaim to my friends and family that I am a “wellness coach.” In giving this statement the eyebrow test, I’d almost always be met with raised eyebrows and eyebrows don’t lie! Raised eyebrows usually signal surprise with a side note of criticism and imply people are quickly trying to figure out what exactly a wellness coach is before any words escape their mouth.
Before you raise your eyebrows, let me explain what a wellness coach is. The first part of the equation is figuring out what exactly wellness means, which is trickier said than done. Simply stated, wellness is your overall state of wellbeing. It’s more than freedom from disease, it’s being in a place of physical, mental and social/spiritual wellbeing so that you can perform in a manner consistent with your expectations. It encompasses lifestyle, environment and most importantly the self-evaluation of one’s quality of life.
The many facets of wellness can be viewed as a set of skills that are able to be learned, practiced and refined, similar to taking up a new sport. One of the best ways to master a new skill is under the guidance of a coach. Learning skills and techniques that enable you to enhance your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing will enable you to live a higher quality of life – as determined by yourself.
So the next part of the equation is the coaching part. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.
In todays “information era,” the coach is no longer the expert but rather a lead collaborator. The information to improve your wellbeing is more readily available than ever before. The problem is there is just as much mis-information, fad diets and click bait to leave people feeling confused about the direction they should take to improve their health, particularly in taking the first step. Here lies the value of a coach, to help guide you into making decisions that are aligned with your goals and your motivation.
Coaching is not instruction, nor is it judgement. A good coach will accept people for who they are in their current state and ask that they do the same. There is no point being ashamed of what has been or who you are, but rather focus on what will be and who you will become.
In a sporting or strength and conditioning sense, I have been doing this for over 15 years when I began as an 18 year old personal trainer, and have continued to coach others in the sporting, fitness and corporate arenas ever since. I’ve always had a passion for performance, helping others perform at a high level and achieve their fitness goals. Whilst I love physical training, I now offer more to clients to help them go deeper into their personal vision, their motivation and the reasons that are driving their desire for change. Through my coaching program I help clients explore mindset, self limiting beliefs, nutrition habits, exercise routines and establishing process goals which are going to have the biggest impact on creating a healthier and happy being.
The people that I work with inspire me. They have recognised that there are one or two clear dissatisfactions which have caused then to want to change something. Whether it’s weight loss, feeling fatigued, lacking motivation, wanting to feel better about themselves or wanting to look better, they have a desire that is strong enough that they are ready to express it. It is this state, the beginnings of change, which can be the start of something amazing.
My goal is to reflect that inspiration and instil in my clients a belief that they can make it happen. Then we create a clear roadmap to ensure it does happen. There is no one size fits all plan. Each individual will work through a series of exercises to establish a base line and build a vision before we begin to look into solutions or design programs, which could include any number of approaches. The outcomes, the process goals and the successes are ultimately driven by the client.

A little about the I GRASP Wellness philosophy

The core purpose of I GRASP Wellness is;
“To empower individuals to make incremental healthy changes to continually improve their life.”
The I GRASP Wellness coaching and corporate training programs are built on five foundational pillars that counter the reasons why progress can be challenging.
Guidance – To be the best version of yourself physically a small dose of guidance is invaluable in helping establish a vision and paint the picture of a healthier, happier future.
Rapport – Focus on people first, building relationships through careful listening, deliberate curiosity and thoughtful questioning. Genuine care for each individual, treating each person who connects with I GRASP as a client for life.
Accountability – Many people have great intentions to be the best version of themselves, however “you can’t intention your way to anything.” Accountability is reminding someone what they desire and why they desire it followed by acting to an agreed standard.
Sustainable – Consistency in executing the small things leads to great things. A wholesale change is rarely sustainable. It is near impossible to eradicate negative past behaviours simply because you have drawn a line in the sand. Self determined lifestyle changes are best achieved through incremental progress.
Progress – Is my purpose and my promise. These five areas of focus will help you to move forward.
When you commit to making a positive change with the help of the I GRASP Wellness one on one coaching program you benefit from:
  • A minimum of 12 coaching sessions.
  • Daily mobile messaging support and encouragement to keep you on track.
  • Wellbeing plans to suit your goals whether that’s exercise plans, nutrition and meal plans, weekly productivity planner or mental wellbeing planner.
  • Connecting with like minded people.
  • Subscription to our newsletter for weekly wellness hacks and tidbits.
If you want to know more, please don’t hesitate to connect with I GRASP through our website or send me a direct message.

My Story – I GRASP Wellness

By | Purpose, Wellness
Hi, I’m Russell Whiteford and I am the founder of I GRASP Wellness.
My core purpose and the reason I founded I GRASP Wellness is to empower individuals and teams to make sustainable healthy changes to continually improve their lives.
We’re living in one of the safest times to be alive in human history with more information and resources available at our fingertips than ever before. However, the burden of preventable and lifestyle disease, continues to increase year on year having a profound effect on our wellbeing as a society.

How I Got Here

I’ve always had a passion for performance. I grew up with a love of sport and being active which through many twists and turns led me down the path of physical performance, sports coaching, fitness centre management and then onto project and infrastructure management.
Following a degree in Exercise & Sports Science and an attempt at running my first business (where I actually had to pay employees), I worked full time in management positions for a number of years in local and state government organisations. Through an array of leadership roles in sport, work and while studying, I have been able to help so many people improve their fitness, health and their sport or work performance. However, somewhere along the way it dawned on me that many of the people I witnessed making improvements in their lives struggled to change their deep rooted behaviours, which ultimately hindered them when it came to sustaining progress.
My personal training clients or even my staff often looked to me as the “expert” who was going to tell them what to do to improve their health, skill level or performance. Somewhat of a lightbulb moment occurred when one day I realised, by labelling me as the expert others could project the ownership of their success, whatever that may have been, onto me. After all, I was leading them.
If they did not get to where they said they wanted to go, it was easier to justify slipping back into old habits as it was my program, teaching style or coaching method which had failed them. It was me who failed.
This realisation drove me to learn more about the importance of leading your own holistic wellness journey rather than focusing on specific elements such as cardiovascular fitness or core strength. Behaviours, habits and self determined lifestyle goals are the real measure of success rather than 4 minute kms or ticking off an annual performance review. The sometimes small “process” goals make all the difference in creating enduring change. My change of thinking motivated me to learn more about other areas of health and is why I am now undertaking post graduate study in the field of Human Nutrition.
As a husband and father of two boys it’s more important than ever that I define and live up to my own version of success and be clear on the cost that I am willing to pay to attain it. The mental representation of success that I hold is based on an Earl Nightingale quote that has always stuck in my mind and is extremely relevant to how I work with people now:
    “Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy goal or ideal.”
It’s totally subjective, and that’s the point. Your baseline measurement is relevant only to you and where you are at right now before devising your next goal. It’s not the images you see on Instagram or even the your own pictures from 7 years ago that pop-up in your Facebook memories.
To be a great leader and restore your wellness potential you don’t need to immediately flip your life upside down nor embark on a journey of enlightenment in search of an “aha” moment. That comes later when one day you realise the sum of all the seemingly insignificant lifestyle tweaks amount to the life you’re aspiring to, and the best version of you.

The Foundation of I GRASP Wellness

CORE PURPOSE – Why does I GRASP Wellness exist?
“To empower individuals and organisations to make incremental healthy changes to continually improve their lives.”
Incremental, healthy and improvement are subjective and are relative to each individual.
VISION – Our vision is:
“To have a meaningful impact on the health of 1,000,000 people, helping them improve the quality of their own lives though I GRASP Wellness.”
CORE VALUES – Our foundational pillars and our guiding behaviours.
  1. Guidance – We guide people on a self directed journey of empowerment and assist them to build their vision of a healthier, happier future.
  2. Rapport – We focus on people first, building relationships through careful listening, deliberate curiosity and thoughtful questioning. We genuinely care for each individual, treating each person who connects with I GRASP as a client for life.
  3. Accountability – Through genuine relationship and the absence of judgement mutual accountability propels us forward.
  4. Sustainable – Manageable, self determined lifestyle adjustments multiply and result in enduring change.
  5. Progress – Hope, commitment and action provide the positive feedback loop to perpetually fuel progress.
Thanks for joining me on this journey.

The Three Most Common Mistakes Guys Make in the Gym When Wanting to Stack Muscle

By | Movement

Do you even lift?

Of course you do. Not only do us guys love to see the product of our hard work, the ripples and bumps of muscle definition peeking out from under the sleeves of our T-shirts, lifting feels good. Pushing and pulling that weight and feeling the pump in your arms is a great feeling. Not to mention the positive endorphins that are released which have an opiate like effect on our brains. That’s right, lifting heavy weight (properly) provides a natural high that lasts long after the workout itself. If you have never heard Arnie describe the feeling of “the pump” treat yourself to the 2 minute youtube clip when you’ve finished this article!

For any guy who is regularly getting to the gym, there’s a reason why you are putting in all that grunt work. Usually, a desired increase in muscle size and/or strength is high on the list. Whether sport related or just a matter of keeping yourself in shape, when you are going to the gym with any sort of routine, it’s likely you want to see progress over time and that means muscle growth.

A lot of guys will experience a plateau in their lifting, a point where they are not seeing any progress in their body shape or on the scales, nor are they increasing their weights or reps. There can be many reasons for a plateau, often they are caused by being stuck in the same routine, doing the same exercises and sticking with what you are comfortable with in the gym.

A great program that is periodised and targets a specific goal is the best way to avoid a plateau. However, even the best program will not save you if you are making the following three common errors. Everyday these three mistakes are robbing guys of pure muscle at gyms all around the globe.

Lifting too Heavy

We’re all guilty of this one guys. We use weight to measure progress in the gym and we are quick to jump to the next set of dumbbells or throw the extra 5kg plates on the bench press. We see others lifting more than us and we want to measure up. The weight we lift becomes another symbol of status in your workout community.

When someone reels off their max bench or deadlift, politely take it with a grain of salt until you’ve seen them control the weight. I don’t mean for you to be sceptical or critical towards your fellow lifters, but the number one mistake I see all the time in the gym is guys trying to bicep curl 22kgs using every muscle in their body along with their biceps. Traps, delts, quads (yep that’s right) and of course the grand master when it comes to lifting incorrectly – the lower back.

Bicep curls provide an easy example, but it’s not just the curls that are the culprit, you will see it time and time again with all sorts of exercises.

Key point – Your body doesn’t know the number on the dumbbell, it just responds to the stimulus. What is it that you are trying to get from each exercise you do? If you are doing a curl to increase the size of your bicep rather than get a full body pump, the you need to target the bicep which means controlling the weight with that particular muscle. It’s really that simple.

Sticking to Numbers

Hitting your target number of reps may actually be hindering you. It’s so easy to do which is why it’s the next big trap robbing you of your muscle gains. When you know your target is 8 reps you can push through to that number. You can squeeze out one more when you get to 7. But when you stop at 8 reps, are you certain you couldn’t have lifted number 9?

My position on this is that numbers are ok for your first set or your warm up sets, but when it comes to your working sets, you’ve got to attempt the next rep. Always attempt the next rep. Know whether you can complete it or not. Obviously you must maintain your form so you lift until the weight gets stuck without compromising on your form. When it’s not moving any further without the help of a spotter and when you don’t have a spotter, you release. An experienced lifter will know the exercises that they can fail on safely without a spotter. If you’re not sure, ask a trainer or if you are starting out for the first time and hitting the gym by yourself, start on machines where there is no risk of dropping weights on your toes. While I’m not necessarily advocating for machine weights, I’m definitely advocating for safety first and foremost.

Key point – You’ve got to fail or come close to failure if you want progress and failing is mentally challenging.

Bouncing Through Reps

Bouncing through reps can be a symptom of the two mistakes above and all three often go hand in hand. What do I mean by bouncing through reps?

When you get to the end of the eccentric phase of the movement, that is, where your muscle is under tension while being in a stretched position and you rebound to quickly change direction of the movement. A bench press provides a good example, the eccentric phase is when you are lowering the weight to your chest and the end of the eccentric phase is when there is as much stretch in the muscle as possible and the bar is pretty much touching your chest. At this point you are about to move to the concentric phase of the movement when the muscle will shorten under the load.

Your muscles work in conjunction with your tendons and both have in built recoil mechanisms which basically prevent over stretching and injury. Within the muscle there are special fibres which contract to prevent the muscle from over stretching and in the tendon there is a group of receptors which cause a reflex to protect joints and prevent the possibility of joint displacement.

So bouncing occurs when you go from the eccentric phase to the concentric phase very quickly using the stored energy in these stretch receptors to contract your muscle.

While this is very effective training technique for improving performance in plyometric movements which are explosive and powerful movements such as jumping, it is not the best way to increase muscle size.

The One Common Factor

Now that you know my opinion on the three most common mistakes guys make when wanting to build muscle in the gym, what is the one thing that they all have in common?

They are all a symptom of not owning the weight you are lifting.

When you own the weight throughout the entire movement, you allow the muscle you are wanting to build to do the lifting. You undertake each exercise for a reason, you’re deliberate in your tempo of the movement and you focus on what’s happening all over your body to cause the weight to move. Constantly self correcting during your workout.

When you own the weight you build more muscle faster.

There are many tips to ensure you are getting the most from you workouts and there are obviously so many variables that can come into play to recruit the muslce firer types that you are targeting such as lifting speed, repetition tempo, range of movement and your bodies position in relation to the load.


Thanks for reading! At I GRASP Wellness, exercise programming is just one of the tools that we use to help people achieve specific results in relation to their health and wellness. If you want to build more muscle, connect with I GRASP today.

Restrict Eating Time for Weight Loss

By | Nutrition, Weight Loss

We’ve all looked in the mirror at one time or another and wanted to magic away the little bit extra that seems to have accumulated around our middle without our consent. What’s the first thing that comes to mind if I ask you what would you need to do in order to lose a few kg’s around your belly? Cut back on desserts, alcohol and chocolates and substitute those tasty chicken focaccia’s with unadulterated salads? While I’m not going to argue with that pretty reliable recipe for weight loss, however there is some fascinating research coming out now on the benefit of time restricted eating as a supplementary measure which may help you control your waist line.

Rather than restricting what you are eating or taking on another diet, restricting the time period that you allow yourself to eat each day might just have a bigger impact on your health than you think.

Dr Satchin Panda, a scientist and researcher who is leading research in the fascinating field of circadian rhythms, has demonstrated with mice that restricting eating times during the day to a 10 – 12 hour window provides a significant benefit to health and assists in regulating weight, blood sugar levels, quality of sleep and energy levels.

One such research study which has been replicated many times with mice has produced staggering evidence. In the experiment, the mice in one group are fed a high calorie, high fat diet and are able to eat their food over a long period of time and as you might expect they quickly became overweight and even obese. Another group of mice who eat the same diet and consume the same number of calories in a restricted time window are better able to maintain their weight and remain healthier as shown by a number of markers. Step back and let that sink in for a moment! Two different groups of mice ate the same food, consisting of the same number of calories with the only difference being the period of time in which they ate their food and one group got fat and the other didn’t! As I said, this study has been replicated many times with mice from the same litter.

Human volunteers are now trialling time restricted eating whilst contributing to further research in the area through a new app called myCircadianClock. Participants have indicated that within a few weeks they are experiencing better quality sleep, the feeling of having more energy and are better able to manage their weight. Anybody can sign up to participate in the trial and contribute to the research through the website Participants are required to input data into the app such as what they eat and when they sleep and exercise. This app provides a great accountability tool if you have thought about tracking your sleep, exercise and nutrition habits. Of coarse you could always do this yourself or with the help of a coach.

If you would like to go deeper on the subject of circadian rhythms, follow Dr Panda’s work at the SALK Institute. He also has a TEDx talk on the subject which provides a great overview.

Bodily Functions Tied to Circadian Rhythms

Many of your body’s functions are tied into it’s natural circadian rhythm, which is akin to an inbuilt clock that regulates our bodily systems. The production of melatonin for example, known as the hormone of darkness, is a naturally produced hormone in the body that prepares your body for sleep. It is produced in increasing quantity during the evening and into the night. Then during the early hours of the morning as its levels decrease, your body’s metabolism begins to increase and prepares you for the activity of the day.

You might be surprised to know that you have melatonin receptors in many organs of your body which seems to indicate that melatonin is somewhat of a conductor keeping many hormones and body systems in synchronisation and helping to regulate the daily cycle of activity, rest and regeneration. Low levels of melatonin may impact on your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels and not only cause you to have lower quality sleep but increase fat storage.

There are many facets which impact on your state of wellbeing with sleep being a major one. When addressing a wellbeing issue or challenge, I’m an advocate for examining lifestyle factors which may be contributing to the issue. If you are having trouble with your weight, what variation could you implement to see whether it has an impact? Time restricted eating could be one such strategy well worth a go, not only to assist with weight control but also with your quality of sleep.

Implementing time restricted eating is as simple as committing to only eating during a designated 10 to 12 hour window. There is no need to race down to the supermarket to stock up for a drastic change to your diet. You could start tomorrow with an eating window of 7am to 7pm and not eating outside of those times which should be achievable for most people.

In doing so you will be assisting your body to regulate over a 24 hour cycle. Reducing late night eating will also assist you to increase your melatonin production in the evening and improve your quality of sleep.

There are many other tips and tools available to increase your sleep quality such as sleep tracking apps and reducing exposure to light in the evening. There are even specially designed blue light blocking glasses you can wear at night to counter the effects of certain spectrums of light known to reduce your melatonin production. A perfect solution if you often find your way to the front of a computer screen at night, or even a phone! Yes, I’m guilty too…

The takeaway here is that subtle changes in your routines and lifestyle can have a massive impact on your health over time. When you look back, it’s amazing how a number of seemingly small changes add up to produce a massive shift in your wellbeing and overall outlook on life. That’s the purpose of I GRASP Wellness, to help individuals and teams make incremental and sustainable adjustments to improve health and make you feel great.