A Fashion Blog By Gemma Talbot

Saturday, 28 April 2018

My Fitness Journey: The Things I Train to What I Eat In A Day

New Year, New you and all that jazz. Most people use the new year to really kick start their mission to become #projectlean or to make some kind of change at least with regards to fitness. Fast forward four months, have you given up? Or have you stayed motivated? I will say I've mean meaning to publish this post for a few months now (notice the Autumn leaves on the ground) but I've kept putting it off at fear that people would think I am preaching which believe me is not the case at all.

My fitness journey started around February of 2017. I'd had enough of feeling quite frankly dissatisfied with my body, especially after the Christmas over indulging and knew it was time to take action. I've always had a slim frame but I really do believe that it doesn't matter what size you are, you're never going to be completely satisfied with your body. There is 9 times out of 10 going to be one aspect you want to change or work on in some way. That's my opinion anyways. So in today's post I am talking all things fitness. I don't claim to be a fitness expert by any means. I'm just your average girl doing her best to stay fit and healthy but below I'm talking about my struggles with body image and the things I feel have worked for me and what has ultimately resulted in me embarking on my very own fitness journey. 

I've always been relatively into fitness. From about the age of 15 I used to train occasionally at the gym with my Dad and I guess that's where it all started. Since half way through my first year of uni I joined the gym and as such made a conscious decision that I wanted to get fit. I used to always have a love-hate relationship with the gym. I loathed doing any sort of cardio but loved being thin. I'd often drag myself to the gym and then count down the minutes until I could leave or until I had either spent 40 minutes on the cross trainer or burnt at least 500 calories. Looking back, I cannot believe what an unhealthy state of mind this was. I never had an eating disorder but there were times at uni where I would be very careful about what I ate.

Some days I would survive on porridge for breakfast, a banana and coffee for lunch and a healthy low fat dinner of chicken and vegetables. This probably wouldn't even equate to 1000 calories which is utterly ridiculous and even more unhealthy. The only way I can account for this behaviour is that at the time I was in a very toxic relationship which left me an emotional wreck and food was the only control I seemed to have over my life. I remember never feeling thin enough but looking back at photos now I would never want to be as skinny as I was back then. At my thinnest I weighed 8 stone, 3lbs which for my 5'8 frame was pretty slight. I looked ill, malnourished and basically a bag of bones but essentially was extremely unhappy and had an unhealthy relationship with food and fitness. A classic case of extreme body dysmorphia. I never really had a solid routine when it came to working out. I'd be really good for three weeks and then not step foot in the gym at all for a month and weight training was not even on my radar. One thing I've learnt when it comes to fitness is that consistency is key. 

Fast forward a good few years (six to be precise) I now have a completely different mindset and couldn't be further from that person mentioned above if I tried. Firstly, I absolutely love food. Brunch has become one of my favourite activities if you couldn't tell by the photo included below and I certainly don't count calories. I'm eating way more than I ever have but essentially I'm training hard and absolutely loving it too. Endorphins aside, going to the gym actually makes me feel mentally better. Particularly with my job, I often have very little time to switch off so working out regularly makes me feel refreshed and keeps me sane. I also feel like my productivity levels are much higher and it helps me sleep better too. So much so that I often find myself feeling irritable and guilty if I don't train. It's like a little voice inside my head that niggles away at me if I don't go. One would say I've become quite the gym bunny but ironically I've traded in smashing cardio for lifting weights. The absolute key to toning up in my opinion and also making me feel strong.

Whilst I've always liked looking lean, I have been bulking for the past few months. For any new gym goers this basically involves increasing your calorie consumption in an attempt to build muscle. By more calories, I don't mean stuff your face with all the junk food you can get your hands on. By bulking I mean eating more, but basically getting healthy fats, carbs and proteins from a number of different sources. I will explain in more detail below.

I'm in no way body building or competing but I have been attempting to tone up and build a bum. All in aid of the #bootygains. At the risk of eliciting any eye rolls right about now I do find it quite hard to put on weight which is why for a few months now I have been eating 4-5 meals a day. Granted they are lean meals generally consisting of fish, chicken and meat of some description with veg and good carbs but it's definitely more than your average person would eat. I do however like to live by the 80-20 rule though and I still treat myself because in the words of Gigi Hadid you need to "eat a burger to keep you sane".  What I will say though is I've noticed such a difference in my overall physique with a good diet. Personal trainers and fitness experts really do harp on about diet being key and believe me it couldn't be more true. After all, abs really are made in the kitchen and I can 100% say that you can never out exercise a bad diet. Portion sizes are key and everything in moderation as your grandma would kindly remind you.

I have included a general idea for you below of the types of things I eat on a daily basis and also the questions that many of you have asked me on Twitter and Instagram. I do try and meal prep where possible, at least in the week anyways. I usually give myself the weekends off and this for me has been the key factor in seeing results through consistent training and a good diet and for also keeping me on track. I've had people message me with regards to meal prep basically saying they don't have time. Personally, I think this is an excuse (no offence). All it takes is setting aside an hour of your time on a Sunday and most of the meals I make can be put in the oven and left to cook with very little attention required. If any of you have been following my fitness Instagram then you'll know that this is something I have been preaching about for a while now. I do try and stick to the below as much as possible but as I said I'm not competing so I'm not too hard on myself either. If I want the slab of cake, I'm not going to deprive myself but what I will say is that meal prepping and getting into a routine of working out is definitely a lifestyle change if you want to commit to it properly. With that said, I'm absolutely loving the fitness path I've found myself on.

What I Eat:

Below is a rough idea of the types of things I eat on a daily basis. Whilst the food might be quite similar I do try and mix it up to stop me from becoming bored.

Meal 1:

Option 1

4 medium sized eggs (2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites) and half a tin of Heinz reduced sugar beans. Reduced sugar is just my personal preference but normal baked beans are also fine. What you may not know is that baked beans are actually a really good source of carbs (and very low in fat) and eggs contain lots of protein (particularly egg whites) as well as healthy fats. If you're vegan then an excellent protein source alternative to eggs would be tofu.

This meal gives me the following:

316 calories, 9.4g fat (5.2g saturated), 26g carbs, 29g protein. Note here I am mainly concerned about the protein and carb benefit.

Alternatively, if I don't feel like having eggs for breakfast because sometimes I just don't, I'll have porridge instead as it keeps me full and is also a great source of slow releasing energy particularly on leg day where you need all the extra carbs to fuel your session. As the weather gets warmer, overnight oats are also a great shout.

Option 2

Usually I'll have anywhere between 50-70g of oats which I make with 1/2 almond or oat milk and 1/2 water. I usually add 1 scoop of protein world chocolate slender blend, chia seeds, blueberries or sometimes banana and top with 1 teaspoon of pip and nut peanut butter which makes it tastes delicious. If you don't have time to make this in the morning, use all of the above ingredients to make overnight oats, store them in tupperwear and take to work with you to enjoy when you can.

Option 3 (on the move)

My favourite breakfast to have on the go is basically a smoothie consisting of 50g oats, 400ml almond milk, 1 medium sized banana, 1 scoop of peanut butter, 1 teaspoon of Protein World superseeds and 1 scoop of Protein World Chocolate slender blend. You can always make this the night before by blitzing it in your blender and storing overnight in the fridge in your protein shaker ready for the morning.

Meal 2:

Chicken, fish (cod, trout, salmon) or some kind of meat (approximately 100g/fillet equivalent) with veg and 125-150g carbs (brown rice, sweet potato). The key to not making your meat bland is to season it and this varies the taste with each meal. Some people don't mind plain chicken breasts but for me I need to like the taste of what I am eating to enjoy it which means ALL of the seasoning.

Meal 3:

Usually the same as meal two but I like to vary my meat so I don't get bored and remember there is so much you can do with seasoning. Some of my favourites are Nando's medium peri peri rub or marinade, jerk seasoning, lemon peppa, all purpose seasoning, Caribbean everyday seasoning and also fajita seasoning all of which are readily available from all supermarkets. I usually get mine from Sainsbury's from the exotic foods section.

Another great carb that I've recently discovered is plantain. If you have never tried it I urge you all to. When you fry it in coconut oil it is absolutely delicious. One medium plantain has the following nutritional values and for someone that is trying to build lean muscle this is a perfect carb source for me.

218 calories, 0.66g fat, 57.08g carbs, 2.33g protein

Post workout:

I go through phases of drinking protein shakes. Sometimes I can have one after every session but other times I don't really fancy them. When I am feeling like a protein shake, particularly after my more intensive sessions such as leg day I have the slender blend protein powder by Protein World. They also sell these amazing slender blend sachets which I swear by as you can just throw them in your handbag or gym bag and have it ready after your workout. I've read around this a little and it's believed that the optimum protein window time is 15-30 minutes after your workout. That's when I choose to have my protein shake as it's a great way to aid recovery and for your muscles to repair after an intensive session. You can't beat the vanilla flavour but some of my other favourites from Protein World include chocolate, cinnamon roll and gingerbread. Yummmmmmm.

There's no denying that a more natural source of protein is best  (breast is best or so they say ha) post workout such as a chicken breast or fish (or meat alternative if you are veggie/vegan) but it's not always feasible which is why a protein shake is convenient and suits many lifestyles. I've been using the slender blend range for well over a year now and can hand on heart say I love them. I don't use these shakes as meal replacement to lose weight but if this is your goal you can obviously use them for this. I tend to mix my shakes with water as opposed to milk or nut based milks because it takes longer for your body to digest milk therefore the protein hits your muscles at a lower rate. If you are Vegan, Protein World also have a vegan range which is made from pea protein as opposed to whey, which my friend absolutely loves using. I have tried a pea protein shake before but really disliked the taste so couldn't see myself drinking them on a regular basis.

If you want a healthy smoothie try adding the powder into these too. One of my favourites is 1 scoop of vanilla PW protein powder, 1 banana, 1 teaspoon of superseeds blend, 20g oats, a handful of spinach and approximately 400ml of almond milk. Yummmmmmy.

Meal 4:

The above might seem like a lot and initially I thought there's no way on earth I can eat that many carbs. After a little reassurance and testing the theory that actually works, I slowly but surely have seen a difference in my overall physique. The thing is they are good complex carbs which if eaten in the right way won't make you gain weight. Well the unwanted weight anyways. I have definitely gained weight and filled out from when I first started training but it's all lean muscle so it doesn't look like I've piled on the pounds if that makes sense.

Obviously everyone is different and what works for me may not necessarily work for you so to some extent it is a case of trial and error. For muscle building, I was advised to eat white rice but personally I find this bloats me and I wasn't going to eat something that made me feel uncomfortable which is why I favour sweet potato and brown rice and I prefer the taste. I could literally eat sweet potato all day everyday, it's so delicious and the great thing is that it's naturally really low in fat. What I will say is don't be afraid of eating carbs, especially girls! It really is about forgetting the idea that carbs are seen as the devil. If any of you follow The Body Coach then you'll know that carbs are necessary to refuel post workout particularly after intensive sessions such as leg day. This obviously doesn't apply to those trying to cut (lean out) in which case it's high protein and low carbs, i.e. a salad.

If you are looking to track your macros and calories then My Fitness Pal is a great app that you can use on your phone but personally I didn't want to develop an obsessive relationship with food or track what I was eating too seriously which is why I haven't really continued to use it. It can be good for checking if you are meeting your recommended daily allowance of fats, carbohydrates and protein though if this is important to you.

What I Train:

You can also head over to my fitness Instagram page (@gemmatalbotfitness) where I post pretty much daily workouts to see exactly the types of things I train in the gym. Generally if I can find the time I like to train legs twice a week and upper body three times a week. I will try and have a separate session for back, biceps/triceps (which I usually train together) and shoulders. With that said, it's not always feasible to make it to the gym five times in a week but I do try my hardest. It's definitely become a lifestyle and one that I thoroughly enjoy and as such is far from a chore.

For me, the most important thing is having a plan before stepping foot in the gym especially if you are training during busy periods such as after work. I like to have a rough idea of what exercises I am going to do to save time as well as get the most out of each session. We all lead busy lives so it's not realistic to spend hours on end in the gym plus too much time can actually be counter productive. You can even get some inspiration from your favourite fitness accounts and note it down in the notes section of your phone and just remind yourself when you are in the gym. Whilst I do like to have dedicated days where I know exactly what muscle part I want to train it is important to switch up your routine every 6ish weeks. As you can imagine your body is a very clever thing and will recognise and become accustomed to a routine which may delay visible results. With that said, it's good to shock your body every once in a while which can also be applied to your diet too.

Where To Start As A Beginner:

One question I frequently get asked with regards to working out is where do you start as a beginner. So I've touched on this slightly above but it really is as simple as having a plan. Knowing what exercises target which muscle groups and trying what works for you. Some exercises have felt a little awkward for me in which case I've always looked for an alternative. In the initial stages it is a case of trial and error but one thing I will say is please don't be afraid to step into the weights section of the gym or give up if you feel you can't do something. This was me seven months ago and I felt ridiculous even going to lift up a dumb bell in the testosterone dominated area of the gym but remember everyone has to start somewhere. We're all beginners at some stage but it's very easy to forget that.

Ultimately, when I begun taking fitness seriously I knew that I wanted to tone up and work on developing my glutes. My own little project peach 🍑 With that said your goals will change over time. For instance, now I spend very little time doing cardio. At most I'll do about 20-30 minutes of LIIS (Low Intensity Steady State) cardio per week which I usually do on a treadmill comprising of an incline walk (resistance 15, speed 5-6 mph). Some people prefer short bursts of cardio which is why HIIT is great for this but personally sprints on the treadmill give me shin splints and I find I feel too much pressure in my knees and calves. Again, it's about finding what works for you. Another great form of cardio and warm up is bursts of HIIT on the bike. With that said, I can definitely tell when I need to do cardio. I won't feel as lean and I will just incorporate small amounts at the end of my sessions. Performing cardio at the end of your session is key because during weight training your body will use carbs as fuel and once these have been used up your body will resort to burning fat as energy. Most people perform cardio as means of burning fat which is exactly why you should do this at the end of your session and not the beginning.

Without sounding the least bit offensive, I can now spot a mile off the girls in the gym who just do cardio and no weight training. Not to mention, I can also notice the difference in my own physique switching from doing purely cardio to weight training. What I will say is I definitely favour a more toned physique over the effects I get from doing purely cardiovascular exercise.

My Workout Schedule:

I do think that it's important to mix your workouts up and whilst it's good to stick to a plan, every 4-6 weeks you should look to change it and switch things up. Try new things to keep you motivated and prevent you from giving up. Some people love gym classes and they are often great for burning calories and keeping you engaged. Spin is great for this and personally I enjoy boxing classes but as such I am not a huge fan of classes generally. I prefer to do my own thing in the gym but for the past 4-6 weeks my gym routine has comprised of the following:

Monday: Legs

I like to vary my leg workouts but generally on this day I'll attempt to go heavy with the weights and usually focus on compound exercises doing squats/deadlifts/weighted glute bridges and using the leg press. My personal best on the leg press currently sits at 100kg either side of the leg press machine so 200kg in total where I managed 6 reps #strongnotskinny. I definitely had to work up to this though, it didn't happen overnight. One thing I've learnt is that you've got to push yourself if you want to see results and grow. It's better to go for lower reps (3-4 reps for example) on a heavier weight than not at all and this is the only way you'll build on your overall strength. This rule can be applied to every exercise, not just legs.

There are so many exercises you can do but some of the key ones I like for legs specifically are walking lunges, cable pull throughs, donkey kicks and I've also recently started using resistance bands too which believe me are massively under rated. Again you can head over to my fitness Instagram to see all the workouts I do for yourself (example included below).

Tuesday: Back

I love training back and have found that my progress has been good compared to the rest of my upper body. I love using the lat pull down but again I have included so many different back exercises over on my fitness Instagram page that I like to switch between on back day. So head over there for some inspiration.

Wednesday: Cardio + Biceps and Triceps

20-30 minutes of LIIS cardio on the treadmill. I like doing an incline walk (resistance 15, speed 5/6) on days where I choose to do cardio. You can make this harder by holding two 4kg dumbbell weights and believe me you'll be one very sweaty Betty. Just a note, I usually do this at the end of my session.

My biceps and triceps are really a muscle that I seriously need to work on because quite frankly my progress is slow and at times this frustrates me. My arms have always naturally been quite thin and I have been finding it difficult to build any sort of muscle but with that said, I am going to keep on trying. I know these things don't happen overnight and after all I'm striving for progress not perfection. 

Thursday: Legs

If I've already trained legs and this is my second session of the week I will focus on glute isolation exercises and vary the glute exercises I trained already. I've been watching a few fitness instructors and PT's on Instagram who emphasise how good glute bridges, leg raises, donkey kicks and walking lunges are for activating your glutes and rounding that bum. Again resistance bands are good to use here too.

Friday: Shoulders and sometimes Chest

I never used to train shoulders in fear that I'd look like a man but when you really get into training you'll realise that it's all well and good having a nice toned, peachy bum but if your upper half is scrawny it won't balance out. Training upper body also makes me feel strong (for my frame at least) and there's not greater feeling than that. I'm all for #strongnotskinny

I thought I'd also mention that I take BCAA's during every session at the gym. Whilst you can get these in tablet and powder form I use the powder to add to water as it flavours it and makes it taste really nice. I have tried a few but would say my favourites are BPI BCAA's in flavour Blue Raspberry and Protein World's IBCAA's in Iced Peach Tea. What is BCAA's you may be asking? It's basically a bonded chain of three amino acids; leucine, isoleucine and valine which act as a better transport vehicle for faster absorption. So in plain terms, this means faster and more efficient recovery between sets if taken whilst at the gym.

Whilst the above is a general idea of what I train during the week, I like to give myself the weekend off which is also the perfect time for my body to recover and repair. We all need rest days for our muscles to recover and inevitably grow but also to prevent yourself from burning out too. I thought I should also mention I like to do some form of ab workout at the end of my sessions even if this just involves 3 sets of 12 reps of three different ab exercises.

Fitness Fashion: What To Wear In The Gym

Do you feel like you've got all the gear and no idea? Personally, there's nothing more motivating than some new activewear to get me into the gym. You don't need to spend a fortune on it either as I have learn't. As the receptionist at the gym would say "I absolutely love how you bring fashion to the gym babe." What an absolute cutie.

One absolute pet hate of mine is leggings that fall down or sag at the crotch. If you're running on the treadmill or squatting the last thing you want is to have to pull your leggings up every 5 seconds. The leggings I'm wearing in this post are from NEU Apparel and I literally love them. They are super flattering and also squat proof, sweat proof and basically everything you want in a pair of gym leggings.  And they're pink, I mean what's not to love?! I've also purchased the NEU Apparel set in another colour which you can see below. I'm wearing a small in both and am generally a standard size 8 if this helps.

Whilst I have bought leggings from the likes of Gym Shark, Nike and USA Pro to name just a few, some of my favourites actually come from Primark, can you believe it?! The latest Alice Liveing collection fit me like a dream and only set me back £6 a pair! I personally don't like the fit of Gym Shark leggings. They look amazing on the model but in reality give me a massive camel toe LOL and nobody wants to see that in the gym lets face it. I do really like Nike leggings too and think that the quality speaks for itself but admittedly they are quite expensive. I've recently stumbled across a brand called Stronger and think that the fit and quality of the leggings and sports bra are amazing. I am wearing them in my Instagram post below but they have the right amount of stretch and hold you in where you want them to in all the right places.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my fitness journey post and I've given you a few tips that you can take away with you. If there is anything you would like to know that you feel I haven't touched upon then do just leave me a comment in the comments section below and I'll answer it as thoroughly as I can. I know this post has been incredibly long, but I wanted it to be as extensive as possible and to give you a thorough idea of my overall fitness goals, the things I train and what I eat in a day. 

Train hard, work up a sweat but remember don't be too hard on yourself either. If you feel like you've failed just pick yourself up, dust yourself down and try again. Nobody likes a quitter and besides its a marathon not a sprint. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither are you!

One thing I will say though which I recently read from Alice Liveing is "if GUILT is your incentive to work out and eat well, then you're missing the whole point entirely." and this is a very important message to take with you. Work out because you want to and enjoy it not because you feel you have to.

Shop this post:

Sports Bra - NEU Apparel
Leggings - NEU Apparel
Trainers - Adidas
Jacket - Pretty Little Thing


  1. This is so inspiring and it's amazing to hear your journey and see how far you've come. Thank you for being so in-depth and open to sharing with all of us. Your hard work has definitely paid off. You look beautiful and you seem radiant. Have a lovely weekend dear :)


  2. Hey G...looking good.. come along way from our own gym sessions!. Dad.x

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Gemma x

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