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International Personal Training Academy now in Marbella

IPTA (International Personal Training Academy) has now established itself in Marbella.  During the summer of 2016 the academy will be receiving Scandinavian students coming to Marbella to attend its courses in Personal Training and Nutrition.

It is an honour for me to be part of the IPTA team, a group of highly trained exercise professionals with extensive experience of teaching in the fields of sports science, nutrition and health. Most have also worked as Personal Trainers.

The European Health and Fitness Association (EHFA), now Europeactive, has approved IPTA for the high quality of the education and competence of its faculty. The training will initially only be in Swedish and Norwegian but in near future courses will also be held in English and Spanish. For more information about IPTA enter www.ipta.se

Topp 7 fitness trends in 2016

The topp 7 fitness trends of the year (according to the ACSM):

1. Wearable technology

2. Bodyweight training

3. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

4. Strength training

5. Educated fitness professionals

6. Personal training

7. Functional fitness

Source: WORLDWIDE SURVEY OF FITNESS TRENDS FOR 2016: 10th Anniversary Edition. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal

Youthful body with the right kind of exercise - part 2

In my previous post (Youthful body with the right kind of exercise) I talked about Sarcopenia (the age related loss of muscle mass and force) and about strength training being an effective tool to counteract the effects of ageing on the body. In the present post you will learn how to strength train effectively to get the best results and to keep your body strong and youthful.


There are several training variables that can impact the results from your training. The most important is training intensity (ie load). Intensity is expressed as a percentage of 1RM (repetition maximum) and is equal to the number of repetitions that can be performed with a given weight. Repetitions can be classified into 3 basic ranges: low, moderate, and high.

Diagram 1. As seen in the diagram different training intensities lead to different results. 1 to 5 repetitions per set performed develop especially muscle strength, 6 to 12 reps muscle size, and more repetition muscle endurance.

Studies in elderly subjects have shown that the strength training must be carried out with a high intensity (heavy loads) to give the maximum increases in strength and muscle mass. Low intensity programmes of resistance exercise have produced smaller or no strength gains at all.

A meta-analysis of 47 studies performed in elderly people compared the effects of different exercise intensities. Intensities were: low intensity (12-15 reps), mean intensity (10-12 reps) and high intensity (8 or fewer reps). It was found that higher intensity was associated with a greater increase in strength compared to low and medium intensity (1).

The view that intensity should be reduced at an advanced age in order to avoid injuries and chronic overuse is widespread. However, this effect is not supported scientific evidence. In elderly people, high-intensity strength training is effective, and no adverse effects are to be expected (2,3).

How to do it

Training can be performed with machines, free weights, resistance bands, or the persons own body weight. For beginners training with machines gives the fastest results. Gradually one can then start using other kinds of equipment.

To learn a correct technique and avoid injuries it is good to go through an initial instruction with a fitness professional. Resistance training under the supervision of fitness professional like a Personal Trainer leads to greater workout intensities and is therefore more effective. This is something that has been proven in scientific studies (4).

Basic strength training program

This is a basic full-body program that resembles those that have been used in many studies in elderly people.

  • A workout session lasts 45 – 60 minutes.
  • Warm up before each session for about 5–10 minutes. 
  • The movements during strength training should be slow and controlled
  • At least the last set should be performed to fatigue. 
  • A rest period between sets is 1- 2 minutes 
  • 2-3 training sessions per week (non-consecutive days).
Remember that this is a basic program for beginners. After 6-8 weeks of training with this program a
new, more advanced, program is needed.


One of the consequences of aging is a gradual loss of muscle mass and strength (Sarcopenia).
This leads to a reduced physical capacity, inability to perform many daily activities and a reduced quality of life.

Fortunately, there is something we can do to prevent it. Exercise, especially strength training is very effective and can inhibit the development of Sarcopenia.

Strength training must be carried out at high intensity to give the maximum increases in strength and muscle mass. Studies In elderly people have shown that high-intensity strength training is effective and safe, with no adverse effects.


1. Peterson MD, Rhea MR, Sen A, Gordon PM. Resistance exercise for muscular strength in older adults: a meta-analysis. Ageing Res Rev. 2010 Jul;9(3):226-37.

2. ACSM. American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. Exercise and physical activity for older adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998;30:992–1008.

3. ACSM. American College of Sports Medicine position stand. Progression models in resistance training for healthy adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2009;41:687–708. 

4. N. A. Ratamess, A. D. Faigenbaum, J. R. Hoffman, and J. Kang, “Self-selected resistance training intensity in healthy women: the influence of a personal trainer,” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 103–111, 2008.

Youthful body with the right kind of exercise

There are many changes occurring in our bodies as we age. One of the consequences of aging is a gradual loss of muscle mass and strength named Sarcopenia. After the age of 50 the loss of muscle mass is considered to be about 1-2 percent per year. 

 These changes will gradually lead to: 

• reduced physical capacity
• reduced ability to perform daily activities
• increased risk of falls and fractures
• reduced quality of life.

Picture 1: What you see here is the intersection of the right leg from two different individuals. Both are male and have the same bodyweight. One is a 25 year old (left) and the other a 63-year old (right) and has suffered a loss of muscle tissue. This tissue has been replaced by fat.

What can we do to prevent Sarcopenia?

Fortunately, there is something we can do to prevent our bodies from decay. Exercise, especially strength training has been shown to be very effective to prevent sarcopenia. Unlike e.g. endurance training, resistance training leads to a greater increase in muscle mass and strength. It can thus effectively inhibit the development of Sarcopenia.

In a training study on elderly people who strength trained 12 – weeks the subjects increased their muscle cross-sectional area by 11% and strength by over 100 % (1).

Similar results were seen in a study on elderly people over 90 years after as little as 10-12 weeks of strength training (2).

In an study on 65-75 year old people six months of resistance training resulted in similar increases in cross-sectional area as in younger subjects aged 20-30 years (3) .

Scientific studies such as these are encouraging because they show that we really can do something to counteract the effects that aging has on our bodies. So if you are among those who aren’t strength training yet now you have a very good reason to start doing so.

In my next blog post you will find out about the most effective way of strength training to counteract the effects of Sarcopenia and to keep your body strong and youthful. Don’t  miss it.


1. Frontera WR, Meredith CN, Oreilly KP, Knuttgen HG, Evans WJ. Strength conditioning in older men – skeletal-muscle hypertrophy and improved function. J Appl Physiol. 1988;64:1038–1044.
2. Brown AB, McCartney N, Sale DG. Positive adaptations to weightlifting training in the elderly. J Appl Physiol. 1990;69:1725–1733.
3. Roth SM, Ferrel RE, & Hurley BF. 2000. Strength Training for the Prevention and Treatment of Sarcopenia. The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging 4(3):143-155.

5 Secrets for successful weight-loss

New weight-loss diets that are said to give amazing results emerge all the time in health magazines and other media. But the truth is that it really doesn´t matter which diet you use to lose weight. This has been the conclusion from one of the largest dietary studies compairing different diets (1). Several other studies have confirmed these findings.

In the short term some diets provide faster weight-loss (eg Atkins) but in the long term all diets give similar results regardless of the composition of carbohydrates, fat and protein.

What´s really important when trying to loose weight is achieving a state of negative energy balance. This is done by reducing energy intake and increasing energy expenditure. Explained in a simple way: “eating less and moving more”

The problem with all weight-loss diets is that most people at the end of the diet are unable to keep their new weight on the long term. It seems like loosing weight is quite easy, while maintaining it is difficult.

A registry for successful dieters

NWCR ( National Weight Control Registry ) was started in 1994 by researchers Rena Wing and James O. Hill and has for years been registering people who have been successful with long-term weight loss. Over 6,000 participants are today part of the NWCR and they have on average lost 33.5 kg and maintained their new weight for 5 years. The weight-loss that members have achieved varies between 13.5 kg and incredible 135 kg (2).

What is it succeeful dieters do to loose weight?

It turns out that they have used a variety of strategies to lose weight . Over fifty percent of them lost weight by them selves and the rest received help (for example by being involved in WeightWatchers) . They all used a combination of changes in dietary habits (such as reducing calorie intake by consuming less
fat and sugar) and increasing physical activity.

What is it succeeful dieters do to maintain weight?

The secret is...  
  • Breakfast and regular meals every day

  • Weighing (at least once a week) 

  • Keeping a food diary 

  • Low calorie diet 

  • Physical activity (at least 1 hour / day)


1.Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ, Smith SR, Ryan DH, Anton SD, McManus K. Comparison of weight-loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. 2009 Feb 26;360(9):859-73.

2.Thomas JG, Wing RR. (2009). Maintenance of long-term weight loss. Medicine &Health Rhode Island 92, 2, 56-57.

Exercise makes you smarter

You might know that exercise is good for your physical health (as it protects from obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes). You may also know that exercise is good for your mental health (through its capacity to protect from depression and anxiety). But what you probably didn’t know is that exercise can make you smarter .

Many researchers have recently begun to take an interest in how physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, affects our brains and cognitive capacity. A lot of evidence has begun to accumulate showing that exercise actually can cause changes in the brain, changes that lead to an increased cognitive capacity

Animal studies have shown structural changes in the brain and increased memory after a period of physical exercise (1,2).

Studies in humans have shown that there is a relationship between aerobic capacity and cognitive performance in elderly individuals, and that exercise can slow down the deterioration in cognitive function that is associated with aging (3).

A very interesting study was done by a team of Swedish researchers. It analyzed the physical tests (fitness and strength) and intelligence tests that conscripts in Sweden had to do until a couple of years ago. The analysis included all men born 1950-1976, a total of 1,221,727 people. What the researchers found was a strong evidence for the existence of a relationship between aerobic capacity and intelligence (4).

Graph 1: There was a linear relationship between aerobic capacity and intelligence, i.e. the better the condition, the higher the intelligence (A). No association between intelligence and strength could be detected except for very low values (B)

Now one could ask the following: Do you become smart by exercising? Or do smart people exercise more? A study like this only proves that there is a relationship, not that there is causality.

To answer the question the group of subjects in the study were divided in those that had improved their fitness level between 15 -18 years and those whose fitness had deteriorated. Again, a clear correlation between fitness and cognitive ability was seen. This showed that a change in aerobic fitness the was associated with a change in cognitive capacity at the age of 18 (i.e. "you become smart by exercising”).

Something that was very interesting in the current study was that it also looked at the link between fitness vs. education and work in later life. What was discovered was that those who had a good fitness level at the age of 18 in a greater extent were professionals with “high status jobs".

I do not know what you think of all this. But my conclusion is that you can really get smarter by exercising. So if you aren’t already exercising regularly you now have a really good reason to do so.
Take my advice: "Be smart, exercise your heart".


1. Stranahan AM, Khalil D, Gould E (2007) Running induces widespread structural alterations in the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex. Hippocampus 17:1017–1022.

2. van Praag H, Christie BR, Sejnowski TJ,GageFH(1999) Running enhances neurogenesis,learning, and long-term potentiation in mice. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 96:13427–13431.

3. Angevaren M, Aufdemkampe G, Verhaar HJ, Aleman A, Vanhees L (2008) Physical
activity and enhanced fitness to improve cognitive function in older people without
known cognitive impairment. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 3:CD005381.

4. Åberg M, Pedersen N, Toren K, Svartengren M, Backstrand B, Johnsson T, Cooper-Kuhn C, Åberg D, Nilsson M, Kuhn G (2009) Cardiovascular fitness is associated with cognition in young adulthood.PNAS 106:20906-20911.

Five food myths

Fruit makes you fat

It is true that a high intake of fructose (the sugar found in fruit) in its pure form can lead to weight gain. When fructose is ingested as a beverage (soda, juice etc.) you can easily ingest large amounts of energy without feeling satiety (the signal that usually makes us stop eating). And excessive energy intake can cause weight gain.

Fresh fruit and pure fructose will not have the same effect. Fresh fruit often contains small amounts of fructose and it also contains satiety promoting fibers. This makes it more difficult to consume excess energy.

Skimmed milk contains less nutrients than whole milk

Skimmed milk contains the same amount of nutrients as whole milk. The only difference is that it contains less fat and thus less energy. In many countries the skimmed milk

Is fortified with A and D vitamins and therefore the concentration of these vitamins is higher in skimmed milk than in whole milk.

Vegetables and fruits contain fewer nutrients today

This is an erroneous statement often used by people selling supplements to convince us to buy supplements. There is no evidence that the concentration of nutrients in vegetables has diminished. When comparing analysis data from a few decades ago with current data no difference has been detected. A well balanced diet will provide you with all the nutrients you need and for most people (except those with specific medical conditions) no supplements of vitamins and minerals are needed.

Vegetable oils are converted into trans fat when used for frying  

A vegetable oil that is heated in a pan does not get converted to trans fat. Some oils can however decompose since they cant withstand high temperatures. The best oils for frying are olive oil and rapeseed oil.

Sweeteners are harmful

Sweeteners are often used in "light" products as a substitute for sugar for. This is to give a sweet taste to the product but avoiding the calories and the negative effects of sugar.

Some of the sweeteners which are frequently used (as sucralose, aspartame) can be detrimental when ingested in large quantities. But a very high consumption over a long period is required to reach levels that would damage health. However there is a problem with the products containing sweeteners. That is that they increase appetite and can cause us to eat more than normally. Therefore it is good to limit the intake of sweeteners when you whant to loose weight.

Welcome to my blogg


My name is Antonio Villanueva and I am Nutritionist & Personal Trainer. I got my education and started my career in Sweden, where I have lived most of my life, but in the fall of 2013 I decided to replace the cold of Scandinavia for the heat of the Costa del Sol. I now live in Marbella and offer my services to everybody who wants to improve their quality of life and physical performance. I also give seminars for teams and sports clubs.

 My objective with this blogg is to write about my areas of interest: nutrition, exercise science and health. I also want to break many myths related to these matters, which unfortunately are very common and are easily spread through the internet.

 From time to time I will write about scientific advances in the field of nutrition but I will try to do this without much academic jargon and in a way that is easy to understand.

 If you want to ask me anything or give me feedback on what I write feel free to take contact with me.

I hope you like my blog.

 / Antonio Villanueva