Should I be Counting my Macros?

In a recent article where we looked at building body muscle, we touched on macronutrients and how using the macro system when eating can be really effective for your overall fitness. Today, we’re going to be looking at what macronutrients are, why you should choose to follow the diet, and how you can easily calculate your daily allowances without all the fuss of calories.

What are Macronutrients?

Macronutrients, macros for short, are protein, fats, and carbohydrates. To keep your body healthy and energised, you need to eat the right amount of each of these macro groups every day. Carbohydrates are a staple in anyone’s diet, especially in the fitness world. They are a great energy source and can keep you full and ready to go for long amounts of time, which makes them great to have before a marathon or workout, as the energy is slow release. Protein also provides you with energy, but this macronutrient is needed mainly to help your immune system function properly, and power your nervous system. When exercising, caring for the different parts of your body is so important, and protein is great for helping with that. Finally, fats are brilliant for recovering after a workout, and building muscle in your body. Fats can build up if you eat them and don’t do something to turn them into muscle however, so make sure you eat these in moderation and that you consume less on days you choose to rest.

Why Should You Use the Macro Diet?

Diets can feel restrictive, and let’s face it, they aren’t fun at all. You feel like you’re missing out, especially if everyone around you is indulging in food. This diet is easier than counting calories, and as you can eat whatever you want, it’s less restrictive. Simply, if what you’re eating isn’t going over your set macronutrient amount, you can have it. No food group is off limits, only if it takes you past your daily allowance.

How to Calculate Macronutrients

There are a few ways to determine your daily macro allowances, but we will just show you just two here. The first simply splits your daily calorie intake into sections for each macro group. The most common split is to allocate 40% of your daily calories to carbohydrates, 40% to protein, and 20% to fats. From here you can work out how many calories you would normally consume depending on your day (if you choose to workout or not) and then you can work out the amount grams per group. For example, if you aim to have around 2000 calories per day (again, this can change if you are training that day or having a rest day), and choose to split it using the 40:40:20 ratio suggestion above, these would be the calculations you use to work out your carbohydrate allowance:

  • 40% of your calories will be taken up by carbs.
  • 2000 (daily calories) x 0.4 (calorie percentage) = 800 calories.
  • Carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram, so 800 ÷ 4 = 200.
  • This means your daily carb allowance is 200 grams in total.
  • You can then repeat this process to workout your protein and fats targets.

An alternative to this method is to use a macronutrient calculator to find accurate daily intakes of each macro dependent on your daily exercise and current body weight. Our calculator of choice is the My Fitness Pal app.

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We touched on this app in the muscle gain article. You simply type in your details, and it gives you percentages based on you and your lifestyle, rather than calories. This is an easier option, and great for tracking your food, if you don’t want to do the maths yourself.

Hopefully this article lets you see an alternative to counting calories each day. We hope you’re able to understand macronutrients and how following this method allows you to be freer in how you eat, and still see results.

Have macros worked for you?

How BAD is Easter Chocolate?

In just over a week, people will be hunting for and eating so much chocolate. Easter is only a little way away, and just because you’re trying to stay healthy, doesn’t mean you have to forego the traditional activities and the tonnes of chocolate. We have a list of some classic Easter treats, and have looked at the calories of each so you don’t have to worry on Easter Sunday, you can enjoy the fun, and know ahead of time what are the best choices to make!

Cadbury's Mini Eggs

Firstly, let’s look at a national favourite: Cadbury’s Mini Eggs. Mini Eggs are solid milk chocolates, shaped like eggs, coated in a hard candy shell. They typically come in 90gram bags but can also be found in tubes and larger bags, if you choose to treat yourself. We won’t judge! There are, on average, 24 mini eggs inside each 90g packet, and if you choose to eat 9 eggs/30grams worth of the eggs, you will consume 148 calories. This doesn’t seem a lot, but if you were to eat the whole 90g packet, you would consume 446 calories, which is quite a jump.

Lindt Chocolate Bunny

Another Easter classic is the Lindt chocolate bunny. It was first created in 1952 and has been a large part of Easter celebrations ever since, especially with it’s iconic red ribbon and golden bell. You can find these in a range of sizes, but we decided to look at the classic 100grams size. If you ate the whole thing (why not?), you would consume 550 calories. This is about a quarter of a woman’s daily estimate, but everyone is different, and this may seem tiny to someone quite young. If you did choose this treat, our recommendation is to eat it over a few days.

Cadbury Creme Egg

Next, another classic treat, the Cadbury Creme Egg! This is a thick chocolate shaped egg, filled with white and orange fondant which mimics the insides of a real egg. They were first made in 1923, and since, have been the bestselling confectionery between New Year’s Day and Easter in the UK. Each egg weighs 40grams, and if you ate the whole thing, you would consume 177 calories. Comparing this item to the others, if you ate 100grams worth, it would total 440 calories. Easter treat’s calories quickly mount up if you let yourself eat a lot.

MaltEaster Bunnies

MaltEaster Bunnies are up next and are one of the most recent Easter treats to come about. They were first released in 2010, and mini versions have since been released. As you are probably aware, they are part of the ‘Malteser’ family, and are a great seasonal treat. The regular bunnies weigh 29grams, so quite a small treat compared to the Lindt bunnies, but if you ate one, you would still consume a similar number of calories. One bunny totals 156 calories, but to compare to the Lindt bunny, if you ate 100grams worth, you would consume 539 calories, only 11 calories difference.

Kinder Eggs

And the final chocolate treats we’re going to look at is available all year round but fits perfectly with the other chocolates available during this time of year. Kinder Eggs were first produced in 1974 and have been one of children’s favourites ever since. Weighing only 20grams, it is the smallest treat, and has the smallest number of calories at 110 kcals. To compare to the others, if you ate 100grams worth, you would consume 552 kcals.

So, to compare each treat fairly, let’s look at how many calories you would consume if you ate 100grams worth of each:

Cadbury Mini Eggs - 495kcals

Lindt chocolate bunny - 550kcals

Cadbury Creme Eggs - 440kcals

MaltEaster Bunnies - 539kcals

Kinder Eggs - 552kcals

As we can see here, if you want to be able to eat a few chocolates over Easter weekend, the WINNER is Cadbury’s Creme Eggs, as they contain less calories in 100gram portions. However, if you only want to nibble on one or two items, go for a single Kinder Egg, as they have less calories (110 kcals) overall, and you get a toy at the end!

Have an egg-celent Easter!

Workout Myths

You want to start exercising more regularly but are unsure about strange things your friends have said or you’ve read online? Don’t worry, working out can be super easy and fun, and here are some busted myths to prove it!

Yoga Isn't A Real Workout

Yoga can seem quite relaxed to some people, suggesting it is more stretching than working on your body. However, it is proven to increase strength and flexibility, as well as having many other benefits you may not get from a general workout. It helps tone your body, as well as reduce the risk of high blood pressure, and chronic pain. It is a more mellow workout than others, but stick at it, and you will feel so much better for doing it. Some sessions can be intense on your joints, and push your flexibility, but it isn't as intense on your cardiovascular system as other types of workout can be, meaning your heart rate will stay at a normal, steady pace. If it's not as high intensity as you would like your workouts to be, why not use it to cool down, or to give your body a break once in a while. It is proven to calm you and make your body feel good after all.

You Need To Workout Everyday

Working out every day isn’t bad. Each day you should go on a walk, climb stairs, eat well, do at least some physical activity to get your blood flow moving. However, repeating heavy workouts everyday can be tiring, and harmful to your body without rest. You may feel that the only way to get fit, or even build muscle is to be at the gym, but your body actually only begins to change and improve when you're not working out. Not monitoring your exercise and the intensity, can also not help weight loss as it could mean your targets are all over the place, meaning your body isn't benefiting from what you're doing. Make a workout plan, including rest days, and you should see a difference in your body in just a few weeks. If you are unsure, or want to speak to someone, you can always come and visit one of our gyms to speak to us personally.

The Longer You Workout, The Better

Like the previous point, working out every day and for a long time isn’t bad, but it can be hard on your body and not help you see the results you want to see. It is often best to workout for under 60 minutes and then rest. If you work out for 30 minutes for 5 days a week, you will allow yourself to burn calories, as well as let your body recover. It is proven that short bursts of exercise are more efficient than long sessions as you are able to work harder more quickly, rather than trying to pace yourself. If you are unsure, try a HIIT workout once or twice, to see if short workouts work better for you. You should see an increase in fitness levels after about 20 minutes if you do.

No Pain, No Gain

Apparently, if the workout you are doing is painful, your body is changing and doing better because of it. You do want to challenge your body whilst working out, or you won't change and see the results you want. However, if you’re in pain, surely that isn’t a good thing. Fatigue and mild soreness is normal when exercising, but exercise plans shouldn't be painful, or even unbearable to your body. When working out, listen to your body. If you need to stop for a break, stop. It’s OK. If you’re in pain, stop. You don’t want to cause serious damage to your body. Exercise is meant to improve your quality of life, so know your limitations, and don't push yourself to do something you can't.

There are so many other myths and facts that get muddled together which confuse people, but hopefully this short list helps you understand some of the most frequent statements we hear, and figure out fake news from the facts yourself.

What is the craziest fitness myth you’ve ever heard?

Long Distance Running Tips

Whether you run long distances every week or are aiming to run a half marathon one day, everyone should follow these long distance running tips. They are here to help keep you safe and healthy, even when the finish line seems far off. Most of these suggestions are perfect for when you’re actually racing but remember to read in advance and get prepared.

Get Energy from Carbs

Your body uses carbohydrates to produce glucose, which then becomes glycogen. Your body uses this for energy, helping you when running. People’s diets are mostly formed of carbs when leading up to a race, so that their bodies are stored up with ready-to-go energy. This doesn’t mean that you should just eat carbs however. About a week before the race, start to introduce more carbohydrates into your diet (e.g. porridge for breakfast, an extra bread roll at lunch, pasta for tea, etc). This allows your body to begin storing glycogen, ready for race day.

Stay Hydrated

If you’re thirsty, it means you’re already dehydrated. It’s so important to drink water when your body is losing a lot whilst running. Dehydration can be really dangerous, especially if paired with warm weather. Carry a water bottle or make use of water stations if you can. You will truly thank yourself for it.

Pace Yourself

Be a tortoise, not a hare. It’s so important when running to focus on your own safety, rather than trying to beat others. To be able to pace yourself, get to know how your body works and what makes it work best. Set goals of running certain amounts in certain times comfortably. You can then find your rhythm and continue this for the rest of the race. You will be comfortable and confident for the entire distance then, rather than trying to sprint and not making it very far.

Fuel Up Mid Run

It may seem easier to skip this step and just power on but giving your body an extra burst of energy can help you get to the end of the race much easier. It is recommended to begin to refuel 30 to 45 minutes into your run, allowing your digestive system to do its job and give you the energy you need. These regular top ups also help your glycogen levels get back to normal. Everyone has different food favourites, some choose nuts and dried fruits, and other go for chewy, sugary sweets for an instant sugar hit. When training, workout what works best for you, and go with that on race day.

Get a Good Pair of Trainers

Your feet do more work than you think. When running long distances, you are hitting them against hard ground for long amounts of time. By spending money on good quality trainers, you are protecting your feet, helping your overall performance. Find trainers that are well made and have a good sole. You will thank yourself, especially if you will be running over hard, uncomfortable and rocky terrain. Good trainers are worth spending a little more on, they will help prevent blisters and injury, improving your running experience.

Don't Skip the Post Run Recovery

Once you’ve finished a race, it may be something you don’t want to attempt again, but that doesn’t mean you should just stop. Running can be hard on your body, so you need to care for it and help yourself recover after you’ve passed over the finish line. After the race, rehydrate your body. This is so important, especially when running long distances. Take time to cool down, through walking and stretching. This helps your muscles relax. Do light exercise the next day, just so that your muscles don’t become tighter, leading them to not healing well. Finally, rest. Having a good night’s sleep is so important.

We hope these tips will come in handy whether you’re an expert or a novice. Ready, set, go!

What are your tips for running long distances?

The Importance of Sleep

You probably understand how important it is to have rest days as part of your fitness routine, but have you considered how much sleep you get everyday can affect your overall performance? Sleep is important for both mental and physical health, helping you relax, de-stress, and repair your body, but if you don’t sleep well, your workouts can be affected.

Athletes need more sleep than others as they are working hard, so need to repair their body for similar amounts of time, so they don’t injure themselves. Getting an extra hour at night, or having a nap in the day can really improve performance, as well as keep their body in the fittest possible state.

Being active during the day and making sure you have a good nights sleep can boost energy levels for the next day, allowing you to continue with your normal routine. However, without sleep, your energy levels will be heavily reduced, and this can build up over time, really affecting how your body works. Make sure to have a fair amount of sleep depending on how much you have worked during the day.

Getting enough sleep also allows glycogen levels in your body to increase. Built on the glucose from the food you eat, glycogen is important for stamina and keeping your body healthy. Without it, your body can truly suffer as glucose won’t turn to energy when you need it.

Sleep is needed to help your brain concentrate, and aid its recovery of fatigue. When at the gym or during workouts, hand-eye coordination is very important, so if you’re tired, you won’t perform to the best of your abilities. This also means you won’t get the satisfaction from working out, making it un-enjoyable and something you don’t want to do. Don’t let it become that.

Improve your quality of sleep by choosing a suitable mattress and pillows, so your body can be in a position that isn’t uncomfortable, or results in pain when you wake up. Choice bedding that cares for your spine, and won’t interrupt your sleep. Deep sleeps are best for recovery and helping your body rest, but if interrupted, it could cause more tiredness.

To sum up, sleep is a very important part of your fitness routine, and should be something you focus on, just as much as working out. Find what makes you comfortable, and rest as much as you can, your body will thank you for it.

How to Effectively Build Body Muscle

Most people who join the gym want to build muscle. Simple as that. It could be as well as wanting to stay fit or to train for a certain event, or just to focus on building muscle in their bodies. People think lifting heavy weights as often as they can will get them to where they want to be, but your body is actually building muscle when you aren’t working out, meaning your workout should continue outside of the gym. This article is split into two sections: Rest, and Nutrition, to make it easy to see how you can effectively build up muscle whilst still staying healthy and keeping your body safe.

Someone preparing to build muscle.

Rest

You should be aware that rest days when being at the gym are just as important as working out. This is key when muscle training, as resting your body is essential in building up muscle tissue. We recommend 3 rest days if you workout the other four days in the week. This gives your body time to repair and your muscles time to grow and improve. It’s suggested that you don’t take two rest days next to each other as your overall workout can suffer, so spreading them out throughout the week is best, but see how you can work around your current routine to get the best rest you possibly can.

Another point to bring up is sleep! It is so important for muscle building to sleep as many hours as you possibly can each night to allow your muscle tissue time to grow and repair. By focusing on your training just when you are in the gym and not continuing when you are at home can reverse all the effort you have put into your body. Simply, rest is just as important as the actual time you put in at the gym, and the time you put into your muscles is pointless if you don’t allow your body to rest as that is the only time your muscle tissue builds.

Someone actually building muscle.

Nutrition

When you are lifting weights, the protein in your muscles begin to breakdown, and then when you rest, protein synthesis occurs which helps to rebuild your muscles. This takes place through consuming foods that are high in protein so that synthesis levels are higher than breakdown levels. It sounds scary and complicated, but it is perfectly normal when weight training for this to happen. Even simpler, you need to stay healthy outside of the gym as well as in so that your muscles can improve. This can be done by eating enough calories every day, even on rest days, and filling up on protein and other essentials:

Protein - Aids in repair and muscle growth. This can be added to your diet by eating: Meat, Eggs, Fish, Quinoa, Nuts, etc. You may already have enough protein in your diet, but by planning your meals and food shop, you will help yourself eat better meals to help muscle growth. You can also supplement protein with protein powders and drinks.

Carbs – These provide slow release energy to help you get through the day without snacking and give you enough energy when working out. These can be added to your diet by eating: Bread, Rice, Pasta, Potatoes, Oats, Fruit, etc. These easily give your meals more variety.

Glutamine – This is an amino acid that is important for lean muscle growth. It can be added to your diet by eating: Whey Protein, Spinach, Cabbage, Broccoli, Organic Poultry, etc. It can be harder to add these into your diet, but a few can easily be found and used in most meals.

To calculate your calories and track your nutrition we recommend the My Fitness Pal app:

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Whilst this won't be 100% accurate, it is a great place to start and you can adjust as you go along. With regards to protein intake, a great starting point is to consume: 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight per day and then adjust to suit. We will go into more detail about calculating these macronutrients in coming articles so stay tuned!

To sum up, your workout should continue outside of the gym, whether you are trying to build muscle or not. Muscle actually builds and repairs when you aren’t working out, so make sure to factor sleeping and rest into your fitness routine, as well as making sure you are getting all the food you need to aid with the muscle growth.

Good luck with your muscle training!

Do I Need a Personal Trainer?

Going to the gym and working out on your own is completely fine, however a lot of people prefer to have someone keeping them on track and personalising what the gym offers to suit them more. Therefore, some gym goers also have a personal trainer. It’s proven that gym goers will work 5 times harder with a personal trainer. Here’s a list explaining why:

Good For People Who Don't Know Where To Start

It can be really intimidating to join a gym and not know what to do to help you get to where you want to be. Staff members will be able to point you in the right direction; however, it can be hard to ask again and again. If you really are struggling, speak to someone about getting a personal trainer, so you can talk to someone about how you feel and where you want to see yourself in a few years. Personal trainers know what works and what doesn’t for different people, if you really want to make the gym part of your daily routine, a personal trainer is a good place to start.

Help Clients Achieve Their Goals

Personal Trainers truly do want to help their clients. It’s their job, and they wouldn’t have chosen to do it if they didn’t know about fitness or enjoy it. At some point, they must’ve been unhappy with their body to want to start going to the gym and learning more about working out. They know how to help the people they work with get to where they want to be.

Motivation

Working out on your own can be nice as you’re able to go at your own pace and stop if you need to, but this also allows you to stop when you want to. Having someone with you can really motivate you to keep going and see the change over a shorter amount of time. Having someone to motivate you pushes you to work harder and get closer to your goals.

Personalised Training Plans

A personal trainer does exactly that, trains you personally. Depending on your body type, goals, and anything else, these people will be a trainer for you, rather than a group or a gym as a whole. It can be hard to know what to do to kickstart your fitness journey and keep it going, so having someone who know what to do as well as making it personalised to you, makes having a personal trainer worthwhile.

Continues Outside of The Gym

Even though a lot of people stay healthy outside of the gym, some people workout in the gym and then don’t continue that when they leave. People then wonder why they haven’t yet achieved their perfect weight, however with a personal trainer, the gym becomes a life style, rather than a choice for every now and then. Personal trainers offer plans for their clients, from eating schedules and recipes to lifestyle changes, to help their customers get the most out of their sessions and new lifestyle.

Obviously personal trainers aren’t for everyone, but why not speak to us at Gym & Tonic, or your local gym to find out how you can benefit from one!

The Importance Of A Good Breakfast

The early bird catches the worm.
Eat breakfast as a king, lunch as a merchant and supper as a beggar.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Ok, we get it. Breakfast is important. But why?

After sleeping for 7 to 9 hours, your body has basically been fasting. You need to eat in the morning to essentially ‘break the fast’, which gives breakfast its name. Without food in the morning, you are effectively a car with no petrol. You are empty, and need to fill up.

According to nutritionists, breakfast should be eaten between 1 to 2 hours after waking, and should be able to provide 20%-35% of your daily calorie intake. That seems a lot, but breakfast really helps to kick start your day, and keep your energy high until lunchtime. Traditional breakfast choices such as cereal contain iron, a good source of fibre, vitamin B, and so much more, helping your body refill after rest.

It’s essential to eat breakfast if you are looking at weight loss, as filling up on healthy foods in the morning, stops you from reaching for fatty and sugary foods later in the day. Research shows that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, so it’s a no brainer for health and fitness reasons to make sure to eat something each morning.

However, if you don't always fancy breakfast, what then? Try and drink some water or fresh fruit juice, just so your body can begin to wake up and restore levels of things you may have lost whilst sleeping. Your body may then crave something more substantial, so try toast, cereal, or a bowl of fruit. Even if you’re not hungry, it’s important to give your body something.

It has also been proven that eating breakfast can restore glucose levels, which help the brain to function, lowers stress, and makes us happier for the upcoming day. Therefore, it’s important for children to eat breakfast before school, so that they are able to retain information better as well as improve attention spans. So, eating breakfast really is important, especially if your plan is to work out or do something that will use lots of your energy.

What do you eat for breakfast to keep you full until lunch?

What Is Functional Training?

Functional training may be something you haven’t heard of before. It is a range of fitness exercises that allow you to train your muscles to work together and prepare them to perform everyday tasks more easily and without injuries, whether at home, work, or during sports sessions. Functional training mainly uses weight bearing activities targeted at the lower back as well as the core muscles of the abdomen.

Body building normally uses machines which isolate certain muscles, which may be un-beneficial to most people who want to train their whole body rather than just certain sections. Functional Training is NOT that. Functional training uses equipment that helps train your muscles to be a whole, which is fantastic for sport, general life, mobility, and much more. This type of training also allows you to work at your own pace which most people prefer, especially in a gym environment.

Types of functional training equipment you may find with us and other gyms can include:

Functional Rigs

Described as ‘the ultimate piece of strength and conditioning equipment’, functional rigs allow fast and effective whole-body workouts that deliver results. As these rigs are often quite large, more than one person can use the equipment at one time, and are perfect for anyone of any skill level and regardless of ability.

Olympic Lifts

These can be difficult to learn, however once acquired, these ranges of lifts with weights can improve athletic performance, strength and power, balance, stability, and coordination.

Hiit Mill

Unlike a standard treadmill, the Hiit Mill is self-powered to build speed and strength, especially during a Hiit (High-intensity Interval Training) workout.

Dumbbells

Free weights, such as dumbbells, can be found in most gyms, but are brilliant for functional training as they can be used for a huge range of exercises to build muscle.

Medicine Balls

These are a great choice for developing strength, coordination, and endurance. Medicine balls engage your whole body and can add intensity to a range of endurance and strength exercises to get your body working harder. During functional training, many people use them whilst performing squats and sit-ups.

Functional training relates to real people for real life. It’s great for elderly people who want to strengthen themselves for things they may now find difficult at an older age, such as climbing stairs, picking things up, and mobility. It works. So many people are now talking about it, and how great it is to workout your whole body, rather than just certain parts.

Do you think you will give it a go?

2018 Fitness Trends

We are now in 2018, and looking back over 2017, it’s so interesting to see how the gym has changed, as well as fitness and working out in general. Looking at that, here are a list of things we feel will become trends at the gym this year!

Virtual Reality Workouts

When we think of Virtual Reality sports, Wii Sports comes to mind, and trying to get a strike whilst bowling on the TV. However, this technology has evolved so much over the years that you can now wear headsets that place you in a 3D world. WE feel that workouts through these VR headsets will be introduced, to try and encourage children, teenagers, and people who spend their days gaming to get active. It may also be the route people take if they are worried about going to the gym so want to try it at home. Even though this sounds exciting, it could be expensive if you don’t already own a VR headset, and it could encourage people to spend even more time using technology!

Group Personal Training sessions

People want personalised workouts; however, they can be expensive if they are one to one. This may turn to group workout sessions, so people can save money, yet still have a personalised workout experience. Classes at the gym are so much fun, but people are looking for something more individual and focused on them, so these group sessions may become more of a thing in 2018.

Gym Technology

Even if they don’t go to a gym, most people own a smart watch of some kind, which tracks their steps and even calories consumed for the day. The technology we have right now is phenomenal, and only keeps getting better. This may lead to everyone owning a smart device to track their workouts and progress soon. Even though the devices can be expensive, they are motivating, and great for the gym!

Outdoor Workouts

Especially coming up to the summer, working out outside will really pick up. A lot of people jog outside, but we think exercising outside will become a thing in 2018. Using walls, benches, and anything else you can find, this essentially free “equipment” is available to everyone, and can be used for wall sits, press ups, bench steps, and so much more. This could be done with a few people, and be really fun in warm and dry weather. That’s the downside though, if the weather changes, your workout might have to also.

Wellness Coaching

Learning about and looking after your mental health is so important, and as a result of this, we think that wellness coaches will be wanted more. People will be able to speak to wellness coaches as well as personal trainers to aim towards having a healthier body and leading a healthier life. We don’t think this will change people’s general goals, but wellness coaches will help how people get to where they want to be, physically and mentally.

We wonder which of these five ideas will become a reality over the upcoming year? Maybe none of them will, but if they do, you heard it here first!