Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Resolution

With the year coming to an end, and a a whole brand new year about to unfold, almost everyone i meet is asking me 1 question:-
What is my resolution for next year? My resolution for next year - to quit making resolutions i don't intend to keep.

Needless to say, many out there will have a resolution to hit the gym (again), lose some unwanted pounds, get fit, start that diet etc... but sad to say, 90% of the people who do this during the new year, end up quitting after about 2 months. Why is there such a high drop out rate for this? Simple.. people don't have specific goals and people want miracles in terms of their fitness results. So before you make your resolution to be a fitter person this year, just follow this simple guide and i hope you won't be one of those people who quits prematurely.

Specific Goals
Before you begin your fitness lifestyle, it is important for you to set specific goals. Like lose an inch of my waist in 1 month or lose 2 Kg in one month. Most people just join gyms, pay a shit load of money and don't even know what to do or why they are doing it. If you don't know why you are doing something, you will get bored.. that is guaranteed. So make sure you have a goal or target and make sure it is specific - it must have an amount and a time frame to achieve that.

Realistic Goals
Besides being specific, it has to be realistic. Realistic goals are goals that you can achieve... unrealistic goals can only be achieved when you are day dreaming. So make sure your goals are realistic. If you are a overweight male with 42 inch waist, please do not set a goal like a waist of 32 in 6 weeks. It's going to be virtually impossible to reach that goal. Start small.. how about 1 inch of your waist for each month... in fact, that is a pretty safe and easy goal to achieve.

When advicing people on how to set goals, i like them to just work out for one month and measure their before and after. Once you have that, you can calculate the progress you have made and use that as a measure for future goal setting. So if you lost 4kg in your 1st month, then you can safely say that your goal is to lose 4 kg a month, and that is your realistic goals.

The reason why people quit, is because they set goals which are unrealistic, and when they don't achieve it, they get frustrated and often times claim that they are NOT seeing ANY results. So set realistic goals which you can reach, it will make you feel good and get you on the right road.

Start small and improve slowly
I have seen so many new comers / beginners do this. On their 1st day in the gym, they run on the treadmill for 20 minutes on high speed. Wow... good start dude. Then they are missing for the next 3 days. When i approach them and ask them what happened? Oh, my legs hurt too much the next day so i could not come.

Please, start slow and work your way up. Rome was not built in a day and neither will your muscles and their ability to cope with the work out. Because the work outs become torture sessions, people are inclined to just throw the towel and quit.. why do something which hurts so much. Working out is a little hard i admit, but its not supposed to kill you and make you feel like you are about to die. If your work outs are that way, you are over training and most probably heading into what i cal burn out.

No such thing as a miracle
People also often expect miracles. They think 6 weeks of hard sweating in the gym will give them whatever results they want. It doesn't work that way. Losing weight takes time. What i like to tell all my clients is, give yourself at least 6 months... ie you must continue this routine, diet, lifestyle for at least 6 months. Then and only then will it be safe for you to have results that people can see and complement you on. and when you get compliments, you will be self motivated to continue the routine. So whatever you do, make sure you stick with it. Don't expect miracles where you will suddenly look in the mirror and see 5 inches off just like that. it always happens gradually and it takes time. So be patient.

So there you have it. Some simple tips to help you kick start a fitter lifestyle and of course with the hopes that you will stick with the program and not just quit after 6 weeks.

Before i forget. Happy New Year and Happy Holidays everyone. May next year be a better year for all of us.

PS: I sincerely hope 2009 is a better year than 2008 as this has been a truly crap year for me. For those who are close to me, i am sure you will know why.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gain Muscle Mass Quickly - Part 2

As promised, here is part 2 of how to gain muscle mass quickly. As mentioned earlier, this program is designed for skinny guys who want to pound on some serious muscle mass. If you are overweight and want to put on some muscle mass, you may not need to consume as much as i am recommending here. You can follow the general guidelines, but i would recommend just lift heavy to burn off the fat first. Once you start losing significant body fat, you can switch on to this program wholly. But where there is doubt, please leave a comment and i will be glad to answer.

Breakfast, Pre work out & Post work out

There are 3 very important meal times that you need to be aware of when you want to gain muscle mass. 1 is breakfast, 2 is before your workout (usually about 60 to 90 minutes before your work out) and the other is right after your work out (30 to 45 minutes after your workout). Lets go into these meals in more details one at a time.


Ah yes, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”. If you heard you mother preaching this a million times, it’s only because it is true and like they always say, mother knows best. Breakfast is very important because it is the first meal after a long fasting period. If you eat your dinner at about 8pm everyday and breakfast at 7am, that is almost 11 hours of fasting that your body has endured. Because of that, you need to replenish your body with foods that it can use and also important to give it food that will not be turned into fat. Whenever you eat breakfast, remember these 3 simple rules

Avoid simple carbohydrates – Simple carbohydrates are all the starches that are white. White bread, croissants, noodles, white rice etc. Because your body has been starving itself for so long, the insulin level in your blood will be really low. The second you put any food into your mouth, it will automatically raise the insulin level in your blood. Simple carbohydrates get turned to sugar almost immediately once it enters your system. Because of this, you insulin will spike when there is a sudden introduction of sugar in your bloodstream, and insulin spikes will promote fat storage within your body. The insulin is going spike no matter what… what you want to do is minimize the spike to a gradual raise.

Go for high fiber, high protein breakfasts – If you can, skip all your sweet breakfast cereal and go for eggs and whole meal toast or a ham sandwich on whole meal bread or even oat cereal with milk (no sugar). Things such as pancakes, frosted corn flakes, roti canai, nasi lemak etc is just bad news for your belly in the mornings… so avoid them at all costs. You want to build muscle, so you will need loads of protein and breakfast is the one of the best times to replenish your supply.

Drink something that isn’t sweet – one of the worst things you can do in the morning is get a cup of coffee, load it up with sugar and milk and down it to wake yourself up. No doubt you will wake up almost immediately because of the sudden sugar rush, but this will also make your waist line grow. If you have to drink something sweet, try artificial sweeteners that don’t have as many calories or go for fresh fruit juice or lightly sweetened Soya Milk. The worse breakfast drink I have seen is having a can of Soda just after waking up. No nutrition and loads of fat building potential. So unless you are aiming to become a Sumo wrestler, please don’t drink soda in the morning. It’s just wrong.

Pre Work out

The next most important meal of the day is your pre work out meal. Before you go for your work out, you want to essentially load yourself with complex carbohydrates and protein. You essentially want to get this food in 60 to 90 minutes before your workout so that your body has time to digest this food and make all the nutrition you need available for your training. In essence, you are giving your body the ammunition it needs for the forthcoming assault… which is your heavy workout. So examples of pre work out meals that are good to have would be:

  1. Peanut butter sandwich on whole meal bread
  2. Thick Milk shake blended with fruits like banana or berries
  3. Tuna sandwich on whole meal bread
  4. Chapati with egg and chicken curry (small portion)
  5. Turkey ham sandwich with egg on whole meal bread

I think you get the idea. Avoid oily, heavy or fattening food like mee goreng, roti canai or rice with curry as this will only make you feel lazy and sluggish... the last thing you need when you hit the gym for a heavy lift. Although carbohydrates have been constantly bashed and given a bad name for making people fat, if you want to gain muscle mass, you need carbohydrates. Why?

When you train heavily, your body will actively look for fuel to power your activity. What your body does is revert to a process called glycolysis. Glycolysis is a process of turning sugars (usually provided by carbohydrates) into ATP and if you remember your biology lessons, ATP is a energy that is used by muscle cells to complete movement. So if you starve yourself of carbohydrates, it's simple to see that you won’t be providing the fuel you need for your work out heavily and to your full potential.

Another important tip is to have a glass of something sweet (not to sweet) about 20 minutes before your workout. If you are not a big eater, this is a great way to help you boost the sugar your body needs before the workout. The reason why it is 20 minutes before the workout, is because the drink is sweet and is already in the form of sugar… so there isn’t any breaking down required to convert it to sugar. This way, you load your body with fuel ready substances to power your work out. This is good for people who are skinny and just can’t seem to pound on that additional weight. If you are overweight and looking to lean up with muscle mass, you may skip this.

Post work out

Once you are done with your intense work out, your body will attempt to rebuild and repair the damage caused by your work out. The reason I use the word attempt, is because you body can only repair the damage if it is given the right raw materials. Imagine building a house without bricks or wood… you can’t do it can you. The same way, your body only can build muscle if it is provided with the right tools and of course the right raw materials. So you want to once again ensure your post workout meal is heavy in complex carbohydrates and heavy on protein. Your body’s ability to build muscle depends a lot of how fast it can exit the catabolic stage (the breakdown during work outs) and enter the anabolic stage (where it recovers and repairs the damage done during the workout). So as you can see, post workout nutrition is very important.

Post work out meals is also what people like to call the Free Zone… meaning almost anything you eat, will get utilized by the body immediately… so there is no risk of fat storage. Notice that pang of hunger that has just struck you after your work out. Yeah, its your body crying out to be fed. But again, if you eat more than your body can use (even if it is just pure protein), you will put on the wrong kind of weight. The best post workout food to have is similar to the ones mentioned in the pre workout meals…heavy on protein and heavy on complex carbohydrates. If you are drinking protein shakes etc, now would be the best time to drink it as it will be most efficiently used at this time compared to any other time.

Eat every 3 hours that you are awake

Besides the three important meals mentioned above, I would like to recommend adding in three more meals per day. Ideally, for maximum muscle gain and weight loss, you want to eat something every 3 hours that you are awake. So if you eat breakfast at 7am, you want to chow down something at 10 am and then go for lunch at 1pm and so forth. The idea is, to keep the additional meal portions small so that you don’t end up consuming more than you need. Eating additional meals not only raises your metabolic rate and prevent insulin spikes which result in fat storage, but eating additional meals provides your body with the continued supply of raw materials it needs to rebuild and repair your muscles. The problem with our body is, when you give it nutrition, it takes what it needs for that moment and then discards or stores away the rest. It is similar to a child who if you gave him or her pocket money by the month, chances are they will spend it all within a few days and be broke after that. Because of this, you probably have to give the child money on a daily basis and the same goes for our body… not daily but on a more regular basis. So if you want your body to maximize its protein usage, eat many meals and keep the portions smaller.

Ideally, your post and pre work out meals should be additional meals besides your lunch and dinner. So on top of lunch and dinner, you now have an additional 2 meals which is your pre and post workout meals. But if you lack the time and comfort to feed yourself in such a manner, you need to make some modifications while still abiding by the basics. For example, if you are going to workout in the morning before work, your breakfast will have to follow the pre-workout meal plan instead of the normal breakfast mentioned above. If you are working out after work, then your dinner will have to follow the post workout meal plan. So adjust your food accordingly based on your progress and your goals.

How much protein should I consume?

Since protein is the building blocks for muscle, you are going to need lots of it for muscle gain. But just how much protein does you body need to really build muscle? Well depending on the amount of muscle you have and how heavy you lift, your need for protein will vary. But in essence, you should aim to have 1.6 to 1.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. So if you weigh 70kg, then you want to aim for 112 grams to 126 grams of protein per day. This is just a rough guide of how much you should be consuming. This amount may also vary depending on how hard and heavy you are lifting.

Wouldn’t it better to eat a whole lot more protein just to be safe? Not really. Since protein has the same amount of calories as carbohydrates, eating too much of protein will also mean too many calories in your system… and we all know what too many calories translates to. This is why it is important to follow the scale given above. You can vary your protein intake depending on the results you are getting and hence adjust to get the results you want. If you lift really heavy and weight 70kg, you may need a lot more protein that someone else who is lifting lightly and weighs 70kg.

It is also important to point out here that 112 grams of protein a day refers to 112 grams of pure protein. So if you eat a chicken breast that weighs 112 grams, it doesn’t mean you are done with your protein intake for the day. Chicken breasts have loads of other nutrition as well, and though it may be high in protein, it is not made up of 100% protein. To give you a better gauge of what I mean, 1 can of tuna has about 20 grams of pure protein. So in order to get 100grams of protein, you will need to consume about 5 cans tuna a day. Seems like a lot to consume doesn’t it. To get about 112, you will need to consume 6 cans of tuna. This is of course on the premise that you are not eating or drinking anything else. Just plain tuna. Do you think you get hungry after the 6 cans? If you were 70kg and lifted very heavy and going for muscle gain, yes, you would probably finish the 6 cans by lunch or by tea.

The thing is, everything we consume has some amount of protein in it. Whether it is milk, rice, bread, cheese and even chocolates, they all have some amount of protein in them. So consuming all that other stuff does count towards your daily protein intake. What you want to do is reduce the other unhealthy things like fat and increase your protein intake so that you put on the right kind of weight.

So if you are serious about putting on some serious muscle mass on your skinny frame, or if you are serious about loosing weight and gaining some good muscle mass, you need to follow the guidelines here. If you are thinking “It’s a lot of good stuff, but not so practical for me. So how much can we deviate from this plan and still get results?” Well it really depends on what you want and how much of it you want. If you want to maximize your muscle gaining potential, you need to be a dietary boy scout and train like there is no tomorrow each time you hit the gym. If you want less, then you just follow it less. The more you follow this, the faster and bigger gains you will see. So it really is up to you. Once you are decided, we hope we have helped you in some small way to achieve what you want.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Gain Muslce Mass Quickly - Part 1

I have received quite a few requests on how to gain muscle mass quickly, so I thought this will be a valuable post to guys out there who do not want to look like anime characters but want to look big and buff. Gaining muscle mass basically depends on 2 things – Your work out and your eating / Nutrition.

Due to how much material there is to cover, I thought I would break it up into 2 posts so you don’t get lost in the literature and fall asleep. The first one is on training and how you need to train. But to sustain that training technique, you will need to eat the right foods, and I will cover that in my next post.

Train heavy

The basic science of building muscle is to train heavy. How fast your muscles grow depends on how much you can break down your muscles (catabolism) and then giving it enough nutrition / rest to recover (anabolism) from the breakdown before you trash it again and break it down. Whenever you lift weights, you are essentially causing your muscles to “breakdown”. What experts mean by breakdown is that tiny micro fissures and tears appear in your muscle during your weight training sessions. The heavier you lift, the more of these micro fissures are formed in your muscles. When you rest, your body works hard on patching up or filling those little micro fissures with new muscle tissue, hence allowing you to gain more muscle mass. Also, by patching it up with new muscle tissue and increasing the size of it, your body is essentially preparing itself to withstand further strain in future. And that is how and why your muscle grows with intense weight training.

But be warned, if you over train or lift more than your muscles can handle, then the micro fissures and tears might become bigger and cause serious injury such as muscle tears (when the tears actually get big enough to cause severe pain and loss of use of the muscle). So make sure you are always training within your means and never over train. It is also important to remember that you should progress slowly and not be too eager to add on weights when you are not ready for it.

When training heavy, there are a few basic rules that you must follow

1) Only train each body part once a week – because you are training your muscles with such intensity, you need to allow ample time for your muscles to recover and for your body to patch up those micro fissures. Training more doesn’t always mean more muscle gained… it only means more risk for injury. So assign a day for 1 or 2 muscle groups and only train those muscles on that day. The other days are for other muscle groups. When you train those muscles, train it hard because you are giving them ample time for recovery after that.

2) 6 to 8 reps – Each set for whatever muscles you are training should consist of 6 to 8 reps. If you can reach 8 reps for all your sets, its time to add weight. If you can’t even reach 6 on the first set, then it is obviously too heavy for you. So make sure every muscle and every set you do falls within the range of 6 to 8 reps. Doing it otherwise will only be a waste of time (too light) or increasing your risk of injury (too heavy)

3) Get a spot – I cannot emphasize this enough. You must get a spot when training heavy. A spot is not only good to help you lift up the weights when you can’t lift anymore, but is also essential in helping you train till failure. Because you have a spot, you can really push yourself to the limit and not have to worry about whether you can complete the rep or not. If you don’t have a regular workout partner, get some one in the gym to give you a quick spot in between their own sets.

4) 3 to 4 sets – I usually like to do 3 sets of each exercise, but that is because I am usually short on time. If you have a bit more time to spare, I recommend doing at least 4 sets for each of your exercise. You will see a big difference in the amount you gain by just adding that one extra set. But again, don’t think that 3 is good, 4 is better so 5 should be even better. It doesn’t work that way. Limit your sets to 4 and do only 4 sets. 5 sets will be over doing it.

5) 2 to 3 minutes rest – When I lift heavy, I usually take about 2 minutes rest time between sets. Sometimes if it is my last set, it may even be 3 minutes. That’s ok. The point is, you need a minimum of 2 to 3 minutes rest before doing another set. Never push for another heavy set when you have less than 2 minutes rest. You will not be able to push as much for your next set, and you are more likely to injure your muscles by giving your muscles such short breaks

6) Breathe in and breath out – This is one of the basic rules of lifting, yet most people when lifting heavy forget how important breathing is. A lot of them end up holding their breath. You need to breathe in when you are lowering or bringing the weights to the rest position and breathe out when you are actually using the most amount of effort to lift or move the weights up. Breathing is important because breathing properly actually makes the difference between doing one more rep and not doing it. Since every rep counts, you better make every breath count as well

7) Warm up – oh yes… another important rule which is usually forgotten because there is not enough time or I don’t want to be caught lifting an empty bar. Warm ups are essential to reduce the risk of injury as well as increase the potential of your muscles during a heavy lift. Our muscles are like a car engine and just like a car engine performs at its peak once it is warmed up, the same works for our muscles as well.

As mentioned earlier, the principle for muscle growth is how much you can break it down and how much time you give it to recover from the breakdown. Since heavy lifting causes a lot of micro fissures and micro tears, it is essential for you to give your muscles enough time to recuperate before you break them down again. In essence, if your muscles still hurt when it is time to hit it again, it means that the muscles are still not ready for another breakdown. So you need to be vigilant of this and not push yourself more than necessary. This is why I recommend one week a part between the same muscle groups so that they have ample time to recover from the previous workout. Remember, your muscle actually grow while it’s at rest and not while it is working out. Resting is important for you to add muscle mass. No rest only equals small puny over trained / burnt out muscles which are at high risk of injury if not already injured.

Do squats
Many of the body builders I have met swear by it. If you don’t do squats, you can forget about getting really big. Yeah sure you will be a bit bigger than you were before… but if you want to unleash your full potential, you need to do squats.

Why? Because squats are one of those exercises that involves a lot of other muscles and more importantly, squats help to strengthen your core muscles. Strong core muscles are essential in ensuring that your other muscles can lift heavy. If you don’t have strong core muscles, all your other muscles will not be able to lift heavy as well. This is why doing squats helps you gain muscle mass for the other parts of your body as well and not just your legs. The stronger your core muscles, the stronger your other muscles will be. The stronger those muscles are, the heavier you can lift and as you know, the heavier you can lift, the more muscle mass you are going to gain. So if you are serious about gaining muscle mass, just do it. No excuses.

If you are beginner and lifting for the time, please do not do this routine. Reason is, it takes time for your muscles to adjust and be able to handle the weights and abuse of heavy training. You will need a good 3 months under your belt before you can attempt this routine and make it work. For the first 3 months, train all your muscles twice a week, but using much lighter weights and keeping the reps at 12 to 15 reps. This is important to season your muscle for the heavy training you will be exposing it to later. So train steadily for 3 months at least before attempting this.

If you have any questions, please let me know and most importantly, look out for Part 2 of this article in the next post.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Yoga Ban - Part 2

With so much hype still on the recent fatwa on Yoga, i got this email from a friend which explores the lighter side of things. Sorry for the long absence in new posts. I will post another proper post before the end of this week.

But for now, i thought i would share this with you guys.

Believe it or not, latest research has revelaed that there are 2 basic types of Yoga

1) Yoga from India

2) Yoga from Australia
Look forward to hearing your comments.