Tuesday, July 28, 2009

You can eat healthily anywhere - Mamak

In my last post, I got some very interesting feedback on how its impossible to eat healthily outside and why the ratio 90/10 philosophy won’t work. I believe the term “crappy cafeteria food” was one of the comments I received for the previous posting. In addition to that, I have received many comments from people who say “when you eat out, it’s impossible to stay fit” or “only way to eat healthily and stay fit is to eat food that tastes like cardboard”. I also hear other comments like “healthy food is too expensive” and “I have no time to make food and take from home”.

Well I hear you guys loud and clear and I understand that it is indeed difficult stay fit and healthy when we have to eat out most of the times. But the fact is, you can eat healthily virtually anywhere and I take this as a personal challenge to show you how to eat healthily anywhere. So if you think of a place that is impossible to eat healthily, please let me know and I will show you how to eat healthily there. So please send in your requests and I will publish them here.

Before I start, just a quick disclaimer so I don’t get slammed for sucking the fun out of everything tasty in life. If you only eat in this place once in awhile, then I say go ahead and enjoy. But if your visit this place regularly, then you might want to follow these tips carefully to ensure your gym workouts don’t go to complete waste.

So to kick of these series of “how to eat healthily anywhere”, my first choice is every Malaysian’s favourite joint – The Mamak.

I know most of you probably visit a Mamak at least 3 to 4 times a week, and if you do, follow these tips and you will be eating healthier than most other people. So here’s how to eat healthily at the mamak.

Healthy Foods
Tandoori Chicken – Lean Protein which is baked so the fat drips off in clay oven.
Chapati – Each chapati is roughly 150 calories depending on size. The good thing is, its made out of whole wheat flour which is absorbed slower into your blood compared to polished white flour.
Thosai – Each Thosai has about 100 to 120 calories. It’s light and filling. Some Mamak’s have Thosai Telur – add in an egg to the thosai to increase it’s protein content. I normally get full on 2 rava thosai’s
Telur Separuh Masak – If you lift heavy and need extra amounts of protein, this is good meal to add to your normal meal. 2 eggs are pretty filling and each egg only has about 70 to 80 calories. Not to mention, swallowing 2 of these will make you half full, hence you only need a smaller portion of other foods to fill you up.
Nasi Campur – If you have to take mixed rice, make sure you load up more vege on your plate. Instead of fried chicken or fish, try curried chicken or Fish. It’s slightly healthier than the fried kind. I would recommend to try the items above more often than rice. But when you eat rice, be careful with what goes on your plate. Remember, more vege & Tauhu, less rice, less starchy dishes like potatoes etc.

Foods that you must Avoid
Roti Canai
– This goes without saying. It is nothing but solidified oil
Goreng Goreng – Where possible, please avoid your Maggi Goreng, Nasi Goreng, Mee Goreng and all the other goreng goreng stuff. It’s just bad stuff
Nasi Lemak – The names says it all (Fat Rice)

Cutting out sweet drinks from your meals will automatically shave off 200 to 300 calaories. Quite a big saving. Besides “Ais Kosong”, you can go for Diet Cola’s as an alternative. But I make it a point to drink plain ice water whenever I can. It costs less and is better on my waist line too. If you must have a sweeter drink, avoid those with milk like Milo, Bandung etc…. milk increases the calories in drinks significantly.

Pop quiz: If you had to choose between Sirap Bandung and Limau Ais, which one would you choose?

So, as you can see, even if you visit the Mamak 3 to 4 times a day, you can eat a different healthy meal everyday. So you don’t have get bored of eating the same thing. So go ahead, make some small changes and you will be surprised with the results. As I mentioned, if you do have a place which you feel is impossible to eat healthily, let me know and you will be surprised at how you can turn it around with a few simple changes in the choices you make.

Look forward to hearing your comments on this as well as your suggestion for “crappy cafeteria food”.

Monday, July 20, 2009

90/10 Philosophy

I was reading a US based fitness magazine yesterday, and there was a personal trainer who introduced a very interesting concept. It’s called the 90/10 philosophy. The philosophy is really quite simple. What you need to do, is eat healthy 90% of the time and treat yourself (with unhealthy stuff which we all love) 10% of the time.

So if you were to break it down by each week, your eating plan would look something like this.

If you were to eat 3 meals a day, that is a total of 21 (3 meals x 7 days) meals for the whole week. This is of course assuming you don’t snack on anything in between. Now out of those 21 meals, you will be entitled to 2.1 meals or let’s just round it up to 2 meals, where you can let loose and eat that pizza, fast food or anything else which other diets ask you to stay off.

What if you do snack a lot? Simple, make sure you are snacking on healthy stuff, and you can use your quota for “treats” to eat some unhealthy snacks once in a while. If you are snacking on unhealthy stuff, well need I say what you need to do?

So I took a look at my current daily eating plan. Everyday, I make sandwiches for breakfast which is very healthy. I usually try to eat a light home made dinner. My main problem area is lunch and of course the weekends. Looking at it now, I am probably doing a 70/30 philosophy currently. So instead of jumping straight to 90/10, I thought of easing my way into 80/20 and then after a few weeks, jumping to the 90/10.

So what I recommend for you, is to take a look at your current eating habits. If you snack ocassionaly on unhealthy stuff, knock it off completely. Since its occasional, you probably don’t really need it. If you snack regularly, then this will count as one meal and you will have to make a concsious effort to make sure you start snacking healthily. What are healthy snacks? Muesli Bars, high fiber crackers, fruits (try freezing fruits like grapes, rambutan and manggoes – sucking on it makes it taste better than candy), dry and loose muesli, high fiber cereal. As you can see, you do have quite a few choices. So make the switch. Most snacking is psychological and you just eat because you want to put something in your mouth – and not that you truly desire that goreng pisang or Twisties.

Once you have roughly determined what % you are at, you can start planning on how to increase the healthy portions while reducing the unhealthy treats till your reach a 90/10 ratio. Once you do, you can feel proud of the results you have achieved.

What’s so great about the 90/10 philosophy?
1) It does not say “no treats at all”. It actually allows you to enjoy and live a normal life… which translates to you actually sticking with this, rather than quitting.
2) It is an open system anyone can adopt. Whatever your eating habits are right now, you can quickly apply this. You don’t have to make drastic changes to the number of meals you have just to make this work
3) It answers the all important question – How often am I allowed to indulge or Is it OK for me to eat that cheesecake? Well now you know.
4) You can start from where you are right now and progress slowly – You don’t have to set next Monday as the dreadful day your tongue ceases to taste anything good. Move slowly and swapping certain meals each time. It’s easier to do.
5) It works – If all of you really follow this, you will actually get to see results. Best of all, without that much pain and suffering.

So go ahead. Track what you eat for one whole week. Mark the number of meals that were healthy and the number of meals that were unhealthy. Now you will know your ratio. From here, you can start your journey towards healthier eating. Try it and see. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Mighty Exercise Ball

Me and wifey went to Sunway Pyramid yesterday to look for some exercise stuff for the house. She asked me what we should get without having to rob a bank and I told her that the Exercise Ball or Swiss ball is a must. My wife does almost all her exercise at home, since her work schedules and calls makes it difficult to workout at a gym. Hence since she does most of her exercise at home, we decided that it was a valuable investment…not to mention, I will also get to use it over the weekend, should I need to supplement my workout with that extra kick. Besides the ball we also bought an exercise bike from Fitness Concept, which is due to be delivered this coming Wednesday.

Anyway, at first, she was skeptical with the ball thinking it can only be used for doing crunches, but once I got it home and pumped it up, I showed her an array of exercises to do, and she was surprised with the number of things you can do on a simple bouncy ball. From pushups, to sit ups, to squats, to leg raises – the number of things you can do with the exercise ball is limited only by your own imagination. She tried it herself and she said its tough work. So if you could normally do 30 crunches on flat ground, you might only be able to do 20 crunches on the exercise ball. Why? Because balancing on the ball is tough and tiring.

Even though a particular exercise looks like it only focusing one body part, in actuality, your enitre body is at work hard continuously trying to maintain the position you are in. So all your other muscles are constantly flexing and relaxing to maintain and balance your body at the position you are in. I just played with the ball for a while doing some crunches and leg raises and I could feel my arms and legs working out hard at the same time. What does this mean? The more muscles that are working at one time, the more fat you are going to burn… not to mention tone and strenghten everything as well. It’s like a whole body workout, with additional focus on the body part of your choice.

I have attached some pics of just some of the exercises you can do right in the comfort of your own home using an Exercise Ball. Unlike other exercise equipments that costs thousands of Ringgit, the exercise ball only costs around RM 60 to RM 80, so I think anyone can afford it.

If you workout at home a lot, and if you had to choose 1 piece of home fitness equipments that allows you to workout your entire body without emptying your life’s savings, this would be my recommendation. It’s fun, challenging and most importantly – it can workout the whole body.

Let me know if any of you have tried it and of course any other cool exercises you can think of and of course look forward to hearing your comments.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dealing with Muscle Injuries

I just re-started my gym workout after 1 whole week of being off and man it feels good – except I got to start slow, so that’s a little bummer. Reason for being off for one whole week– my trip to Sabah and also it’s been awhile since I let my body rest for a whole week. So the rest and break in between the workouts from time to time is actually a good thing.

But anyway, that is a different topic all by itself. What I want to talk about in this posting is how to deal with muslce injury, and as luck might have it, I pulled a muscle or tendon today. Just as I am getting back in the groove, I might have to take another break while this heals.

So the big question is, how do you deal with muscle injury. Does it mean that you have to stop your workout immediately? Not necessarily. First thing you need to do, is rate the severity of the pain. Of course there are many types and classifications for muscle injury, but for layman purposes I came up with my own simple scale. And this scale covers the most common injuries we are likely to face while working out.

1 – Only hurts when the injured part is bent or stretched in a certain position
2 – Continuous pain even when at rest, but not severe
3 – Severe and continuous pain which prevents you from performing your normal day to day activities.

What I have is a Level 1 pain… it only hurts when I bend my arm in a certain way and really squeeze it. It’s annoying, but I can get by. So here is what your need to do depending on the severity of the pain

Level 1
Usually I would advise people to stay away from working out for a couple of days till the pain subsides, but if you are as crazy as me, I know you are going to hit the gym anyway. What I would advice is, you can go to the gym, but avoid exercises that puts your body in the position that causes the pain. For example, I currently feel an annoying pain when I bend my arms all the way… so I will need to avoid any exercise that mimics this movement as well others which may cause the pain. Needless to say, you want to try every exercise with a light weight first to see if the pain returns. If it doesn’t, then gradually increase the weights to your full strength. If it does return, stop doing that exercise immeidately. Pain is a signal to tell you that something is wrong, so when the signal goes off, stop doing it immediately. Most people find pain a nuisance, but I see it as a way for my body to alert me that something is wrong.

Usually, this kind of pain will disappear after a day or two of not repeating movements that cause the pain. So you just need to be careful with how you move and what you do for a couple of days, and you should be scott free after that. However, if the pain is still present after a week, you will need to see a doctor and get it checked out. Also, if at any point, the pain becomes worse or permanent, you will need to rest for awhile and get your doctor’s advice. If when the pain comes and it is the kind that is very sharp and painful, please see your doctor as well.

Level 2
If you feel a continuous throb or pain after your workout, it is pretty serious and you may need to see a doctor immediately. By pain, I am not talking about the usual post workout muslce intensity or aches. This is a pain which you know something has gone wrong. The worse thing you can do for this is to pop pain killers without seeing your doctor, let the pain disappear and then workout normally as if nothing happened and then keep popping pain killers to not feel the pain. You are probably going to make the injury worse.

A lot of injuries become permanent because people continue stressing the injury till it reaches a point of no return. Hence early intervention and and rest can prevent the injury from becoming a permanent injury. So whenever you get a lingering pain, you need to see your doctor immediately. He or she is most probably going to advice to rest for a week or 2, give you some pain killers and the usual “we will see how it goes after that”. It’s probably the best thing you can do, so follow your doctor’s advice and you should be fine. For those super hardcore fitness enthusiasts, its better to miss 1 month of working out, than missing a lifetime of working out because of a permanent injury.

Level 3
If you are experiencing this kind of pain, what are you doing still reading this blog? You need to be admitted to a hospital.
OK on a serious note, if you do experience this, it means it is something very serious like a torn muscle or ligament, and this will need long term rest and recovery. One or 2 weeks rest ain’t going to cut it. More like a month or more of rest depending on how severe this is. This kind of pain rarely happens suddenly. Usually, people will have level 2 pain for a long time, ignored it and continued pushing on as usual before suddenly having level 3 pain. Of course there are very rare occasions when the wrong angle or too much weight can suddenly tear something and cause this pain immediately, but usually, it is a progression from level 2 pain.

So if you get this kind of pain, the first thing you need to do is run to a clinic. If the GP there thinks its serious, he will refer you to a specialist for further evaluation. I hope nobody gets this kind of pain from working out, but if you do, please see your doctor immediately.

OK, this is just a simple guide on how you should deal with muscle injuries. Most of these pains usually happens to heavy lifters, so if you are lifting heavy weights, this will be a useful guide to you and not just the usual “run to your doctor” articles. Just as a precaution, whenever in doubt, please refer to your doctor. Every person’s body and injury is unique, so that’s why your doctor who sees you will be a better judge of what to do.

Have any of you experienced any muscle injuries before? I have numerous times, and this is how I have dealt with it, and so far, so good…. Still going strong.

As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Trip to Sabah

I just returned from my trip to Kota Kinabalu, and it was a blast. I spent 2 nights in KK town itself and another 2 nights in the much talked about Nexus Karambunai… a beach resort that is totally isolated from everything and 6KM of prestine beach with crystal clear water.

I booked my flights for this trip about 4 months ago with Air Asia and managed to get it for RM 174 for a return flight for 2 people. What a deal. The rooms for Nexus is advertised at RM 880 on the net, but I managed to get it at RM 299 per roon per night from the MATA fair. Travel tip to all… book early and save loads of money.

Anyway KK town itself was great. We stayed in the Hyatt, which was centrally loacted to a shopping mall, the jetty and many restaurants – all within walking distance. What do you do in KK town? Shopping and my personal favourite Island Hopping. We booked a private boat that took us to 3 islands off the coast of KK – Manukan, Sulug and Mamutik. The water in all these islands were crystal clear, I could stand with water up to my neck, and when I look down, I could still see my feet. I managed to do some snorkling in these islands and the boat would come to pick us up whenever we want. Sulug was an abandoned island and the story is, they did try to set up a resort over there, but constant battering of waves caused the structure to be destroyed and hence now it is just abandoned. A whole day in a sea of clear water sure does wear you out.

While following wifey for shopping, I stumbled upon this cool T-shirt which has a skull on it and it says “Borneo Head Hunters”. How cool is that. But most part of the shopping was done buying gifts for colleagues and checking out the Phillipino Market…. And there a lot of Phillipino’s in Sabah…. Don’t ask me why. Maybe because it is close by.

After 2 days in KK, we travelled by taxi to the luxurious Nexus Karambunai. Honestly, this hotel is great and all, but I think it is a little over rated. The hotel is nice and beautiful, but it is a little old and not everything works as it should… which is a thumbs down in my book. The other thing I didn’t like about it, was that you are fully dependent on the hotel for everything, since you are cut away from everything else. The food choices in this hotel aren’t too bad, only complaint is, it a little over priced. But I figured that if you can afford to stay in this hotel, they expect you to be able to afford the food there as well.

The best part of this hotel – 6 KM of a private beach and the water is clearer than the tap water we get in our houses. It’s mainly a sandy beach, so not much coral or fish to see. But if you are a beach bum like me, it’s all you can ask for. They have loads of water and land activities from jet skiing to horse back riding. Again, didn’t try any of these activities as it was way way over priced.

Anyway after 5 days of being a beach bum and soaking in the sun, my skin is burnt and peeling away. The question on my mind now is “Where is my next holiday going to be?” Any ideas? Look forward to hearing your comments or sharing your Sabah experiences.