Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Whole Foods

As we all know, when it comes to health and fitness, food plays an extremely big part – even more than exercise itself. The age old saying of “You are what you eat” is so true when it comes to fitness. So because of this, I thought it is extremely important to highlight some of the food choices you should make on a daily basis. Now I could sit here and name all the good foods and all the bad foods to avoid but that would just waste both our times. So instead, let me focus on 1 important aspect of choosing food and by just making this switch, you would have taken a giant leap towards a healthier lifestyle. If you can just remember this and follow it every time you eat, you will be far better than most people out there.

What am I talking about? I am talking about Whole Foods. Whole Foods is a term used to describe food that has not been processed / refined or only processed / refined slightly and consumed the way nature intended it. This is the best form and best way to consume food. In today’s world, our food choices are filled with processed foods which are filled with additives & preservatives that only add taste and increase the shelf life of the product. No nutrition value and worse still, some of these are actually harmful to you. So not only will some of these foods make you fat, but it is harmful to your health as well.

So what are whole foods? Anything that has not been processed or refined. So if you are going for chicken, buy chicken parts as they are, not sausages and burgers. If you want to eat burgers, buy your own fresh meat and mince it up yourself. If you want to eat french fries, buy your own potatoes and cut it up yourself, rather than buying the frozen ones which have been processed. If you want to drink orange juice, buy your own oranges and squeeze them yourself, rather than buying it in a bottle or can.

Let’s be honest for a second. I am sure you know some friends who eat 2 sausage buns for lunch every day thinking that that is a diet plan that is going to help them lose weight. After all, the sausage bun is only about 250 calories (that’s what they say to comfort themselves). Buns are made from refined flour, mixed with margarine (usually margarine contains transfat which is bad bad stuff), sugar and a whole lot of other preservatives. Then comes the sausage. Does anyone know how sausages are made? Usually its made from all the left over parts of the chicken which cannot be sold… like the skin, fat and any other body part which cannot be sold. So they grind everything up, throw in a whole lot of MSG and flavouring and voila…. You have yourself a sausage. Put that together and multiply it by 2 and that is what your friend is consuming everyday in hopes of losing weight. Need I say more?

Now the next question on everyones mind is, “OK, you have made it clear about how to buy healthy food for home preparation. But I eat out a lot. So how does this help me?” Well its no secret that making your own food at home will be better than eating out. However, I do understand the constraints of making your own food all the time. So, the next time you go out to eat, have this concept of whole foods in your mind as well. Skim through the menu and see what are the kinds of food that will still be in its natural form. So between a grilled fish and fish burger, which one would you choose? Mutton Kima (minced mutton) or Mutton Curry… which one would you choose? French fries or baked potato, which one would you choose? Fried fish or fried Keropok, which one would you choose? Now I know some of the foods I mentioned above, both choices are not the healthiest choices. I am just trying to make it clear when you have to choose between 2, which one would you choose. The lesser evil of course. And when you are eating out, sometimes you have to make that choice as you are not the cook.

So remember the next time you hit the supermarket for your grocery shopping, be careful with what you throw into your trolley. Your safest bet is always buying food which is not canned, bottled or wrapped up. Go fresh and go for whole foods. Eat food the way nature intended it to be. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Doing My First Chin Up / Pull Up

Hi everyone. Firstly, sorry for the very late post this week. Work has been crazy for the past few days, so I didn’t get a chance to post anything. Now since I have a bit more time, I decided I better quickly write something, so I decided to write about doing chin ups / pull ups, because lots of people tell me they can’t do it and want to know how to train for it. So here are some tips to help you do your first chin up / pull up soon.

Before we continue on with this, it is important to note the difference between a chin up and a pull up. A full Chin Up or Pull Up is where the body is suspended by extended arms gripping a fixed bar, then pulled up until the elbows are bent and the head is higher than the hands. So that’s what you want to be aiming for. Not just pulling yourself half way up. Though the overall movement is similar, there is a huge difference in the grip which makes one easier and the other more difficult to do. A chin up is done with and underhand (supinated) grip. This is easier to do than a pull up which uses an overhand (pronated) grip. Both movements require tremendous upper body strength so if you still can’t do even 1 chin up or pull up, don’t worry or feel embarrassed about it. When I was younger, I couldn’t do 1 either. Follow these tips and hopefully, you will actually be able to do your first full chin up or pull up soon.

Heavy Weights Low Reps
As you know, doing a chin up or pull requires tremendous strength. In fitness, strength is basically your ability to get the muscles to do what you want them to do over a short period of time. So when it comes to chin ups, you want to be able to lift your body up. When it comes to training for strength, you want to use heavy weights and low reps. This basically helps to condition your Central Nervous System (CNS) to give you that jolt of strength that you need. When it comes to strength, a big part of how strong you are is the ability for your CNS to provide enough impulse to your muscle to act. The more practice the CNS gets at sending signals to the muscles telling them to move with great force, the stronger you become and the way to do that is to keep pushing on heavier and heavier weights. You want to primarily hit your biceps, back and shoulders real heavy as these are the primary muscles you will be using during a chin up or pull up. If these muscles are weak, then you are going to have a lot of trouble doing a complete chin up or pull up.

How heavy should you lift? You want to lift weights that only allows you to complete between 4 to 6 reps. So if you can lift more than 6, the weight is too light for you. Pick up something heavier! So when you train your biceps, back and shoulders, make sure you choose a weight that only allows you to complete between 4 to 6 reps.

Lose that Tummy
OK if you can’t do chin ups and have a bulging tummy, here is another reason to lose that tummy. The point is doing a chin up is hard enough already. So give yourself an added advantage by reducing any unwanted baggage that you are carrying with you and lose all that unwanted fat. Not saying you can’t do chin ups with all that fat around your stomach, but why add a disadvantage to yourself? So watch your diet, do more cardio, but work on reducing your body fat percentage. The leaner you become, the easier it will be to do a complete chin up.

Use the Law of S.A.I.D
Out of all the laws of fitness out there, this one has to be one of my favourites. The law of SAID stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. In normal English, what this means is, if you want to get good at something, just keep doing more of it. The closer you replicate your exercise to the actual movement, the better you will get at doing the actual thing. For example, if you want to get good at arm wrestling, doing lots of biceps curls is good but turning every workout you have into an arm wrestling contest will be better because that replicates the actual movement more than a bicep curl.

So when it comes to chin ups, doing bicep curls are OK, doing pulling exercises are good, pull downs are better, weight assisted chin ups are even better, but the best would be doing it with a spot. Now, when you spot someone for chin ups, the spotter doesn’t have to lift you up and down. He just provides a resting place for your feet and you push off just enough with your legs to get you going. In other words, you decide how much assistance you need and who knows better than you yourself. The less assistance you rely on, the better. So try your best to use as little as your legs as you can. As you improve, you will rely less and less on your legs until finally you can do it without any assistance.

Sticking Points
Now as you improve, you will be able to do a partial chin up and somewhere in the middle of the movement, you are going to get stuck and this is what they call the sticking point. One of the best ways to overcome sticking points is to do isometric exercises. So lift yourself up to your sticking point (no assistance), and once you reach it, hold that position as long as you can. Keep doing sets of this exercise and you will soon find you will be able to overcome this dreaded sticking point. Now this isometric exercise should be in addition to your normal workout following the law of SAID and not a replacement of it.

So there you have it. Some tips to help you overcome you inability of doing chin ups or pull ups. If you follow all these tips, I guarantee you will be able to do chin ups in no time. How long it takes is up to you and how hard to train and follow these tips. But remember, everyone can do it as long as you have the right tools…. And these tips help you to have the tools.

Go ahead, try it and I hope those who can’t do chin ups now will be able to overcome this and do chin ups. It really isn’t as hard as you think it is. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Burn Machine

Have any of you heard of this new piece of equipment called the Burn Machine? The first time I heard it, I was wondering if it’s going to be some kind of vibrating belt gimmick and was reluctant to check it out. But after much persuasion from my friend Azmy, I decided to check it out.

We went down to the HQ of Pure Health and met up with Brian Wong, who is the co-founder of Pure Health. Once we stepped in, we had some brief introductions and then he tossed me this wheel looking machine.

He said, you are tough guy, I bet you can’t spin this for more than 1 minute. Not wanting to be outdone, I tried it. Man, within 30 seconds, my arms were burning away. By 45 seconds, I felt like I lost control of my arms and the burning sensation just intensified exponentially every second. Yeah, I didn’t reach the 1 minute timing but boy, my arms and shoulders felt pumped, like I just lifted.

So what exactly is the Burn Machine? The Burn Machine is a geniusly designed equipment with lots of uses. The main function of the Burn Machine is to help you burn fat and of course help to build upper body endurance. You can either do just the basic spin while standing stationary or you could go crazy and add this into your cycling routine (stationary bike please). You can use it as a dumbbell, spin it while doing crunches, spin while doing lunges. In short, whatever exercise you do, using the Burn Machine actually intensifies that exercise and just makes it that much more effective.

The Burn Machine comes in various sizes (weight) and models depending on your needs. If all you want to do is tone up and burn fat, the basic model below will suffice.

They also have a barbell version as displayed below for those who want to use weights. This is what they call an Asymmetrical Barbell System as the little counter weight in the center of the barbell will move. Overall, I think the Burn Machine is a fantastic piece of equipment to add into your arsenal of home based equipments. I totally love the spin action and is great for shaping up your deltoids, so your arms look great when you wear a sleeveless t-shirt. Just one small drawback which I hope they have in future models is being able to increase the resistance of the spinning action – hence making it more difficult to spin. The other thing I wish they had done was providing a way to add on some weights rather to the basic model. Currently, if you want something heavier, you have to buy a new unit which is bigger and heavier.

But besides that, I think the Burn Machine is definitely a great machine to burn fat and most of all, I would use it to supercharge my cardio workouts or replace your cardio workouts with an intense session of the the Burn Machine. We are working closely with Brian to come up with a special deal for everyone who is interested in buying the Burn Machine, so stay tuned for more details. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The secret to BIG arms

OK, this weeks post is a little different. Instead of just talking about weight loss like i usually do, i want to talk about something i am passionate about ie muscle gain. Since i was young, i have been obsessed with having big arms. So i literally tried every kind of workout there is and none of them were as effective as the one I want to share with all of you. So here is the secret to having big arms. It’s a lot of hard work, but the results speak for themselves.

Go Heavy
If you want to get big (whether its your arms or chest), one of the surest ways is to train heavy. When i train my arms, i do between 8 to 10 reps and with heavy weights where you find it difficult to pass 10 reps. For me, I usually train till failure. I have tried training lighter 12 to 15 reps twice a week, but personally, I feel training once a week heavy helps you grow faster. Also, just a word of caution, I would not recommend this routine to beginners. To effectively try this, please ensure you have at least 6 months of weight training under your belt.

Don’t cheat.
When you are doing bicep curls for example, it is important that you use only your biceps and nothing else. I have seen people in the gym who pound on huge plates and when it comes to lifting, they sway and swing in every way possible just to bring the weights up. But the end result, you walk away with a back ache and your biceps barely did anything because your used every other muscle in your body except your biceps to raise the weights. If you are going to lift, don’t swing and don’t sway. Maintaining your form is extremely vital not only for the growth of your arms, but to avoid injury as well. Reduce the weights a little and do it properly making sure only your forearms are moving up and down.

Do it slowly.
Another way to avoid cheating is to do each rep slowly. Ideally, each rep should take about 4 seconds to go up and come down. You will have to do a mental time count when you first start doing this, but once you have the correct speed, you won’t have to count the time anymore as the speed and timing will come naturally. Chances are, you are already doing it fast, so next time you hit the gym, make sure you do it slowly following the 4 second count. 2 seconds to bring the weight up and 2 seconds to bring the weights down.

Bringing the weights back to its original rest position is equally important.
Let’s use the example of the bicep curls again. Once you pull it up to your chest, don’t drop it back to your start position in half a second. The time it took you to lift it up to your chest (which is about 2 seconds) is the amount of time it should take for you to return back down. So take about 2 seconds to bring it down slowly back to the original rest position. The movement of returning to the original rest position gives your muscles negative resistance. Doing it slowly increases the negative resistance and this negative resistance is also vital for growth.

Do your triceps as well
When it comes to arms, a lot of people only focus on their biceps. They forget that there is another important muscle called the triceps which accounts for another 50% of your arm. So, the best way to bloat your arms up fast, is to do triceps as well. The same rules mentioned above apply for your triceps workout as well. So don’t just focus on your biceps. Give the same amount of attention to your triceps as well.

Do super sets.
When it comes to arms, train only your arms and not any other muscle group for that day. I used to do my chest and then my triceps after that, but then I found super sets. Super sets are basically exercises that are done back to back without rest. When it comes to arms, I do my set of biceps, and then immediately hit my triceps without a break. Once I finish my triceps, I take a one minute break before I hit the next set. So this way, each set you do will consist of one set of bicep exercise followed immediately by one set of triceps exercise. Make sure you perform all your exercises for your arms and do them in supersets.

Do 3 varieties of exercise
When it comes to my arms, I have 3 varieties of exercises for biceps and 3 varieties of exercises for triceps, which are all done in the same work out. So when choosing your arm routine, make sure you have 3 exercises for biceps and 3 exercises for triceps and do them in supersets.
So its 3 Sets x 10 reps x 3 exercises for biceps and 3 sets x 10 reps x 3 exercises for triceps. So if you do the math, its about 90 reps total for biceps and 90 reps total for triceps.

Indirect work out for your arms are essential
If you are doing bench press, inevitably about 30% of your strength will come from your triceps. This also means that your chest is only doing 70% of the work during the bench press and your triceps are still working out and doing the rest. When you do lat pull downs or chin ups for your back, yet again 30% of your biceps are being used. Quite a big number if you ask me. Hence, even when it is not your arms day, your arms are still working out. This is why I recommend only doing this superset routine once a week. So make sure you push heavy on bench press, incline press and other chest exercises to boost your triceps and push heavy on your back exercises as well to boost your biceps.

Change your routine
Change the 3 varieties of exercises you do every 3 or 4 months. This will shock your muscle enabling it to grow further. If you do the same routine for too long, your body becomes accustomed to that work out, and it will stop growing. Another way is to take a break for 1 whole week and then come back again. There are a variety of ways to change things up and shock your muscles. I shall discuss this further in another posting. But with that being said, it does not mean that more changes / shocks make it better. You only want to change things up every 3 to 4 months.

To sum it up:

1) Do your arms in supersets
2) Train it only once a week
3) When you are doing your arms, don't train other muscle groups
4) Go heavy
5) Do your triceps as well
6) Keep your form
7) Make sure you work out your chest and back as well
8) Change your exercises every 3 to 4 months

So there you have it. Some of my friends who have tried this routine are amazed by the results that they have gotten. Hope you guys out there who want big arms try it and as usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

PS: please take a moment to cast your vote on the latest poll.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Eat for what you are about to do

I am currently going through the Nutrition Science for Fitness course and am realizing that a lot of what I held as true, turns out to be not so true after all. What exactly these are, well I will cover in another post. Another Wow factor is, I didn’t realize our body was such a complicated piece of machinery and there is just so much you can do by tweaking your nutrition plan. Anyway, all that to be covered some time soon. For this week, I just want to share one of the most important things I have learnt from the course and I thought it’s a must to share with everyone, especially those who want to lose weight.

One of the best and simplest rule you can follow is “eat for what you are about to do in the next 3 hours”. Now I am sure all of you have read millions of things about weight loss in magazines, on the web, on Oprah. Well sometimes there is just so much information out there, its hard to remember and decide what to do. So, if you forget everything else you have read on the internet and magazine, its fine, just remember this simple line “eat for what you are about to do in the next 3 hours” and you will be fine. What exactly does this mean? Let me break it down for you.

Ideally, we should all be eating 5 meals a day or every 3 hours that you are awake. The reason for doing this, is to ensure our body has a continuous stream of nutrition, so it never ever has to feel like its in a state of famine and start storing reserves… in our body, reserves means storing nutrition in our fat cells. I know doing a 5 meal a day plan is hard for most of us, and the best I can do is 4 meals a day – Breakfast, Lunch, evening meal (between lunch and dinner) and dinner.

Now for those who are more committed and more serious than me, you can plan your day ahead and pack food for all those odd moments when you need to load up. Ideally you want to pack up things which are simple to consume and of course, easy to prepare so you don’t spend 3 hours preparing for it. Things like carrot sticks, celery, sandwich, high fiber biscuits, muesli bars etc are easy to make and can be eaten anywhere at anytime and takes less than 10 minutes to prepare. So try to stock up on these and take it with you and every 3 hours, make sure you consume it.

So now the question is, how big should each of my meals be? The answer to that is “Depends on what you are going to be doing for the next 3 hours.”

So if you are going to help a friend move houses (lots of manual labor) for the next 3 hours, yeah, you are going to need more calories compared to sitting in front of the TV for the next 3 hours. If you are going to workout in the next 3 hours, again, you are going to need more calories than if you were going to take a nap for the next 3 hours. The basic thing is, ask yourself this question before every meal

What am I going to be doing for the next 3 hours?

If it’s sitting in front of your PC and reading this blog (though I can’t imagine why you would want to read this blog for 3 hours), heck you don’t need a whole lot of calories for that, some carrot sticks and celery sticks will do just fine. This is also why, you should keep your dinners small (unless you are working the night shift as a security guard where you got to keep walking) and how the popular cliché “Don’t eat anything after 7pm” started. It’s not entirely wrong, but again, a 7pm cut off is too early unless you go to bed by 9. But we shall discuss that in a later post. So try to keep your dinner small, since most of us usually hit the sack shortly after dinner.

The only time this rule kind of doesn’t apply is post workout, meaning even if you are just watching TV for the next 3 hours after your workout, your post workout meal needs to have a higher calorie content to replace back what you lost during your workout. But for all other situations, think forward of what you are going to be doing and eat for that.

So just a quick re-cap

· Eat 5 meals a day or for every 3 hours you are awake
· Plan your day and keep simple, healthy foods handy for those 3 hour breaks. Carrot sticks, celery sticks, muesli bars, sandwiches etc. You can be creative with this, but please ensure you don’t snack on unhealthy foods like Twisties, nasi lemak etc.
· How much you eat should be in relation to what you are going to be doing for the next 3 hours. If its sleeping, a roti canai will be way too much calories for that activity. In short, eat more fruits and vegetables when your activity level for the next 3 hours is going to be low.

That’s it. Simple, easy to follow and best of all, I guarantee you results if you truly follow this. So try it out and see and as usual, I look forward to hearing your comments.