Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Indulgence Plan

I've been helping a friend of mine to lose weight and so far she's been doing good. I put her on a cross training / turbulence training workout routine, and the results have been amazing. I also recommended her a diet program and told her that every 2 weeks, we would make it progressively more difficult. Now its been about 2 months, and she is finally starting to face some problems with keeping up with the diet plan as we have cut out lots of stuff. She is down to 2 sweet drinks a day, very little carbohydrates and lots of fruits & vegetables as well as lean meat.

She says she has strong urges to just indulge every once in awhile in something sinful, but she is afraid she will blow away all her hard work. So i came up with what i call an indulgence plan. This indulgence plan allows you to indulge in your favourite foods with the hopes of keeping the damage to a minimum. So here is how it works.

Tip# 1 - Only indulge 10% to 20% of the time.
Now it depends on how quickly you want to lose weight and also your own body. Some people can indulge more and get away with it, while others may not. Also, she wants to look her best for this reunion she is going for at the end of May. So i told her to keep it to about 10% of the time. So if you are eating about 35 meals a week (i got her to eat 5 times a day), then 3 of those meals can become your indulgent meals, while the rest have to follow the diet plan. Now the key here is to keep note of how many times you are indulging. Most people keep indulging, but comfort themselves by saying its only today and yesterday. Sure you can do that, but you have to ensure that its only today and yesterday and not for the past 3 years. So giving a measurable % lets you know just how much you are allowed to stray away from your plans.

Tip# 2 - Indulge on the days you are going to work out.
Now if she is going to indulge, it would be best to indulge on days where she is going to workout rather than on days when she is resting. On days of her workout, she is going to be more active and is going to use a lot more calories that day than on her normal rest day. She works out 4 times a week, so i told her to try and keep it on those days when she does work out. If its your rest day, make it a point to do some activity after that like a 30 minute walk or something. This helps to reduce the damage of the indulgence. Now that 30 minute walk would of course be an additional workout to the 4 times a week because it was done during her off day. I told her preferably, if she needs to indulge, try her best to do it before her workout (as close as possible) or right after her workout (within 1 hour of working out). This further reduces the impact the food will have on her.

Tip# 3 - Balance it out
Now if your are going to eat at TGIF or something, then go ahead and enjoy yourself. But you have to balance out your other meals to ensure that you don't totally burst your calorie consumption for the day. For example, if she is eating 2,000 calories a day, and her TGIF meal is 1,000 calories, then she needs to do her best and still keep to the remaining 1,000 calories for that day so it all still adds up to 2,000 calories. So it doesn't mean for that day, you consume your usual 2,000 calories and then 1,000 additional calories because today was TGIF day. Its OK to go above a little like 2,200 calories or so for that day, but where possible, cut back on the other meals and try to balance it out and still stay within your plan.

So there you have it. Some simple tips that will allow you to indulge while reducing the effects on your weight loss program. Now if anyone follows these simple tips, i guarantee you that you will see results while leading a pretty normal life. At the end of the day, its almost impossible for anyone to keep strict to their diet 24/7. I know some people have more discipline than others, but for the rest who have to indulge (like me), then these tips help to reduce the damage to your waistline. Remember, you can't indulge all the time and expect this to work. The only way you can indulge all day everyday and lose weight, is if you worked in a construction site where you have to do hard physical labour 8 hours a day. If you are just going to be sitting around the office and working out 1 hour a day (like most people reading this), then this plan comes in handy for you. So try it out and see. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Monday, April 19, 2010

How Many Calories Do I Need In A Day?

Following up from last weeks post, I mentioned that just flashing the number 2,400 calories a day for a 30 year old doesn’t mean much. So this week, I decided, to share with you, a method on calculating how many calories you personally need each day. Now the reason I say personally you, is because this is based on you as an individual. So its not just 2,400 calories for you and everyone else who happens to share the same birth year as you.

Now if you surf the net, you will easily find loads of ways or methods to calculate how many calories you need in a day, and I have chosen to share one of it. So the one i am sharing is not the holy bible of calculating your calorie needs per day, just one of the recommended methods of doing so. Where did i get this formula? I got this from the Nutrition Science for Fitness manual and I find it easy to use and pretty straight forward.

So how do you calculate how many calories you need in a day? You can use the simple formula below:

For men:1 x B x 24 x L x A

For women:0.9 x B x 24 x L x A

Now at a glance, the formula might look like a formula for calculating rocket propulsion against vertical air resistance or some other gibberish like that. But it’s actually quite easy once you know what the B, L and A stands for.

B = body weight (in kilograms),
L = lean factor - or how much body fat you have
A = is activity level.

How do you find each of these values?

B = Body weight
B is pretty simple. You just have to stand on a weighing scale and voila, you have your weight. Now if by any chance, you are using an ancient scale which only shows pounds, you can find out your weight in KG by dividing your weight (in pounds) by 10, and then multiplying that number by 4.5.

L = Lean Factor
L is going to be a little tougher to find out. You can get your gym to a do a free check for you. Most gyms are pretty obliging as long as you are nice to the staff. If you are not a gym member, go to any of the big gyms near you, tell them you are thinking of joining and ask them if they can do a Body Fat Percentage test for you - which will subsequently help you to decide if you need to join the gym or not. They will do it for you for free, in hopes of you joining their gym. So this is one way to find out your body fat %. Now once you have done that, you need to use that information to find out your lean factor. To do that, refer to the table below:-

10 to 14% body fat (for men) or 14 to 18% body fat (for women) = 1
14 to 20% body fat (for men) or 18 to 28% body fat (for women) = .95
20 to 28% body fat (for men) or 28 to 38% body fat (for women) = .90
Over 28% body fat (for men) or over 38% body fat (for women) = .85

A = Activity Level
A, Activity Level can be found by referring to the set of descriptions below. You need to find the one that best describes your activity level on a daily basis.

Sitting, reading, talking, playing video games, or surfing the web throughout the day...
Then your activity level multiplier is 1.30

Lots of typing, teaching, lab works, cooking, and some walking throughout the day...
Then your activity level multiplier is 1.55

Dancing, jogging or lots of walking, tennis, landscaping, OR weight training 1 to 2 hours a day...
Then your activity level multiplier is 1.65

Heavy manual labor like digging, construction or military work along with rock climbing, cycling, OR weight training 2 to 4 hours a day (split into 2 or more workouts of course)...
Then your activity level multiplier is 1.80

Heavy manual labor for 8 hours a day, plus 2 to 4 hours of weight training (or if your name starts with "super" and ends with "man"...)
Then your activity level multiplier is 2.00

OK, now its time to put all that information together and make sense of it.

For example, let’s take a 170 pound man who has 15% body fat and who does very little each day.

Change the pounds to kgs. 170 / 10 = 17 x 4.5 = 76.5 kg.

1 x 76.5kg x 24 x 0.95 x 1.30 = 2267 calories needed each day to maintain his body weight exactly as it is. To gain muscle, he should consume 500 calories more than that. To lose fat, he should consume 500 calories less than that.

So, to lose fat...
2267 - 500 = 1767 calories per day.

To gain muscle...
2267 + 500 = 2767 calories per day.

Now to gain muscle (and not fat), he will need to do weight training as well, and not merely consume 500 calories more a day. If he does not do any exercise and consumes 500 additional calories a day, those calories will get stored away as fat. Again, the 500 additional calories is just a recommendation and will vary from individual to individual.

So now you can pluck in the numbers that are unique to you as an individual and find out how many calories you need in a day and what you need to do to lose fat. So try it out and see. Once you know how much calories you need in a day, you can start deducing a plan to lose weight or gain muscle. In short, this gives you a target or goal to reach, rather than just shooting blindly in the dark. Hope this information is useful to all of you and as usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday Star: Food Fat-ish

Did any of you read the Star newspaper yesterday. The headlines read "Food Fat-ish" and it was basically about Malaysians and their unhealthy eating habits. When i first read the article, they were taking aim at the mamak stalls for being open 24 hours. In my mind i was thinking, Oh boy, here we go again... the same old argument...blame the mamak and McDonalds for people making the wrong choices in food. To me, if you are blaming the Mamak for being there 24 hours a day, then you are barking up the wrong tree. Well they didn't totally take the piss of the mamaks, but just highlighted some statistics about Malaysians being obese.

Then as i read further, i came across the nutrition table and my eyes almost popped out. This is a national news paper with a huge circulation and i can't believe what they were saying. There are 3 major points that i disgree with, so i will post them up here 1 by 1 for you guys.

1) Roti Canai is 301 kCal and Chapatti is 300 kCal
Now i don't know about you guys, but that number just seems wrong to me. Have you seen how they make Roti Canai? You make it with refined flour, margarine and loads of oil. While you are pressing it out, you bathe it with more oil. When you cook it, you flood it with even more oil. Now i have seen these stats before in other places, and i am still baffled with how a roti canai can only be a mere 1 calorie more than chapatti... i mean seriously. Even with white bread and whole meal bread, there is a difference of almost 20 calories... and the oil spilt roti canai vs the dry chapatti is only 1 calorie? Does anyone know the explanation for this?

2) Murtabak 231 kCal and roti canai 301 kCal
Wooohh.... have you seen how they make murtabak? They take your roti canai (whole thing), add in chicken pieces, egg and onions and then cook it. Now, how in the hell did adding more ingredients make the murtabak have less calories than the plain old roti canai? It's like a bowl of plain rice will have more calories than a bowl of fried rice with all the ingredients dumped in.
Come on guys, at least check your figures before you blast it out like that. Now i thought maybe they are refering to some small murtabak, but nope, the weight of an average roti canai is 95g while the murtabak is 146g. so the murtabak is heavier than your roti canai. So how the hell did it miraculously lose 70 calories after you added ingredients? Mind blowing. i need to learn this recipe.

3) They had a table that showed how many calories you should be consuming.
OK granted, it is just a recommendation, and it should not be caste in stone. But 1 major thing they failed to highlight (which is probably the most important) was the level of activity. Meaning, when you recommend 2,400kCal a day for an individual between the age of 30 to 50, what kind of activity level are we talking about? Sleeps all day, watch TV all day, or moderately active, or super workout junkie or construction worker. My point is, just flashing out the number 2400 is really quite pointless and has little meaning. Now if you are a pretty active individual and try to follow this recommendation, you could be starving yourself of nutrients. I know all of you will be saying, its meant for the average joe... but how much activity does an average joe do? well they could have easily added in a 1 liner that says moderately active, with abaout 20 minutes of physical activity a day or something. this would have helped to put things in perspective, rather than just flashing a number. Its like saying 85kg is overweight... not if you are 6'5" and a body builder with 8% body fat. See what i mean? Just flashing a number doesn't make sense.

Anyway, thats just some thoughts that i wanted to share with all of you. I don't have anything against the Star newspaper, but i just thought that somebody needs to put things in perspective. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments on this... especially on point number 1, coz i am curious as to how they got those figures.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

How Strong Are You?

Have you ever wondered how strong you are? I mean if you work out regularly and lift heavy, would you like to know if you are really strong or just think you are strong. How do you know if your heavy lifting is really heavy and enough? You can't just compare yourself to the gym rat next to you, because you don't know his genetic make up and how long he has been training for. So how do you measure strength?

Well one way would be to join a competition such as a Strong Man Competition. But lets face it, most of us are not full time athletes and don't intend to become one, so this is out of the question.

Another method is to use a scientific methodology in the gym which will tell you what your strength deficit is... which means, how much strength your body can physically produce vs how much strength you currently have. This is the best way to discover how strong or how heavy you are lifting and whether you are strong strong or just think you are strong. This is covered in the Fitness Science manual, so due to copyright reasons, i can't go into full details of it. This is the correct method to use to measure strength and not the stupid machine they had everyone pull in the Biggest Loser Asia.

But for this post, i am going to share a quick lay man table with you and if you compare yourself with the exercises you are doing below, it will give you a rough indication of how strong you really are. So its you against.... well you.

This technique is simple. There are 3 basic exercises (which almost everyone will be doing), and all you have to ask yourself is, am i doing enough or am i close to the recommendation. In short, you should be able to perform up to 8 reps of the exercises below. If you fall short, then you are not very strong. If you are lifting heavier than the recommended weight and still completing 8 reps, then you are mighty strong.

So here is how you gauge yourself.

When you are lifting, the amount of weight you should have for each exercise is as below:
  • Standing Barbell Curls - half your body weight for 8 reps
  • Bench Press your body weight for 8 reps
  • Squat 1.5 times your body weight for 8 reps

Now i am sure if you are a serious fitness junkie or gym rat, you will definitely be doing the exercises mentioned above already. it would be part of your routine. So the question to ask yourself is, are you doing the recommended amount of weight and reps. If yes, then that's great, you would be considered strong. If you are not, don't feel bad. now you have a goal to work towards, so keep at it and i am sure you will get there.

So how strong are you. Me? Well, I can do half my body weight curls and my body weight bench press. But my legs, still short of the goal above due to a leg injury i had many years ago, but i am working towards it. Hopefully i get to reach it soon. When i do, i will let you guys know.

Anyway, do share your thoughts as well as your own strength test results for the exercises above. Look forward to hearing your comments.