Thursday, December 22, 2011

Staying Motivated During the Holiday Season

So another year is almost coming to an end. time really flies. I was having a conversation with a friend in the gym that day and he said he is finding it hard to stay focused and motivated in the month of December. Why? Too many parties, too many trips - its like everybody is in a celebrative mode, so even coming to the gym feels like a chore. Mind you this guy is one of the regulars at my gym. So he asked me for some tips on how to stay motivated, and i thought it would be great to share with all of you - how to stay motivated during the holiday season.

1) What is your goal
If your goal is to lose 5kg in the next 2 months, then you need to be clear about this. As long as you have a deadline and a quantitative figure, it will help you to stay on course. A lot of times, people get easily demotivated because they don't have the final result in mind or, they have just forgotten. SO remind yourself again about what your goals are and how much more time you have to achieve this. And thus it will become clear what needs to be done in terms of effort

2) What is your "Reason" for wanting this goal?
Now lot of people take this lightly, but i feel that having a reason behind your goal is a great motivating factor. So "why" do you want to lose 5kg in 2 months? Maybe you are going for a class reunion or maybe you are getting married in 2 months. Or maybe you are tired of people making fun of you. Whatever the reason is, you need to write it down and have it in your mind at all times. So you need to sit down and discover what prompted you in the first place to come up with this goal

3) Monitor your progress
Monitoring your progress regularly is great to help you stay on track. If you have been skipping workouts and then find out that you have gained 1kg, well the results speak for itself. So don't wait till the end of 2 months to weigh yourself. Weigh yourself periodically. Now weighing yourself every day is not necessary as your weight can fluctuate quite a bit due to water retention. once a week or once in 2 weeks is great. So if its been a while since you stepped on that scale, take it out, dust it off and step on it.

4) Plan your cheat days
Rather then letting life decide what direction you are going in, how about planning it a little. Example, you want to go to the gym tomorrow evening (because every wednesday evening is gym day), but there is this party that you absolutely have to go for. So what do you do? Well plan around it. How about going to the gym on Tuesday evening (assuming you don't usually go on Tuesdays). Or thursday. Or the weekends. The point is, don't let your social plans become an excuse not to exercise. Instead find ways to work around it. If you want it bad enough, i am sure you will find a way. Same goes for food. Going to indulge later tonight? Then eat sparingly for the rest of the day. You don't have to eat banana leaf for lunch today. You can always have it some other day.5) Tell your friends about your goals and progress
Whats a great way to get excited about your goals again? Start talking to people. Tell people you intend to do this. Tell them about the progress you are making. The more you tell people, the more excited you get. The more excited you get, the more motivated you are going to be in sticking with it. So learn to share it with people around you. Plus, your friends will give you some words of encouragement too. So that will help to motivate you further.

As you can see, staying motivated during the holidays is not impossible. It can be a tad bit challenging, but not impossible. As the usual mantra goes - everything in moderation. So its just a matter of finding a balance between having fun and keeping fit. If you are clear about where you are going, it goes a long way in helping you stay the course. So happy holidays everyone and hope you manage to stay on course and still have some fun and indulge. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do I Need to use Weight Gainers to Gain Muslce?

OK.. first up, some important announcements. Actually there is only one announcement. My TV Show is finally out. It airs on TV2 every Monday through Wednesday at 1pm. Yes, i know the timing is not the best, but hey, if you happen to be around the vicinity of a TV, please do check it out. OR if you are having lunch at a mamak which has a TV, ask them to tune in to TV2 for you. I still haven't caught it, but i am hoping to catch it tomorrow.

Anyway, lets move on with today's post. A friend of mine recently asked me if he should consider weight gainers as a supplement. He is finding it difficult to put on some serious muscle mass, and was wondering if he should invest in weight gainers. For me, if you have the extra money to spend, then yes, go right ahead. Is it essential to have? No, because you can easily make your own weight gainer at home.

Weight gainers have 2 main components that make it, well a weight gainer.
1) It is high in calories. The high amount of calories are necessary to keep your body anabolic - by providing your body more calories than it needs. If you are looking to gain muscle mass, you need to ensure that your caloric intake is higher than what you need. Your muscles grow after your workout, not during your workout. And for it to grow, you need to stay anabolic. Simple science.
2) It's high in protein - No guess work here. To build muscle you need protein. Protein is the building blocks of muscle. But in order for your body to fully utilize the protein, your body needs to stay anabolic, by having more calories in than necessary.

So when you combine these 2 elements, you get a good weight gainer. Now of course some will argue that some weight gainers have vitamins and minerals which are good for you and helps to increase absorption. No doubt these vitamins and minerals are good, but unless you plan to replace every single meal with your weight gainers, i wouldn't worry too much. Because you can easily get your vitamins and minerals from your food. So you don't need to dump every bit of goodness that nature has into your shake. I think most of these things are just gimmicks to make you feel like you can never achieve results without their wonderful product.

So how do you make a high calorie high protein shake? Well here are some ingredients that you can easily mix together to get a good shake. If you have a protein powder at hand, you can easily turn your protein powder into a weight gainer by just adding some simple household ingredients. This is why, if i had to spend my money, i would prefer to spend my money on a protein shake, because it is versatile. You can drink it as a protein shake, a weight gainer or even a meal replacement. All other stuff, has a very specific function.

Here are some suggestions to spike up the calories in your protein shake

1) Add flavoured milk like strawberry milk to your protein shake. Flavoured milk has sugar which immediately increases the calories in milk. Plus, the sugar in these milks are great especially when you take it after your workout. If you are looking to gain muscle mass, you need to have an insulin spike after your workout. Because insulin is a storage hormone, it will help in protein being absorbed into your muscles faster.

2) Add ice cream - Yup, you heard me. Ice cream is high in calories, and because it is made out of milk, its really a 2 in 1 deal. Now, don't go crazy with it. Just 1 or 2 scoops of ice cream into your protein shake, after your workout should suffice.

3) Peanut Butter - Peanut butter surprisingly has high content in protein as well as calories. So if you are a hard gainer, peanut butter is a great way to amp up the calories and protein.

4) Almonds - Almonds are a great source of protein. They usually have between 6 to 8 grams of protein per serving. A handful of almonds into your shake not only amps up the protein, but it ads great flaovour to it as well.

5) Sweetened Soy Milk - Because you want the calories, sweetened soy milk is excellent for this. It is high in protein (about 5grams per glass) and it has sugar which will help to give your body the insulin spike it needs after your workout.

6) Yogurt - Yogurt is a great source of protein, but do bare in mind that it is sour, so it may or may not go with the rest of your ingredients. So be careful when blending other stuff with yogurt. Yogurt usually goes well with berry flavoured stuff. Chocolate, hmmmm.... its a no for me, but it really is a personal choice.

So those are just some suggestions of what you can chuck into your blender and make a shake from. Below is one of my personal favourite weight gainer shakes that i have made. Try it, you will love it.

1 Scoop of vanilla ice cream
1 table spoon of Milo
2 table spoons of Peanut Butter
1/2 glass of sweetened soy milk
1 serving of plain flavoured protein powder - how many scoops will depend on which protein powder you use. My protein powder needs 2 scoops (or you can use your chocolate flavour and ditch the Milo and use the protein instead)
1 glass of Milk.
A little bit of water if its too thick.

Method - Chuck everything into your blender and blend it till its smooth. When it pours out, it will make 2 glassfuls.

Now, this recipe is only for those who:-
a) Lift like a warrior - if you lift like a wuss, please stay clear of this shake
b) Finding it extremely hard to gain weight, but want to bulk up like Thor
c) Should be taken right after your warrior workout.

For all other people, please stick to your usual protein blend or diet stuff.

Now on top of these weight gainer shakes, you also want to make sure you eat lots of complex carbs and lots of protein for your other meals. Its not what you take once after your workout, but the continuous nutrition that you keep feeding your body for the rest of the day, as your body grows. So meal times are important too.

So, do you really need a weight gainer? Personally for me, no. Like i mentioned earlier, i would prefer to spend my money on protein powders, because i an easily interchange it to suit my needs. But hey, if you have lots of money, then go right ahead. So do try out the recipe and as usual, look forward to hearing your comments. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Short but Intense

Off late i have been getting many requests from people who seem to be doing everything right but still can't seem to drop the weight or worse still... end up putting on weight. They eat right, meaning less calories in than out, the do exercise, but yet they can't seem to shed the unwanted pounds. In most of the cases i viewed, the problem was actually over training. Yup doing way too much exercise to the point where your body starts fighting back.

Hence today's post what i want to share is the concept called "short but intense" workouts. If you follow these simple tips, i guarantee you will start seeing results. I also noticed something similar when i was training for my marathon. even though i was running a lot, i felt like i was getting flabby and was not happy with my physique. This is more proof that i was possibly over training and my body was resisting the change.

More does not always mean better
In most cases in life, more is always better. Eg. having more money is always better than having less money. But in fitness, it is only true up to a certain level. Thereafter in becomes counter productive. Running for 20 minutes may be great, but running for 120 minutes does not make it 6 times better. Of course if you are an endurance athlete then yes that would be your goal. But for weight loss, its not the case. Sometimes doing less can get you better results. Please clear your mind of this concept. Doing more does not mean more results always.

1 hour sessions, 3 to 4 times a week
OK, now that we know too much is not good, how much is good enough? Of course this will vary from person to person, but as a general rule of thumb, i find 1 hour sessions, 3 to 4 times a week the most effective. Keep your workouts to 1 hour as far as possible. I know people who run for 40 minutes, do weights for 45 minutes and then cycle for 30 more minutes after that. That's almost 2 hours. And you do all that 7 days a week. That is way too much for your body to handle. If you are doing this, scrap it and change it to 1 hour sessions 3 to 4 times a week. Trust me, you are not going to get anywhere with your current 2 hour routine 7 days a week.

Do super Sets

Super sets are usually 2 sets of exercises that are done back to back without any rest in between the 2 sets. Ideally, you should try to do antagonistic muscles like your biceps and triceps. so learn to swap your exercises around so that you can cut short your work outs. supersets is a great way to intensify the workout while cutting down your workout time. Not to mention, it also helps to keep your heart rate up. So i highly recommend doing exercises in supersets for weight loss. It really works wonders.

Increase intensity, not volume

OK, so what exactly is intensity? Isn't running for 30 minutes more intense than 20 minutes of running? No, that would be volume. Volume is doing more reps, doing it more frequently. Intensity means, making the exercise more challenging. Instead of running for longer, how about covering more distance within the same time frame. Eg. If you can cover 3km in 20 minutes, how about trying to cover 3.5km in 20 minutes. The effort of pushing yourself harder is what counts. This is what i mean by intensifying your workout. Or how about doing more uphills to make it more challenging. Or how about wearing a weighted vest and still try to complete 3km in 20 minutes.As you can see, there are various ways increase intensity and not volume of your training. Intensity is important for results. Volume is too, but in this case, most people misunderstand and increase volume thinking they are increasing intensity.

Keep it short but intense

So keep your workouts to an hour, but during that hour ensure that you push yourself to the limit. Now pushing yourself to the limit also has its limitations. I don't mean pushing yourself till you puke. A good indicator of a good workout is, when you are done, think to yourself "now lets do it all over again right now". If you hate that idea, good job. If you feel, yeah, i don't mind coz i don't think i did enough, then that's a bad sign. Of course this is very subjective and will vary from person to person. But you know yourself best. Make sure you keep challenging yourself for each workout.

Concentrate your efforts

Also, because you are not working out like 15 times a day, you can concentrate all your efforts to push yourself to the limit on every workout. Not to mention, you will also have recovery time so your body can recover before you push it again. This has both physical and psychological benefits to you. As you know, recovery is extremely important for the body if you want to see any kind of results. By cutting down your workouts, you will give yourself more rest time. If you are doing way too many exercises too often, then chances are you are slowing down because you know you have to push yourself again tomorrow or for the next 3 hours. So your workouts are never 100% that way. By keeping it short and less frequent, its easier to push yourself all the way for each workout.

Keep on challenging yourself
After awhile, what seemed to be intense 6 months ago, may not be intense anymore. So this is where you need to increase intensity again. Remember, increase intensity, not volume. If you can keep increasing intensity, i guarantee you that you will continue to see results. So keep progressing in intensity whenever you can. Every time you push yourself to new limits and boundaries, you will see more results. That's how the body works. so work with your body and not against it.

So now you have a clear picture of how to keep your workouts short but intense. The key here is to play around with intensity and keep upping the intensity. Doing more isn't the answer always. Now with that being said, it does not mean that doing less and less is better either. Keep it to 1 hour sessions, 3 to 4 times a week. The intensity is what you will need to decide for yourself. Hope this helps all of you out there who have sweating buckets but still not seeing the results. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Penang Bridge Marathon

As most of you know, last Sunday morning i participated in my first marathon ever at the Penang Bridge International Marathon and it was quite an experience. All the training sessions i did really paid off as i was prepared for the run. But it wasn't quite what i expected on the actual race day. I guess nothing can prepare you for it until you actually do it.

Did i qualify in time? Did i collect my medal? Well lets save that bit till the end of the post. Let me share with you my overall experience and hopefully it will give everyone (especially those who have never participated in a marathon) a good feel of what to expect. So here goes.

The run was scheduled to kick off at 6am. We stayed in Tanjung Bungah and the starting line was at Queens Bay Mall. So it takes about 15 minutes to get there without any jam. But there is a catch. All the roads leading to Queens Bay Mall were closed because of the race. So the officials told us that we can head down to the ferry terminal and take a shuttle bus from there to the starting point. One of my very good friends who was not participating in the race was sweet enough to drop off me, my wife and one more friend. So we left our hotel room at 4:15am and reached the ferry terminal about 4:40am. Because the bridge was closed, people who wanted to travel to the main land had to depend on the ferry... which caused a jam leading to the the ferry terminal. So we decided to get down and walk to the terminal. The bus left at 5am and we reached Queensbay Mall at about 5:20am. So from there we walked over to Eastin Hotel which was the starting point and then i had to take a small toilet break before the race. The organizers were kind enough to set up 200 or so mobile toilets so i had to use one of them. It was disgusting to mention the least, but i shall spare you the details.

So after that, we walked over the starting line and there was this huge crowd of people. Yup, all the racers had begun to gather around for the race. I joined the huge group of people somewhere in the middle. Did some light stretching and waited for the gun to go off. To be honest, i was a little nervous, as it was my first race. At 6am sharp, they did the shoot off. But the crowd was so huge, it took me a good 2 or 3 minutes just to pass the starting line. I could not run for the first 5 minutes or so, as there were just too many people everywhere. One thing i am glad about, is that despite such a huge crowd, everyone was well behaved. There was no pushing or anything of that sort, despite it being a race. So after about 300 or 400 meters, there were some empty spaces appearing between the crowd so i could finally start jogging. But i had to zig zag as some people were running, some were walking fast, some were walking slow... man, it was crazy.

As the race went on, the crowd thinned out a bit more, so i could finally pick up pace. I ran pretty fast for the first 4KM, overtaking many other runners and i was feeling good. But after about 4KM, i was running out of breath. Maybe i pushed too hard too early, i am not sure. I brought along two 600ml bottles of mineral water with me (one in each hand) as i need lots of water when i run. I could have drank more, but i was worried about having to go again, so i cut down my intake of water... so maybe that caused me to burn out faster. I am not sure. But i am glad i brought it as there were only 2 water stations available. And as you can guess, the queue to get water was huge. I would not have made it with just 2 water stops. Phew.... good thing i brought my own water.

Anyway, after 4KM, i started walking while trying to catch my breath. I kept walking until the 5KM point. I tried to run again after that, but barely lasted 400 or 500 meters before i started walking again. At that moment, my mind started playing tricks on me. I think it was just out of fatigue. I actually started thinking, "gosh.... i don't think i am going to make it." I looked at the clock and 40 minutes had passed already. I really need to pick up my pace. Then i started thinking, "oh screw it, its just a race". So what if i don't make it. Then a little voice inside me said, "its not too late to make a difference". That gave me a bit of motivation. So i ran again but alas, same thing happened. I ran out of gas after about 500 meters. This really started to worry me. At that point, my legs started to get sore as well. I was expecting muscle soreness after 6KM, so it was no surprise. How am i going to run fast now?

50minutes had gone by, still walking. Recovery is slow. I suddenly hear the sound of police on motor bikes. The runners start moving to the side. Then i hear the ambulance... they whiz pass us. Not sure what happened, but someone must have gotten injured. Then i see the sign board that says 3KM to go. That's when i felt a glimmer of hope that i can actually do this. I downed and finished my first bottle of water drank some more from my second bottle. Normally when i do my practice runs, at this point, i would be halfway down my second bottle. But during the race, i had not consumed much water. So maybe this caused my fatigue. Not sure. Anyway, took a few deep breaths and said "Let's Go!" So i started running. And i kept running. Saw the sign that said 2.5KM to go. Alright... lets keep going. The crowd was still everywhere so i still had to weave in an out. 2KM to go. Lets go.... 1.5Km to go. I walked again for a bit till the 1KM mark and then i floored it. i took long strides but at a slower pace. It boosted me past many others. 500 meters to go. There were loads of people on the side cheering all the runners and clapping hands. Not sure if there were cheering for me or not, but it felt good. So i kept going. I saw one guy massaging his feet and all his friends had stopped by his side... apparently he was suffering from leg cramps. More people were clapping. One guy shouted "Come on guys, you're almost there". Wow, kept going and going. Saw the finish line in the distance. I can feel it. More and more people started cheering. YES... passed the finish line. Looked back at the clock, it was blurry and i could only see the minutes, 31. Oh dear. Did i just miss it? According to my time, it was only 7:20am. That means i still have 10 minutes more. So i saw one of the race officials and asked them - "Did i make it?" He said YES. Go over there and collect your medal. Wow... i did it.

So here are the results

10km in 1:19:24. 1 hour, 19 minutes and 24 seconds. qualifying time was 1:30:00. Could have been better, but hey, i made it. For a non runner like me, i am extremely happy with it. There you go... my shiny little medal.

Wifey did better than me. 1:16:44. All my friends who participated made it too. Going back to the hotel was a whole new saga as we tried to jump back on the shuttle bus. Some one told us to go to point A, when we walked all the way there, then someone else said, no, you need to go to point B. When we got to point B, someone else said, NO, you need to go to point C. Ordinarily i wouldn't have minded walking around and round, but after running 10KM, i don't think so. So we finally got fed up and paid a cab to take us back. We took the cab to Equatorial Hotel where one friend had a car and from there, we went for a much earned breakfast. We decided to check out the famous Roti Canai store in Jalan Tansfer. Mmmm... it was really awesome. Went back to the room, had a shower and went to bed. Forgot to mention, i woke up at 2:45am to do "my business" before the race, if you know what i mean. So was dead tired by then.

Would i do this again? Hmmm... i am not sure. To be honest i would have liked my timing to be better, so the competitor in me keeps saying - go for it. But then, my fitness goal is not to be an endurance athlete. I want to gain some serious mass and build some serious lifting strength. Running long distance is kinda going in the opposite direction. So for now, i have decided that i will most probably participate in maybe 1 race a year, just for fun. 21Km, unlikely. 10 KM, yep - once a year maybe. 5KM, bring it on anytime.

Anyone else want to share their experience for the race that day? Would love to hear your story. For now, i am on a serious mission to pound on some mass. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

High Quality Protein for less than RM 6

So last Sunday, i did my 2nd attempt at running 10km at lake gardens. Last one was about a month and a half ago. Timing wasn't the greatest, but i am happy. 1:20 for 10.12km. So now i guess i am ready for the race. From now till the Penang Bridge run i will only do 4km to 5km runs maybe twice a week. That's it. Don't want to over do it. My knees did feel a little sore after the run the other day, but its better now. So that's just an update on the run.

OK, enough about running. Today i wanted to talk about proteins once again. Since my recent post on protein and weight loss, i have gotten quite a few emails asking me all sorts of things. One of the most common ones i received were that protein is expensive and if i could recommend some cheap sources of protein. Now i am not sure what the definition of cheap is, but what if you could get high quality protein for under RM 5 or RM 6? Would that be OK? That's affordable right?

So here are just some in no particular order

Eggs - One of the cheapest source of lean protein. Each egg will give you roughly 6g of protein at about 80 calories. Thats pretty good. So you can buy a whole 12 pack for about RM 3 or RM 4. Should you consume the yolk? Yes you can. The whole notion about egg yolks causing high cholesterol is a myth. Your body produces most of the cholesterol and your diet has little impact on this. So yes. Go ahead.

Chicken Breast - Chicken breast is another excellent source of lean protein. You can grill it, toss it in a sandwich, eat it as a chicken chop, dice it up... the possibilities are just endless. Each 100g of chicken breast contains about 45g of protein. That means almost of it is protein. Remember, preparation of your chicken is important. Avoid deep frying it. Pan searing, roasting or grilling would be the best option. How much is one cut of chicken breasts? I usually buy them in the market for about RM 3 to RM 4. Once i buy them, i split it in 2 (as shown above) and just consume one portion.

Sardines - Fish is one power foods that we all need to have more of in our diets. Sardines especially are high in Omega 3, which time and time again has been proven to prevent many chronic diseases especially heart related illnesses. 100g of sardines has about 24g of protein. If possible drain the tomato sauce out before preparing sardines. Usually the sauce has high amounts of sugar and sodium. So i usually drain it, rinse the sardines and then prepare my own tomato sauce. This way i get to control what goes into it. You can easily get a tin of sardine for under RM 6.

Tuna - Tuna in water, tuna in salt water, tuna in oil... which one to choose? Best choice is Tuna in water, second choice tuna in salt water. Usually one 185g can tuna will has about 24g of protein. You can prepare it any way you want, but go slow on the mayo if thats your preferred style. This is also under RM 6 for a can

Tandoori Chicken - This is one of my favourite ways to consume lean protein. You can usually get a quarter chicken of tandoori for about RM 6 or just below that. You can eat it with naan or chappati or you can strip the meat off and make a sandwich out of it. How much protein is in tandoori? Similar to chicken breast. About 40% of its weight (minus the bones of course) will be protein.

Skim Milk - One cup of skim milk has less than 1g of fat and offers you about 8g of protein. You can add fruits to it to make a smoothie or just drink it by itself. For convenience, you can buy skim milk powder so you can prepare it anywhere and at anytime. Excellent source of protein as long as you are not lactose intolerant. One liter of skim milk usually sells for about RM 5 or RM 6 and serves about 4 cups

Tofu - Depending on the type of tofu, generally most tofu will have between 10g to 12g of protein per 100g. Its an excellent source of protein because its lean and its complete protein. That means it has all the essential amino acids in there. Again, preparation is vital here. To make it healthy you want to avoid deep frying it. Try pan frying or even stuffing it and then steaming or baking it.

I could go on an on, but i am sure with what i have shared here so far, it is possible to put together a variety of high protein meals that don't cost an arm and a leg. It all just comes down to creativity. What other cheap sources of high protein foods are available out there? Would love to hear your feedback too. Google some healthy recipes with the ingredients above and i am sure you will find something that will excite your taste buds. So yes, it is possible to stay healthy even on a budget. You don't need to rob a bank to stay healthy and more importantly, no more excuses for staying on a healthy diet. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Preparing for Penang Bridge Run

The Penang Bridge Run is just around the corner and i have been spending quite a bit of time preparing for it. YES, i have registered for it and am going to be going for my first 10KM run. Some time ago, i wrote about running and said i would participate in 1 race this year...and yes.... i finally have. Have i become more fond of running... honestly - not really. maybe this will change after the run... i am not sure. i mean i don't mind running, but if i had a choice between running and lifting weights... you all know which one i would choose. would i like to prepare for a 42km, errr.... at the moment NO. it really isn't part of my goals. am quite happy with my 10km achievement.

So my workout routine has changed a little to ensure i am able to slot in enough cardio sessions to prepare me for the run. Also, i am lifting some amount of weights, but i know bulking will be difficult while i prepare for the run... so i am just targeting on mantaining what i have until the day of the run, then concerntrate of bulking up again after this.

The big question on everyone's mind is... how do you train for a run? Well here are some tips for working out and i hope it helps you with planning your own routine.

1) Don't overtrain
I put this as the first tip because many people tend to over train. When you over train, you are more likely to get injured. If you are planning on running 10km, it does not mean you have to do 10km for every workout. Doing about 5km to 6km is more than enough to prepare for the run. Yes, you might want to try and complete a full 10km at some point before the race, just to know what it feels like, but you don't have to make every workout a 10km run.

2) Train with some friends

If you are going for a run, i am 99% sure that you are joining the run with some friends or family members. It would be great to train with these people. One thing i noticed, i can almost double my distance of running when i run with people - compared to when i run alone. Why? Because it becomes more fun and you start enjoying it more. Also training with others gives you a good perception of how good or not good you are. When you run alone all the time, you have no way of benchmarking how good or poor you are. So this is one way to discover where you need to be.

3) Training Time

It is highly recommended that you try to run at the same time as your run / race day. If you have a morning run which kicks off at 4am, you will want to try at least a couple of training sessions at 4am as well. If you have a night race, then you will want to try and run at night. This is just to ensure that you know what it feels like and gives your body a chance to adapt to the timing. Law of SAID. It would be even better if you could train on the actual track itself.

4) Do them darn hills

I hate running uphill but doing uphills really trains up your stamina and leg strength. The more hills you do, the stronger you become and on race day you won't need to worry about change in terrain. One big mistake many people do is to keep their trainings light and then on race they get fatigued because they were not prepared for it. Make your trainings more challenging and intense than the actual race that on your race day, you will breeze through it. If you only train on flat ground all the time, you are going to suffer on race day should there be any hills. But if you always train on hills and on race day you have a full flat road, then you will blaze through the course. so remember.... keep it more challenging than race day, but don't don't overtrain by doing too much. Your workouts need to be intense but not the point of overtraining.

5) Train at least twice a week

How often should you be running to prepare for a race? Ideally you should try to run about 3 times a week, but minimum 2 times a week. Your trainings should be spaced out as evenly as possible. So avoid doing running only on Saturday & Sundays. Try to spread it out. At least 2 to 3 weeks before the run, this frequency becomes even more important to maintain. So make sure you make some time for this. Again, 2 or 3 is good but that does not mean 5 or 6 is even better.

6) Get a good pair of shoes

Good shoes need not necessarily be the most expensive shoes or the most well known brand. i bought a RM 175 pair of Reeboks and it works fine. Initially i tried some other expensive brands all well above RM200, but it did not feel right... so i decided against getting them. When you try out the shoes for the first time, it should automatically feel "right". If it doesn't, then its not the right one for you. If you walk around a bit and still not sure, then it definitely isn't the shoe for you. You must get that feeling of comfort immediately. Just because 5 of your closest friends all swear by one shoe, it does not mean it will be right for you.

Those are just some basic tips to help you train and prepare for your run. I have been doing practice runs in Lake Gardens on the weekends and i will be doing one this coming Sunday. I shall post up the time later once i confirm with friends. But all of you are more than welcome to come and join us for this run. My target is to complete 10km on that practice run. So hope to see some of you then. As usual look forward to hearing your comments.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Protein helps to trigger weight loss

Protein is one of the essential macronutrients that we all need. In fact, we need to have protein to stay alive as it is "essential" for life. On a daily basis, our body requires what is called essential amino acids to live. When we do not get essential amino acids from our diet, your body will begin stripping its own muscle to provide the body with essential amino acids to live... and wasting away muscle is a bad thing. It not only affects your muscles ability to perform but it will also lower your metabolic rate.

When it comes to weight loss, you need to have protein in every meal. I know many dieters who think they are doing themselves a favour by just consuming salads or worse still, some people try to eat cereal for dinner in an effort to lose weight. Granted, that cereal does have some amount of protein, but its not going to be enough. To effectively lose weight, you need to up the amount of protein in your diet.

So why is protein so important for weight loss? Here are just some of the reasons why
1) Protein takes longer to digest - because protein molecules are more complex, it takes longer to digest. This also translates to keeping you full for longer, hence reducing snacking in between meals. Carbohydrates do a good a good job by filling you up quickly, but if your meal is only made out of carbs, you will notice that you will get hungry really fast. So make sure you add some protein into your diet.
2) Protein also encourages the release of Glucagon - which helps to release fat from fat stores and also decreases the body's ability to store fat. Double yes if you want to lose fat.
3) Protein also does not store as fat easily. Unlike carbohydrates which turn to sugar almost immediately, protein does not do that. It is possible to break down protein into sugar through a process called Gluconeogenesis, but this is only done as an absolute last resort.
4) Protein releases a natural weight loss hormone called PYY. When released in the gut, this hormone helps to reduce hunger. Eating protein rich food will help your body to easily release this hormone
5) Protein helps to maintain muscle mass, which is essential to maintaining a health metabolic rate. So if you want to keep your metabolic rate at high, then you must eat enough protein everyday - regardless of whether you are working out or not

Those are just some of the reasons why you need to have a healthy intake of protein everyday. Now i know most of you are thinking - wow... that means i can eat all the KFC i want. Well the answer is not really. The idea here is to get lean protein into your system. KFC does have lots of protein, but it also has lots of other things which you don't want. So i would not recommend it, unless you are able to provide your body with enough activity to burn it off.

So what are some good sources of lean protein?

1) Egss - it can't get simpler than this
2) Tuna in water - you can buy the cans and use them
3) Lean meats - red meats are fine as long as they don't have too much fat around them. However, my first choice would be chicken breasts
4) Fish - fish is one of the best ways to get lean protein. So if you eat out a lot, try to opt for fish, whenever you can.
5) Low fat milk - can't get easier than that. Make sure you have some low fat milk in your fridge at all times. If you are lactose intolerant like me, then soya is a good substitute. Only down side is most soya milk has sugar. If you can stomach the sugar free soya, then great. I opt for normal soya milk but i don't go over board with it. Usually just 2 cups a day.
5) Protein Powders - i highly recommend that you invest some money and get a good protein shake that you like. Protein powders is not just for body builders. Everyone can consume them and yes, to all my women readers you can too. You won't bulk up like the pictures you see on the tub of protein powder. Protein powders just takes the guess work out of getting lean protein and its so easy to prepare. PLUS, you can actually use it to replace meals. I would prefer this over meal replacements shakes.

So are you getting enough protein in your diet? To lose weight, just make sure you get protein in every meal you have. If you can do this, i am sure you will see the results you want. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Back in Action

Hi guys... wow... no post in almost 3 weeks. My sincerest apologies. Was caught up with shooting a TV program with Kementrian Kesihatan and some local celebrities called Sihat 1, which is due to be aired on RTM 1 or 2 sometime soon. Will keep you guys posted on that. It was indeed a very interesting experience and it was nice. Am definitely looking forward to more opportunities such as this. Been also busy tying up some loose ends on my e-book... which should be out soon.

Anyway during my TV shoot, i met many people who asked loads of fitness questions. It was nice to hear from lay people as they really didn't know much about these things. And i guess i had forgotten what are some of the basic concerns that some people have. When you are into fitness, you focus on more technical things and forget that many lay people out there have very simple questions and concerns. So i have compiled them and here are the answers.

How do i reduce the fat around my belly?
This is obviously referring to spot reduction, which doesn't work. Whether you are looking at losing fat around your arms, hip, face or tummy - its all the same thing. You need to provide your body with a calorie deficit which will cause your body to burn that additional fat. Doing crunches does not focus on burning the fat around your belly. You will make your muscles stronger and more toned, but you won't see anything if its covered with layer of fat. But won't crunches be a good exercise to burn calories. Well doing crunches will use up some amount of calories but crunches alone isn't enough to create the deficit required to see the results you want. So no... crunches alone is not going to work.

Should i do cardio to burn fat
YES, that is one effective method of burning fat. But weight training will also be able to help you to burn fat. Doing loads of compound exercises in super sets is also extremely effective in raising your heart beat and melting fat. So cardio is NOT the only way to burn fat. You can use weight training.

I am skinny, can i really bulk up?
Why not? I was skinny once and i turned out ok... if i can, so can you. With the proper nutrition and the proper training routine, you can achieve it.

I heard that training your biceps and triceps on the same day is a waste of time.
Why? There is absolutely no scientific evidence that supports this. Now i know some muscles should not be trained together as it will dampen your performance of the second exercise. Eg. Doing triceps and then doing bench press - ya... you will notice a significant drop in your bench strength because you do use your triceps for bench press, and if you have worn it out, then you will feel it. But biceps and triceps are antagonistic muscles... meaning when one is working, the relaxes... hence if you are going to choose two muscles to work on, i would choose antagonistic muscles as my first choice. In fact that's what i do now. I train my chest and back on the same day and biceps and triceps on the same day as well. Because it is antagonistic, you don't have to worry about losing performance.

Will i become short if i lift heavy weights over my head?
I think i wrote about this some time back. NO.... your height is predominantly determined by your genetics as well as your nutrition during growth. Weight training has no effect on your height. This is just a myth.

These are just some of the questions i received and the answers that i shared with the people who asked me. In most of these questions i had to explain in detail as many people had formed "beliefs" and its not easy to shake someones beliefs. But i am glad i managed to answer the questions in a manner that enlightening to them.

Anyway... now that all this is done, i do hope i will be able to post more regularly.... my apologies again for the long silence. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Functional Strength

Hi guys, my sincere apologies for the lack of postings over the last month or so. Been busy with an e-book which will be launched real soon.. Can't wait for its launch. We have also been invited by ASTRO to open a booth for their Safety and health week at the end of this month... so been busy finalizing things for that too. Also I am also working on some other projects including a possible TV show- so yeah, schedule has been crazy. Things should slow down a little by next month, so i hope i will be able to post again as usual from next month.

Anyway, this week, i decided to cover a controversial topic called functional strength. Over the last few years, i see many people using this term so much that i feel that this term has lost its real meaning. What gets me the most is people coming up with gimmicks and claiming that it helps to develop functional strength... but in reality, it doesn't really. Well i guess it develops the "new definition"of functional strength which actually doesn't mean much.

So lets get into it. What exactly is functional strength? By definition, functional strength refers to the ability for an individual to perform functional / purposeful movement. Originally, this referred to strengthening our muscles and body to improve day to days tasks that we do, such as lifting a box of the ground or carrying suitcases up a flight of stairs. So exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, shoulder press etc are great functional strength exercises, because there will be a real life application to it. But today, people have jumbled up everything and claim that it develops functional strength when in actual fact it doesn't. One such case is training on an unstable surface like balancing on an exercise ball.

I have seen so many equipments and training routines out there that claim that training on uneven or imbalanced platforms help to increase functional strength. does it really? Lets look at this in more detail. Lets refer back to the law of SAID - Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. If you keep doing something, you will keep getting better at it. If you start to do squats while balancing on an exercise ball, then bravo, eventually you will get good at doing just that. But is that really functional? Well only if you perform in a circus where you are constantly balancing on something. The instability itself does not add any advantage. But what about sports? Shouldn't you be doing this type of training if you are a sportsmen so you are more conditioned? Well lets see what the experts say.

A recent article in the NSCA Journal of Strength and Conditioning seemed to de-emphasize the importance and effectiveness of this type of training. Till today, there has been no clinical evidence to prove that training on unstable surfaces improve sports performance. In fact it can be counter productive. Lets take a person who needs to throw a ball really fast.... like a baseball player. So he practices this several times a day on the field. Law of SAID.... he starts getting better as his neuromuscular system starts memorizing this movement. Then his coach comes and says, lets stand on a ball and start throwing it. Time that could be spent on actually improving his throw is spent on balancing not. Secondly, he now confuses the original neuromuscular pattern of just throwing the ball as fast as can. As you can see, it becomes less productive.

But wait. Unstable surfaces allow us to gain more strength. Hmmmm.... lets look at that in detail before we decide. To become stronger, you need to provide your muscles with enough resistance that will allow it to recruit enough muscle fibers. The more practice you have at recruiting more muscle fibers, the stronger you become. On an unstable surface, you automatically reduce the amount of weights you use to allow your self to balance and perform the exercise. By reducing the weights you use, you recruit less muscle fibers and therefore you are training yourself to recruit less muscle fibers... which also means training yourself to be weaker. No doubt your sense of balance would have improved, but not your strength... so its a NO for strength as well.

In short, all exercises are technically functional for some sort of movement. For an individual who doesn't exercise and only eats and walks, then by doing these tasks daily, isn't he developing functional strength in that area anyway? Law of SAID - if you keep doing it, you keep getting better at it. Since this individual only eats and walks, then doing that everyday is training to be better at it. So to claim that your exercise machine or routine develops functional strength, actually doesn't mean much at all. Before buying into any of these, just ask yourself this simple question, do i need to get good at doing this? If the answer is no, then that exercise machine or routine is not functional to you. It may be functional to someone else, but not you.

So there you have it. Functional strength and how it has been misused in the fitness industry today. Hope this sheds some light on the topic. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

PS: My e-book will launching soon, so stay tuned to this blog for more details

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Anabolism and Catabolism

Hi guys, firstly my apologies for not writing earlier. My grandmother just passed away last Monday and it was rather sudden, so everything has been a bit chaotic. Getting back some resemblance of normalcy now so i thought i better post something before i get whisked up in other things again.

Over the past few weeks, i have been writing on tips about how to stay at optimal health during the month of Ramadhan. I used the word anabolism and catabolism a lot and i have received quite a few emails asking me to explain what this means. One email sender said "from what i gather, anabolism is good and catabolism is bad, but what are these 2 actually?" So i thought for this weeks post it would be best to address these terms so everyone has a clearer picture.

Before we jump into anabolism and catabolism, there is another "lism" word that we need to understand first. And that word is Metabolism. Now i know most people know what this is and use it quite frequently, but here is the actual definition from Medical News Today -Metabolism refers to biochemical processes that occur with any living organism - including humans - to maintain life. These biochemical processes allow us to grow, reproduce, repair damage, and respond to our environment. In short, metabolism is a process that allows us to utilize what we consume to fuel our day to day functions.

Now there is anabolism, also known as constructive metabolism and catabolism which is destructive metabolism. Let me explain further.

Anabolism is called constructive because it involves the building up of things - a series of chemical reactions that constructs or synthesizes molecules from smaller components, which usually requires energy in the process. The body uses simple molecules to create complex ones. In the same way a builder will use small bricks, to create a house, Anabolic reactions utilizes a few simple chemicals / molecules to manufacture (synthesize) a vast array of finished products such as muscle growth increasing bone mineralization.

Anabolism uses monomers (simple molecules such as amino acids) to build polymers (large complex molecules such as protein). So many monomers put together form a polymers and this process is known as anabolism.

Catabolism is known as destructive because it involves the breaking down of things - a series of degradative chemical reactions that break down complex molecules into smaller units, and in most cases releasing energy in the process. Catabolism provides us with energy so our bodies are able to perform physical activity. Now this activity includes everything, from the most minute activity at the cellular level all the way up to whole body movements. So in other words, catabolism breaks down complex stuff to release energy which allows us to live and move. But for our purpose in fitness, lets concentrate on how catabolism helps to provide us with energy so we are able to complete movements and exercise.

Another important point to note is that anabolism requires energy where else catabolism releases energy.

So now lets put all that together in terms of fitness. When we exercise, we force our body into a catabolic state ie breaking down our stored energy to allow us to perform our activities. We need to do this so that our body has the energy it needs to perform the exercises that we want. When we are done exercising, we need to re-fuel our body. Hence drinking a protein shake or eating anything after that, will help our body to switch from a catabolic state to an anabolic state. As the popular saying goes, "You don't grow in the gym, you grow when you are resting", and this is so true. In the gym, you are breaking down the muscles and when you are resting - you are rebuilding everything. The process of rebuilding everything is the anabolic process. The process that helps your body get the energy it needs is called catabolism. In short, that what they are.

So, now the big question.... Is a catabolic response bad for you? No its Not. You need it to live. Without it you won't be able to live and move around. So it is a necessary process. But staying in a prolonged state of catabolism is bad, because it will begin to break down your muscles as well, and you don't want that to happen as muscle is healthy weight which you want to always preserve. Hence why you want to stop the catabolic process as soon as you can after you are done with your workout, so your body can begin repairing itself.

Workouts and exercise are strenuous activities that causes damage to the body. Once you are done, its important to help fix it up, or else it will just get more and more damaged. The way to fix it, is to shift our body into an anabolic state which allows it to begin repairs. Repairs cannot begin while your body stays in a catabolic phase.

So there you have it... a simple definition of what anabolism and catabolism is and why the both are so important to us. Now that you know, you will have a better appreciation for what happens inside our complex body. Hope this helps to answer all the questions i have been receiving. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Night Run at Lake Gardens

What do most of us do on a Saturday night? Well here are some of the usual favourites of most Malaysians:
  • Go for dinner
  • Catch a movie
  • Watch a DVD at home
  • Go teh tarik with friends
  • Grab some drinks at your favourite pub.
Well i have done all of the above and this Saturday all i had was plans for dinner and nothing else after that. So i was intrigued when a friend of mine asked if i wanted to go jogging with him at Lake Gardens at 10pm. Now as you know i am not a huge fan of running and do it just to burn some extra calories and of course maintain a good cardiovascular endurance. So after some thought (and with persuasion from wifey who is a bigger fan of running than me) i decided why the heck not. So i told my friend and he was excited that i would be joining him.

The reason we chose 10pm is because we were waiting for another friend who also wanted to join and could only join us after his Terawih prayers. So i said sure... i got nothing else planned for the rest of the night.

So i went for dinner at about 8pm in Old Town and decided since i was going to go jogging, i decided to keep my dinner light and save it for after when i am done jogging. I don't fancy eating heavy and then doing something physical after that. But i did treat myself to some pre-jogging calries... ie. ice cream at old town about 10 minutes before we left.

Anyway we arrived at Lake Gardens and waited for our friend who would join us after his Terawih prayers. Once he came, we did some quick warm ups and stretching and we were off. Just for the record, i usually only jog for about 3 to 4 km when i do my routine runs, and these guys were planning on 15km. Yikes. I did not do the full 15km unfortunately, but i did complete 6km. The furthest i have done so far and it felt good. So yeah... new milestone in running for me.

Anyway the route we chose was pretty good and had its fair share of uphills and downhills. It was pretty quiet and it was kinda nice to run at night.... yet another thing i have never done before. The temperature was far cooler than my usual evening jogs, so i believe that made a difference in how much i could run. Also, the company. Usually when i jog around my housing area, its either me by myself or just me and my wife. But this time, there were 4 of us and we were just chit chatting non stop, so that made a huge difference.

So after 2 rounds, one of my friends said his leg was hurting and wanted to stop. So i decided i would stop to as i don't want to over push my limits. I was feeling fine, but i thought this is my first run in the past 3 weeks (yes, i have been skipping my jogging sessions lately), so lets not push it. My wife and one more friend continued running for one more lap. So they completed 9km while me and another friend completed 6km.

My friend also introduced me to this Android App called Run Keeper, which tracks your timing and distance via GPS and gives you a full report after that. So you can see the full course you ran. I have downloaded it to my phone, and can't wait to try it out. Will update you on this once i try it out.

After the run, we had to go to a mamak and have teh tarik... after all, we had earned it right. While running, i told myself i would have one Maggi Goreng, but alas, i was destined not to eat that as they were all out. So i just shared a Mee Goreng with a friend.

All in all, it was a fun night and it was very different. I liked it. Not sure if i wanna do this every single weekend, but it sure is a fun thing to do with friends. Sorry, no pictures to share, but i will definitely take my camera for the next one. When? i am not sure yet. So what do you think of night runs? Any of you done anything crazy like this before? As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fitness Tips for Ramadhan: Working Out Part 2

Wow... time really flies. We have come to our final edition of fitness tips for the Month of Ramadhan. Last week we discussed which would be the best times to workout. This week, we will cover some general tips on working out during the month of Ramadhan. So hopefully these tips will help you to stay as active as possible during the month of Ramadhan.

Tip 1: Go Slow and expect a drop in performance
Because you are fasting, you may find it difficult to push yourself as you normally would during normal days. Hence i highly recommend that you consider turning your workout routine down one notch.

However, if you can still muster the same amount of effort during this fasting month, then by all means go ahead. This advice will be more helpful for people who may get demotivated when they see a drop in performance. Don't worry. Remember that you are fasting, and hence its OK to drop things down a notch for this month. You can then build yourself up again after that. So don't worry about it.

Tip 2: Fuel up after your workout
Regardless of whether your goal is gaining muscle or losing weight, it is very important that you fuel up after your workout. Hence, refer back to last weeks post and find a routine that works best for you. Preferably one that allows you to fuel up immediately after your workout. If you can't fuel up, your body will remain in a catabolic state and you will end up losing more muscle.

Tip 3: Hydration helps with performance
Its no doubt that staying hydrated during your workout makes a huge difference in your performance. Hence, once again, choose a time that will allow you to consume water so you can stay hydrated and get more from your workout. If you really can't fit it in, then try to workout just before Buka Puasa and make sure you fuel up on fluids as soon as you can after that

Tip 4: Gaining Muscle Mass
During the month of Ramadhan, its almost impossible for you to gain muscle mass. I tell many of my clients that if you can maintain what you have through out this month, its already more than good. So understand this and don't get demotivated. Just do your best to maintain what you have for this month and then you can go crazy after Raya. You may also notice a loss is strength, so you want to can consider reducing the weights and going for more reps during this month. Again, it may not be great for building muscle, but it will do great in helping you maintain as much as possible.

Tip 5: Weight Loss
The month of Ramadhan provides you with an excellent opportunity to lose a lot more weight than other months. Why? Because your caloric intake is less than usual. So use that to your advantage. If you follow my tips for Sahur & buka Puasa, i guarantee that you will lose weight especially once you throw is some exercise into the whole mix. So use it to your advantage.

Tip 6: Recovery may be slower
Because your body is deprived of nutrients, it may take longer for your body to recover than it would normally. So bear this in mind if you feel like your muscles are taking longer to recover, and hence you may not be able to train a specific body part as often or do the same exercise as often. So you may need to
a) space things out a little to allow more recovery time
b) move things around so you can add in some additional healing time
c) go slower so your muscles aren't taxed as much and hence you are able to hit it more often.

The important rule is listen to your body. Don't ignore the warning signs.

So there you have it. Some general rules / tips when it comes to working out during the month of Ramadhan. Always remember, that since you are fasting, your body will go through some physical changes as well, but if you know what to expect, you can work around it. At the end of the day, you can still work out during this month, but you must make some tweaks to your workout to ensure you get the most of it. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fitness Tips for Ramadhan: Working Out - Part 1

Working out during the month of Ramadhan is always a hot topic. I get many questions on this topic and the most frequent one is, when is the best time to workout. But before i go into that, another frequently asked question is, whether or not you should workout during the month of Ramadhan. My answer is, YES. It will be more challending to workout during the fasting month, but that does not mean you should give your body a month break. When it comes to working out during the fasting month, do bare in mind that the timing of when you are going to workout is going to be extremely important.

So below, i would like to share what some of my Muslim Fitness buddies do, and let you decide which is best for you, as well as sharing my opinion on each.

Working out before Sahur
One of my fitness buddies, likes to go for a run early in the morning, comes home, showers, has his Sahur and then begins his fast. This is an excellent idea but there are some challenges to this.
1) You have to wake up extremely early. He gets up at 4am. So this also means going to bead earlier or you will be zzzz for the rest of the day.
2) If you are lifting weights, i don't think any gym will be open at that time. But it is a great chance to do cardio, if that is your fitness goal.
3) I would not recommend this for muscle gaining workouts as after your post workout meal (which will be high is protein and calories), you will feel hungry again real soon within the next 3 to 4 hours. Depending on how heavy you are lifting, your body will need that much nutrition to help it fix itself. So if you can't supply it what it needs at that time, choose a better time.
4) This timing is fine if your goal is weight loss. This way you kick start your day in the right way, fuel up on some good food and then let your fasting do the rest.

Working out during Lunch Hour
I had another friend who would use his lunch hour to go workout and come back. His logic, since you can't eat anything, might as well put that lunch hour to productive use. My biggest concern with training at this hour is dehydration. And remember, you can't refuel your water till much much later. He told me its all in the mind, i don't know. I can guzzle down quite a bit of water when i workout. My other concern is nutrition after the workout. He was doing weights and i told him that the workout gets wasted if you can't fuel your body immediately after that. After a heavy lifting session, your body is highly catabolic and it needs loads of nutrition to shift it into an anabolic phase. Without food, your body will continue to be in a catabolic phase. But he said it makes no difference as all he was doing was maintenance workouts. I would not recommend this to anyone due to the 2 points i made above. But if you have tried this or will try it, do share your feedback with us. How it feels, how difficult it was and of course the results. Again, i would personally not recommend this to anyone.

Just before Buka Puasa
Here is one of my favourite times to workout. Just about an hour before you buka puasa. This way, you can give everything you got and guess what, you will get to load on up loads of food right after that. Also, doing your workout just before buka puasa also allows you really indulge in your buka puasa meal and not worry about gaining weight. Only concern i have is, that you will be very weak and tired by this time, so you will see significant drop in performance. But like i said, this would be my 2nd favourite choice to workout during the month of Ramadhan for the fact that you can fuel up almost immediately after that and that it helps to ward off fat storing when you do indulge.

Small Buka Puasa > Workout > Big feast
If you ask me, this is the best technique or time to workout. Many body builders i know practice this and they swear by it. When it comes time to buka puasa, they break fast with lots of water and have a small high protein meal. Eg. Tuna & Egg sandwich on wholemeal bread. Then after about 30 minutes, they hit the weight room and train like normal (or as normal as possible). Once they are done, then they go out for their big feast or the "real" buka puasa deal. This technique is the best becuase:
1) it allows you a chance to fuel your body before you workout, hence giving you a chance to perform at almost your normal level
2) You can drink water during your workout
3) You can push yourself as much as you want, because you can have a big feast after that.

This would be the best time to workout, regardless of whether your goal is weight loss or muscle gain. So open small, lots of fluids and some protein and carbs. Then workout as normal and then feed yourself accordingly after that. This is one of the preferred techniques for body builders as it allows them to train at almost the same intensity as they would during non fasting days. Also, it allows you to really fuel up after your workout.

So which timing / technique are you going to use during this fasting month. It will indeed be more challenging to workout during the month of Ramadhan, but as the saying goes, "if there is a will, there is a way." Does anyone have any other tips of working out during Ramadhan? Would love to hear about them. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

PS: Next week, i will share some useful tips on working out during the month of Ramadhan, and hopefully that will further help you with your working out. So look out for it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fitness Tips for Ramadhan: Sahur

So continuing on with our tips for staying fit and healthy during the month of Ramadhan, last week we shared some tips on how to buka puasa healthily. As promised, this week, we will cover what kinds of healthy foods should be taken for Sahur. Sahur refers to the meal consumed my Muslims early in the morning before they begin their fast for the day during the month of Ramadhan. As this is technically your last meal before you begin your long fast, its extremely important to note what kinds of food will be good for you and what kinds of food you should avoid. So below are some kinds of food you should be loading up on as well as why we recommend that you do that.

Pick meals that are high in protein
Protein is far more complex than carbohydrates, and because of this, it takes longer to break down. Longer to breakdown also means, it keeps you feeling full for longer. Quite a good thing, especially since you won't be consuming anything for the next 12 to 14 hours. Also, because we are worried about the catabolic effects during the fasting month, loading up on lots of protein before and when we break fast, helps to reduce the effects on our body. So for these reasons, it is highly recommended that you load on high protein foods.

Fruits & vegetables
Fresh Fruits and raw vegetables are great foods to load on as well. Because fruits and vegetables have a high fiber content, it will help to keep you full longer as well. Remember, anytime you have food that helps you stay full for longer, its a good thing for the fasting month. I highly recommend eating raw vegetables and fresh fruits as opposed to cooked vegetables, for the sole reason that raw vegetables have more nutrients compared to cooked vegetables. Steaming vegetables are fine, but when you cook it and make it into a curry, almost all the nutrients are lost. Most of the nutrients in vegetables are very delicate and highly sensitive to heat. Because of this, over cooking it will destroy all these nutrients and just leave you with mass of fiber.

I would generally recommend to keep carbohydrates low, because they fill you up quickly but then you get hungry really fast as well. The problem is, when you get full quickly, you have less space for other useful food items which are high in protein. You become hungry really fast, because all simple carbohydrates turn into sugar almost immediately once it enters the system. Once it turns into sugar, it is either used or stored away as fat. Once that is done, your body starts sending out signals of hunger to tell you that it wants more food. The last thing you want is to feel hungry and not be able to eat. So try to cut out carbohydrates id you can. If you must, consume it, but keep the portions small.

Coffee: Yes or No
This seems to be the never ending debate on whether coffee is good for you or not. Some say no, others say yes. But i am not going to go into that. There is the other argument that it dehydrates you and thus it should be avoided. The argument is that coffee acts as a diuretic, thus making you want to answer natures call more frequently. Well drinking lots of water can give you the same thing, ie make you feel like you have to go. The fact is, mild amounts of coffee won't affect you so i wouldn't worry about it. So YES, go ahead and drink that cup of coffee if you need to, but remember to keep it to a mild level or something that you are used to. If you up to it a dose that you are not familiar with, then it could result is some additional dehydration. But ideally, i would opt for water instead of coffee, but if you must have that coffee in the morning, don't feel bad about it. Its OK, just as long as it comes in small amounts.

So ideally, your Sahur meal should be high in protein and vegetables and low in carbohydrates. This will help to keep you feeling full for a longer period of time plus it will help to reduce the catabolic effects of fasting on our body and muscle. Remember, you won't be able to ward off a catabolic response 100% during the fasting month, but where possible you would like to minimize it, and these tips will help you to do just that.

There you have it. Some simple tips to help you plan your meals for Sahur. Before i end, i would like to take this opportunity to wish all my Muslim friends and readers "Selamat Berpuasa". As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

PS: Next weeks post will be on exercising and how and when to exercise during the fasting month. So look out for it.