Monday, February 28, 2011

Does eating fat make you fat?

I have been reading this topic a lot in many blogs and i thought i would like to address this issue as well. Many of the blogs i read say that fat doesn't make you fat, its consuming more calories that your body can use that makes you fat. This statement is true. There is no denying that.

Though the statement above is very true, this is only half the story. People forget that there is another essential part to this statement. Without this second part, you will give people the wrong impression. The second part should be - however, it is important to note that it would take less fat than carbohydrates to make you gain fat. Confused? Let me explain.

See it is true that fat alone does not make you gain weight. If you eat lots of fatty food and your calories in is still less than you calories out, then bravo... you will not gain fat. Because in order for you to gain additional unwanted weight, you must have a surplus of calories which your body cannot use. This is true. So it is possible to eat butter and other high fat foods and still get away with it.

Now on to the second part. If you were to only focus on eating fatty food all day, you can only eat very little, and trust me, you will be extremely hungry the rest of the day. This is because 1g of fat has 9 calories, where else 1g of carbohydrate only has 4 calories. As you can see, 1 g of fat has more than twice the amount of calories as fat does. So, you could eat twice as much on a full carb diet compared to a full fat diet. Which one seems more appealing to you now? To be able to eat more or to be able to eat less?

Lets look at it this way. One stick of butter (roughly about 110g) has about 800 calories. If you need to consume 3,200 calories a day to maintain yourself (assuming you are pumping iron really hard and work as a labourer), you can only eat 4 sticks of butter or about 440g of butter for the whole day. That's it. Anything more will cause you to overshoot your caloric intake for that day. How full do you think you will feel? Can you really survive the entire day with just 4 sticks of butter? And remember, to spend 3,200 calories, you will be doing LOTS of activity. Highly unlikely i think.

1 slice of white bread has about 80 calories. To reach 3,200 calories, you will be allowed to eat 40 slices of white bread. Now which diet do you think will keep you full longer. 40 slices of white bread or 4 sticks of butter. Can you see my point? It IS possible to get fat on fat, because faty foods are very high in calorie. So it makes it that much easier to surpass your limit.

So yes folks, though technically fat itself does not make you fat, but it can, when done in exaggeration, just like anything else. You can even get fat on a pure fruit diet, as long as you consume enough of it. So knowing this, what should you do? Should you cut down your intake of fatty foods such as cheese and butter or should you just continue as usual? Since the statements now seem contradictory.

Well, here is my take on that question. As you know, losing weight is a pure numbers game. Calories in vs. Calories out. As long as you know how to manage these numbers, then you are fine. But because its a numbers game where your aim is for the lowest score, eating lower calorie foods would help you achieve a lower score compared to foods with high calories. Food with high fat content (which will also naturally mean higher calorie content) means you can eat less. Again, you want to be able to eat and stay full and not where you feel hungry and uncomfortable.

So you know yourself best. If you are the kind who will put in the work after eating an unhealthy meal, then yes, go all out. If not, then you can increase your chance of success by staying away from fatty foods, because it CAN make you fat. So staying away from fatty foods will give you a huge advantage in succeeding. But at least, now you know the whole story and not just part of it. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Is Wholemeal Bread really better than White Bread?

Hi Guys, firstly sorry for not posting up anything last week. Was busy traveling and didn't get a chance to post up anything. Kinda burnt out from all the traveling and looking forward to having regular workout sessions again. Was away for Iron Maiden's concert in Singapore (which was awesome, although there were some sound problems) and later i was away at Fraser's for a seminar. My weight lifting routine came in real handy for the concert as i was standing near the front of the stage. The crowd got a little too excited and we were continuously being pushed everywhere and it was a challenge to stand still. One of my friends came out of the concert with a back ache. See... working out is important for everything... even rock concerts. My body probably didn't feel anything because it is used to the stress of lifting weights.

Through out the week i barely worked out and was eating loads of crap. So now that it is back to my good old routine, i hope to get back in shape as quickly as i can. This morning's workout was tough, but felt good to start the machine moving again. But yeah.. haven't been working out properly since CNY and there are some small bulges starting to show up so i'm on a mission to trim it back down.

Anyway, just the other day, i was buying bread from 7-11 and happened to compare the difference in calories between white bread and whole meal bread. Did you know that the difference is only a mere 11 calories for 2 slices of bread? That means 5.5 calories per slice of bed. Meaning that whole meal bread is just 11 calories less than white bread. If this is the case, is it worth the effort to eat whole meal bread or should you just switch back to white bread. After all, 11 calories seems hardly enough to throw your diet off course.

For me, putting on weight is not too much of an issue as i know how to balance my nutrition and activity level. When i feel like i am eating too much and gaining more fat, i make it a point to do some extra running or balance it back the next day by eating smaller meals.
So i choose white bread coz it just tastes better. But if you are trying to watch your diet, then you want to go for whole meal bread... not because its 11 calories less, but because it is more complex and takes longer to break down.

Let me explain. Though it is true that weight loss depends on calories in vs calories out, there are other factors to consider as well. One main factor is, how fast a particular carbohydrate is changed into sugar. As you may know, 1g of pure protein has 4 calories and so does 1g of pure carbohydrate. They both have the same amount of calories, yet protein is considered "belly friendly". The reason why people advocate a high protein low carb diet is because protein is more complex and takes longer to breakdown. Simple carbohydrates (like white bread) break down into sugar almost instantly, and if you are not going to be using that energy anytime soon, guess where it goes... yup, stored as fat. save it up for a rainy day. Complex carbohydrates (whole meal bread) on the other hand, take a longer time to breakdown and get converted into sugar. Because its a slower process, the amount of energy being released is also released slowly, reducing the chance of excess energy being stored away as fat.

Also, when you eat simple carbohydrates and sugar, your body releases insulin to regulate your blood sugar. Insulin is a storage hormone and because of this, you are more likely to store this unused energy as well. There are heaps of other reasons why protein aids weight loss, but we shall discuss that in another post. For now lets go back to our scenario of white bread vs whole meal bread.
So, with whole meal bread, it takes longer for it to break down into sugar, hence you get a more regulated release of insulin in the blood stream which ultimately means, less storage. Don't get me wrong, white bread is perfectly fine if you eat it and then go for an intense workout or help your friend to paint his house for the next 3 hours. But if you are just going to be sitting in front of your computer and do work, then whole meal bread will be a safer bet. Not just because of the 11 calories, but because of how quickly or slowly, it turns into sugar. All carbohydrates have what they call a glycemic index which indicates how quickly a particular food turns into sugar. The higher the index, the faster it turns into sugar. The lower the index, the longer it takes to turn into sugar. So whole meal bread not only has less calories but also a lower glycemic index than white bread.

Now before you swear off white bread completely, its also important to consider how much bread you eat. If you are only eating 2 slices of bread a day, then i would say, go ahead. knock yourself out and eat the white bread - unless you really really enjoy the taste of wholemeal bread. But if your diet is one loaf of bread a day, then you might want to stick with whole meal bread as it is healthier. But if its just 2 slices, i am pretty sure you could eat it and still get away with it.

So is whole meal bread really healthier? Well now that you know the facts from above, you can make a better decision. It really depends on you and how much you are eating. So consider all these facts before making a decision. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

PS: Please also take a moment to cast your votes on our latest poll on the top right hand side

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What's your Learning Modality?

Being a corporate trainer, i have to be aware of people's learning modalities because different people have different preferences when it comes to processing information. What you say to some people may make absolute sense, but you might have others giving you a blank stare. that's because you are not conveying the information in their preferred style. In short, there are 3 different learning modalities and we are all capable of all 3, but we have our preferred and of course our least preferred modality. So below are the 3 and a small description of each

1) Visual Learners - learn best through visual aids or when they see pictures. Don't tell them about something, show it to them.
2) Auditory learners - Learn best from listening to people. These are the people who can easily understand road directions on the phone. Visual people would understand better is you drew them a map
3) Kinesthetic learners - learn best by actually doing it. So they understand how to do something better once they do it themselves. They are also known to be more empathetic than other learners.

As you can see, when i give my trainings, i have to ensure that i satisfy the needs of all 3 modalities or else i would lose the crowd. If i I only talk continuously, then i would satisfy the needs of the auditory learners, but the rest would be yawning out of boredom. So i have to ensure i meet all 3 modalities. But like i mentioned earlier, we have all 3 in us, its just that 1 of it will be our dominant and most preferred style.

Now what does all this yapping about learning modalities have to do with fitness? Well interestingly enough, i discovered that if you understood your learning modality, you could find ways to easily motivate yourself better when you train and exercise? How? Let me explain further.

Lets take jogging as an example. If you are an auditory person, running without music will be extremely boring for you. In fact, you would feel unmotivated to give it your full if you had to jog without music. My wife is an auditory person and she can't run much without her trusted MP3 player. So for her, as long as she has music, she is fine. Me, i am more of a visual person. Being a visual person, i don't like going round and round the same block. i need to see new things to keep me motivated in my running. So i have to run a random course which is visually appealing to me or i will feel bored and fed up. My wife, she is fine with running around the same block 20 times... as long as she has her music. See the difference? Kinesthetic people are also emotional learners and for them, they will be encouraged to go further if they are running with someone or if someone continuously encourages them that they can do better. They would not enjoy running alone.

Lets look at the weight room. Auditory person, no problem. Blast some music and they will be able to lift heavy. Visual people would probably want to wear more fitted clothes that shows off their muscles, as this would inspire them to lift heavier. They would also love to see themselves lifting if possible. Kinesthetic, if you are spotting them, make sure you give them loads of encouragement as how much they lift, depends on how they are feeling.

So now that you know all this information, your next questions would of course be "so how do i find out my learning modality? Well easy. Go to the site below and take the quick test.

From there you will easily learn if you are an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner. Now remember, just because you have a low score in one, it doesn't mean you are not capable of it. It just means, that that is your least preferred style.

There is actually a 4th learning modality which is new and that is known as the digital learner. I can't find an online test for that, but if you were to buy the book Law of Connection from Michael J Losier, then you can take the test there. Digital people like sequences that make logical sense and they need a lot of information before making a decision. The reason i didn't add this is in earlier, is because i am not quite sure how Digital learners would benefit in fitness. when i did the test, my most preferred style is Digital, Visual, Auditory and lastly Kinesthetic. So my 2 preferred styles are Digital & Visual. Probably explains why i love watching TV so much. :-)

Anyway, just thought i would share that there is a 4th one and like i mentioned, not too sure how it fits in for fitness, even though i am a digital person myself. But I do know how to motivate myself visually.

So what is your learning modality. Take the test and find out and you will even discover why there were certain things you couldn't do or just hated doing. But with the right stimulus, you can easily motivate yourself to do much more. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments on this.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Does weight training help you burn fat?

In one word, absolutely. I was in the gym the other day and someone asked me if I watch my food religiously. I said, no, although I am a bit conscious about what I eat but I am not anal about watching every calorie that I consume. I do indulge every once in a while, but for the most part, I try to make a healthy choice. He then asked me if I eat rice. I said YES. I make it a point to eat rice at least once a day (since I am currently going through a Muscle Gain phase). So he was shocked and asked how is it I can eat rice once a day, do mainly weight training and yet look so slim. He does loads of cardio everyday in the gym and found it difficult to lose that unwanted fat. From his understanding, if you only do weights and eat normally, you will become big like weight lifters and not slim and fit. Yeah you will be strong, but no way will you look slim and fit. The only way to lose weight is to do cardio and lots of it. Oh and not to mention, he believed that you must be extremely careful with your food. Now, nothing wrong with that concept. It’s a good one, but at the same time it’s not the only way for you to lose fat.

There seems to be this common misconception that you can only lose weight with cardio and weight training makes you BIG and bulky. The more you lift, the bigger you become and if you lift heavy, you have to be fat. I have to explain this concept with a lot of my new clients, coz they expect me to take them through a pure cardio session when they want to lose weight. When I introduce weights, the first question is always – “Are you sure we should be touching dumbbells if we wanna lose weight?” or the other classic one is “I am not interested in building muscle, I just want to lose weight”. No, you want to lose FAT but inevitably, you will need to preserve whatever muscle you have or probably even build a little more. You want to look slim, and having a little more muscle helps you with that goal. You can look super slim and have some extra muscle mass at the same time.

Anyway, back to my buddy in the gym. So I explained that weight training does help you to burn fat. A really heavy weight lifting session can burn more calories than a slow paced cardio session in the gym. When I lift, I lift real heavy and most of my sessions are done in supersets. Does it get my heart pumping, YES. Am I using massive amounts of energy to complete my task, YES. So if you are using energy, you are using up calories… YES. If you are using up calories, is that an effective fat loss strategy? Absolutely. Most people don’t realize that a heavy weight training session uses an immense amount of energy and like I said, can easily be more effective than a cardio session.

The other benefit of weight training is, that it helps you to build muscle tissue. The more muscle you have, the more calories you are going to burn even while at rest. This is because muscle is active tissues that need to be constantly fed just to stay alive. Because it needs to be constantly fed, you will require that extra amount of calories to keep and maintain those hard earned muscles. If we were to take 2 identical people who had identical activity levels each day and identical diet, but one person had more muscle mass than the other person - the person with more muscle mass will require more calories than the guy who has less muscle. So because of this, maintaining muscle mass is extremely important, even if you ONLY want to lose weight to fit into that dress, you want to maintain whatever muscle you have. Muscle is healthy mass and healthy tissue. Fat is bad. So don’t lump them both together.

So can you lose fat by just doing 100% weight training? Absolutely. You can have an extremely low body fat % if you eat right and do just weight training. No harm in doing some cardio to help you reach those goals, but if you did NIL you would still be OK.

PS: Today is the first day of the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese Calendar, so let me take the opportunity to wish everyone Gong Xi Fa Chai and may the year of the Rabbit bring you and abundance of health wealth and happiness. I am currently in Singapore celebrating CNY with my family so I shall give all of you an update once I am back in KL.