Monday, March 28, 2011

Eating Fruits & Vegetables Made Easy

The American Heart Association recommends that on average, we should eat 3 to 4 servings of vegetables per day and 3 to 4 servings of fruits per day. So that's about 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. One serving size is roughly about the size of a coffee cup. The question is, are we all able to consume this amount of fruits and vegetable each day?

The problem with most working adults today is, nutrition and diet is the least of their priorities. Most people i know just eat to please their pallet and their stomachs. Because of this, many people end up eating unhealthy food all the time and don't get enough fruit and vegetables in their diet. Also, if you are eating out all the time, then there is a higher chance that you are falling short of proper nutrition everyday. Even if you do load up your plate with vegetables in the mamak shop, its not the best vegetables to eat as most of them are overcooked and soaked in oil.

So how do you ensure you get enough fruits and vegetables in your diet each day? Well here are some helpful tips

1) Eat some fruits and vegetables before each meal
Make it a point to chow down some fruits and vegetables of your choice before you start your main meal. The reason is, most people have the good intention of eating fruits after their meals, but end up being too full that they skip the fruits after their meal. So eat it first. Also, this is a great tip for weight loss as it ensures you don't over indulge in your main meal. You fill yourself up with fruits and you are less likely to over indulge in your main meal after that. 2 in 1.

2) Carry fruits and vegetables with you as your snack
You know you are going to get hungry at about 4pm. SO instead of hitting the cafeteria and having a curry puff, why not eat some raw fruits and vegetables. If you are carrying it with you to work, you want to choose fruits and vegetables that a dry and easy to eat. These include carrot sticks, celery sticks, bananas, apples, grapes, oranges etc. These fruits and vegetables are easy to eat and does not cause a mess, so its ideal to carry it with you anywhere you go

3) Mix fruits into your protein shake
If you religiously take a protein shake like me post workout, then this is a good way to ensure you get one good serving. I just tried this the other day. A friend gave me some mangoes from her garden and i decided to experiment with my plain flavoured protein shake. It really tasted great. Any sorts of berries, bananas and mangoes will go well with most shakes out there. So feel free to experiment and see what works for you. You are going to drink your shake anyway, so might as well add in some more goodness to it. Note: If you are mixing fruits into your shake, make sure you consume it within 10 to 15 minutes after you blend it. You don't want to keep it (even in the fridge) for too long as most blended fruits tent to separate and change colour.

4) Have a fruit salad for dessert
Instead of eating a chendol or ABC for dessert, how about having a fruit salad. If you are at home, this becomes even more convenient. Just cut up and mix up a bunch of your favourite fruits, squeeze some lemon juice over it and drizzle a little bit of honey. Give it a quick mix and Voila, a delicious fruit salad that tastes awesome. All you need to do, is stock up your fridge with fruits that you like so you can easily make this anytime. You can also experiment with other kinds of dressings. i am just recommending one that is simple and easy to do.

5) Puree your vegetables and add into your cooking
I read this recipe book called Deceptively Delicious, which teaches parents how to hide vegetables in food and make their kids eat vegetables without them even realizing they are eating it, and one of the best tips i got was making vegetable puree. If you are making dark meat burger patties or meatballs, you can puree some spinach and mix it into your mix before cooking. There are recipes for pureeing cauliflowers and carrots and adding that to your pasta sauce. So this is another way to ensure you get enough vegetables into your diet. I tried adding the spinach puree into my lamb burgers the other day. Couldn't taste any difference. Maybe i shall add a bit more next time and see what happens. Here's a tip. Puree all your vegetables and put them in separate containers and freeze them. When you are cooking, just pull out the one you need, thaw it and it will be ready to use. So this ensure you don't waste too much time cooking and trying to make fresh puree.

So there you have it. Some simple tips to easily incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet for a healthier you. I would still recommend that you take some sort of supplements just in case you still fall short of your daily requirement. What kinds of supplements should you be taking? Well i will cover more of that in next weeks post. For this week, i hope this post has inspired all of you to eat more fruits and vegetables and as you can see, it is easy to do and tastes delicious. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Have you met people in the gym, who come religiously 5 times a week for 2 years, only to notice that they have become fatter than when they first started? Or people who ask you for advice, you tell them, but then weeks later you see that they have reverted back to their same old routine. When you ask them what happened, they tell you they were not comfortable with the new routine, so they went back to what felt familiar. Well that's fine, but do you really expect to see a different result by doing the same thing over and over again?

Well i meet a lot of people like this in the gym and it makes me wonder why people keep trying things that don't work. If you are doing something and not getting the results you want, then there is obviously something wrong with what you are doing. To get a different result, you have to do something different. That's how the world works, and in fitness, its no different.

Some time ago, i attended a seminar where the speaker spoke about people getting out of their comfort zone. Your comfort zone is basically your usual routine which you are familiar with and of course comfortable with. When asked to do something that is out of this routine, is basically asking you to come out of your comfort zone. And then he shared this gem of a quote from Albert Einstein - Insanity, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Do you fall into this trap? If you do, then its time to change things up in the gym.

If you have been training for a while and still not getting the results you want, then you really need to look at what you are doing and make the necessary changes, or you won't see results. For the longest time, i was doing a particular arm routine and just could not see any progress at all. Then one day, some one suggested another routine, i tried it and started seeing results. So obviously, i was doing something wrong, hence why i was not getting the results i wanted. had i continued with that flawed routine, i would not have seen any results at all till today

So what should you do if you are not seeing results from your current routine? Do something different. Here are some general tips which will work well for both muscle gain and weight loss

1) Change the exercise you are doing
I find this to be extremely effective. If you are doing dumbbell curls and not seeing results, then swap the exercises with other exercises until you find one that does work for you. Try an exercise for at least 2 months before you decide to chuck it and try something else. Eventually you will find an exercise that works wonders for you and then you will know that this is what you need to be doing. If you are doing the stationary bike and not seeing the weight loss results you want, then try the treadmill or running outside. Again, changing the exercises you do is a great way to change the results you are getting.
2) Increase the intensity
I have seen this too often in the gym. Guy walks into gym in 2008. Starts benching an empty bar. in 2011, he is still benching an empty bar. Buddy, you ain't going to get big by benching an empty bar. You need to keep increasing the intensity to see results. If you are currently benching 50kg and doing 15 reps, try increasing it to 55kg or 60kg and drop the reps to 10 to 12. This alone could give you great results within weeks. If you are running on the treadmill for 20 minutes at the same speed, and not seeing any weight loss, try running faster, increasing the incline, increasing the time or do interval training. The point is, if whatever your are doing is not working, then you may need to increase the intensity to see results.

3) Hire a qualified PT
Sometimes, we become so used to the exercise we do, that we could have the wrong technique which has now become blind spots for us. Or you could be using a routine which has absolutely no point, but you are unsure how to change it. For situations like these, its best to seek professional help. A qualified PT will be able to guide you through a routine which he / she has tested and knows will give results. Also, the PT will be able to point out whats wrong in your current routine which is not giving you the results you want. So if you are serious about results, sometimes you just have to fork out the money. It is an investment on... you.

4) Play around with your food
I don't mean literally, i mean changing up your diet. As most of us know, nutrition plays an equally important role in staying fit as is exercise. To see different results, you have to change your nutrition plan as well. If you are sweating it out in the gym 5 times a week and still not seeing any weight loss, there is 99% chance that the problem may lie in what you are eating. Changing what you eat can have drastic results to your body. Similarly, if you want to gain muscle mass and just can't seem to squeeze in even one more pound, look at what you are eating and you may have to up your daily food intake. So yes, mixing things up is not confined to only the gym. In fact, i personally feel that people don't see the results they want because of poor diet choices. So if you are not seeing results, take a good look at what you are eating. I was suddenly losing too much weight over the past few weeks and everyone i met kept saying i lost weight. i weighed myself and turns out, i lost a good 3kg. So i have been beefing up my nutrition intake to get the results i want.

So there you have it. Some simple tips to follow to ensure that you always see the results you want. Don't be insane and do the same thing over and over again, while expecting a different result. The same applies for life as well. If you are not happy with your job or your salary or anything out there, make it a point to do or try something different to get a different result. If you don't like your job, get a new job. To get a new job, you need to update your CV and start sending them out. If you are not sending out your CVs even though your are extremely unhappy with your job, then... well you know what i am getting at. :-)

So stand up and do something different. Yes it will feel weird and different, but only for awhile. eventually you will get used to it. If you really want something bad enough, then its worth all that discomfort. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Treadmill vs. Running Outdoors

I am often asked these questions with regards to running and treadmills:-

1) Is running on a treadmill equivalent to running outdoors?
2) If i can run on the treadmill for 20 minutes, will i be able to run for 20 minuted outdoors?
3) Which is more effective to burn calories, running on a treadmill or running outdoors.

So i thought, its best that i clarify this topic properly so everyone understands why running on a treadmill is different than running outdoors. At first glance, the 2 may seem similar, but actually, there are quite a few differences.

Here are the answers to the questions:
1) Very similar, but not 100% similar
2) Not necessarily. Running outdoors is more challenging than running on a treadmill
3) Running outdoors at 6km/h for 20 minutes burns more calories than running 6km/h for 20 minutes on a treadmill.

OK, let me explain in more detail so all the answers make sense. Though the treadmill allows us to mimic a very similar movement of running, it is actually quite different. Running on a treadmill is actually easier than running outdoors. Why is it easier to run on a treadmill compared to outdoors?

For several reasons such as:-
a) There is no wind resistance when running on a treadmill. Because your body is stationary, you don't experience any wind resistance, which makes it easier.
b) The terrain is always uniform on a treadmill, where else running outside is never uniform. Because of this, your body is constantly working to adjust and balance itself to ensure that you can keep running and not fall down. Even this takes up extra energy... a little, but if your body is doing this constantly for 20 minutes, the little bit adds up.
c) Treadmill helps to propel you forward. In a treadmill, moving forward is assisted by the belt of the treadmill. Because of this, there is almost no energy used to propel you forward. Only energy being used is to keep your feet moving. When running outside, you have to move your feet and propel yourself forward, which makes it that much more taxing. Running on a treadmill is equivalent to running on the spot. I have read that adjusting the treadmill to a 1% incline will make it just as challenging as running outdoors.

Because of the reasons above, running outdoors is more challenging and burns more calories that running on a treadmill. Now, with that being said, it doesn't mean that all treadmills should be junked away immediately. There are some pro's that a treadmill has:

1) its not weather sensitive. Rain or shine, you can have a run at any time you want.
2) If you are a beginner to running, the treadmill provides you a safe and comfortable environment for you to build up your endurance / skill.

If you are training to be an outdoor runner (eg. running a marathon), then as far as possible, your training should be more outdoors than on the treadmill. Treadmill is a great place to get in a workout when the weather is not favourable, but overall, you should spend more time running outdoors.

So there you have it. The verdict on treadmill vs running outdoors. I still do the treadmill once a week, and i usually play with the incline and speed to make it more challenging and less boring. If you are a more serious athlete or fitness buff, than running flat on a treadmill for 20 minutes might put you to sleep. So feel free to play with the adjustments available to keep your workout challenging and effective for your fitness level. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.