Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Omit the Cheese

Hi guys, sorry for not putting up any posts last week. Was busy with my corporate training as well as made a trip down to Redang Island. It was really awesome. Will share more about that holiday in my next post. Will also share with all of you some of the gorgeous pictures i took of Redang Island. Definitely worth another visit.

Anyway, this week i wanted to cover a simple topic called Omit the Cheese. Reason being lots of people keep asking me how to make an unhealthy meal healthy, and one of my best received tips was, omit the cheese. Let me explain further.

In almost all restaurants, how can you instantly make any dish more delicious? You got it... just add cheese. Think about the many different kinds of food we have which we have added cheese to.
Cheese fries - melting cheese over already unhealthy fries
Cheese Naan - Adding cheese to naan
Cheese in your sandwiches - How do you make a boring sandwich taste better? Just add cheese
Pizza with Cheese crusts - Just in case pizza doesn't have enough cheese already, lets just add more cheese into the crust
Adding Cheese to your burgers - It always seems to taste better doesn't it.
Cheesy garlic toast - Add some cheese to garlic toast
Nachos El Grande - How do we make it better? Just add cheese
Healthy Salad - Lets make it better by grating some cheese in
Pasta - Mmmmm.... some grated cheese will go well with it.

The list goes on and on. The point is, many restaurants out there seem to add cheese just to make dishes more delicious. Don't get me wrong. Not saying there is anything wrong in eating cheese. But if you are on a weight loss program, you should understand that cheese adds in a lot of additional calories which you can do without.

The big question i have is, does adding cheese really add that much more flavour to the dish? Or are you just ingesting additional calories but you can't tell the difference? In some cases, yes, the cheese is an integral part to the dish. Without it... the dish will taste very.... plain. Eg. Pizza. If you are going to eat pizza, then yes, the cheese does make a huge difference in taste. But in almost all other dishes, i found that it really doesn't make much of a difference.

Have you ever tried eating a Subway sandwich without the cheese? I have... and honestly, i can't tell the difference at all. Have you tried eating a chicken fajita without the cheese? again, i really can't tell the difference because there are so many other flavours in there, that the cheese just gets blanked out. Cheese naan... i have tried some where you can taste it... and some, which honestly you can't taste at all.

If you can't taste it, can you easily omit it from the dish? Absolutely. Here are some dishes which i have found makes absolutely no difference whether you have cheese in it or not

- almost 99% of the sandwiches i have tasted out there tastes just the same without the cheese. If you can't tell the difference, why add it?
- If you eat burgers in places like Hard Rock Cafe, TGIF etc, i have noticed that the cheese has a very small part in the overall taste.
Tortilla Wraps - If you like to eat mexican, i have noticed that most mexican dishes taste the same with or without the cheese. This includes your fajitas, tortilla wraps, tacos etc. Of course some dishes like enchilladas, where the cheese is melted on top... then yes, you can taste the absence of cheese. But besides that, most of the time, you can't tell the difference
Salads - almost all salads i have eaten taste just the same with or without your cheese shavings.
Pasta - Ever tried adding some parmesan cheese sprinkles? By the time you mix it up, you can't really tell the difference. Of course if you empty the whole container, then you would, but most of us sprinkle very sparingly.... and honestly, that small amount makes almost no difference to the taste.
The point is, if you can't tell the difference in taste, then why add it to your dish? Yes most of the times the amount of cheese added to any dish is small, but hey, when you are watching your calories, any amount you can save helps right? What more when you can't tell the difference.

Now it is also important to note the kind of cheese you use makes a huge difference. Some cheeses have a strong tangy taste... so you are more likely to taste it. But most of the time, you will get either cheddar slices, swiss cheese, mozerella cheese or parmesan cheese. All these cheeses don't really add much taste at all to you dish. So you can easily leave it out and the dish will taste just as great.

Again, if you are going to eat pizza or something, then by all means enjoy it. Please don't ask them to omit the cheese from your pizza. But for all other situations, just give it a try and see. If you can't tell the difference in taste, why not leave it out. And guess what, you just made that dish of yours a whole lot healthier.

So what are the other dishes t you can easily omit cheese from? Are you one of those who must have extra cheese on the dish? As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How do you get those veins in yours arms to pop?

Many people who i know always ask me how i got those veins in my arm to stand out. I never really knew what to say at first and so i couldn't really recommend any particular exercise for it. My usual advice was advising them to reduce their body fat %. As far as i know, if you can successfully reduce your body fat%, then you will almost immediately see your veins popping out. I didn't know that it was a particular workout routine that i had that was giving me the results i wanted. But recently, due to some mishaps, i discovered what it was which made the difference. And now, you will be able to do the same and enjoy the same results.

Some months ago, i injured my left arm (actually it was more like a year ago). Anyway to cut the long story short, i had this aching pain in my elbow when i did certain exercises... especially my favourite "modified one arm preacher curl". So i swapped it with concentration curls, and surprise surprise it didn't hurt. So yes, i could continue to work out. Why do i call it modified one arm preacher curl? Well i do it a bit differently than you would imagine. I extend my arm all the way down, then pull the dumbbell up about 1/4 of the way. Then I lower it down all the again and after that pull it up all the way. This counts as one rep. I usually aim to get about 7 to 8 reps this way. It usually burns like hell as i do it. how did i find out about this? Funnily enough, i was reading Men's Health in the US many many years ago (circa 2000)... and the author recommended doing this to help you break your plateau in preacher curls. Well i didn't really have a plateau or any kind, but it sounded interesting so i tried it. And i liked the way it felt, so i stuck with it.

Anyway i continued doing concentration curls for a good 6 months until i was 100% sure that whatever i had in my elbow was gone. It finally was gone. So i slowly reverted back to my modified one arm preacher curl. i just started it about 2 months back. Now before you start wondering where i am going with this useless banter... let me explain. During the 6 months when i was doing concentration curls, i noticed that my arms lost quite a bit in size as well as form. No matter how much i tried to lift, i just couldn't get it to grow or look pumped. Also, i noticed that the veins that were usually very prominent in my arms were now almost all gone. In fact, my arms started looking like i wasn't lifting. Most of my friends who saw me kept asking me what happen? Are you losing weight? your arms don't look so pumped anymore. Have you stopped going to the gym. It was frustrating to hear this when i WAS going to the gym 5 times a week as usual. The plain fact is, i was doing everything the same. The only thing i did was swap my one arm bicep curls with concentration curls. All else remained the same. Including the weights i was using.

But now that i am back to my modified one arm preacher curls again, voila... i am back in business. Arms look more pumped, and the veins... yup... they are popping out again as usual. I get strangers asking me for fitness advice again (yes, this all stopped for about 6 months when i was going through "hell")... and i get the usual "do you work out?" from strangers. My arms are bigger (a whole 1 inch more, i measured and saw) and my veins... well lets just say it pops out from the sleeves of my t-shirt again... i sure missed them.

Now i know all you fitness scientists out there are saying "This does not make scientific sense". And i agree. It doesn't. I can't seem to find a logical explanation. But you can't deny the results. As ridiculous as the modified one arm preacher curl sounds, it does work. Can anyone explain this? I really want to know. Unfortunately i don't have any before pics to share.

But back to our question on the post... how do you make the veins in your arms pop out. Well here are some tips that will help you.
1) Try reducing your body fat%. If you can get your body fat% to below 20% and you lift a lot, your veins will naturally start popping out
2) Do the modified preacher curls i mentioned in the post. It really works. Also, i feel it really helps to boost your arms from skinny twigs to mighty tree trunks.
3) I also find that training your biceps twice a week helps tremendously. I usually train once heavy, and then another maintenance work out (usually very light and i aim for more reps till it burns) about 3 days later. So one heavy and one light workout per week.

Those are just some of the tips that will help to make those veins in your arms pop out. You don't need to pump steroids to see those kind of results.

So what do you guys think? Anyone have an explanation for the query above? Also i do hope you try out the modified one arm preacher curl i mentioned above. Its one of my favourite exercises because it really delivers results. If you have been training your arms for awhile and now want to take it to the next level, try it and see. You will absolutely love it. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cut down on Garbage Foods

I was talking to a friend the other day who is currently trying to gain muscle mass. He is a bit of a hard gainer (meaning not so easy to put on weight) so he has read everywhere that staying anabolic is essential for muscle growth. How do you stay anabolic? Ensure you have enough calories coming in and better still if you can surpass it slightly. This tip has worked tremendously for him, but he told me that he is starting to feel flabby. Yes, he has gained some good weight, but he has also gained some bad weight as well...around the mid section.

He has been doing zig zagging for awhile now, meaning he would stay anabolic on muscle gain days (meaning eat past your calories requirements for the day) and weight loss days (where he would eat slightly below is caloric requirement for the day). So it worked great in the beginning, but he is starting to see the unsightly bulges appear slowly. So what can he do to maintain the healthy mass he has built (or better still actually build up some more) while trying to reduce his body fat %. I explained to him to its going to be hard to do both on the same day. So we took a closer look at his food intake during muscle gain days and found the problem.

Though it is OK for you to consume some unhealthy stuff which is high in calories during muscle gain days, you also have to keep in mind that you need protein to help you gain muscle mass, not just empty calories. Some carbohydrates are great in helping you achieve the high calorie requirement, but not so good at providing you with the protein you need. Hence we both cam up with the term "garbage food".

What exactly is garbage food? Garbage food is kinda like junk food, but the scientific definition we came up with was Food that is high in fat content or high calorie, but zero or no other nutrition, especially protein. In other words, there are many foods out there which are just plain high in calories and fat content, but provide you with almost zero nutrition. Let me give you some examples:

Cha Koi - Oh boy... Malaysians sure do love these oily deep fried flour sticks. Cha Koi is basically dough that is deep fried and it expands tremendously in the ho
t oil. Yes, i too succumb to this guilty temptation from time to time, but its extremely oily and almost zero nutritional value.

Junk Food - Most junk foods in packets are like the name suggests. Just plain junk. Again, a medium sized bag of junk food could give you a whopping 500 calories, but again, with no other nutritional value

Roti Canai - Yes, Malaysia's most popular dish that since transformed into various other forms such as roti tissue, roti bom, roti pisang, roti susu.... the list just goes on and on. Again, roti canai is high in fat and calories and not much other nutrition can be found in there. Not saying that roti canai has 0g of protein, but if i had to choose between 2 boiled eggs and a roti canai for my protein source, you know which one i will go for

Mee goreng, maggi goreng etc - Most people i know go to their favourite mamak shop for lunch. Though there is nothing wrong with the mamak shop, many people end up ordering fried delicacies such as maggi goreng and mee goreng. Yes, there is an egg thrown in there, but the rest of the other ingredients are almost all garbage foods themselves. From the oily yellow noodles they use, to the "flour and onion fritters", its nothing but a good mix of different garbage foods.
These are just some of the most common garbage foods out there which most people eat on a regular basis. YES, you can eat it from time to time, but the problem i have noticed is, that most people eat these foods most of the time. If you are trying to gain muscle mass, yes you want to stay anabolic by getting enough calories in, but there are loads of other healthier options to stay anabolic besides chowing down garbage food.

Instead of choosing garbage foods like the ones mentioned above, make it a point to choose foods that may be high in calorie, but high in protein content as well. Also, where possible, you want to choose foods that have lower fat content. The worst choice you can make is one that is high in calorie, high in fat and extremely low in protein and other nutrients. If you find foods like that, its garbage food, and there is only one place it belongs... in the garbage bin.

So what are of the other garbage foods out there that you can think of? Which ones do you consume regularly? As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.