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.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fitness Tips for Ramadhan: Buka Puasa

The month of Ramadhan is just around the corner, and already i am getting tons of emails and requests about how to stay healthy during this fasting month. So i thought this would be a good time to post up some tips on staying fit and healthy during the fasting month. I will cover several topics over the next few weeks which will zoom in and give you a better understanding on how to stay healthy during the fasting month. Since this topic is a big topic, i have decided to break it down to several topics so that i can give lots of detail for each topic.

During the fasting month, Muslims have to abstain from food and drink from dawn till dusk, which is usually 12 to 14 hours. Because of this, you will need to make some tweaks / changes to your workout routine and nutrition plan so that you are in line with the fasting month, while maintaining your fitness level.

For this weeks post, i am going to cover some tips on how to "buka puasa" healthily. Many people i know end up gaining weight during the fasting month, and i can safely say that 90% of it is due to bad habits during the fasting month. So here are some useful tips to remember when breaking fast the healthy way.

Eat slowly
So you are 5 minutes away from breaking fast, and you have already loaded up your plate with huge amounts of food and you are sitting there just looking at it. The second you hear the Azan Maghrib on the radio or TV, you dig in and start going through your food faster than the speed on light. Then when you are done, you loosen your belt and say "oh boy, i ate too much". Sound familiar? I know that when it comes time to break your fast, your hunger reaches an unimaginable stage and the temptation to over eat is at its peak. So its understandable that you would like to chow down food like a lion. But many people i know end up eating way too much food when they break fast. Sometimes you eat more than you would have during your normal daily intake. Meaning if you usually eat 2500 calories a day split into 3 meals, some people can end up eating 3000 calories just for their buka puasa feast. The reason for this overeating is because you are eating fast. Slow down and enjoy your food. It takes time for your brain to register that your stomach is full and tell you to stop eating. When you eat too fast, you surpass this signal and end up eating more than you need. So avoid the temptation to eat too much by slowing down your pace of eating. Yes, you are hungry, but remember that eating slow will not harm you. So slow down.

Avoid breaking fast with too much simple carb0hydrates.
When it comes time to break fast, i notice that most people end up eating way too much carbohydrates. Now unless you are going to instantly use up all that energy, i would advice against loading up on carbohydrates. The reason being, when it comes time to break fast, the sugar level in your blood will be extremely low. Any carbohydrate you take will instantly be turned to sugar. If there is no use for this sudden surge of sugar / energy, your body will instantly store it away as fat. Remember your body just came out of a highly catabolic state and thus it thinks your body is going through a femine. Now, you are going to want to take some amount of carbohydrates , but i would recommend against loading up on too much of it. Go for complex carbohydrates if you can, but as a general rule of thumb, i would keep it to a low amount.

Break fast with plain H2O instead of
Most people i know like to have a quick drink when they break as their throat is dry from fasting all day. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is, to break fast with a sweet and sugar filled drink like Sirap, Soda etc. As mentioned above, your body has just been in a highly catabolic state for so long and the last thing you need is a rush of humungous amounts of sugar into your blood. Its better to break fast with plain H2O and then later on you can enjoy your sweet drink. Not saying that sweet drinks should be totally banned during the fasting month. You can have them, but save them till much later, instead of when you just break fast.

Avoid those midnight snacks
During the fasting month, i notice that many people like to hit their favourite mamak joint or fastfood joint well after their Terawih prayers. Near my house, i notice many people hitting the A&W well after 10pm to get a snack like waffle and ice cream, root beer float etc. This is absolutely fine if you are going to bed at 2am or so. But if you are going to eat that and go off to bed straight away, i would advice against it. Remember, the same rules apply. Don't load up on huge amounts of food before bed.

So for this Puasa Month, do something different and try the tips above. I am sure it will make a huge impact helping you watch your waistline during the fasting month. I know many people who end up putting on weight during the fasting month, and i truly believe that you can avoid that by simply following the tips above. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments

PS: Next weeks post, we will cover tips on Sahur and what kinds of foods you should be eating. So look out for it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Workout Essentials

Off late, I have been bombarded with emails and questions about work out programs and what works best etc. Although most of the emails and questions are quite unique in nature, I did notice one similar trend in almost all the questions. Almost everyone asked me why is it that we stop seeing positive results after a while. So for this week’s post, I thought I would tackle this issue by providing all of you with information on what is essential for a workout routine. Hopefully this will serve as a guide and will help you to correct your current routine and start seeing amazing results. So here are some tips on what your workout should have for it to be an effective one

Keep your workout to an hour

Sometimes in life, we feel that more is better. For example, having more money is of course better than having less money. Though generally that is true, but that is not the case when it comes to working out. Yes, more is better, but only up to a point. After that, your body’s ability to respond to the given exercise reduces dramatically. On top of that, doing too much can be counterproductive as your body starts becoming more catabolic. For me, I like to keep my workouts short but intense. Just because it’s a 1 hour workout, doesn’t mean it can’t be effective. Keep your workouts to about an hour or less if possible, but make it count

Progressive Improvement

When you first start working out, you would probably start at a pace which you are comfortable with. Now it’s OK to start slow, but it’s important to progress as you go along. If you started with bench pressing 30 pounds for 10 reps and 6 months later you are still doing the same thing, then that’s not going to work. When it comes to seeing continued improvement, you need to keep getting yourself out of your comfort zone. If you can run 20 minutes without breaking a sweat, then you need to up it till it becomes challenging again. Your body is constantly trying to adapt itself to whatever stress you throw at it. The problem is, once it adapts to the stress, you are going to stop seeing results. So push yourself when you are in the gym or when you workout. Stop doing light bicep curls and before you even feel anything you put down the weights and call it a set. That’s not going to work. Continuously challenge yourself and aim to reach higher levels.

Mixing it up

Now besides making it more difficult as your move along, it’s also important to mix up your routine from time to time. If you usually ride the exercise bike for 20 minutes, try switching it to running on the treadmill for 20 minutes or using the elliptical. If you always do bench press, try switching it dumbbell flies for a change. The point is, by changing the exercise, we are essentially using our muscles differently and that again helps to prevent our body from adapting and thus allowing us to continuously see results. Whether you are training to gain muscle mass or lose weight, mixing it up really works wonders. How often should you change it up? Ideally you should change it around every 3 or 4 months. Or you can change it whenever you hit a plateau in your workout. But don’t change it up for every workout as this will be counterproductive. So be creative and keep mixing it up from time to time.


No workout routine is complete without the proper nutrition added to it. If you are trying to gain muscle mass and don’t eat enough protein, you can lift as much as you want, but you will never see results. It’s just plain science. If you are trying to lose weight and you keep eating more and more, you are not going to see results. So tailor your nutrition plan based on your goals. AND YES, nutrition is very very important to the whole equation. Your results are only as effective as how good you feed yourself. So remember that. Working out is only one part of the equation, the bigger and more important portion is what you do after your workout when you walk out of the gym.

So there you have it, some simple tips that need to be considered whenever you plan your workout. If you want the results, you need to ensure that you follow the tips above. If you want to continue seeing results till you reach your goals, you must follow the 4 tips above. So go through your current workout routine and make the changes you need to ensure that it meets all the requirements above. If it does, then I guarantee you will see amazing results all the time. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Gym With The Most Beautiful View

2 weeks ago, i took a trip to redang island and by far, redang has to be one of the best beaches i have ever visited. White powdery sand, and crisp clear water that looks like a swimming pool, it was really gorgeous. in fact this is the first beach hotel i have seen where everyone is in the sea and the swimming pool is empty. Why go to a man made pool when you have natural pool which is just as clear.

Me and wifey went there with Berjaya Air, so we flew from Subang and it was a direct flight to redang island itself. I liked this because it cut our traveling time to just an 1 hour and 15 minutes. As we arrived we were taken by a bus to Berjaya Resort (which has now changed name and changed management). After checking in, we were taken to our hillside rooms. I was a bit skeptical about the room because we got it on promotion but was i shocked when i walked in. It was a newly refurbished room and it was beautiful. Check out some of the pics below.

This hotel was undergoing a transformation at that time, so we were basically enjoying 5 star service at 4 star prices. The hotel management is being changed and the plan is to upgrade it to a 5 star world class resort. So it was nice to be pampered for the 4 days that we were there. We went for some deep water snorkeling but it wasn't as impressive as Tioman. Tioman had far better and more colourful corals to checkout. But beach wise, i would give Redang a thumbs up over Tioman anytime.

Activities - there are load of activities to do from snorkeling, to diving to island hoping. Best thing i liked, just outside the hotel is a small gerai makanan, so if you don't fancy spending RM 50 per person for a meal at the hotel restaurant, you have an option of eating at an affordable price outside. There are also kedai runcits just outside this hotel so you can easily stock up on your supplies if you need to. But bear in mind, it does cost a bit more than KL but that's because there is the logisitic factor of bringing these things into the island. I even found out that 1 year ago, you couldn't even find ice cream on the island. You can find ice cream now, but be warned, its more than twice the price in KL.

And yes, the gym. I noticed the gym while i was swimming in the sea. It was up on the hill and i was curious to what it was. Then i saw people moving in there and upon a closer inspection, i found out that they were exercising. Imagine running on the treadmill and having the view below?
I mean watching TV while running on a treadmill is ok... but this view? I went and personally checked it out and besides having gorgeous view, the gym was also very well equipped. For a resort gym and for the space available, i was impressed with the choice of equipments they made. Was hoping to talk to the Manager of the gym, but i never saw him. I saw him occasionally while i was swimming, but never got a chance to speak to him. But for me, this is definitely one of the gyms with best views i have ever seen. Kudos to who ever designed it.

All in all, thumbs up to Redang and i highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in an awesome beach holiday. Best i have been to thus far. Another beach destination to add to my belt of awesome beaches. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.