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.