Thursday, January 26, 2012

Does Soy Protein Cause Man Boobs?

No, there is nothing wrong with your eyes. You read it right. There has been lots of speculation that drinking lot of soy milk or consuming soy based foods and protein shakes actually cause man boobs. And therefore, if you are a guy, you should avoid consuming soy protein at all cost - unless you want to have man boobs. Someone actually asked me this other day and i was shocked. So is this true or is it just another urban myth? Lets take a look.

How did this hypothesis come about?
Soybeans are rich in molecules called "isoflavones" which has weak estrogen properties and has been used for years as a "natural" remedy for hot flashes in menopausal women. It is a known fact that many male transgenders take estrogen (not soy) to stimulate breast growth. Therefore, someone has decided to put 2 and 2 together and come up with the hypothesis that soy causes rise of estrogen, which causes man boobs. Is it true? Btw, in case you are wondering there is a scientific / medical term for man boobs and its called gynecomastia. Yup - didn't know that.

The fact is, this is a myth and there is no medical or scientific evidence to support this hypothesis. In 2004, an Italian study of kids raised on soy protein formula showed no gynecomastia, no early puberty, no changes in their bones and definitely no signs of screwed up hormones. In fact soy has been enjoyed by the world for thousands of years. So until there is scientific evidence of soy causing gynecomastia, all this is just another myth - like the myth that doing leg raises actually targets your lower abs. Of course if you were to surf hardcore body building sites, you will notice that soy based protein gets a really bad name. But most of the time, these are just opinions without any scientific proof.

So what actually causes gynecomastia? Here are some of the causes based on medical science:
  • Malnutrition and recovery from malnutrition can create a hormonal environment that is man boob friendly
  • Disorders in the male sex organ (testicles) which may be caused by genetics, aging, trauma, infection, aging
  • Other conditions that can promote altered hormonal environment such as chronic renal failure or hyperthyroidism.
  • Certain drugs and medications overdose - please check with your doctor on this.
Don't seem to see anything about soy here.

But isn't soy protein less effective for building muscle compared to whey protein?
Says who? I noticed lots of these comments on hardcore bodybuilding sites. Here is the truth on that as well. Several studies have been done to assess muscle gain in individuals using soy protein, whey protein and egg protein. The results - There was absolutely no difference between the three. Supporters of whey protein like to site BV (Biological value) as an indicator for the quality of protein. Unfortunately, BV is as outdated as BMI. Today most scientists use a different rating to score the quality of protein. Its called the PDCAAS--Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score. The highest possible score or rating is 1, meaning the highest and best quality protein for human consumption. Soy scores a 1 just like whey protein. So is whey still superior to soy? I can't see how.

I am a big supporter of soy based protein because i am lactose intolerant, and for years i trained without using any protein supplement at all. Today i use a soy based protein supplement because it just takes the guess work out of nutrition. For me, my soy based protein supplement gives a high protein content (80% of it is protein) without the unnecessary calories. Now who wouldn't want that? And like i shared earlier, from that protein shake, i can make it into a weight gainer or even a meal replacement shake. I do hope this post has shed some light on soy protein and busted the myth that many people have with regards to soy protein.

So if you have been consuming loads of soy based products like tofu, soy milk and tempe, don't worry. You don't need to go down to Victoria Secret to check out their latest collection of bras. The fact is, soy protein does NOT cause man boobs. As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Eat more and lose weight

Hi guys, firstly my sincerest apologies for not writing anything in almost 4 weeks. Guess i am still in a holiday mood. But i am back and i have a very special post for you guys today and i hope you enjoy it. Before i start my post, just a small announcement.

Over the past few months, i have been working closely with the team of The Fitness Studio, a brand new gym that is opening up in Setia Alam. This 3 shop lot gym (near Tesco Setia Alam) is scheduled to have a soft launch in February and unlike other mass produced fitness centers out there, The Fitness Studio will be focusing on serving the community. We have developed special fitness programs for children, senior citizens and many other community based programs. Another unique thing about the Fitness Studio, is that it has a cafe that will feature special health foods with the aim of promoting healthy eating. If you are around the area, do check out this fantastic fitness center when it opens in February.

Now on top of that, The Fitness Studio is also looking for people to join their team of people. At the moment we have openings for the following positions:-

Personal Trainers
Sales Consultants
Customer Service

If you are interested in any of the positions above, please email your resumes to me at

Ok... now on to my post. I met my new client Ms. Siti ( she only wanted to be known as this) about 6 weeks ago and she had a unique problem. She is not overly fat and looks normal if you ask me. She of course claims she is overweight. But her goal is to look more athletic and lean. fair enough. She is super strict with her food and she exercises at least 4 to 5 times a week. Her food is mostly very high protein and super low or zero carbs. She has tried meal replacements, but it never worked. She has been on this super strict diet for the past 4 years. Her exercise routine used to be 45 minutes to 1 hour of jogging 4 to 5 times a week. She does 10km marathons quite regularly and despite all that she can't seem to lose weight. She said she is fine with maintaining everything but her weight has been slowly creeping up and she is worried that its going to go back to where she was before. She tried cutting down her food even more, but it just didn't work. It actually kept going up. She said she has tried everything from working out more, to cutting down her food even more, removing sugar from her diet completely and yet she wasn't seeing anything.

She even signed up for personal training at a big fitness chain and the trainer worked her to death, but she still did not see the results. It kept creeping up. By the time she came to me, she weighed 65kg and at 5 ft 7inches, that's not too bad. Her goal is to reach 60kg - that's all. In her own words - "I just want to lose 5 stinking kilos, is it so difficult?"

So anyway i met up with her and as usual, went through my standard assessment and getting to know her eating habits better and exercise routine. Siti has been working our for the past 6 years, so she knows lots about staying fit and healthy. So after my assessment, i told her she is not going to like what i have to say. She looked surprised and told me to spill it.

I told her that she needs to change a few key components in her lifestyle.

1) I want you eat more - She gave me a stunned look. Are you crazy? Based on her daily dietary habits, i showed her that she is only getting in about 900 calories a day. Based on her activity level, she should be getting in a healthy 1600 to 2000 calories a day. She was shocked and we debated this for awhile until she agreed. The point is, she was eating way way below her requirements which has sent her body into a super preservation mode. So in short, he metabolic rate had hit the floor, and to rev it up, she needs to feed her body again.

2) I want you to work out less - 3 to 4 times a week, and a maximum of 30 to 40 minutes of running. I told her to train hard and intense (sound familiar?). So i got her onto a HIIT program and it has worked wonders for her. The fact is, while she was eating poorly, she was unable to push herself properly during workouts. So with the new diet, she will now be able top push her body to greater heights. Better workouts = better results.

Now there is a whole lot of other things that i got her to start doing, but i can't share everything here. Trade secrets if you want to call it that. But what i wanted to share was that when it comes to weight loss, eating less and less does not always mean better. It is only better up to a point. Once you pass that, your body starts reacting in the opposite direction. So if you have been trying to cut down your food drastically and can't see results, this could be your problem too. PLUS, the sudden change in diet (i got her to start eating more carbs, complex carbs that is) and this has caused a major shock to her body. The result - she started losing weight again and she loves standing on the scale again. How cool is that.

The exercise, well i was inspired to write the article on short but intense because of her unique problem. So more and more exercise again does not mean better and better results. You need to find the balance and the important point here is intensity, not volume.

So after 6 weeks of training with me, its time to share the results. Drum roll please. Brrrrrrrrrrrrr. We just weighed her yesterday and she is down to 61.3kg. She couldn't believe how she is eating more, eating carbs, working out less and seeing the results. She is now super motivated to train harder till she achieves her goal of 60kg, which i think we will reach within the next 2 weeks or so. Its all in getting the balance right - which i helped her find.

Now with that being said, i am not promoting all of you to go out there and start eating more and working out less. This worked for her, as she was on the other extreme of the scale. Unless you are in this category, i recommend that you keep to the basic rules of weight loss - ie calories in vs calories out. But for special cases like this, then sometimes it is best to seek advice to help you see results again. When your system is broken, you need to be ready to make changes to it, or else you will never see results. Anyone else got problems like this? As usual, look forward to hearing your comments.