Watch Your Back!

Many of us suffer from some level of back pain at some point in life. Some may find that it comes and goes and it’s usually just tiredness from standing or working all day. Some may find that it is a nagging pain that never quite leaves. Some are acute, some are around the general area. Whatever it is, it is most like because we have weak backs. Let’s face it, how many of us actually exercise our backs regularly?

Because I personally suffer from lower back pain, and my father is now complaining of lower back pain, I decided to dive into it and although the world of back problems is HUGE, I think a lot of it can be eased, if not prevented, by exercising your back. I think that we all like to focus on our abdominals because we want to look good in a bikini or a speedo, but if we exercise our abs too much without strengthening our backs, you’ll get a muscular imbalance, something which might cause back pain. So here are some basic back strengthening exercises to ensure we keep backaches out of the way for as long as we can.

Now if you do have a major back problem such as a prolapsed disc, or herniated disc or slipped disc, please seek medical advice before trying these exercises out because if there already is a major injury, exercising the wrong way can aggravate it further.

1. Glute Bridge

This exercise strengthens your lower back (Quadratus Lumborum muscle) as well as your butt (Glute muscle). When you raise your hips, make sure you’re kicking off the heels of your feet, and squeeze your butt muscles at the top and hold for 3 seconds. Try 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

This can be progressed to using only one leg to raise your hips, with the other leg straight up in the air.

 

 

2. Side plank hip raise

The side plank hip raise is a great way to strengthen your hip stabilizers (Obliques and Quadratus Lumborum muscles). When your stabilizers can kick in quickly, you’ll lower the risk of injuring your back when having a fall or getting off balance. Again make sure your whole midsection is activated when you raise your hips, hold for 3 seconds, and gently lower hips to ground. Try 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions.

Again, it can be progressed. Try doing it on your palm instead of your forearms when you get the hang of it.

 

 

 

 

3. Superman

This exercise has many variations which target different segments of the back. Try A and B out first, raising your legs and holding for 3-5 seconds, then raising your arms and holding for 3-5 seconds. You can also try C out that is to raise opposite limbs and alternating them. Do 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions.

Once you have mastered that you may raise both hands and feet off simultaneously into a boat-like shape and hold.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Around the world

This exercise is more advanced and you do it in succession from A-B-C, and then again on the other arm. It engages the entire core section plus the back muscles so you get the whole package. Always remember to activate your midsection and squeeze your butt tight throughout the movement. Try 3 sets of 15-20 reps on each side.

Once you are good with that, progress is by going up on your palms instead of forearm.

 

 

 

Try these exercises out at home and see if your back pain leaves you for good. If you’re an endurance athlete, whether you’re a runner, a cyclist or a swimmer, you will benefit a LOT from having a good strong back. Have fun!

Categories: Muscles | Tags: , | 1 Comment

You are special.

Every one of us is different. We have different body types, different backgrounds, different genes, different lifestyles. What we do in our daily lives actually plays a major role in our appearance and our health.

I was on BFM 89.9 recently to talk about how one can create or sculpt themselves a fitness regime that is suitable for them. Here is the podcast of that interview:


But I thought I’d add a little more on top of that just so you guys can get a better idea.

We all have different goals in life but the one goal that should be constant is the goal to be healthy. I cannot stress any more on how much I emphasize leading a healthy lifestyle while you’re still young and able so your future self wouldn’t have to suffer so much.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle, isn’t as simple as just signing up at the gym, although it can very well start with that. It takes more than just working it out once a week, and then go back to incessant smoking and junk food eating and deprived sleep. You would need to tease out one bad habit at a time.

It also means changing your daily habits such as:-

  1. Trying to find the closest parking lot to the entrance. I’ve met so many people who would rather go a million rounds and burn up precious petrol than to park their cars just 100 m further away.
  2. Watching the telly or hanging out till late at night and not getting enough sleep. Very often people ask me why aren’t they achieving their fitness goals when they work out 3-4 x a week intensely. I ask them if they sleep well at night, and they give me that “But I have no choice!” look. I know that the corporate world can get a little crazy, but more often than not, it’s just habitual. Make the right choices and you will find time to sleep more. 7 hours is ideal.
  3. Not eating when you’re hungry and eating when it’s too late. This causes gastric, AND if you eat too close to sleepy time your body wouldn’t digest it well. So you get very little of the nutrients. Which is a waste of good food, I would say.
  4. Having bad standing and sitting postures. Most of the time backaches are caused by bad posture. For those of you who spend hours at your desk, it is crucial to have the ideal sitting posture so you spare your lower back from unwanted stress. Always try to sit up straight, and stand up straight. When you’re standing, try not to shift your weight to one side and stay there too long, always have your weight evenly distributed across both legs. Make sure you don’t slouch when you’re sitting, try pushing your butt out to the back. Use a small pillow for further support.

Old habits definitely die hard, but if you’re determined to live a more quality lifestyle, I think you should consider these pointers to supplement your fitness regime. =)

Never a bad time to change, just start today!

Categories: Body type | Tags: | Leave a comment

The price of health, the price of life.

So let me get this straight. When you get a medical bill from the hospital for a couple of 100 bucks, it’s okay, it’s necessary, it’s inevitable, but when a personal trainer says a session is about 150 bucks, it’s the most impossible price you’ve ever heard? And when you pay a couple of 100 bucks a month for the gym and make it there a grand total of 2 times in 3 months, that’s okay, but when you can get someone to guide you and motivate you and teach you the right technique so you avoid injuring yourself for less than that price, it’s exorbitant? Right.

I’m Karen, a personal trainer, and I am here to educate why having a personal trainer is not a method used only by the rich and famous, and should not be the last resort for those who are clinically obese only.

A personal trainer’s job is to help you achieve your goals. And more often than not, your goals can sometimes be unrealistic, so your personal trainer will be there to share with you what are attainable in the near future so you don’t get disappointed when you fail to achieve your goals. That’s right. Contrary to popular belief, exercise and fitness is waaaaaaay more scientific than you think and for best results, you’d better plan it out. Your personal trainer can do that for you.

A personal trainer’s job is to make sure you do it safely. There are many ways and methods to increase strength, gain fitness, lose weight and improve health, but a vast majority of them either makes you feel extremely sick, or worse, causes injury. With your personal trainer by your side, you can ensure you get fitter and stronger more safely, and without the setbacks of an injury, you get there more efficiently as well.

Because every one of us are different, what that totally buffed guy at the corner is doing may look easy, but may not really be the best exercise for you just yet. Sometimes something as simple as running on the treadmill needs hours of training before half an hour of speed 12 kph is achievable. This is what your personal trainer can help you with. Building up your fitness progressively and safely is the key to achieving results. Let your personal trainer keep track of your own records.

With regards to my previous article on senior citizens, certain demographics require special care and attention. The last thing we want is to have a heart attack or a broken hip. We know that exercise can significantly improve your health but we’ve also heard that it can go the wrong way if not done properly. Let the personal trainer do the research, learn up on your conditions and help you out in any way she can.

DSC_4731_DxONot forgetting our best known accolade, personal trainers are the kings and queens of motivation. Whether you like it rough, tough and dirty or gentle, smurf-like and encouraging, we will ensure you get your bum to your appointment and finish that hour with us, sweat, tears and all, and not just because you paid us so much money! We will be there with through your feel good moments, but even more through the moments you feel like giving up.

Finally, most personal trainers I know are people with a passion for health and fitness. We are a group of people who consist of those who either grew up loving it all through our youth, or quit our boring jobs because this is what satisfies us most. We are the ones who chose this path, and not settled for it. And so your personal trainer will definitely work with you to achieve your goals, improve your quality of life, and if you’re lucky, get you to love a new way of life! Our charisma and enthusiasm are said to be pretty contagious, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself taking up new fitness challenges in the future by spending all that personal time with us.

So, put a price on health by paying someone who can help you avoid the hospital, not by the amount at the bottom of your medical bills. :)

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Muscles, Seniors | Leave a comment

The Golden Ages

Never too old to kick butt!

Very often people do not do something because they have a preconceived fear that they cannot do it; that they’re too weak, or too slow, or they might fall down and break something. If you’ve heard these things from our Westerners or Europeans, you’d hear it 10 times more frequently among us Asians. It is very much a part of our culture that when we start hitting our 50s, all we’re told to do is to sit down, watch TV, rest, eat more, stay indoors. And that’s what every senior Malaysian I know does, safe for a minority group of runners/gym goers who are even more active than the youths!

Now, in my humble opinion, all they’re doing to themselves is making themselves age even more by being sedentary. Muscle Sarcopenia is what they call the loss of muscle due to aging. In some references I have found, you lose about 0.5-1.0% of your muscles every year when you hit 35 years old. By the time you’re 50 you would’ve lost at least 10% of your muscles. Those are the numbers and we should just accept them as part of life, yes? Wrong.

We can slow down Sarcopenia and I think you know how. What do we do to build muscles? We exercise! It is never too late for a person to start exercising, so long as you are breathing and moving. Even if you have a disability, there is always a way to work up a sweat. There are 2 categories of exercise, as you already know, and they are Strength Training and Cardio Training. Both of these can and SHOULD be practised by senior citizens and I will tell you why and how.

Strength Training

In simple terms, more muscles = more strength. So do more strength training, gain more muscles, gain more strength. When you’re in your golden ages, you will definitely find that your strength is no where near what you had in your youth. And now you know it is due to muscle loss. When you lose muscle, you’re also losing the ability to control your movements well, hence your sense of balance gets affected, and thus the risk of falling or injuring yourself is increased. Packing on some muscles onto your bone frame can go a long way in ensuring you feel stronger, you move better and you are at a lower chance of falling!

How to gain more muscles is pretty simple. Resistance training is your answer.
1. Lifting Weights is one way to do it. Start with light weights (3 Lbs or less) and progress gradually. Do 10 times of a basic move and 3 sets of each move. Ensure plenty of rest and water breaks in between sets.
2. Body Weight resistance training is also great. Simple things like standing up and sitting down on a chair works your thigh muscles. Again 3 sets of 10 repetitions may be sufficient for starting out.

Chair Squats

Cardio Training

This has to do with your heart. If you have lived the past 40 years of your life being sedentary, chances are your heart is extremely weak, and that’s the reason why you feel tired all the time, NOT because you’re old. But I say, why not start now? Training your heart a little bit every day will ensure you a much high quality of life. Not only will you tire less easily, you will find that you fall sick far less frequently and you will be able to go on holiday vacations with your loved ones without feeling the strain too much.

Some simple things you can do are:
1. Walking. Do this every morning/evening. Forget about the distance, just think about the time. Start with 15 minutes of walking and if even that makes you pant, then be glad you’re starting our now. Gradually increase the time to 20 minutes, 30 minutes, and work your way up to 2 hours if you can. When you’re fit enough, try mixing it up with a bit of jogging. :)
2. Swimming. If you can swim, and you don’t like walking because it’s too hot and sweaty, then swim! Same principle applies, start slow and gradually build up the time.
3. Dancing. There are so many line dancing groups out there which you can join in for free or a very minimal fee. Just ask! There could be one just right outside your front gate!
4. Tai ci/Qi Gong. Also many groups of which have sprouted out of no where in our neighbourhood playgrounds and fields. For those of you who want something slower-paced, try this out.

I’ve a grandfather who is in his 90s. When I graduated from New Zealand and came back to Malaysia, he asked me how to increase his leg strength. He walks with a walking stick very slowly, and his balance is not quite there, so I had him holding on to the side of a chair and getting him to sit and stand up from the side of his bed. I told him to do it 10 times, but he misunderstood me and thought he had to sit down slowly in 10 seconds, and so he counted as he lowered his bum down and at his own accord he started to increase the count to 20 and then to 30. He told me his thighs were feeling sore the next day and he was very glad about it ♥. If he can do that, I’m sure many of you can.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it takes persistence and discipline for you to gain your strength. Do your training every day and you’ll definitely see results in a couple of months. If there are any doubts, feel free to drop me a line, I’d be more than happy to help you out!

E-Mail me at karensiaheling@gmail.com :)

Categories: Muscles, Seniors | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Fitter, finer, more fabulous 2013!

IMG-20121231-WA0003

Which is what we should all aim towards this year, yes? All in favour, say, AYE! :)

Happy new year, peeps! I hope you’ve had a wonderful Christmas and an awesome holiday to relax and rejuvenate yourself after a long year’s hard work. Today, unfortunately, the little kids are going back to school, and we’re all going back to the grindstone. I know how you feel. *boo*.

I was chatting with my brothers today and they both said they need to start getting back in training because they were feeling a little flabby of late. That’s completely expected after a festive season, especially the year end holidays because everyone is in the mood to catch up over coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks,..the list goes on. I, myself, am starting to feel a little pudgy around the edges, so it’s back to training!

I understand that it may be difficult to get back to your regular routine while you’re still in the holiday mood, and you’re feeling a little heavier. Putting off any routine for that matter makes it very difficult to come back after a while. But, I think I can help ease you guys into it, without pulling a muscle.

1. Expect the worse.

Time is going to be your biggest enemy especially at the beginning of the year. You’ll have plenty of things to do, your kids need to go back to school, you have fresh new portfolio sitting on your desk, you forgot to factor in the crazy back to school traffic on the roads, finding free time to exercise is probably going to be hard. So if you expect this to happen, you can at least plan to manage time better so you lessen your stress for the day. :) As always, exercising when you’re not so uptight is a lot more effective than when your head is clouded. So expect it, and plan ahead.

2. Get enough sleep.

You’ve probably had your fair share of Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties, late night dinner dates, and the whole she bang throughout the holidays. You’re going to be a little sleep deprived and probably used to sleeping late. Although, you’ll fall back into your usual routine soon enough, the sooner you make a conscious effort to sleep earlier, the better you will feel. Get enough sleep, so your mood is better in the morning, which ultimately affects your energy levels as well. This will definitely increase your chances of exercising in the morning or evening, whichever you choose.

3. Start slow.

You’re a bit heavier, and you’re a bit out of practise. This most definitely does not mean you should go into panic mode and start busting your butt on the treadmill. Start a little slower. Don’t worry, you’re not going to lose your fitness forever. Just think of it as oiling up your joints again so you don’t injure yourself. Chances are you’ll bounce right back to your usual self in a couple of training sessions. :)

4. Drink plenty of water.

A lot of travel, a lot of outside food (especially Malaysian food), and a lot of social events all lead to dehydration. The added MSG in our outside food makes us thirsty. And the fact that we slowed down on working out means we didn’t get to sweat out these salts. So the best thing we can do for us to kick the sluggishness right out is to drink plenty of water. Freshen up all the muscle cells in our body so we can get moving faster.

5. Grab friends!

And the most proven way to make starting any form of routine we dread to start a bit easier, be it work or exercise, is to have friends go through the same thing! Knowing that someone is feeling the same way, and dragging that person along with you can be called tough love, but it’s love all the same! Help yourself out by helping your friends out, so it’s a win-win situation! At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure everyone ends up happier.

So here’s a to a fitter, finer and more fabulous you this 2013! May you all UP your awesomeness!

Categories: Burn burn burn!, In your head, Om nom nom | Leave a comment

Quickie.

These days the weather in Klang Valley has been so erratic that for outdoor lovers like me, it can be pretty frustrating when yet another workout plan becomes a washout. Seriously, how is anyone ever going to get their adrenaline fix like this?

Well, I know that many of you have heard about these Tabata and HIIT workouts but don’t really know what to put together. And I have had requests to post up some workouts that I do on my own. Here’s one Tabata workout you can try:

1. Get a timer app for your phone. I use My Interval Timer Pro for Android.

2. Remember Tabata is about 20 seconds of workout, and 10 seconds of rest. So set High intensity at 20 seconds and Low intensity at 10 seconds. Low intensity is your resting time so you do nothing but breathe for 10 seconds. Put 8 repetitions.

3. You’ll be doing 3 sets of exercise. Each set consists of 2 different exercises, repeated 8 times (which means you only do each exercise 4 times, alternating).

Jumping Jacks +  push ups

Jump lunges + sit ups

Squat jumps + Russian twist

I’m pretty sure these will shoot your heart rate right up so allow about 2 minutes rest between each set. And get ready water and a towel. =) My standard formula is usually a mix of one high intensity exercise (lots of jumping usually) and a low intensity exercise (usually more static exercises). Try this workout out, and when you get the hang of it, you can choose your own exercises :)

Categories: Burn burn burn! | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Preparing for the holiday fiestas!

I recently went on BFM Radio, The Business Station to talk about more fitness stuff. This time around I was interviewed on how to maintain our health and fitness throughout upcoming holiday season. We all know how these celebrations are filled with sinfully delicious goodies and in some cultures (like almost every culture of every race in Malaysia), saying no to food can sometimes be rude. As Malaysians. we generally love our food, and not only that, we also love other people to love our food. That’s just how we are. So listen in to how I think we can help ourselves to stay fit and healthy so that we don’t end up with a post holiday food baby we all dread so much.

BFM 88.9 Preparing for the holiday season

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Om nom nom | Tags: | Leave a comment

Burn, Baby, Burn!

We’re working those beats. We’re sweating it out! We’re on a roll!

But what exactly are we burning?

I promised that I was gonna do a write up on our fuel sources, or rather, where do we get our energy from when we exercise  so here it goes. Basically, there are three: FAT, CARBOHYDRATES, PROTEIN. In short, we use a LOT of carbs, some fat and very very very little protein. And this is because of 2 factors – 1. How much energy they provide and 2. How fast they burn.

Carbohydrates are easy to burn. It is the easiest to burn out of the three and produces a decent amount of energy (approximately 4 cals per gram). It comes in the form of muscle glycogen which is stored in your muscles for fast metabolism and plasma glucose which is stored in your body fluids so it travels everywhere in your body.

Fat produces the most amount of energy (approximately 9 cals per gram). Fat comes in the form of muscle triglycerides which again are the fat cells stored in your muscles, and plasma FFA (Free Fatty Acids) which, again, roam about in your blood and other fluids. I know what you’re thinking. Why doesn’t my darn body use up all the fat, then? It’s because fat is incredibly slow burning. A lot more processes are involved in the burning of fat and that takes time. So running on fat will make you move slower.

Protein produces energy, but it’s not meant to. Protein makes the building blocks of all the tissues in our body. Imagine your biceps made up of little pieces of Lego, those are amino acids i.e. protein. The body only relies on protein when it runs out of carbohydrates to burn. They start breaking down the amino acids and this is how you lose your muscle mass.

How our body decides which fuel to use depends on the intensity of the exercise we’re doing. Look at this graph below (I took it from some slides from The University of South Carolina Aiken by a Doctor Brian Parr). The top two colours (Muscle glycogen and plasma glucose) are carbohydrates and the bottom two colours are fat.

Exercise intensity which is measured in VO2 max is just an indication of how intense or difficult the exercise is to a person. Now, just a reminder that what may seem difficult to you, may actually be easy peasy to the next person, so exercise intensity is subjective. You could see that at 25%, which is an easy work out (like maybe a stroll in the park) and your heart rate is maybe only up to 75% of max, you burn mostly FAT and very little CARB. Note that this is in Percentage of total fuel source and not an absolute value. As intensity of the work out increases to 85%, which is maybe running for most people, and the heart rate goes up to about 80-90% of max, your body starts to switch to more CARB and less FAT burn. Because when we are working out that hard, the body wants energy FAST and EASILY available. Here’s another chart to put that into perspective.

So, how is this information useful? Ok. It depends on your goal.

Lose weight and tone up. You need to know that even though exercising at low heart rate intensities burn more fat than carbs, it is a percentage and in actual fact it only burns very little in absolute. For example, walking slowly for 30 minutes in the park may burn up to maybe 100 kcals in absolute total. Of this 100 kcals, 85% which is 85 kcals, were Fat fuels and the other 15% were carbohydrate fuels. But in absolute, you only burnt 100 kcals. When you go for a high intensity workout like a run for 30 minutes, you may burn up to maybe 300 kcals. Of this, 30% which is about 100 kcals, were from fat fuels and the rest were from carbohydrates. But in absolute you burnt 300 kcals and of which, 100 kcals of fat! See?

Gain muscle mass and get ripped. I think there are many out there who wants this. And many trainers out there will recommend you to up your protein intake and maybe cut out carbs. Not really the best idea, because when you cut out carbs, and you continue to train hard, what do you think is going to happen? Your body is going to run out of carbs and start eating up your proteins. Drinking protein shakes help in recovery i.e. building more blocks, but that isn’t really a fast process and your body can only handle so much protein at a period of time. The rest of it gets flushed down the toilet. So while you’re drinking protein and wasting away at least half of it, your body is continuously burning fuel because of your training. On top of this, you cut out carbs from your diet, so it has NO CHOICE but to start burning up protein!

My recommendation is for you to keep your carbohydrates, you may probably lessen the amount, but never completely cut them out. You can continue to drink your protein shakes but only if you plan on training hard frequently i.e. 5-7 times a week. And while you’re eating, just eat more organic sources of protein like eggs and meat which I think your body would prefer to use, rather than processed powder form protein. Just saying.

Hope this helps some of you! For more information you may want to read an article from Livestrong.com or this one here from Riordonclinic.org.

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Om nom nom, What's happening inside my body? | 2 Comments

Run right.

So Powerman Asian Duathlon Championship have just been done and dusted. I did alright, a little slower than I did last year, which was a bit funny considering the weather this year could not be more perfect for a long distance endurance multisport race. Cool, cloudy, with a bit of drizzle. I guess I just perform better in the burning Malaysian heat. ;)

Anyway, I was looking at some of my photos (thank you to all my dear photog friends who work tirelessly in the rain and sunshine to capture pictures of so many duathletes out there), and I am beginning to notice a trend in myself. I guess it is something I’ve noticed a while back but only today did it strike a light bulb in my head. I have something called a “hip drop” and a pretty obvious one at that. It’s not a good thing and I’ll tell you why after these visuals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There you have it, my very glamorous action pictures, if you may. :) Now I’ve highlighted in red the alignment of my hips when I run. Notice that in the first picture, my hips are aligned parallel to the floor. This is when my right foot is on the ground and my left foot is in mid air. This means my RIGHT HIPSTABILIZER MUSCLES are strong enough to support my one legged stance at this point in time.

Now the same cannot be said about my other side. From here on I shall call this my “dark side” (ala Kelly Clarkson). Notice how when I am supporting my stance on my left foot, my right hip is dropping. This is an indicator that I have weak LEFT HIP STABILIZER MUSCLES. Not good.

I’m going to steal a picture from this site, but I’ll reference it later.

This is a great picture of how the pelvis (hip bone) and glute medius (hip abductor muscle) looks when the hip drops.  To be honest, I winced when I was reading up about it. Because not only does this contribute to a higher risk of injuries to the knee joints, it also greatly reduces my body’s efficiency. From a biomechanical standpoint, a lot more energy is lost from trying to lift that hip up again to get ready for the next gait. Over a period of 2-4 hours of running, that can amount to a LOT of energy lost for nothing! I am now wallowing in a bit of self pity, thinking about how imperfect a runner I am. Sigh…

But fear not! It CAN be corrected! Just like most other injuries, or “imperfections” in any sport, strength training can and will go a long way.

After reading up a little bit on the issue, I’ve identified 2 specific muscles that require strengthening in my case:
1. Hip abductor muscles – the gluteus medius muscle, located at the top lateral side of your bum, is responsible for stabilizing your hips, and for lifting your legs up sideways i.e. leg abduction.
2. Hip external rotator muscles – the piriformis, quadratus femoris, and a bunch of other less common muscles, all located underneath your big bum muscle, and works to rotate your leg our externally (turning your foot to the outside).

These muscles can all be strengthened, and the exercises are quite simple too. The “clamshell” exercises is pretty good.

And lateral leg raises too.

So I hope this small tip can help you guys out! I, for one, am going to start working out my hips so my running photos can look even more epic ;)

Read this article for a more scientific explanation of the situation. They even provide free hip strengthening exercises here.

Categories: Burn burn burn!, Run!, What's happening inside my body? | 2 Comments

Eat breakfast like a King

I’m sure you have heard of the phrase;

Eat breakfast like a king,

Lunch like a prince,

And dinner like a pauper.

Well, I’m a bit afraid to put this out there because I know that many Malaysians would take this a bit too literally, but only for the first line, and then, they will forget all about the prince and the pauper and assume that all meals eaten in a day should be fit for the King, yes, brunch and tea times included.

But it is a very good practise and I’d like to tell this to the other half of Malaysians out there who do the exact opposite and not have breakfast at all. I’ll give you many reasons why eating breakfast is the best thing you can do for your body, and the best way to kick start an active, fully energetic day.

1. Our body wants to survive

I have mentioned this many times and if you take away anything at all from the world of health and fitness, it should be this. Our body wants nothing more than to survive. To survive, it will forever try to keep all levels of everything at an optimum level. This includes our storage of fuel (gives us energy to do things), which are muscle glycogens, carbohydrates, fat and protein. I’ll explain more about how our body utilizes different fuels in another post, but for now, all you have to know is that because fat offers insulation against cold, a buffer to protect our vital organs from shock, and is a slow burning fuel with immense energy capacity, it is the first thing the body tries to store up and save whenever it gets into survival mode.

Now let’s say you last ate at about 9 pm at night. You go to bed, and get up by about 7 am. You rush to work, and jump straight into it, not feeling hungry just yet because you’re used to not eating breakfast. By the time you realised that you’re famished, your colleague’s are calling you to head out for lunch at 12 pm. Now that’s a good 15 hours of not eating.  When our bodies send a hunger signal from the brain, and we don’t feed ourselves, it is going to believe that we are in fact in starvation i.e. no food around. Its natural instinct is to go into survival mode, which meeaannssss….we start storing fat for safekeeping! So, get this straight, starve yourself more = store more fat. Ok?

2. Sleep is when our metabolism is at its slowest

Remember, metabolism = burning of calories to provide energy for your body to do whatever.

SO…you finish up your dinner at about 9 pm. You chill out, watch some TV, surf some Facebook, all this while your metabolism is still doing pretty good, because you’re still awake. But it’s slowly slowing itself down as it gets you ready for sleep mode. Then you go to sleep at say midnight. You metabolism starts to descend drastically because right now the only energy you need is to maintain your vital organs and breathe. Everything else goes to standby till you wake up the next morning. This is to enable you to last that 7 or 8 hours without eating, so your body rations and saves up it’s fuel sources.

At 7 am the alarm blares and you’re up and ready to go to work. You’re still a little groggy, but that’s because everything in your system hasn’t quite started up yet. You drag yourself to work, and dive straight into it, without a bite, because, well obviously you’re somewhat late, or you have a mountain of work to do already. And the next time you eat is at lunch. 12 noon. You know what, right up till the next time you put something into your stomach, your sleep mode metabolism remains pretty much the same – which is much lower than your next cubicle colleague who has had some toast and Milo for starters. You have wasted about 5 hours of good caloric burn, just because you’re “not used to having breakfast”. And that can be as much as 200 kcals depending on your weight and size.

3. When you eat, you feel happier.

Do I really need to spell this out for you? I always tell my friends that a hungry Karen is an unhappy Karen. Oh, do they know it! And even though you may not admit it, you know that you cannot function at your best when you’re hungry. All Malaysians love eating, it is what we live for. So when we do not get to eat, we usually get disappointed and upset and it messes with our heads. Tell me I’m right. =)

So even though you may not feel hungry at 7 am or 8 am, you’ll most definitely feel a hunger pang at about 10 ish. But this is usually the time where you’re in a meeting and your boss is rattling away and all you can think about is what to have for lunch. Counter-productive, and counter-positive emotions! Eat in the morning so you don’t get into your cranky mid morning mood!

Ok! SO now that we know WHY we should eat, let me share with you the WHAT and WHEN we should eat.

There isn’t any scientific eat-within-27.876-minutes-of-waking-up thing, or maybe there is, but basically give yourself a simple time to achieve eating breakfast. It’ll make you achieve your goals better. My rule for most of the people I train is 45 minutes. Eat within 45 minutes of waking up or else you’re gonna store more fat and get more cranky. :)

Eat what? Anything that’s not too oily because that makes your body sleepier and move even slower. Bread or toasts are good. 1 cup of coffee with minimal sugar and milk is good. Half boiled eggs, cereal, oats, bananas, crackers, all pretty good stuff for breakfast. Nasi lemak? Dump it. Too greasy. If you’re not usually a breakfast eater, go for something light like bananas, toast or crackers. Try to take something that isn’t too sweet because these things make you hungry very fast. Peanut butter is usually the way to go, or nuts and oats-y cereal is good.

Ok? SO change your mindset and start LOOKING FORWARD to breakfast so you can start burning up more fuel and making the world (or office) a much happier place :)

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