Category Archives: The Science

Hit a Plateau? Here’s WHY!

Do these sound familiar?

-Working out but not seeing any changes?

-Not getting anything out of your fitness regime?

-Not losing/gaining weight?

-Bored?

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If they do, you’ve probably hit a fitness plateau.

First off, YOU are NOT alone! We all struggle to find that ultimate BALANCE – eating well + training right to reap the max benefits.

I’ve hit a few plateaus throughout my fitness journey. But I also remember the times where I’ve seen significant changes. Those happened when there were drastic changes in my nutrition and workouts.

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Stress and shock will force your body to change. Remember the changes you saw when you first started working out? You probably saw HUGE changes in the first 3 months. That’s because you went from sedentary to active, the kind of shock that your body was not accustomed to. And then something amazing (or not) happened, ADAPTATION. Your body adapted to the stress (and your new lifestyle) and the only way to continue to see change is to WORK HARDER (new stress)!

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Aside from doing the “physical work”, your body is like a MACHINE that needs the RIGHT FUEL. There is SO much information out there about workouts and foods to eat.

BUT in order for any of those information to make sense to your body, you need to know YOU.


 Let’s talk metabolism

Metabolism is basically ALL of the chemical processes that goes on in your body to keep you alive.

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Source

Anabolism – making stuff (cells, tissue, muscle etc)

Catabolism – breaking stuff (for energy)

Putting it into VERY simple terms, these two processes ultimately affect your fitness, physique and weight.

Understanding YOUR OWN body will help you beat plateaus. We need to tune into our own body ques.IMG_0897

The tricky bit is that we all have VERY DIFFERENT metabolic rates. Our health state (disease, illness, stress), sex, age, height and genes affect our metabolism. Environmental factors play a significant role too. Major ones would be nutrition and physical activity.

By making better lifestyle choices and changing a few bits here and there, you CAN workout and eat smart to achieve your ultimate GOALS.


Here are a few things to look out for:

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and Estimated Energy Requirement (EER)

The BMR is an estimate of the energy that you need in a day to maintain bodily functions (breathing, heart beat, body temp etc) while at rest. It is usually based on gender, age, weight and height.

With the BMR, you can now calculate your EER which adds in the activity element.

You can do all of that here.

Macro Breakdown

KNOW the macros in your food. They play a role in metabolism!

Macronutrients are the carbs, protein and fat in food. The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) is 45-65% Carb, 20-35% Fat and 15-25% Protein of your total daily energy intake. However, you can alter these values based on your personal preference (low carb, high protein etc), performance goals etc.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProtein + Healthy Fat + Carbs

Work out what you eat in a day. It can be a lil tedious but it is worthwhile if you’ve hit a plateau. You can always take the stress out of nutrition and get a dietitian to work it ALL out for you, including EXACTLY what you should eat. 😉

Body Composition

It is good to get a sense of your body composition – percentage of body fat and muscle mass. Most fitness centres or the doctors would provide this service.

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Muscle weighs more than fat. You could be within the normal weight range for height but you could be carrying excess fat. Similarly, you may be on the heavier side of the weight spectrum but have more lean muscle mass.

This could be the reason you’re not seeing changes on the scale (if you’ve been working out and eating well). Try not to rely on the scale. Go by how you feel, look and how your clothes fit!

Change Your Routine

Following a strict routine may very well be the cause of your plateau. Mix it up and throw in new elements (new workouts, new foods etc). This will give your body a nice surprise and kick start your metabolism!

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Record Keeping

Sometimes, life can get to us and we can be UNAWARE of what we are doing or eating.

I AM ALL ABOUT RECORD KEEPING. I keep an e-record of my workouts, nutrition, emotions, work, finance and sleep. I find that it keeps me accountable of my actions, how I spend my time/money and helps with awareness and reflection.

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It can be overwhelming and I don’t expect you to go from zero to hero! Start with something small, like workouts and nutrition for 1 week. You can make it as brief or as detailed as you please.

Who knows, you might SURPRISE (or not) yourself at the end of the first week. And you probably would be able to spot what you need to change.

I have a food journal template. Drop me an email or leave a comment if you want one!


Perspective

Plateaus are not ALL bad.

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Lil reminder to REST!

Let’s look at it as a time to rest, reflect, change, and continue to challenge and push ourselves towards our goals!

IMG_5353Stay strong, I am here for you!

All the best!

Does Gluten Free = Healthy?

The term “Gluten Free” (GF) has been plastered all over food packages, menus and health websites. It is as though gluten has become the biggest health enemy that everyone should avoid.

Does gluten free = healthy?


Miracle Health Claims

I’ve read/seen/heard countless of times about the miracle health claims of going gluten free. So many promise exaggerated health outcomes that it makes me sick in the stomach.

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Weight loss and improved energy levels (sound familiar) are among the most common “health claims”. FYI, there is no evidence. 😀


 

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat and some grains like oat and rye. In cooking, it helps the dough to rise and contributes to its texture. Gluten becomes a problem only if you are truly intolerant towards it (Celiac Disease).

Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune condition that destroyes the lining of the small intestines (reaction to gluten), leading to malabsorption of nutrients from food. Symptoms include pain, extreme fatigue, diarrhoea etc. For them, avoiding gluten is necessary.

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The symptoms can be vague. Sometimes,  irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which is the triggering of sensitive nerve endings in the gut, is mistaken for gluten intolenrance. Recent research has shown that IBS might be caused by the malabsorption of fermentable sugars found in wheat such as fructans (and not gluten). It could also be other things like food additives, soy or dairy. You would have to do a restriction/elimination test to find out (before blaming it on gluten)!

This does not mean that these foods are bad for health. Avoiding gluten when you do not have a problem may be unnecessary. In fact, they may be unhealthy.

WHY?

-Cutting out gluten would mean that you are avoiding a lot of wheat based products, which are good sources of B group vitamins, FIBRE, calcium and iron.

-Some gluten free products are HIGH in SUGAR (added during the food manufacturing process) as it makes them more palatable. (Weight loss? Maybe not)

-Could lead to a negative change in the bacteria composition of the gut. The right composition of gut bacteria is essential to the immune system.

Fun Facts:

-Gluten Free products are extremely expensive. Don’t waste your money.

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-My GF friends despise GF foods. They miss the normal taste of CAKES. Be THANKFUL that you do not have a problem with gluten. So, EAT YOUR GLUTEN. ;P


Take home msg: If you do not have a problem with gluten, think twice before reaching out for a gluten free product!

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If you are caught up and confuzzled by all the health/nutrition jargon, the healthy and safest approach would be to focus on consuming from ALL the FOOD GROUPS.

FRESH. WHOLE. NATURAL.

It is THAT simple and you can never go wrong. 🙂

Plyometrics – JUMP!

Hello!IMG_2513

It’s Me!

Quick Update:

-Loving second semester of my Masters program! Always learning new things 😀

3 Months ++ of ZERO running (does running for the train count?)


What have I been up to since getting off running?

If you are wondering, I haven’t been sitting on my butt. I can’t sit still. 😛 I cannot NOT do anything. I’ve been doing heaps of body weight circuit training and cycling!

Most of the exerises that I do involve some sort of jumping. I find that it is a REALLY good way to get my heart rate up. Because I have plantar fasciitis, I’ve been incorporating it with a lot of care! I try not to aggravate it too much and have full days of rest + a lot of stretching + foam rolling the feet, calves, hips, butt, hamstrings (SO GOOD!)!


So, let’s talk PLYOMETRICS! Plyos have been a huge part of my training (lately). I love how my training has made a 180 degree change from pure running to pure circuit training. I’ve always been doing some sort of strength training (but it was never consistent). I found it REALLY hard to incorporate other forms of training when I was running. And I was not doing as much cross training as I should. Injury has forced me out of my comfort zone and I’m loving every bit of it!

IMG_4817Every time I start jumping, I remember why I chose running. 😉

If you can see the silver lining, amazing things can come from seemingly “bad” situations/conditions. It is all about perspective and how you deal with “failure” or “change”.


BACK to plyos.

Plyos involve a lot of quick EXPLOSIVE movements. Think jumping and bounding.Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

The goal is to get your muscles to exert MAXIMUM force (EXPLODE) in the shortest amount of time. This means going from eccentric contraction (muscle lengthening) to concentric contraction (muscle shortening) as fast as possible.

Imagine you are trying to jump onto a box. What do you do? You would bend your knees and lower your body slightly before trying to jump. That bending/lowering is basically the eccentric phase where your muscles are prestretched to store potential energy. The jump is then the concentric phase where you release all that stored up energy.

Plyos require a high amount of force, which can lead to stronger bones, joints, tendons and ligaments.

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– Increases POWER & SPEED
-Increases ENDURANCE
-Increases intermuscular coordination and neural drive = Strength and efficiency
-Reduces landing force
-Improved dynamic balance in older people
-Weight bearing = stronger bones (increase in bone mass)
-Decrease risk of ACL injuries
-Better static and dynamic stability
-Aerobic capacity – increasing blood lactate, heart rate and oxygen consumption

Examples:

IMG_1989-Burpees

IMG_3338-Jumps (box jumps, squat jumps, jump lunges, tuck jumps, broad jumps)

IMG_2068-Hops (single leg hops)

IMG_7940-Bounding

-Death jumps

-Plyo push ups

Menu:

Pick and mix! You can do a few sets with a definite amount of reps or set the timer (30 seconds work:30 seconds rest etc). You can alternate between plyo and non-plyo moves for active recovery in between each move.

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Caution:

-Plyos are an advanced form of training (athletes). Make sure you have a good fitness base, flexibility, strength, coordination and range of movement.

-Make sure you warm up for at lesat 15-20 minutes before any form of exercise (esp plyos)

Start slow from lower intensity movements before progressing into more explosive and advance movements

-Engage muscles

-Ensure proper biomechanics while performing every movement

HAVE FUN!

xoxo

 Resources:

NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training 4th edn 2012 (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

 

 

Sitting – The New Smoking?

We all know that physical activity is important for general health. The typical guideline for physical activity (in a week):

150-300 minutes of MODERATE intensity (power walking, walking, house chores etc)

OR

75-150 minutes of VIGOROUS intensity (running, cycling, swimming, rowing etc)

OR

A combination of both

PLUS

at least 2 days of strength trainingIMG_5105


To the already-active individual, hitting the recommended hours in this guideline would be a piece of cake! I know many people who can complete it in 2 days (myself included)!

BUT! (there’s always a but)IMG_6701

If you are sitting (sedentary) for most of the time when you are NOT being active, you’re not much better off than the physically inactive person.

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If you workout for 60 minutes or more but spend the rest of the day seated (work/school/etc), then congratulations! You’re an Active-Couch Potato! Sounds cute but the effects are not that cute. In fact, it can be life threatening. Active-couch potato-ing has been associated with unwanted metabolic biomarkers (decrease in insulin sensitivity) [1].


What is “sitting”?

Sitting (or sedentary behaviour) includes behaviours that do not use much energy (less than 1.5 metabolic equivalents) during the hours that you are awake [2].

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Examples: Driving/commuting for long hours, seated at a desk for work/school, watching tv, meal times, chilling by the beach etc

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Technology has both improved and worsen the situation. On one end of the spectrum, there are many available trackers/step counters/health apps/fitness apps etc that can encourage movement. And on the other end, it contributes to more SITTING! From online shopping to food delivery. Heh, we don’t even need to go grocery shopping or cook our food!


Sitting and Health

More sitting time has been associated with obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

Obesity

This is an easy one. If you eat more than you expend = weight gain.

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In essence, if inactivity is not offset with a decrease in food, you’re heading for obesity land.

Type 2 diabetes and Hearth Problems

Our body cells use energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which are made from blood glucose (carb) and triglycerides (fat). Sitting decreases the demand for ATP (because you’re not using much of it) and downregulates the mechanisms that are used for drawing glucose and triglycerides from the blood into the muscle cells. These include the GLUT-4 transporter protein (needed for blood glucose to enter the cell) and lipoprotein lipase (enzyme that breaks down triglycerides to free fatty acids to fuel muscle cells).IMG_1726

This is also “sitting”!

This will ultimately lead to MORE glucose AND triglycerides in the blood which are well established risk factors for developing heart diseases and Type 2 diabetes!


If you think you are active, THINK AGAIN!IMG_1647

How many hours do YOU spend sitting?

This is also your cue to GET UP and MOVE!

Feature: The Ultimate Running Programme

Don’t forget your heart, the most important muscle!


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Special thanks to Axtrosports for this feature! Click here for the FULL ARTICLE. This is just my part on running. ENJOY!


 

We are grateful to have Adele Wong from www.adeleruns.com to share with us a surefire way to whip your heart into shape.

Why Run?

Running is a great workout that can be your staple-go-to healthy activity or thrown in to complement other training regimes that you might have. Running boasts many health benefits, including improving the cardiovascular system (heart, lungs, vessels), strengthens bones, lowers cholesterol levels, releases stress, increases metabolism and helps with weight loss!IMG_4966

If you’re just starting out, your main focus should be on consistency. Commit to a few days of running a week and make it sustainable by picking your preferred time and place.

Week 1-4

The focus for these weeks would be to make running a habit and to build a strong base for more structured workouts.

You can start by running 25-30 minutes, 3 times a week. Monitor how you feel after each run. When 30 minutes becomes too comfortable, you can add 5-10minutes and eventually, being able to run for 50-60 minutes with ease.

At this stage, you can forget about distance and pace. Instead, focus on how you feel. On a scale of 0-100%, you should be running at 70-80% of your effort. Don’t worry, you will get a better gauge of how you feel when you start to run a little more!

Week 4 Onwards

Once you get stronger with a good base, you can spice up your running regime by adding some “fun” and structured workouts. This is where you can work on developing speed and endurance.10356340_10204293752563578_8230519310562349253_n

 

Let’s talk about adding interval training to your running routine. Without getting too technical, interval training is alternating between bouts of high intensity effort and low intensity effort. The duration, recovery time and effort level of each bout depends highly on which physiological system (cardiovascular, muscle strength, nervous system, anaerobic system etc) you want to work on.

Some Great Routines

Short Sprints

10 x 100m sprints with 2-3 mins of recoveryIMG_1446

As you get fitter, work on increasing reps and distance up to 200m. Keep your running time to less than 1 minute.

Hill Sprints

10 x 30 seconds up a steep hill with a jog down for recoveryIMG_2065

As with short sprints, work on increasing reps.

*Short sprints and hill sprints stimulate the nervous system and works on strengthening your muscles.

Long Hill Repeats

8-10 x 60-90 seconds up a gradual incline with a jog down for recovery

IMG_2092Work on increasing reps.

This workout works on muscle fibres that are needed in middle distance running (1km-10km).

Other Routines

6-8 x 400m with 2-5 minutes of recovery (@ mile pace)

4-6 x 600m with 2-5 minutes of recoveryIMG_1448

1 km @ 5km pace | 3-5 x 800m with 2-5 minutes of recovery (10km pace) | 1km @ 5km pace

5 x 1km with 3-5 minutes of recovery

2 minutes x 6 with 2 minutes of recovery

10 x 30 seconds with 30 seconds of recovery

The combinations are endless! You can even do a combination of 5 x 1km finishing with 5 x 400m or 3 sets of 100m, 200m, 300, 400m, 300m, 200m, 100m. As mentioned previously, the effort, duration and recovery time depends on which physiological system you intend to work on.

In general, if you want to work on:

Improving the pace over longer distances (speed endurance): the recovery interval can slowly be shorten/equal to the running time

Getting used to the increased pace by stimulating the nervous system: 3-5 minutes of recovery depending on the length of running time

Anaerobic system: the recovery time should be twice the amount of running time to allow for full recovery and anaerobic products to be cleared.

Try adding any 1 of these structured running workouts once a week on top of your usual 3-5 days of easy running. As your body gets used to the stress of heavier workouts, you can start adding 2 structured workouts a week!

Running is so versatile! Mix it up and have some fun!