Sunday, December 7, 2008

Starting Out for a Fitter and Healthier You!

So you're overweight, feeling unhealthy or just generally wanna look better with your shirt off. So what do you do? Do you just start exercising? Do you immediately go to the gym and begin to throw weights around? Do you jump on the first diet you read or hear about? Previously, I wrote a post about being a beginner at the gym. Today, I'm going to write about a bigger picture. Basically, what you need to do if you're starting out.

Fix your diet
When I say diet, I don't mean those fad diets that are unhealthy and bad for you. I'm referring to what you should eat on a daily basis. A good and sound diet or nutrition should be the solid foundation of every fitness program and healthy lifestyle. You can workout as hard as you want, but if your diet is lousy, then your results will slow down, plateau or head the opposite direction. In the battle of the bulge or quest to look good naked, people sometimes tend forget to take good health into account. They jump on fad diets, slash their calories drastically or starve themselves, which is harmful to health and bodily functions if prolonged. So how should you fix your diet?

1. Like try to quit smoking or alcohol, don't go cold turkey. Make gradual changes to your diet. Making sudden drastic changes could shock you or stress you out. Instead of reducing the quantity of what you eat, improve the quality of foods you eat. Gradually phase out junk or processed foods and replace with wholesome, natural foods (lean protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats). Whole foods are generally lower in calories, more nutrient dense and make you feel full longer.

2. Make better choices when picking what you eat outdoors or in fast food places (if you have no choice but to dine there).

3. Portion control at every meal. This is important to make sure you don't eat too many calories in one sitting and feel over-stuffed.

4. Know your calories. I'm not saying that you should count calories every day, which is not practical (if it suits you, go ahead) and can be very tedious. BUT, I believe that it is very important to know the calories in foods that you eat. This will help you make better informed choices, let you know how much of a certain food to eat, give you an idea of what foods you can eat more of and what foods you should eat sparingly (Trust me, you will be surprised at how high the calories are in many foods that you love!). Some good places to start; Calorie Counter, Nutritiondata, nutriWEB Malaysia (for Malaysian food).

5. Drink PLENTY of water. Don't wait until you get thirsty, coz your body will only signal thirst when it becomes very dehydrated. An average person should drink about 8 glasses of water a day, more if you're working out regularly. Drinking more water might help you eat less, as people sometimes mistaken thirst for hunger. Drink a glass of water before you eat when you suddenly feel hungry and wait if you still feel hungry. You might just be thirsty.

Exercise, training or working is the catalyst that will propels you towards your goal. You can't rely on a good diet alone. You need exercise to help re-shape, tone your body and get the results that you need.

1. Start resistance or weight-training. Join a gym if you can or equip your home with a bench or some dumbbells. You can also use old school body weight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups etc. Of course, the better option would be getting into a gym if you can afford it, since there are more varieties of weights and machines to help you get started. Resistance or weight training is crucial to help to develop better strength, increase muscular and bone density, build lean muscle which helps elevate your metabolism and re-shape your body. For an average joe, about 3 times per week should suffice. If you're more ambitious, go ahead for more but you should allow yourself enough time to rest for recovery and growth. Remember, your muscles grow outside the gym, not when you're working out.

2. Start some cardio activity at least 3 times per week. Cardio or aerobic activity increases your heart rate and requires more oxygen to sustain during the duration of the activity. It has the benefit of lowering your resting heart rate, improving cardiovascular health, increase fat-burning, improving circulation and delivery of nutrients in the body. Make it light if you've never exercised for a long time. This can be some walking, cycling or light jogging outdoors. If you prefer the gym, you can use the cardio machines like the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bikes, stair-steppers etc. If there are classes available in your gym for cardio purposes (spin class, cardio jam, kickboxing etc) , go ahead. You can even play your favorite sports on a regular basis. Basically, do any cardio activity that suits you and is even enjoyable for you will do.

3. Move your ass! That's it, even when you're not exercising. I'm talking about NEAT, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Basically, it's activity during times when you're not exercising or playing sports. Most people today have sedentary jobs and spend the whole day just sitting down. So, move more! Park further and walk to your office, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do more chores such as gardening, washing your car etc. In other words, keep yourself moving throughout the day. Increasing NEAT will help keep your metabolism up, improve circulation, help you burn more calories and prevent tiredness due to inactivity.

It's all about synergy. To maximise your results, you need a good diet + resistance training + cardio. One without the other would just compromise your results. This is how I learned it, and most of the time, learned it the hard way. So, I hope this helps =)

PS: The model's name is Brandon Stoughton. He's an American model and is featured in Britney's Womanizer MTV. Yes, I know this is unrelated to the content of my post, but I just had to, coz I know some people are drooling right now XD


Bengbeng said...

i feel like giving up. i need motivation. it is low now :)

Mark said...

Haha...perhaps I shall post something about that some time soon? =P

Why are you so de-motivated leh?