Sunday, August 29, 2010

Don't Get it Twisted - Diet vs. Exercise

Because I talk a lot about jumping up and down, sitting on your hand, squatting, cycling, meditating, and all sorts of other exercises, don’t think that means that diet is not important. Diet is just as important as exercise when it comes to staying healthy. Why?

Well, think about it like this. It can take you about 5 minutes to eat 500 calories without using much energy. But it takes about 30 minutes to burn 300 calories with significant effort. Because 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound. It’s definitely more effective to cut your food consumption by 350 calories each day to burn 1 pound in 10 days than to run for an extra half hour on top of your regular exercise program. Hopefully, that puts things in perspective. If we started thinking at length about everything we ate, we’d realize how much work we’d have to do to nullify the negative effect of some of the bad foods we eat.

But then for most of us, it’s easier to exercise than not eat exactly what we want when we want. Most of us come from a culture where food is very important. You don’t rush through bad food just to say you ate. Rather, we spend hours and hours on end cooking up one meal so when we eat, we feel like we are entitled to enjoy every last bite. Trust me, I know.

So we get tempted by food every day, and just think we’ll burn it off when we hit the pavement. But we fail to realize our diet may be having a larger effect on our bodies because it does take a whole lot of effort to burn what we eat.

Another silly thing we do as humans is that we eat more when we exercise. Our brains signal our bodies telling us it is okay to eat more because we’re burning some off. It’s called ‘compensation’. But we forget the point was to burn what we were already eating before (which was probably too much of the wrong foods in the first place). ¡Ay yay yay!

Now, let’s put the calories aside for a second, and look at some symptoms of a bad diet that exercise may not be able to cure:
  • Diets too high in saturated and trans fats has been tied to stroke, heart attacks, diabetes, high cholesterol, and even PMS. Exercise can help, but both have to work together.
  • Diets too low in carbs can cause fatigue and depression, leaving you with little or no energy to exercise.
  • Get this. Eating too many empty calories like soda, alcohol, and candy can cause an increase in cravings. And obviously, the more you crave junk food, the more you eat junk food. It’s a vicious cycle.
  • Diets that are too low in carbohydrates can cause (wait for it) halitosis. Yes, that is the bad breath disease. And no, I didn’t make that up.
So while you’re working out this week, realize that exercise is not the complete picture. No matter how hard it may be to accept, our diets play a huge role as well, just as much as exercise. So please don't run on the treadmill for 30 minutes and then go eat a 2,000 calorie meal. I beg you!

Oh, next week is another installment of the 'What I want to know is...' segment. If you have a question, please leave a comment or send it to It may be the one chosen next week!

Cheers 'Eights' and 'Weights'!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Most people are probably scratching their heads reading that title and trying to figure out what the hell I’m talking about. But if you own a Nintendo Wii, you probably already know. In the last few years, console game companies have made us realize we can feed our gaming obsession and get fit at the same time. Phew! Perhaps raising our children to stay fit will be so much easier. For those who can’t play a sport, but still have a competitive spirit, exergaming is the way to go. Here are a few great options:

EA Sports Active: This is an exergame on the Nintendo Wii console. But it’s more than gaming really. Rather, it’s like a whole personal fitness program. You have your own virtual personal trainer, and a virtual version of yourself. When you first start the game, you create your ‘virtual self’ by filling out a fitness profile and entering vital statistics. So this virtual version of you is supposed to really be like you. And there’s no point cheating because, well, how does that help you? There is a variety of exercises to choose from where you basically workout with your virtual personal trainer.

What are the benefits of this program? Well, firstly, it comes with a resistance band and leg strap that record your motion from beginning to end so you can see exactly what you’re doing on the screen. There are so many exercises to choose from, and the intensity of each exercise is based on your fitness level from the profile you filled out.

Sounds great, right? What’s the bad part? Well there’s a huge learning curve. If you haven’t used the Wii before, it may take a while to hold the controllers correctly. And if you don’t hold the controllers right, what you’re doing may not be exactly what you see on the screen. Secondly, when you get something wrong, your personal trainer yells at you. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

Wii Fit: This is the Nintendo Wii exergame that most of us are familiar with. The Wii Fit comes with a balance board that is used to measure how you’re doing the exercises, and provide feedback. With the Wii Fit, you start by creating a ‘Mii’, which is your profile similar to the EA Sports Active. However, with the Wii Fit, you also have to do several weigh-ins on the balance board before you start working out. Your BMI is calculated from your weight, and other information entered in your profile. You’re also given a Wii Fit Age based on all this information. Obviously, if your Wii Fit Age is higher than your actual age, that may inspire you to work out more (or not). I don’t know what purpose this really serves.

The benefits? You can set a weight loss goal and a timeframe to achieve your goal so you can track your progress as time goes by. Also, there are so many different exercises to choose from in the four groups: yoga, strength, aerobic or balance. And anyone who’s tried the Wii Fit would probably tell you that it is a lot of fun, especially when you do it with others.

On the other hand, there are some negative factors as well. Compared to some other exergames, it is a little choppy because you can’t select a workout program. Rather, you choose single exercises. Another minus is that although there are levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced), the actual exercises within each level tend not to reflect the level. For example, you may find extremely difficult routines in the beginner section, and extremely easy ones in the advanced section.

Demand Fitness: Heard of on-Demand television? Well, now you can have on-Demand exercise programs. It’s really like a cable channel, but you pick the exercise classes you want. Here’s how it works. You pay a monthly, weekly, or daily fee, and you can choose from a library of over 200 classes. So it’s actually more like Netflix, but rather than have movies delivered to your doorstep, you have them available on demand online 24/7. 

The good? With over 200 exercise options, you’ll certainly find something you’re into. I’ve seen things like kickboxing to ballet to abs workouts, and you can preview them before you use them. Also, you can track your progress towards your fitness goals, as well as track what you’ve been doing. Lastly, since it is on your computer, you don’t have to lug a whole game console everywhere. You can simply bring your laptop with you, and you’re good to go. Oh, and it’s much cheaper than a gym membership (see prices below).

The bad? Well, you need the internet. So this limits the number of places you can use it. Also, I’ve heard that sometimes, the music does not always follow the workout so it wrecks your rhythm. But this is completely subject to interpretation. It is full of exercise classes too so if you’re all about one-on-one exergaming where the system waits for you to catch up and tracks your personal progress based on if you’re getting the exercises right, this may not work for you.

Fitness Builder: There are so many fitness mobile apps, but I think this is one of the best. There are three levels of access: standard, PLUS, and PRO. Of course, the PLUS costs more than standard because you have access to a wider variety of work outs. But the PRO costs the most because it is for personal trainers and gyms only. With all of the levels though, you get exercise tips, a fitness tracker, and access to multiple workouts. You can also send questions to a fitness expert.

What’s on point? You can select location-based workouts (gym, home, hotel, outside), which I think is pretty cool because your location determines the space you have to work with. And of course, it’s on your phone so you carry it everywhere you go. Also, since you can do everything else on your phone, why not track your fitness progress on your phone as well? And since everything comes down to Facebook and Twitter, yes, you can connect your Fitness Builder app to social media as well.

What’s wrong with it? For us Blackberry and Droid users, Fitness Builder is exclusively available on the iPhone. And keeping stats on your phone might be great, but watching videos, and trying to get poses right? Not so great. This is also pretty expensive compared to most of the other phone apps out there.

So these are a few exergaming options I think are great. Hopefully, since I’ve done the research and tried them out, you can easily make a decision. Well, not yet. We haven’t talked about the cost! What works cost-wise? See the table below for price details:

Cheers 'Eights' and 'Weights'!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What’s on Your Workout Playlist?

When we get into the gym, we just want to go, go, go. But sometimes, we don’t realize that the music we listen to may be holding us back during our workout routine. Music affects your emotions, which in turn affect your energy level. And so high-intensity workouts are better with high-intensity music. If you’re listening to ‘My Heart will go on’ as you run (ummm…), you’re probably not going to have the energy to run as fast as you probably can. Since it’s actually pretty difficult to put together songs that best match your workout mood, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of my favorite workout songs. For example, if you want to get me going, Ciara ft. Missy’s ‘Work’ will do the trick every time. It does not matter how I’m feeling, I will hop on that treadmill. And Drake just makes me want to do push-ups. I have no idea why. Eminem's music makes me want to punch a bag, but that's relatively understandable. Please share your favorite workout music too!

Tearing up the treadmill
Work – Ciara ft. Missy Elliott
Shawty Get Loose – Lil’ Mama ft. Chris Brown and T-Pain
All I do is Win – DJ Khalid ft. Various artists
Baby – LL Cool J
Bumper to Bumper – Wande Coal
Commander – Kelly Rowland
Crush Crush Crush – Paramore
Na-Nana-Na – Nelly ft. Jazzy Phe
Get Your Money Up – Keri Hilson ft. Keisha Cole and Nicki Minaj
I can transform ya – Chris Brown
I don’t Care – Ricky Martin ft. Fat Joe and Amerie
Misery Business – Paramore
Swagger Like Us – Lil’ Wayne, Jay-Z, T.I., Kanye West
Proud to be African – 2face and Wyclef
You bad – Wande Coal ft. D’Banj

My Muscles Say Aah! (Strength Training)
Bizzy body – P Square
La Tortura – Shakira
Say Aah – Trey Songz ft. Fabolous
Rock Star – Rihanna
Forever – Drake ft. Kanye, Lil’ Wayne and Eminem
Winner – Jamie Foxx ft. Justin Timberlake
Wait a Minute – Pussy Cat Dolls ft. Timbaland
Over – Drake
Overboard – Ingrid Michaelson
American Boy – Estelle ft. Kanye

Yoga-nese (Stretching music)
Blame it on me – Chrissette Michele
How do I Breathe – Mario
Soulmate – Natasha Bedingfield
Halo – Beyonce
Unthinkable – Alicia Keys
This Woman’s Work – Maxwell
Already Gone – Kelly Clarkson
Happy – Leona Lewis
So Sick – Ne-Yo
I’m Yours – The Script

Getting my Mohammed Ali on (Punching bag)
Faint – Linkin Park
Decoy – Paramore
Kolomental – Faze
Walk Away – Kelly Clarkson
Don’t Let Me Stop You – Kelly Clarkson
Blah Blah Blah – Kesha
Wall to Wall – Chris Brown
Not Afraid – Eminem
Make Me Better – Fabolous ft. Ne-Yo
I Caught Myself – Paramore

Do you have any favorite workout music? Share them with us.

Cheers 'Eights' and 'Weights'!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sporty Spice: Sport as Exercise

With all the sport seasons that go on each year, the best thing we can possibly do is get into the sports ourselves (when we are not watching, that is). I know I love me some athletes, so I thought we’d look at some athletes and how sports have sculpted their bodies.

Kobe Bryant

Basketball can be used to replace some of your cardio exercises. Because basketball involves a lot of repetitive motion, like running back and forth on the court, bouncing the ball, and scoring baskets, it serves as an excellent cardio exercise. Also, because basketball involves heavy contact, it increases your competitive spirit and the feeling of satisfaction that comes at the end of your workout. Do not underestimate the power of contact sports. However, do remember that you need to move to reap the benefits. That means running, jumping, shooting, and bouncing. Just being a member of the team standing on the court is not enough to make you break a sweat. Now if you’re in constant motion during the game, a 15 minute game could more than 150 calories. Additionally, the constant jumping could help to tone up those leg muscles, and the constant shots help to tone up the arm muscles. Try simply throwing a ball back and forth, and you’d definitely feel the contraction and relaxation of your biceps and shoulder muscles.

David Beckham

No, I didn't call it soccer. I called it Football. Deal with it. Football is a sport that involves constant motion so there is no doubt that you could be putting your body through two 45-minute chunks of serious cardio in one game. However, in addition to the cardio exercise, the constant kicking, turning, and tackling of the ball also develops those leg muscles. The beautifully defined muscles of most footballers’ legs prove that it tones up your leg muscles more than any other muscle in your body. A lot of trainers have actually developed football-based circuit training programs that include squats, skipping, running, dips, and a bunch of other exercises. This shows that football itself is simply a combination of many of the popular exercises put together. Pick up football today and tone up those legs! 

Maria Sharapova
If you have ever watched a tennis match, you can tell from their grunts that it requires a lot of physical strain. The constant running back and forth serves as cardio and helps burn fat. The power required to serve properly certainly works on those arms and shoulders. The bouncing back and forth serves to work on the butt and thighs. And because it is mostly a one-on-one sport, the competitiveness and concentration put into a game improves mental focus.

American Football
Reggie Bush
Yes, American football also involves a lot of speed and so there is obvious fat burning benefit. But aside from the cardio benefit, a lot of the strength gained from this sport may be gained from the training as opposed to actually playing. American footballers require strength to hold down or resist their opponents, and most of this strength is not gotten from the actual game, but from the training for the game. However, consistently playing the sport builds a little on this strength as well. Other benefits of playing this sport are the brain power and speed you develop from the quick thinking that is required to play well. And of course, as I said about contact sport earlier, the feeling of satisfaction you get at the end relieves a lot of stress as well.

Oscar De La Hoya
There is no need to tell you that boxing works on your arms. All that calculated jabbing is sure to give anybody well cut arms. But did you know that all that jumping works out your ENTIRE BODY? Yes, your entire body. And the good thing about boxing is that you don’t really need a second person to play the sport with. Just get a punching bag and jab away.

Ice Hockey
Jarome Iginla
If we focused only on the balance alone required to play this sport, we would already be covering a lot of positives. Ice hockey demands a lot of skills from its players: skating, puck handling, passing, shooting, and even absorbing body checks. If you’ve tried skating, you know that definitely builds aerobic fitness as well as stability and speed. But you’ll also notice a lot of leg development because ice skating at the speed that hockey requires (20 to 30 miles an hour) places significant stress on the upper leg muscles, the lower back muscles, the hamstrings and the groin muscles. And of course, we know they need all those muscles for the endless physical fights that take place on the ice.

This is really the only sport I actually play so it has to be in here. Funnily, it is also the one on this list that I have never watched a professional game of. I do not know any famous squash players to use as an example of how squash can benefit your body. However, I can tell you that the pain I have felt the morning after each match when I first started showed me how much I was pushing my body. Not only does squash serve as great cardio the same way tennis does, but it also intensely works on those arm and shoulder muscles. Squash requires more power on the ball than tennis does because the ball has to bounce on the wall and back to the other side of the court, so your arms get an amazing workout.

Okay, so I guess it’s obvious what my favorite sports are. But there are definitely many other sports you can play. Frankly, almost any physical competitive sport serves as cardio and works on some part of your body, but I believe these are the most beneficial out there in terms of physical development.

Do you play any sports as exercise? Has it improved your fitness level?

Cheers 'Eights' and 'Weights'!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

What I Want to Know is… ‘How do I Gain Weight but Remain Healthy?’

I see some of you go ‘Finally!’ and some of you scratch your head and say ‘Huh? Some skinny people don’t like being skinny?’ Remember that body image is about individuality, so some people may need to lose weight to get to their ideal and healthy weight, while others may need to gain weight to get there. This is another post for the segment 'What I Want to Know Is...' A few of my readers asked how we can gain weight but still maintain a healthy diet and exercise program.

Because of the rate of obesity and obesity-related diseases in society today, there is no longer a focus on the underweight. This week, we’re calling out all the skinny ladies and gentlemen, and talking about how to gain weight the healthy way. For the gentlemen, you may also choose to gain muscle mass instead of fat to reach your ideal weight. Because as we all know, muscles serve a healthier purpose than fat.

Gaining Fat
As we have talked about in a previous post (Understanding the Concept of Calories), about 3,500 calories equals 1 pound (or 0.45kg) of body weight. So if you eat right and exercise, consistently gaining weight is also not as easy as it seems. But there is a way around it. You simply need to consume more calories than you burn from the right food and focus on the right types of exercise. It is a mistake to think that the solution to gain weight is junk food because even if we take calories out of the equation, junk foods contain a lot of other things like excess cholesterol and sodium that may be bad for your heart and other organs.

Before we talk about what kinds of food to eat and what exercise to do, I would like to make one thing clear. We cannot control where we gain weight. This relates to fat only, because we can control where we gain muscles to a certain extent. But we’ll talk about that in the next section. Women are sometimes lucky enough to pack it in the hips and bum where it is the most useful, but we are equally as likely to pack it in the stomach, the arms, or anywhere else. Thus, the key might be to go slowly, and watch where you are gaining weight before diving in all the way. If you wait till you’ve gained weight in the areas you didn’t want to, there may be no going back. Why? Because our bodies have the same limitations in reverse as well. You also cannot choose where you lose weight. And I can imagine how upsetting it would be to gain weight in your stomach, and then when you try to lose it, you lose the fat in your bum instead.

Now that we got that out, let’s focus on what exactly we can do to gain weight. Here are a few tips:
First off, visit Calorie Count to help you determine how many calories you need to consume to reach your ideal weight. There’s also a phone app called 'SparkPeople Tracker' that helps you track your food intake in a food diary sort of way.
Focus on getting your calories from healthy sources, like lean meats, fatty fish (salmon, swordfish, and mackerel) and nuts.
Rather than eat too much in one sitting, eat your regular amount, but add in some extra meals in between meals. So between breakfast and lunch, you could have a meal, and between lunch and dinner, you could have another.
Add health shakes, smoothies, fruit juices, and a few glasses of milk to your diet. They are light so they don’t fill you up, they are good for you, and they contain some useful calories. Please see my article on Food Myths that May Destroy your Diet Routine on tips for selecting the right smoothie.
Limit the cardio. Your weight goals are different from someone who is trying to lose weight, and so you should not be running for an hour every day. Cardio is still very important for everybody (yes, everybody) to stay healthy and active, but a few minutes of cardio each time would serve more of a purpose if you are trying to gain weight. And you really only need about 3 days a week of exercise, not more, if you are trying to gain fat.

Gain Muscle
For those who want to gain weight by putting on some muscle, you have a little more control on where you gain weight. Here are a few tips:
Focus a lot of your energy on strength training to build muscle. Strength training includes things like push-ups and lifting weights. Don’t skip the cardio entirely though, because you need cardio to warm up your muscles, and to maintain a healthy heart. I would recommend sticking to about 10 minutes of cardio and a lot more strength training per workout, rather than the usual 20 to 30 minute goal.
Dietary supplements are pretty important when you want to build muscle. If you’re concentrating on building muscle, your body needs about 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight, which is about 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Because it is very difficult to get this large amount of protein from food alone, protein supplements can help to fill in the gap. My favorite protein supplements are protein shakes because they have some flavor, and taste like milkshakes :-)
Even though supplements are great, ensure that you also add a lot of protein to your diet to meet your daily protein target. This is where things like nuts, eggs, milk, and peanut butter (yum!) come in. There’s nothing better than what you can get naturally.
Junk food and greasy food should be limited as much as possible. Rather, try to add a lot of lean meats and fish to your diet.  

In summary, you can effectively gain fat and muscle while staying healthy and active. What has been your experience trying to gain weight? Feel free to leave a comment.

Cheers 'Eights' & 'Weights'!
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