Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fitness and Bodybuilding

The rate at which the fitness industry has picked up in the past few years is really stunning. People of all age groups are running to gyms, yoga classes, pilates (a western core strengthening workout form), dance, boot camps, tai chi, martial arts like Kalari Payattu and lot more.
Now, it is a positive change which has been seen and has definitely benefited the fitness industry, who're making a fortune out of this awareness which has sprung up.

I've been a fitness enthusiast doing gym for the past 2 and a half years and doing yoga for around 3 months. Flexibility undoubtedly plays a vital role in the well being of a person which is ignored in gyms. I also like playing sports occasionally and I'm a biking (bicycling) enthusiast as well.

As known, exercise and diet habits are the prerequisites, to maintain a healthy body and healthy mind. But the getting up and going for whatever form of fitness regime, needs discipline and motivation. Discipline is needed not only in the regularity and timings; but also in the area of food habits, which if not done just renders the workout futile and a waste of time.


Coming to diet, everybody has different kinda food habits, so the diet also should be customized according to what you can follow. The bottom line is you should not hog too much of carbs which you cannot burn or fatty foods which are tempting.
To be precise the ratio should be something like 40% carbs, 30% proteins and 30% fat (healthy fat); and this requires control of the portions and inherent cravings.
An important thing to be understood is that a basic diet plan should be taken from an expert and should be personalized according to the individual's taste and inclination, so that it is not a torture and pain but a pleasure to follow in the long run.

Points to be aware of:
- Never skip breakfast, too many people skip it and get their metabolism screwed up at the start of the day.     Eat in the morning when the body burns more calories.

- Have lot of fiber rich food like beans, peas, spinach, whole wheat brown bread, oats, apples, oranges, legumes, dry fruits etc.

- Cut down on processed foods like processed flour. Ex. maida foods, white bread, pizza, sugar etc..
- Switch from whole to Skimmed milk. All the nutrients are there without the fat. Okay, at least cut back to low fat!
- Eliminate fried foods and oily stuff. Do I need to say why? Come on..
- Don't skip meals. When you do, you eat more at your next meal and usually eat the wrong foods for sure.
- Read labels of the things you purchase - check fat, sugar and carb content before taking.
- Eat lot of green leafy stuff which we used to hate in childhood and to an extent now as well. :)
- Also eat fruits most preferably in the first half of the day.
- Non-vegetarians can take egg whites in plenty.
- Try to incorporate at least 5 meals in a day; ie the quantity is distributed across five meals.
- Steam you veggies instead of boiling them. They'll still taste better and you'll retain more of their nutritional value. I steam my legumes and sprouts with little pepper powder and salt for taste, and it just tastes great.
- Try having veg salad at least once a day, including cucumber which has a lot of fiber in it.
- And last but most importantly drink at least 3 L of water a day as a mandate.

Workout and Body Building Basics:

The importance of workouts need not be stressed in today's fast paced hectic city life. In other words whatever said will be less about the benefits of it; workout surely over a period gives a good physique and decent fitness level. Most importantly it eliminates the stress and gives a feel good factor.
But, it just is not enough to get into great shape which is being toned and muscular.

So, if you want to burn fat or build a muscular look; weight training is quintessential and helps in doing both. Ask how..?
Answer is, muscle needs more calories for maintenance in the body; and so it burns more calories in your body if present compared to a body lacking muscles. So. if you wanna shed those extra poundage of fat, love handles or maintain your current fit body; you don't want to ignore the importance of body building/weight training.

Tips & Rules:
- Workouts are best kept in the morning, although it could be based on convenience in the evening as well. I always prefer it in the morning.
- This workout can be in the gym or at home, which challenges you; and should be between 45 min to 1 hour of intense full body workout. Cardio can be included as a 15 min ingredient or topped up after the workout.
- *Now the important thing - Do proper stretching before and workout, so that the muscles are warmed up, loosened and have less chances of injuries or cramps (this is ignored almost by everybody).
- Stay hydrated throughout the workout, so that your muscles do not cramp and you don't get dehydrated.
- Have a protein shake half an hour before and another one just after the workout. Remember, you do not want to do all the work and leave the body without any fuel to recuperate (in this case protein to repair the worked out muscle tissues). Proteins are the stuff that build muscles as you know.
- Always slightly vary your workout every week and change a bit every month to keep the body guessing, and also to avoid monotony. This way you'll not hit a plateau which can be irritating.
- Cardio should be given importance at least twice a week, to keep your heart healthy, get the blood flowing and keep those fat lumps off.
-  If you're going to the gym, either do 2 parts a day or single part a day and keep abs and sides for the alternative days.
- If working out at home, make it interesting by referring magazines like Men's Health and Stayfit.
- Do not go for shortcuts in the form of any supplements which promise you muscle building in no time.
- But I do not say that supplements are to be totally avoided. They are to be taken, but the one which is proven and is a standard product in the market acting as a protein supplement. Whey protein is highly recommended for everybody.

Protein Supplementation:
The reason I recommend it is because, a person who does workout needs a gram of protein for a pound of his body weight (as per study). Now, you do the math..So, with respect to this the natural foods can only give you a max of maybe 40-50 grams, which is way too less if you are working hard at the gym. So, whey protein supplement is a safe and sure way to supplement the deficit.
Now there are two types - Whey Protein Isolate and Casein Protein. Isolates are instant absorption proteins which are absorbed by the body instantly, most preferably after an intense workout.
Casein acts slow or the body absorbs it slowly and is usually taken at night so that over the period of sleep the body gets the constant supply of protein to recuperate. But always keep in mind that excess protein intake at night will also cause the protein to be converted to fat if the body can't process it. Along with bloating which can occur. So go with a scoop around half to one hour before sleep.
Coming to the brand, there are numerous players in the market and each claim there protein to be the most pure, fast absorbing and which gives sure shot results. But beware, only go with proven and trusted brands like Optimum Nutrition (ON), Muscle Tech, British Nutrition, Gaspari, BSN etc. to name a few. Personally I always prefer ON's Gold standard.
Yes it's a tad bit expensive, but if your passion lies in fitness and if you're giving some good nourishment to your body what's the problem. Remember, a healthy mind resides in a healthy body!

Also, know  that only taking protein ain't enough; you gotta work out hard to see the results. And here, by hard I mean "intense". It's so easy to get swallowed by the monotony and lack of creativity of a workout, as we tend to follow a sheep-follows-sheep kinda attitude in the gym.
But if we scratch our heads a bit and put some effort in re-searching the net, to find out a few interesting and different workouts or variations; we'll save ourselves of so much monotony and misery in the gym. :)

How do I do it?
- I fidget with the way I do the workout, say Cardio - I don't miss it or omit it, but put HIIT (high intensity interval training) into it, to make it interesting and invigorating.
- Do 1 body part a day, with abs or obliques; and in that stick to the basic 2-3 variations. But, I try to experiment and explore with another two variations.
For this Men's Health has helped me a lot, as well as other fitness magazines and some interesting body building sites on the net (go check, there are a lot o'em).
- I give core strength a lot of importance. Although it may look extraneous to normal gym goers, but for me like all the fitness snobs it's one area of utmost importance.
- Shock my fitness routine once in a fortnight with some little funny kinda variations like the jumping jack and burpies (pun intended).
- Ask for tips from trainers to improve even if I'm good at some variation (although i'm seldom good!). Good is often enemy of the best.
- Put push-ups and pull-ups randomly in the workout to challenge myself.

To be continued..