Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Supplements you should consider

Right.  So what supplements should a fitness junkie wannabe take? Admittedly, there are a lot of valid supplements out there.  But if you are on a budget or don't really enjoy popping pills or both (that's me), I think these are the bare essentials you should consider taking:

1. Fish Oil
Consume your fish oil.  Don't play around with it and make fish shapes with it.

Very important.  The benefits are proven: helps fat loss, helps maintain lean muscle, helps prevent osteoporosis, improves brain power... Bla bla bla.  I presume everyone already knows the virtue of fish oil (not to be confused with cod liver oil).

2. Greens supplement

One of the recommended greens supplement.
They deliver to Malaysia but it doesn't suit
everyone's pockets.
Remember when you were a kid and your mom told you to eat your greens?  Well, she was on to something.  Consuming vegetables are important not only for the obvious reasons, but it is crucial in ensuring that our bodies remain in an alkalic state.  And for those allergic to milk, did you know that calcium from vegetables is easier absorbed by our bodies compared to calcium from milk?  Cool huh?

Obviously, it is better if you eat your vegetables rather than take a greens supplement. But there is only so much greens you can stomach in one day. And the amount of greens you need to consume in order to reap the full benefits is huge.  That's where the greens supplement comes in.  Unfortunately, I can't find a suitable greens supplement in Malaysia.  You can get it delivered from overseas but heck it's pretty pricey.

So my alternative is to juice my vegetables.  I make it a point to drink at least one glass of juiced vegetables each day.  Yes, I have even juiced spinach, watercress, and kailan (kailan belongs to the kale family). Even ginger.  I mix whatever I can find and blend them together.  But I have to say my base ingredients are apples, celery, carrots, lemon and ginger.  These are my bare minimum.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar
This is one of the most popular brand
and easily available in supermarkets
and pharmacies.  Very affordable too.

Say what? ACV is not a supplement.  You're damn right it isn't.  And that is what makes it even better.  Your supplement isn't really a supplement.  And the best part is it doesn't cost a bomb.  Pour in two tablespoons of organic ACV (it MUST be organic. MUST!!!!!!!) into a glass of water and drink up. Why must it be organic?  Organic ACV has the 'mother' swimming around.  That's where it gets its health benefits.

So what are the benefits of ACV? It helps to alkalize our body. It helps lower blood cholesterol.  It helps build muscle. It makes your skin clearer. It helps improve your immune system. It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. In short, it does wonders.

Yeah yeah, I know.  ACV has a very strong taste.  Indeed it does.  You'll need to get used to it.  Try mixing it with some juice.  Or add it into your fresh vegetable juice concoction  Me, I just dilute two tablespoons of organic ACV into 700ml of water and drink up. Do whatever it takes.  To me, you can't go wrong with ACV.  No home should be without one.  That's how strongly I feel about it.

So there you go.  My list of  'supplements' that should be in your must have list.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Supplements the average fitness junkie can do away with

Okay so in my previous post I gave you a list of supplements I have tried.  The thing is a lot of supplements you can actually do away with most of them.  Some things you can do away with:

1.  Mass gainers
Mass gainers work.  But in my opinion, they only work for advanced trainers.  Beginners and intermediates are better off trying to gain mass by consuming whole foods.  One of the reasons why I took mass gainers was I couldn't stomach so much food.  I thought mass gainers could help me improve my caloric intake without having to resort to stuffing myself silly.

The things is, you really don't need to eat 6 meals a day to gain muscle.  You can still gain muscle by just eating 3 square meals a day.  Eating too frequently puts you into a lot of digestive stress anyway.  And you feel sluggish instead of energetic.  Now why would you want that?

Over-ripe banana:  Easy to get, cheap and effective
 pre and post workout food.  Cool huh?
2.  Pre and Post workout shakes
Did you know that an over-ripe banana (the ones with brown spots on them) is a fantastic pre and post workout food?  You'd be surprised by how much energy you get from one or two pieces of banana.  So far it has never failed to provide me with fuel even when I haven't had time to have a proper meal prior to my workouts.

It's dirt cheap too.

3.  BCAAs
Again, not to say that BCAAs are useless.  They actually have their merits.  They give you a slight edge but you would still progress even without them.  If you can spare the cash, take them.  If you'd rather spend your money elsewhere then skip them.  No biggie.

This pretty much sums up my
sentiment about fat burners
4.  Fat Burners
Fat burners are NOT for the average person.  Might be okay for those about to go into a bodybuilding contest and what not... key word here is "might".  But for you and me, it's a definite no.  I am a traditionalist.  If you're overweight, you need to take care of your diet first, and take care of exercise second.  That is the only path to PERMANENT fat loss.  There is no magic pill.  There are no shortcuts to success.

"When I hear someone say that they have all the answers or the secret code, what I really hear them saying is that they've given up on getting better." - Dave Tate

So there you have it... common supplements which I think is not worth our while.  Next post, I'll share with you about supplements you should consider taking.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Supplements that I took and what I think of them now

When I scour my Facebook page I see a lot of people asking about supplements or peddling them.  I have come to a stage where I categorize people into 2 broad categories: well-meaning but misinformed and the unenlightened.  

Not to say I am a super genius when it comes to supplements and nutrition.  Far from it.  I have made my fair share of mistakes.  So far I have experimented with a few supplements:

1.  Mass Gainers
I went through about 4 tubs of BSN True Mass before I realized that it didn't help me gain that much weight in the end.  It only aggravated my allergies.  So after almost 1000 bucks down the drain, I stopped taking it.

2.  BCAAs
Went through two bottles of these but didn't really see any noticeable difference.  And it was kind of pricey to keep on taking them until I finally see results (if any) so I stopped.

3.  Calcium 
This was a loooongggg time ago.  Back when I wasn't even exercising and was one of those people who I now lump into the "unenlightened" category.  Complete waste of time and money.

4.  Multi-vitamins for ladies
I still think this is a pretty okay thing to take.  But I have never really bothered to finish the one bottle of multi-vitamins I've ever bought.

5.  Fish Oil
If you could only take one kind of supplement for the rest of your life, this should be it.  The benefits are proven.  I've been taking fish oil off and on for most of my life (off and on because like I mentioned, I'm not a disciplined supplement taker).

6.  Evening Primrose Oil
Okay the things is, I took evening primrose oil during my early 20s as part of my bid to alleviate PMS and improve my eczema situation.  It didn't work so I ditched it.  I only came to know recently that evening primrose oil only works on more mature women (30s and above).  But now that I'm in my 30s I don't really have much of a PMS problem (except for the psycho behaviour behind the wheel) and my eczema is now finally under control.

7.  Collagen 
It was a vanity thing.  I wanted to try it out.  And I've also read that collagen could help improve joint health. Waste of time and money.  Pooh.

8.  Garlic Oil
Now this one is also a good supplement.  It's cheap too.  I also enjoyed a noticeable improvement in my immune system after taking this.

9.  Carb drinks
I bought a tub for RM50.  I think it's still an okay buy although I use it sparingly.  It usually serves as my pre and peri workout drink.

So yeah.  More misses than hits.  Like I said, I was unenlightened.  But that doesn't mean all supplements are bad.  Far from it.  Will share with you more about this in my next post.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Single Leg Exercises using the Landmine/Cable

The problem with many single leg exercise is that the weight that you are able to lift is far lower than your typical bilateral exercise (namely the squat).  The main reason for this is not because of strength, but because of the lack of balance.

I don't know about you, but many times I have struggled doing lunges and single-leg romanian deadlifts because of my shaky balance.  This results in me having to significantly reduce the weights I'm carrying although I know I could actually carry more IF ONLY my balance doesn't suck so much.

This is where cable and landmine exercises become pretty much a god send.  Due to having a fixed point, cable and landmine exercises allow you to really load up on the weights without having to worry about toppling over and screwing up your back.

If like me, you don't have a cable or a landmine contraption fear not.  Just put one end of your barbell in a corner with a towel underneath (to make it less slippery) and a weight plate on top (to make it stable) and you've made yourself a landmine unit.

So far I've actively used these three exercises in my training.  I love how it doesn't hurt my right knee, serves as a natural counterbalance and how bad ass it feels:

Cable Split Squats

Just use a landmine unit (or stick the barbell into a corner) if you don't have access to a cable machine.  You can make this exercise even more effective and torturous (if you have masochistic tendencies) by slowly descending (about 3 seconds) and then pausing at the bottom for about 2 seconds.  Your glutes and quads will BURN!

Landmine Reverse Lunges

I know I've posted this vid before, but it merits repeating.  This is my personal favourite and can be credited for really improving my weaker leg ( the right leg).  So far the maximum I've loaded for this exercise is 25kg (plates only) but I know I can definitely load more.

Landmine Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts

This one requires a bit more skill than the landmine reverse lunges but definitely much easier to learn than the traditional single leg RDL variation. Burns your buns and hammies.  Guaranteed.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Going Alkaline

It all started easily enough.  My friendly neighbourhood fresh goods store had recently started selling alkaline water by the bottle and the owners recommended I tried it out.  I really had nothing to lose, since I have always bought bottled water for my consumption and the price isn't that much different than the alkaline water they're touting.

To be honest, I never did any research before buying the alkaline water which made the results even more pleasant.  My eczema has gone completely and the few times it flares up, it dies down again in just a couple of days.  My skin is noticeably clearer too.

Intrigued, I researched about alkaline water and alkaline diet in general and this is what I found out:

Our body is meant to be slightly alkalic and maintaining that delicate balance is vital to ensure that we remain healthy, disease-free individuals.  But at this day and age, our body has become more and more acidic due to our lifestyle and diet.  Think coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, red meat, dairy, processed food.

All this things contribute to our imbalance but the good news is it is quite easily reversible.  I know not many people are as lucky as I am having access to alkalic water but one of the simplest ways you can make your diet more alkalic is:

Ramp up on the juicing.

Yes, if you haven't started juicing yet you should.  NOW!! Take your pick on any alkalic forming food, juice it and drink.  I had a bad case of the sniffles yesterday and juiced up a combo of apple, lemon, carrot, celery, kailan and ginger... All alkalic forming food (not much so the apple but its delicious so I added it in anyway). And today I am feeling absolutely fine.  Very well rested and very fresh at 6.30am.

Make it a habit to juice.  Seriously.  The stuff that I bought aren't expensive and very easily available anywhere.  Don't go buying your juice at those fancy healthy juice places.  They aren't healthy at all.  They say their stuff is sugar free but what they don't tell you is they submerge the fruits in sugar water to make it taste better.

Plus, it's pricey.  Invest in a decent blender.  And make your own juice.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Stiff Arm Pulldowns

The best lat exercise is still the pull up.  There is no doubt about that.  But many of us, yours truly included, simply do not have the strength to execute a pull up properly.  Hence the pull up becomes a very ugly looking bicep exercise instead.

I have been experimenting with the stiff arm pulldown as a substitute for the pull up.  Both work the lats but while the pull up is more bad ass, the pulldown can be properly executed by more people.  And the stiff arm pulldown can really smoke your lats like crazy.

I did 3 sets of 15-rep stiff arm pulldowns yesterday and my lats are begging me for mercy today.

If you go to the gym, just use the cable machine and get cracking like how the lady in the vid does it.  If like me, you don't have access to a cable machine, you can use a resistance band instead..  Just loop it over something overhead, hold it with both hands (like you would the reigns of a horse) and pull away.