Monthly Archives: October 2011

Training when traveling (with minimal to no equipment)

Enough has been said about training when traveling but the questions never cease. So here are my thoughts on what, how and when to do what when traveling.

  • Keep it super simple. Stop obsessing about how perfect your training can be and spend time on what you’re actually traveling for, be it business or pleasure.
  • Get your training done first thing in the morning and eat a good breakfast so you don’t have to worry about dedicating time for training and/or special meals during the rest of the day.
  • Forget body part splits, forget isolation exercises, forget targeting anything and focus on full body moves that train strength, speed, anaerobic/aerobic endurance and mobility. Do a kitchen sink workout of sorts.

As for exercises to do when you travel, I’ll give you 3 options. Choose 1 each day or choose more than one and combine them.

1. Burpees

Few exercises can replace a properly executed burpee when it comes to time efficient and effective training. Irrespective of what your goals are, a burpee workout will make sure you move closer to it. Here are some suggestions.

– If you are beginner, stick to the modified 4-step burpee and focus on performing each squat with perfect form, each plank with core activation and each jump with explosion. Set a number and work on completing that many burpees as fast as possible while maintaining good form or set a time and get as many legit burpees as possible in that time.

– If you are an intermediate, do the regular 6-step burpee with perfect form and fight for reps. Focus on sky high jumps and chest touch pushups in each rep. Do 5-10 reps per set ,exploding in each step, for 10-15 rounds resting as required between sets.

– If you’re advanced and are after both strength & conditioning, do one of the three…

  • Find a couple of heavy dumbbells or a weighted vest and do weighted burpees, again, fighting for good for and explosion in each rep. 10-12 sets of 5-10 reps with 30-45 sec rest between sets works wonders.
  • If weights aren’t available, up the number of pushups and jumps in each burpee to 3. So each burpee will have a squat, a kickback, 3 pushups, a reverse kick back and 3 squat jumps. And of course, you’re fighting for solid form in each rep. Stick to the same rep-set scheme as above. A hundred burpee workout = 300 pushups and 300 jump squats… can you handle it?
  • Do a burpee pyramid. Start with a regular burpee and as you do more, increase the number of pushups and jumps in each. Example below.

2. Pullups/Chinups

Chinups work everything the burpee doesnt (biceps and back) and hit that core again. So, if you have a bar or a ledge or a door and the strength to do some chin-ups, do them without fail! Here are some suggestions.

– Set a number that is 6-7 times your max and try to hit it in as few sets as possible without ever going to failure. If your max is 10, try to get 60-70 chinups in say 10 sets.

– Get max reps of chinups in 5 sets trying to get the same number of reps in your last set as your first set. Rest 3-5 minutes between sets.

Here is a short instructional video on pullups/chinups.

3. Run/Sprint

You don’t need anything to get this done really. Even shoes are optional. Find a road and go out for an enjoyable run or find a stretch of road/land and sprint. Here are some suggestions.

– Sprint 100 m at 90% effort. Walk back 100 m. Repeat for a total of 6-12 rounds and stop when your sprint is considerably (20%) slower than the first one.

– Run 400 m at 70% effort. Walk back 100 m. Run 300 m at 80% effort. Walk back 200 m. Sprint 200 m at 90% effort. Walk back 300m. Sprint 100m at max effort. Repeat for a total of 2-4 rounds and stop when you’re 100m sprints start feeling like a painful run (as opposed to a tearing flight!).

4. Combine

Now like I mentioned up top, you can do one of these each day or you can club these together and do a conditioning workout of sorts. Here are a couple of examples.

1. Repeat for a total of 5 rounds…

  • 10 Burpees [4-step burpee is your a beginner, weighted if you’re advanced]
  • 10 Chinups [Assisted if you’re a beginner, weighted if you’re advanced]
  • 50 m sprint
  • Rest 3 min.

Note: Make sure form is perfect and each rep/sprint is strong, solid and explosive. Do NOT do more reps at the cost of form. Increase rest period if required.

2. Complete in as less time as possible without compromising form in any move…
  • 30-100 Burpees [30 if you’re a beginner, 100 if you’re advanced]
  • 1 max set of chinups or 400m run for each burpee break

Here is a sample (short) conditioning workout that includes just pushups, chinups and squat jumps.

Peace out.

What do you do after a feast?

Note: Since I currently can’t afford the time to write detailed science heavy articles, I will be writing multiple short and sharp articles every week. Comments will be closed for the same reason and so, in case of questions or topic suggestions, email is the way to go. If you take the time to email, I will take the time to reply. That said, rest assured that if the article deals with a controversial topic or a topic that will benefit from some healthy debate/discussion, comments will be open. Be sure to subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss out on the many articles to come!

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Well… you fast!

We all have nights when we binge. This could be a birthday dinner or a festival or a drunken night or just a night when your spouse/mom decides to make something special for no reason. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it! I mean, whats life without some feasting right?

And interestingly enough, the act of binging or feasting isn’t new to us. From when humans were hunter-gatherers, the unavailability of a constant energy (food) supply, kind of forced them into feasts. Whenever there was a big kill or a serendipitous find of 30 ripe mangoes, they probably ended up feasting possibly till their stomachs couldn’t hold any more food! This was critical for survival and honestly, very natural. Given that storing food wasn’t an option, when food was hard to come by and suddenly a large amount of food was available, the only option was to eat like there was no tomorrow. This way, though food couldn’t be stored, the energy (calories) from the food could be compacted and stored… as fat!

After such a feast the unsurmountable urge to find food no longer existed since the body was utilizing the energy that was stored previously and so folks moved on to living their lives without worrying about finding food or feeding. The case today is pretty much the same. Though there is a constant supply of energy (food), there are times when we feast and the best thing you can do for yourself after such a feast is to fast.

Is this healthy?

As long as you are a generally healthy being, there is absolutely nothing to worry about when fasting. Since the body continues to receive energy (from fat stores), it isn’t, by any stretch of imagination, ‘starving’ and hence will continue to function as well as always.

Many, if not all, cultures and religions worldwide encourage some form of fasting or the other and there is good reason for the same. Fasting has been proven multiple times to be one of the best options for good health and longevity.

Will this help with fat loss?

Well of course. For one, the fasting helps balance out the calorie equation. And in addition to that, when you feast, especially when consuming plenty of carbohydrates, insulin is elevated which stimulates glycogen and fatty acid synthesis and when you fast, glucagon is elevated (which in turn stimulates secretion of adrenalin) which inhibits glycogen and fatty acid synthesis. Since glycogen and fatty acid synthesis is inhibited, this helps mobilize and utilize the stored energy (fat) for energy. In other words, the excess calories that you consumed during the feast, without doubt, was stored as fat and fasting will help mobilize some of the stored fat that can then be used (burned) as energy.

Is this practical?

Here are some options to incorporate this…

  • Skip breakfast the day after your feast or the meal following your feast.
  • Skip breakfast and eat very modest meals of mainly vegetables for the remaining meals if your feast was indescribably epic!
  • As a general health habit, start off by skipping breakfast twice a week. Ensure that you get enough sleep and that your stress levels are low.
  • If skipping breakfast is too hard for whatever reason, stick to super light and simple food options like eating only a few carrots or strawberries or a fresh vegetable salad (without dressing) until lunch.
  • Remember to drink enough water while fasting and don’t hesitate to have a couple of cups of green/black/white tea (without milk and sugar) or black coffee (without milk and sugar).

Peace out.
















Organic food stores in Chennai – Part 1

In the last post I explained why you need to stay the hell away from pesticides. If you aren’t convinced or haven’t read it, do me yourself a favor and (re-)read the article… this time, read the studies/publications that are linked to it.

Now for some stores in Chennai that sell truly organic produce.

Green Shoppe, Annanagar, Chennai

No. 2, B-Block,  2nd Avenue,
Annanagar, Chennai 600102.

Website: n/a

Phone: 96262 78090

Contact: Hemalatha

  • Fresh produce is available on Fridays, Saturdays & (limited produce on) Tuesdays from 10am. Other items (grains, pulses, oil etc.) available all days.
  • You can pre-order via phone and just pick-up at the store.
  • Prices – Reasonable

ReStore, Adyar, Chennai

No. 27/ 10, 2nd Main Rd.,
Kasturba Nagar,
Adyar, Chennai 600020.


Phone: 98417 66299

Contact: Ms. Radhika

  • Fresh produce is available on Tuesdays & Saturdays from 4pm to 7pm. Other items (grains, pulses, oil etc.) available all days.
  • You can pre-order via phone or email. Contact the store for more details.
  • Prices – Very reasonable (Not for profit organization)

Annai Organic & Natural Foods, Adyar, Chennai

No. 8, 1st Avenue,
Shastri Nagar,
Adyar, Chennai 600041.


Phone: 94432 06790

Contact: Mr. Rajendran

  • Fresh produce is available on Saturdays, Sundays & Wednesday from 3pm to 7pm. Other items (grains, pulses, oil etc.) available all days.
  • You can pre-order via phone and just pick-up at the store.
  • Prices – Reasonable

And yes, I did talk to the owners about where they get the produce from and how they are farmed and I am convinced that these are indeed truly organic produce. If you are skeptical (and you should be), please spend a few minutes talking to these guys. Ask them about why they are doing what they’re doing, how the crops are farmed, where they get it from, how they inspect the produce etc etc.

While these are the only three stores I got a chance to visit, interact with the owners and try out, there are plenty more such small stores that sell organic foods (fresh produce, honey, milk, eggs, grains, lentils, ghee, oils etc.) in Chennai especially in the RA Puram, Alwarpet and T. Nagar areas. I will be visiting more stores in the coming weeks and will be sure to share the knowledge. Until then, these three stores should be able to help you go completely organic with the spread they offer. Now if only I can find a place that sells organic meat…!

Seriously folks – its worth the drive and a few extra rupees. Make the change now!

Peace out.



What is the deal with pesticides in produce? To organic or not to organic?

As I am suffering from a disease, I apologize for the time it took me to get this extremely critical article published. I really wanted to churn it out in my usual style. I tried starting this post with some funny lines. They all sucked. Then I moved on to analogies. They didn’t make sense. Then I tried a newsflash of sorts. That just sounded lame. So I’m just going to start with some basics and gradually move on to the crux of the issue. Sorry, but the disease is a downer! Writers block… you need to have had to relate!

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What are pesticides anyway?

Pesticides (including insecticides) are substances or mixtures of substances intended to protect against pests where the pesticide may be a chemical or a biological agent or device and the pest may be anything from insects to plant pathogens to worms to mammals that spread disease or cause any kind of nuisance.

Pesticide use, like most things we have today, was invented a long time back and, obviously, for a reason. This might be news to you but, for a while now, we humans have been using chemicals on our crops to save them from pests. What started off as dusting of elemental sulphur (in ancient Mesopotamia about 4500 years) got transformed into the use of…

  • toxic chemicals such as arsenic, mercury and lead by the 15th century,
  • nicotine sulphate based insecticides in the 17th century, and
  • natural pesticides derived from chrysanthemum and roots of tropical vegetables in the 19th century.

It was in the 1950s that things started to get ugly when synthetic pesticides and insecticides (like DDT) were starting to become the preferred choice. Pesticide manufacturers started manufacturing too much synthetic pesticides and their use became widespread. Between 1950 and now, pesticide use has has increased 50-fold and per this article we are now looking at the following ungodly numbers…

World pesticide amount used exceeded 5.0 billion pounds in 2000 and 2001. Herbicides accounted for the largest portion of total use, followed by other pesticide use, and fungicide use. Total world pesticide amount used decreased in 2001 for all pesticide types.

There’s got to be something good about it!

If we have been using pesticides for thousands of years and if the government regulates it’s use, there should be some good to pesticide usage right? OK, the government regulation means nothing, but you know what I mean – pesticides didn’t come into existence for no reason. So what are the pros associated with pesticides?

  • Better yield: Pesticide use helps in controlling pests and plant diseases and hence results in improved yield.
  • Protection against infection: Using pesticide to ward off pests has saved many (human and animal) lives from insect born infectious diseases like malaria, typhoid, black plague etc.
  • More revenue: By improving yields, pesticide use helps agrobusinesses generate more revenue. As a matter of fact, for every $1 spent on pesticides, $4 worth of crops are saved.
  • Variety & availability: A variety of crops are made available year round removing ‘seasonal’ from the equation.

And of course there is the bad!

As expected though, as we started using pesticides and as demand and ‘food manufacturing’ increased, their usage has also increased drastically. And what is the easiest way to meet demand? Yep! Dump the natural and move completely to artificial. And since synthetic pesticides can be produced in large quantities with ease, that is exactly what we did.

So when we realized we are using too much chemical on our food, we started looking into the possible ill effects of pesticide use and came back with an impressive list.

Acute & chronic effects

Pesticide exposure can cause a variety of adverse health effects. These effects can range from simple irritation of the skin and eyes to more severe effects such as affecting the nervous system, mimicking hormones causing reproductive problems, and also causing cancer.

More here.

Acute poisoning from a single or short-term exposure can result in death. Chronic impacts of long-term exposure to pesticides, including pesticide residues in food, could also result in death.

More here.

Birth defects

Fifteen studies from 9 countriesexamined associations between pesticides and birth defects. The studies consistently showed increased risk with pesticide exposure. Specific defects included limb reductions,urogenital anomalies,central nervous system defects,orofacial clefts,heart defects,and eye anomalies. The rate of any birth defect was also increased by parental exposure to pesticides.

Fetal deaths

Fetal death includes spontaneous abortion, fetal death, stillbirth, and neonatal death. Results were consistent across several study designs; 9 of 11 studiesfound positive associations with pesticide exposure.


Pesticide exposure doubled the frequency of chromosome aberrations. In clinical practice, these aberrations could present as spontaneous abortion, birth defects, sperm abnormalities, or cancer risk.

More here.

And here is some literature about pesticide exposure causing asthma, neurological defects and cancer.

But the government has it under control, right?

Yes, the government set limits!

But wait! No one cares about limits! Its all about making a buck isn’t it? This is a world where people will do anything to shine some greeen… and that includes killing you. I’m not kidding one bit here.

While developed countries have good control of food production (and manufacturing), developing and under-developed countries struggle with quality and control. As is the case with adulteration, control over agricultural produce – the seeds, the methods, the pesticides, the quantities – is very weak. And the reason for this?

  • Farmers are uneducated and don’t posses the capability to understand the risks involved with excessive pesticide use.
  • Greedy farmers and food manufacturers use WAY more pesticide than their supposed to in an effort to improve their yields.
  • And of course, corruption in its many forms.

So what happens when people don’t care about limits? Well, things get ugly… real ugly!

When bad becomes worse and worse becomes WTF!

OK, so pesticides are being used and the government can’t and won’t do crap about it. This isn’t any different from robbery or bribery or prostitution right? Wrong. The difference is that this particular issue could harm you in ways you wouldn’t imagine and that isn’t because pesticides are being used in produce but because…

  • Pesticides are being used in astronomical quantities in India (and other developing countries)
  • Pesticides that have been banned due to their extremely toxic nature are still being used in India (and other developing countries)

Here is some evidence explaining why the situation is worse than you think it is.

This 2005 article from India Together says…

Pesticide use in India has jumped hundred folds from 154 million tones in 1954 to 88,000 million tones in 2001 [Thats 571-fold in under 50 years!]. Punjab is one of the largest users of pesticides: 6,972 million tones a year.

This Nov 2010 article from India Today says…

The NGO picked up 193 samples of 35 different vegetables from markets in Bangalore, Delhi and Kolkata. These were then tested for 106 pesticides and the results were alarming as four of the five banned chemicals were found in these samples.

Banned substances like chlordane, heptachlor, endrin and ethyl parathion were found in almost all samples of bitter gourd. Pesticide residue was also recovered from vegetables like cauliflower, tomato, ladyfinger, brinjal, cucumber, cabbage, potatoes and onions.

According to the findings, the pesticides used in India are 750 times higher than the European standards. These chemicals can cause brain cancer, blood cancer, kidney or lung damage and neurological problems. It can also disrupt liver and hormone functions and can cause several skin disorders.

The pesticide residue limit in India has not been reviewed for the past 30 years. Experts agree that strict monitoring from state agencies is an absolute imperative.

This post on Living Farms says…

The chemical came into spotlight in India when at Kasargad in Kerala it was sprayed aerially and the local population of many villages was exposed to it. What followed was very shocking. It led to physical and mental defects in poor farmers and their families. Studies have shown endosulfan to accumulate in a mother’s breast milk and it has been linked to appalling birth deformities, the like of which are still being observed at Kasargad, “Kerala’s Bhopal”.

Such events have occurred across the Globe and 62 countries all over the world have either banned it or restricted its use. Unfortunately India has done nothing to stem the use of this endocrine disruptor which can cause changes at the genetic level.

This very recent article on toxiclinks says…

However, studies over the years have shown that a little over 200 grams of vegetables that an average Indian statistically gets on a daily basis, is a recipe of a toxic blend of over 40 deadly chemical pesticides….

The year 2008 document of AVRDC  ‘The World Vegetable Center’, thus rightly suggests India’s pesticide use on vegetables as alarmingly high.

This, also very recent, article from The Times Of India says…

Rampant use of banned pesticides in fruits and vegetables continues to put at risk the life of the common man. Farmers apply pesticides such as chlordane, endrin and heptachor that can cause serious neurological problems, kidney damage and skin diseases. A study cond`ucted by Delhi-based NGO Consumer-Voice reveals that the amount of pesticides used in eatables in India is as much as 750 times the European standards. The survey collected sample data from various wholesale and retail shops in Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata.

“Out of five internationally-banned pesticides, four were found to be common in vegetables sold in the Indian markets. Banned pesticides were found in bitter gourd and spinach,” said Sisir Ghosh, head of Consumer-Voice. The banned chemicals included chlordane, a potent central nervous system toxin, endrin, which can cause headache nausea and dizziness, and heptachor that can damage the liver and decrease fertility.

And make no mistake, this absolutely is the case in pretty much all developing nations as explained here, here and here.

And guess what? Most of these risks seem to affect folks who make ‘healthy food choices’ more than their non-caring/unhealthy counterparts as these are the folks who tend to include more vegetables and fruit in their diet! And this, my friend, is how worse becomes WTF!

My thoughts?

Pardon my french but, from this and the other literature I have read on the subject, I have to say…

Les pesticides seront vas te faire encule jusqu’à

Alright Raj. Thats enough! Less scary, more healthy! Is there a solution?

If you do live in a developed country, this might not be that big a deal since controls are in place holding pesticide content within acceptable limits and worrying too much about this might be considered obsessive. But if you do live in a developing country, eating organic food ranks right up in the list of things you’d need to do to live a basic safe life. In other words, eating pesticide free food (in developing countries) is comparable to looking for vehicles on the road before crossing.

So, safely assuming all the vegetables and fruits you buy (in your developing nation) from your local grocer or grocery chain or street vendor is loaded with (accepted AND banned) pesticides (way beyond the upper limit), what do you do to keep your risk of pesticide poisoning low?

The best option to safety, taste and health – eat organic food!

Yes, finding organic food is hard and yes it is a bit more (10-20%) expensive. But wouldn’t you rather eat truly healthy produce and support organic farming than to eat chemical laden make-believe healthy produce and fall prey to greedy food manufacturers/distributors?

If organic food isn’t available for any reason,

  • Eat ONLY seasonal vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits that are in season need lesser pesticides than others.
  • Wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly using soap! Yep. You read that right. Use any detergent you use to wash your hands but be sure to wash off all the soap before eating/cooking.
  • Eat food that has worms in it. Pick fruits and vegetables that have worms in them. Clean them free of worms. Eat! If the reasoning isn’t obvious, if the worm wasn’t killed, you probably are safe too.
  • Any fruit, be it a banana or an apple or a fig, peel it before you deal it.
  • If you’re at a restaurant or someone’s house and are unsure about the produce you are being served, reduce your risk by eating less of what you’re skeptical about.

Think about it this way – You don’t eat food that has dirt/crap on it. Why would you eat food with (real) poison? You wouldn’t eat at a place that is known to cause food poisoning. Why would you eat pesticide laden food that you know could food poison and poison you and your family?

Eat organic food folks! A few bucks here and there isn’t worth the risk of chronic pesticide poisoning leading to possible neurodevelopmental disorders and cancers and acute poisoning resulting in anything from skin problems to possible death.

And remember – awareness precedes action! If you live in a developing country, consider this an eye-opener and make the necessary changes immediately. If you live in a developed country, please make an effort to forward this on to your friends and family who live in developing nations. Take a moment and make a difference. Please share this post on your wall or whatever else you share stuff on and spread the word.

In the next post, I will write in detail about some organic food stores in Chennai (India) that supply safe, delicious and pesticide free produce at reasonable prices. Stay tuned.

Peace out.

10 simple food rules to live by…

1. Eat food that was made in a kitchen… not in a lab.

2. Anytime anyone says ‘I read it somewhere…‘ stop listening.

3. Fuel yourself frequently with enjoyable real food. Treat yourself rarely with delectable junk food.

4. Eat stuff that goes bad.

5. Always remember that if a food needs to be heavily marketed, it needn’t been eaten.

6. Kill the ‘ism’. Food isn’t religion. Save the obsession and insanity for the latter.

7. This is 2011. Eat a damn pizza every once in a while. But eat that damn pizza only once in a while.

8. Before you listen to your doctor or your neighbor, listen to your body.

9. Realize that it isn’t possible to eat all that is good. But also realize that it is very possible to avoid all that is bad.

10. Fix your relationship with food. Food should have nutrition, not numbers. Food should be celebration, not a chore. Food should fill you with goodness, not guilt.


Peace out.

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