Category Archives: Nutrition

Quick and easy short term fat loss

If your goal is to lose fat quickly, stop over-analyzing and cut carbs. It doesn’t matter what the critics say. It doesn’t matter if eating carbs is good or bad. It doesn’t matter if there are other ways that “might” be better. We’re talking purely short term fat loss here.

When you want definite results, you rely on the data you have. And the data we have today says low carb works for short-term fat loss. So for the next 4 weeks, save yourself some mind-space and do the following.

  • Dump all kinds of sugar – honey, dessert, all fruit juice, soda, chocolate etc.
  • Restrict grains to only the meal after working out. Have lentils/beans instead during other meals.
  • Reduce fruit consumption to 1 medium fruit a day. Size? A grape is too small and a jack fruit is too big.
  • Eat 2 cups of vegetables with every meal but stay away from roots and tubers for the most part.
  • Do exactly as said and don’t try to find loop holes or work arounds.

For more, here is some fat loss information overdose.

New Year’s resolutions – A new look

It is that time of the year when most of the urban population make another set of resolutions for the New Year 99% of which will not make it past March purely because, well, the year isn’t new anymore! Looking at how most resolutions don’t result in anything, are there meaningful resolutions that can keep you on track for the duration of the year? I say yes. But they need to be about habits and not about numbers. They need to be about lifestyle changes and not about products.

What the majority of fitness enthusiasts (and the resolution making crowd in general) don’t realize is that it isn’t about the New Year or about a particular event or result but about the consistent actions that lead to the chosen event or result. If, for example, your New Year resolution is to run a marathon, it isn’t about the marathon but about the training, consistency and discipline required for you to be ready for the marathon and, more importantly, about what you learn during the process of preparing for the marathon and how you incorporate what you learn into your daily fitness life, personal life and professional life.

Here are 8 very strong changes I recommend that will help you move robustly towards those results you’re looking to achieve in 2013.

1. Eat dessert 62 times in 2013.

  • There are a total of 52 weeks in 2013. How about eating dessert once a week and on 10 other days? The 10 other days should be days you choose – relevant festivals, important birthdays/anniversaries, respectable life events etc.

2. Get in at least 104 training sessions in.

  • It doesn’t matter what kind of training. It could be a run or yoga or strength training or zumba for all I care. At 500 calories burnt per session (either directly as in cardio or indirectly as in other forms training that increase BMR), you’ll burn a good 50,000+ calories during the year which will result in a ~7kg weight loss in addition to the myriad other health and lifestyle benefits that stem from exercising consistently.

3. Sit for no more than 60 minutes at a time.

  • Every hour stand up. What you do after you stand up is almost irrelevant but don’t sit for more than an hour at a stretch.

4. Try a new vegetable every month.

  • We all have vegetables we love and vegetables we hate. But almost invariably, we tend to hate some of the most nutritious vegetables mainly because we have bad memories of that vegetable from when we were kids. Well, we’re not kids anymore. Our outlook towards life has changed. Our needs have changed. And it is very probable that our tastes might have changed too.

5. Lose your temper less.

  • Every time you lose your temper, give yourself a little black mark.

6. Plan your vacation before February.

  • Everyone is very busy today. No one has the time to take time off. But guess what? The industry/company won’t pulverize if you take a week off and there is enough statistics to prove that people taking vacations are more productive. The truth is that most people don’t take vacations because they don’t plan in time. Plan your vacation well in advance. You will have something to look forward to during the year and you can save yourself a couple of bucks.

7. Don’t litter

  • and report the folks who do. Even a place like Chennai, now, has trashcans every 100 -200 meters in many areas. Use them. Keep the city clean. Keep diseases far away from you and everyone else. Fall sick less. Live life more.

8. Say no to weighing scales, elevators, suitcases with wheels and driving endlessly hoping to find the closest parking spot.

  • Weigh yourself once a month. Always take the stairs. Carry your suitcases. And, always, park a few hundred meters away from your destination.

And like everything else I write about, you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) follow these blindly. Find the ones that are relevant to your life and pick those. Understand the idea and add a couple of your own. Accept that you’re not going to hit all 8 or 6 or 11 and prioritize the list. Focus more on the more important ones and go easy on the rest. It’s all about you and it’s all about sustainability. Make it work.

Adios!

De-cluttering training and nutrition

It’s been a long time since I blogged and today seemed like a perfect day to do so. One thing I’ve been thinking about is how I started writing this blog as a way to record my experiences with health and fitness and how it slowly moved away from that and became an information dump of sorts (while helping thousands of people, of course). Considering how busy lazy I’ve been to keep this blog alive and thriving, I think, like everything else in life, it is time to get back to the basics. Make a plan and stick with it. And here is my plan.

Start writing.

Just so we’re clear, this post won’t have any amazing insights about nutrition or links to studies that prove that a certain food is a superfood/poison or how training exactly 17.32 minutes after waking up will help you lose more fat. Posts like this might very well be boring for many, but they are what I need to write and read.

– – – – – x – – – – –

My battle with fitness related progress has always been because of the ‘switch’ mentality. I’m an all or nothing kind of guy. When it comes to training, I’m in it or out of it. Moderation never works for me. In other words, I walk into a training session either to dominate the session or I explicitly half-ass it or don’t train at all. And honestly, most of you are like me.

I approach, not just training sessions, but even training programs with this mentality. When I start a training program, I’m super excited looking forward to everything about the program and start off with a bang. With time though, my excitement drops and I see myself crawling to the finish line. What is interesting here is that I do stick with the program entirely and I get the results I’m looking for, at least most of it. What I lack is the motivation to keep going beyond the finish line. The problem is not the lack of commitment or lack of variety in the program. The problem is the finish line. The problem is that there is a finish line.

It took me years to understand that fitness never ends. There is no such thing as ‘completion’ when it comes to fitness. Programs, be it a self-conducted one like Starting Strength or a professionally conducted one like The Quad, are short spurts of intense effort providing you visible results. But the point of such programs is to lay a foundation on which you can build on and continue your never ending journey towards fitness.

This all or nothing mentality worked well for a good chunk of time but, like everything else, it got old. It became harder and harder to psych myself up before each training session, to stay committed and focussed to my oh-so-ambitious goals and, most importantly, to make continuous progress.

I decided to fix this once and for all. So here is what I did – I came up with rules to de-clutter my training and nutrition and hence, life. Simple small rules that will help declutter my fitness-life. Here are the rules.

  1. Push, pull, squat, hinge and run. Waste no time on fluff.
  2. Forget equipment. Forget muscles. Focus on movements.
  3. Train hard. Keep total volume low.
  4. Do some form of rehab work everyday.
  5. Stop being a brat and sleep.
  6. Eat protein with every meal.
  7. Keep starch to a minimum on rest days.
  8. Eat more organic produce.
  9. As an immediate response, say no to junk. You can reconsider later.
  10. Supplement wisely.

Details about each one of these rules and how they have helped me stay strong and in great shape without dedicating too much time or sanity to follow in the upcoming posts.

More soon.

Adios!

Is it all in the head?

You fail to see beauty in something, anything, once you understand it. So it the case with paranoia. You stop being afraid of something, anything, once you understand it. This applies to food as much as it applies to God and the devil.

Pretty cool line huh? Who came up with it? I did! And yea I know. I’m pretty awesome like that. Ok now, let’s talk about something you don’t know.

Back when I used to chronically diet…

… I was always on one diet or the other. In other words, there was always some food group I’d not eat. During the good old whole wheat days, I’d eat everything in whole wheat from bread to cereal to roti to naan to lavash bread to pita bread to pasta and hardly eat any fat whatsoever. I’d stay away from ghee like it was demon’s piss, shun cheese like it was illegal and fatty cuts of meat didn’t even exist in my food dictionary!

Then when I learnt more about nutrition and that fats were good and (thought) carbs were the devil, my idea of foodtopia (see what I did? Again, pretty awesome like that!) went from wheat-ville to lowcarb-asylum. I’d eat about 1-1.5lb of fatty meat and 2-3 lb of green veggies everyday in addition to cream and cheese and butter and macadamia nuts. I stayed away from wheat like it would clog up my respiratory tract and bananas were off limits ‘cos they were nothing more than yellow colored candy bars and chose cream over milk ‘cos milk was a carb source!

It’s amazing how things have changed in the last few years after I started doing more self-experimentation and began reading more unbiased literature (as opposed to reading strictly within the whole wheat or paleo or low carb circle, depending on which phase I was on), but here is something interesting.

Let me first say that I used to be the epitome of clean eating. Will power and motivation flowed so seamlessly like swear words out of a hookers mouth. Nothing could break me. I had no temptations and no one could ever convince or lure me into eating something I hadn’t planned on eating unless, of course, I’d already factored it into my ‘eating plan’. But I observed something.

When I did eat strictly low fat (and whole wheat), I’d eat sandwiches everyday and twice a day on many days. Even today, I’m a sandwich maniac and can eat one for every meal for the rest of my life, but living in a region where the best sandwiches are available at Subway, I don’t quite have that urge. Anyways, I remember I’d stand in line to order a sandwich and I’d know exactly what I wanted (whole wheat bread, lean meat, green veggies, mustard, fat free mayo yada yada)… except one thing – should I get the cheese or not? I loved and craved cheese (of course ‘cos I wasn’t “allowed” to eat it) but this question would confuse the shit outa me! I’d stand there in line letting people behind me go ahead ‘cos I’d never be able to make the call. Sometimes I’d get the cheese and sometimes I wouldn’t. When I did get the cheese, I’d love the sandwich but immediately after eating the sandwich, I’d “feel fat”. I’d literally feel like I had gained weight on my lower abdomen/belly area. And you know what guilt does… makes you want to compensate by doing some extra work or eating less for the next few meals. All this for a slice of cheese!

Funnily, when I was deep into low-carb dieting, the exact same scenario would happen when I a cup of rice or eat a banana or eat a meal which is even mildly high in carbs. The “feel fat” thing would pop up in my head which will lead to similar type of compensating.

And the gluten-free days weren’t an exception. Once slice of bread and boom! The next morning I’d feel like I had a “cannonball in my tummy” or like “I’m having trouble breathing well” or like “I’m feeling bloated” or like “I feel fatigued”.

But let’s look at the other side of the coin.

During my low-fat-all-whole-wheat days, I’d eat about 300g of carbs a day most of which was from wheat and didn’t get bombarded by cannonballs or continuously bloat to the point of explosion or feel so fatigued all day I couldn’t work. Heck, I have photos of myself with a prominent 6-pack and remember feeling so awesome I used to workout twice a day 6 days a week – that is 12 fairly intense sessions of physical activity per week with about 6hrs of sleep per day.

During my low carb days, cream, cheese and fatty meat were my main dish, side dish and dessert! My belly didn’t get bigger. Neither did I see the digits on my scale go up or any part of my oh-so-precious 6-pack fade even a little.

I’m more than sure you’ve been through or are going through the same or similar phases. So, you tell me, is it all in the mind? Is fat making you fat or are you just made to think that way? Are carbs fattening or is it that you don’t know any better? Are you truly allergic to gluten or are you just trying hard and finding the symptoms you are told you would experience?

Today, I am in a much better place…

… nutritionally.

Back then, I always was off something. Something was evil. At any point of time, I’d be “off” carbs or fat or gluten or something. Today, I eat everything. While I don’t stuff myself silly with junk food all day everyday, there is literally nothing I am “off” from.

Back then,  I always craved something or the other (probably ‘cos I was off something or the other). Today, I have no cravings whatsoever (definitely ‘cos I know nothing is off limits).

Back then, I was paranoid and, with a lot of focus and diligence, healthy and fit always looking for the next nutritional breakthrough. Today I am free and, with absolutely no conscious effort, healthy, fit and in peace not looking for the next big thing.

The truth is that science isn’t something you believe in. It is a fact. You either know it or you don’t. There is no anxiety in science. There is no guesswork. There is no maybe. There are only equations. You do the experiment (unbiased) and you get (real) results. Nothing more and definitely nothing less.

So are you making the effort to truly understand nutrition via unbiased research and self-experimentation or are you just jumping on and off the fad bus? Do share this post (buttons below) and let’s get this discussion started.

5 “cheat” foods you SHOULD eat

Most people get caught in the ‘what not to eat’ pages that they fail to understand the concept of nutrition. A food isn’t always bad or good. Whether a food item is healthful or not purely depends on the ingredients and to an extent cooking/processing method. If my plate of meat and vegetables contains fried chicken and gravied vegetables, is that still a healthful meal? What if my fresh fruit juice contains a truckload of sugar? What is my anti-nutrient free real food nutrition plan is 70% rice? On the other hand, if my ice cream contains mostly cream, milk, eggs and berries with a little bit of honey, is that still junk? What if my dosa is cooked with ghee, topped with an eggs, an ounce of cheese and a cup of vegetables?

Thanks to conventional wisdom (and the low fat mafia and the low carb squad and the vegan police and the paleo primates), we’ve successfully reached a point in life where we have no idea what to eat and what not do. And as a result, we end up not eating foods that are shining with nutrients and replace them with nutrient-less cheap fillers like grains.

Here is a list of 5 such foods that taste delicious and are undeniably healthful.

1. Ghee

Contrary to what you’ve been told, ghee is not fattening and is in no way atherosclerosis promoting. Ghee contains the same amount of fat and calories as any other oil but, unlike processed industrial seed oils like sunflower oil, groundnut oil, canola oil etc., ghee is rich in many nutrients that are essential to the human body.

Consume ghee on a daily basis because it…

  • contains vitamins A, D, E & K.
  • has a high smoke point and hence is perfect for high heat cooking.
  • contains essential fatty acids.
  • is free of lactose (for the intolerant).
  • is free of oxidizable polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • tastes bloody awesome!

Note:

  • Watch out for over consumption ‘cos anything you cook with ghee tastes bloody awesome!

2. Dark chocolate

Chocolate isn’t the first guy to show up when you call for health, but that is because of the sugar content and other processed junk and preservatives that are added. Chocolate is (or at least should be) rich in cocoa which has myriad health benefits. So what happens if you pull out the junk, preservatives and fillers, reduce the sugar content and increase the cocoa content? It starts to taste like crap? You couldn’t be further from the truth. It tastes pretty darn amazing and ends up becoming a super healthy snack.

Eat dark chocolate everyday because it…

  • is one of the most potent anti-oxidants ever known to man. Yep, way better than green tea and your acai berry madness.
  • is rich in vitamins and minerals required for the proper functioning of the human body.
  • has been shown to reduce CVD risk and blood pressure.
  • controls cravings.

Note:

  • Dark chocolate means >80% cocoa. Don’t fall for the “Dark chocolate!!” marketing scam you see in pretty much all chocolate bars nowadays.
  • Banana + dark chocolate + quick zap in the microwave (~10-20 sec per banana) = best sweet thing you’ve had.
  • Watch out for over consumption. A couple of 1″ squares of dark chocolate is all you need per day.
  • Add a pinch of cocoa and coffee to your cooking (especially red meat) and take flavoring to the next level.

3. Ice cream

Like chocolate, ice cream gets the bad wrap it does due to the high sugar, junk and preservative content. But if you break it down, you’ll see that ice cream can be truly healthful when made at home using the right ingredients. If you can make your own ice cream with full fat milk (or coconut milk), whole eggs, honey, vanilla beans and/or cocoa and/or fresh fruits and berries, there is absolutely nothing you need to worry about.

Eat homemade ice cream because it…

  • is free of junk and anti-nutrients.
  • is rich in fat soluble vitamins.
  • is an absolute treat with respect to taste, appearance and smell.

Note:

  • Honey or sugar, make sure you use as little as possible. The idea is not to come up with a cloyingly sweet concoction but to enjoy a mildly sweet creamy frozen treat.
  • Since the ingredients used are extremely calorie dense, watch your portion sizes. Once again, the idea is to enjoy it as a treat and not to make it a meal.
  • Vary the fruits you use and keep your palate fresh.
  • Feel free to dump the dairy and go the sorbet route. And use tender coconut water in place of water for some added flavor.

4. Mangoes

Pretty much everyone’s told you mangoes are “fattening”. Honestly, I have no idea what that means. Mangoes, like other fruits, are rich in carbohydrates but are fairly less calorie dense and completely devoid of allergens compared to the regular starches (oats, rice, wheat etc.). A 100g serving of fresh mango contains only about 70 calories (most of which are from carbohydrates) but is also rich in vitamins C and A. So if you live in a place where mangoes are in season, eat up!

Eat mangoes because they are…

  • a seasonal fruit and hence are only available for a few months during the year.
  • rich in vitamins C and A.
  • absolutely delightful and can brighten up any meal.
  • extremely effective in controlling sugar cravings.

Note:

  • Like with any fruit, watch your portion sizes ‘cos the total sugar consumed can easily creep up.
  • If you’re prone to an increase in body temperature, be sure to drink some milk (or eating ‘cooling foods’) after.

5. Coconut

A perfect example of a hero being bad mouthed as a villain, thanks to half-science and improper understanding of nutrition. Coconut and coconut products with all the health benefits they have to offer, are as close to magic as you can get.

Eat coconuts and other coconut products because…

  • Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a medium chain saturated fatty acid.
  • Coconut oil incredibly heat-stable and hence, like ghee, are perfect for high heat cooking.
  • Coconut products are rich in medium chain triglycerides.
  • They help in balancing our your lipid profile by increasing your HDL.
  • Coconut oil is anti-fungal helping with candida, IBS and other gut related issues.
  • They help with skin and hair care.
  • They help in keeping your immunity levels up high.

Note:

  • Coconut flakes, coconut milk, coconut flesh, coconut water, tender coconut – they are all fair game.
  • Watch out for packaged processed coconut milk. Read the ingredients and make sure it contains only coconut and water.
  • Like other fatty foods, coconut products tend to be significantly calorie dense and hence monitoring portion sizes is critical.

So next time you deem something unhealthy, think twice ‘cos nutrition isn’t about going on a diet or eating boring foods or giving up on certain foods or going blahblah-free or even making compromises. Sustainable nutrition aimed towards long-term wellness starts where health, taste and consistency meet.

Adios!

%d bloggers like this: