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building a better

body Looking to shed those extra kilos? The secret to a trimmer figure and better overall health is to start hitting the gym! By GENE KHOR

Photos: Getty Images & istockphoto


o get a lean, toned body, you would have heard — repeatedly — that nothing beats running, swimming and cycling. Such exercise, also known as cardiovascular training, temporarily increases your heart and respiration rate, and boosts your metabolic rate — so that you burn more calories as a result. Weight training helps in weight loss too, although there exists a misconception that pumping iron results in undesired Hulk-like proportions, especially in a woman. However, nothing can be further from the truth. Men’s bodies produce high levels of testosterone, a hormone which helps them build large muscle, if they want to. However, women’s bodies produce very low levels of testosterone so there is no danger of bulking out. A lean, toned look is the reward instead. Fitness trainer Hayati Nuffus, 28, is an example of what pumping iron can

do. She prepared for the Strongman Challenge in March 2012 by going through a rigorous strength training regime. She did deadlifts with 95kg weights and flipped tractor tyres that weighed up to 150kg as part of her workout programme. But through all the heavy lifting, the 1.6m-tall fitness trainer kept her trim 60kg figure. “Whether you’re a man or woman, weight training increases muscle mass, which in turn increases your metabolism rate. That means you’re burning calories all day long,” Hayati explains. “You’ll also gain strength without putting on bulky muscle and as a result, reduce the risks of osteoporosis, back pain, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes, while improving your overall athletic performance.”

From strength to strength

A study done by researchers from the University of Michigan released in April this year concluded that lifting weights, which can increase ‘white’ muscle, helps to keep blood glucose levels in check. Human beings have a range of muscles — red, white and those in-between — like how poultry has light and dark meat. Red muscle prevails in people who engage in endurance training such as marathon runners. Sprinters and weight lifters tend to have a lot of white muscle. The study’s results were derived from experiments the researchers conducted on mice. Rodents which had more Issue 4


Feature white muscle from being fed higher concentrations of protein had better blood glucose levels than those with less white muscle. But how is it possible to lose weight by putting on more weight, even if it’s in lean muscle? The answer lies in the fact that muscle burns more calories than fat. By increasing your overall muscle mass, your resting metabolic rate is increased. This means you burn calories all the time — even when you’re sleeping. You’re also doing your bones a favour when you develop strong muscles. Muscles help to maintain balance and coordination — a critical element in preventing falls, which can lead to fractures especially for those suffering from osteoporosis. Medical research group Mayo Clinic — based in Minnesota, United States — says that strength training will also improve posture, which can help to reduce harmful stress on bones and maintain their density.

Getting started

For optimal weight loss, the Health Promotion Board (HPB) advises that muscle-strengthening activities be performed to the point at which it is difficult to do another similar repetition. A repetition is one complete movement of an activity, like lifting a weight or doing a sit-up.

WEIGHING IN You’ll hear all sorts of advice and tips when it comes to lifting weights; here are some of the common myths you might come across, and the truth behind them.

> “IF I DON’T TRAIN REGULARLY, THE MUSCLE I’VE GAINED WILL BECOME FAT” Muscle and fat are different types of tissue. “Fat does not turn into muscle and vice versa,” says exercise physiologist and trainer Dee Dee Mahmood. “Instead, when you lose muscle due to age or the lack of resistance




muscle fatigue, which according to the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, is the point when the muscle you’re training begins to feel tight, sore and weaker. This is also the critical point at which your body makes new muscle proteins to build muscle. It’s a longer process compared to lifting heavy weights at less repetitions, but is safer and less stressful for people like the elderly.

Based on a study conducted by McMaster University in Ontario, Canada — results of which were released in August 2010 — you can still develop muscle even if you work with ‘light’ weights — those that you can lift comfortably. The secret is to keep doing repetitions until you reach


training, fat frequently accumulates in the parts of your body that once held vibrant muscle tissue. When this occurs, it may appear that the muscle is turning into fat, but it’s really just losing its conditioning.”


You can:  Perform the musclestrengthening activities on the same or different days that you do aerobic activity like brisk walking, cycling, jogging or swimming.  Start once a week with lighter weights, with which you can complete at least eight to 12 repetitions.  Over time, start increasing the weight while performing the same number of repetitions.

Muscle-strengthening activities should include eight to 10 different exercises that work the various large muscle groups like the legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms. You can use either free weights such as dumbbells, or work out on weight machines in a gym or fitness centre. But if you’re uncomfortable with hitting the weights, there are other ways to develop muscle. Exercises using weights fall under the broader term of resistance training which includes:

There are other ways to develop muscle besides using free weights, such as using your own body weight as resistance. the hPB indicates that you should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week to maintain your weight. however, some people may need to accumulate more than 250 minutes of aerobic activity in a week to prevent weight gain. the idea here is to be consistent with your workouts.

Exercises that use your own body weight as resistance, such as push-ups, sit-ups, abdominal crunches, pull-ups and leg squats Working with resistance bands. Resistance bands (or resistance tubing) are inexpensive, lightweight and can be bought at stores selling sports equipment With this variety available, you’re bound to find a regime to incorporate into and amplify your workout, which will in turn improve your body inside and out.

exercise physiologist, trainer and nutritionist Dee Dee Mahmood gives tips to get the most out of your workouts.

> Before you begin

Don’t eat a heavy meal right before your workout. Instead, grab a bite one to two hours before you start. If you’re still peckish, have something light before you start that will break down easily in the stomach like a banana, or sip on a protein drink during an intense workout.

> Carbohydrates

Blood glucose and glycogen — which come from the carbohydrates you consume — fuel your muscles during moderate to heavy exercise. to replenish fatigued muscles, opt for foods high in glycogen like baked potatoes, bagels and white bread. they’re great sources of carbohydrates which enter the bloodstream faster and restore glycogen to the fatigued muscles quickly.

> Protein

eating foods high in protein promotes muscle growth by healing muscle that has broken down from moderate to heavy exercise. the amount of protein consumed post-workout should be four times more than your carbohydrate intake. Go for dairy products like milk, yoghurt and cottage cheese.

> Hydration

When you sweat, your body loses electrolytes water. that’s when muscle fatigue and weakness set in. to aid in muscle recovery, drink water — 300ml before, 600ml during and 300ml after exercising. sip; don’t gulp to give your body time to absorb the fluid.

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Dee Dee Mahmood



Building a Better Body  
Building a Better Body