Have you wondered why some people do their best to stick to the latest, greatest diet plan, get the latest exercise equipment and even a personal trainer - and still have trouble burning fat?
From a scientific perspective, the basics of burning fat will never change:
1. Eat a diet of unprocessed foods, low in refined carbohydrates and high in healthy fats, veggies and proteins.
2. Use an exercise program based on strength training and interval training.
However, there are people who do the basics and still have trouble getting to a healthy weight and body fat percentage. In such cases a bit of "detective work" is needed to find out what exactly is getting in the way of good results.
You usually don't come across these reasons in most health articles, but if you have been frustrated with your lack of results, fixing one of these problems may help you to progress.
Problem 1: Over training
While most people lack physical activity, it is possible to have "too much" of a good thing. Excessive training that you are unable to recover from places stress not only on your muscles and joints, but also on your adrenal glands, which control much of your body's response to stress.
Lots of exercise combined with the stresses of work, study, and even environmental pollution can overwhelm the body's defenses and lead to a state of fat storage. This is because excessive, long term exposure to stress encourages your body to go into "survival mode" i.e. store fat just in case we get into a starvation situation.
I know this is not likely in food-abundant Singapore, but that is the way our bodies deal with stress and we can't change it. So what can we do?
- Get better, deeper sleep through better nutrition (eat only unprocessed food - no grains, dairy or soy which are common allergens and add to stress)
- Use supplements such as magnesium which aids muscle relaxation and stress management in your body
- Use shorter exercise sessions, never going past 30 or 40 mins.
Too many toxins
Problem 2: Too many toxins
It is an impossible task to stay totally "toxin free" as the world gets more and more polluted.
The non-profit research group "Environmental Working Group" did tests on the blood of newborn babies who have never breathed polluted air. Even children born in clean parts of the world like Alaska or the Pacific islands had toxins and chemicals - what more in an urban environment like Singapore.
The problem is that your body will slow its metabolism when it is under a toxic load. This makes fat burning very difficult!
One simple thing you can do is to check your hair and skin care products for things like parabens and phthalates which can disrupt your hormonal system.
Another thing you can do is to take a few grams per day (3-4g) of the amino acid glycine which aids your body in detoxifying petrochemicals. This should be cheaply available in most nutrition shops.
If you want a great book on toxicity, the best one I have found is Achieving Victory Over A Toxic World by Mark Schauss.
Not tracking your habits
Problem 3: Not tracking your habits
While knowledge is not usually a problem (after all, everyone knows that grilled fish with vegetables is a better meal than potato chips), we may not actually know how "off track" we are when it comes to having healthy habits.
For food, aim for nine out of 10 healthy meals. If you eat a meal of non-processed, nutritious food, it's a pass. And if you skipped a meal or ate refined food (e.g. bread, white rice, cookies etc), it's a fail.
If you get nine out of 10 passes, you are well on the way to good results. Any less than that, and you have room for improvement.
For exercise, you also need to track your progress. You may not need to go for "more" training, but if last week you took 20 mins to run 4km, this week you need to be aiming for 19:30! If you lifted 50kg 10 times last week, this week you should be aiming for 51kg. If you don't try to progress, you won't, and you will get no further results.
For sleep, you should have no more than one night per week with disturbed sleep. Not being able to fall asleep, waking up in the middle of the night, and waking up feeling un-refreshed means you need to work on your sleep quality. Even something as simple as sleeping with an eye mask and ear plugs, as well as turning off all electronics in your room, can give a great increase in sleep quality.
There we have it. If one of these problems is an obstacle in your road to a better physique and better health, put these tips into practice, and get those obstacles out of the way!
This article was contributed by Jonathan Wong, a personal trainer and weight loss coach. Coach Jon, as he is known to his clients, owns Genesis Performance Center, a private health and fitness centre that offers personal training and fitness bootcamps in Singapore. To find out more, visit www.coachjon.com.