7 dos and don'ts for fat loss

PHOTO: 7 dos and don'ts for fat loss

When you are trying to lose fat, there are some dietary guidelines that can help you suceed. In the second edition of his book TEN, world wushu champion and actor Vincent Ng shares a ten week exercise programme, along with health and fitness tips, to help you get that toned body. The following is an excerpt from the book.

1. Do drink eight to ten glasses of water every day

About two-thirds of the human body is made up of water, so preventing dehydration is very important. Athletes who are undergoing training can lose more than 7 1/2 litres of water a day through perspiration. When I train, I make sure I replenish the water loss.

When you are on a fat-loss diet, you will be even more prone to becoming dehydrated. Even a very small shortage of water can disrupt your body's functions. If your muscles become dehydrated by only 3 per cent, you will lose 10 per cent of your contractile strength and 8 per cent of speed.

Water balance is the most important variable in sporting performance and maintenance of good health.

The quality of the water you drink affects the quality of your muscles. Water from the tap has been treated with chemicals to keep it germ-free. Make sure the water you drink is pure. You could try getting one of the many water-purifying devices that are readily available on the market.

2. Do eat foods that are high in complex carbohydrates and fibre

Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy, especially when we engage in resistance training, which requires considerable strength and stamina. When your body has depleted its store of carbohydrates, physical and mental performance is compromised. I try to make sure that 50 to 55 per cent of my daily caloric intake comes from foods that contain high-quality complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables, whole grains and fruit.

During my Wushu competition days, I did not realise the importance of carbo-loading. Basically, it means to load up on carbohydrates prior to an event that you know will use up a lot of your energy. It is widely practised by high-level athletes in preparation for competition. I adopted this practice when I started to weight train; my carbohydrate intake goes up by about 70 per cent on the days that I train.

However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. A diet high in simple carbohydrates can disrupt your metabolism of fat and can also cause an increase in your body fat. I try to eat food that is high in complex carbohydrates such as whole grains and other whole foods (like potatoes) that are also low in fat and contain fibre and protein. However, be careful not to overindulge on carbohydrates even if they are of the complex kind. As carbohydrates are easily digestible, the temptation to gorge yourself on them is great.

The power of protein

3. Do ensure that you're getting enough protein

Protein is "muscle food". When you undergo physical training and begin to develop more muscle tissue, your body will require more protein to repair, maintain and grow your muscle cells.

In addition to making muscle tissue, proteins have other important functions. Proteins are made up of amino acids. Amino acids also form enzymes that are needed to make your body run correctly. They are also used to make neuro-chemicals that are used in your brain and nervous system. Since it is our nervous system that controls our muscles, it makes sense to keep it well nourished.

4. Do stick to a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol

There are good fats and bad fats. Saturated fats are bad fats and should be eliminated from your diet. Almost all saturated fats, such as animal fat, are solid at room temperature. Most foods high in saturated fats are low in essential fatty acids and high in cholesterol.

Food that is higher in unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. These fats, found in plant and fish oils, tend to be high in essential fatty acids, which have many beneficial effects on the body.

However, food processing can change unsaturated fats into semi-saturated ones. Although most saturated fats are solid at room temperature, this does not mean that all oils that are liquid at room temperature are unsaturated. Coconut oil, for example, is liquid but is primarily composed of saturated fats.

5. Don't consume processed foods

When sugar or flour is processed or refined, much of the fibre and nutrients in them is also removed in the process. Fibre regulates digestion; it slows down digestion in the body to a healthy rate. When your diet is high in refined and processed food, it is lower in fibre and essential nutrients.

Besides being a source of "empty calories", some processed foods may actually be harmful to your health. It has been suggested that refined sugar, for example, surges through the body too rapidly, causing the release of chemicals called free radicals, which have been associated with ageing and heart disease. This is why complex carbohydrates are preferable. They do not rush through your system and overwhelm it.

Essential nutrients

6. Do lower your salt intake

Salt is an essential mineral; if we do not get enough of it, our health and athletic performance will be affected. However, if we consume too much of it, our health will also be damaged.

Besides causing serious health problems such as high blood pressure, taking too much salt will also upset our bodies' water balance, which can slow us down. As most of our diets are already too high in salt, we need to cut back on seasoning our food and on our consumption of packaged (canned or preserved) food.

7. Don't indulge in fast food

Fast food often contains too much sugar, saturated fats, cholesterol and salt. Most fast-food products have very little to offer in terms of complex carbohydrates, protein, fibre, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Need I say more?

Functions of Essential Nutrients

        Nutrient        Major Function        Recommended Food Sources
Proteins        Build and repair tissues.
Contain amino acids, which are vital to many body structures and physiological functions.
Egg white; soy beans; white meats such as chicken, fish, turkey; and lean cuts of beef and lamb
        CarbohydratesProvide energy.Whole (unprocessed) grains such as brown rice; pasta; cereal; pulses such as kidney beans and red beans; potatoes
FatsAn essential part of cell membranes, they transport fat-soluble vitamins throughout the body, cushion internal organs and are a source of concentrated energy.Plant oils such as flaxseed, peanut, soy, walnut, olive and corn oils; fish oils
Vitamins and mineralsRegulate body functions and make up body structures.All whole food
WaterVital to health and peak performance.Pure water; other beverages and foods with high water content such as fruit and vegetables

TEN: Commit to fitness and get a lean and trim body in ten weeks by Vincent Ng is published by Marshall Cavendish and is available at all major bookstores.