Work that body

  • Health
  • Sunday, 13 Apr 2003

JUST when we thought we’d recovered from the onslaught of Jane Fonda videos in the 80’s, exercise has come back in fashion again. Here’s an interesting observation. The characters on TV are like the instructors on workout videos. OK, so TV characters don’t jump around cheerily, counting 1, 2, 3, but they do have the same killer bodies and annoyingly perfect looks. No wonder the exercise craze in the 80’s never really took off. Watching perfect people on TV is one thing, but taking instructions from them is another thing altogether.  

Today, almost two decades later, exercise has become trendy again. But this time, people are serious about it, because they’re concerned about their health. We just can’t escape all this talk about obesity, cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Experts keep drilling into our heads, “eat healthily, exercise more”, to the point that it has become a way of life for us.  

Even now, we’re already doing away with our hedonistic eating habits. We’ve become conscious of how much we eat and what we eat. We’re always watching our calories, by choosing low-fat and low-sugar foods to maintain body weight. Some smart people have even invented foods for guilt-free indulgence, such as no-fat frozen yoghurt and sugar substitutes. But nothing can beat this wave of exercise hitting the town. Every day, people are on treadmills and lifting weights to hip-hop beats. Men and women are taking kick-boxing lessons or stretchy workout classes with funny names like Pilates. The more adventurous go for horse-riding, modern dancing, hiking or extreme sports. 

Let’s face it, exercise has become?(dare we say it?)?fun. It helps us lose weight, makes us look good and makes us feel great. And before you call us masochistic, this is what Mark, a 30 year-old tax consultant and regular gym-goer, had to say about working out: “It’s not that I want to live forever. But I need to be healthy to stay on top of the game. A 6am workout every day? Bring it on. You wouldn’t believe the kind of rush I get after exercising. Makes me feel like there’s nothing I can’t do.” 


For a better workout 

The guidelines below are suitable for the general population of adults who exercise moderately (three to four sessions per week for 30-60 minutes per session). If you are into bodybuilding, competitive sports or serious training, consult a nutritionist or a dietitian; they can help you chart a proper eating plan, according to your individual needs.  


Before exercise 

  •       Make sure you eat enough energy-giving carbohydrates, which will give you energy to exercise. The amount of carbohydrate foods you need depend on the type and duration of exercise you will be doing. 

  •        If you tend to hit the gym in the evenings, make sure you eat lunch. Fasting or skipping meals will not help you lose weight and can jeopardise your performance. 

  •       Fats and sugar are rich sources of energy, but excessive amounts could increase body weight and counterbalance the positive effects of weight loss from exercise.  

  •       Eat foods high in complex carbohydrates and low in fat, like bread, cereal or rice, to maintain blood sugar and energy stores. However, there’s no need to eat excessive carbohydrates (carbo-loading), as some serious athletes do before an event. If you don’t work it off, it’ll simply become body fat. 

  •       Drink 400-600 ml water (approximately 1½-2½ glasses) two to three hours before you exercise, to make sure you are well hydrated.  


    During exercise 

  •     Drink 150-350 ml water (approximately ½-1½ glasses) at 15-20 minute intervals. You can also drink sports drinks, which replace minerals lost during exercise and will also supply your exercising muscles with a ready supply of carbohydrates.  


    After exercise 

  •       Drink approximately 500 ml water (two glasses). 

  •       Don’t overeat or attack the soft drinks and snacks – you’ll be putting the calories right back on. 


    A word of caution 

    If you haven’t exercised for a long time (ie your last jog was during Phys Ed in school), seek your doctor’s advice on the right type of exercise for you.  

    This is especially important if you are overweight. Being too ambitious and taking on a strenuous exercise could be harmful if your body isn’t prepared for it. 

  • This article is contributed by Nutrition Society of Malaysia (NSM) in collaboration with Equal® Sensicare Bureau. NSM does not endorse any products.  

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