As anybody who’s ever tried to undertake a fitness challenge knows, nutrition is an undeniable part of the equation. After all, it’s now a common fitness trope that “Abs are made in the kitchen”. The guys of the MH 100 Days Challenge aren’t necessarily looking to get abs, but they still have fitness goals, and in order to fulfil them, they’re on more disciplined eating plans that unfortunately don’t factor in nasi lemak. And, judging by the questions posed to Goh Yien Von, Fitness First Assistant General Manager and Nutritionist, some have had a harder time adjusting than others.
The guys had so many questions for her that we had to make this a two-parter. Have a read below, and if your questions weren’t answered in the first round, maybe you’ll find that they are here.
MH: Is there a difference between the kind of protein that’s ingested in those shakes and actually eating something?
GYV: Yes. When you’re talking about protein, you want to look at how bio-available it is to your body. Say you’ve eaten protein from a plant source, like tofu, as opposed to protein from an animal source like beef or eggs; there is a difference because protein from red meat is more readily available – our body absorbs protein from these sources easier. When you’re talking about protein supplements, such as whey protein, then this is easily absorbed by our body too. So, if you find yourself short of time or you can’t get to a meal quickly enough, then you can definitely have a shake to help with your results.
MH: Are supplements – such as protein shakes, creatine powder, glutamine power, etc. – okay to consume, especially if I can’t meet my calorie or protein quota for the day?
GYV: Yes, absolutely. It’s just a matter of playing with quantities and understanding the product that you’re buying. Generally, a scoop of protein is about 20g of protein (about five egg whites), so you just have to work around the requirement that you need for the day.
MH: What kind of foods can help accelerate recovery, so I don’t feel sore after a workout?
GYV: There’s no one magic food that can help with recovery, but getting the right balance of carbs and protein, and making sure your water intake is adequate (both during your workout and afterwards) [is a good rule of thumb to follow]. Generally, if you’re working out for 45 minutes to an hour (doing both strength and cardio workouts), you should really be drinking at least a litre of water afterwards. Looking at the quality of carbs will make a difference too, [especially] when you relay it back to energy.
MH: Can drinking enough water help flush out lactic acid? How much water should I drink?
GYV: You should be drinking the minimum eight glasses of water a day, and the litre that you should be drinking post-workout is in addition to that. The lactic acid part is probably more of a question for a personal trainer, however!
MH: Sometimes, my energy levels are low, even though I’m eating quite well (good carbs with each meal serving). Is there anything that could be missing from my diet, or should I try to get more sleep? I’m averaging six hours a night at the moment.
GYV: Definitely try to get more sleep! Sleep is the most important form of recovery for the body. There is a saying: “Muscles are torn in the gym, repaired in the kitchen, and built in bed.” So, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you won’t see as much progress. Are you getting enough fruit and veggies too? They’re packed with antioxidants that are really good at helping with your recovery and energy levels, but if you’re only clocking six hours a night, definitely get more sleep.
MH: I’m thinking of not eating any oil or sugar for 30 days. Will I be able to slash a lot of fat this way?
GYV: Generally, yes. They’re unnecessary calories that you can do without, but you need to make sure that you’re getting your basic protein and carb requirements. Carbs especially, because they’re not the enemy! This is just how your body works. If you’re not giving it enough calories, your body will go into starvation mode. Fat is actually very valuable to your body – if you burn a gram of fat, it will give you a lot more energy compared to glucose. So, if you’re talking body fat, as long as your basics are fulfilled, cutting out sugar and oil will help with the process.
MH: People often say this about alcohol: “Beer is bad, Guinness is okay, wine is alright and whiskey is better”. Is there any truth in that?
GYV: In this context, where you want a shredded body, then you should probably give up alcohol! [laughs] But if you’re someone who enjoys a drink, then I guess it comes down to the calories. A nip of spirits would be better than a whole beer (calorie-wise). So, in this context, you’re just looking at calorie content, but this can get out of hand if you forget the quantities.
MH: Is a cheat day alright? How would you define a cheat day?
GYV: Well, we’re human after all, but I don’t really like the notion of a cheat day, because if you eat well and your basics are correct, then it’s okay to treat yourself three times a week. It’s not about the all or nothing mentality (even though it works for those who are very disciplined). If you go all out and binge on a certain day, then you really will undo all the good work that you’ve done – and that’s why I don’t like the idea of a cheat day.
I’d much rather you eat balanced meals and in moderation all week long instead. If you’re following a nutrition plan, two squares of chocolate a few times a week or two glasses of red are perfectly okay. There’s the mental aspect as well. If you’ve been depriving yourself for two weeks, you’ve been depriving yourself for so long that when cheat day finally comes around, it’s very hard to stay in control. You’ll end up regretting your cheat day, and mentally, it’ll feel like a setback.