Health Questions & Answers
I have now been working in health and fitness industry for more than 15 years. I come across very similar pattern of
questions from clients and general population. I have chosen the most frequently asked questions or problem areas.
1. Belly Fat
2. Strength v/s Cardio-Vascular (CV) exercise training
1. Belly / Tummy Fat
This has been most frequently asked question either in person, on radio or via emails. There are so many products and ways to lose
tummy fat that if any of these products worked, the rest of us will be out business. If you spend hours doing stomach crunches,
what do you think is going to happen to your primary and secondarily (those assisting the movement) muscles? First you will ruin
your back as it might not be strong enough to handle your upper body weight and then you will use our hip flexors (upper leg
muscles) in order to complete the forceful movement. Are you with me so far? When doing various types of crunches for example,
the primary muscles involved are shortened and strengthened but the surrounding fat will still remain. How do you get rid of fat
Here is the blunt truth. If the total body fat% is high then there is nothing that will help you to get rid of tummy fat (fat around your
abdominals). The only way to attain a fat free tummy is to have a low total body fat percentage hence more lean tissue (muscle
mass). Do you remember when you were in your teens? Your muscle mass was higher than your fat mass hence you could eat
whatever you wanted and still not store any fat. As years passed on your muscle mass decreased and fat deposits increased.
More than 80% of your body composition is what you eat. If your diet is poor then even exercising 5 times a week will not lower
your body fat percentage. We live in a country where there is no shortage of food especially processed foods and refined
carbohydrates hence it’s this abundance of cheap food that is making most people very fat or obese.
The only natural way to decrease fat mass is increase muscle mass hence strength training is crucial. Please note that most
exercises engage your stomach/abdominal muscles during execution. You can make your abdominal muscles visible (call it a 6 pack
or a 7 pack) without engaging into any sit-ups exercises. You are more likely to awaken your abdominal muscles by lengthening
them (e.g. back extensions) instead of shortening them (e.g crunches or sit-ups).
2. Cardio-Vascular (CV) & Strength Training exercises
Your cardio-respiratory system is active 24 hours a day even when you are on your two feet. CV system is also in active mode when
you are doing strength training. If you watch the World’s Strongest Men competition, you will notice that when participants are
lifting/pushing/pulling a very heavy object, their heart rate is shot up to about more than 75% of their maximum capacity.
There is no such thing as CV training so to speak as your heart and lungs cannot differentiate between the types of exercise you are
performing. For example whether you are sprinting or doing a bench press your heart and lungs is responding to a stimulus. They
are reacting to these stressors and responding mechanically hence your heart and lungs are mechanically working to keep you
functional during these periods of training.
If you enjoy running then you should run (wearing correct footwear though) but if your goal is to reduce body fat% and you despise
running or cycling then strength training will also reduce your body fat%. Most of us fall between 2 groups of people; the sedentary
group and the athletic group. Sedentary group are sofa lovers (perfect if you want to be an astronaut) whilst the athletic group are
training to perform and compete at an elite level mainly selected due to their extra ordinary genetic potential (inherited) and hours of
perfecting their talents through training for decades. We are somewhere in the middle of this spectrum training to attain good health
and maintain mobility as we age. If you want to be a world class sprinter, swimmer or a cyclist then you will have to choose your
I strongly believe that strength training outweighs cardio respiratory training especially 'high intensity training' (HIT) mode. HIT is
mainly recommended for people who have had previous experiences of training/exercises either indoors (gym environment) or
outdoors. The prerequisites to perform HIT exercises are correct application of training principles & experience of at-least 6 months
(approximately 75 hours plus of progressive training sessions). Please note that HIT exercises can be very harmful to your
health and injury risks are high due to it's high performance impact on your skeletal, musculature and respiratory functions. Make
sure you have built a solid training foundation and are training with a qualified coach/trainer.
With correct strength training methods not only total body fat% will be reduced but a condition known as sarcopinia can be avoided
at later stages in life. Sarcopenia is an age related loss of muscle tissue and function. After the age of 25years, approximately 3 –
8% reduction of lean muscle mass decreases every decade.This may affect over 20% of people between the age of 60 – 70yrs, and
nearly 50% of people over the age of 80yrs (statistics gathered from American Council on Exercise).
I have worked with individuals who wanted to decrease body fat%, improve their maximal strength lifts, running speeds and also the
special populations such as patients suffering from osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, arthritis, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol,
asthma and cardio-obstructive pulmonary disease. All these clients had one thing in common, they were all deconditioned individuals
hence strength training was crucial in their training programme.
Well what can I say here? Thousands of diet books out there and yet lot of us are growing in size at an exponential rate every
decade. I personally believe that we should consume nutrients from all food groups. I have outlined below few suggestions;
a. Vegetables - asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, leeks, mushrooms,
okra, onions, peppers, tomatoes, pumpkin & rhubarb.
b. Protein - Dairy products, whole eggs, meat from grass fed animals. Avoid processed meats especially the carbohydrate content
c. Green salads - chives, cabbage, arugula, greens (beet, mustard and turnip), lettuce, kale, parsley, spinach, radishes &
d. Fats & Oils - All fats and oils are allowed including butter. Use coconut oil, extra virgin oil & peanut oils if possible. I highly
recommend flax seed oils & fish tissue oils as part of your food supplement.
e. Fish - Tuna, Salmon, trout, shrimp, crab and lobsters.
f. Fruits - Berries of different types, apples, bananas, kiwi, grapes, pomegranates, oranges, coconut, mangoes & pineapple slices.
g. Raw nuts - Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, Brazilian nuts, pecan nuts & cashews.
h. Water - Consuming just plain water regularly with a slice of lemon in it is beneficial to your overall health.
The amount of calories to be consumed daily will depend on your body weight, life style and physical activities. An athlete will
consume lot more calories than an average human being due to his/her intensity & duration of exercises. Please note that lowering
the consumption of salt, sugar and flour will be more beneficial to your long tern health.