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Fat is a nutrient in food. Like all nutrients, fat is beneficial if consumed in the right amount and the right types. It is harmful to eat either too much or too little of it.
Fat is the most concentrated source of energy, providing 9 calories per gram. It provides essential fatty acids that cannot be made by the body and helps absorption, transportation and storage of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Fat also adds aroma, flavour and texture to food.
Fat has several important functions in the body. It is part of the structure of body cells. Fat helps to insulate the body and keeps you warm. It cushions and protects delicate organs like the heart, lungs and kidneys.
The key to getting lean, which is the ultimate goal whether you are losing or gaining weight, is to ensure it is being achieved healthily. As a general guideline, target losing or gaining weight by 1 to 1.5kg per week. Most of the time sudden weight change is due to water content.
In your diet, you will have to make certain changes. Going with a general guideline, you should still fine-tune it to your individual needs. Take salt for example, too much of it can lead to increased blood pressure as well water retention. Then again too little of it can also result in musle cramps.
Rather than eat fewer big meals a day, think about having several small meals a day. This will help you manage your calories better in relation to your subsequent activities. Plan your day as several 3-4 hr blocks and choose an appropriate meal for each of them.
Example, a block consisting of a 1 hr workout would require more calories for energy compared to a block which consists of only watching TV.
Exercising will form another component of your weight management programme. For those intending to gain weight, the ideal scenario is for your calories to match if not go slightly above your activity requirements and vice versa for weight loss.
Most of us want to lose a little bit of body fat.
We’ve been conditioned into believing that cardiovascular exercise is the best way: the harder we go, the more calories we “burn”.
Running makes you sweat and is valuable cardiovascular exercise, but it expends a disappointing 75 calories per kilometer (on average) and it doesn’t stimulate significant muscle development.
The most effective way to change the shape of your body is to engage in strength or resistance training.
We’ve all heard people complain that they cut down on all luxuries in their diet and do so much cardio, and yet after initial decrease in body weight (where they probably lose more muscle than fat), the basic shape and proportion of their body doesn’t really change at all.
Your body’s metabolic rate is a measure of its efficiency in maintaining basic life processes. When you workout, this raises significantly. After training there is a flow-on effect, where metabolism stays elevated for some time.
Over time as you train regularly, you progressively condition your metabolism (the body’s engine room) to operate faster (even when not working out). This means you burn more calories continually. The more calories you burn the more you keep body fat under control. By the time you add on three pounds (a mere 1.37kg) of lean muscle, your body requires an extra 9000 calories a month just to break even? so, in effect, you need to add muscle to take away fat.
Alongside this, if you can hold your diet steady you will be vaporizing body fat. Yes, I can hear you thinking, so this means I may have to put on “weight” (in the form of muscle) to lose fat?well, kind of!
Muscle weighs heavier than fat, so in theory if you gain muscle and stay the same on the weight scales it suggests that you have lost significantly more fat than the muscle you have gained?get it?
Greater muscle mass equates with a higher metabolism, which utilizes more calories, and more effectively uses fat as a fuel (energy) source to drive our bodies.
But you may still feel you are doing all this hard work to strengthen your muscles and yet you can’t quite see the shape you want. That’s because fat sits directly under the skin and on top of muscle. You have to be patient and trust that over time, as you strengthen muscles all over your body, they will require more calories to operate and therefore naturally metabolize fat faster.
As the fat begins to melt away, you will be left with visibly lean and shapely muscle?and no, we are not talking Mr. or Miss Universe, but the kind of body that looks great in a strapless dress or a singlet and shorts, a body that is evenly proportioned and for ladies a body that will turn heads (not only men’s, but other envious women who may not be privy to your training “secret”).
OK, that aside, you may still be thinking: if I want to trim down my hips and butt, and flatten my stomach I’ll do hundreds of leg lifts and crunch sit ups till I burst. Of course, it is tempting to feel that by torturing your hips and butt till they ache you are “burning” fat away from that vicinity to reveal your preferred shape, but localized training on specific “trouble spots” has been repeatedly proven not to work for fat loss.
Fat comes off all over the body, proportionally, as we train regularly. And in the short term, it appears that the places we desire most to see it gone are the most reluctant to let it go. However, this is only a perception on our part, because, of course, we hold comparatively more fat in those areas and it is simply going to take a little longer to shift than from other places where less fat is stored.
The answer is to persevere!
To combine strength training with a sensible cardio regime is ideal, as it is vital to your health to exercise your heart and lungs (your heart is in fact a muscle). This balance will keep you internally “fit” (the cardio) and externally “in shape” (the strength training).
As with anything, moderation is key, as overdosing on cardio training can interfere with the benefits to be derived from your weights work. After a certain point with intensive Cardio, muscles can actually begin to deplete, so this is counterproductive: you need to maintain muscle to burn more calories and manage body fat.