Fat-Burning Myth

The concept of weight loss and fitness is shrouded with several myths and misconceptions, the most common one being eating certain foods that will burn fat.

Some of the miracle foods that have been frequently listed are lime juice, honey, green tea, spices such as cumin and cinnamon, grapefruit, cucumber, yoghurt, garlic, quinoa and oatmeal.

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But the truth is these foods will not burn fat. For fat to be ‘burnt’ it has to be used as fuel. Increasing expenditure of energy by moving and exercising more is the only way to use fat as fuel.

Simply eating a certain kind of food will not achieve the same results. Some ingredients like caffeine, spices, garlic, etc increase the metabolism of the body for a brief period of time following consumption and can lead to a temporary, marginal increase in calorie burn. All foods, when consumed, will require a certain amount of energy for digestion. This is called the ‘thermic effect’ of food. Some foods have a greater thermic effect than others. Protein, for instance, has a higher thermic effect than a simple carbohydrate. Digesting protein burns more calories than digesting simple carbs. Just consuming these foods however does not lead to any significant fat loss. There is absolutely no evidence to prove this myth.

However, all the above foods can be beneficial to the body. They have some key nutrients that are important for proper functioning of the body and keep your digestive tract healthy by improving the gut microbes.

Moreover, consuming such foods may also indirectly help in cutting down nutrient-poor foods. For example, drinking lime juice early in the morning is great especially in hot weather. Though it does not have the ability to miraculously burn fat, it could limit your intake of tea and coffee with added sugar and thereby cut calories.

Green tea has beneficial antioxidants called catechins which are known to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and improve brain and heart health.

If you ate only grapefruit all day, there is a good chance of losing weight. This however is not the miraculous property of the fruit, but the general decrease in calorie intake.

When eaten as part of a healthy balanced diet, these foods provide great health benefits and help in weight loss if they can prevent you from indulging in processed fast foods with additives, flavourings and sugar.

Big companies that produce and market ‘fat-burning food’ have mastered the art of advertising and selling. The psychology used is an offer of a convenient solution for something that we desire deeply — to lose fat — packaged and marketed beautifully.

Take green tea for instance, the chances of buying a tin of expensive green tea is certainly more if it says “helps burn fat” on its packing, as opposed to “helps improve brain and heart health”. Just losing pounds is good enough! We can be slim with Alzheimer’s!

danika-perkinson-1055412-unsplashDiets that include ‘fat burning’ foods are numerous and impressive. That particular combination of exactly 1½ tsp of honey with lime juice, using the juice of just 2 limes, will help you lose weight is too attractive to ignore.

We prefer to believe in these miracle solutions especially when it comes to weight/fat. It suits us to think that something beyond our control has led to our weight gain and we need something extraordinary to help us get rid of the excess baggage.

I would suggest however that instead of focusing on weight alone, improving health and fitness levels by incorporating a regular, sound exercise programme, focusing on healthy balanced diet, including the fat burning foods, along with proper management of stress, sleep and relationships, will most certainly bring better, long lasting results.

Our obsession with fat, weight, size and appearance at the cost of neglecting deeper health issues has only compounded the problem of obesity and illness.

Food companies have capitalised on this anxiety by selling products that claim to help us lose weight at a drastic speed or provide ‘low fat’ versions of your favourite foods which are devoid of nutrients and instead supplemented with all kinds of additives to keep us addicted. The Internet is rife with products such as the latest berry or herb from some exotic, remote part of the world that claims you will drop five sizes.

The long-term complications of fad diets, eating certain foods exclusively or eliminating whole food groups, are numerous. Let us not be victims of these marketing strategies at the expense of our well-being and instead think sensibly about fitness and wellness by including simple solutions like regular exercise and healthy eating habits.

This article was first published in The Rotary News in April 2017.

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Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus has raced ahead as one of the most prominent contenders for ‘Disease of the 21st century’ and India has the proud privilege of being the diabetic capital of the world. Diabetes Type 2, the more common kind, refers to a disease that usually makes its appearance after the age of 40. What is horrifying now, however, is that even children in their teens are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes so it can hardly be called ‘adult onset’ anymore. 

diabetes

Let’s start by trying to prevent diabetes altogether. If you are a person of Indian origin you are more likely to have an inherent predisposition to the disease. Compound that with our lifestyle like food habits (especially the huge amounts of refined carbs and sugar most people in India consume), sedentary lifestyles, poor sleep, and stress levels, the chances of developing the full-blown disease is higher.

As a result of poor lifestyle habits like sedentary living, obesity and unhealthy food patterns, Diabetes type 2 appears much earlier in life and is rampant in the Indian subcontinent as this article suggests (1). I have patients tell me that they are resigned to the fact that they will develop diabetes since they have a ‘family history’ of the disease. This is not necessarily true. While there is a genetic component to diabetes (as with many other lifestyle diseases), Epigenetics plays a large role in the actual development of the disease. 

Epigenetics

This exciting field of research has revealed to us that our lifestyle, (what we eat, how much we exercise, how we manage stress, how much sleep we get and so on) play a critical role in the ‘expression’ of a gene. What this means is that even when we may have inherited the gene for a particular disease, it does not necessarily imply that the disease is inescapable. We can certainly prevent it with our lifestyle choices. Even stress is implicated in the development of diabetes (2). Consuming sugar, for instance, can be a cause for diabetes, hypertension and heart disease (3) So… lifestyle matters…. a great deal. 

What do we do about it? How do we prevent it? 

This is not an exhaustive review of the prevention and management of diabetes. Instead, it is a quick read to run you through what you can do to both prevent and manage the disease.

Fitness, Food & Lifestyle is the cornerstones of both prevention and management. 

Food

Diabetes

Stay off sugar. Yes literally go on a no-added-sugar diet. That includes refined or unrefined sugar, jaggery, honey, molasses etc. Artificial sweeteners have not been found to be safe. Stevia (which is a natural plant) is your best bet if you must have something sweet.  Remember that most packaged foods (even savories) have added sugar. Consider sugar a treat to be eaten on very rare occasions. You get used to it! Your palate adapts beautifully and if you go off sugar completely and after a while, you really do develop a dislike for the sweet flavor. I can just see some people saying, ‘Now why would I want to do that?’. The answer to that will be, ‘Because you will thank yourself later for making that choice’.

  • Stay completely away from processed or refined food, which tends to rapidly increase blood sugar levels (besides adding calories). This includes white flour, packaged foods and snacks and anything that says ‘refined’ or ‘processed’.
  • Eat more fiber – in the form of vegetables and fruit. Fiber slows the absorption of glucose from the food and keeps the blood sugars stabilized. This would mean eating about three to six cups of vegetables and a couple of fruits a day (depending on your weight, gender, activity level and so on).
  • Ensure you get enough nuts seeds and healthy fats. Fats in your food also slow absorption of sugar and keep you sated longer.

While on your medication, be attentive to the timings and quantity of your meals. Long periods of hunger or binge eating result in wildly fluctuating blood sugars. Every meal needs to be well planned and contain a combination of complex carbs, protein, and good quality fats to slow the absorption of glucose. 

Exercise 

Exercise
Depending totally on medication to control your diabetic condition is, at best, a pretty shortsighted strategy. Including regular exercise for instance not only burns calories to keep your weight, sugar in check and so on but also has been found to
control, modify, slow down the progression or even reverse the disease and its outcome. Besides, the obvious benefits of exercise like weight loss, stronger bones and muscles, more flexibility, better mood, and higher self-confidence apply for a diabetic as much as anybody else to improve the overall quality of life. 

What kind of exercise? 

Include Aerobic activity, Strength training, and Flexibility to your routine. 

Aerobic activities like walking, running, cycling etc. burn calories and utilize blood glucose for energy. Depending on your body weight and weight loss goals, you would need to exercise aerobically for about 30-60 minutes every day. If you are already diabetic you should still be exercising aerobically at least 30-60 minutes/day. Cardio is great for diabetics and to prevent the disease. If you are already diabetic on medication, however, keep in mind that long duration cardio may cause drops in blood sugar levels making you feel faint and so on.

Interestingly HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training has been found to be very effective in diabetics (as this article (4) shows) for both fat loss and effective sugar control without the drastic and sudden blood sugar decline. HIIT is much shorter in duration but with intervals of high-intensity work.

Strength training on a regular basis (using weight machines, dumbbells, barbells, and own-body-weight) increases muscle mass and eventually decreases fat percentage. So why build muscle? How is that related to diabetes? Can we just not do cardio?

As this article shows (5), Strength training is crucial if you want to build muscle mass and better manage Diabetes. This aspect of fitness is very often neglected. Training with weights encourages the movement of glucose into the muscles and improves sensitivity to insulin. This may mean a decrease in dosage of insulin (if you are taking it) or other diabetic medication over time. Weight training 2-4 times a week is adequate to show improvement in muscle mass and strength.

Stretching is an integral part of any routine. Stretching every day, or incorporating a modality like Yoga to your routine will keep you agile, improve posture (which is often the result of muscle imbalance), prevent injury and muscle soreness.

stretching

Work on your balance. Balance and strength training reduces the likelihood of falls and injury, which could prove dangerous, particularly for a diabetic whose wound healing is impaired. This is especially important for an elderly diabetic.

What special precautions does a diabetic need to take while exercising? 

  • Get a medical clearance from your doctor. Work with someone like a Lifestyle Medical Practitioner who is familiar with exercise for Diabetics.
  • Have regular health checks to monitor the disease and your blood sugar.
  • Confer with a fitness consultant familiar with your disease to plan and supervise your routine for you.
  • Check your blood sugar level before and after exercising initially until you get familiar with your activity and the way your body responds to your workout.
  • Check your feet for blisters or sores before and after exercising. There is no such thing as ‘just a little blister’ for a diabetic. That ‘little’ blister could become a full-blown ulcer or abscess that can tailspin into an unmanageable infection.
  • Wear properly fitted shoes and good quality socks. It is worth investing in superior quality training gear. Not only will this prevent unnecessary injury, it will keep you motivated to continue exercising!
  • Drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercising. Plain water is fine.
  • Always warm up before exercising and cool down afterward.
  • Have a snack or fruit handy just in case your blood sugar levels drop too low.
  • Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of low blood sugar and recognize them at the earliest.

Don’t let diabetes get in the way of your fitness. Some people, for fear of ‘going hypo’, avoid exercise altogether. However, this happens more often in insulin dependent, Type 1 diabetics. If you are cautious and aware of the precautions while exercising, there is no reason for you not to exercise regularly and lead a great quality life by experiencing all the positive spin-offs of regular exercise. Being fit helps you gain some semblance of control over this disease and your life in general.

Symptoms of low blood sugar – known as ‘going hypo’-

  • Dizziness or a general feeling of lightheadedness
  • Difficulty in focusing even slurring of speech
  • Nervousness and tremors
  • Sweating and weakness
  • Intense hunger
  • Palpitations
  • May lead to loss of consciousness

Diabetes is not fun and the repercussions of uncontrolled blood sugar are quite dreadful, affecting various parts of the body like the kidneys, eyes, and nerves. But what is quite shocking to me is how easily people adapt to living a ‘diabetic life’ with just medication and without really trying to manage it effectively with lifestyle. They blithely pop an extra anti-diabetic tablet and proceed to devour sweets with abandon. They gaily progress from taking anti-diabetic tablets to insulin, gradually evolving to higher and higher doses to control the blood sugar (which by the way is the symptom of the disease and not the disease itself), not recognizing that the medication itself has its own side-effects in the long term.

The disease is actually both preventable and reversible if you do it right. Yes, it takes effort and discipline. I would think however that discipline now is worth a better quality of life for the future.  

Reference:

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15645957

2) https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/11/06/stress-may-increase-type-2-diabetes-risk-in-women

3) Potential role of sugar (fructose) in the epidemic of hypertension, obesity and the metabolic…

4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334091/

5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21425888

Are You Training the Right Way?

Your workout could be potentially dangerous if it is not fine-tuned to your needs. Dr. SHEELA NAMBIAR

Are you training the right way?The fitness industry has, no doubt, undergone revolutionary changes over the last decade. The appearance of gyms in every street, the availability of jobs for trainers, fitness managers, physiotherapists etc has created an increasing awareness about it. The easy accessibility of a fitness facility for most people, particularly in the cities, has encouraged them to start exercising; or so I would like to believe!

Are gyms keeping pace with advancement in science and training techniques? Are trainers qualified enough to make informed choices about the exercises they choose for you? Are gyms offering the right kind of training or could these exercises be harming you?

“One size does not fit all” is an axiom that holds good for fitness training as for everything else in life. Each individual has to have a specific goal in mind and train accordingly taking into consideration age, gender, lifestyle, fitness level, time available for fitness, medical history and a host of other variables.

Training

There are hundreds of exercises that are demonstrable but do you need to execute all of them? Which ones are safe? Which ones are required? Which ones are relevant? How does one make that choice? Ideally, a trainer should be able to. Not all of them do however. Sometimes I find clients are given unnecessary, even damaging, exercises in the hope of producing quicker results.

Often the repercussions of incorrect and inappropriate exercise are not evident immediately. It may be years before your knees show wear and tear after incorrect squatting or running technique. This is not to say one has to avoid performing these exercises altogether. What it means is that while executing these potentially injury-causing moves, watchful training and correction is required from your trainer.

Some clients need to be trained even to walk or run correctly. One would imagine that walking and running comes naturally. Apparently not! This is especially so of those individuals who have never participated in any kind of physical activity in their childhood or youth. The muscles seem to have forgotten how to function optimally. As a result, they tend to injure themselves even with the simplest of exercises. They need extra care and a vigilant approach to training to prevent injuries and further setback.

What is vital is a keen knowledge of the human anatomy and physiology. Understanding how the body responds to stress, (exercise is a form of stress) and the disadvantages of certain exercises is essential to prevent injury. Other issues worth considering are:

What happens to the body when one begins to exercise?

How the muscles, heart and lungs respond?

What possible problems might the individual face along the way?

What precautions need to be taken?

If you are new to weight training, ensure you are taught all the basic exercises properly before moving on to more advanced ones. Request assistance whenever required. If something does not feel right, stop. In your anxiety to see quick results, don’t be lured into gimmicks and unhealthy strategies.

Ask questions. It’s your body; you need to understand exactly which muscle you are working. Understand how to execute the exercise perfectly and how you could possibly do it wrong. For instance, the squat is a wonderful exercise to tone, shape and build the lower body.

There are several ways to do it wrong however, particularly if one has weak thigh muscles. A tall person will have difficulty in performing the squat with perfect form initially, for instance, due to his anatomical disadvantage. Being tall raises the centre of gravity and increases the length of his levers (the legs, in this case). This tends to cause the knees to travel beyond the toes and the body tilting forward to compensate for balance and an attempt to lower the centre of gravity while performing the squat.

How do you circumvent this problem? The solution is multi-fold. Besides constant supervision to ensure correct form, it is important to first strengthen the leg muscles in isolation before attempting the squat. Performing selective quadriceps, hamstring and gluteus muscle strengthening exercising before incorporating a compound exercise like the squat will prevent injury to the knee joint.

The add-ons

Massage, sauna and steam do not help you reduce fat! If fat loss is your goal, work hard, include cardio and weight training into your routine and watch your diet. Lying around, being massaged may be wonderfully relaxing but it certainly does nothing for your weight, however tempting it may be to believe otherwise.

Diet

You need to include a well-balanced, nutritious diet to get the best benefits from your fitness routine. Extreme low calorie diets are not sustainable and often have adverse effects.

You need to understand food from a holistic perspective and how to eat as a lifestyle, not as a temporary weight-loss, strategy. You don’t need someone planning out menus for you. What you need is to understand food and implement your own choices.

Supplements and fat burners

What’s wrong with healthy wholesome food? Get a nutritional analysis done to ascertain how much protein you actually consume. Only if that is insufficient and if you are unable to include protein from natural foods should you supplement with protein powders. A recreational exerciser definitely does not need it. Understand how to include various protein options in your diet. Consuming protein powders does not directly translate as an increase in muscle mass. Sensible training is what does. Creatine, glutathione and other isolated amino acids have been widely propagated. Long-term safety has not been confirmed. Randomly taking supplements and fat burners does not improve health or fitness. Besides, they are expensive. Investing in healthy holistic food is a more sensible option especially when one thinks of it as a “lifestyle”. 

My Journey With TFL….

Around the year 2000, I went to see Dr. Indira Nambiar, my family Gynecologist for a bad back problem. I had been advised spinal surgery by the orthopedician and was very apprehensive about that.

Aji Jayaprakash - My Journey With TFLThrough Dr. Indira Nambiar I was advised to meet with her daughter Dr. Sheela Nambiar who is a Gynecologist but also uses Fitness & Lifestyle along with her Gyn practice for her patients, teaching them specific exercises for specific problems, helping them lose weight with diet and exercise and so on.

For 14 years I had neglected my health so much so that my bed side table began to resemble a mini pharmacy – prescriptions, candy coloured pills, tubes of muscle relaxants, oils etc.

At my wits end, I finally fixed an appointment to see Dr. Sheela Nambiar with a huge pile of medical reports, X– rays and MRIs. That was the best decision I ever made. She went through my reports and explained in detail why I should lose weight before I went in for any further treatment, if at all (since by then I was actually thinking of going in for spinal surgery!). I was given extensive diet counselling and was asked to come to the hospital to start muscle strengthening exercises for my back and my abdomen/core. I have not looked back since then.

I joined Dr Nambiar’s program – Training For Life or TFL in 2014. We get to do floor aerobics, stepper sequences, yoga and weight training. The cardio choreography has improved my memory, balance and reflexes. The weight/strength training has strengthened my muscles. The HIIT is a real challenge and I love it. I am strong, healthy, flexible and energetic.

Dr Nambiar also conducts workshops on holistic living, the psychology behind exercise, diet, nutrition, positive psychology and a variety of hugely interesting topics. All of this is getting us to truly practice TRAINING FOR LIFE.

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TFL has helped me to become a better version of myself! Ive lost weight, have no back pain (didn’t need the surgery after all), am in a much better mood most of the time and am loving life!

Thank you Dr. Nambiar for turning my life around. I would never have been able to make it this far without your guidance. You inspire me to challenge myself, to take that one more positive step forward every day.

– Aji Jayaprakash
Entrepreneur & Businesswoman
Ooty
The Nilgiris

Click here for more TFL client testimonials.

 

 

 

More Fitness Myths Debunked

This article was first published in The Hindu in March 2018.

When and what to eat; when to work out; which work out for a particular age… there are so many myths in the fitness world. This article tells you what’s right and what’s not.

More fitness myths debunked

Vegetarians cannot build muscle or perform as well as athletes who eat meat.

This is not necessarily true. In a beautiful review of research done on Vegetarianism and fitness/athletic prowess, David C. Neiman, examines the impact of a vegetarian diet on fitness in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Carbohydrate and not protein is the first choice as an immediate source of energy during exercise, even weight training. When the body is depleted of glycogen, it begins to break down protein from the muscle to avail energy.

Protein is necessary for repair and growth of muscle during recovery.

It has been found that a vegetarian diet does not necessarily lead to protein deficiency as believed. One does not need to eat protein exclusively from animal sources to reap the benefits. What is required is a variety of vegetarian foods, including different kinds of pulses, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains and cereals. Although an isolated plant food source does not contain all the essential amino acids that are required and cannot be considered a “complete protein”, eating combinations of varied plant foods will create the necessary complete proteins.

A vegetarian diet also encourages the intake of a larger quantity of fruits and vegetables, which contain antioxidants that reduce the oxidative stress of exercise.

Protein requirements for recreational weight training to build muscle can be very easily met with a well-balanced vegetarian diet. Protein supplements are certainly not mandatory. Consuming adequate amounts of pulses, whole grains, nuts and seeds will fulfil the recommended amount of 0.8-1.4 gm/kg body weight of protein/day depending on your level of activity.

Your training intensity and strategy determines how much muscle you build with weight training. Consuming protein powders in the hope of building muscle, while not training adequately does not.

Famous cyclist Adam Myerson, body builders like Alexander Dargatz and Andreas Cahling, legendary tennis players Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, celebrated track and field athlete Edward Moses, Greg Chappell and the late Jack Lalanne, body builder and fitness expert, are all vegetarians or vegans and have magnificent bodies to show for it.

Vegetarianism should not be a reason for an ineffective workout or a well-trained body. The fundamental principle is balanced nutrition; smart training to keep fat per cent at the optimum and strength, stamina and flexibility to the maximum.

The best time to workout is in the morning:

Hard to convince someone who is not particularly a ‘morning person’ of this theory. It is not necessarily true. Every individual has a different body rhythm. Not everyone can jump out of bed and run out the door in their trainers at an unearthly hour. Particularly when starting a fitness programme, try and accommodate it into the most comfortable time of the day for yourself instead of adding further stress by trying to wake up early.

Some people do very well with a mid-day workout while others prefer a late evening routine. A short intense pre-lunch workout may be just right for a working person. By the end of the day she may be too tired to fit in an hour in the gym. Alternately, others may find that working out later in the evening is de-stressing after a long day and helps them unwind and even sleep better (provided it is not too close to bed-time).

Work with your own body, not against it. More important that when you workout, is how you workout and how you feel after your workout and for the rest of the day. If you are going to walk around in a daze all day as a result of an early morning, this may not be the best option for you.

Age is a constraint to working out:

Very often I hear people say they are too old to start working out.

What is “too old”? Today, 40 is the new 30 and 60 is the new 40. Age should never be a constraint to starting an exercise programme, provided you have clearance from your physician and are monitored and guided by qualified professionals.

I was recently most delighted to receive a mail from a reader who says she is in her 50s and participating in half marathons. We don’t often see this in our country. Women, particularly, tend to get complacent after their child-bearing years and settle into a sedentary lifestyle, with perhaps a walk in the park and some gentle yoga to convince themselves that they are working out.

Starting a Weight Training programme as late as the 90s has been found to be beneficial in improving strength, muscles mass and daily functionality.

The motive for exercise changes with age. As children, it is mostly fun. In the 20s, it is typically cosmetic. Prevention of disease is far from even contemplated. One feels invincible, the only concern being, getting into those skinny jeans. And of course these days it is hip to be seen gymming or carrying around yoga mat.

In your 30s, you probably start to think about needing to lose all that weight you gained during pregnancy. If you have been unfortunate enough not to have exercised previously, then the annoying back pains, fatigue, gastritis, depression, mood swings and so on set in and life becomes a chore. Maybe exercise will help, you consider it.

In your 40s and 50s, women particularly, come into their own. They are more confident and able to make decisions for themselves. Societal and family pressure is not a priority. The reality sinks in, as the weight gets more obstinate and unyielding. Lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes may make their appearance. Or at least you consider the possibility that they may. So you begin your journey into fitness. If you are already a veteran, you will be enjoying the benefits.

Later in your life, basic day-to-day functionality is of prime concern. Most people exercise later in life only because they have probably been recommended exercise by their physicians to control blood pressure, diabetes and so on. The incidence of falls and injury due to lack of balance increases and the fear of invalidity and dependence can keep people active.

Point is: one doesn’t even need to justify the reasons to start exercising at any age. It should be a non-negotiable part of your day, just like cleaning your teeth or eating. If you haven’t started already, please do.  

Is Your Trainer Fit for You?

This article was first published in The Rotary News in Aug 2018.

Is your trainer fit for you

When you start on your fitness journey, or even if you are already immersed in it, you may want to hire a personal trainer to coach and guide you. Many people need that extra motivation they hope their trainer will provide. So how do you go about engaging the right trainer and how do you decide if he is the right fit for you?

There are several bodies that certify trainers. It could be the IFAA-India (International Fitness and Aerobic Academy); ACE (American College of Exercise); ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine); or the National Academy of Sports Medicine and several more. Your trainer may be a physiotherapist by qualification who is specialised in a particular field such as strength training or pilates. Many trainers who are perhaps athletes or sports persons, or have been body builders, are absorbed by a fitness facility and trained there to work with their clients. Check into their background when you start to work with a trainer.

Although your trainer’s skill and knowledge are important, what is even more important is his or her interpersonal skill, emotional and social intelligence and ability to guide and motivate. He or she may be very qualified and knowledgeable but lack in empathy and understanding of the clients’ needs.

What is your trainer’s fitness philosophy?

It is worthwhile to ask your trainer what his idea of fitness is. Is it just about looking buff or lean, or is it more holistic, combining nutrition, motivation and overall wellbeing? Does he understand his clients’ needs or works solely from his own perspective? Does he believe in helping others achieve their goals?

Here are some questions to address

  • Does he understand the various aspects of fitness such as aerobics, strength, flexibility etc, and how  these should be applied to you?
  • Does he understand the importance of diet and can he advice the right diet for you or refer you to a nutritionist? Does he talk to you about your dietary habits?
  • Does he know enough to handle your health condition? Say, you are diabetic and on medication, does he know enough to manage you while exercising? Does he ask about the medication you are taking? Or, if you are a senior person, can he handle an older client? Has he worked with older clients before?
  • Does he ask you detailed questions to understand your lifestyle? For example if your job is sedentary, if you travel a lot, if you socialise a lot, where you eat, if you have trained before, what kind of exercise you enjoy the most and so on.
  • Does he give you motivating tips to fill in the rest of your day (not just the hour in the gym)?
  • How does he motivate and challenge you? Does he use negative associations (by saying — you are fat and need to lose weight) or is he positive in his approach (by saying something like losing weight will help you lead a healthier, more enjoyable life and praising you when you improve)?
  • Does he know just how much to push and challenge you or does he absolutely insist on pushing you beyond your capabilities to a point of exhaustion and injury?
  • Does he constantly compare you with other clients?
  • Are you motivated and inspired by him?
  • Does he use encouraging language and praise you often when you achieve small goals or does he make you feel you are just not good enough?
  • Does he help you set realistic goals and achieve them?
  • Does he teach you your exercises, explaining them to you, helping you understand why you do them and what body part they address etc?

Every individual is different and needs to be treated as such. The goals you set for yourself should be your goals and not your trainer’s. Your trainer should be a person who can guide you towards your specific goals. He should also educate you about your fitness routine. The objective should be to exercise independently when necessary and not be dependent on a trainer telling you exactly what to do and how to do it for the rest of your life. It’s okay to want to be motivated or inspired, but at some point the motivation should come from within you.

Finally, a trainer who wants you to be dependent on him is not really working with your best interests in mind. If you have a great trainer, you should eventually be able to exercise on your own, know enough about it and understand why you are doing what you are doing. You should be confident enough to be able to handle your own fitness routine and perhaps even inspire others.