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By Nawaz Modi Singhania  

Dear Nawaz,

What exactly do fat burners do? Are they both effective & safe ?
- Wondering

Fat burners usually claim to speed up the body's metabolism, thereby increasing energy expenditure, or caloric output.

Generally speaking, the problem is that in the process of doing so, there are various side effects. Firstly, the heart rate increases. So does the blood pressure. This can be life threatening to cardiac patients. Secondly, fat burners have not been adequately researched yet, & therefore the full implication of their effect is not entirely known or understood.

It's far safer to combine a sensible diet which limits caloric intake with exercise, while keeping these powders, supplements, pills & potions at bay.

I workout 3-4 times a week. I was wondering if taking protein supplements would help ?
- Curious

Most of us (even vegetarians) consume 2- 3 times more protein than the body requires anyway. The body stores excess protein in the form of fat in the body. Excessive protein intake can also do a lot of damage to the liver & kidneys. Unless you are weight training for competition, you do not need any protein supplements. Just make sure that you consume a balanced diet, high on carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables & fibre, & low on fat & simple sugars, & you're set.

What is the best time of day to workout ?
- Early bird

There really is no "best time" to workout. Whatever works for each individual is fine. Many people prefer to finish their workouts off in the morning as they feel that distractions are at a minimum, & they can single-mindedly get their workouts in. They feel there are too many reasons & excuses not to work out at the end of the day. Others prefer to make it a part or their routine to get their workout in at the end of the day on their way home from work. They feel this also helps them unwind. So, it really depends on your lifestyle. Some feel that around 5:00- 5:30 p.m. is ideal as an individual's metabolism is at it's peak at that time, but there is no conclusive evidence to support this as yet.

Although I'm just 25, I've started noticing cellulite on myself, particularly on my hips & thighs. Can exercise do anything to get rid of this problem ?
- Horrified

Unfortunately, there is no total cure to this one, but there is a lot of improving you can do. A balanced diet, rich in fruits & vegetables is crucial. Drink a lot of water, & improve you posture. This will ensure that your body functions at maximum efficiency, allowing for a smooth flow of air to the lungs, & more efficient blood circulation. Avoid crossing your legs at this restricts your blood circulation. Getting a regular massage will help lymphatic drainage, which means that toxins will shift more rapidly from your body. As far as working out goes, exercising aerobically will burn off excess fat & dramatically improve the appearance of your cellulite.

I am 5' 3" tall & weigh 40 kgs. The sight of food puts me off, & I have paranoia of putting on weight. I workout 3- 5 times a week, time permitting. Everyone tells me I am scrawny & need to put on weight. I feel that this is a very personal choice & doesn't concern anyone else. As you are a fitness expert, I would like your advice.
- Skinny

This may not be what you want to hear, but I will have to agree with the rest of the world. For your height, you are grossly underweight. Besides just the visual aspect, this can lead to numerous health problems.

It was Robert Orben (in "The Ad-Libber's Handbook") who said, "She's a perfect 36: 12, 12, & 12.... I think she used to model for thermometers."

Please remember that a perfect figure is not about being scrawny all over, but about being slim in the places one is meant to be slim, & stacked in the places one is meant to be stacked.

From what you say, you seem to be anorexic. Remember that good health is about good mental & physical health, & that one without the other is no good. I would advise you to re-think your position.

My daughter is 10 years old. She's very overweight, but won't control her diet or get an ounce of physical activity in. I'm very concerned as both her parents have a tendency to be overweight. What can I do ?
-Worried Mom

At this age, most kids think that a balanced diet is a hamburger in each hand! I would strongly suggest that you leave her alone. What you say will make no difference to her, in fact it'll probably have the adverse effect & she will do all that you don't want her to, just to defy you. The better thing to do is to (silently) set a good example yourself. Children follow their parent's actions, not their words.

At the end of the day, realize that she is only a child. Let her enjoy her childhood. She will change when she is ready to, & not before this. Give her some space; most kids are quick learners. Your nagging her will achieve nothing but can potentially spoil your relationship with your daughter.

I'm 24 years old & have started developing varicose veins. Can exercise do anything to help me get rid of them ?
- Paranoid

There are quite a few ways of keeping the problem to a bare minimum. Yes, exercise can improve the condition. Cardio workouts will increase cardiac & respiratory suction action. Weight or strength training also results in improved pumping action. Include stretches for the lower limbs. This will help the peripheral veins.

I've been exercising regularly 6 days a week for the past few months. I was wondering if this is bad for the hair, as I now have to wash it everyday or atleast every second day because of my workouts ?
-Beautiful tresses

You have no cause for worry. Ask any beautician or hairstylist & they will tell you that working out is actually great for the hair. The increased & improved circulation stimulates the scalp, keeping the hair healthy, shiny & full.

This may sound like a stupid question, but I'm terribly fond of rich food, & horribly lazy to ever be able to exercise, but need to lose fat, & fast. How do I go about it ?
- Easy does it

Sorry ma'am, this may sound like a stupid answer, but unless you decide to wake up, get your act together, & change your ways, don't wait for miracles to happen anytime soon.

A sleepwalker is the only person who gets his rest & exercise at the same time.

I come to your aerobics class 3 times a week, & to your gym 2-3 times a week. I also play squash thrice a week, & swim 2-3 times a week when the weather permits. When I can't swim, I make sure I go for a walk.
In spite of all this, my fat loss seems to have slowed down. Can you shed some light on this situation ?
- Trying too hard

You seem to be over-doing it. Over-exercising actually slows down fat burning. It also exposes you to a greater level of risk of injury due to overuse. Cut back on your activities, & make sure that you combine your efforts with a sensible, restricted, but balanced diet, & that you remain within your target fat-burning zone during exercise. The results will take care of themselves. You'll see.

I have always been careful about maintaining my health & my figure, & have been successful so far. However, with advancing age (I am now 32) I find that it's not so easy anymore. I really have to struggle now, & the results are just not the same. What's going wrong? Please help.
- Dissatisfied

Unfortunately, what Mother Nature giveth, Father Time taketh away.

You've answered your own question! With advancing age, this is a problem we will all have to face. As we get older, our BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), that is the rate at which we expend or burn calories, decreases. This means, that to maintain the same figure or physique, as the case may be, we have to workout harder or more frequently, & watch our food intake more diligently. It's not an impossible task; it just takes more effort than before, that's all.

Please remind me: What are the dos & don'ts when doing sit-ups ?
- Forgetful

Make sure that atleast one knee is bent, at about a 90 degree angle. Keeping the head lowered & the spinal column rounded, slowly lift the head, shoulders & upper body off the floor. Simultaneously press the lower back firmly on the floor, while contracting the abs. Exhale while coming up, & inhale while moving back down. While lowering, keep the head & shoulders off the floor. This way, the neck & shoulders aren't strained, & you'll maintain constant pressure on the abs. For a more challenging option, don't sit all the way either. Just sit up a little higher that halfway.