Saigon Fat Loss Experts: Is Your Fat Burning Switch Turned On?

The Fat Burning or Storing Switch – Insulin vs. Glucagon

When it comes to either burning fat or storing fat our bodies have a chemical switch that you can manipulate to get the result you want. There are two hormones that control your fat burning or storing result – Insulin & Glucagon

Insulin health is a complex process. Insulin management is considered one of the most important factors when striving for a lean physique, have sustained energy levels, preventing chronic disease and to feel better.

What is insulin?

Insulin is the hormone that regulates how the body uses and stores carbohydrates (glucose) and fats. Insulin’s job is to control blood sugar levels. When sugar in the blood is high insulin is released to signal our muscles (and liver) and fat cells to ‘take in’ the glucose from the blood. The first place it try’s to push sugar is into the liver and muscles for energy when we exert ourselves. We have very limited storage space in the liver and muscles for glucose and once these stores are full the glucose is transported to our fat cells. Think of insulin as the storage hormone – we store fat in the presence of insulin.

What is Glucagon?

Glucagon is insulin’s opposite. The two need to work together to keep blood sugar in balance. One of Glucagon’s main roles is to breakdown stored fat for use as fuel by cells. It serves to keep blood glucose levels high enough for the body to function well. When insulin isn’t around glucagon can work to ‘burn’ fat to fuel your bodily functions and activities.

Importance for fat loss?

The crux of the fat loss matter is that Insulin stores fat and Glucagon burns fat. Our body releases insulin in response to elevated blood sugar. If you keep your sugar and starch intake low then your insulin levels should also be low allowing the body to release glucagon into your system to utilize stored fat for fuel… equaling fat loss. The SWITCH for fat burning or fat storing is in your control. It is a matter of switching off insulin and switching on glucagon.

Two other key terms to understand are Insulin Sensitivity and Insulin Resistance. These are not absolute terms and operate as a continuum where you can shift how your cells respond on the continuum to be either more resistant or sensitive. However, if your body is on the resistant end of the continuum for too long you can ‘break’ the system, which is commonly how type 2 diabetes develops.

Maximizing insulin sensitivity (when your body only needs to use a small amount of insulin to get it’s job done = efficient) is extremely important for fat loss because when you are insulin resistant (when your cells are less affected by insulin, the receptors stop ‘listening’ and stop accepting insulin and sugar into the muscles) the body is much more likely to store the food you eat as fat. If you are more resistant to insulin your body needs to pump more insulin into the blood stream and high insulin increases fat storage, which is why insulin resistance is associated with obesity. For a normal (md-range) insulin sensitivity person about forty percent of dietary carbs are converted to fat. For a person who is higher on the insulin resistant continuum this percentage is much higher and results in their cells remaining hungry causing them to ‘signal’ for more food! Hence, creating a negative cycle for an insulin resistant person to eat more.

Insulin resistance also produces inflammation in the body, causing a whole lot of heath problems. By eating foods that are lower on the glycemic index, performing adequate physical activity and ensuring proper nutrient intake we can place ourselves on the sensitive end of the continuum for effortless and long-term fat loss.

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Get Back into Shape After Pregnancy - Part 3:

Get Back into Shape After Pregnancy – Part 3:

The final 3 tips of our Get Back To Shape After Pregnancy series are here. If you haven’t read the first Two Parts you can find them here:

We see so many new mothers struggle to regain their shape; doing the right things can exponentially speed recovery, return function, as well as improve wellbeing and appearance post pregnancy. Our final tips are:

3 – Correct Cardio

Once you’ve returned to moving regularly, restored the activation and function of your core muscles and without discomfort or contraindication you can begin to “pick up the pace”. After clearing the six-week check-up you should be ready to do 20 to 30 minutes of cardio 3 to 5 times a week.

Walking is extremely good for us and should be done every day. If you are going to run (for more than 30minutes) do so at an easy pace. This will not over stress your system and teach your body to utilize fat as a fuel. Once you are comfortable and built up your stamina to should include high intensity interval training (HIIT). You will burn more belly fat with sprint intervals; a large number of convincing studies show that high-intensity interval training is the best for losing belly fat.

4 – Get Strong

Resistance training not only strengthens muscles but ligaments, tendons and bones as well. Weight training is an essential element of correcting your posture and function, burning fat and also conditioning you to deal with life as a mother. The stronger you are the easier and more effortless it will be to carry your child plus all their essential equipment for the day and help you recover from stress.

Muscle is a metabolic tissue. The more muscle you have the more energy you burn throughout the day… the easier it is to lose fat. Muscle is also what gives your body shape. The word “toned” actually means the ability to see muscle. Resistance exercise will make you look better, perform better, prevent injuries and feel less tired.

You do not need to go to a gym to achieve these benefits. Instead of going to the gym you can complete bodyweight exercises at home as well as incorporate your baby into the routine. For example, lie on your back placing your baby on top of your stomach or hips and perform glute bridges, or hold them to your chest and complete a set of squats.

5 – Take Naps

Abnormal sleep cycles like those placed on you by a baby can upset your metabolism and make it harder for you to lose your pregnancy weight. Sleep helps with weight loss because it combats stress, keeps your energy up and you’re not compelled to binge on high-calorie, high-sugar foods for energy.

As I mentioned in tip 1; take a nap anytime the baby does. That way, you won’t end up with a long-term sleep deficit, and you’ll keep your energy levels and your potentially naughty cravings in check.

Whatever you do, don’t sacrifice sleep for exercise time in those early weeks. If you don’t sleep enough, you won’t have the ability to recover effectively from the workouts. All the benefits come in the recovery of exercise, not when actually exercising.

In conclusion, the only exercise you should be considering in the immediate postnatal period is pelvic floor and TVA exercises and some light walking. You can then progress to strengthening exercises ideally through bodyweight movements and exercises that develop the bond between parent and child. It is especially important to realise that the build up of fitness after pregnancy is a gradual process. Ensure you have enough rest and enjoy the wonders of being a mother.

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Vietnam Post Natal Experts: Get Back in Shape After Pregnancy - Part 2

Get Back In Shape After Pregnancy - Part 2


Post Natal Exercise

How to Get Back in Shape After Pregnancy

Continuing from last months article (Part 1 – hormones to understand and focus on posture) here are 5 excellent tips that are proven to get you back to your pre-pregnancy shape, or better, in no time:

1 – It’s a Matter of Movement:

All of us need to move as much as possible and exercise just enough. This is easier said than done with a newborn baby and the sleep deprivation that comes with it. It is an overwhelming time and many mothers can’t even think of exercise. However, the detrimental effects of not moving and sitting for long periods are far worse. New mothers must ‘take it easy’… a good place to start is to simply walk around the block. If this feels ok then walk a little bit further the next day. Catch up on sleep by napping at the same time as your baby and move and play with them when they are awake. Do this until your doctor clears you to be able to do more (generally around 6 – 12 weeks)

2 – Core Rehab

The abdominal muscles become highly stretched and weakened due to pregnancy. As the foetus grows the abdominals are put under a lot of tension. So much so that the left and right sides of a women’s abdominal muscle (rectus abdominis) usually separates a few centimeters. This gap needs to reduce and heal before you can perform strenuous abdominal exercise. You must ‘mind the gap’ before you start those crunches or you’ll risk abdominal and spinal injury.

The muscles to focus on to rehabilitate your core and achieve the best tone and shape of your torso are the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor muscles. These are your deep inner unit abs. They are responsible for stabilizing the spine, supporting your organs and structure as well as enable the other abdominal muscles to work properly.

The pelvic floor muscles support your uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. Kegels (or pelvic floor exercises) can help you avoid embarrassing accidents, like bladder leakage and passing gas by accident after delivery. They can also improve your sex life.

The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles you used to start and stop peeing. Squeeze these muscles as if you were trying to stop urinating. You should feel the muscles inside your vagina “lift.” You just did one Kegel. Relax the muscle and do it again. Begin slowly… Try squeezing your pelvic floor muscles for 3 seconds, then release for 3 seconds. Do this 10 times in a row. That’s one set. If you can’t do 10, do as many as you can and build up over time. Try to work up to two or three sets of 10 Kegels two to three times a day.

The transverse abdominis (TVA) is the deepest of the abdominal muscles.  The TVA has a corset like effect within the body, narrowing and flattening the abdomen. Its primary function is to stabilise the lumbar spine and pelvis before any movement of the limbs happen. The TVA is activated by pulling the belly button inward towards the spine; called abdominal hollowing.

Abdominal hollowing is probably easiest when in an all fours position, kneeling on your hands and knees. Completely relax your abdomen, then pull your belly button up and in towards the spine, “hollowing the stomach”, without changing the position of your black and pelvis. As with the pelvic floor exercises start with holding for 3 seconds and then gradually build upon this time, reps and sets. Other positions in which to practice this exercise include sitting, lying on your back with your arms down by your hips and lying on your stomach with your arms overhead.

It is essential to rebuild your inner unit strength before doing any crunches or other abdominal exercises. These muscles are crucial for good function and without them you are susceptible to injury.

Continue reading – Part 3 of Get Back into Shape After Pregnancy – for the final 3 tips we find essential to quickly regaining shape, function and confidence in your body.

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Get Back In Shape After Pregnancy

Get Back In Shape After Pregnancy - Part 1

Get Back In Shape After Pregnancy - Part 1


Post Natal Exercise

How to Get Back in Shape After Pregnancy

A number of our friends and clients are expecting their first baby in early 2018, so I though this a good time to write a series on How to Get Back in Shape After Pregnancy. One of the most natural things in this world is to raise a family. For women, having children is both an amazing experience and a challenging physical event. The female body transforms while pregnant undergoing a myriad for hormonal and postural change. After being pregnant for 9 months, many mothers are anxious to get their bodies back into shape. It is very important to do this correctly, as a new mothers body has gone through many changes that leave them venerable to injuries.

Hormones to understand

Before discussing how to get back in shape it is important to understand what the basic changes are that have happened to your body; related to exercise and physical activity. There are a large number of hormonal changes that are essential for a successful pregnancy but they also make exercise both during and after pregnancy more difficult.

A large amount of estrogen is released (during one pregnancy more estrogen is produced than an entire lifetime when not pregnant) along with progesterone, which makes most things become bigger. It quickly becomes uncomfortable to move, as weight increases, breasts become bigger and posture, along with the centre of gravity, changes. The posture changes affect the joint positions and length-tension relations of the musculature surrounding the pelvis, lumbar and thoracic spine (lower and upper back) as well as the neck. When joints are out of alignment the surround musculature is placed under greater strain leading to a higher rise of injury.

These joint positions (posture) and muscle length-tension relationship must be returned to normal to minimise risk of injury, avoid aches and pains and to function correctly. The diagram above shows the major muscles that become stiff and tight and their counterparts that become lengthened and weak. Restoring the length (tighten loosened muscles and loosen muscles that have become stiff) and tension (strengthen muscles that have become weak) relationship is the key to restoring posture and protecting against potential future injuries.

It is not just the muscles that get affected during pregnancy. The biggest concerns for exercise after giving birth are due to the increased levels of the hormone relaxin. Relaxin causes loosening of the ligaments. Ligaments are what connect the joints (bone to bone) and hold them in place. When ligaments are loosened joints a very venerable to injury.

Focus on Posture:

The weight of the baby, the changing centre of gravity, the loosening and stiffening of joints and muscles means a woman’s body after birth can feel and operate quite differently than before. The diagram below highlights the main areas to focus on for correcting yourposture and function. You need to perform exercises that do the following:

  • Stretch and lengthen the following muscles – calves, hip flexors, lower back, pectorials (chest), intercostal’s (ribs) and upper traps (back of neck)
  • The muscles that need strengthening are the: quadriceps, glutes (bum), abdominals (particularly the transversus abdominis (TVA)), upper back muscles (rhomboids, lower traps, posterior deltoid and external rotator cuffs) as well as the neck flexors (longus capitis, longus colli)

There are a large number of exercises available to stretch the short and strengthen the weak muscles. To reduce or avoid pain and limit your risk of injury selecting exercises that focus on the above outcomes are the best to choose.

It is also extremely important that the exercises you use are low impact with moderate resistance/weight to ensure the safety of your joints. Bodyweight movements (or calisthenics) are the best option because there is no external load to control. Bodyweight exercises improve coordination, proprioperception (self body awareness), balance, proper function and full range of movement.

However, before you do anything, work closely with your doctor, or a qualified postnatal exercise professional, to make sure everything is safe and to determine a proper workout plan. A general rule is to not return to exercise or conduct strenuous physical activity until 6 weeks after a normal birth. If you have a caesarean delivery (C-Section) you would be advised to wait 12 weeks before beginning an exercise routine.

In part 2 I will explain how to rehabilitate your core (click here to read) after giving birth… and you can find the final tips in part 3 of get back into shape after pregnancy here.

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Saigon Fat Loss Experts - 5 Signs Your Training Efforts Are Failing

5 Signs Your Training Efforts Are Failing


We have again gone full circle… a new year has started… what does 2018 hold for you? Is this going to be the year you finally achieve your health, fitness and fat loss goals?

The number one New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight and improve health. However, there is such a high percentage of failure in achieving this simple goal. Most people start strong with conviction and dedication but fall by the way side usually with in a 3-month time period. Their motivation gone and their determination destroyed. A lot of the time this happens because they do not see the results they were hoping for or expecting. Exercise regimes must be set up to match the individual’s specific requirements and then evolve as they do.

The majority of failed cases I see are due to people not adjusting their routines regularly enough to stimulate continued improvements. Knowing when to changes things up is an essential element of achieving great results. Here are my top five signs that it’s time to change or that you could be doing more during your workouts:

1 – You’re performance is not improving:

Progression is a fundamental component of successful workouts. If you are exercising correctly you should see strength improvements within a 2-week period. This means lifting the same weight for more reps, increasing the weight for the same amount of reps, running the same distance at a lower heart rate or possessing faster recovery, travelling further in the same amount of time, etc. If you do not see some form of performance improvement within a 2 week period it’s a sign to change your plan.

2 – You’re not feeling fatigued or sore:

A little bit of achiness indicates you worked hard enough to damage your system and muscles. This is important, as it will lead them to recover and grow back stronger when fuelled by correct nutrition. While you won’t want to feel sore every day, if you’re never sore post-workout, it could mean your not overloading your system enough to stimulate change. If you are no longer sore it is time to change your workout by increasing your training volume or switching up the types of movements you’re doing.

3 – Your body shape doesn’t change at all:

If your workout and nutrition does not create a change in your body’s appearance then it is failing to be effective. Simple. If you body doesn’t change you must change your approach.

4 – You’re tired:

Overtraining this isn’t about muscle soreness it’s more related to overall energy. We have sore muscles all the time but our energy is high. Feeling tired means you need to rest… exercising causes stress on your central nervous system and it is crucial that you plan enough recovery. You receive the gains from exercise when you recover… not when you exercise. Not obtaining enough recovery means not obtaining results.

5 –You’re Bored:

It’s normal to have an off day. Or two. But if your workouts always have you bored to tears you will never be able to stick with it. Exercise should be fun. You need to choose activities that will be effective and also don’t kill your motivation. Once you’re feeling invigorated by your routine, you can start manipulating the variables of your workout — intensity, frequency, load — to continue making progress.

Make 2018 the year you achieve your goals… be smart about how you plan your workouts, so that you get the most out of them and achieve the results you’ve always wanted.

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