Cover Photo: Courtesy of Nutrition Kitchen

April 7 marks World Health Day, a global health awareness day under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization. To celebrate, we asked some Hong Kong fitness and nutrition experts for their advice on staying healthy

Eating healthy at any time throughout the year can be difficult. But especially during the hot and humid summer months in Hong Kong, the temptation of ordering in some comfort foods and treats to enjoy in your cool air-conditioned room is an easy meal solution.

From staying hydrated, and which foods to avoid, we talk to Hong Kong fitness and nutrition experts on how to stay healthy even when the humidity and the heat are against you.

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Utah Lee

Utah Lee has been a Nike Master Trainer for over a decade. Not only does she specialise in personal training, group training and corporate fitness training, she is also a mother of two. 

  1. Make sure to stay hydrated to stay cool. My tip is to bring chilled water and fruit tea wherever you go. I also always use a hand towel to wrap around a bottle of iced cold water in my bag to keep my drinks cold, that way I can also use the towel to wipe myself after class!
  2. Enjoy smaller and lighter meals. Try to eat soups with low sodium with lots of vegetables and stick to low carbohydrates meals. I always make sure to add an avocado to my salad and sandwich to add some healthy fats, not only will it fill me up but it’s nutrient rich!
  3. Be smart with cold treats. You can make your own icy treats at home! Like real fruit juice icicles and frozen low-fat yogurt bars/cubes with fruit.

See also: 10 Best Female Personal Trainers In Hong Kong To Get You In Shape

Saed Alami

Trainer at The Gym Hong Kong, Saed Alami's goal is to guide people towards a healthier lifestyle. He is passionate about self-development and focuses on nutrition, strength training, habit advice and more. 

  1. Fix your gut. We only absorb what we digest. Our gut directly affects our energy levels and our immune system. From a weight loss and muscle building perspective, you might have the “perfect” diet, but if you can’t digest, absorb and assimilate the nutrients from your food, you are missing out! Give the gut a break by experimenting with a fasting once a week.
  2. Chew your food. If I could only do one thing to improve my digestion, I would focus on this. Many clients have changed their lives by this simple action step. The digestion process starts in the mouth. The better we chew our food, the better the rest can take care of its job. Spend a minimum of 20-30 chews per mouthful. Not only will you get a chiselled jawline like brad Pitt, but your digestive system will also thank you for it! Bye Bye bloating!
  3. Eat protein with every meal. Protein is known to be the macronutrient—food we need in large quantities, for building and maintaining muscle mass. It is essential for the structure, function and regulation of our body’s tissues and organs. Consume an average of 1-2 grams of protein per kg of body weight as a baseline.  This will ensure you’re getting enough for your body to function but also serves as a way for you to feel fuller and less hungry throughout the day. 

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Tricia Yap

Fitness and nutrition coach and founder of Limitless Hong Kong, Tricia Yap is a strong believer in encouraging a holistic and balanced mindset through nutrition and training. 

  1. Start your day with a high protein and high fat breakfast such as having a steak, eggs or even a smoked salmon omelette. By doing so, you kick off your day without spiking blood sugar sky high as you otherwise would with a high carb breakfast like pastry, cereal or toast. This helps you to optimally manage blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day especially if you are prone to the mid-morning/afternoon slump and crave sugar during those periods.
  2. Go gluten-free, especially if you are prone to abdominal bloating. Regardless of whether you have a tolerant or not to gluten, gluten has been shown to shut down “zonulin” in your intestinal barrier. Zonulin is like an immigration officer for your gut barrier – it ensures the bad guys stay out and only the good nutrients pass into your bloodstream. With zonulin shut down, it will most likely result in a leaky gut.    
  3. Focus on food quality over quantity. A calorie is not necessarily a calorie for many reasons. One of which is the thermic effect of food – foods higher in protein require more calories for the body to burn after you eat them as opposed to those higher in carbohydrates. Additionally, protein and fats keep you more satiated, and lead to steadier blood sugar which in turn reduces appetite.  Not to mention, some foods are more nutrient-dense than others. For example, whole organic foods versus processed packaged foods, if you restrict calories, you can hurt your metabolism by altering thyroid and adrenal function. Eat foods that have been as minimally processed as possible. No one ever got fat from eating real food. 

See also: Tricia Yap On Female Empower And Defining Success

Nutrition Kitchen’s Pete Fisher

Having been in the fitness industry for 10 years, Pete founded both ATP Personal Training and later Nutrition Kitchen. His focus has always been on helping clients achieve fast results followed by sustainable long-term life change. 

  1. Be clear about your goals and don't be scared to track and measure your success. If you're seeking a specific result then measuring relevant inputs and progress markers is essential. Track calories and macro intake to monitor the input and measure your body weight if that is relevant to your goals. Measuring and recording progress can help with motivation and accountability.
  2. Choose a diet that aligns with your values and your social life. If you love carbs then don't cut them out. If you love bacon don't become a vegan. You don't need to make your diet harder than necessary. Track calorie intake and ensure adequate protein intake, eat some greens. The rest is discretionary. This means that you have the flexibility to enjoy yourself at weekends, you can have birthday cake and you can go for dinner.
  3. Don't stress about eating superfoods. You don't have to pretend to enjoy quinoa. You don't have to eulogise kale. There is a tremendous social pressure to consume specific foods that are touted for their superior health and nutrient profiles. Most of this is just good marketing. I would advise everybody to consume a wide range of nutrient-dense foods that they enjoy rather than focussing on consuming a handful of foods arbitrarily deemed to be “super”. If you do the research you’ll be surprised at the health benefits on offer from everyday ingredients you already eat.  

Jon Lee

Former competitive bodybuilder Jon Lee is also the co-founder of ONE Personal Training. He is a firm believer in working hard to achieve your fitness goals. 

  1. Start small. When dieting it’s wise to not go cold turkey given the lifestyle of Hong Kong city workers. Gradually ease into a diet, long term you will make it a lifestyle change rather than a one-time project. If you're the type to go out a lot and enjoy a good drink, put a limit on the amount of glasses you consume and reduce your drinking to two times per week. 
  2. Pack your lunch. Spend one a day a week (Sunday given it’s a day off!) and prepare your lunch for the week. You will have total control of the calories you are eating and bonus, you will save money. Couple weeks later and this will become a regular routine.
  3. Choose wisely when dining out. We preach this with clients, choose the protein-based option and choose leaner cuts of protein. Restaurants will use far more additional butter or oil when cooking compared to cooking at home. So it’s sirloin/tenderloin/fillet steaks and not ribeye’s, it’s white meat from Chicken and not dark meat, it’s white fish and not salmon belly.

See also: In The Gym With ONE Personal Training’s Jon Lee, Josh Li And Benny Liu

Ramona Pascual

Ramona Pascual has spent her whole life competing, from Muay Thai to playing for the Hong Kong Women's Rugby team. She is a mixed-martial arts fighter and the first woman from Hong Kong to fight for an MMA championship title. 

  1. Limit processed food as much as possible and if you’re a snacker, have some healthy alternatives on hand.
  2. Stay busy. We tend to eat out of boredom so go on a walk when you’ve got nothing on between meals for some light activity and to occupy time that might be spent in front of the TV/computer snacking.
  3. Get enough sleep! Just one night of sleep deprivation can cause an increase in appetite and food cravings.

See also: 20 Hong Kong Fitness Influencers To Follow On Instagram

Johnny Tieu aka quacktieu

Personal trainer, running coach, hybrid endurance athlete and elite obstacle course racer, Johnny Tieu is a jack of all trades when it comes to fitness. He believes in motivating his clients and teaching them how to train their bodies in the most effective way. 

  1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! The secret ingredient of our reality’s fountain of youth and health is water. I know we have heard this time and time again, but if you’re not drinking enough water than you are doing your body a disservice no matter how much you workout. Cut out the sugary drinks, limit caffeine / energy supplement intake, and even if you think you’re drinking enough, drink some more. To shed weight and keeping your body functioning properly, the moment you wake up, down a glass of water and also before you hit the sack. 
  2. Don’t fall for the misuse and misconceptions of protein shakes or other marketed “health products”. Protein supplements are a good addition to your health routine and nutritional needs if you are not able to consume enough to meet your daily requirements from natural food. If you already do, all those fancy terms that is aimed at grabbing you as a customer won’t do you any good. Access you daily intake and make informed decisions when it comes to added supplements, shakes, and other healthy products. 
  3. Enjoy a big bowl of healthy uncooked veggies with a whole range of colours and varieties. Salads are not just for losing weight. They are an essential to my nutrition with a proper serving of seafood or poultry mixed in. It’s common for Hong Kongers to consume vegetables but they are often boiled, steamed, and have unnecessary oil. With the way they are cooked, most of the nutritions are broken down and are not as beneficial. Go explore the unlimited varieties of nutritious vegetables and add them into your meals to help you achieve your summer health goals.

This article was published on May 26, 2020 and updated on April 7, 2022. 


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