It’s that time of the year again when people all over Mumbai and from across the world strap on their running shoes and take to the roads for the ultimate test of cardiovascular and muscular endurance – the Mumbai marathon.

You may not be running the marathon but your daily commute in Mumbai to the office and back is no less of a fitness challenge. The sprint (read ‘desperate dash’) for the ladies special/ fast train manoeuvring past slow-moving fellow-commuters, the lightning jump into the already-moving train, and the gruelling minutes hanging on crushed to the bone till you are released at your destination…all require high levels of fitness!

If you want to spring a lighter step in your dash for the train or bus; if you want to take the pressures of your daily commute in your stride’ if you want to stay one step ahead of exhaustion and frustration every day; if you want to make life easier…do yourself a favour and EXERCISE!

Make sure you alternate a cardiovascular activity – be it a brisk walk in the park, a run on the treadmill, a class of aerobics or a swim at your club – with a stimulating session of strengthening weight training exercises at the gym. This will make your heart pump stronger, your lungs breathe easier, and your muscles help you walk, run and climb stairs faster without aches and pains.

Spend an hour on yourself daily or at least thrice a week and save many minutes in your day’s tight schedule.


Cardiovascular exercises such as walking, running, cycling, and swimming burn energy aerobically.

How much energy you burn will depend on the intensity (effort) with which you walk, run, cycle or swim. For example, high-intensity running is like turning the gas on high metabolic flame – burning calories from all available nutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fats) as long as the activity continues. When you stop running, the flame dies down and in 30-45 minutes, the calorie burning drops back to the resting state known as ‘basal metabolism’, i.e., metabolism or calorie-burning at rest.

Weight training exercises in the gym, on the other hand, are short bursts of intense activity that use only carbohydrates as an immediate source of energy.
However, by pushing weights that challenge the muscle, weight training causes muscle breakdown and triggers muscle repair activity that keeps burning calories throughout the day; this is known as ‘after-burn’. It’s like leaving the gas on ‘simmer’ for the whole day! The 24-hour calorie burn after weight training definitely burns more calories than the ‘cardio’ flame that burns for just 30 minutes to one hour in the whole day! When cooking we want to save gas, but inside our body, we want to keep our metabolic flame burning 24×7.

Take-home lesson: Weight training is a more powerful tool than walking, running or swimming to burn fat all day long. An ideal training programme must combine three days of weight training along with three days of cardiovascular exercise per week to keep the body looking good and feeling great!

But WHEN do you exercise? And HOW do you get the required energy? After an exhaustive day, how do you pick up the pieces and exercise? Are you fuelled to swim against the daily Mumbai tide? Or are you running everyday on an empty tank?


If you are a morning person and can squeeze in an hour of exercise in your tight morning routine, then that’s the best time for you – your ‘own’ time before the clock starts speeding past your day’s deadlines. Morning sessions also ensure you don’t miss your daily workout – no matter what your day is like! But if you drag yourself out of bed every morning, terrorised by the alarm clock, don’t aim for a morning workout. Save an hour for yourself after work in the evening or at night.

<Take-home lesson: Morning or evening – take your pick but always aim for a 24-hour rest period between two exercise sessions.


Exercise alone cannot shape you up; it’s the diet that does the trick. Clichéd as it may sound, ‘You are what you eat’. If you don’t eat right, your exercise can do more harm than good. Exercise is not a ‘license to eat’; it’s a demand to eat better and perform better. Exercise is simply a stress stimulus – causing breakdown so as to trigger your body to repair and grow. Nourish your body with all the raw materials and you will grow stronger and fitter. Starve your body or stuff it with junk food and it will weaken and age faster.


Both cardiovascular exercise and weight training use carbohydrates as the primary fuel, with proteins serving as the ‘back-up’ fuel when carbohydrates fall short. The perfect pre-exercise meal combo is a mix of complex carbohydrates and slow-release first-class proteins to provide a sustained release of energy and amino acids to fuel performance till the end of the workout.

Ideal carbohydrate options to build your energy stores before exercise are whole cereals that are ‘carb-rich’ but with moderate fibre.

For example, oats, wheat flakes, muesli, dalia or lapshi (broken wheat), chapatti, ragi, wheat bread and sweet potato. If you like to walk or run light, choose a ‘low-glycaemic’ fruit such as apple, pear, papaya, orange or sweet lime that is lower in sugar and higher in fibre.

Ideal pre-exercise protein is the slow-release casein protein, found naturally in milk.
The best options are skim milk paneer (home-made), a glass of whey protein powder in skim milk, or a casein-whey protein blend. Egg whites are an alternative if the above three are not feasible.


If it’s a weight training day or an intense run:

1) Quick meal (for breakfast or after work):

  • Oats or wheat flakes or muesli in skim milk + whey protein shake

2) Meal on the run:

  • Egg white-chapatti roll or Egg white-wheat bread sandwich
  • Skim paneer-chapatti roll or Skim paneer-wheat bread sandwich
  • Meal replacement shake: containing casein-whey protein + complex carbohydrates

3) ‘Hot’ nourishing meal at home:

  • Oats upma or Dalia upma or Ragi porridge + Whey protein shake
  • Ragi dosa or roti + Skim paneer (homemade)
For a light pre-cardio meal:
  • Apple, pear, papaya, orange or sweet lime + Whey protein in skim milk
If you plan to exercise after work:
  • Rehydrate on your way home with a glass of salted chaas or coconut water or lime juice and recharge with a fistful of nuts such as peanuts, almonds or walnuts.
  • Or refresh with a bowl of hot vegetable soup as soon as you hit home, and then dig into your pre-exercise meal.
  • Fruit juices are a strict no-no as the sugar will head straight for your fat stores. Whole fruits must also be avoided in the evening when the metabolism is slow.


Replenishment of the depleted carbohydrate store in the body, repair of the broken down muscles, and recovery from the stress of the exercise – these are the primary goals of the post-exercise meal.

After intense weight-training:
  • Total carbohydrate depletion requires immediate replenishment through simple sugars such as glucose, grape juice, watermelon juice, mango juice, or bananas.
  • Within 10-20 minutes of the high-energy sugar dose, the muscle requires the fastest-possible supply of the highest-quality protein such as whey protein in water or egg whites.
  • This combo immediately arrests muscle catabolism and gives a powerful boost to anabolism and muscle repair after the workout.
After light-moderate weight-training / cardio:
  • Sugar is not required as the carbohydrate stores are not depleted.
  • After a morning workout, go in for complex carbohydrates such as whole cereals or whole fruits along with whey protein in water.
  • After an evening workout, pick a low-calorie carbohydrate-protein mixture such as sprouts, vegetable soup or a fistful of nuts, and a whey protein shake.


  • Have your meal within 30-45 minutes (max. one hour) before exercise and after exercise. Longer gaps will lower energy levels and hamper recovery.
  • Stay well-hydrated during exercise by sipping a glass of water every 10-15 minutes. During intense exercise, add electrolytes in the form of Electral, lime juice or coconut water.
  • Protect your muscles, skin, hair and immune system from stress by supplementing antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E post-exercise.


  • Never exercise on an empty stomach. In the absence of carbohydrates, the body will scavenge precious muscle and other lean tissues for energy.
  • No simple sugars before exercise. For example, bananas give you instant energy but do not last long.
  • Avoid fat and fibre as they would be too heavy to digest before or after an exercise. Pre- and post-exercise meals must be energising but light. No chicken, fish or red meats.
  • Don’t depend on second-class plant proteins such as soya, pulses or nuts as they are limiting in the essential amino acid methionine required for muscle repair. Enjoy fibre and good-quality fats from cereals, pulses, nuts, fruits and vegetables; but get first-class protein only from animal sources such as milk products and egg whites.

By Gauri Murthy

As printed in Tarla Dalal’s ‘Cooking & More’ magazine, India (Jan-Feb 2010 issue)

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  1. November 7, 2010, 11:44 PM   /  Reply

    Thank u!

  2. November 22, 2010, 12:04 AM   /  Reply

    Thanks for the suggestion. Will work on it!

  3. Mohammed Azmat
    January 3, 2011, 12:34 AM   /  Reply

    Nice read…

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