Personal trainer and freelance content creator Gabriel Seow is used to tracking his calories, and choosing food that will help him fulfil his count for the day.
But as automatic as it is for the 27-year-old to compute the nutritional value of what goes into his body, he doesn’t have the habit of tracking his expenses. He admits that this sometimes leads to overspending, which is something he’d rather avoid.
Planner Bee challenged him to be as aware of what he spends on food, as he is of the calories he consumes. Over three days, he had to spend within his given budget of S$100 for meals.
Gabriel is aiming for lofty financial goals. In the short term, he’s looking to start up his own gym in about five years, which he estimates he’ll need S$40,000–S$50,000 for.
In the longer term, he wants to be able to afford a house, which he observes is quite expensive in Singapore. He thinks he’ll need at least S$500,000 for this.
“I know I should [track my expenses]. I think this is why doing this challenge and collaborating with Planner Bee is probably going to be a good idea,” he said.
Personal trainer’s plan for eating right
Gabriel’s schedule is mainly occupied with working out and training his clients. In between, he seeks out food options that help him fulfil his calories, according to the macronutrients he needs for the day.
Macronutrients, or macros for short, are the major types of nutrients commonly consumed, such as protein and carbohydrates.
“I usually just find places that have a lot of protein options so that’s easier for me because I feel like the protein calorie count is a little bit more difficult to fulfil than the carbs,” he said.
Unless he’s preparing for an event, Gabriel is generally flexible with what he eats. He also doesn’t recommend that everyone follow a uniform diet.
“I do believe that everyone has to learn what is good for their body, what they need to put in their body before trying out fad diets.”
One of his favourite food options is chicken breast because it’s low in fat but high in protein. He sometimes eats two portions a day to meet his protein requirements.
While he doesn’t enjoy bubble tea and rarely drinks it, he’s a big fan of coffee – both for its flavour and the caffeine boost. He generally has two to three cups a day, but he’s considering cutting down – possible if he drinks one cup of Death Wish Coffee a day. He let us in on how the robustly roasted beans produce several times the caffeine kick of an average kopi!
If you’re keen to track your macros or calories, Gabriel recommends seeking out simpler and similar meals so the calories are easier to compute. Also, use a nutrition guide – many are available online – to crunch your figures, instead of guesstimating.
Check out whether the calorie counting pro was just as adept in computing how much money he spent during the challenge, in the video below:
Practising flexibility in diet and finances
Despite initially thinking the challenge would be tough, Gabriel found it to be not as difficult as he anticipated.
He reflected that being flexible with his diet helped in keeping on track with the budget. For example, if he needed additional calories from protein, he could supplement his meal with a self-made protein shake at an affordably priced S$2.
Having a flexible diet also allowed him to enjoy different kinds of food, from store-bought to home-cooked to fast food.
But if he wanted to only eat clean, Gabriel estimated that he would spend about S$100 on meal prep.
“Eating healthy in Singapore [is] honestly not very cheap unless you make it yourself,” he said.
For the time-starved, he highlighted that there are several meal prep services available, which can work out to be cheaper than ordering in healthy meals.
His approach to his diet extends to his finances as well. Being flexible with how he spends – for example on what he eats, drinks with friends, or having supper – has been adequate for him to live comfortably, especially as he doesn’t have major responsibilities at this point.
Tips on where to start
If you’re looking to get healthier and fitter, Gabriel’s advice is to start slow.
“The technique is the one that will last forever. And it’s [for] longevity’s sake,” he said.
In terms of diet, he recommended getting to know what to eat, how to look for food and researching macros. Get acquainted with the guidelines, though he added that this knowledge will also come with experience.
When it comes to exercise, focus on learning the proper technique first. Gabriel’s tip: observe powerlifters, who need to be particular about how they lift to avoid injuries because of the sheer heaviness of their weights, and understand their form.
Choose exercises and sports that you like, such as spinning or basketball. If you want to lift heavier and get stronger, do your research or look for a good trainer and see how you like it, he said.
He advocated, “Do whatever you want that makes you happy, or doesn’t make you dread exercise.”
This challenge was part of Planner Bee’s #SgFitnessPros series, where we challenge savvy fitness pros to eat better and spend better. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for more of such videos!
You can also check out our Money Journals series, to catch a glimpse of how everyday Singaporeans and Malaysians are earning, spending and investing.