Interview with Mok Ying Ren plus BRAND’S Essence of Chicken GIVEAWAY

Mok Ying Ren

1. You’ve said that “Life is like a marathon” and if you look at how far you’ve already ‘run’, what would you say you are most grateful for, and what are some challenges you’ve overcome and also learnt important lessons from?

I am grateful for all the support I have from my family and friends who have been with me on this journey. When I first announced my 3 year campaign, including one year of no pay leave, to attempt to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics in 2012, I was met with much resistance from some of my peers and colleagues. Many felt that the one year of no pay leave will set me back very much in my medical career which is highly competitive. However, my family and close friends encouraged me to do so and I am grateful for that.

I think one of the key challenges I had to overcome was the social mindset and peer pressure. It is no surprise that in Singapore collegiate sports are at a much lower standard than our secondary school sports scene. This is because of the sudden increase in freedom and social activities. As a student athlete, it was tough to stay focused on the task when not many are beside you with the same goals. This is a challenge that will be faced by every generation of athletes in Singapore until we are able to develop a strong collegiate sports system like in Japan or the USA where there will be more athletes gunning for the same goals.

Another challenge that I have been forced to face are injuries. Unlike other goals such as academics and career, there is almost no risk in studying harder or working harder. Even though working too hard may not be good for your mental health, one will not get a brain injury from studying too hard.This is in contrast to sports where sometimes training more or training harder does not give you guaranteed success as the irony is that one may get injured from training too hard. I have been rather unfortunate to be sidelined for almost a year in June 2014 to June 2015 due to a shin injury. That was a huge blow to my preparations.

2. What is a typical day in your life like right now, as you are training to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016?

Currently I am training in Boulder, Colorado with the Boulder Track Club. My coach is Lee Troop, a three-time olympian in the Marathon event for Australia. I usually wake up at about 6:20am and have my breakfast. After about an hour, I will have my first training session which usually lasts for about 2 hours.

Thereafter, I will spend some time studying as I am also doing a distance learning course (Masters in Sports Medicine) with the University of Queensland, Australia. I will then cook my own lunch at about 11:30 which consists of a huge bowl of salad, rice and eggs. I will then take an hour nap after my lunch. At about 3pm, I will head out for my second training session which lasts about 90minutes.

In the evening, I will have dinner with my house mates. Then more studying or reading and preparation to sleep! The cycle repeats on a daily basis. A lot of time is spent preparing for each training session which consists of getting sufficient sleep and good nutrition.

3. What, to you, is “good goal-setting”?

A good goal is a goal that is achievable but challenging at the same time. One needs to do a thorough evaluation on where he is and the resources available around him to help him achieve the goal. For example, in 2012, I wanted to aim to qualify for the Olympics in 2016 for the marathon event. I then had a best time of 2hr 26min and to qualify for the Olympics, I would need to run 2hr 17min. To shave off 9 minutes is challenging but not unheard off. I have read of runners who had improved that much in a few years and I was positive that I could do it.

I had confidence in my motivation to run when I was working (I was working as a house officer then and will need to also serve my national service in 2013-2015). It was something that could be achieved if all the stars are aligned but as I mentioned, you also need to take into account the nature of your profession and whether simply working hard can lead you to your goals.

4. You recently injured your eye, and what surprises me is that you went for a 40-minute run instead of heading straight to a doctor or hospital first. What made you do that? 

Indeed, on hindsight, I think it was a silly thing to do. However, I think this is not uncommon among competitive athletes like myself who can be stubborn at times. We are known to train through pain and discomfort and perhaps we are very positive as well that nothing very bad can happen! Instead what was on my mind was to get the last run for the week in and hope that perhaps the blurriness in my vision may go away after a relaxing run. I will not encourage anyone to do what I did.

5. Did thoughts/fears of not being able to see after that accident cross your mind? What would be the ‘worst case scenario’ for you, and what do you think would be your response to that?

Yes. During that short run right after the accident, I thought of my career. I had been selected to begin training in Orthopaedic Surgery in July 2016. I was sure that being blinded in one eye, which is the worse case scenario, I would not be able to perform surgery as depth perception would be very much affected. But I thought to myself that I could perhaps still do Sports Medicine as a specialty which does not involve surgery and still survive. Perhaps it was natural for me to try to think positive but at the same time prepare for the worst. And I told myself losing vision in one eye is not as bad as being totally blind!

6. You are a pretty rare example of a local sporting talent who is strongly supported by various sponsors, and you even appear in commercials too. What are the reasons for your success in this aspect, and have you thought about ‘giving back’ to the local sporting scene in future? 

I think the key to garnering sponsorships is to give back to the local sporting scene on a regular basis from the get go, which I am already involved in. I do pro bono running clinics with running events, schools and the community and I strongly advocate sports and exercise to keep one healthy.

I relate well with student athletes and have given multiple talks at junior colleges on key aspects of juggling sports and studies. With some of my friends, I have also set up the Run to Walk movement which is to encourage people to invest in their health through running and we have a free weekly 4.8km run at Bedok Reservoir.

Due to my ability to connect with the community, sponsors then want to come into the picture to support my dreams and not the other way round. My next goal is to pursue my dreams in specialising in Sports Surgery which will take me another 8-10 years. Thereafter, I would be excited to serve the local sports community in a different way.


Mok Ying Ren is a marathoner, doctor and an ambassador of BRAND’S Essence of Chicken. He is a two-time SEA games gold medalist in the triathlon and marathon events and is currently taking time off as an orthopaedic surgery resident to pursue his Olympic dream in the marathon event.


BRANDS giveaway

BRAND’S would like to reward three of my blog readers with a week’s worth of GET SET 4 LIFE BRAND’S Essence Of Chicken (7 bottles) EACH! 😀 To participate, head over to my facebook page for the giveaway 🙂

Steamed Chicken with BRAND’S Essence of Chicken

Chicken with brand's essence of chicken

I’ve always wanted to try cooking this myself: steamed chicken with essence of chicken. What would it taste like? I found out this afternoon. 🙂

There are many recipes online for this dish but I decided to just use what’s available in my fridge. Only chicken wings and thigh cuts were available so I used those. You can use drumsticks if you’d like.

I placed the chicken on a bed of xiao bai cai, added some prawns by the side, and shitake mushrooms, ginger, and wolfberries on top.

If you like your food well seasoned, you can add some cooking wine, salt or soy sauce, but I decided to just take the healthier route and skip all those, adding just the chicken essence.

It still smells wonderful, and tastes pretty good. People who don’t like chicken essence will probably never realize it went into making this dish.

I might add some sliced red chili and pepper next time for a spicier version of this dish. 🙂

Chicken with brand's essence of chicken

BRAND’S CNY Gift Hamper: For The First 20!

BRAND’S sent over a gift hamper yesterday! 😀 It contained BRAND’S Essence of Chicken and Bird’s Nest, with a pack of angbaos. YOU can win a CNY Gift Hamper too! (Details below)

BRAND'S Essence of Chicken

BRAND’S Essence of Chicken:

  • Contributes to a relaxed mood
  • Increases mental concentration
  • Improves short-term memory
  • Regular consumption helps improve immunity;
  • Alleviates task-induced stress;
  • Increases metabolic rate
  • Boosts energy
  • Increases levels of stress tolerance

BRAND'S Bird's Nest

BRAND’S Bird’s Nest:

  • Glycoprotein helps enhance immunity, cleanses lungs
  • Prevents ‘internal dryness’
  • Helps maintain youthful, smooth and wrinkle-free skin
  • Helps stimulate appetite and aid digestion

WIN a BRAND’s CNY Gift Hamper!

Be one of the first 20 customers to flash this invite on your mobile phone at the BRAND’S roadshow:

BRANDS roadshow

Can’t make it on Jan 16 or 17? Then head over to any of the other roadshows for a chance to win from BRAND’S 8 treasure boxes. Details at BRAND’S website:

Have a roaring good year! 😀


Interview with Dr Philip Tsang, Chief Scientist at BRAND’S®


[Email Interview]

1) What made you decide to be a neuroscientist and why the extensive research into Parkinson’s disease?

“Men ought to know that from nothing else but the brain come joys, delights, laughter and sports, and sorrows, griefs, despondency, and lamentations. And by this, in an especial manner, we acquire wisdom and knowledge… And by the same organ we become mad and delirious, and fears and terrors assail us… All these things we endure from the brain when it is not healthy… I am of the opinion that the brain exercises the greatest power in the man.” – Hippocrates, On the Sacred Disease

To me, this inspirational description of the brain summarizes my enthusiasm in neuroscience and the devotion towards deepening my understanding on how our brain functions. Advancements in technology and medicine have increased significantly the average life span of humans. In many parts of the world, particularly cities with great advancement in technology and economy, one of the socio-economic challenges that the society has to face is the ageing population and the requirement of vast amounts of resources to take care of the long-term needs of individuals suffering from disorders associated with ageing.

Parkinson’s disease is one of the major age-related disorders of the brain that has no effective treatment to cure or even delay the progression of the disorder. Interestingly, most of the cases of Parkinson’s disease do not have a clear and direct correlation with particular genetic factors. It is therefore an important question of how various environmental factors could possibly interact with our genes to result in the acceleration of the neuro-degenerative process. Understanding this will provide important insight into the progression of Parkinson’s disease and possibly provide reference to other neuro-degenerative diseases.

2) What are the main differences between male and female brains, and how does this affect us in terms of language ability, memory, concentration, spatial awareness and creativity?

The overall structures of our brain and the basic cognitive functions are mostly determined by our genes. However, our brain constantly receives information from the environment and is highly capable of fine-tuning its functions to adapt to the environment. Adaptations could be in the changes in the number of connections among the neurons (synapses), the amount of neurotransmitters that are responsible for the signal transmissions among the neurons, and the firing frequencies of the electrical signals passing through the neurons. All these determine the final outcome of the cognitive performance. Therefore, environmental factors like diet, enrichment of experiences (e.g. exposure to different learning environments), stress, infections, etc, play an important role influencing our cognitive performance.

3) What are the top 3 gender-related myths about the brain?

The top 3 gender-related myths about the brain are:

  • Myth 1: Brain size is proportionately linked to intelligence. Women’s brains are typically 8% smaller than the brains of men, so they are considered to be innately less intelligent. However, this is not true as if absolute brain size were all that mattered, large mammals such as whales and elephants – both of which have larger brains than humans – would outwit humans in terms of intelligence.

  • Myth 2: Male and female brains are shaped by their respective “male” and “female” hormones – essentially, that males have generally more testosterone while females have more estrogen. While males generally have more testosterone and females have more estrogen, the truth is that both men and women have both hormones as these hormones have other functions – for example, the female brain requires testosterone to develop and maintain libido while the male brain requires estrogen for normal brain development and sustenance.

  • Myth 3: Men are naturally better in Math and women are naturally better in verbal tasks. This is untrue as the differences seen in such cognitive tests are not a true reflection of innate differences. Instead, other factors come into play – such as the influence of the social environment.

4) How can we increase the ‘fitness level’ of our brains? How much do Sudoku puzzles and mahjong help, anyway? 

Brain fitness can be defined as the optimal state of cognitive performance. It requires proper and efficient communications among the neurons in the brain.  This depends on the efficiency of the electrical (in forms of action potentials) and chemical (communications among neurons at the synapses, gaps between neurons) signals passing through the neurons. The efficiency of communication in turn depends on the proper structure of the brain (i.e. with sufficient number of neurons and their proper functioning). Therefore, to maintain brain fitness, brain health is important.

To maintain peak cognitive performance, it is first important to have a good and healthy lifestyle that provides us with a balanced diet, sufficient sleep and exercise. This can help to maintain a healthy brain that can perform properly.

Also, maintaining a mentally active lifestyle is important as it engages our brain to actively acquire and integrate new information from our environment. This is the principle of “use it or lose it”. As we learn, we not only increase in our knowledge, our brain is also changing its very structure and increasing its capacity to learn. Unlike the computer, the brain is constantly adapting itself. The more actively we engage our brain in various cognitive activities (e.g. being active at work, participating and socializing in our leisure time), the more efficient our brain will become so that we can learn and perceive with greater precision, speed, and retention of information.

On the other hand, some environmental factors such as chronic stress have negative effects on cognitive performance and can limit the brain from functioning at its optimal condition.

5) I used to drink many bottles of BRAND’s Essence of Chicken when preparing for exams. I know it really helped me stay awake and focused, but I do not know how exactly. So, what is the science behind this?

Brain foods such as BRAND’S® Essence of Chicken can help to boost brain health.  Carnosine, an active ingredient naturally found in BRAND’S® Essence of Chicken, is a powerful peptide which has positive effects on brain health. Good brain health and boosted brain fitness, lead to mental sharpness.

Mental sharpness is a desired state of ideal cognitive performance, characterized by a brain that is functioning at optimal performance, with the ability to focus, recall, concentrate, learn and comprehend well.


BRANDS Essence of Chicken

BRANDS sent me some chicken essence (the original flavor plus 3 other flavors). I have grown to love the original flavor of BRANDS chicken essence so even though the other flavors are interesting, I believe I’ll still stick to what I love best. 😀

The chicken essence with tangkwei tastes closest to the original, with cordyceps a close second. I think the american ginseng with chicken essence is truly an acquired taste – it is rather bitter, so I don’t count myself a fan of it. 😀

I think chicken essence is great on those days when I really need a perk-me-up boost. I don’t drink ‘red bull’ ‘cos of the high sugar content. And if you ask me, I’d really recommend the original flavor of BRANDS essence of chicken. I kinda grew up with it! 😀