The Truth About Dieting

Often times, the first thing that comes to a person’s mind when considering weight-loss is a workout routine. While exercise is extremely advantages both mentally and physically, it is not the top propriety of a well-constructed training program. The most essential and critical part of any fitness regimen is nutrition. This is true for any type of fitness goal, from losing weight to gaining muscle to building endurance and strength, to simply maintaining health. Nutrition is not only going to give you the energy you need to perform well in your workouts, but it will help with optimal recovery as well as aid in better body composition.

Nutrition is likely the biggest reason why people fail to reach, or give up on, their goals. There are so many different opinions out there, all seeming to come from ‘experts’ themselves. Eat clean. Go vegan. Paleo is the way to go. Cut carbs. Avoid fats. Eat this, this, and this, but don’t have this, this, this and that. Catch my drift? People have many different ideas based on what they believe to be the best type of diet. In reality, no one should be forced into someone else’s beliefs. There is a general guideline to proper nutrition and it is up to that person to choose which foods they would like to add into that guideline and which foods they want to avoid. I, for example, don’t eat pork as my religion forbids it. However, if I am training a client who doesn’t hold the same belief as me I would not tell them that pork is off limits. The same goes for vegetarianism. Just because I generally get my protein intake form animal sources does not mean I would tell a vegetarian they should do the same, just as a vegetarian should never prohibit meat to others just because they don’t eat it themselves.

The first step to learning about proper nutrition is to rid your mind of these ‘fad’ diets. If you want to eat organic, go for it. If you want to consume a strictly plant based diet, be my guest. If you want to limit your food sources to what the cave men ate thousands of years ago, that is up to you. None of these diets are wrong, nor are they right for every person as each individual differs in beliefs, tastes, cultural dishes, etc.

Proper nutrition is simple; it is made up of five types of macronutrients (macros), which are nutrients that our bodies need in large amounts, as opposed to micronutrients which are nutrients that our bodies need in small amounts such as vitamins and minerals. When we think of nutrition, we really only need to consider our macronutrients because if we are eating those properly then we will typically get all of the micronutrients we need. So, what are macros?

There are five types of macronutrients which can be divided into two categories. The first category of macronutrients contains carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and these are the macronutrients that provide us with a lot of energy and the bulk of substance we use to build up our tissues. The second category is made up of fiber and water, which provide us with little to no energy but are nonetheless good for our health.   Every day we should be consuming a certain amount of protein, carbs, fats, fiber and water. Pretty simple right? You are so close to becoming an expert in proper nutrition! All that’s left to learn is how each of these macronutrients works in the body and how we can appropriately balance them in our diets.

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Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for the body and brain. Although they have received a bad rep with all of the ‘low-carb’ diets out there, the truth is your body needs them to run and perform they way you want it to. Cabohydrates are made up of foods such as rice, wheat, oats, barley, beans, potatoes, fruits and vegetables. The majority of your carb intake should come from wholesome carbs such as whole grains, brown rice, sweet potato, ect. The exact amount each person needs will vary based on individual differences and goals, but in general, 45-65 percent of your total diet should be comprised of carbohydrates.

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Protein

Proteins are essential for growing and building tissues within the body such as muscles, blood, bones, organs, hair, skin and nails. Protein aids in building and maintaining muscle, satiation, and helps to burn calories due to its thermogenic properties. All foods from meat and poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products beans soy products, and nuts are considered proteins. It is a good idea to select a different variety of proteins to improve the health benefits. Healthier proteins are those which are lean and lower in fat such as chicken or turkey breast, leaner cuts of beef, white fish, and low-fat yogurt/milk. As with carbohydrates, the amount of protein one should eat will vary by person based on their age, height, weight, etc, but in general, 10-35 perfect of your total daily calories should come from protein-rich foods.

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Fats

Lipids, or fats, provide the most energy out of all the macronutrients. The overall diet should consist of approximately 20-35 percent of fats. The majority of your fat sources should come from the ‘healthy’ fats, also known as unsaturated fats. These come from foods like salmon, olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados.

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Fiber and Water

Fiber does provide us with a small amount of energy, but not much. It is, however, good for intestinal health and it influences some metabolic reactions within the body. Women should be eating about 25 grams of fiber per day while men should consume around 35 grams per day. Fiber comes from nutrient-rich plant foods such as whole grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables.

Water is an essential means of survival. There are a lot of different opinions in the diet world about how much water one should drink. The truth is, there is no single rule for everybody; some people need more water than others and some people need less. A general rule of thumb is to drink whatever is comfortable for you, making sure that you are keeping hydrated and are not feeling thirsty. An approximate amount of fluids to drink per day is between seven and eight glasses, but again it will differ based on the individual.

Now you know everything you need to know in order to eat healthy, balanced, and according to your preferences. The world of fitness likes to make everything complicated by using personal beliefs about nutrition or foods and trying to apply these beliefs to everyone. All you really need is this general guideline of macronutrients and you can tailor food choices to your needs. I hope this has inspired you to stop limiting yourself to unnecessary diets and eat the foods you love with balance and control!

 

Women and Weights Part 4: Putting It All Together

So far we have examined the myths of weight lifting for women, the benefits of weight lifting on the mind and body, and how weight lifting can aid in athletic performance. To close out this series I would like to discuss how to put it all together and actually incorporate strength training into your weekly routine. Here is everything you need to put together the optimal weight training program!

 

Goals

In order to successfully create a weight training routine you need to first assess your goals. What is the main objective you want to achieve? Of course, this can vary greatly depending on the individual. For this reason we can combine goals into two categories: looks and performance. People who fall under the category of looks have some type of goal pertaining to the way their body looks; building muscle, losing fat, getting a six-pack, toning up their arms, etc. People who fall under the category of performance have some type of goal pertaining to the way their body performs; improving running speed, jumping higher, building strength, etc. Your training routine will be based upon your individual goal.

 

Muscle Groups

It’s important to have a general and basic understanding of the major muscle groups in the body when training with weights. This knowledge will help you to understand which exercises work which muscle group, as well as how many times per week each muscle group should be worked…which we will be getting to next. The major muscle groups to consider while resistance training are the shoulders, back, chest, biceps, triceps, abdominals, and legs (including calves). Now let’s take a look at how many times we should work each of these muscles per week.

 

Training Frequency

Training frequency is the amount of times each muscle group is worked each week. There are three types of training frequencies. A once per week training frequency is when each muscle gro

up is worked once per week.This is ideal for people who want to maintain their current fitness level, without any goals of

photo build muscle, strength, or changing their appearance. A twice per week training frequency is when each muscle group is worked twice per week. This is ideal for intermediate and advanced trainees with any type of goal. A three times per week training frequency is when each muscle group is worked three times per week and is ideal for beginners with any type of goal.

Types of Resistance Training

There are three different types of resistance training exercises one may engage in: free weight exercises, body weight exercises, and machine exercises. Free weight and bodyweight exercises both allow you to engage in completely natural movements, as well as works the abdominals, other muscles, and is ideal for gym and home use. Machine exercises on the other hand, are known as isolation exercises, as they target the specific muscle being worked. They are not, however, a functional type of exercise so other muscles aren’t engaged, nor are the movement patterns natural. So, how do you know which type of exercise is right for you?

If your goal is performance related (e.g., building strength, improving speed, etc.) then your routine should consist mostly of free weight and body weight exercise, with machines kept to a very minimum and possibly none. If your goal is looks related (e.g., improve body composition, get ‘toned,’ lose fat, etc.) all three types of exercises work, but again, the best bet is to use free weights and body weights as the majority of the workout, but machines are a completely fine alternative.

 

Now, with all of this information in front of you, you’re ready to go out and train those muscles. I hope, through this series, that I was able to inspire some of you to add strength training into your routine in order to experience the amazing benefits it will bring you, inshallah.

 

 

Healthy Substitutes for Your Favorite Foods

As I receive many emails from women looking to eat healthier, I’ve noticed a few common problems. First, many people don’t actually know the difference between healthy foods and unhealthy foods. Now in the broad sense we all know that home-cooked meals are better than fast-food, that veggies and fruits contain a lot of nutrients, and that sweets, for the most part, are the enemy. But when it comes down to specific food groups, people generally aren’t aware of healthier food options.

The second problem is people’s perception of the word healthy. The general public thinks healthy means either sacrificing taste or giving up the foods they love, neither of which are true. There is no legitimate definition of “healthy eating” as it is a subjective term based on person preferences, likes, and beliefs. To one person healthy might mean vegan, to another it might mean gluten free, and to us Muslims, it includes staying away from pork and alcohol. In reality, healthy should include getting the majority of your daily calories from whole, nutrient-dense foods, while maintaining a balance and still allowing for some of the things you love.

For these reasons, I have put together a simple list of healthy food substitutes. What I do want to make known is that I am not advising anyone to completely CUT OUT the foods being substituted. It’s not that these foods should be off limits, it’s simply a guide for those who may benefit from the knowledge of healthier options. As mentioned above, healthy is about a diet containing a majority of the healthier options, while balancing it with foods you love.

So without further ado, I present to you a list of healthy substitutes for some of your favorite foods!

 

Carb Smart

In very basic terms, there are two types of carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are those that are made up of only one or two sugar molecules (a simple structure), whereas complex caboydrates are made up of a longer chain of sugar molecules (a more complex structure). Typically, simple carbs are absorbed and digested quicker, spiking up blood insulin levels, while complex carbs are absorbed and digested more slowly by the body without creating that spike in blood insulin, while also creating a greater sense of satiety and lasting energy.

In general, complex carbohydrates are also a bit more nutrient-dense. Simple carbohydrates are processed; a method during which many important nutrients, such as fiber, are stripped away. So, while simple carbohydrates do not have to totally be avoided, complex carbs do have an advantage in terms of micronutrients.

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Therefore, this list contains some healthier carb options.

  1. Brown Rice over White Rice
  2. Quinoa over Couscous
  3. Whole-Wheat Bread over White Bread
  4. Sweet Potato or Yams over White Potato
  5. Whole-Wheat or Brown Rice Pasta over White Pasta
  6. Spaghetti Squash or Zucchini Noodles over White Pasta
  7. Mashed Cauliflower or Turnips over Mashed Potatoes
  8. Granola over Croutons
  9. Rolled or Steel-Cut Oats over Cereal or Instant Oats
  10. Rolled Oats over Bread Crumbs
  11. Crispy Lettuce Leaves over Taco Shells or Tortillas
  12. Dry Beans over Canned Beans
  13. Whole Wheat Flour, Oat Flour, or Nut Flours over White Flour

 

Proteins: The Good and the Better

The reason I say the good and the better, is because there are not really “healthier” substitutes for meats, aside from halal meats that are organic and fresh as opposed to non-halal meats. Certainly there are some meats that are much more advantageous than others, but in general it comes down to which meats have more or less fat. Thus, we are going to focus on lean versus fattier meats. Now, there is not a significant difference between lean and fatty meats in terms of nutrients, rather it is a matter of certain types of meat containing more fat and calories than the other.

This section also will not apply to everyone, rather it will vary based on individual goals. If your goal is to eat a significant amount of protein with fewer calories, than lean meats are probably better suited for you. If someone is not worried about calories, or is trying to gain weight, than fatty meats are a perfectly fine option.

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Therefore, this list contains leaner substitutions for fattier meats.

  1. Chicken Breast over Chicken Thigh
  2.  Turkey Breast over Turkey Thigh
  3. Ground Turkey or Chicken over Ground Beef
  4. Bison or Leaner Cuts of Beef like Sirloin over Fattier Beef
  5. 93% Lean Ground Beef over Fattier Ground Beef

Other (Non-Meat) Healthy Options for Protein

  1. Egg Whites (or 1 whole egg mixed with egg whites) over Whole Eggs
  2. Fat-Free or Low-Fat Yogurt over Whole Yogurt
  3. You can also use some of the above mentioned carb choices as protein if you are not a meat-eater, e.g., beans and quinoa can be a good protein source for vegetarians!

 

Sugar & Spice & Everything Nice

Included here are some  baking hacks and healthy substitutes for sugar and sweets, fats, condiments and other miscellaneous items.

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  1. Honey, Agave, Truvia or Stevia over Sugar
  2. Unsweetened Applesauce or Fruit Baby Food for Oil
  3. Mashed Avocado or Banana over Butter
  4. All-Natural Nut Butters over Low Fat or other Nut Butters
  5. Evaporated Skim Milk or Coconut Milk over Cream
  6. Skim, 2% Milk, or Almond Milk over Whole Milk
  7. Kale Chips or Popcorn over Potato Chips
  8. Dark Chocolate over Milk or Semisweet Chocolate
  9. Pureed Avocado or Non-Fat Plain Yogurt over Mayonnaise
  10. Frozen Yogurt over Ice Cream
  11. Low-Fat Cottage Cheese for Sour Cream
  12. Low-Sodium Soy Sauce or Rice Vinegar over Soy Sauce
  13. Seltzer Water over Soda
  14. Organic Crystal Light Packets (for water) over Juice
  15. Olive Oil over Butter